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My Teshuva Is Creating a Problem in My Shalom Bayit

Published on Sunday December 6th, 2020

Here is the transcript of a telephone conversation following a question asked by David D. (anonymous) to a Torah-Box Rabbi.

David. D.: Kvod Harav, I disagree with my wife about the choice of schooling for my children. I have been a Baal Teshuva for 3 years, and I am still strengthening myself, and I wanted the 'top' for my son and my daughter, from a religious point of view. Until now, they were in Jewish schools where they were taught very few Jewish values. I therefore sent them to Orthodox schools which very pious families send their children to. The school puts a lot of emphasis on Halacha (Torah Laws) such as Tzitzit, Tzniut etc and where the level of Jewish studies is much higher than in their previous school. My wife reproaches me for this choice. She finds that the children cannot blossom and that the premises are dilapidated, she deplores the lack of hygiene etc. Recently, my daughter also started complaining and regretting her old friends that she had to leave. Personally, I find that my children are very happy, but I recognize that the material conditions of the new school are significantly lower than the previous one. I do not know what to do…

Rav Scemama: Are there differences of religiosity between you and your wife?

D.D.: Yes. In fact, at the beginning of our marriage, my wife was much more practicing than I was, but as I told you, over the past three years I have been getting stronger in my religious observance, and I have even ended up surpassing her. To be honest, she finds that I spend too much time studying Torah and that my beard is too long. She complains that I am too zealous in the application of the Mitzvot, which causes me Shalom Bayit problems... Lately, I have tried to slow down a bit, but we lose both in the end: She is not happy with the efforts that I am making, and I'm losing my passion ...

Rav S.: Apart from your religious gap, do you have other issues of disagreement?

D.D .: No, we get along very well. I love my wife and I appreciate her a lot, and I'm sure it's mutual.

Rav S.: Do you verbally express your love for her? Do you clearly tell her that you appreciate her?

D.D .: Yes, all the time.

Rav S.: Your wife - according to you - is not far removed from Judaism and she was even at a level higher than you before. How do you explain your disagreements due to Teshuvah? Have you shared your experience with her?

D.D .: I did Teshuvah rather abruptly. As soon as I realized that the path of Judaism was the way of truth, I committed myself body and soul and I progressed very quickly. In my enthusiasm, I overcame all the pitfalls and sought to achieve perfection in everything I undertook. I really took to learning Torah seriously and I study several hours a day. My physical appearance has changed (Tzitzit on the outside, black clothes, long beard, and I have even grown slightly long peot.). But in fact, I must admit that I did not really try to share what was happening inside me or to explain myself. I imposed what was right in my eyes, without arguing, that's all.

Rav S.: A certain form of religious autocracy in short ...

D.D .: Absolutely, I admit it.

Rav S.: Well, I'll tell you what I think. Your problem of choice of school is in fact only the tree that hides the forest: your wife simply did not digest your way of keeping her away when you did Teshuva. In my eyes, it is obvious that she should only be delighted that you started to return to Judaism, joining her on her journey. However, because you did not involve her in your Teshuva process, and even worse, you totally disregarded her and her sensitivities, she felt neglected and discarded in a crossroads of your life where you started a new beginning. Her disappointment is not a dissatisfaction with your Teshuva, she just wants to be considered and solicited. She would have liked to share and to walk with you in this spiritual experience that is Teshuvah.

Read the words of Rav Greenwald in the Guide to Teshuvah (page 335), where he warns the Baal Teshuvah of the awkwardness he is likely to commit in his home if he is tactless. You must absolutely resume this dialogue with love and patience, show her even more than before how much you care about her, that you want to hear her opinion on all your choices, and how much you feel a real happiness in moving forward together. On the other hand, concerning the conduct to be adopted, avoid, for the moment, taking on what is not really necessary in Judaism and all that annoys her. Because the key to a good Teshuvah in a home is Shalom. I think that even your daughter, who expresses her regrets about her old school, is only echoing her mother...

D.D .: Quite right. When she started in her new school, she was very happy. But for her, her mother is everything ...

Rav S.: I wish you a lot of Hatzlacha. Keep me informed of your situation.

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