Posts tagged " love "

I Hate My Girlfriend’s Tattoo

November 10th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments


I am very much in love with my girlfriend and I want to marry her. Recently, she got a tattoo on her left wrist that I do not like whatsoever. I am trying to get over it but the idea of looking at it the rest of my life is not thrilling.

I keep telling myself it is not a big deal but why do I loathe it so? She did not get it behind my back. Due to some miscommunication she got it anyway. We have had several conversations before about how I do not like them.

Do you have any advice for me to try and get over this faster?



Dear Luke,

We’re not crazy about answering questions with our hands tied behind our back.  That is what you’re doing by asking us to help you get over this. Perhaps that is the direction in which you should go, but we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that the depth of your loathing (your word) demands that you rethink your premise.


Love that Counts

May 17th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

This coming Sunday is Susan and my wedding anniversary. Whenever I say her name an irrepressible surge of ecstatic appreciation wells up in my heart. My gratitude for the love she lavishes upon me and for the delirious joy I feel in her company is exceeded by the adoring amazement I feel about her agreeing to marry me in the first place.

We married on May 15th. In that year it corresponded to the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar.

The 18th of Iyar is a special day—Lag B’Omer. The Hebrew acronym ‘LaG’ is made up of two Hebrew letters Lamed and Gimel, numerically 30 and 3 respectively. Lag B’Omer simply means the thirty-third day of the Omer.

We count the forty-nine days of the Omer from the second day of Passover, until we reach Shavuot—Pentecost— the fiftieth day. (Leviticus 23:15-16). This counting process retraces Israel’s spiritual journey from the Exodus to Mt. Sinai.

Just like twelve step programs for self-improvement such as Alcoholics Anonymous, this is a forty-nine step self-improvement program from slavery’s dark dependence to the dazzling incandescence of the Ten Commandments which God presented to Israel on Pentecost.

The harsh regime in Egypt shattered relationships. The stressful conditions damaged marriages and friendships. Over the seven week period culminating at Mt. Sinai, a healing process took place. Unfortunately, today we no longer retain the progress made in that year of the Exodus. This requires us to repeat the self-improvement process every year. The counting of the Omer is a time of cosmic sensitivity to how we relate to each other and our continual need for repair saddens us.

Omer counting is strongly associated with Rabbi Akiva, the great sage executed by the Romans for teaching Torah. He emphasized the Torah’s cardinal rule:

…Love your friend as yourself…
(Leviticus 19:18)

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that over the years, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died during these sad days of counting the Omer. Rabbi Akiva’s brilliant students are charged with being negligent about loving and respecting each other. They failed to live by the credo of their teacher.

The deaths always ceased on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 18th of Iyar. Not coincidentally, the 33rd word of the Torah is the Hebrew word TOV or ‘good’.

And God saw that the light was good…
(Genesis 1:4)

That word TOV comprises the three Hebrew letters ‘tet’, ‘vav’, and ‘vet’ with the respective numerical values 9, 6, 2. This totals 17, or exactly the number of days from Lag Ba’Omer to the holyday of Shavuot (33+17=50). In Biblical nomenclature, the number 33 is always associated with good.

The first Biblical mention of something being ‘not good’ concerns a lack of relationships:

…It is not good for man to be alone…
(Genesis 2:18)

This time from the Exodus to Lag B’Omer sadly recalls our failure to love and appreciate others. Thus it is obviously incompatible with marriage, so weddings do not take place during this period.

The first day upon which marriages are permitted is the 33rd day of counting, Lag B’Omer. This day has become one of the most popular dates for Jewish weddings in all the year.

It’s easy to assume that in the period leading to receiving the Torah on Mt Sinai, we should be focused only on our relationship with God. But we’d be wrong. Counting the Omer teaches us that we cannot have a relationship with God while ignoring or devaluing our relationships with other people.

Feeling and showing love for others is the very fuel of friendship. Showing love nourishes relationships. Whether in business, parenting, or education, if people don’t know that you care they won’t care what you know.

My thanks to so many of you for showing your love by using the ‘forward to a friend’ button to share my Torah teachings. In honor of our anniversary Susan and I are offering an 18% discount (online only) on two fabulous resources; the book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting it Right the First Time and our audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. Help yourself – or someone you love – work on life’s most important relationship.

It’s the Genes, Stupid – originally posted Feb. 2007

February 8th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

February. An often bleak, cold and dark month. This may be the reason why, aside from the obvious commercial implications, cheerful, bright, pink and red valentines endlessly bombard us as soon as February approaches. For women’s magazines the theme of the month’s issue is pre-ordained – romance. Generally this means that even more clap trap than usual will be disseminated. Hollywood couples who have made it past the five week mark will be lauded as proof that enduring love still exists and “experts” will step forward to explain the new, advanced methods for attracting and holding on to a mate.

Right on track, in a statement so absurd that one knows without checking that the author is an academician, comes a quote from Melvin Konner, MD, professor of anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. Commenting on a study of rodents which suggested that injecting male meadow voles with the chemical vasopressin increased their likelihood of linking up with female meadow voles, the doctor states,

“There’s something at work with a couple that stays together for 50 years, bad years included. It’s hard to imagine that it’s just a question of compatible personalities or strict beliefs.”

Imagine. If we only had universal health insurance we could have a nation of young couples streaming to the nearest chapel and we could assure them that divorce is no longer a threat. A regimen of injections would turn us into a nation of long term, happily married couples.

I don’t mean to pick on Dr. Konner, who after all sounds like he was simply wondering out loud rather than recommending a policy. Later on, in the same magazine that featured his quote, is an article highlighting committed couples, including one who has passed the fifty year mark. It is clear that indeed they were initially attracted by compatibility but weathered and continue to weather difficult times through shared beliefs and views.

But in today’s cynical and bruising world thousands of young people are reaching marriageable age as products of broken homes; probably just as many as products of unfulfilled ones. It is easy for them to believe various academics who proclaim that marriages were never meant to last for fifty years. It seems sensible to them that as the expected life span increases it is only normal for couples to divorce and pair up with new spouses, or that marriage itself is obsolete and meaningless.

Studies such as the one that made the cover of news weeklies a number of years ago suggesting that there is an “adultery gene” or ones that suggest that commitment is biologically driven advance the argument that people are helpless beings who can only act as we are programmed. As such we are not responsible for or capable of controlling our behavior.

What a dismal message to send. And how different it is from the message that God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (when life spans were even longer than they are today). As my husband and I have been preparing the newest volume in our Genesis Journeys  series, focusing precisely on what that message is, I can’t help recalling a February event that I was privileged to attend two years ago. Hosted by then Governor and Mrs. Huckabee of Arkansas, the focus was on promoting commitment in marriage and it had nothing to do with a magic pill or monthly injection.

The highlight of the evening (aside from my husband’s speech) was a moving video of the president of a respected Bible college announcing his resignation in order to stay at his wife’s side while she dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Like the thousands of other women in the room, my eyes were overflowing as he explained how his wife had supported him in all his endeavors and now she was in need of his company. Although she didn’t seem to recognize him, his presence calmed her down and gave her peace, and so he was choosing to free himself of other obligations to be with her. Not because he thought it was “only fair” or as a “payback” but because it filled him with joy to ease her distress.

I imagine that this man and his wife probably felt they were compatible when they embarked on their marriage many years earlier. But I doubt if it was hormones that led them to stay together. My guess is that there was a constant recognition that communication, hard work and common goals were needed to keep them compatible and, indeed, that strict beliefs laid the foundation for and built the protective fence around their relationship.

I don’t think there was anyone in the Altel Arena in Arkansas, male or female, who didn’t say a silent prayer asking for a marriage as blessed as that one. And I also don’t think there was anyone there who thought that achieving that kind of marriage was a function of winning a genetic lottery or having access to new drugs rather than of making a constant and sustained effort, through good times and bad, to attain it.


Mysteries of Love – Originally posted on Sept. 30, 2009

January 9th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

My husband picked up some groceries for me last week, which led me to ponder one of the mysteries of love. One of the signs of a healthy marriage is when you relate to behavior from your spouse with amusement or even affection, while that same action would irritate you if it came from anyone else.

Let me elaborate. There is no rational reason that I can’t tell one car from another. Early in our marriage if we needed to take two cars somewhere, my husband would say, “Just follow me.” After a few times when I ended up miles away, trailing a stranger, it became clear to both of us that color is just about the only distinguishing characteristic of cars to which I relate. I can tell a Volkswagen from a Hummer, but anything more subtle eludes me. Living as we do in an area where people frequently leave their cars unlocked, that means that I have been known to sit down in the wrong vehicle at the mall or airport. Objectively, I see how this could drive a man wild.

Back to those groceries. The day began with a “to do” list that was not going to fit into the available hours. So, when I needed only two items from the supermarket and my husband was going to be passing by there anyway, I asked him to run in and get them.

A short while later he came in with the groceries. The bananas I needed were indeed in the bag, but the big, black, mushy spots meant they weren’t exactly what I had in mind. When I caught myself smiling at the discolored, unusable, fruit the thought flashed through my mind. I wouldn’t have smiled at the same occurrence had it happened early in our marriage. Why not?

Well, because at the early stages of marriage I wouldn’t have known how to interpret the mushy banana. Was I seeing a sign of passive-aggressive resentment on being asked to go to the market? Perhaps the mushy banana reflected a lack of appreciation for the hard work I put into making meals? Or maybe I had married someone totally lacking in basic common sense. Any one of those three choices would have left me feeling less warmly to my spouse.

By this point I knew exactly what the spoiled banana meant. It meant that while he truly wanted to help me, my husband’s brain was overloaded with dealing with other issues. Maybe he was figuring out how to help one of our children, or maybe he was concerned about an unanticipated repair bill. Perhaps he was troubled by a problem a friend was facing or maybe his own overloaded to do list was overwhelming him. The reason didn’t really matter. I knew it reflected nothing about our relationship, his respect for my work or his level of competency.

As a young bride I would have known none of those things. This means that a conversation about the banana would be a high priority discussion item. The trick would be for me not to assume I knew the reason for the failed shopping nor for my husband to insist that this was a silly conversation.

Similarly, my car confusion could easily have caused my new husband to question my intelligence or think that I was deliberately not being helpful. Again, neither of those conclusions would lead to affectionate thoughts.

He still doesn’t understand how I have no idea what our rental car looks like when we are traveling, but he does know that this is a quirk, not a statement. And if cars were important to him, I would work on it. After all, I did learn the difference between ketches, schooners and yawls as well as identifying the direction a ship is traveling at night by analyzing the visible lights.

Being madly in love when you get married probably doesn’t correlate at all to the length of the marriage. It can even be a negative if it means that the hard work necessary in those first years of marriage gets ignored. But down the road a bit, being madly in love is wonderful. A good measuring device for the health of the relationship is whether your first response is a smile or chuckle to what an outsider would view as an infuriating, disappointing or aggravating action.



An Old-Fashioned Reaction

January 4th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

I shocked both my husband and myself last week. A friend forwarded us a human interest article from a major newspaper, expecting that we would be as appalled by it as he was. My husband reacted as anticipated. To my amazement, I didn’t.

The article ran in a column which each week highlights the story of some newly married couple. The stories describe how the couple met and the path of their courtship. They always end with a wedding and hint at “and they lived happily ever after.” The often touching stories that get featured tend to shine in the ‘obstacles overcome’ category, leaving the reader smiling. This piece was no different in format.

However, the impediment to the relationship in this case was that when the new bride and groom met one another, they were each married to nice people, living basically happy lives and raising their children in stable and secure environments. Despite these facts, they ultimately chose to acknowledge the powerful attraction they felt for each other.

In the article they are candid about the trauma they introduced into their families’ lives and their attempts to behave as honorably as possible in a dishonorable situation. Eventually, they each divorced, setting the stage for the newsworthy nuptials. The couple doesn’t minimize the weightiness of their decision and especially their worries about the damage they might cause their respective children. As the article celebrating their marriage puts it,  

He said, ‘Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,’ …
 “I would say the kids are going to be great, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives making it so.”
The problem was she could not guarantee that.

Neither our friend nor my husband was suggesting that we send the couple hate mail or in any way wish them ill. But they both immediately recognized that publicizing and romanticizing this story was inflicting another wound upon the already badly damaged institution of marriage.

To my chagrin, my instinctive reaction was weaker. While I didn’t “ooh” and “ah” as when a previous column celebrated the marriage of two octogenarians who had been high school sweethearts and reunited after each one’s long-term spouse died, the idea of ‘soul mates’ resonated with me. That tug at the heart strings informed me that I have been more influenced by society’s values than I like.

This particular couple isn’t the issue. What is important is recognizing that today couples embarking on a life together need to define terms like commitment in very concrete ways, because in our day, those words can be as malleable as play dough. For me, it was a humbling experience to realize that I haven’t been as successful as I would like in detaching myself from the moral relativism so prominent today.

After some reflection, I realized that the newspaper’s marriage column read like a condensed non-fiction version of modern chick lit. You don’t have to go that far back in history to a time when popular books might have shown troublesome romantic temptation and chronicle how the protagonists struggled to successfully overcome it. Or else they might have shown tragic consequences flowing from an unfortunate entanglement. Today, an almost universal feature of chick lit is that everybody ends up happy. Quite a change, isn’t it?

Serendipitously, the same week I read the column cited above I also read an excerpt from Nora Ephron’s newest book. In it, while discussing her own divorce, she rather unequivocally states,

…I can’t think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can’t kid yourself about that, although many people do…

Ms. Ephron’s words are a worthwhile reminder, and one that I needed, that it would be a mistake to confuse some genres of modern fiction with real life.

I certainly wish well to the children in the new blended family. They have no choice but to live with their parents’ decisions. It would be truly unfortunate, though, if disseminating this story influences others, even in the subtlest manner, to opt for romance over responsibility.     

Romance in the (Corporate) Air

March 23rd, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Corporate America is adjusting to two realities. A) The workplace is staffed by men and women; B) Men and women are attracted to each other.


Fortunately, we are talking business rather than government, so the taxpayer didn’t spend millions of dollars arriving at these startling conclusions. Nevertheless, while both of these factors have been realities for a while, for the past few decades the assumption existed that you could control (B). So, inter-company romances were frowned upon and were even cause for termination.


A recently released study shows that in most companies this is no longer the case. As long as the relationship is between unmarried peers as opposed to an adulterous affair or boss/employee mix, romances no longer need to be kept secret.


But there does seem to be a difference between romantically seeing someone in your office vs. someone you meet in a college class or at your local coffee house. Unlike students, employees seem to be aware that actions have consequences. Your boss may not care if you date the guy in IT, but should things end badly, she certainly will mind your ducking behind the copier machine every time he walks by.  You can rather easily change a class schedule or stagger the time you get your latte, while avoiding a team meeting because you are mortified at how you behaved the night before has more severe ramifications.


So co-workers are behaving in a rather old-fashioned manner. They are actually getting to know one another slowly, building a relationship one step at a time and avoiding hasty physical intimacy. Sounds a bit like courtship, doesn’t it? This places it at the complete opposite extreme of the “meet/hook-up/break up” culture so rampant on college campuses and featured on sitcoms.


This suggests that thousands of people function with a warped view of reality. Threat of money loss leads them to orchestrate their personal lives in a mature and thoughtful way but not the threat of even more serious personal damage. After all, there is tremendous potential for debilitating physical, psychological and emotional consequences from unhealthy male/female relationships, which is perhaps the very definition of  a hook-up. So, few people are willing to risk their paychecks or careers for a fleeting thrill, however large swathes of the population are willing to offer up their very beings.


There are so many ways that being in the workplace, in contrast to school or volunteer work, provides a dose of reality. To that long list we can now add learning healthier ways for men and women to relate. Can I, only slightly tongue in cheek, suggest that instead of increasing student loan access and channeling as many students as possible to college or so-called public service, society would benefit more from making a few years of work experience a pre-requisite to either of those options?


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