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I Keep Shabbat and My Husband Doesn’t . . .

I Keep Shabbat and My Husband Doesn’t . . .

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Question:

My husband is very hard to deal with. We have a kosher home, and he learned to keep the kitchen kosher, and we have Friday-night dinner and Shabbat lunch together. He does the kiddush, and the children overall enjoy the atmosphere. But after the meals, they just want to get back to TV, etc. He does not like to go to shul with me; it’s a constant strife. He does not observe Shabbat at home in any way. Same with the children: They watch TV, play video games on the computer, etc. So my Shabbat observance is very distracted because I am surrounded by all this noise and un-Shabbat behavior. I knew that he did not want to became observant when we were getting married, but I had no clue that it would be so difficult for me to deal with. I feel very lonely; at times, they treat me like I’m literally a “crazy fanatic.” I lost my peace of mind because in my own home, I am treated as not “normal.” What is one to do? Is there hope?

Response:

I can imagine it must be stressful for you; but, yes, there is hope.

The key is to stay true to your own feelings about Shabbat without imposing your religious standards on your family. Instead, let them see that having Shabbat makes you a happier, more pleasant person. Let them enjoy a terrific meal, a table nicely set. Try to get everyone talking about what they like—sports, friends, politics, a new book—whatever is of interest to each individual. Focus on making this an hour of simple family dinner, enjoyably. Tell them it’s important that you share this time together.

Then, once dinner is over, leave them alone. Find a nice place where you can just sit and read or schmooze with a family member, or study . . . whatever. And if they’re watching a great show on television—and say, “Hey, Mom, look at this!”—you don’t need to grimace, frown or even react. They’re enjoying themselves and you can respect that, so that they can learn to respect your Shabbat and one day want to join in your weekly holiday bliss.

The point is to show your family how Shabbat makes you more enjoyable to be with. You’re happy, rested, calm—you’re not busy with other stuff. And eventually, the kind of atmosphere you want in your home for Shabbat will slowly evolve. It starts from you.

All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Anonymous London December 16, 2016

Perhaps your husband is right From the othert side of the coin. My wife keeps Shabbat. I've tried and the more I try the more I hate it. It is turning me off Judaism completely. I don;t need platitudes from Rabbis about hwo great Shabbat is. Maybe it is for some but not for me. You spend a while day getting ready. Then you lose a whole day trying to pretend you are relaxing. So basically it is an imposition that takes uo at least 2/7th of life. In fact more, because then you need to work extra hours the rest of the week to get home early on Friday. I really really hate it. Reply

Martina Arizona December 6, 2015

Anonymous in Ontario. I understand how your Shabbat goes. I am a widow and live with one of my grown daughters. Observing Shabbat is more a time of study, prayer and inner reflection for me than having a large family over, like many lucky families. Though my other grown daughter joins us when she doesn't have to work, I never have more than three people over, unlike the great get-together I experienced while visiting Israel. It actually feels a little lonely at times, though one is not to feel sadness on Shabbat, the grieving over my recently deceased husband is still in the process. Do I have to feel guilty, like I do, considering it to be against G-d's Will?! Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org September 20, 2015

To Asher Consistency depends on where you are at now, and growing from there. Take things one step at a time, and once you've gotten used to the first steps, move on to more. And keep growing until observing Shabbat becomes part of who you are, and you will never turn back. Reply

asher vancouver,british columbia September 12, 2015

shabbat shalom I want to be consistent when it comes to keeping shabbat. What can I do. Reply

Lavender April 18, 2015

Shabbat Thank you all for all your comments. Helpful in realizing many of us are not alone in an unequal interest and particpation in Shabbat. Prayers Reply

Anonymous Ontario February 6, 2015

What I Do At This Time in My Life I live alone and every Friday night I light the candles the way my late wife did, and enjoy the bread I've baked and the cholent I've prepared. Then, almost every Friday night, my brother makes a sincere good-Shabbos phone call, usually when I'm walking the dog. (I have to carry a poop bag and there is no eruv) . it's the end of the work week, so it's the natural time to call.

I pick up the voice message, try to call back (that's 2 violations so far I think), and leave him a voice message too.

Then I get on the computer, like this. Of course, eventually I get off the computer and go to sleep, and almost always attend Shabbat services. It isn't right, but it's something in the right direction. There is a difference between my Saturday and the rest of the week. If I'm alone, I don't shop or phone or, usually, drive.

For me, family trumps everything. Reply

JDV January 11, 2015

Keeping Shabbat You answered this question in a very non-judgmental way. Good for you! Keep up the good work. Reply

sara October 10, 2014

Thank you so much for this It is a struggle here too - less so than the kosher kitchen, but this is such a nice piece, I hope I can follow it and not get annoyed/angry. Reply

Anonymous Makom May 24, 2014

Anyone who is depressed from keeping shabbos should re-evaluate how they observe it. Life is too short to be depressed which is a great sin too. And before you trade your loved ones for Shabbat decide which is really more important. A lot of traditional shabbos ritual such as lighting candles and having a family meal can still be done and a compromise can be found. That is my sound advice and I have a lot of experience with this. Reply

Peter Webb November 8, 2013

Shalom Bayit The advice given is excellent. I started off as an Anglican Christian, then changed to be a member of a different denomination, one that kept Shabbat, Yom Tov and Kashrut, albeit in Karaite fashion. I gave my parents a hard time and didn't think about their feelings at all. They thought I was going mad. 3.5 years ago, after 35 years in that Christian denomination, I converted to Judaism and now strive to be more observant than I already was as a Christian (!!!!). However, now I'm a lot more considerate of my non-Jewish wife's feelings. She's very supportive of my Jewish life, but likes to go back to the TV on a Friday night after kiddush, doesn't join me for Havdalah, etc. However, although it greatly bothered me to begin with, I now just let my wife and daughter get on with what they want to do and I just value them for themselves and my wife for all she does for me. The result is peace in the home. Human relationships trump absolutely strict observance in my book. Reply

Anonymous bklyn, ny November 25, 2010

I have a problem with my kids keeping shabbos I like to go to my daughters for the weekend but nobody keeps shabbos there so I just keep it by myself by not doing anything on shabbos but it is very distracting because everyone does there ome thing on shabbos, but I dont know what to do, thats the only time I can see my grankids is on teh weekends Reply

Anonymous Dallas, Tx November 7, 2009

The original advice The original advice was so intelligent and loving. I wish I had followed it when I was younger. Pick your battles do not berate scream and condemn that only make them dig their feet in deeper. Leading with love and serenity will bring them closer to you.
I remember you get more with honey than vinegar. Reply

Bena Rachel March 23, 2009

I can relate I am a Baalat Teshuva (returneee to Jewish observance) and can relate to the pain and frustration expressed here. I hope that G-d will send each of you everlasting marital harmony, immediately and may we all observe G-d's Mitzvot with our loved ones with joy, at home! Reply

steve January 19, 2009

thoughts anyone? this has really made me think. My wife is very secular israeli and when we married we were both non-observant. My wife nowadays gets very insecure and angry by my son and I going to our (chabad) shul and she is convinced all the folks who go on Shabbos are brainwashed and extreme. They are not really...they are just doing what they can. It has been very stressful and caused many arguments. Especially now my son is telling my wife "don't do this do;'t do that on shabbos - it's muksah!"

If anyone has any suggestions I'd be most grateful Reply

leslie silber brandon, FL USA via chabadbrandon.org January 14, 2009

My husband is less observant than me. II have increased my level of observance over the last 4 years and my husband hasn't. He's very angry and disrespectful of my changes .
I am quite upset when he makes rude comments or puts me down for it. He is not happy that I'm kosher or that I'm shomer shabbat. Reply

Anonymous January 13, 2009

i want to subscribe i so appreciate my jewish connections i am learning so much. Reply

Chaya Rivka CA January 4, 2009

To man in that position I also find shabbat very hard sometimes. I am not married, but I live in my parents' non-Jewish home...therefore it is very hard to keep, and very difficult in the long summer days. I would suggest eating lunch with others from your community/family, which really help pass the time. Maybe you and she could compromise on something, like there is one room in the house that you could do something non-shabbistik in? I used to also be very depressed, but then realized that it was better to just do what I could, and if that involved leaving the tv off for only an hour, then so be it. It is not worth it and you will only hate it more if you feel stifled by it. I would def speak with a chabad rabbi! They may be able to help. Reply

Cheri Tampa, Fl January 4, 2009

a man in the position Have you tried playing board games together, inviting neighbors over for Shabbat dinner, a friend of mine once told me that her mother always taught them that Shabbat was not about what they couldn't do...but about what they get to do. They get to have family time and play board games, they get to eat the wonderful Challah, the get to spend time with friends & family that they have been too busy during the week to spend time with.

Also, this is a "special" time for the husband & wife. They come together, his attention is given to her.

The point is find where your heart is in Shabbat. If Shabbat is a struggle then, then you are not getting out of the day what Hashem intends. This is a gift to you from Hashem, for you to have pleasure, not misery. It is like having a vacation every week for one day.

Is there a Chabad close by to you. Chabad teaching helps to bring "life" back to Torah.

My heart goes out to you and I hope this helps. Reply

Bored Husband January 3, 2009

A man in the position I married an orthodox wife and I never knew keeping Shabbat could be so hard. I have been struggling for many years but many times on Shabbat I just become so depressed that I am unpleasant to be with. I don't watch television, use the computer or turn on lights but I find the day a torture and can hardly wait for havdalah.

What can I do? I agreed to keep Shabbat when we married and I want to keep my word but I get so depressed.

She enjoys the day off reading or resting and I am just bored out of my brain. I go to shule but it is just an empty experience... please help me. Reply

Aviva levi utrecht, Netherlands January 2, 2009

I keep Shabbat and my husband doesn’t… That could have been me a couple of years ago. I know how she feels. But she is not alone in this. Make the Shabbat what you want it to be. My guess is that the husband fears the changes he would have to face about himself if he did become more observant. Change can be very scary.....that is why people don't like change I guess. Reply

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