Editor’s Note: Welcome to Red Thread’s new advice columnist, Debra Darvick, a longtime Detroiter with…
Dear Debra: Two Rings And Two Shuls
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use this anonymous question submission form.
When my wonderful husband-to-be and I met at the home of mutual friends, he was wearing his wedding ring. A widower of only six months, he was still mourning his wife of 37 years and not looking to date. But life and love intervened, and we will soon be married. We are both so happy, and our children are happy for us.
The problem is that he has never removed his wedding ring. When I brought it up while we were dating, he said that he just wasn’t yet ready. This caused some raised eyebrows when people wrongly assumed I was dating a married man. Before we went ring shopping for our wedding, he informed me that he plans to wear both rings! He agreed to remove it on our wedding day but plans on putting it back on after the honeymoon. This isn’t a deal breaker, but the whole thing is giving me pause.
— Double Ring Ceremony
Dear Double Ring,
You say this isn’t a deal breaker. His and your children are happy for you. His heart was open to life and love intervening at a time when he was still bereft. By your own admission you are both “so happy.”
If this is the only issue that gives you pause, woman, take yourself off pause and go forward. That his children have embraced you coming into their lives when they were likely still grieving says much about how their mother raised them. Consider this too — during 37 years of marriage, both spouses are shaped by one another. That your man is a mentsh means part of his wonderfulness might well be attributed to his first wife.
When you place the wedding ring on your beloved’s finger, offer up a prayer of gratitude to the woman whose passing made it possible for you to find one another, and tell her you will love him with everything you have. Judaism chooses life every time so, l’chaim. And mazel tov. Who knows? By the time you return from your honeymoon, he might well have adjusted to wearing one ring — the one you gave him under the chuppah.
Another Rosh Hashanah has come and gone leaving me spiritually unfulfilled and at a loss. My husband and I are both Jewish and come from similar backgrounds and practice. Over the course of our marriage, he has become more observant to the point that we are no longer in sync. He now attends a synagogue in which I feel sidelined and whose service leaves me utterly uninspired. I go on Shabbos now and then to keep the peace, but just couldn’t bear it for the High Holidays.
Because we do not drive on Shabbos or holidays, I have only two options. One shul within walking distance is located on roads that I do not feel safe walking. The other congregation that I can walk to holds High Holiday services in a house of worship of another faith. There were no signs or trappings of another religion and the space felt very welcoming and Jewish. I loved the services there last year, but my husband was very upset I was praying in a place not consecrated as a synagogue. He asked me not to attend there this year. I honored his request and ended up staying at home reading and praying on my own. No matter how I try to solve this, every answer comes with a cost.
— Shul-less on the High Holidays
I think this issue of Jewish “mixed marriages” is one of the unacknowledged agonies of many couples such as yourselves. You are going to have to decide which is more important to you — acquiescing to your husband’s request or remaining cut off from your neshamah’s (soul’s) spiritual needs during the High Holidays.
Choose a quiet moment to discuss the reality that your spiritual life and Jewish connection is every bit as important as his. Every person’s spiritual journey is unique; no one can walk another’s path to a relationship with God. You cannot walk his; he cannot walk yours. Remind your husband that attending shul with him now and then is your way of meeting him halfway. His aversion to your worshipping in a space that has been transformed for Jewish practice will just have to be his struggle to resolve.
I don’t have a pipeline to the Divine, but I would hope that wherever and whenever Jews come together to worship, their prayers will be heard and God’s comfort will be given. RT
A note to my readers: While the taste of apples and honey is still fresh in our minds, I would like to wish all my readers a Shana Tovah. May the New Year bring blessings and may you be sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year.
Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at debradarvick.com.