What My Rabbi Told Me About Different Levels of Observance

(Disclaimer: This is what my Rabbi told me for my particular situation. It does not necessarily apply to others even in similar situations.)

When my husband and I got married, neither of us was observant. Since I was the one who grew in Judaism and he wasn’t, I changed but should not expect him to change, as long as he is not making me commit sins (which he is not, just he himself doesn’t want to participate).

Even though he remains non-observant, I should not look down on him. His frame of reference is not a Torah frame of reference, so he doesn’t know why it’s wrong to do certain things.

I can’t go to treif restaurants with him or break Shabbat for or with him, etc., but as long as he is treating me properly – which he does – then Shalom Bayit is paramount. I should focus on his good qualities and not compare him to others.

My rabbi said that I can consider all of the above to be his Halachic decisions on the way I should conduct my life and my marriage from now on.

So … it seems that now I have been given a new charge by the Al-mighty, one which focuses on mending my own attitudes. I am posting this rather intimate, personal article to ask for help in dealing with these challenges and tasks, and to ask for Chizuk, support, anything anyone can tell me to strengthen me. I am in deep pain right now and looking for comfort and healing.

18 comments on “What My Rabbi Told Me About Different Levels of Observance

  1. Phyllis

    If love and respect are present, you are on the right path.

    I would like to suggest that word “shalom” is better transalated as harmony rather than peace.
    Harmony suggests a dynamic process is at work Peace implies a static, a particular point in time.

    Shalom Bayis is on going process.

    May Hashem allow you and your spouse to grow together.

  2. “It’s about acceptance of the non-religious Jew AS IS”

    Yep, that pretty much whittles down the issue. Do we believe that being born a Jew is something absolutely valuable AS IS… or an absolutely invaluable POTENTIAL? Is it a priviledge or a responsibility? Does Jewish unity revolve around — how’d Korach put it: We’re all (already) holy — or the Mitzvah to become holy?

    If it’s the latter part of the equation, then we have some real work in regards to respectfully helping the other Jew realize his/her potential and responsibility towards holiness.

    If it’s the former… well, go learn from Korach!

  3. M wrote (comment 11):
    Are you implying that Phyllis is making her husband feel inadequate or unworthy, “specifically on the basis of religious matters”?
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    No – on the contrary. I am saying that the advice she received was refreshing in its lack of judgementalism, and in its emphasis on open-ended acceptance.

    Which is more than I can say for many of the commenters – who seem to think that such an approach can only be justified as a “tactic” to bring about the eventual teshuva of the spouse.

    Re-read the post, people. There is NOTHING in there about encouraging the spouse to change.


    It’s about acceptance of the non-religious Jew AS IS – very challenging within a marriage.

    And from what I see, equally challenging in the frum community in general.

  4. I know of one case history where the wife was intensely frum for a decade + prior to any “tangible” movement by the husband.

    Today the husband, besides being fully Shomer Mitzvos, is on his second trip through Shas with Daf Yomi and their kids would be/are the envy of all FFB and BT families who know them.

    Anecdotal evidence? Sure! But it’s still illustrative of what can be gained through love, patience, wisdom, faith and prayer.

    With you husbands permission /cooperation why not ask him if he would mind joining with you to host a weekly Torah Class -Chug bayit in your home. All you ask of him is that he A. respectfully don a kipah for the class and B. attend/participate in it. You volunteer to handle all the rest i.e conatcting the local kiruv rabbi to give the class, phone calls /emails inviting folks to the class/ food-setup-cleanup etc.?

  5. “if TORAH doesn’t make an exemption, nothing else should.”

    Good pt, LC.

    I’d just add that many of the tensions that couples who share belief in Torah go through are ALSO about Torah. And vica versa.

    That is, when we are critical of our better halfs we are actually rebelling against the greatest gift G-d has given us. And when find what to love and respect in our “beliefless” other halfs, we are actually uncovering hidden religiousities in their lives.

    If Phyliss would be able to identify her husband’s qualities of gratitude, humility and chessed as his latent love for G-d, for example, she’d be doing at least as much as supporting him to learn in Kollel every evening.

  6. The only thing *I* got out of Michoel’s initial comment was a reminder to those of us NOT in circumstances like Phyllis’s that if she can overcome significant differences in level of Torah observance and still have shalom bayis, kal v’chomer those of us married to observant spouses need to make this a priority – because if TORAH doesn’t make an exemption, nothing else should. Not ego, or personal preferences, or . . . anything.

    Phyllis –
    I wish you strength on your journey. I hope Hashem gives you the ability to SEE that you have been provided the strength and patience you need to come out victorious on the other side (just in case that needs clarification – victory is the shalom bayis you are striving for, with the nachas of knowing you accomplished such a worthy goal).

  7. B-D,

    Are you implying that Phyllis is making her husband feel inadequate or unworthy, “specifically on the basis of religious matters”?

    Her post was about the pain she feels due to being unable to share her joy in Torah with her husband, and his nonobservance. Do you mean she is making him feel he must “jump through various hoops in order to be accepted” by her? How did you read this into her post?

    And if not, can you explain how your comment relates specifically to what Phyllis has written? Thanks.


    I feel your pain. The very fact that you have become observant in this situation demonstrates that your love for Torah includes your love for Shalom Bayit, which is such an important value in a Torah life. A peaceful home is a dwelling place for Hashem.

    May you and your husband be blessed with health, happiness, and all good things!

  8. Phyllis – although your post is very personal, it resonates in the larger Jewish community and especially in the BT community.

    Unfortunately people across the spectrum of Torah observance are made to feel inadequate or unworthy – specifically on the basis of religious matters. And there is a perception that one must jump through various hoops in order to be accepted.

  9. Phyllis–I’m sending you virtual hugs. I’m so sorry you’re in so much pain. I know you’ve read Rabbi Brody’s books, have you ever emailed him? He has such practical, positive advice.

  10. you bemoaned what you learned from her post, that: “I allow egoism dressed up as frumkeit to interfer with my shalom.”

    It wasn’t clear if you learned this directly from her story or not, thus I said I HOPED not. Either way, you’re taking issue with people who use frumkeit egotistically at the expense of interpersonal shalom, right?

    It’s about this that I offered my perspective.

  11. yy,
    I hope you’re not implying, Michoel, that Phyliss’s struggle is due to some ego trip.


  12. I hope you’re not implying, Michoel, that Phyliss’s struggle is due to some ego trip. It’s a common refrain these days to blame as self-centered or narcissistic those who find themselves in conflict between people they care about and their loyalty to Torah.

    Perhaps its warranted when the thrust of the struggle is about doing things MY way. But not when it’s simply about keeping Shabbos and eating treif!

    What I see here is a sincere Jewess struggling to follow ratzon H’ that appears to bifurcate between her two loves. And now her Rav instructs her to view their differences as marginal to the essence of her faith and she’s struggling to learn that new dance.

    True, her opennes in sharing this conflict with anonymous brothers and sisters is good reason to get a chizuk. But NOT in terms of lessoning one’s determination to grow in Yiddishkeit, but to learn to do that Yiddishkeit in sinc with the hard knocks of reality.

  13. I have a lot of chizuk from this post. It helps me to realize how often I allow egoism dressed up as frumkeit to interfer with my shalom, both with my wife and with other relations.

  14. Remember all of those things that made you feel that this person was who you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?

    Yeah…none of those have changed :-)

  15. I feel for your loneliness and pain. Sadly, many if not most marriages are less than ideal,even if both partners are on the same page religiously. Everyone has to put up with something whether it is a bad temper, health problems, inability to support the family or worse. The key for you is to decide whether you are better off in this relationship with all of its flaws or going it alone. Good luck and keep on praying.

  16. wow. This is a REAL call uplifitng the sparks of the net! I deeply appreciate your personal honesty, Phyliss, and your willingness to give others the opportunity to help you in this incredibly challenging Mitzvah.

    Yes, Shalom Bayis is paramount. And yes, your Rabbi’s encouragement for you to view your husband’s predicament as one of a tinok sh’nishba and not of rebellion against the Alm-ghty seems quite sound. The question is if you can find SOMEthing in the way he leads his life that you can connect to as “religious.” For surely the newly religious side of you has opened up your deepest sentiments and you’re dying to share that with your soulmate. The trick is in seperating between what society calls religious and the essence of religious.

    Does he do acts of chessed? Are there moments you see in him genuine gratitude? Humility? Is there a kindness that he expresses to you that you can convince yourself is an expression of his allowing the Rbsh”O to work through him?

    If so, perhaps you can begin to see your role in this marriage as watering those seeds of essential religiosity and respectively let go of the feeling of not being able to share with him what is most precious to you.

    May H’ help…

Comments are closed.