My wife and I have been married for a number of years and have two wonderful children. My wife is not at all interested in religious practice as I am. While I try to eat only kosher and observe all the holidays, she could not be bothered. I try to teach my kids about Jewish laws and traditions, but she makes it very hard. Sometimes I get so frustrated that I want to file for a divorce, but I am afraid if we do divorce, we will tug the kids in opposite directions and might end up doing more harm then if I just stay married. Should I stay married or should I consider other options?


Dear ____,

Think of it like this: Torah places priorities in your life. Without Torah, your priorities might be:
* success at work
* having lots of stuff
* getting lots of pleasure
* keeping in good health, physically and mentally
...and also building a family.

With Torah, your priorities are:
* building a family
* keeping your wife happy
* keeping Shabbat
* eating kosher
* giving tzedaka
* wrapping tefillin each day, etc.
* keeping in good health, physically, spiritually and mentally

—not necessarily exactly in that order, but you get the idea: Family and marriage are not impediments to Torah—they are Torah.

Now think: How does your wife feel right now about Torah and Judaism? Most likely that it is a plague that has torn her marriage apart. How does she feel about you? She says, "He thinks I am not good enough for him, because I am not religious." She sees nothing in all this for her, and strongly doubts that she could resolve anything.

Yet what would happen if she would see that you love her for who she is, just as you did when you first married? Then she will love you as well. And when she sees how valuable this Judaism is to this person that she loves, she will love Judaism as well. You won't need to push her, tell her, teach her—on the contrary, all that just gets in the way. Just treat her as the most important person in your life, the woman who has stood by you all these years and raised your two precious children, just give her that which she deserves.

Your situation is not unique, but it is challenging nonetheless. It takes a strong man to overcome, because it means looking beyond yourself and making a real commitment to Torah. Especially when the future of your two wonderful children depends upon it.

But I am confident that anyone who has his priorities right will not only have a wonderful marriage, but will bring his entire family closer and closer day by day to a Torah way of life. It may not be easy at first, but the rewards far outweigh the effort involved. When your wife sees how Torah has made you into a more caring husband and your kids see how Torah has given you more interest in what's going on in their lives and greater appreciation of them, when they see how good it is for them, there is a good chance they will naturally be drawn towards Torah and mitzvahs, like a paper clip to a magnet.

And if not? Look, that's their prerogative. But, as R. Schneur Zalman writes in chapter 32 of his work, the Tanya, you still will have fulfilled the mitzvah that comprises the entire Torah, all of it, on one foot. You will have given them love.

I look forward to hearing good news. Keep in touch,

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman