Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review March 19, 2001 / 24 Adar 5761

7-4=insensitivity?; baby showers and tempting fate; Splitsville before or after marriage?

By Wendy Belzberg -- My husband sat shiva for three days after his brother died. I didn't say at the time that I thought his decision was disrespectful to his brother, and that Jewish law clearly states that shiva lasts a week. I want to revisit the topic before he has to "sit shiva" for anyone else, and I want to make sure I have all of my facts right when I do.

I'm sure your husband meant no disrespect and I'm sure his brother took none.

Shiva in Hebrew means seven, which says it all when it comes to the question of how long a traditional shiva lasts. The rabbis do make a distinction, however between the first three days of shiva and the last four, which may be why some Jews cut shiva short.

For seven uninterrupted days (breaking for the Sabbath) a mourner grieves. He is surrounded by friends and family who are there to recall the person who has died. Three days is not enough time to remember all the stories and share all the memories; it is not nearly enough time to mourn the loss of an immediate family member.

A grasp of Jewish law is important but is not necessarily what is needed when discussing the merits of "sitting shiva" for the full seven days. Logic-and basic human empathy-comes to the rescue.

What do you think of marriage counseling before marriage? My fiance thinks we should go into therapy together. Like every couple, we have issues and our arguments can become rather heated. But the suggestion to see a counselor makes me feel as if my fiancÚ thinks our relationship is doomed.

If more people thought like your fiance I suspect there would be fewer divorces. Surviving-not to mention thriving in--a marriage is hard work, and has been proven to be more than many people are capable of. A good counselor can teach you critical skills: how to communicate, how to fight fair, and how and when to compromise.

I suppose there's a risk that counseling may lead your fiancÚ to conclude that your issues are irresolvable. But wouldn't you rather know that before your parents spend too much money on a wedding and before you have children? On the other hand, your fiance may be suffering under the delusion that all of your issues can and should be resolved before the ceremony. A good counselor may be able to drag him back to earth. The definition of a good marriage is not one in which both parties always see eye to eye as the sun sets serenely behind them. Life is rich and complicated, but not always fun. A marriage without challenges and different viewpoints sounds to me like a recipe for desperate boredom.

I say spend more money on pre-marital counseling and less on pre-nuptial agreements.

My best friend is 4 months pregnant with her first child and wants me to throw her a baby shower. "Jews don't have baby showers before the baby is born," I keep saying. "What's the big deal?" she keeps saying. The more I think about it, what is the big deal?

You don't have to be Jewish to believe it's a bad idea to throw a shower for an unborn baby. Spread the word.

Here's the big deal: Something goes wrong. Should your friend really be surrounded at a time like that by onesies, car seats and bottle sterilizers? The items would only serve as an excruciating reminder of what she has lost. Yes, we live in an age of medical miracles, but I have personally known women who have lost children not just in their first trimester, but days before their delivery date. In this case custom may seem indistinguishable from superstition. But why tempt fate?

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03/12/01: Passover party-pooper; slapped by a moral dilemma
02/14/01: Human 'mutts,' getting over it, same-sex kesubas
02/08/01: Bar/bat mitzvah blues, homework he-l, from potty to potty-mouth
01/24/01: Naughty neighbor, unprofessional colleague is dead, I'm a Jew, now what?
01/15/01: Rabbis who won't; when the rules of the 'game' change; ungracious grannies
01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
01/02/01: A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits
12/18/00: Babes in Chanukah Land; my husband the kvetch; bad hair marriage?
12/04/00: My niece is a no-goodnik, when lifecycle events become dangerous, Orthodox v. Reform education
11/28/00: My ex is ruining my kids' souls; the mouth that won't stop
11/21/00: Battling brothers; how to keep a nanny
11/08/00: OY VEY! my son wants to become Orthodox; kiddies should avoid family therapy
11/08/00: Rabbi v. therapist, grandparents bearing gifts, I want my son's teacher for a sister-in-law
10/24/00: Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'
10/10/00:Tipsy teens, protective spouses, kosher common-sense
10/03/00: I'm not Jewish --- not that there's anything wrong with it; mezuza machlokes; when granddad has cancer
09/25/00: I can't take Rosh Hashanah! Something for nothing? My husband needs a dinner mate
09/18/00: 'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice
09/11/00: Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2001, Wendy Belzberg