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Chava Berman Borowsky

The Mekubal and the Divorcee

The man enters the study of Harav Hachacham Yosef Toledano with a red tear streaked face sobbing uncontrollably. He’d never cried once in his adult life, even when he had felt the most pain he’d ever experienced from a herniated disc. But now was different, he was in deep searing emotional pain.

“Chacham, please, please find any loophole possible so that I can go back to my wife. We’ve talked things over and I completely forgive her. Our relationship is now stronger than it’s ever been. Just find us a way – any permissible way possible for us to be together.”

The rabbi has an enormous amount of empathy but there’s nothing he can do. He explains once more to the unhinged man. “We have physical proof of your wife’s affair. If only you didn’t hire a private investigator to uncover your wife in bed with another man. There’s actual footage that exists. If only we didn’t have actual proof, maybe we could find a solution.”

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A 32 year old Haredi woman wearing a long blonde wig enters the mekubal’s office. She looks disoriented and extremely out-of-place in this deeply Sephardic mystical world characterized by gold and red decorative ornaments, Chamsa paintings, Baba Sali portraits, and an assortment of prayers printed on glass and stuffed in every possible available nook and cranny. 

“He doesn’t love you.”

She intellectually believes the rabbi but on a visceral emotional level she refuses to admit to herself that the rabbi is correct in his definitive conclusion.

It started so innocently that it was close to laughable. Her husband had suffered neurological damage after a car accident which left him in a state of severe depression. A side effect of his antidepressants was a complete lack of romantic feeling and her husband hadn’t touched her in five years – it was now five years since the accident. A rabbanit had told her that she was still obligated to go to the mikvah every month even though she had no marital relationship.

A few months ago at one AM she received a text from her non-religious boss “Are you up?” She had grown up in Geulah and was completely unfamiliar with hookup culture. She was inordinately flattered by his genuine care for her well-being even at such a late hour. The fact that such a successful man who earned in a month what she made in a year was actually interested in her and found her attractive was irrevocably irresistible to her. 

The only man she’d ever touched was her husband. She worked in one of the job centers for Haredi women in customer service for one of the biggest companies in Israel. When her boss had unthinkingly tapped her on the back for a job well done, momentarily forgetting that most of his workers were Haredi, she felt an instant shock of electricity overcome her entire body. Desperate for any feeling of romantic attention, her worker-boss relationship had turned into a full blown affair. 

The rabbi tried to convince her once more. “You’re interpreting every crumble of lust as true everlasting love.” 

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The middle aged divorcee had already been to chakra readings, psychics with crystal balls, and  a few meditation retreats. Her soul had known no rest for 23 years. Unbeknownst to anyone but one close friend she is still entangled in a years’ long affair with her former husband’s brother.

“You were soulmates in a previous life with your former brother-in-law. You are now both gilgulim and your souls will forever be intertwined with each other. You will also ache for one another but you’ll never be able to be together as a legitimate couple in this world.”

“I’ve tried so hard to forget him. I changed my cell number so he wouldn’t be able to find me and yet he still found out where I was. No matter how hard I try I always find myself back in bed with him,” she bemoans to the mekubal.

The mekubal suddenly lights up with an enormous smile. “What’s the prayer we say after biur chametz on Pesach?” 

She’s baffled by his sudden madness. He continues by answering his own question.

“Kol hamira v’hamia d’ika virshuti, d’la hamiteih udla viarteih udla y’dana leih, libateil v’lehevei hefkeir k’afra d’ara – All chametz in my possession which I have not seen or removed, or of which I am unaware, is hereby nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

“There is a solution. If you find a man who’s emotionally available to you, who you can build a future with, the decree from Heaven will be annulled. That will be your tikkun. You just need to intentionally repeat three times that like chametz the soul of your ex’s brother is now ownerless and doesn’t belong to you.” 

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She met him on a chat room in one of the popular Israeli forum sites. He was a Sephardic divorced father of three. She was a single girl from a wealthy Chassidish family with prominent yichus. Their virtual relationship had blossomed into first a friendship and then a covert romantic relationship. This was a real life Romeo and Juliet – there was no way in hell that her family would ever accept him. She habitually goes away to friends’ Sheva Brachos for Shabbos but she’s actually in tzimmers up North with her secret boyfriend who’s ten years her senior. 

After five years she relents to family pressure and gets married to a nice modern Chassidish boy. She’s fully committed to her husband but still occasionally sends texts to her former secret boyfriend who’s still divorced. 

Her husband finds out about his wife’s former friend and demands that she break off any sort of communication. She still never admits to him that he was her former lover.

She wants to stop thinking about her first love but she’s unable to. Ironically, it was her illicit former boyfriend who suggested that she go to the mekubal so that he could help her forget about him. 

The rabbi hears her plight and gives her a blessing.

“May you build a faithful house in Israel and may nothing or anyone ever come between you and your husband. May your heart never long for another man.”

About the Author
Chava Berman Borowsky grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an Orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in 2008 and has since lived in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Holon, and Ashdod. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, painting, and writing.