The Vital Need of Continuing a Marriage
For the Sake of the Children

To begin with: you married according to “the laws of Moshe and Israel” with the recitation of the Sheva Berachos,the Seven Nuptial Blessings, with the utterance of and in G‑d’s name.

G‑d has blessed you with children (the greatest blessing that can accrue to a Jewish couple).

Consistent with the above, G‑d placed upon you (and your husband sheyichye) one of the greatest mitzvos, that of rearing, training and educating your children, and ultimately to lead them to the chuppah, to marriage. Moreover, this is to be done in the best manner possible, i.e., by the two of you together — as a complete [and unbroken] family unit.

As mentioned above, this is your genuine good fortune and happiness (in this world as well as in the World to Come), as well as your mission [in life, as you stand as an example] before your friends, and indeed, before all Jewish women.

It is therefore impossible for you to feel happy and fulfilled (or even to feel at peace) if you were to — G‑d forbid — divorce your husband.

After all your children sheyichyu have married, then there may be a point as to whether you should give this matter, [i.e., divorce,] further thought or not.

Since this is a command of our holy Torah — [a command of] G‑d — surely this [manner of conduct will lead to] your true happiness and contentment.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)1

Divorce Only as the Absolutely Last Resort
Even When Spouse Is Not Living a Torah Life

In reply to your letter from the end of the month of Tammuz — which was slightly delayed in transit — in which you write about the state of affairs with regard to your family life and your relationship with your wife tichye [that it is in need of improvement]:

There is the well-known teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory,2 regarding [the relationship with] “the wife of one’s youth,” as the verse states,3 “Can one possibly despise the wife of his youth?!” This is particularly so when G‑d has blessed the two of you with children who are being educated in the path of Torah and mitzvos.

In light of all the above, it is understandable how the thought of divorce, G‑d forbid, is totally unacceptable. For a divorce is only a final measure after having exhausted all efforts to bring about Shalom Bayis. This approach [that a divorce is to be avoided if at all possible] is consonant with the directives of our Torah, a Torah of Life and a Torah of Peace.

According to the description in your letter, it would seem that you have a strong influence on your wife. However, until now — seemingly because you have been so busy running your business and the like — you have not given the matter proper attention.

At the very least, you did not [properly] occupy yourself in this matter, i.e., after having given due consideration and thought to the best way to accomplish an improvement in Shalom Bayis. This is why up until now you have not been all that successful.

Accordingly, all attempts and efforts [at enhancing your Shalom Bayis] are advisable [and should be pursued]. Particularly, since by doing so you will draw your wife incrementally closer as well [to Judaism] and you will connect her to a life that is lived in accordance with Torah.

This incremental change for the better will have a profound effect on her, since this will have been accomplished not only in order that you do not divorce, but that she intellectually accept living her life in a religious manner.

It is understood that there are special situations where according to the Torah, divorce is inevitable, Heaven forfend. But all this comes to play only after there is incontrovertible evidence that the situation [is hopeless and] cannot be changed for the better.

When you will write to me your and your mother’s name as well as your wife’s and her mother’s name, as well as the names of the children, I will mention them for a blessing at the holy resting site of my father-in-law, the Rebbe.

It would be appropriate that on a daily basis after your morning prayers, you should follow the directive of reciting a portion of Psalms, as they are divided into the days of the month. Also, give some coins to charity prior to your prayers every weekday.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 358)

Avoid Divorce Even When Husband Has Committed Grievous Sin

.. I do not know if until then you will conquer your evil inclination and its blandishments, [the evil inclination] not being satisfied with the [goodly] state of affairs [of peace between husband and wife, which results in] the Divine Presence resides in their midst,” as affirmedby our Sages, of blessed memory.4

It [i.e., the evil inclination] desires, G‑d forbid, to take away your contentment and prevent you, G‑d forbid, from continuing together with your husband to build an eternal edifice with blessed generations of children and grandchildren.

.. G‑d has provided you with all matters of good in this regard, and the choice is up to you whether you will perceive this goodness, or whether you will accept the wiles and urgings of the evil inclination who says that [what is indeed] good is in fact evil [and what is evil is in fact good].

.. For the commission of one sin [by your husband] (even as great a sin as that which you have mentioned) does not justify [your] committing a different transgression, or failing to perform a mitzvah.

.. I will mention you in prayer at the holy resting site of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, that you make a proper and good resolution, particularly now [as we find ourselves in the month of Elul,] when “the King is in the field,” etc.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, printed in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 468.)

The Power to Withstand the Test
Of Overcoming the Perceived Need for a Divorce
5

If G‑d presents an individual with a great test (and our Sages, of blessed memory, have stated6 that G‑d only asks of individuals that which they are capable of accomplishing), it is an indication that He has previously already provided mighty powers [to that individual] to withstand the test.

.. I do not compel or oblige (anyone in general, and you in particular) to accept my opinions, suggestions and explanations — I only respond with my view concerning those matters which I am asked.

Clearly, the decision in this matter (with regard to your continuing the marriage ... etc.) depends entirely on you...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, printed in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 468.)

Do Not Consider Divorce as the Only Option

In reply to your letter from the 11th of Av, in which you write about the course of events that led to your shidduch, the [poor] relations that currently exist between you and your husband, and that during an argument it was decided to approach the Jewish Superior Court (Beis Din Elyon), etc. [in order to obtain a divorce].

You conclude your letter with the statement that you are currently at war with your husband as well as with his entire family.

You of course understand that it is extremely difficult to offer an opinion based on the claims of but one side. For the axiom, “A person is too close to his own self [to be entirely objective],”7 applies to even the most sterling individual.

Since the two of you have decided to approach the Beis Din Elyon — surely you are referring to practiced and qualified Rabbis — there will be ample opportunity to have both sides heard and also to hear their opinions, opinions of individuals who have no [subjective] side in this matter.

However, that which I hasten to note with regard to what you wrote, is the following:

a) The statement that “you are currently at war with your husband as well as with his entire family”: There are sufficient grounds [in this statement] to say that you are [not only at war with them, but] also at war with yourself.

For [a good and decent] family life is a matter that is at the very core of a person’s life and existence, and any hasty and incorrect step can have disastrous results for both husband and wife. Moreover, quite often they [i.e., these not well thought out and incorrect steps] have an even greater negative effect on the party that took these steps than on the other party.

It is self-understood that in no way am I intending here to offer an opinion as to the problem itself or as to how it may be solved. For as I have stated earlier, I have heard only one side of the argument.

I merely want to express my concern with regard to the impression I received [from your letter] that you are trying to exacerbate the relationship between the two of you, so that the matter may reach a clarification and resolution at the earliest possible opportunity. However, not always is a clarification in such matters either good or beneficial.

b) Possibly the following is even more crucial — and that is with regard to that which you write that you are approaching the Beis Din for the purpose of obtaining a divorce:

You seem to imply that this is the only option that you find feasible, and I believe that you, too, would conclude that this is indeed your position, [i.e., that you maintain that divorce is the only option].

However, an impartial outsider can judge much more objectively than those who are utterly involved in the matter [whether divorce is indeed the only option]. Therefore, it is improper to decide beforehand that you are approaching the Beis Din with an inflexible objective, [i.e., the objective of obtaining a divorce].

What astounded and perplexed me about your actions and the steps you are taking is the fact that although you are religious and you have received a religious education, etc., and your general outlook on life is a religious one, nevertheless you acted on this matter in a contrary manner — with the intent to end the relationship between you and your husband.

Surely I need not explain to you that conduct in keeping with the directives of our Torah, the Torah of Life, is not one of using it as a bargaining chip or for applying pressure. Rather, it has its own value system, fundamental to the relationship between man and his Creator, the Conductor of his life.

Adjusting our personal behavior to the directives of [Torah and] the Giver of the Torah, draws down blessings of the Giver of the Torah on those who conduct themselves in this manner.

Included in these blessing are levelheaded deliberation and consideration; correct appraisal and evaluation of the situation that the person presently finds himself in; [and the ability to make] proper resolutions that will lead to his true good fortune and happiness.

Thus the text of supplication for our personal needs in our thrice-daily-recited Amidah begins with the petition that G‑d “graciously bestow upon us wisdom, understanding and knowledge.”

From the positive you can infer the negative — weakness in the ties that bind man to his Creator by acting in a contrary manner, hinders in achieving all the above; it deprives the person of something that is crucial and vital at all times, and particularly during those times in a person’s life when he desires to solve intricate and critical problems.

I am sending you this letter via “express” and [I have answered this letter] before I answered other letters that were received before yours, with the hope that the above few lines in comparison to the importance of the subject, will rouse you to reflect on this matter once again and change your view, in light of the three points mentioned above.

Most important is that your actions be in consonance with the directives of our Torah, the Torah of Life.

I would be delighted to receive confirmation from you that my hopes [that you have changed your views] have been realized.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 96)

Age and Maturity Assist in Attaining Shalom Bayis

A woman who was having severe Shalom Bayis problems, inquired of the Rebbe whether to try to keep the family together, or whether to try to build a new life.

The Rebbe responded that the person should try to keep the family together. The Rebbe also added the following:

(1) From time to time to make an effort to better the situation, doing so again and again — with the assistance of a psychologist and medication.

Most importantly, your husband desires this as well, [i.e., that the marriage last,] for it is to his benefit (even in his view) and the benefit of the children sheyichyu.

The more your husband matures, the more there is weakened within him the intensity of “the days of youth and their fervor,” and his rationality dominates to a greater extent (what is truly best for him in all the above).

Thus, after many, many years of finding yourself in such a situation, surely the misery of the situation has lessened and is not as great as it was in the beginning.

(2) That would mean [i.e., a divorce would mean,] to destroy, G‑d forbid, all that presently exists and to begin searching anew a new manner of life for yourself and your children (accompanied by the never-ending doubt as to whether you did the correct thing by destroying [the marriage], or whether you lost the chance [to rectify the situation]).

(3) Our Sages declare that “Great is peace,” and that “the Divine Presence resides in their midst,” etc. Understandably, then, you should make the effort [to attain Shalom Bayis].

I will mention you in prayer at the holy resting site of my father-in-law, the Rebbe.

(Nitzutzei Or, p. 9)

The Rebbe’s Avoidance of Offering His Consent To a Divorce

.. As to the request in your letter that I write clearly [about the advisability of a divorce]:

There is the known directive concerning conduct in such matters, and so too have I actually witnessed the conduct of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, that he would avoid saying “no” [even] with regard to negating a shidduch. And most definitely would he avoid giving his imprimatur on a matter of “separation,” [i.e., a divorce].

This is particularly so — and as I have already written to your son — since by the time the letters go back and forth matters can change with regard to many particulars. Therefore, your son should seek your counsel as well as the counsel of his friends from our community who are already aware of the situation.

May G‑d grant those who counsel your son the proper insight so that they make the appropriate decision.

I await glad tidings with regard to all the above.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 176)

The Rebbe’s Extreme Avoidance of Pressuring
For the Issuance of a Divorce

It is not at all customary that I should pressure for ... a divorce! The reason for this is readily understandable.

In general, this matter belongs to a Rav.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)8

Our Sages Have Absolutely Negated Divorce

Our Sages, of blessed memory, have spoken in the most glowing terms with regard to Shalom Bayis, and have absolutely negated the matter of a divorce, G‑d forbid.

In your situation [in particular]: G‑d has blessed you with children who surely need a [proper] home, etc., [i.e., a home that has both a father and mother]. Therefore you should continue [your marriage] and be the Akeres HaBayis, the “foundation and mainstay of the home,” and may G‑d crown your efforts with success.

Understandably —as is the Jewish custom — you and your husband can together set forth your situation before a Rav and ask him to mediate, etc.

(From a written response of the Rebbe, from the year 5730)