July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As most shul rabbis can attest, we are rarely back home the moment minyan is over. People often have quick questions or comments to share after davening, so my family knows to be flexible about when to expect me after shul. If I’m involved in an extended exchange on a weekday, I try my best to text my wife to let her know I’ll be later than usual.

Like most wives, Gila asked Avi what time he would be home from work; Avi responded that he would be home by 8. She became understandably nervous when at 9:30 p.m. he had yet to walk through the door. She tried calling his phone, but there was no answer, nor did he respond to multiple texts. Gila was furious on the one hand and worried on the other. Where was Avi? Why didn’t he call? Finally, at 9:40 p.m., Avi came home. Gila glared at him. Avi glared back. A shouting match ensued, lasting for a number of hours. Avi insisted that Gila clearly had no concept of how hard he worked. Gila demanded to know what kind of a husband wouldn’t tell his wife that he would be an hour and a half late. After three hours of bickering, communication between them had all but shut down. Finally, Avi texted Gila and told her that an important phone call came up at the last minute that he had to take. Had he warned her that he would be late, she would only have become angry with him anyway—so he felt that it was a no-win situation. Gila responded, “You would never have done this when we first got married. Back then, you actually cared that I worried about you.”

The casual observer would say that this situation could have easily avoided escalation. Had Avi simply told his wife that he was going to be late and empathized with her disappointment, she would not have been worried or angry. If Gila were more understanding of her husband’s unpredictable work schedule, the fight would never have taken place. But a casual observer wouldn’t know that beneath the surface of the marriage there was already a fundamental lack of clarity and connection between the couple. Their mutual anger and disappointment masked an underlying need for connection and support.

Too often, we find ourselves focused on the details of a conflict instead of looking at the underlying cause of the despair that we feel at that moment. When we are connected with our spouses on an emotional level, we form an alliance that bonds us closer when faced with adversity. If this connection and attachment exist, adjustments in plans or schedules can be dealt with as a matter of fact, rather than becoming sources of tension and strife. Avi refrained from telling Gila that he was going to be late because of some level of discomfort that he sensed in his relationship with her. Had he felt a sense of alliance with Gila, he would have interpreted her question as expressing her desire for him to be home because she wanted him to be around; then he would not have hesitated to text her and let her know that he would be unavoidably late. Gila was frustrated because she longed for a time in their marriage when there was nothing more important to Avi than being home with her. As the years passed by, that longing became masked in the bitterness over his lateness, rather than remaining the expression of a desire to return to the glorious moments of their relationship. Avi, for his part, thought Gila was just nagging him and couldn’t appreciate his need to work. He had forgotten that there was a time when he appreciated her concern for him and would always be in touch with her when he wasn’t at home.

In just over a week, we will sit on the floor and recite Megillat Eicha. In the second-to-last pasuk of the megillah, we ask Hashem to return us back to Him and to restore our days to the days of old. This pasuk—“Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha v’nashuva, chadesh yameinu kikedem”—is very familiar to us, as we say it each time we return the Torah to the aron kodesh. While the pasuk is referring to the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, it does take on personal meaning as well. When we ask Hashem to bring us back, we ask Him to restore our own personal connection to Him. Perhaps we can humbly expand the application of this pasuk to our relationships as well. We ask Hashem to give us the insight to reconnect with our spouses as we once did, with a sense of excitement and happiness to please and to share.

May this introspective period on our calendar serve to renew our true longing for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, the restoration of our closeness to Hashem and the ability to rekindle the excitement of our own relationships.

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

 Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler is rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange, New Jersey, and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected].

 

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