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Sunday, 3 January 2016

What if your spouse doesn't want to be religious?

Daf Yomi Gittin 19


It was a mere forty days since the greatest spiritual revelation of all time – the Giving of the Torah.  Moshe was on top of the mountain learning all the intricacies of the Law and was about to return to the people with the Tablets of Stone, when suddenly, he hears a commotion coming from the camp.  He descends the mountain to find them worshiping a golden calf.  With a mighty heave, he throws the Tablets to the ground.

Following the aftermath of the catastrophic sin, Moshe returns to plead with G-d to forgive the people, Who says to Him, ‘I shall destroy them and make you, Moshe, into a great nation!’
Moshe responds, ‘Forgive them!  If not, delete me from the Book You have written.’

A fellow once walked into shul and picked up a Sefer Torah, gave it to his wife and said, “Here’s your gett!”  Is it a valid divorce?
Rav Yosef said: Why would we be concerned that it might be a valid gett?  If you’re worried about the section that deals with divorce written in the Torah, we halachically require “and it shall be written for her,” meaning specifically for the sake of the wife, and the Torah’s account does not mention her specifically.

Why would a person pick up a Sefer Torah and try to use it as a vehicle of divorce?  Sadly, as strange as the story sounds, it is way too familiar.  Instead of Torah being a force for the good, some people use it as a tool to destroy their marriage.

Throughout our lives, we are meant to grow spiritually.  A marriage is healthiest when husband and wife are on the same page in terms of their values and life aspirations.  But that’s not always the case; often the wife or husband may be on a more accelerated spiritual growth path than their other half. 

Maybe they weren’t Shomer Shabbos when they got married.  Now she wants to keep Shabbos and he’s not ready to leave work early on a winter’s Friday afternoon.  Or maybe they were both observant when they got married; but more on the chilled side.  Now he’s decided that he no longer wants a TV in the house.  What do you do?

Moshe Rabbeinu expressed his position loud and clear.  ‘I married this nation of Israel.  If they go, I go with them.’  And G-d was pleased.   He could have walked away and said to himself, ‘These people are sinners.  I want no part in them.  Let me go and fulfil my personal spiritual aspirations.’  But that’s not what he said.   He had made a commitment to the Children of Israel, through thick and thin, through the righteous times and through the sinful times.  He would not forsake them.

If your spouse is not growing religiously at your pace, don’t throw the Sefer Torah at them.  The Torah has no desire to get in the way of your shalom bayis – peace at home.  You need to work it out and make your marriage work even when you’re not on the same religious page.

You want to keep Shabbos but he doesn’t?  Make your own Kiddush!  You want to keep kosher but she doesn’t?  Cook your own food!  You don’t want to watch TV?  That’s not your spouse’s problem – you stop watching TV!  G-d doesn’t want to be rammed down your spouse’s throat, so don’t use Him as an excuse for marital discord.  Figure it out and stop blaming G-d.  The Torah is not a valid divorce document!


Marriage is about working with another person to find happiness together, despite your differences.  Those differences might be character, temperament, or religion.  G-d wants you to figure out how to live peacefully with your spouse, despite the differences; that’s the challenge He’s given you.  May you merit a blissful marriage and the utmost respect and tolerance for your spouse’s religious decisions!