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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Lessons For Adults

Dear Rachel,

A few columns back you published a letter signed “Fortunately unscathed” (see Chronicles of Crisis, 12-28-2012) that dealt with the topic of extra-marital relationships. The author of the letter claimed to know for certain that her husband’s involvement with another woman was not in any way personal or intimate (as was insinuated by an anonymous caller) and that he was merely helping a hapless and abused woman in her time of crisis.

In her letter, Fortunately unscathed also asked if you considered it proper (or improper) for an outsider to intervene by calling the wife anonymously to let her know of her husband’s supposedly bad behavior.

In your response you made it clear that you thought people should mind their own business rather than take it upon themselves to inform husbands or wives of their supposedly unfaithful spouses. Personally, I can’t see where this would be doing anyone any favors. For instance, I know of a woman who had reason to be suspicious of her husband, had him followed and verified that he was heavily involved in an adulterous relationship.

When she confronted him, he did not deny the affair. After a lot of heartache, talking things through and going for counseling, the couple’s marriage is now on the mend.

Had this man’s unfaithfulness not come to light, this couple would never have taken the steps to get at the root of their troubled relationship.

Just my two cents

Dear Just,

It’s a shame things couldn’t be resolved without going to such lengths to bring them to light. Unfortunately, a positive outcome such as the one you cite can technically only be realized when it’s the male who has been found to stray outside the marriage. If the roles were reversed and the wife was discovered to be cheating on her husband, she would no longer be (halachically) permitted to live with him.

Dear Rachel,

I am writing in regard to the column that featured readers’ opinions on the hazards of texting (see Chronicles of Crisis, 1-22-2013). One reader happened to mention “handwritten love letters…” (comparing them with the “unromantic” means of texting). This took me back to a time in the distant past when a close friend of mine carried on quite a romantic liaison via postal mail that lasted for several months.

While there’s much to be said for the value of this antiquated mode of correspondence (the handwriting/penmanship alone could speak volumes), waiting for the mailman to show up with the coveted letter was torture. Lots of things had the chance to transpire, develop or change in the time it sometimes took for a letter to make it across the miles. At least with texting, the message is instant.

I recall when my friend once spent agonizing weeks watching for the postman to show up with a letter from her long-distance beau. Reluctantly and broken-heartedly, she finally gave up. Turned out that the letter got lost in the mail, but by the time this detail surfaced through a mutual acquaintance, my friend had already gone on with her life and settled down with someone else.

When we recently touched base, she divulged that she received “regards” from her long-ago pen pal and was tempted to call him just to “catch up” on where life has taken them all of these years later. Though I must admit to some curiosity myself, I somehow feel that she is better off not revisiting her past — at least not this sensitive part of it.

I don’t believe I’ve convinced her. Maybe you can, Rachel. She reads your column every week.

Apprehensive for my friend

Dear Apprehensive,

“Better off,” did you say? I’d say she has absolutely no business calling or contacting him in any way, shape or form. From the way you’ve described it, this was no casual relationship. Besides, there is no rationale for a married woman to initiate contact with a male acquaintance of her past.

One call is all it takes for an old romance to be rekindled, especially in light of the way the flame was left to sputter and die. A reunion of this sort can set off still-smoldering embers and has the potential to erupt in a deadly blaze. Your friend owes it to herself, her husband and her family to tell her yetzer hara to take a hike — no ifs, buts or maybes. Case closed.

Dear Rachel,

Now that the chassidic “counselor” has been sentenced to languish in prison for the rest of his days, are you still inclined to stick up for his kind?

Bet you are…

Dear Bet,

That would depend on what you mean by “his kind.” There is absolutely no defense for sickeningly offensive behavior. But if by “his kind” you allude to the sect he belonged to, I stand by my previous conviction: one sick individual does not reflect on a whole group of people (see Chronicles of Crisis 1-18-2013).

That said, the concept of chassidism is based on holding oneself up to a higher moral and spiritual standard than the norm, and so it isn’t at all surprising that many of his community continue to be in denial. The mere thought of the accusations brought against the defendant remains unfathomable in the minds of the truly pious.

Hopefully, this tragic episode has served to shake up the complacent among us: As Jews, it is incumbent on us to behave with decorum and solemnity, particularly in a court of law. Where is our show of gratitude and appreciation for the medina shel chesed we are fortunate to live in? Sneering and flaunting a “holier-than-thou” attitude only demonstrates ignorance and disrespect and can end up creating more damage — as it did. Have some of us perhaps forgotten that we are in golus? Better to keep it in mind at all times.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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