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Friday, March 13, 2015

Jewish Marriage part 14


An old friend of mine, (and former employer) owns a Tefillin store in Jerusalem. When he was a child, he contracted a very invasive form of cancer. It was already stage four by the time it was diagnosed. Doctors held out little hope. There was, however, a slight chance. An experimental treatment was to be tested. His parents agreed to have him take part in the first human trial. It didn't work. Of the 400 children treated, 399 died. Only my friend survived. The doctors called it a miracle. They cautioned, however, that he would never be able to have children. He s now the proud father and grandfather of many! When I worked in his store, frequently people with advanced cancers would come to him for counseling. He would put his work aside, and give these people his full attention, He gave them the feeling that there is always hope; not because he had READ it, but because he had BEEN there.
As I have written before, divorce is sometimes necessary. But media make it seem almost trendy. Anyone who has been through one can tell you that there is hardly a worse nightmare. One newspaper columnist, writing in about 1980, said it best: "The person you have loved and nurtured now wants to eat out your liver!".
I have been struggling for the last several days as to what to right, and how to phrase it. I wasn't even sure if I should post this. But, if some are helped, it will have been worth it.
I had wanted to get married since I was seventeen. I did not meet the "right one" (or so I thought) until I was twenty seven. We were soon married. Everyone thought that we were the ideal couple. It was a happy marriage...for me. She was unhappy. She looked for guidance to a controversial figure, concerning whom I had grave misgivings. She told him that I didn't approve of many things he did. He told her to get out of the marriage. This was less than a week after we learned that she was carrying our child. We were together for four months.
To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. I felt that at twenty seven, my life was over. I was alone and frightened. My security and sense of self worth lay in ruins. I was the rabbi of a congregation, and lived all alone in a big house. My sense of failure was colossal. I had searched for ten years. Would it take another ten to find my "zivvug"? Would I EVER find her? On top of this, a rabbi whom I respected had recently written a book of encouragement. It stressed keeping a first marriage together at any cost, as a second marriage is NEVER happy. I was not encouraged.
Ten months later, I was introduced to Sima. It was an unlikely "match". I am a follower of the teachings of Rabbi Nachman, and I was enamored of Sephardic tradition. She was a student of a prominent Lithuanian rabbi. Nearly everyone thought that we were totally wrong for each other. We were married (with many people trying to stop the wedding until the last minute). Nearly thirty eight years later, we are still on our honeymoon. To quote a statement from Sima a few weeks ago "you know, we have one of the happiest marriages on the planet". I totally agree, and give my thanks to G-d every day.
Why did I need to go through that first unsuccessful marriage? I still bear the scars. But I gained many things. First, it has lead me to a lifelong struggle against cult figures and charlatans. There are many. Several of the "rabbis" on Facebook who solicit funds aren't even Jewish Some live in "gated communities" known as "prisons". I do not remain silent, I speak up.The thought that I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, that each of us has many "soul mates", but with one "complete" match. I have no doubt that Sima is my soul mate. She is my other half, in every way. But from my first marriage came a lovely daughter, now married with two darling children. Is it possible to believe that these aren't the mysteries of G-d? There was a level of my soul which my first wife filled. I also learned not to put to much faith in the Court of Public Opinion. We knew that we were right for each other, and that feeling is still getting stronger.
Perhaps most importantly, I have BEEN there. For thirty nine years I have been counseling people who are getting or got divorced. I KNOW the pain. I counsel people with abandonment issues. I really get it. I counsel people who are without hope, for I KNOW that there is always hope! To quote Rabbi Nachman "Gevalt! (Woe!) There is no giving up!"
My scars are slow healing. But because of what I have been through, I am helping many to heal their own scars. What if we all turn adversity around, see where G-d's plan is in all things, and heal the world!

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