Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 19, 2006 / 26 Sivan, 5766

Is there value in an unhappy marriage?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

How Much Is Too Much?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Is there value in an unhappy marriage?


A: It's clear that the ideal is a harmonious marriage that fulfills the needs of both partners for emotional and physical fulfillment in marital and family life. It's also clear that most marriages will fall somewhat short of this ideal, and that not every instance where domestic life falls short of expectations is a good reason to dissolve a marriage. The real question is, how much is too much?


In my book " Meaning in Mitzvot", I presented my understanding of the approach of the Jewish sages, in the following words:


"While divorce is permitted in Jewish law, and a wide variety of marital difficulties can be considered grounds for divorce, divorce is discouraged, and couples are encouraged to make every possible effort to work out their differences. . . Our Sages praised men and women who showed exemplary devotion even to wives and husbands who mistreated them." (1)


A well-known Torah scholar who saw my book was very disturbed by this statement. Her feeling was that my words could be understood as encouraging people to stay in abusive relationships. I want to clarify that this was certainly not my intention, and I don't think that it is in any way implied by my words. I begin by saying that Jewish law has a lenient approach to divorce, and that when difficulties do arise couples are encouraged to work them out, not to suffer through them. I did mention that there are instances of individuals who decided that on the whole their marriage was worth suffering through some mistreatment (I did not say "abuse"), and that our Sages praised (not encouraged) this fortitude.


I lack the stature to differ outright with this renowned individual, but I do want to present my point of view, and the Jewish sources and personal observations which I believe support my statement.


The first Talmudic source I refer to in my book, from tractate Yevamos, is as follows:


Rebbe Chiya's wife used to aggravate him. [Yet] whenever he would find something she liked, he would wrap it in his scarf and bring it to her. Rav said to him, But she aggravates you! He replied, it's enough that they raise our children and save us from sin. Rav Yehudah used to cite to his son Rav Yitzchak the verse: "I find woman more bitter than death." (Eccl. 7:26). He said, Like who? Like your mother. But did we not learn that Rav Yehudah used to teach his son Rav Yitzchak "A person finds fulfillment only with his first wife, as it is written (Prov. 5:18) "May your source be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth." And he said, like who? Like your mother! She is quick to anger, but afterwards she is appeased." (2)

Donate to JWR

The second source, from tractate Nedarim, describes a number of women with husbands who were quick to anger, and tried to humiliate their wives by asking them to insult prominent Torah scholars. But the scholars forgave their dignity and consented to be insulted in order to allow the wife to carry out her husband's request and preserve his sense of honor.


Neither source encourages a spouse to endure humiliating treatment, yet it is clear that the long-suffering husbands and wives in question are considered praiseworthy by the sages of the Talmud who retell their stories. The men in the passage in Yevamos know how to recognize the benefits of their marriage and the positive traits of their wives, and the women in the passage in Nedarim apparently felt that if their husbands were appeased and their dignity upheld then they would be reconciled.


One example brought by my critic to demonstrate the benefit of acknowledging when to "let go" is one of the most famous rabbinical authorities in Europe before the war. This rabbi's first wife turned out to be more interested in the salon life of her city than in the yeshiva world, while the rabbi himself was known as one of the most zealous opponents of secular education.


The two divorced and each found a spouse more compatible with his or her unique interests. I am not convinced that this anecdote bears on my statements. There is no evidence that either spouse "mistreated" the other, nor is there any evidence that they made any effort to work out their differences. Perhaps if this rabbi had made a genuine effort to take some interest in the intellectual life of the salons, even if only as a gesture to maintain domestic harmony, and the rebbetzin and her salon companions would have taken a corresponding perfunctory interest in the remarkable profundity of her husband's Talmudic scholarship, they would have advanced not only their own domestic harmony but that of the entire, tragically divided Jewish people, and the Jewish world might look different today.


I will add that this kind of match should in any case be rather unusual, as Jewish law stipulates that a groom is required to look at his wife before the wedding to make sure she is attractive to him, so that he may fulfill the mitzvah of 'Love your fellow as yourself'. (4) My understanding is that this refers not only to physical appearance but rather to all those individual qualities which create compatibility and attraction and the ability to love the spouse.


I will add that a well-publicized research study performed a couple of years ago showed that troubled couples who divorced were no happier a few years after the separation than comparable couples who stayed together. Both groups had some people who were happier and some who were more miserable, in comparable proportions. Many troubled marriages are made bearable with a little investment, and many divorced people are lonely and miserable despite their relief at being separated from an incompatible or even thoughtless spouse.


I'm far from an expert in this field, and I don't mean to take the place of the many highly qualified professionals who provide counseling to troubled couples. But I do feel that my book performs a valuable service by pointing out that while the Talmud recognizes that not every marriage should be saved, it does seem to teach us that showing fortitude and maintaining a positive attitude in even a troubled relationship is in some cases the best response to circumstances, particularly when children are involved.


SOURCES: (1) Meaning in Mitzvot p. 657. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Yevamos 63a-b. (3) Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 65b (There is a misprint in my book and it reads 15b.) (4) Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 41a.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

THE JEWISH ETHICIST, NOW IN BOOK FORM

You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
HARDCOVER
PAPERBACK
Sales help fund JWR.



JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


Previously:

Where does the Almighty fit into your corporation's mission statement?
Does an expert witness have to be impartial?
Should I give recognition to a modest man who did a great deed?
In representing my firm, can I tell a white lie?
Defrauding insurance to save a life
Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics