Judaism has survived throughout the ages because of its people’s dedication to Hashem and to Torah. This has always entailed standing up for what is right over that which is popular. Judaism doesn’t allow us to shy away from problems. It tells us how to solve them in Hashem’s way and gives us a path that, on the simplest level, demands solutions that are truly moral and beneficial.
There’s a pressing need to solve a problem that threatens the Jewish family as never before. People know about the perils of divorce, but little thought or action is expended on preventing it. That’s not just a shame, it’s a crisis. Answers are available, but only by challenging what has unfortunately become commonplace can we effectively tackle this problem.
The problems with divorce include a lack of prevention and stopping what many articles have now defined as its “contagious effects” (when “friends” who are no friends at all encourage others to follow in their footsteps and seek a “freedom” that is nothing more than destruction). Another pressing question is why there are so few people and resources dedicated to combating what has become nothing short of an epidemic.
What are the results? Studies done in Harvard and Cambridge document that children of divorce are more prone to drop out of school, lead lives of crime, use drugs and have a greater risk of suicide. From a Torah perspective, we’re dealing with a threat from within to the Jewish people and its strong legacy like never before. All should be done by all who care to prevent it.
With regard to prevention, this is best accomplished by putting one’s spouse before oneself in every way. Concentrating on the good qualities of one’s spouse and ignoring the trivial are also key.
But what if one falls short of this, within reasonable bounds? What if one forgets that the main part of marriage is dedication in every way, including through communication and understanding? At that point a couple can work through their problems and build a better marriage and become better people all around. Society may not encourage it, but that’s a societal ailment, not a paradigm to follow.
How to work on this is crucial. One organization that has probably saved hundreds of marriages is SPARKS. While its focus is on working with couples that are experiencing post-natal depression, one key aspect of its success is its practice of advising each spouse individually, avoiding the free-for-all that couples “counseling” can become. Even in non-postnatal situations, each spouse having a mentor who is rooted in Torah can be of far greater help than traditional counseling, which often gives rise to one-upmanship.
Thirty years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked people to appoint such a mentor for themselves, one whose philosophy is rooted in Torah and who puts this into practice. That, in and of itself, would likely stave off divorce as both husband and wife are privately and separately encouraged to save their marriage.
As to those who discourage any form of counseling and ask, “Why save a bad marriage?” aside from the commitment made by both parties to each other and the effects on the children, many marriages become better with a modicum of effort. Those who take issue with this should read the Targum Yonasan on Devarim 24:6, which states that those who come between a husband and wife have forfeited their portion in the world to come. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 154) also clearly sees marriage as a strong commitment.
Worse than divorce itself, more and more couples in difficulty are actually, shamefully, encouraged to run to lawyers as a first step. Besides breaking an important Torah prohibition, lawyers very often make reconciliation all but impossible, and sometimes use tactics outside the boundaries of human decency.