Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking for Love

I am both amused and appalled at a new website for cheating spouses in the Frum World. This website is geared for the observant community. Unlike my freind Rabbi Shael Siegel I did not go to that website to see for myself. I let him do the ‘dirty work’ for me.

Based on his observation - this website promises love and affairs outside of their marriage. This is a site where you can speak and interact with married man and women with out jeopardizing your marriage and get support from other married men and women who seek the same. This is a site where you can concentrate on men and women of the Jewish community, and meet like minded people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to do this.

Those who seem to be participating in this kind of website are definitely not representative of the vast majority of any segment of Orthodoxy. That said - there is enough participation to warrant a website geared to the Frum. That means that there is a problem in this area that needs to be addressed.

R’ Shael makes a point of saying that it is the very people who wear piety on their sleeves that are the ones most vulnerable here. I tend to agree.

But I also think a lot of it seems to stem just from daily experiences living and working in the real world compared to what one finds in their home.

Here are some of R’ Shael’s observations:

What makes the site alarming is when taking note of the profile section. In that section there is a category for chassidus where you can identify whichever group you belong to ranging from Belz to Vishnitz and everything in between…

Women… seem neglected because either they have had too many children and are finding it difficult to cope physically or mentally; or because they let ‘themselves go” because they can. They’re married and they don’t have to make the effort any longer to stay attractive. I’ve often (at) times wondered about those couples. How happy are they?

Incidentally it cuts both ways. Some of the men are terribly neglected and look like they are sixty going on thirty. And there is no excuse for it. Cornering one very over weight avreich whom I’ve known for years I asked him how he was doing. Here was a forty year old man who looked and sounded like he was seventy. He does not “work out” and his interests are very limited. The only thing he reads is his mail and torah texts, i.e. chumash, rashi, meforshim, daf yomi, and the like.Life under these circumstances can become very boring, monotonous and tedious. The purpose isn’t to lay blame at one or the other spouse. Either party in the marriage can be tempted into an adulterous relationship. Cheating is the result of a poor marriage and very bad sex. But if the chareidi community always prided itself in wholesome family life and marriages that were based upon “torah true” values and not the superficial criteria of the secular community how is it possible that they have come to this – a website designed for their community in need of extramarital relations?

I believe that it is the ‘Lites’ that are most vulnerable to this. Whether one is Charedi-Lite or MO-Lite - if one practices Judaism mostly because of learned rote behavior and because of family or peer pressure - without the requisite Yiras Shamyim - one can veer off track rather easily given an inconspicuous opportunity.

But I do not believe the ‘Lites’ are the only ones. Sometimes even the most devout can succumb to temptation. When opportunity presents itself so easily - as it does on the Internet – well… it could happen to anyone. Even the most devout.

That was made painfully clear to me when a Rosh Yeshiva in Israel was accused of committing adultery many years ago. Opportunity knocked (in his case - not via the Internet) and he succumbed. He did not deny it and lost his job - obviously.

I think R' Shael is on the right track. I have seen much written about his ‘explanations’. Including those written by mainstream Charedi writers as causes for concern in religious marriages. These kinds of issues in modern day Orthodox marriages may actually lead a spouse to ‘a new level’ of dealing with them when encountering a website like this.

Obviously it is the wrong level. But it seems to be a ‘level’ that is attracting a lot of Frum people.