A recently-divorced Crown Heights father takes his former Mashpia to task for his purported lack of guidance before his marriage fell apart, as well as his judgmental attitude afterwards, in this eye-opening op-ed submitted anonymously to CrownHeights.info.
The writer commends a different rabbi who is not the subject of the letter, Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, for bringing awareness and understanding to the issue of abusive marriages and divorce in the frum community in a public conference call, which can be listened to below:
I would like to thank Rabbi Yossi Jacobson for speaking publicly about divorce. It is time for Lubavitch wake up to this growing unfortunate phenomenon in our community. It has become popular to blame the “divorce crisis” on the individuals involved. Beside for not always being true, this attitude has caused a lot of unnecessary agony with often tragic results.
People need to learn the appropriate methods of reacting to divorce. No matter who is at fault; don’t be the one who makes a bad situation even worse.
The following letter was written by me to my lifelong Mashpia following my recent divorce. It expresses the deep pain caused by someone who was honestly trying to help but only made things worse.
Dear Rabbi —
I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this letter. Perhaps it is for my benefit and perhaps for yours. It will also prevent me from transgressing “Lo Sisna”.
I called you a few weeks ago to ask for help regarding a Shidduch and by default I told you that I got divorced. You decided that it was your place to tell me off for getting divorced. You also mentioned, that in the past, I always ignore your advice. This brings forth the question why do you try? In any case, it is true, I often ignore your advice and I will explain why.
I have a lot of respect for your intellectual capabilities. You are able to bring down very divine concepts into worldly words. For this reason I value listening to you speak because it helps me understand ideas I would otherwise fail to comprehend. On the other hand, I could not blind myself from noticing the limitations you have from connecting to the world of action “Asiyah Hagashmis”.
Here are a few actual experiences we shared. You could judge for yourself. In 10th grade your class was the first time I appreciated learning. I was a failing student before and after. Because I liked your class I was very happy to be there. Without proper investigation you decided that I was a very happy child.
At PTA you told my mother that I “must come from a happy home” since I was so happy. Do you even realize till today, that my mother was a victim of severe abuse by my father? He beat her on a regular basis in front of my eyes. My life outside of school was about as horrible as it could get. Had you actually bothered doing due diligence you may have been in a position to seriously help me. Instead you decided to jump to conclusions and were terribly wrong.
Could you imagine what a laughing stock you were after that PTA? In addition you were extremely offensive and hurtful to my mother and I. How could I ever respect your situational judgment after that?
In a later instance I left Yeshiva and went to work. During this time, I was invited to join your farbrengen with my former classmates. As soon as you walked in and saw me, you announced that the entire farbrengen would focus on getting me back to Yeshiva. You repeated over and over that my purpose in life was to be a shliach and therefore I “must” go back to yeshiva. You never bothered calling me, meeting me or asking me why I left. It felt like I was irrelevant to your crusade. You had a predetermined goal and could not care less, if it was right for me or not.
After a year of facing the real world, where I couldn’t be lazy and wake up whenever I want… I decided it would be wiser to go back to Yeshiva. Besides for “possibly” being a shliach in the future, it was the lazy way out. Yeshiva taught me that, as long as I learned for an hour or two a day, wear a hat and jacket and listened to my mashpia, I would lead a meaningful life.
Unfortunately that didn’t translate very well in reality. Ironically, you, the very person who preached that my life mission was shlichus, are now blaming me for not having a “financially viable career”. Could you imagine what a hypocrite you sound like to me?
When I went to get married, I was taught to date as little as possible. I was told to date just enough to ask “the right questions”. I believed it was wrong to focus on social/emotional connection and that it would magically develop over time.
After four dates that were more like job interviews; I was ready to propose. My mashpia at the time, was a very busy rabbi. He hardly gave me the time I needed to express myself. For some reason, when I was ready to propose, I could not get a hold of him. Not wanting to wait, I decided to consult with you.
As soon as I told you that I wanted to get married after four dates, you began yelling at me; “You can’t base a marriage on hormones”. I vividly remember the exact words you said. The problem was, there were no hormones. I wanted to marry her because she past my written test. Your absurd misjudgment of the situation reminded me how incompetent your are. If you actually tried to understand the REAL situation you were in a position to have prevented children from growing up with divorced parents. Instead you uncontrollably let out an emotional outburst and failed tremendously.
Just for the record, I eventually spoke with my mashpia at the time and he told me to ignore your advice for the said reason. Of course had he given me the time I needed he probably would have suggested I date a little more.
There are more examples where I saw your total ignorance to reality, but I think the point is made.
No one gets divorced with kids for no reason. It was the hardest decision I made in my life. The very fact that you failed to ask is more insulting that anything you said. If someone told you their father was killed in a car accident, would you lash out at what a reckless driver he was?
I’m sorry to say this but, your actions were totally reckless and irresponsible. In my opinion you should resign or be fired from any position you hold where you give real life advice. Stick to what you are good at, teaching tanya and chassidus. You are a very tangible danger to people who choose to follow your advise and I don’t say this lightly.
I doubt you will read to this point in the letter since you are probably busy self justifying yourself. But that is not my business, I did my part in writing, the affect is now in Hashem’s hands.