Three Ladies, Three Lattes: Heart over mind?

The coffee klatch of friends continues to offer advice on life’s dilemmas – this time, counseling a modern Orthodox olah who has fallen head-over-heels for a secular Sabra.

Hi Ladies, I made aliya from Passaic, New Jersey, one year ago. I come from a modern Orthodox family and never imagined I would date a secular Israeli, let alone fall in love with him! Things are moving quickly and he’s already talking marriage.
I haven’t told my parents about him, and I’m really nervous. Do you think we stand a chance? He doesn’t mind my keeping Shabbat and kashrut but I can’t expect him to do so himself, even once we’re married.
He’s the kindest man I’ve ever met.
What should I do? Confused in Tel Aviv Pam (secular): Oh, this resonates so with me! My darling late husband came from a religious family; his mom’s first words to me (before “hello”) were: “Do you drive on Shabbat?” I loved Martin so entirely that I would have agreed never to get into a car again, ever, if he’d conditioned that on marrying me.
At the beginning of our marriage we didn’t drive on Saturday, something that really didn’t work for me. I resented being stuck at home; I ached for my Shabbat walk and breakfast on the beach; and I especially hated not being able to spend Friday nights with my extended family, none of whom were observant, as staying over was not an option.
And then – hallelujah! – after four years, Martin began to drive, and once more Shabbat became the best day of the week for me. We never fought about the issue even once; we accommodated each other, and somehow it all just worked out – we kept kosher, we kept all the candles/ Kiddush/blessings/ablutions/ traditions – and everyone stayed happy.
It’s so hard to find love, and to feel embraced and “at home” with another person. I’m sure God would want you to settle down, build a home in Tel Aviv and have Israeli-Jewish children who are productive citizens of His state – even if they don’t keep Shabbat. You’ll find a modus vivendi that works for you both, I know you will.
Go for it! Mazal tov, and here’s to lots of happiness ahead.
Danit (haredi): That is tough! Not the decision; the emotions digging their claws into the decision make it tough. I can imagine your confusion, frustration and feeling of “if only.” It’s so hard when heart and mind are pulled in polarized directions.
“Love” is a word suffering from inflation. When used too loosely, it loses all vitality and significance. Love is a concept which grows slowly and needs extra-special care.
It takes time to build deep knowledge and trust; to feel the same compassion for a partner as for yourself. The “just add water” perspective of love is perverted and Hollywood-like, stemming from our “feel good” age.
You may think me insensitive; I may be so to you at present, and your heart.
But I am super-sensitive to the “future you,” and your mind. You are “confused” because your mind is asking difficult questions which you cannot answer.
Marriage is not fluid like infatuation; marriage demands furiously, with no lulling complacency.
You two come from very different value systems, which make up the fabric of the person. Your core beliefs are so diverse, without bridges. Which one will capitulate? Who will give up their sacred principles to appease the other? Can you do this thing called love? I believe your mind is saying “NO” and your heart is saying “please?” Which do you trust more with such a pivotal decision? I am a true believer of mind over heart.
Don’t marry him; have faith, you will find your bashert.
Tzippi (modern Orthodox): Honey, we need to sit down for extrastrong cups of coffee over this! Tachlis, here are your options: You could compromise and opt to both be religious/secular, with one spouse sacrificing their lifestyle; or split up; or agree to retain your present ways.
I take both your question and love for your boyfriend very seriously. Because you genuinely love him, I can’t imagine you asking him to change his life’s philosophy for you. You wouldn’t ask your closest friends to compromise personal principles, why a boyfriend? Shared compatible values are vital to a lasting marriage. Israeli research suggests that Jewish family purity laws and “sacrificing” a Shabbat/Sunday can place strain on couples like you.
Your secular husband will probably never prefer a Shabbat drive to the beach to his relationship with you, but accommodating your religious commitments may eventually cause resentment.
Ironically, your question is the backdrop of my own childhood. I’m the product of a (successful) religious “intermarriage” that yielded three children: one haredi, one secular, and me – modern Orthodox. Still, it’s a difficult road which I wouldn’t recommend for others.
Let’s fast-forward to your union: Might you feel a “failure” if one of your kids becomes secular? What will the gains and sacrifices be in your marriage, and who should pay the price? Before your husband stomps on the glass (or chooses not to), think hard. This journey will not be painless; you may constantly be sore from exercising religious flexibility.
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