27 Kislev 5782 / Wednesday, December 01, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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Does a Baal Teshuva divorce a spouse that refuses to observe the Torah? Many rabbis say yes, but Rabbi Shalom Arush says an emphatic “no!”


One Sided Teshuva, Part 4
There Are No Short Cuts
There are no short cuts on the path of truth, and no place for illusions. The best measure of whether or not a person is on the true path is peace. There are many verses in the Bible that connect peace and truth, “Love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19), for one example. If that student had truly reached the spiritual level that he thought he had, then his wife would have transformed into his helper. He would have lived happily with her and his children.
How much pain and sorrow he could have saved, if only he had gone in the way of peace! Many others, in situations similar to his, who did follow the long path of truth and peace, ultimately attained both happiness and togetherness with their wives, while living a beautiful Torah lifestyle.
Here too, we have many examples.
Another student of mine was also already married when he started to get close to Torah. At first, he wasn’t guided in the way of peace. The rabbis who taught him then told him that he had to be strong with his wife, rebuke her, and tell her that if she wouldn’t start observing the Sabbath and other mitzvot, he would divorce her. He soon found himself at a crossroads where he had to make the decision – either continue with his teshuva (repentance) process and lose his wife and children, or forget about his aspiration of being an observant Jew.
In contrast to the previous student, this man was very attached to his family and couldn’t bear the thought of losing them. So, in place of giving up on them, he decided to give up on Torah and mitzvot instead. He stopped keeping the Sabbath and returned to his secular lifestyle.
One day, he bought a CD of mine. My words spoke to his heart, and he wanted to meet me. But, he remembered what the Rabbi’s in the past had said to him and he thought, “Why should I go to him? He’ll tell me that I have to give up my wife and children, and I haven’t got the strength to go through that nightmare again…”
Even so, since he felt that there was something different here, a different light, so he wanted to meet me and he came to the Yeshiva.
“The Rabbi is learning now,” they told him, “It’s impossible to disturb him.”
“I’m not moving from here until the Rabbi blesses me,” he replied. Meanwhile I heard the disturbance and asked what was going on. “There’s a man here insisting to come in to see you.”
“So let him come.” The man came in and told me that he had bought a tape of mine at an intersection and was greatly aroused by what I said, so he wanted to meet me personally. I spoke to him for a while and invited him to accompany me to one of my lectures so we could talk on the way. This was the beginning of a strong relationship between the two of us, and he started to regularly listen to tapes and seek my advice in all sorts of areas.
At this point, he still did not observe the Sabbath or any other mitzvoth. My way is not to pressure anybody, so I never spoke to him about this. I simply enquired about his life, his business, his challenges, and his home. Gradually, I taught him emuna, to speak with Hashem, and to make extensive use of personal prayer. One day, he himself turned to me and told me that he really wanted to keep the Sabbath, but his wife won’t hear about it. She still had a bitter taste in her mouth from the last round.
He told me the whole story of the first time that he made teshuva and how the rabbis had told him that he had to divorce his wife if she didn’t keep the Sabbath become observant. He wasn’t willing to lose his family and therefore shed his observance altogether. Now, he felt that the same story might repeat itself. He shunned from a scenario of his Sabbath observance, his wife’s failure to comply, and my telling him to divorce her.
“Dear Rabbi,” he said, choked with emotion and with tears in his eyes, “I so much want to return in complete repentance and keep the mitzvot, but I can’t lose my wife and children. What can I do?”
“Divorce?” I said, “Of course not!”
He stopped crying and looked at me with eyes full of surprise, as if he couldn’t believe it. “What? I don’t need to get divorced?”
To be continued.

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