On Sunday evening, May 23, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem featured Rabbi YY Jacobson speaking about life after divorce. This was Coach Menachem’s 55 virtual shiur. These Sunday night shiurim grew out a need during the pandemic and they continue to inspire and uplift people. Though this particular topic sounded depressing, in truth, the shiur was extremely uplifting. The Torah ideas communicated in a sensitive way by Rabbi Jacobson could resonate for anyone going through any type of challenge.
Coach Menachem Bernfeld began with a short introduction, noting that our community needs help in this area. It’s not an easy topic and it isn’t something we want to talk about.
Next, Rabbi YY Jacobson, well-known speaker, shared that the one objective of this shiur is that we are here together to support each other emotionally, socially, spiritually, and psychologically. This Coach Menachem shiur offers a platform to unite Jews and for us to empower each other, and that is the goal of his platform.
Rabbi Jacobson shared a beautiful metaphor from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l. A woman is traveling by bus to all the different cities in Israel. The whole time, through all the bus rides, she is holding onto a little baby. If the baby is asked how many places he was that day, he would say that he was in the same space all day. “I was in my mother’s arms.” The Gemara teaches that the 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, they felt they were in the arms of Hashem. Geographically they were in different places, but emotionally they felt they were in the same space. In life we are sometimes relocated emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Our life transforms radically when there is a divorce. So, we have to always remind ourselves that no matter what, we are in the hands of Hashem.
A man shared with Rabbi Jacobson that the hardest thing was a sense of loneliness. All of a sudden, he had no wife, no kids. He didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. The boredom was so profound – the void was so deep. Rabbi Jacobson pointed out that the religious community is built around marriage and family. Being alone on Friday night was an emotional disaster for him. He asked this man what saved him. He said, knowing he was in Hashem’s hands.
Rabbi Jacobson taught that you need to develop a new authentic relationship with your truest self and with G-d. “At such a moment, even if my life is a roller coaster, going through so many changes, everything has been transformed; nonetheless, I am cuddled in Hashem’s arms.” An authentic relationship with Hashem empowers us despite the vicissitudes of life. We can operate in a place of inner confidence as we are anchored in eternity.
Rabbi Jacobson then responded to a question someone asked about not wanting to share details with people. If you discussed this decision with professionals and you know what comes with divorce and you weighed all the pros and cons, then you have to realize its important not to be isolated. You need a few people you can be open with. We all have blind spots and biases. We have our own insecurities. A person can’t get out of prison himself. “To go through this completely on your own doesn’t seem to be the wisest thing. You need a support system. Don’t go into isolation. It won’t be good for you.”
If there is someone you don’t feel comfortable sharing the details with, just respond politely: Thank you for your concern but I’m not comfortable discussing it. Thank you for respecting my boundaries.
Someone asked the painful question, “Now that I have less involvement with my kids, how can I find meaning in my life?”
Rabbi Jacobson responded that everything changes.” It is a time not to surrender to despair. It’s easy to do this, so it’s important to anchor yourself in a deep relationship with your soul and Hashem. Realize that Hashem really has your back. Realize that every day is an opportunity for growth. Realize there is a real North. Use this time for inner growth. Get involved in something. Find a mission. Find a passion. Help the community. Don’t allow your days to be squandered. Be involved in a meaningful hobby.”
He emphasized that it is important to have people to speak to.
He spoke about the stigma and how its important for people to understand what divorced people are going through. We live in a society where we are judged. At some point in life you have to tell yourself I am not living for other people. You have to be true to yourself. You need to feel confident and anchored with a strong bond with Hashem and your deepest spiritual essence. He acknowledged that there is great pain and grief. There are people who don’t understand and they judge, and there are many people who are clueless.
You have to give yourself the love you need. We need awareness in our community. Don’t stigmatize someone. He pointed out a famous S’fas Emes that you shouldn’t judge anyone until you reach their space – and you never will. He shared that we break a glass under the chupah because at the first chupah in history, Matan Torah, Moshe broke the Luchos. The broken Luchos were placed in the Aron. The question is: Will you have the courage to place the broken pieces from your marriage in the Aron. You need to say to yourself: I will use these broken luchos to create a new aron. Real people will sense your authentic energy. Also, remember that whenever people speak about others, they are really speaking about themselves.
Someone asked how to accept that Hashem wanted this. Rabbi Jacobson responded sensitively that the pain is real and it is so important to be anchored in a deep spiritual place. We can’t waste time living in a world of resentment. It is like putting myself on fire and hoping my enemy inhales the smoke. Also, you don’t want to badmouth the ex-spouse because your children need that parent. All of our negativity is an alarm clock, waking us up to the things inside of us. Respect these emotions and explore them with someone who can help you grieve. Also, you can’t allow another person’s issues to ruin your life. Don’t get into a place of endless guilt. That’s from the yeitzer ha’ra. Be honest with Hashem. Be vulnerable. Talk to Hashem like a friend. Bring your whole pain to Him. You may never be able to answer why, but you will find support from Hashem.
A marriage is sacred. Those luchos are broken. Moshe’s greatest accomplishment taught us that Jews take broken luchos and build into growth and renewal.
By Susie Garber