By Rabbi Carol Levithan
Reflections from a Rabbi
The below is an excerpt from the National Center for Jewish Healings publication, The Outstretched Arm, The Crisis of Divorce: From Darkness to Light. Published in Spring 2004, additional copies can be ordered by calling 212.632.4742 or by downloading the order form.
We are sharing this excerpt with you as a connection to Tisha Bav. While this holiday commemorates the destructions of the First and Second Temples, it is also a day that we recognize all tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. For many, divorce is a crisis that is both close and personal. The below can provide some insight into helping families cope with this event.
As a rabbi who works closely with a divorce support program and as a survivor of divorce, I have experience on both sides of what is often a divide between rabbi and congregant. Rabbis may find divorce harder to deal with than death since the end of a marriage often involves rage; shock and humiliation; conflict and divided loyalties; children caught in the middle; financial difficulties. The complications of divorce can persist for years and resurface at a childs bar or bat mitzvah, a wedding, even the naming of a grandchild. What have I learned as a survivor that may be of help to spiritual leaders? Never, ever turn away from a family in this kind of crisis. Dont worry about not knowing what to say since there isnt much you can say anyway. Let the abandoned spouse know are there, that the familys place in the community is secure. Be concerned about the children and let that concern show. Be available and willing to listen to the pain and anger of those mourning the end of a marriage jsut as you are for those mourning a death. Your willingness to be a source of comfort will lessen the devastating pain that accompanies the end of a marriage and the breakup of a family. It will be remembered.
Rabbi Levithan is the Rabbinic Director and Senior Director of Adult Programs at the JCC in Manhattan. We thank her for her support of the JBFCS Divorce Support and Single Parent Family Program, as well as her contribution to this edition of The Outstretched Arm.
These "Spirituality Notes" are excerpts from our monthly E-newsletter. Articles are © JBFCS Rita J. Kaplan Jewish Connections Programs and may be reprinted free of charge as long as this credit line is included.