[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Nitzavim-Vayelech 5773 – translated R. Blumberg]
Dear friend, you have three options:
1. To get divorced. If you do, maybe you’ll build a new Jewish home and be happy, and maybe you won’t remarry. And if you do remarry, maybe you won’t be happy; and maybe you’ll lose your connection to your children, and they’ll lose theirs to you. All of these things are all possible.
2. You can continue living in your present state of endless mutual recriminations and arguments, which is not good for you, your wife or your children. It’s unclear which is better, option 1 or 2.
3. To try to rectify matters. This seems feasible. Yet you cannot do it alone, because you have already tried and not succeeded over the course of many years. You should therefore go for marriage counseling. I’m happy to provide you with the name of a counselor appropriate to your circumstances who can teach you to talk to each other in a normal manner.
Yet you say that she has already despaired and pins no hopes on counseling. If so, then you must repent fully, on your own, and hope that this will influence her a bit.
She is actually only making one claim against you – that you insult her all the time, especially in front of the children, and she is no longer ready to forgive you for this. That, in fact, is a very serious charge, that can be classified as psychological violence. I suggest that you read the book, Stalking the Soul, by Marie-France Hirigoyen, one of France’s greatest psychologists [translated into English and many other languages from the original French].
That book will help you understand what you are doing to her.
You must understand. She is full of emotional scars, and they cannot be healed, because you are constantly touching them, and even the slightest touch makes her explode with pain. So realize from the start that even if you undergo a miraculous improvement, her relationship to you, so lacking in warmth and intimacy, will not be rectified in one day. Our Sages offered a parable in Tractate Niddah: “If you remove a boiling pot from the fire, it won’t cool off immediately. It takes a lot of patience.”
True, you have claims against her as well, but there’s no benefit to investigating whether they’re true or not, and whether or not she was justified in becoming cold and remote. Rather, you must read what’s written on the back of the bus: “Don’t be right. Be smart.”
Or, as our Sages said in Baba Kama: “If they tell you you’re a jackass, take the saddle and put it on your back.”
So, dear friend, you have no recourse but to behave with immense, genuine humility, without putting on a show, and to say to her, “Dear wife, I am sorry. I am a jackass. For many years I have been a jackass. I hurt you. I tormented you. Starting now I will strive to the utmost not to be a jackass.
I demand nothing of you in return. I just demand of myself to behave properly and to rectify what I have ruined over the years, to compensate you and to make you happy. “You can meet my overtures however you wish, and whenever you wish.
“I am sorry, dear wife. I am a jackass. ‘Jackass’ is my name and my whole being says
Dear friend. It is possible to make peace. If the French and the English, sworn enemies, succeeded in making peace between them, you can do it with your wife. If the European Union forced peace on France and Germany after three blood-soaked wars, certainly you can make peace with your wife.
It just requires patience. It just requires humility.
Carry out a revolution, a 180 degree turnaround, within yourself.
Be aware that your wife, as well, deep inside, longs for love and brotherhood and peace and friendship. Just as she seems to you remote and hard, so do you seem to her remote and hard.
There’s the story of the Russian nobleman who when loosened up by wine proclaimed in the tavern, “Next week there will be a bear fight with gambling, between me and the neighboring nobleman.” That nobleman, drunk as well, agreed.
When he arrived home he sobered up and realized that he had no bear in the palace, so
he called the Jew who tended his estate and he said to him, “Moshka, you’re going to the marketplace and you’re to purchase a bear skin. Dress yourself in it, and you’ll be the bear. If you refuse, I shall banish you and your wife and children.”
Having no choice, but with enormous fear, the Jew agreed. A week later he found himself standing in the tavern, trembling with fear, frozen in place before a terrifying bear.
Yet the riled up crowd of gamblers pushed him forward against the bear, so he stood before it, realizing that his last moment had come, and he recited, “Hear O Israel. Hashem is G-d…”
And the bear facing him concluded, “Hashem is one.”
Then the two bears fell on each other’s necks and hugged.
Do you understand, my friend?
May G-d help you.