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On the back of a few emails about the post on Marriage Guidance – Israel style, I just wanted to elaborate a little more on how to get a good husband:

Pray on him every single day.

Every single day, ask God to help your husband overcome his bad temper, his poor self-esteem, his confusion, his doubts, his bad behavior and warped ideas.

Because we all have these issues, even the very best of us, and a woman’s job is to help to fix her husband’s soul by praying on him (and herself and her family) as much as she can.

That is the secret ingredient, the special sauce, that can turn even the worst relationship between a husband and wife around.

Any marriage counsellor who is not telling a couple to get God involved in the process, can’t really help you long-term and is probably doing way more harm than good.

And any wife who is not willing to pray on her husband, is going to have plenty of challenges and heartache to deal with. (Like, more than you’d get if you were actually praying, because getting marriages to last the distance is hard work, even when you are talking to God a lot.)

We’re not talking about doing six hours a day here, or even six minutes. All it takes is a tiny bit of effort, a smidge of empathy about where all these issues the husband has is actually coming from, and a touch of emuna that God really can do anything, if we get Him involved.

Try this:

  • Buy a bumper bag of tealights, 50, or 100.
  • Light one every single day in the merit of your husband, and say a few words to God about what you’d like Him to work on, e.g. “Please help him stop being so angry, God. Please help him to like himself more. Please help him to stop worrying so much about money, and killing himself at work. Please help him to be nicer to me and the kids. Please help him to realise – all by himself – that when a man looks like he’s 8 months pregnant, no-one finds that attractive, and he needs to join a gym…” – Whatever comes to you.
  • At the end of the 50 days, take your journal and note down any improvements – because I guarantee you’ll see some.
  • Go buy another bumper bag of tealights.
  • Repeat steps 1-4 until you have the man of your dreams.

This may take some time, it’s not a ‘quick fix’, it’s true.

But if at the end of five years solid of doing this you don’t have a wonderful marriage, I’ll eat my hat.

We women, we wives, have so much power to transform, improve and rectify all the problems in our marriage. But that power is only to be found in our prayers, and if we’re not regularly talking to God, we simply can’t get to it.

And we can’t outsource the job of fixing the husband to anyone else, however much we really might want to.

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.

Er, OK.

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.

OOOOOKAYYYY.

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.

And God will redeem His people with love.

Nothing but nothing can strain a marriage faster than dysfunctional in-laws.

I’ll never forget the first year I was with my husband: The week before Pesach he disappeared for two days to go and help my healthy, 50-something mother-in-law clean her house for the upcoming festival.

To say I was upset is something of an understatement. We were both working full-time jobs at the time, I couldn’t afford cleaning help, and instead of rolling up his sleeves to help me – he scarpered for 48 hours to go and clean another woman’s house! I didn’t realise it then, but I’d been struck by the 11th plague of Pesach, aka, dealing with the in-laws.

I’ve been married now for 20 years, and as my own children start to grow up I can see how this sort of situation can develop so easily, if the parents don’t keep reminding themselves that what’s best for them is not always and absolutely what’s best for their children.

The Torah makes it very clear when it tells the man that he should leave his parents and ‘cleave to his wife’.

His wife is the other part of his soul, and vice-versa. Happy marriages are built on the strong foundation of mutual respect and always putting what’s best for your spouse ahead of what’s best for your parents and other extended family members.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to make this point so strongly. In a perfect world, parents and in-laws would be telling their married children this themselves. They’d say things like: ‘We’d love to have you come to us for seder this year, but only if that’s what you and your wife would really like to do, too.”

Or, they’d phone up and tell their married children: ‘Please check this with your spouse before agreeing anything with me, but would it be OK if we joined you for Pesach this year? And be completely honest, I won’t be upset if you say no. I know how much you both have going on in your lives at the moment.”

In that sort of healthy, open environment where free choice is allowed, and the spouse of the married child feels seen, respected and heard by their in-laws, the friction on the marriage will be kept to a barely-there minimum.

Sadly, that’s not how so many families operate today.

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Today, many people are having to deal with selfish, egotistical and home-wrecking in-laws who treat their children (and their children’s spouse….) as an extension of themselves, and therefore people who can be bossed around, guilt-tripped, taken advantage of and stressed-out whenever they feel like it.

And there are few festivals that bring their destructive behaviour and attitudes out more than Pesach.

There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, seder is a big production. Controlling parents who insist on everything being about them usually take it extremely hard when their married children actually want to live a little independently, and run a seder their own way. I know people in their 40s with many children of their own who have NEVER conducted a seder in their life.

Why not?

Because their parents wouldn’t hear of it.

Each year, the seder has to be with family, and of course, that means with their family, according to their rules and whims. Do you know how emasculating it is for a 40-something year old man to sit at the table like a little kid, unable to ever be the ‘head’ of his own seder table?

Pesach is the time of kingship, or Malchut. Seder night is when that measure of ‘malchut’ or rulership descends to each man’s table, and each man’s home for the coming year. If your father or father-in-law keeps happing your husband’s ‘rulership’, that has enormous consequences for his self-esteem, ability to make money, and the peace in your home.

Another flash point can be when parents get on a bit, and then start inviting themselves to your home for the whole of the holiday because organising everything is so stressful, expensive and time-consuming, and they’ve run out of energy.

Again, if you’re OFFERING to have them stay with you, out of 100% free choice and not because you’ve been guilted into doing it, or are worrying about the consequences of saying no, nothing could be more wonderful.

But if that’s not the case – and with the sort of difficult in-laws I’m talking about, that’s really NOT the case – then seder night and the holiday becomes a powder keg placed under your shalom bayit, just waiting for ‘Bubbe’ to show up and light the fuse.

Because ‘Bubbe’ will expect things done her way, and food served that she’s used to, and the same songs sung in the same order as she always did it by her own table. Also, ‘Bubbe’ will go to great pains to invite as many of her extended family and friends to your home, too, to share seder with her. And again, she’ll just expect you to agree to that, regardless of how much additional stress it causes you.

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When you live in Israel and your in-laws come from abroad, there can be the added issue of your in-laws deciding to stay with you for the whole of the holiday to:

  1. Save them having to clean their own homes or buy Pesach food;

and

  1. Save them having to go to a hotel (which is what they’ve effectively turned you into).

Again, if you WANT to have your in-laws living with you for a whole nine days, great! But if you don’t? And they start playing your spouse off against you, and getting them to agree to have the come against your wishes? They just ignited World War III in your marriage.

(I won’t even get into the problems that can crop up when you’re more observant than your parents in this post, which is a whole other can of worms. Basically, just times all the difficulties and potential flashpoints by 500…)

So, what can you do to keep your marriage intact, and your in-laws under control this Pesach?

Here’s a few guidelines that will help, if you can actually implement them:

1) Maintain a united front

No decisions should be made unilaterally by either spouse. Everything has to be discussed upfront and agreed by both parties well in advance of seder night.

2) Set down firm boundaries, and stick to them

If you can manage seder night (just about…) but you can’t manage a whole eight days of the in-laws in your home, make that very clear to your spouse and to them – and don’t be guilted or shamed out of doing what’s best for yourself and your own family.

3) Be honest about what’s really going on

Often, it takes us and our spouses many years to realise that our in-laws don’t always have our best interests at heart. Remember, a husband and wife are one soul. If your spouse doesn’t like your parents, it’s usually because your parents aren’t treating them (or you….) very nicely.

You don’t notice that, you’re not aware of it, because that’s how it’s been since you were born. But an outsider can spot the issues much more easily. So if your spouse doesn’t like your parents, carefully consider WHY that is, and what your parents might need to explore in order to improve the relationship.

4) Move to a different country

Sometimes, some in-laws are so impossible to deal with that moving far, far away from them is the only option to protect your marriage and mental health. This isn’t always a cast-iron solution – especially if they can easily afford air-fare and you have a big home – but it’s still a good start.

Pesach is the festival of freedom and redemption. It’s a time when a man should be a ‘king’ in his own home (serving Hashem…) and his wife his ‘queen’. It’s a night of royalty, not slavery.

So if you have difficult in-laws, emancipate yourself from their unreasonable demands and selfish behaviour, and this year ask God to help celebrate the holiday the way He truly intended.

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You might also like these articles:

The surrendered husband

Please put your spouse first

 

I first put this up over three years’ ago, but I think it’s time it got another airing.

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The phone rang in Yaacov’s tent, and he rushed to pick it up before it woke the sleeping baby Reuven, who’d just dozed off.”Hello?”

“Bruvs! Is that you? It’s your big brother Esav!”

Yaacov’s stomach flipped over. What did Esav want? And why was he calling him now, in the middle of the night?

Didn’t he know normal people were usually asleep at 2am? Yaacov cleared his throat, and replied in a guarded but friendly way:

“Hi, Esav. How are you doing? Is everything OK with mum and dad?”

“Yeah, they’re fine. Can’t complain, can’t complain. But Bruvs, what’s this ridiculous nonsense I’ve heard, that you’re working for your wives?!?”

Yaacov could feel the condescension dripping off the phone. He wiped the sweat off his forehead: this was going to be a tricky conversation, he could tell.

“What’s the problem? I didn’t have any money for a dowry, so I had to come up with the goods somehow, to pay for the weddings.” Yaacov swallowed back the additional information that the reason he didn’t have any money is because Esav’s son Eliphaz had stolen everything he had, at knifepoint. Somehow, details like that never went over so well with his big brother.

“Bruvs, that’s just not the way! You’re putting the whole family to shame. I know in chutz l’aretz people think it’s OK for men to go out to work, but that’s not the true, holy way.”

Yaacov rolled his eyes. Here it comes, he thought.

“If Dad knew that you were working, he’d have a heartattack. You’ve got it all round the wrong way, bruvs. You’re wives should be working for you. Between them, they’d bring in a pretty decent wage, and you wouldn’t have to lower yourself to look after someone else’s sheep. I mean, where’s your self-respect? Where’s your pride? You used to be the best learner in town, and now look at you: a shepherd. When’s the last time you even opened a Gemara, bruvs?”

Yaacov swallowed heavily. Esav always had a real way with words. He could take the most ridiculous ideas, and make them sound incredibly convincing. If you weren’t careful, you could end up believing all his evil nonsense, and then you’d be in real trouble.

“Esav, supporting the family is the man’s responsibility. Our mother never went out to work for a day in her life. Dad took care of all the finances, and that’s what I’m doing, too.”

“Pah! That was then,” Esav spat back. “Things have changed! It was different in the old days. It’s a stain on the family’s honour that you, the son of the holy Yitzhak, should be wasting your time with something as trivial as earning a living. I mean, what do you think your wives are for, you numbskull?”

As always when he was talking to Esav, Yaacov realized he just couldn’t win. His brother always had an answer for everything, and if Yaacov dared to point out that Esav’s family wasn’t exactly the paradigm of perfection, he’d just spark off World War I.

But everyone knew that behind closed doors, Esav’s domestic situation was a mess:

Esav’s kids regularly got into trouble at school, and were always beating people up, stealing stuff and generally destroying the peace of any place they went. His wives were sullen, disgruntled women who hated their husband, but were too scared to leave, or to try to change anything.

There was just no talking to Esav: he always thought he was right, and doing all the wrong things for the loftiest of ‘right’ reasons. From experience, Yaacov knew the best thing was to hold his tongue, and let his brother speak his piece – then hang up, as quickly as possible, without making a scene.

So it was. When Esav had finally finished haranguing his brother for his ‘un-Jewish’ practices, it was 3am, already.
Yaacov hung up, then gazed at his sleeping wife – this time Leah – and her baby son, Reuven. Sure, working was no fun. He missed the times he’d spent learning Torah in the tents of Shem and Ever tremendously. But he knew that he was doing what God wanted.

He’d seen how harassed Esav’s wives looked; they were always running around from work to yoga to Facebook, trying to do a million things at once, and killing themselves to ‘keep up appearances’ at all costs.

Yaacov was working himself to the bone on his father-in-law’s farm, but he knew he didn’t really have any choice. Right now, that’s what God wanted from him. Maybe when the kids grew up, he’d be able to return to his holy books again.

As he reached over to blow out the candle flickering next to his bed, Yaacov reflected on the dictum that ‘you can’t build a mitzvah on the back of an aveira’ – it never worked.

Esav had always excelled at doing precisely that, but Yaacov knew his path was different. His way of trying to serve God, and of trying to build the world, didn’t always look so externally impressive, or religiously showy, but long-term, he knew it was going to bear the sweetest of fruit.

Instead of talking about ‘surrendered wives’, we should focus on the ‘surrendered husband’.

I don’t really follow trends in the secular world so much these days, but even so, it’s come across my radar that there’s a new approach to making your marriage work which is called: ‘The surrendered wife’.

I haven’t read the book (or done the course… or watched the film…) but it seems that the idea is that instead of nagging and finding fault, the ‘surrendered wife’ quietly sits there smiling demurely while her husband continues to indulge his rage fits, lack of emuna, emotional disconnect, other bad middot and drug and / or alcohol abuse.

(Of course I’m exaggerating to make a point – I hope! – because that’s what writers do.)

But that’s the basic idea of the ‘surrendered wife’. There’s just one problem with this: It’s completely and utterly backwards, according to the authentic Jewish teachings of how a marriage should really work.

Rav Shalom Arush brings down in his many books on shalom bayit (All of which have approbations from some of the biggest Gedolei Dor of the generation, including the late Rv Ovadia Yosef, z”tl) that when there are problems in the marriage, they are down to one thing, and one thing only:

THE HUSBAND’S BAD MIDDOT AND LACK OF EMUNA.

I know that doesn’t sit well with all the Western, feminist brainwashing we’ve all been bombarded with since birth, but that’s how the world works, and that’s how God created the situation.

If we don’t accept that THAT is really how marriage works, we’ll never be able to stem the disastrous tide of couples getting divorced.

To put it another way, instead of talking about the ‘surrendered wife’, we need to be talking about the ‘surrendered husband’.

Which is where we hit the first objection: So many of our men are struggling so hard with such enormously bad middot at the moment, that getting them to surrender anything today – like their obsessive TV watching, or their worries about money, or their three nightly beers- is already akin to an open miracle.

Again, let’s be clear what’s going on today: we are one of the last, if not the last generation before Moshiach comes. All of the difficult souls that haven’t been rectified over the last 5778 years are back again now, in this generation, to have one last shot at being fixed.

When someone has been letting their anger problem ride for 5,000 years already, or their spiteful, vengeful and critical tendencies grow unchecked for five millennia, that adds up to an awful lot of hard spiritual work to try to do in just one lifetime.

That’s a big part of the reason that modern life, and modern marriage, is just so hard today.

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Here’s another crucial part of the puzzle, that we can’t ignore if we want to understand how marriages REALLY work: husband and wife are two parts of the same soul. Whatever good you have in yourself, is there – often latent – in him. And whatever bad you see in yourself is somehow there – often latent – in you. And also vice versa.

On some very profound level, husbands and wives are just mirroring each other.

But here’s the thing to remember: authentic Judaism teaches that the MAN is the giver, and the woman is the receiver. Whatever the MAN gives out, gives over, gives across into his marriage and home, that’s what he’s going to get back.

Rav Arush teaches in all of his shalom bayit books that when it comes to marriage, the man is like the sun and the woman is like the moon.

If the wife isn’t getting much (or any….) light from her husband, then she has NOTHING to reflect back at him except annoyance, coldness, anger and criticism.

But if she’s getting acceptance, love and light from her husband, not only will she reflect it back at him, she’ll amplify it.

This is important to grasp, because wherever the ‘problem’ manifests in the marriage, it’s ALWAYS somehow rooted in the man, and his lack of emuna and bad middot.

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So now, what’s the woman’s part in this?

(I have two teenagers with feminist sympathies at home, so we’ve gone through this debate quite a few times already.)

Simply put: to pray on her husband, and to ask God to help him fix his lack of emuna and bad middot.

Because yes, nagging, whining and complaining doesn’t work.

But neither does just lying there like a doormat whilst your husband continues to pretend that all HIS issues are really just yours (and your mother’s….).

If I could tell new brides one thing, it would be this: don’t look away and pretend you can’t see your husband’s faults and issues and struggles, because over time they are only going to get worse!

Don’t make excuses for his critical nature, selfishness, alcoholism, complete lack of emuna, anger fits or dishonest business dealings, because whatever you don’t recognize and get to work on ASAP could really end up sinking your marriage, and your family, another 15 years down the road.

If you see your husband isn’t treating you nicely, or isn’t acting the way he should be in other areas, ask God to help you! Pray on it! Start doing an hour of hitbodedut every single day to work out what you can and should be doing with and for your husband to get these problems resolved.

Send him to Uman for Rosh Hashana! Every single year!

THIS is the wife’s part of the marriage equation, to pray her socks off and courageously look at the challenges facing her husband while still showing him a great deal of love and compassion.

After 20 years of being yelled at, criticized, mocked, frightened, ‘punished’ and mistreated, it’s very hard to do anything with love and compassion. It’s very hard to find the strength required to get God involved in turning things around. So don’t leave it until then!

Start ASAP, while your love for him and his for you is still strong enough to weather the really tough patches that are inevitably going to come, even with all your praying and all his sincere efforts to improve.

And enough, already, with all this ‘surrendered wife’ rubbish: it’s the husbands who need to ‘surrender’ their bad middot and other negative character traits, and the sooner, the better.

Sigh.

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I heard three ‘we’re getting divorced’ stories in two days last week. Am Yisrael is cracking at the seams.

Enough making excuses! Enough pretending that the goyim and all their funny ideas about women’s lib and marriage are really doing anything to help anyone’s relationship stay the course!

Go back to the authentic Jewish way, to the ‘surrendered husband’ model, and if you’re a wife, start praying your socks off for your husband to learn more emuna, and to get God more involved in the picture

Because THAT IS THE ONLY WAY THAT REALLY WORKS.

Photo by Schesco Nyarwaya on Unsplash

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If you want your marriage to last the distance, put your spouse first.

Fresh off the back of yet another awful horrible story of potential marriage break-up, God forbid, this is a plea from the heart to all married readers to

PLEASE PUT YOUR SPOUSE FIRST!!!

I’ve written about this before, but it’s not being talked about enough in the frum Jewish world, that probably the biggest reason that couples break up today is because of a very unhealthy relationship with the parents and parents in law.

And I’m including both sets of ‘parents’ and ‘parents in law’ here, because there is no such thing as only one half of the couple coming from a dysfunctional background, however it may look externally.

When people grow up in emotionally healthy, accepting, God-fearing, functional families, they simply can’t jive with a spouse who grew up in a dysfunctional family that is not all of these things (i.e. nearly everyone in 2017).

I know this flies in the face of conventional marriage guidance and Western psychological thought.

But the Zohar teaches us very clearly that husband and wife are two parts of the same soul. In some way that means that both people coming into the marriage experienced the same sorts of traumas, lacks, problems and issues – albeit it’s often dressed up in such different clothing, that usually that’s not at all obvious.

Again, if one set of parents are any admixture of emotionally unhealthy / controlling / neglectful / dismissive of their children’s true feelings / grasping / selfish / rigid / intolerant of difference / snobby / angry / jealous of their children’s love, attention and loyalty going towards a spouse (I’m missing a bunch of things out here, but you get the picture…) then IT’S IMPOSSIBLE for the other set of parents to be totally emotionally healthy.

Everyone has their issues, everyone their problems.

Some are more obvious, some are more hidden, and God puts couples together dafka to bring those ‘hidden’ issues up to the surface, so they can finally be worked on and fixed.

Dear reader, I have heard so many horror stories of parents who are so caught up in what they want, and what they prefer, and what’s good for them that they are wreaking havoc upon their children’s marriages, shalom bayit, emotional health and general well-being. I know this stuff is so hard to spot (also because it’s so common that we think it’s ‘normal’ behavior) – so here’s some examples of what emotionally unhealthy parents do, so you can see what I’m on about:

Emotionally-unhealthy parents:

  • Expect their kid to put them and their needs first, ahead of what’s good for their spouse.

This takes many forms, including: inviting themselves to stay for ages; expecting the kid to attend any events / holidays they deem necessary; making decisions on behalf of their kids without checking it’s what the kid (AND THEIR SPOUSE!!) really wants or can manage (‘we’ll all come to you for Seder again this year!’) etc

  • Only corresponding with their child, while ignoring the spouse (and their wishes) completely.

Instead of encouraging the kid to make a joint decision with their spouse, emotionally unhealthy parents completely sideline the spouse, and speak only to the kid. The spouse doesn’t really ‘exist’ – but here’s the thing, neither does the kid. It’s just harder to hide that reality from a grown-up who didn’t get used to this situation from childhood (at least, from that set of parents).

  • Criticise, pick holes in and generally slag off the kid’s spouse to the kid.

Whatever problems are going in the marriage, it’s very rarely ever only one person’s fault.

Emotionally unhealthy parents excel in seeing the ‘bad’ in the spouse, while excusing their own kids’ contribution to the situation.

This is because they see their kid as an extension of themselves, so when the kid starts acting in their marriages according to the bad middot and mentally ill behaviors they learnt at home, the parents find it very hard to accept this behavior is ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’.

If they accepted that it was ‘wrong’, they’d be acknowledging that much of their own behavior is crazy and ‘wrong’ – and emotionally unhealthy people struggle to do that tremendously.

So it’s much easier to just blame the other person and ‘the other side’ for all the issues, and avoid looking at what’s really going on in our backyards, with our own dysfunctional and destructive family dynamics.

  • Drop hints, obviously and otherwise, that if the marriage ends that’s no big loss.

This one is SO upsetting to me when there are kids involved, because the people who do this are operating from the mistaken assumption that you can somehow surgically remove a parent out of the equation and it won’t have any impact on the kids.

Sometimes, when you’re dealing with chronic abuse or a level of madness that is almost impossible to fix, it could be there is no choice except to get divorced. I understand that. But divorce even in those circumstances is still the lesser of two evils, and not a ‘good’ thing.

Whatever the parents don’t fix, it just gets passed down the line to the kids. If you don’t work together with your spouse to fix their bad traits (and also your own…) those bad traits get passed on to the next generation, who then find themselves with a huge job on their hands.

When you divorce, your ability to fix your spouse – and the parts of your spouse that are PART OF YOUR CHILDREN – diminishes considerably.

You don’t get the same siyatta dishmaya, you don’t have the same motivation to do six hour sessions, to pour your heart out to God to help you, to help your spouse, to fix the problems in your family.

Getting divorced is SO much easier than dealing with disappointment, frustration and thwarted dreams day in and day out. At least, that’s how it looks, if you pretend that your spouse is not an integral part of your kids, and the other half of your own neshama…

The buck stops with us! Don’t give up on your marriages! Don’t give up on your spouses!

I know it’s so, so hard, I really do.

But getting divorced is NOT an easy option (even when there are extreme circumstances and your God fearing Rabbi is counselling you that this is truly the best option for you and your family.)

For so many people, it’s the apparent shortcut out of all the drama and hassle that turns into the longest and most painful road of your life.

Just ask the divorcee I hear screaming most nights a week that she’s going crazy, and can’t do it all by herself anymore!!! Ask the lost, miserable kids I see wandering around my neighborhood, smoking cigarettes at age 11 and getting into all sorts of trouble. Ask the dad who misses his kids so badly, and who dies a bit more inside every time he thinks of his kids growing up in some other man’s house.

Fight for your marriages, fight for your spouses! Don’t leave your kids to rectify all those massive bad middot they inherited by themselves!

Pray your hearts out!

Be aware that most of us come from highly dysfunctional families, and that if you’re seeing that by your spouse’s family, it’s 100% for sure also lurking in your own background too, just waiting for you to wake up and acknowledge it, and to fix the problem in your own family tree.

And the first way to start that process is this:

PUT YOUR SPOUSE FIRST.

May God bless us all with the emuna, strength, patience, prayer, perseverance and love we need to hold our families together in these extremely troubling times.

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This year, it’s more important than ever to send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana.

I know, I could give you the whole big shpiel about how if you send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana, it will bring world peace, and speed the coming of Moshiach, and help to rectify the whole of Am Yisrael.

And that stuff’s all true, and all described in detail in various Breslov sources. But girlfren, really? You should send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana because between you and me, I know how annoying that guy can be, at least occasionally.

Yes, he’s sweet, and good-hearted and hard-working and often quite loving and generous. But he’s also half-earth, and that ‘earthy’ bit of him is far to drawn to making money, and cheering on the team, and spouting off ridiculous opinions, and spending too much time watching movies or surfing online.

I know how hard you’ve tried to get him to make more effort with the kids, and to get him to stop walking around like an egotistical stuffed-shirt, and to get him to open up and to be ‘real’ about what he’s really feeling, and what fears and worries he’s got that are really causing him to act and believe the way he does.

I know all this stuff makes pulling teeth (the old fashioned way, with a piece of string and minus anaesthetic…) look like a walk in the park, which is why I’m here to tell you straight what works to get the guy back on the right spiritual path. And it’s spelled:

U-M-A-N.

Like so many of the Uman ladies out there, I don’t send my husband for an expensive, inconvenient jaunt to anti-semitic Ukraine just for the heck of it. I encourage him to go because I know how much spiritual help he’s going to get by Rabbenu at Rosh Hashana, that’s going to carry him – and me – through all the challenges we have to face in the coming year.

I know that sending my husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana means he’s going to come back with a drop more humility, a tad more introspection, an ounce more gratitude and generosity, a page more of learning, a bissel more emuna.

The guy goes to Uman, and he comes back and realizes all by himself, without me saying a word, that he needs to spend more quality time with the kids, or that he needs to stop worrying about money so much, or that he needs to start playing soccer again. (Hey, not every revelation you get in Uman is easy to predict…)

When our blokes go to Uman, they come back better husbands, and nicer dads. They come back with a lot more of a clue about their real path in life, and how best to travel it. And most important of all, they come back with much more appreciation for their homes, families and the good cooking of their loving wives.

And this stuff is priceless, never mind all the other spiritual ‘saving the world’ stuff that goes on there at Rosh Hashanah time.

There’s still time to book his ticket and lodging, and to make it even easier for you, I’ve pulled together some numbers to call. Try:

Derech Tzaddikim: +972-2-541-0100 – www.zadikimtours.com

David Bargshtein Tours: +972-2-999-2955 – david@dbtours.co.il

Netivim Tours: +972-2-633-8444

Glatt Tour: +972-2-547-7600 – www.glattour.com

I know it’s not easy to pull the money together, I know it’s not easy to manage without him over the High Holidays for a few days, I know it’s mamash mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the ladies who stay behind with their challenging broods.

I’ve had some years where I have absolutely dreaded the logistical part of sending my husband to Uman, because it means I’ve been stuck alone with my kids over a three day Yom Tov. Before I moved to Jerusalem, I’d at least get regular invitations as an ‘Uman Widow’ to break up the time, and I had a regular place in the local shul.

But since I’ve lived in the Holy City, Rosh Hashana each year has been quite a struggle. I don’t know where I’m davening (or sometimes, even if I’m davening…), I have no invitations, I have to deal with stroppy teenagers who think I’m retarded all by myself, without my husband acting as their foil.

But you know what? It’s still so worth it. Why do I say that?

Let me end by sharing the story of a lady I met a few years’ back, who was adamant that her husband shouldn’t go to Uman at Rosh Hashana, because Rosh Hashana was family time.

She was experiencing some serious difficulties with him, and his behavior, and no therapist or counsellor could touch them with a barge pole.

So, I suggested she send him to Uman for Rosh Hashana, and I got back a very stony stare, and a big explanation of how Rosh Hashana was a time when the family should be together. As the marriage continued to head South, each year I’d call her up in July and suggest that maybe, just maybe, this was a good time to send her husband off to Uman.

Each time, she emphasized how important it was for her family to stay together, and there was nothing I could say or do to change her mind.

Then last year, she got divorced.

It really was so very important for her family to stay together, and maybe if she’d sent her husband off to Rebbe Nachman, they’d have had a better chance of making that happen.

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As you may, or may not know, my husband and I first got into Breslov by way of Rav Shalom Arush, and his amazing, life-changing book, ‘The Garden of Emuna’.

Until I hit Rav Arush and his strong emphasis on emuna, i.e. seeing Hashem behind every single little detail in our lives, I had so many questions that didn’t appear to have answers, at least not in more ‘mainstream’ Judaism.

As each of the Rav’s books came out, I gobbled them up. And I can honestly say that his ‘Education with Love’ book is probably the most important book I ever read in my life, and completely changed my relationship with my kids for the better.

My husband was also profoundly changed by Rav Arush’s teachings and books, in particular the ‘Garden of Peace’ book on how to ‘do’ marriage properly, that’s for men only. That book helped him navigate some incredibly stormy times in our marriage and in our life, with emuna.

In fact, it probably kept us together when circumstances were raging so hard against us, they nearly broke us both into pieces.

Why am I writing this now?

Because the last couple of years, I forgot how much I owe Rav Arush. I got so caught up with some of the ‘difficult’ characters associated with the yeshiva, and so upset about some of the things we experienced since we moved to Jerusalem, I kind of distanced myself internally from the Rav, and forgot how much he and his advice really helped us.

A few months’ ago, after my husband left Rav Arush’s yeshiva to go and study in the Old City, I took one of Rav Arush’s picture off the wall, unsure as to how ‘connected’ I really felt to him, at this stage in my life.

Yesterday, spontaneously, one of my kids was tidying up the place, and decided to stick the picture back up on the wall. The timing was uncanny…

Because yesterday, me and my husband kind of got peripherally caught up in someone else’s exploding shalom bayit (marital peace) issue. To cut a long story short, both parties are MEGA frum looking, but really have so little emuna when it comes to seeing God in their spouse it’s actually heart-breaking.

Sure, they’ve also been through a lot of difficulties in recent years – who hasn’t?

But me and my husband were both really shocked to see how little responsibility either party is taking to fix the problem, how much they’re just blaming each other for everything that’s going wrong, and most disturbingly of all, how little God is really in the picture.

After my husband read Rav Shalom’s ‘Garden of Peace’ book, he realized that whenever I was giving him a hard time about something, I was just the stick that God was using to get him to really work on the things he’d otherwise prefer to ignore.

That understanding saved our marriage on countless occasions, strengthened our relationship, and helped my husband to become a mensch, in every sense of the word.

By the same token, every time I was caught up in feelings of utter despair and overwhelm about how things were going in life, or with my relationship with my husband, or with my kids, I’d take it into my personal prayer sessions, and I’d ask God for help.

A few years’ ago, when my husband went through a very dark time after his father unexpectedly died, talking to God is what helped me deal with what was going on. I prayed for my husband so much that he should come through his very difficult nisayon (test) in one piece, and that he and we shouldn’t be completely broken by what was going on.

Rav Arush explained in one of his books that you get the husband you pray for: whenever you see a problem, a difficulty, a ‘lack’ in your home, your marriage, your man, you need to go and pray on it, and ask God to help him resolve it.

That’s the advice we’ve both been living by for years’ now – and mamash, it’s the main reason we still like each other so much and are generally pretty happy, BH, despite all the difficulties we’ve gone through the last few years.

It could be so different.

At this stage in life, I’m seeing so many marriages go to the wall because the husband refuses to accept that they have any problems they need to work on, and because the wives get so despairing and exhausted from dealing with the spiritual and mental immaturity of their husbands, they kind of get to a stage where they just want ‘out’ of the whole process.

Ladies, don’t give up on them!

Just pray for them, and send them to Uman as much as you can, but especially for Rosh Hashana! Rabbenu’s got your back!

And for the husbands who are reading this – please, please, please, do the whole world a favour and go and buy a copy of ‘The Garden of Peace’. If you already have that book, go and actually read it. If you already read it, go and actually internalize that as long as your wife is a God-fearing woman, the ‘hard time’ she’s giving you is actually just Hashem talking.

We all need to work on our middot, we all have stuff to fix. For as long as we are still in the world, that’s a sign that we still have stuff to work on.

Without Rav Arush’s guidance and help, I dread to think how things could have turned out in my marriage, given all the tremendous ‘tikkunim’ God’s been expecting of us the last few years.

Rav Arush, thank you! You’re amazing!

I’m sorry it took me a couple of years to remember that.

One of the reasons I love going to Uman with a group, as opposed to on my own, or just with my family, is because I always hear such amazing stories from the other people in my group.

I want to share a couple of the ones I heard on my latest trip with you here, one today, and one tomorrow:

Story number 1

Ilanit comes from Tel Aviv. She showed up on the bus to Uman replete with fashionable UGG boots; fashionable pompom hat; fashionable stretch leggings; and a whole bunch of expensive jewellery, to boot.

She’d bought her three Tel Aviv roommates with her (also with their UGG boots) and this is her story:

Two years’ ago, after 30 years of marriage, her mother decided that she’d had enough, and was filing for divorce. Ilanit was 24 at the time, and she says she took it really hard, to see her whole family life being ripped apart.

She’d never been to synagogue in her life, but she found one in her neighbourhood, sat there, and cried her eyes out. While she was sitting there, she saw a copy of the ‘Tikkun HaKlali’, the 10 psalms that Rebbe Nachman prescribed for fixing our souls at their root, and said them. Then, she made a promise to Rebbe Nachman that if he got her parents back together, she’d come and visit him.

A few weeks’ later, she got a phone call from her mother, who was sitting having breakfast with her father, having decided to reconcile with him.

“What happened?!” a stunned Ilanit wanted to know.

“Don’t ask!” her mum replied. “I don’t really know! But we’re back together.”

That happened on a Monday, and Wednesday, she flew out to Uman, to keep her promise.

She came back this year with her three roommates, to say thank you for saving her parents’ marriage.

Story number 2

There was a frum couple, already in their early fifties, who showed up to the grave with a stack of fliers to give out, and two babies. The fliers told their story: They’d been married for more than two decades, and hadn’t had any children.

They’d tried everything: there wasn’t a doctor, a specialist, a rabbi, a segula that they hadn’t tried to merit having children. They’d literally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars flying all over the world, trying to find the person, the solution, that was going to enable them to have children.

One day, the couple met a Breslever chassid, who told them they needed to go to the biggest doctor in the world. The man was all ears: who was he? Where did he live? The chassid told him: ‘Rebbe Nachman, in Uman’ – and by his own admission, the man was pretty turned off.

After all, they’d already tried every rabbi, every Admor, and no-one had been able to help them.

“Ah, but Rebbe Nachman is a doctor, not just a Rebbe. He’s going to fix your problem at its root.”

The man was still not very impressed, but his wife felt it was worth a shot: why not? They’d tried everything else. Finally he agreed to visit the grave in Uman, but on condition that he was only going to stay for 10 minutes.

The couple arrived, and he reminded his wife to be waiting outside for him, promptly, after 10 minutes.

The man stepped into the enclosure around the kever – and immediately started crying. He stood there, sobbing from the depths of his heart, for two and a half hours solid, without keeping track of the time.

Suddenly, he looked at the clock, and realised his wife had probably been waiting for him, and wondering what had happened to him, for two hours already.

He rushed outside to find her – and just at that moment, he saw her coming out of the entrance to the women’s section. Turns out, she’d also stepped inside, and started sobbing hysterically. She’d only just come to her senses, and was rushing outside to find her husband.

A year later, the couple were blessed with twins.

They came back to Uman to say thank you to Rebbe Nachman for their miracle, and to share their story.

Sarah came home to the tent one day very het up. Avraham came over to ask her what was troubling her, and Sarah let rip.

“The ladies by the well are all talking about me! They’re telling me that instead of staying home and kneading dough all day, I should go and get a job as a secretary, so you can just devote yourself to learning Torah, like a real gadol hador!”

Avraham was taken aback.

“Well, but if you do that, Sarah my love, who’s going to look after young Yitzhak?” Sarah shrugged her shoulders, and said in a hesitant voice:

“Well, I saw an ad in the local Pirsumit magazine that Hagar’s started up a new childcare facility. I think she’s roped Yishmael into keeping the kids entertained by showing them how to catch rabbits, or something…”

Avraham shook his head solemnly.

“Sarah, my love, this doesn’t sound right at all. How are we meant to pass on our holy Jewish beliefs and heritage to our son if he’s off shooting pigeons with his somewhat reckless brother? (Avraham always excelled in phrasing things gently.)

“How would that benefit us? How would that build the world? No, my dear, you stay home and look after our precious son, and I’ll continue to study Torah every chance I get, when I don’t have to look after the estate or make small-talk with the locals.”

Sarah cheered up tremendously, once she heard Avraham’s wise words, and disappeared off to her tent to get the next batch of dough prepared.

But the ladies of the well weren’t about to give up so easily. Sarah and Avraham were so, well, old-fashioned, and stick in the mud. It was obvious to everyone (except them…) that if a couple were really serious about the Torah, the woman had to make sacrifices to enable her husband to learn 24/7.

They dispatched Zipporah, the group’s self-styled rebbetzin, to try and persuade Sarah to come round to their more enlightened view. Zipporah knocked on the tent door, just as Sarah was plaiting her challah.

“Hmm, baking again, I see,” said Zipporah, with a condescending little smile playing around her mouth.

“I love to bake!” Sarah told her, eyes shining. “It fills the whole tent with such a delicious, homey smell.”

Zipporah hrrmphed to herself, then sat herself down next to Sarah’s kneading bowl, and put a clammy hand on Sarah’s floury one, in what she hoped was an earnest, caring way.

“Sarah, I heard that Berman’s bakery up the road is looking for a new manager. You’d be perfect! No-one makes challah like you, and once you start doing your bit for the family, Avraham won’t have to waste so much time dealing with the shepherds and well-diggers. You’ll be able to afford to hire someone to manage the estate for you, while he sits in learns…In fact, I know just the person. My sister-in-law, Estie, would fit the bill perfectly.”

Sarah’s smile froze on her face.

“Zipporah, I don’t want to work. I want to raise my children. I’ve discussed it with Avraham, and he agrees that that is the right thing to do. Eliezer is helping us out, in the meantime, so let Estie take the job at Bermans’, and then everyone’s happy.”

Zipporah had had enough.

“Sarah! You are being so selfish! You’re married to the gadol hador, and it’s just not right that you’re not enabling him to learn Torah full time! I’m sure God would prefer for Avraham to be teaching and learning Torah, than having to haggle over the bushel price for goats’ wool!”

Sarah snapped back:

“If that’s true, Zipporah, then WHY did God make it the man’s responsibility to provide for his wife, and not the other way round? Avraham signed the ketuba, not me!”

Zipporah rolled her eyes skyward. Gosh, that old chestnut again. I mean, it’s just a ketuba, for goodness’ sake. No-one else took that seriously. But trust Sarah to take things at face value…

Zipporah stood up to leave.

“I see I can’t change your mind,” she said stiffly. “I have no idea how you expect to get a good shidduch for Yitzhak, with your warped beliefs that men should be off supporting their families. I expect you’ll get some lay-about daughter-in-law who thinks making a pot of soup is a big achievement. And the generation will just have to be an orphaned generation, bereft of your husband’s Torah, because you won’t swallow your pride and your funny ideas, and start your own hair accessory business…”

Sarah nodded curtly at her guest, and escorted her out the tent entrance.

Sure, Avraham’s Torah was hugely important. But if Yitzhak went off the derech, then who’d be around to learn it? Or to live it? Or to pass it on to the next generation? In her heart, Sarah knew that she’d picked the right job, whatever Zipporah and the ladies of the well might say.