By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
Director: Jewish Professionals Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to my children.
There is a well-known saying in special counseling groups praising those who are able to “talk the talk and walk the walk” that connects well with the saying of our Chazal: “Emor Me’at Ve’asei Harbei” ” meaning that “actions speak louder than words”!
We all like to give our opinions about all sorts of subjects that we are clearly not experts in. Trouble is, that most people think they are world class experts about other people’s problems. If anyone would tell them to do things in their own private lives they would get most offended, yet by the same token there are those people who feel they can not just offer but advocate to advise others what they should or should not do in their private lives, while the far-off distant advisers have no responsibility or care about the real life outcomes that may result from the “arm chair expert’s” advice that someone else does in a far-away or far-moved situation from where the “eitzeh gebber” (advice giver) is located.
Unfortunately in our turbulent times we all too often hear of a couple having Shalom Bayis problems or even facing divorce, R”L. I have spoken to such couples and people facing such Tzores, including both men and women in the Frum world, and they always complain about the advisers in the background telling their spouses what to do or not to do in the troubled marriage or relationship. The person who has the Shalom Bayis problems is obviously in pain and facing a serious life’s challenge. Such people are vulnerable and needy and will turn to anyone for help and advice. But at that point what happens next is that they are given the wrong advice by the wrong people and that makes the original problem even worse.
The right thing to do is to find, and Daven hard for the right person to talk to. It is not easy when relationships are breaking down to get to the right problem-solver. If you are in such a situation or you know of someone in such a situation, do not jump to give advice. Rather think in terms of other challenges in life and who you would call in to help. If you or your spouse are having a heart attack, G-d forbid, would you run to your best friend or mother or grandfather to get advice? No matter how smart and caring they may be they cannot deal with a heart attack that can only be treated by a cardiologist (heart specialist). Same thing if you get a flat tire, you need to get to a reliable mechanic to fix it, etc.
It is no different when Shalom Bayis problems break out, you cannot rely on a distant adviser who is not familiar with such problems. You need to know that you must find an expert. This is not easy, especially in the personal and family turmoil that may be going on. In addition, whoever it is that will be the one chosen to be the expert adviser, that person needs to be willing and able to speak with BOTH sides in order to arrive at a peaceful solution.
Often-times well-meaning learned Jews, even rabbis and rebbetzins, may offer advice from afar. But if they are not willing to pick up the phone and talk with, and preferably even meet with, the “other side” they are becoming part of the problem and not helping the solution!
Many times Shalom Bayis problems involve deep conflicting emotions. It is sometimes like a war-zone for the battling couple. No matter how “choshuv” and reputable the long-distance adviser may be, by talking and advising one side only, they are choosing sides in a complicated battle going on between the feuding couple with their Shalom Bayis problems. Each side views the other side as the “enemy” and anyone who is advising the other spouse is therefore also the enemy! A smart person will not give advice to only side knowing that they are automatically classed as enemies!
The only right way to avoid getting trapped in the middle is by looking at it the way a Bais Din or Dayan would look at two litigants. It is Assur (forbidden) to hear only one side’s claims only. Both parties to the dispute must be present and have equal time to present their side of the story. If a long distance adviser or any adviser cannot get their minds around the need for such fairness then they are guilty of making the problem worse!
Always exercise caution when dealing with human beings, even if you do not understand them or agree with them, because every Jew is create with the Tselem Elokim.
To be continued…