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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 2/26/10

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Dear Readers,

Last week we heard from a reader who had scathing criticism for this column and its author and who took specific issue with our response to the woman who wrote of her divorced friend’s dalliance with a married man (see Chronicles 1-1-10). Our critic, it should be pointed out, considers himself educated, open-minded, street-wise, and happily married – and proudly professes to be a cheat.

Dear Unfaithful,

The opening line in our response to Fearful for my friend – “Why any woman would choose to be in a relationship with a married man is beyond baffling” – appears to have been the trigger of your contention. Needless to say, you are entitled to your opinion-never mind the fact that a legion of women who have traveled down that road will corroborate that to set oneself up for almost inevitable pain and heartache is indeed baffling. But perhaps I should have added “to the clear-thinking individual.”

Speaking of clear thinking, you, my dear sir, are either high on something or are living in a fog. Allow me to lift some of it for you.

To your rhetorical question, whether we believe that married men and women have lost their physical drive: If we didn’t have any, there would hardly have been the need for G-d to lay down the law via the 7th and the 10th Commandments – Lo Sinaf, which prohibits adultery, and Lo Sachmod – which exhorts us not to covet most notably your neighbor’s wife.

You seem particularly peeved with Chassidism and take a heated stance against their matchmaking system, which you cite as “a direct cause for cheating.” Despite your claim to being “educated,” you are in desperate need of enlightenment. Whether their method appeals to you or not, it has been shown to work, and more effectively than any other. Is it flawless? No system is. But for every dissatisfied or disgruntled pair (often the product of a dysfunctional family setting or individual, found in all sects and denominations), there are countless deeply satisfying and solid Chassidishe marriages. Maybe you’ve “walked the streets” of the community, but it’s obvious that you haven’t had the privilege of seeing up close and interacting with those who are busy tending to their marital relationships and nurturing their households – people whom you are not likely to encounter on your street rounds.

“People cheat for many reasons,” you proclaim, ” to bring joy to themselves amidst a joyless marriage, to escape an abusive spouse, to escape an abusive or confusing sect of Judaism, to bring excitement to their everyday lives or because they can or because they want to.” Individuals who stray commonly seek excuses and justifications, most likely because in the core of their beings they know that there aren’t any.

Excitement? You don’t by chance allude to the “excitement” of a feverish dread that washes over you as the clock ticks precious moments and hours away while your spouse is left wondering about your whereabouts. Or maybe you refer to the pang of conscience that overtakes you as you play your game of deceit and deprive your children of your attention while you are all wrapped up in yourself. Your last excuse “because they want to” is deplorably self-serving and says it all.

You unashamedly declare, “I’ve started groups that have attracted like-minded cheating individuals.” How appalling and how sad! You realize of course that not only will you be held accountable for your own indiscretions, but you will also be found culpable for all those whom you embolden to sin.

In your detailed letter, you (intentionally?) fail to identify yourself as an “observant” Jew. Nonetheless, if your Yiddishe neshama still draws you to pray to Hashem, you may find yourself mouthing the words – V’lo sosuru acharei l’vavchem v’acharei eineichem – do not follow (the lust in) your heart and (the longing in) your eyes -found in krias shema, the most indispensible of our prayers, (The world may claim that ignorance is bliss, but the Torah holds differently. While you’ve busied yourself indulging your carnal desires, you may have missed out in learning Judaism’s most fundamental concept: unlike animals who are guided solely by their instincts, we as human beings possess the ability to exercise self-control.)

It would be only fair to let our readers know that since your letter was unsigned, this column took the liberty of signing you as Unfaithfully yours You may object to its connotation with the argument that you wrote the letter in all sincerity. Yet, by your own admission, you cheat. Where does one draw the line at sheker? If you have no qualms about deceiving your wife, what should keep you from cheating anyone, anywhere, at any time? (An elucidation from the Talmud: If someone commits a transgression and repeats it, it becomes regarded by that person as permissible.)

In the end, you will be fooling only yourself; a lie cannot hold its own. As our Sages teach, without justice, truth and peace the world has no leg to stand on. “Emes” is a main support without which the world would cease to exist. Without truth, the ensuing chaos would undermine the foundation of the universe. Sheker, falsehood, weakens the world’s foundation; truthfulness strengthens it.

Your letter is at once both comical and tragic (the two masked faces of Purim come to mind). Your views are laughable yet reduce one to tears. It is not too late for you to reorder your life, to make amends, to plead al cheit and to beseech your Creator to forgive your foolishness-as Purim so vividly substantiates. Though the Jews of Persia made a mockery of the Torah by allowing their material cravings to rule the day, when they repented wholeheartedly they merited to be saved from Haman’s evil plot.

A word of caution to the married woman tempted to compromise the sanctity of her marriage: As an aishes ish, you would no longer be permitted to your husband and he would have no choice but to divorce you. If this is your goal, to bring a divide between you why not do the right thing by yourself, your husband and your children and seek a divorce in an honorable manner. Contrary to what Unfaithful would have us all believe, divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did. Bowing out with dignity is far more respectable than bringing shame upon your family and besmirching your holy neshama.

In the merit of living a true Torah life, may we be zoche to annihilate the Amalekim in our midst.

Simchas Purim!

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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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