Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Nissan 5765 - April 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Child of Divorced Parents

By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis


" . . . Although I do have single friends my age that came from typical backgrounds, mine is more complicated. My parents got divorced after many difficult years with serious sholom bayis problems . . . I would like to ask you for advice . . . and encouragement."



Dear Aviva,

Negative Stereotypes

I was very touched by your story. Although the details are personal, unfortunately, many readers will in their own way identify with the subject of being categorized. The lists of stereotypes people try to avoid in shidduchim are endless. For some, the mazel tov finally occurs when they start narrowing down their expectations, settling then with someone less then perfect! A Gadol sharply said that people used to look for an aveida [the lost other half], but nowadays they seek a metzia, a good find, a bargain.

Generally, if the shidduch of a child from a divorced home is suggested to someone from a typical family, he might ask: "What do I need to get into such a situation for?" Many times, not having the ideal example when growing up could be projected later on in marriage. But I've also seen the opposite extreme, where children learned from their parents' mistakes and really were determined to make their own relationship successful.

A child from a divorced home could also build a solid home as fine as any other, provided that he is conscious of what a Torah marriage is all about. Beyond good intentions and nice thoughts, it's a must to live up to those ideals.

There are stereotypes associated with negative limitations. Alas, we live in a world of falsehood that what appears to be is not necessarily what it is. Do we really know what someone's true capabilities are? That's something only Hashem can know. But often, talking to the person and getting to know what he thinks, how he acts, etc. can give you a better assessment than mistakenly putting on a negative label.

Mutual Understanding

All families have issues. Just like virtues have to be matched, the same occurs with problems. Some would overlook certain character traits, looks, finances, where to live, family, etc. While we might look at it as compromise, it might just be the trial that will push us to grow.

Eliyahu had a serious health condition and after treatments, basically recovered well. He came out of the difficulty as a much stronger person, emotionally as well. It led him to think, ask questions and eventually he became observant. Bracha, the girl he married, also had a health issue. I didn't base the match on physical conditions. Whoever has health problems doesn't necessarily need to marry a spouse with a similar problem. But by living through something that shook his life, he would have something in common with a spouse who had also some sort of moving experience rather than a more typical life.

It also happens that a sensitive person can understand someone from a totally different background. Like, for example, when one of the spouses is a baal tshuva and the other isn't. In such cases, it takes an "extra sense" to put oneself in the other's shoes to really respect and appreciate where the other is coming from.

In your case, it doesn't mean that you will necessarily have to marry into a family of divorced parents. But you definitely do need a partner who would, at least in a certain level, be able to relate to your experience. Not that he will need to fully empathize with what you experienced, but at least at a certain level, he should be able to sense what made you who you are. It goes without saying that you should feel safe to share and open up. Again, communication is the key that overcomes differences. Mainly, all the above will be true if your thoughts are validated and if he cares for you.

Growth Orientation

Ari had a hard time in shidduchim. As a reference, his Rosh Yeshiva mentioned to the prospective girl's parents that for a limited period, Ari had a hard time keeping up with the yeshiva's learning schedule and waking up at a reasonable time for davening. In short, the boy was for a while easily distracted and lacked motivation. The girls' families were concerned.

I discussed that with a Talmid Chochom and his answer was unexpected and inspiring. I can't go into the details, but I can share that he concluded that if the boy had problems with the above but eventually got up and kept going, we see that he works on himself and can overcome difficulties. But how do you know that others, who never had challenges, will handle pressures? (PS: Ari is today a respected avreich married to an excellent girl!)

All families have problems. However, yours are not hidden behind four walls. A Rabbi active in counseling said that people wouldn't believe the gravity of the issues that he hears from his chair — many of them coming from well- known figures who on the outside seem to be well adjusted and happily married.

You could have sunk in despair like your sibling or chosen to deny or cover up issues. It wasn't a choice whether to come from a home with marital strife. The free-will exercise is how to react . . .

The Chasam Sofer commented on the narration of Hashem telling Moshe Rabeinu by the burning bush, "The place where you stand is holy." He explained that we can learn from it that all situations we are put in are holy. In other words, life's circumstances come from His Divine Providence. His wisdom sets up what we need to live through. Those scenarios place obstacles in front of us. The test is to perceive beyond the limitations that they are coming from the Almighty. Consequently, focusing on this awareness will help us reach our potential in this world.

You decided on the hardest, but most productive path: to face the situation . . . From your maturity, I can sense that you gave and give great thought to have a healthy attitude towards marriage. I'm happy you get guidance from a respected rabbinic authority, and at the same time, encouragement and positive examples from other relatives. Certainly, it's praiseworthy how the parent you live with has succeeded in building as much as possible an optimistic home atmosphere.

I'm very impressed by how you use your talents professionally to give to the Jewish People. The enthusiastic description of how you really yearn for a husband who is also idealistic and committed to spiritual growth is fitting.

In spite of everything, you are making mature daily choices. You mentioned that when you can, you try to go to holy sites to pray with concentration. Your view of shidduchim is realistic as far as who you are and what you are looking for. In other words, you turn to the Almighty, and when things are hard, you persevere and keep growing.

True Servants of Hashem

Don't be stuck on what kind of judgment people pass on you and your family. You know you are trying your hardest to be the best Aviva you can be — that's all the Maker expects from you. The same Almighty Who gave you the tests will also bring you much blessing and answer your prayers!

Undoubtedly, our Father in Heaven holds you in the highest esteem . . . Sadly, in this world, people might label you. But the truth is that you have gone far and beyond others who go through life as robots, who perform mitzvos without a heart. Unfortunately, in our generation, the pain, distractions, and secular enticements are great — so how many of us can really say that we are true servants of Hashem?

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Please note that all names have been changed unless specified with the exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656-3111


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