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Violate Shabbat or Get Divorced?

By Baruch Gordon
8/26/2010, 12:00 AM

The "Ask the Rabbi" section of the Bet El Yeshiva's Hebrew website has become the premier venue for secular Israelis seeking rabbinic counsel on the internet. Below is an exchange from this week.

Question:
First my background: I got married two years ago and am a traditional Jew. We do not yet have children.

My wife insists that we go out together [by car] on the Sabbath for the sake of strengthening our marriage relationship. . I am not willing to violate the Sabbath in this fashion.

What is preferable: to drive on the Sabbath and thereby preserve our marriage or to get divorced? We both know that my refusal to ride in a car on the Sabbath means that we have reached a dead end in our relationship. We must resolve this before we have any children.

I await your reply.
Amit

Answer:
Shalom Dear Amit,

I am sorry to hear of the tensions between you and your wife, and the difficult trial that faces you. This issue is very, very complex, and I can only imagine the hard feelings involved. 

On the one hand, your faith and your observance of the laws of Sabbath is of great import. It is your special connection with our Father in heaven – something that you truly believe in and connect with. To compromise your belief is tantamount to the destruction of your ideals and your inner faith. It is a departure from your inner essence.

On the other hand, you are married to someone that you love, someone with whom you believe that you can build your future, have children, and establish a family.

This dilemma is not an easy one, albeit it is one that unfortunately I come across occasionally in various forms, though not always in such an intense, yes-or-no scenario.

A person often feels he is torn between opposing forces and must choose one. Which should he forfeit?

However, from my experience and studies, I have learned that the truth is not to be found by giving up one side of the equation, but rather by navigating a middle road and building a bridge between the two sides.

Often times, when a person abandons one of the values he is grappling with, feelings of great frustration settle in and negative thoughts occupy his mind leading to a sort of breakdown, in the wake of which he can lose everything he has achieved. This "black and white" approach is therefore not helpful in the end, because it can break a person until he abandons everything.

Only a serious, wise solution.can extricate him from his predicament.

For example, in your case, it is important for you and your wife to engage in cool, relaxed discussion about this topic. The exchange must be held when you are feeling good with each other, and love and affection are in the air.

The stated subject of the conversation should be, "How can we preserve the beautiful relationship between us without destroying other values which are important?" This goal should be clear and defined, and the conversation should focus on this topic, with no beating around the bush.

If you forget for a moment the target of the negotiation, it is liable to deteriorate into an argument from which there is no way out. A fight will only leave more mental scars and hard feelings. Therefore, keep focused on the stated goal.

In this conversation, it is important to define the various aspects of the dilemma and explain why lack of a solution presents such a problem.

Lastly, you should try and find the golden mean, for example, remaining close to home without car travel, but giving your wife the full attention and affection that she needs, such as taking a long walk together. Also, seek out enjoyable outings such as concerts that do not oppose Torah law, yet are not old-fashioned.

In most cases, people discover that it is possible to bridge between the sides, and in hindsight, see no reason not to continue in this path. To the contrary, they find a deepening of their bonds and an increase in peace of mind.

Give it a try, and I will be happy to be a partner in the search for good and creative ideas that will fill your hearts with joy and strengthen the the relationship between you.

Much success in your endeavor,

Yitzhak [A Bet El Yeshiva rabbi]