When my wife and I married almost 25 years ago we were both reformed jews. Recently, I have a strong desire to become much more orthodox. I put on Tefillin daily, go to an orthodox Minyan each Shabbat, seek to have a kosher home and have a strong desire to move to Israel today. Through all of this I have realized that I am Jewish first and American second. My wife and family resist these changes and would never consider moving from the U.S. In the conflict between my love of Hashem and love of family, who should win?
The Land of Israel or Bust? I remember when we studied the tractate of Ketuboth in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva Rabbi Kook gave us an introduction to the tractate as a whole. I remember very vividly how he sat at home, across from the picture of his late dearly beloved wife, and told us how the entire volume deals with the family bond and marital obligations between the spouses. He concluded with a smile and told us that the tractate ends with the mitzvah of living in Israel. He added that the Land of Israel is the dowry that binds the Jews to their beloved, Hashem. After thousands of laws binding a man to his wife, the conclusion of the tractate teahes us that a man’s connection to Israel supercedes his nuptial bond to his wife. The Mishna states that if a husband wishes to make Aliyah to Israel and the wife refuses, then he is free to divorce her without having to pay the dowry stipulated in the Ketubah marriage contract. (1) The Mishna establishes the principle that “Everyone ascends to Eretz Yisrael.” (2) While we learn from this the centrality of the Land of Israel in the perfected worship of G-d, one shouldn’t rush to break up a marriage. The Talmud teaches us that the Altar sheds tears when a marriage ends in divorce. (3) Furthermore, a basic guideline for all precepts is that a person is not expected to spend more then one-fifth of his possessions to keep any positive precept. Since a wife and family are considered much more than a fifth of a person’s worldly possessions, he is not required to do any mitzvah that would destroy his family unity. (4) I suggest that you try to show your family the beauties and pleasures of Judaism and Israel in a patient, loving, and understanding fashion. Perhaps a family visit to Israel would help inspire them to share the feelings that you have so fortunately developed. 1. Ketuboth 110B 2. Ibid. See also Shulchan Oruch Even HaEzer 75:3. 3. Gitten 90A. 4. Ketubot 76B.