Should this Marriage be Saved?

There’s a column I’ve seen in a women’s magazine that is called, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” and it usually has several therapists commenting on a specific circumstance or point that has been reached in the relationship. They then give advice on how to repair the relationship or suggest that it is too damaged to be salvaged.

Here’s a scenario I’d like to share. An observant Jewish man suspects his wife of being unfaithful. He keeps his eye on her and warns her to stop hanging around with “guy” friends. Finally, it happens. She goes to a hotel with the other man and emerges an hour later with a beatific smile on her face. Irony intended.

When she comes out, her husband is there. She swears, “nothing happened,” but he’s unconvinced. Forget the question of “can” it be saved. How about “should” it be? This woman is of low moral character to be sure, has poor judgment of course, but most of all, she does not act like a Bas Yisrael, a proper Jewish woman.

If she were an Arab woman, she would simply be beaten mercilessly by her own brothers for shaming them. But she’s not an Arab woman, she’s a Jewish woman, and we don’t condone violence or corporal punishment.

Her husband is currently married to a disgrace of a woman, one who flouts Torah law openly. Should he stay married or do the right thing and throw her out of his home, to maintain the sanctity of the Jewish household?

I can tell you how many would answer this. I was appalled when one of my readers related that his wife was approached by a woman who didn’t like something she was doing. It may have been a questionable act, but this woman’s comment was shocking. The commenter, who by all appearance was a firmly Torah-observant woman, hissed at his wife, “I can’t believe you would do something like that! Your husband should divorce you for doing it.”

Well, strike one on proper rebuke. You can’t throw people in the trash and expect them to say, “Wow, that’s so insightful and caring that you think my husband should divorce me rather than be married to a woman who does X. I must repent this instant!”

Forget the fact that this commenter didn’t know the woman and would not be properly prepared to know whether her comments were well-founded or not. Maybe they would reawaken some deep wound that the listener had and instead of a mitzvah, she would bring upon her head sin and curses. I think that this woman would clearly have said, “Throw her to the curb! She doesn’t act like a Jewish woman.”

She’d be right, except that HaShem disagrees.

You see, in this week’s Parsha, Naso, it tells us of the Sotah, a woman who consorted with men and secluded herself with one despite her husband’s warnings. Now she is brought to the Kohain and tested with special waters into which the name of G-d has been erased. If she is guilty, she will die a horrible death. However, if she did not sin, then she will be blessed. If she was childless she will bear children. If she bore weak children she will bear strong ones.

Why is she blessed? Surely she is not the biggest tzadeikes, righteous woman, on the block! She has acted inappropriately. Why would HaShem be willing to not only erase His name for her, but to do a miracle to convince her husband that she didn’t betray him?!

It’s because He feels this marriage SHOULD be saved. Peace between a husband and wife is so important that G-d will figuratively jump through hoops to pacify the husband and satisfy him that his wife was not unfaithful to him.

While so many of us would respond, like the woman who offered her own bit of divorce wisdom when she saw something she didn’t like, that the man could do better; that he had a moral obligation to rid himself of her; to seek out a woman who was more G-d-fearing instead of this hussy, G-d says:

“No. Stay together, make things better. Bring Me into your home by dwelling in peace.”

People talk about a shidduch crisis. I think a bigger problem is the marriage crisis, in which marriage is cheap, expendable, and divorce is not only an option but a preferred option. It’s not an emergency exit but a door with a red carpet leading to it. This woman felt that some custom or behavior, or even some truly inappropriate behavior, was grounds for breaking up a marriage.

People feel that when they see people sin, or act in a way that perhaps doesn’t live up to all the ideals a Jewish person could exemplify, they have a right to denounce them, curse them, and write them off.

Maybe they should learn this parsha. Perhaps they don’t understand the Torah or HaShem as much as they think they do.