She’s religious; he isn’t. Can they “make it work”? How much do past issues in a personal life affect a marriage? Can the Rebbe please give me dating advice?
The Avner Institute presents the Rebbe’s stern warning to a young woman on a potential marriage to someone from a different level – or lack – of Torah observance, and the dangerous folly of a union with no common values or lifestyles.
New York, NY
Blessing and Greeting:
I duly received your letter, and, as requested, I am acknowledging it ahead of its turn.
Several prefatory remarks are in order, though they are self-evident. But because of their importance I will, at any rate, outline them briefly.
It is clear that a shidduch and the marriage that may ensue involve decisions that will affect the rest of one’s life. One must therefore consider not only the initial phase of such a union, when it is still in its early stages, etc., but must take a long view of the many, many years that will follow. Here again, one must bear in mind not only the special and festive days, but also the daily life as it becomes routine, day in, day out. For the relationship between two people must be consistently good and stable, harmonious and sincere, which directly affects the general atmosphere in the home.
Secondly, it is also clear that in order to attain to such a relationship, the fullest cooperation is required on the part of both partners, and each should be willing to give it freely; that is to say, each should give it because there is a desire to give it, rather than doing so only out of a sense of compulsion.
Insofar as the Jewish religion is concerned, it should be remembered that our religion and way of life radically differ from other religions. In the latter, religious experience is generally confined to certain events in one’s life, or to certain days and happenings. But the Jewish religion embraces the life of the Jew in its totality, and requires that every aspect of daily life be permeated with Torah and mitzvoth, in the spirit of “Know Him in all your ways (Proverbs 3:7)”, as the wisest of all men expresses it.
After the above all-to-brief introduction, which I hope will nevertheless suffice, it should be evident that to enter into a shidduch and commit oneself to a lifetime partnership in which one partner has to transform the other in the realm of Jewish religious observance and experience – is surely unwise and that it is very doubtful if it can succeed.
Moreover, even when the other party is prepared to make concessions, he will surely have the feeling that he is making a sacrifice. Consequently, however readily he may accept the sacrifice at the beginning, human nature is such that, having to do this frequently, and having to do things to which he has not been accustomed, must create a feeling of resentment, and perhaps lead to even stronger feelings, as resentment accumulates and grows.
If such sacrifice goes so far as to entail a severing of one’s connections and relationship with persons who have been very close, especially parents, brothers and sisters, it is very likely to make one wonder if the whole thing was worthwhile. At the same time, it is bound to create feelings of guilt in the other party, who will not be able to help wondering if she had a right to place her partner in such a predicament.
Clash & Conflict
It should also be borne in mind that when a person has to limit himself in various aspects of his way of life only out of consideration for another, it is natural to expect that resentment will build up and accumulate to the extent that he will want to reassert his independence, and do so demonstratively. It might even call forth a sense of challenge, not only in asserting one’s independence, but also in an attempt to reverse the process and transform the other partner.
The inevitability of the resulting clash, or at any rate, conflicts and resentments, is self-evident. At best, the only solution, under the circumstances, might be an agreement that each of the partners should go their own way and lead their personal life as he or she sees fit, in order to preserve a home life in which some level of mutuality remains.
I must state at once that I do not know of a single instance where such a shidduch succeeded, and even assuming that someone knows of such a case, it is surely not very wise to take such a chance. Even when one is prepared to take a chance, is it wise and ethical to involve another person in this sort of a predicament? Obviously, if one of the two life partners is not happy, the other one cannot be happy, either.
From all that has been said above, you can clearly surmise what my opinion must be in answer to your question.
I believe that you are influenced to some extent, or to a considerable extent, by seeing a personal challenge in the situation. If you are not conscious of it, then it may be subconscious. But even if this is not the case, I do not think that this can work. Hence, if your feelings towards one another are truly proper and sincere, this is all the more reason not to wish to drag the other party into an unwholesome situation.
To add to another point – which may not be very pertinent and which cannot easily be substantiated by a logical proof, and this is why I mention it last – one must ponder very seriously whether it is right and worthwhile to begin a new life when it will involve a breach in the family, namely in the relationship between a child and parents.
Insofar as I am concerned, I have no objections if you want to show this letter to the young man concerned. Especially so, since from your description of him and his character and integrity, he will most likely accept the thoughts expressed in this letter in the spirit that they have been set down, and he may also be helped to make a more objective judgment.
May G-d, whose benevolent providence extends to each and every one, lead you in the way that is good for you – truly good and lastingly good.