Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 6 December 2008 / 9 Kislev 5769

Role Reversal

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
Become a Supporter Library Library

From: Anonymous

Dear Rabbi,

I was not raised religious. A few years ago I met a girl who was raised religious and who was religious at the time. We started a relationship that was really meaningful with a lot of promise for the future. It was very important to her that I become religious. We spoke about the fact that I couldn’t and shouldn’t become religious for her, but rather only if it came to mean something to me personally, independent of our relationship. She was great in that she didn’t pressure me, and over time I did actually start learning Torah and keeping Shabbat until I actually did become religious. The problem is that at some point we went to separate colleges where I kept on being religious and now she’s the one who has stopped being observant. I can’t believe that she’s the one who inspired me to become religious, she’s the one whose family was an example for the type of family we could have and now she’s the one who’s left it all. What’s going on with her, why did this happen and what should I do?

Dear Anonymous,

I really empathize with how you must feel. It sounds like you’re hurting and confused, which is perfectly understandable given the circumstances.

Still, the first and most important thing I can say to you is that just as you were rightly and admirably reluctant to become religious for her, you must refuse to leave your own independently-found religiosity because of her. If your relationship was based on mutual understanding and growth, she must not pressure you leave the path, nor should you feel any pressure to do so.

What’s more, since your relationship was based on spiritual meaning and significance, with an eye to the Jewish future, removing that from your relationship will only lead to dissatisfaction and void. Pursuing that path will only mar the beauty of what you once shared.

Of course, I can’t know for sure why she’s dropped being religious. However, you should realize that while you grew up irreligious and made the conscious decision based on your comparison of both worlds to become religious, she was raised religious without really experiencing anything else. It’s pretty likely that going to college and being away from her family was her first opportunity to experience things she’s never done. Now while that’s not right, and a good Jewish education should protect one from that, the reality is that people are people, particularly young people, and they’re greatly affected by what’s going on around them. This happens to some young people raised religious. Most return.

Similarly, I can’t know why this role reversal happened and why you were involved. It could be that G-d wanted you to become religious and gave you a special opportunity by meeting her while choosing for yourself. She has an important role in that, the merit of which is hers. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she was meant for you. Perhaps she did her role and now you must go your own separate ways. And even though in many ways she and her family were a model for you, ultimately G-d may want you to go on to Jewishly bigger and better things.

What should you do? Try and talk to her, persuade her, understand her and help her understand herself and what’s going on with her and your relationship. If she needs time and space, let her have it. Be patient with her and realize that just as you could not have and should not have made the decision for her, so she can’t and shouldn’t for you. But just as your own decision validated your religiosity and enhanced your relationship with her, so her decision to do so will be for the ultimate good of herself, your relationship and you.

If G-d wants it to be, it will happen — and all the more so if you maintain your ideals. Because if it’s meant to be, that’s why He brought you together in the first place. If it’s not meant to be, you’ll see that whatever you do just won’t work. At that time you’ll have to make the difficult decision to move on with your life. But if it comes to that, always be thankful that she introduced you to G-d and be confident that G-d will ultimately introduce you to your real soul-mate.

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Ask The Rabbi

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.