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Is it proper for a husband/father or wife/mother to leave their family for an extended period of time?


Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

While it is certainly better for a family to always be intact and for the father and mother to always be present, unfortunately life circumstances often demand that a person does need to take a leave of absence, whether for a repeated or occasional work assignment.

For the running of the family, it is a lot less deleterious if it is the father who leaves from time to time. In terms of nurturing the children, the mother is far more central, and her absence would be very difficult for the family to sustain. But a father’s absence often isn’t that damaging.

Still the one thing a father going away must remember is that he has to maintain relationships and make up for the absence. When he is back home, he must make sure to spend extra time with his children and spouse.

In many situations, this arrangement could even be superior. Often we are distracted and not focused on our children’s lives the way we should be. A father who travels but makes sure that when he is back he showers his children with attention could in fact be a better father than the one who is always home – because he’s consciously giving his children what they need and fostering the attachments.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz


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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Ideally, parents and children should live happily and peacefully in harmonious households. Extended separations from family are generally not in the best interest of the parties involved.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, and various non-ideal situations arise that may necessitate separations from the family unit. It sometimes happens that one must travel on extended business trips in order to maintain family financial health. While it would be nice to earn a living without having to travel, not everyone can manage this.

In unfortunate cases of physical or emotional abuse, it may be necessary for the victim to separate from the abuser until the situation can be ameliorated. Separation in extreme cases is not only proper, but absolutely necessary.

It is best to follow the advice of Hillel, as recorded in the Pirkei Avot: Don’t judge others until you find yourself in their same situation.

– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals


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Rabbi Zev Leff

It depends on two factors. One: Is the purpose of this absence absolutely necessary, i.e. is it for securing a livelihood that cannot be secured in any other manner or is it for the fulfillment of a mitzvah, such as taking care of a parent that needs extended care that cannot be provided adequately by others. Or is it merely for a purpose that is not really necessary and can be achieved adequately in a manner that does not necessitate the absence.

Two: How will this absence impact on the family left behind, spouse and children? Will the benefit or the absence outweigh the detriment or vice versa? What will be the far-reaching effect on shalom bayis and chinuch? Ascertaining the answers to these questions requires advice from a source of daas Torah since serious halachic and hashkafic issues are involved.

– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,
popular lecturer and educator


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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

It’s a very relative question and always depends on the details and circumstances.

It is known that the lomdim of old left for great lengths of time, and the Vilna Gaon praised his sons for being away, studying Torah.

However I would argue that today nishtanu hai’itim. Shalom bayis is essential, as is “Veshinantom livanecha” (teaching your children Torah). And while in the past leaving home for long periods was an acceptable norm, today this would be untenable.

Even as one may need to travel for business, every effort should be made to be home for Shabbos. (The Rambam links Shabbos with shalom bayis and that always takes precedence.) Where that is not realistic, then to be mindful that the time away isn’t extended unnecessarily.

I’m not advocating never going away, and often a break is mentally healthy for the sustainability of a relationship. But everything within reason and moderation. Whatever you do – do what works, not just for yourself, but for the benefit of the family unit.

– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch
lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

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