So there I was, walking along the pavement and minding my own business on Shabbat, having a chat with God, when I came to cross the road, and a man with a shaved head, designer shades and a deep tan parked his car straight in front of me.
I went behind the car, to carry on crossing, and then he started reversing up – and at that point, I thought I was dealing with some sort of nutso chiloni who was trying to kill me. I crossed over, and then I heard the window of the car being buzzed down, and he called out to me in Hebrew:
Geveret, can I ask you a question?
Uhoh, I thought to myself, here it comes.
Some sort of anti-religious tirade, some sort of pointed statement about ‘disgusting’ religious people, something like that. But I’m not scared of psychos, and I figured if God wants me to have a bit of verbal ‘scrubbing’, there’s no point running away.
So I turned around to him, and I said efshar, you can ask. I was stunned by what came next:
What would you say to a wife, who each time her husband says ‘my heart hurts me’, she tells him ‘my father’s heart also hurts him’?
I thought I mis-heard initially, so I asked him to repeat what he’d just said. He did, and then he added:
It’s been like this for seven years already, and I feel like I want to kill myself.
So, God, You’ve clearly decided to put me in the middle of a matzav, as they call them in Israel.
But, if God wants to put you square in a matzav, there’s no point running away. I went over to where the man was, and he told me: Speak to my wife, she’s in the back.
The back window was buzzed down, and there sat a youngish woman, with a toddler on her knee. I looked at her, she looked at me. I asked her:
Is he a good husband? He’s not beating you up, do you love him?
She nodded and nodded some more. So then, I took a deep breath, and God gave me these words to say to her:
Men are like big children. They need a lot of attention, and a lot of love. Your husband is jealous of your dad. You need to make your husband #1 priority in your life. The Torah tells us that, first the husband – and he has to make you his first priority, too – and then the children, and only after that, the parents.
Then I told her:
Your son is half of your husband. It’s a lot of effort to deal with these husbands, it’s very hard work, but you have to help your husband get fixed, so it will help your kid to be happy, too. I’m 45, I’ve seen so many women walk away from their difficult marriages thinking that will solve the problem. It doesn’t. It just messes up the children worse than anyone could imagine.
I’ve been married 22 years now, thank God, and every time it gets hard, I go and talk to God about what’s going on, and ask for help. It’s work, it’s effort, but it’s so worth it, for your children.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes, and I gave her arm a squeeze.
In the meantime, the guy in the front seat turned around with a stunned look on his face, and started yelling in English:
May God bless you! May God bless you!
Buy your wife lots of presents, and be nice to her, I told him, as I walked away from the car, and continued on down the street.
God, what the heck was all that about? I wondered afterwards.
I mean, I hate giving advice, I hate getting involved in matzavim, it usually only leads to lots of problems and issues, and these things are not simple.
But then I calmed down, when I remembered I hadn’t chosen to be a ‘mobile marriage counsellor’, I got ‘happened upon’, I didn’t choose it.
The next thing I thought, is that so many problems occur in the world generally, and in marriages specifically, because of poor communication. This couple clearly loved each other, but the yetzer had managed to ‘eat’ their words, which is why God had to arrange for a complete stranger to say what needed to be said.
The last thing I thought is,
Who is like Your people, Hashem?
Those who don’t live in this country can tell me about all the so-called chilonim who “don’t keep Shabbat” until they are blue in the face, and they will never understood the real situation that is going on in Israel. The Jews here are massive souls, and the most profound, real and deep conversations can happen anywhere, even on a pavement in the middle of a Shabbat morning with total strangers.
That chiloni’s blessing was worth its weight in gold to me. It was such a kiddush Hashem.