Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Secret of Remarriage without Haste

Another beautiful Bat Ayin sunset
The Secret of Remarriage: 
Taking Time to Build Eternal Links

It’s not the first time it happened that one of our students my age came to speak with me with stars in her eyes, and I just knew it, “there is a man in your life!” To her excited confirmation I could only plead, “Please don’t rush into getting engaged right away.” “It’s too late,” was her reply. “The wedding has already been planned for next week.” In these kinds of cases it is difficult to speak sense to the mesmerized middle aged woman, who is in a trance of excitement. The man in her life insists they need to get married the day after tomorrow, the Kabbalist agrees that now is a special favorable time and he gives his enchanted blessing. My question remains: What do you gain from rushing into a second or third marriage?

Relying Completely on the Kabbalist
How dare I refute the Kabbalist, what do I have to my defense against such a holy man guided by Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration)? Aren’t you supposed to trust that he knows everything and sees into the future and understand the underlying compatibility throughout the reincarnations of the two souls presented before him?

As much as I believe in the importance of Emunat Chachamim – faith in our true sages, Hashem gave us emotional and intellectual capacities to employ in decision making taking full responsibility for our own lives. The importance of free choice is emphasized in the Torah. “You must choose life…”[1] Hashem expects us to be levelheaded and sensible when it comes to choosing the direction of our personal lives. We entrust our halachic questions to the Rabbis and follow their instructions for keeping the Torah laws. Sure, Kabbalists can be helpful in opening spiritual blockages in our lives, yet the directive to be “wholehearted with Hashem”[2] precludes using Kabbalists as oracles and soothsayers. Today, neither a Rabbi nor a Kabbalist are prophets. They can give their general approval for a match, and it’s always recommended to seek out blessings from the righteous and learned including authentic Kabbalists. However, today, the world is filled with pseudo kabbalists so one needs to be very careful. Certainly, it’s not the Jewish way to renounce our own responsibility over our lives and defer it entirely to the forecast of any Kabbalist.

The Now or Never Ultimatum
It seems to me that there is a pattern of the personality types who rush into marriage. The woman is usually afraid that if she doesn’t take the opportunity now then she may never get married. Often this kind of woman has a very low self-esteem and may even have a history of being abused. She is willing to take a risk to fill her dejected void to get out of her unbearable loneliness. For me a red light instantaneously turns on when the man projects a ‘now or never ultimatum.’ It is as if he wants to catch the woman in his net and fears that if she would get to know him better she may not agree to marry him. A wise Rabbi[3] once taught me a method to identify the yetzer hara (negative impulse). If you feel an urgency to have something right away, compelling, pushing and urging you on, beware as this is an indication that the source of your compulsion stems from the yetzer hara. If the man that you desire head over heels today is truly your match from heaven (zivug), then he will not run away the day after tomorrow. I try to tell the woman who is rushing into a new marriage, “You deserve your time – the time it takes to ensure that a life with this man will be fulfilling for you on all levels.”

Haste is Waste
Marriage is the most important event in the life of a man or woman; it leaves an indelible imprint on one's entire life. Such a decision requires considerable thought and cannot be done in haste.[4] What can you lose from taking your time to check out the man carefully to find out if your goals and lifestyles are compatible? In addition you must ask yourself deeply if you really are ready to go into this new relationship. Have you thoroughly healed from your past relationships to the extent that you will not be 'on the rebound' of a first or second divorce.[5] You must carefully get to know your future spouse and find out whether he too has recovered from emotional injuries of past relationships. It is reasonable to expect that the man you want to marry has a functional relationship with his ‘ex’ and a healthy relationship with his children, who he spends time with in a regulated scheduled fashion. Don’t throw yourself into a marriage with the illusion that you will be able to clear up all of his emotional mess. If the life of the man of your desire is in terrible disarray, you will most likely become another twisted string in his bundle of entangled, knotted, disheveled life.

Go Out As Many Times as Necessary to Ensure a Healthy Remarriage
Statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.[6] Therefore, careful healing, and planning are necessary before remarrying. In order to thoroughly heal, it is advisable that both of the prospective marriage partners have gone through extensive therapy from past relationships, before stepping under the Chuppah (marriage canopy) again. In addition, it is important to take the time to gradually get familiarized with the lifestyle of the man you intend to marry, and the people in his life. The relationship with step children is very delicate, therefore, take the time to get to know each of his children and allow them to ease into and get used to the upcoming change in their father’s life, before consummating the transformation. In conclusion, don’t be miserly with regard to the number of times you go out to see [your prospective marriage partner].[7]

Soldering the Hooks of Starting All Over
This week’s parasha is the last one describing the Mishkan – the holy tabernacle through which Hashem’s Shechina (Feminine Divine Indwelling Presence) would fill the world. A marriage is also a sanctuary for the Shechina. A careful comparison of the different accountings made in Parashat Perkudei reveals surprisingly that there is a more detailed accounting of the copper and silver than of the gold. Copper was used for the tent pegs, and silver for both the clasps connecting the tent of the Mishkan and the hooks for hanging the curtains of the courtyard.[8] Although the golden menorah and the ark with its cherubs are much more glamorous, we must not forget the seemingly insignificant hooks which connected the entire Mishkan and without which, everything would fall apart. One of the differences between the Golden Calf and the Mishkan is the Mishkan’s ability to be taken apart and joined together anew. When broken down the Golden Calf leaves only dust and ashes. An eternal link must possess the flexibility to be rejoined after coming apart. This ability symbolizes humanities willingness to start anew. It is indeed commendable that even after being so broken by previous relationships people are willing to pick themselves up without being afraid to start matrimony anew. However, I cannot emphasize enough the importance to take the time to carefully solder the hooks into eternal links first. You can create these links by learning deeply from past injuries, to the degree that you really understand in the very fiber of your being what went wrong. To understand a matter requires being able to take it apart and put it together again. That is the secret of remarriage.

Blessings of Transforming the Brokenness into Eternal Connection
“And of the thousand seven hundred and seventy five shekels he made hooks for the pillars…”[9] A hook is called a vav in Hebrew. The letter vav when used as vav hachibur (the connecting vav) can also mean “and.” Vav is called ‘letter of truth’ (Ot Emet)[10] according to Kabbalah. אֱמֶת /emet – truth includes the first last and middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet to indicate that truth is to see the whole picture, without leaving anything out. When we rush into things we often miss out on important information. We don’t always see the full picture but hold on to a wishful apparition created by our hopeful expectations. We need to take the time to face even the flaws of the prospective, and speak to a friend of his ‘ex’ to hear the other side of the story. Only when we connect all the pieces and see the whole picture, are we well equipped to forge an new everlasting relationship. It is said that the second set of the Torah tablets were never broken, because the commands were connected with connecting vavs. I bless all divorced women to build new hooks from the brokenness of previous relationship(s) into eternal links that will endure the storm, rain and snow of the upcoming eternal bond of marriage. May you be able to ease into your new marriage step by step after having taken the time to build the secure foundation consisting of your broken pieces fused carefully into eternal links!

[1] Devarim 30:19.
[2] Devarim 18:13.
[3] The French Rabbi Yochanan Lederman teaching in Diaspora Yeshiva in 1979.
[4] Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 272.
[7] Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, Vol. XII, p. 113.
[8] Shemot 38:10, 28:11, 38:17, 38:19, 38:20.
[9] Shemot 38:28.
[10] Zohar, part 3, p. 2a.


  1. This was such an extremely courageous and groundbreaking piece, B'H!

  2. Yes, you have truly stepped out of a societal comfort level in this blog post. We need to realize that pretending to be happy for a woman who is caught up in a fantasy relationship is not kindness. It is not courageous. She needs our loving truth at that time more than ever. Although she may be hurt and angry if we ask her if she has taken the time to consider her decision carefully, her reaction is not really our responsibility. Our responsibility is to stand in love and courage for her life. Thank you so much for this post today, Rebbetzin.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments it is so hard to talk sense to those women madly in love and no matter how strong you talk I have not succeeded in slowing down their hasty decision, and its so hard now to see them suffer.