Jungreis's father matched up marriage-age orphans after the war. This, Jungreis believes, is a method of healing. She writes of "chesed", which means loving kindness and the most important character trait that one can bring to a marriage.
In each section of the book there are quotes and references to famous rabbis and periodically there are biblical references to support her thesis. The book also includes tales of those couples who have consulted her when their marriages were less than satisfactory. It is in these instances that her wisdom and firm belief in marriage as a primary relationship, is shown to us.
Because Jungreis is invested in the value of Jewish marriages, she feels that if spouses were able to compromise, then the issues of finances, romance and friendship in marriage would flow smoothly. She advocates a "Torah formula" for successful relationships and reminds us that money cannot buy happiness or someone's heart. In fact, the key to building a loving relationship, according to Jungreis, is by defining oneself through one's "other half."
What Rebbetzin Jungreis views as necessary ingredients for a successful marriage include mutual respect, a sense of humor and trust. While none of this is exactly new news, her firm stance that a solid Jewish marriage provides this foundation is impressive. She writes of "The Torah" as viewing "the love between husband and wife as sacrosanct."
In addressing problems in a marriage, she advises wives to guide their husbands and writes "a man's character traits are totally dependent on those of his wife." Needless to say, Jungreis is no champion of divorce and has a chapter entitled "The Hazards of Divorce". "... It is written that when husband and wife divorce, even the altar weeps," she tells us. What practices will fend off divorce, of course, are quite valuable to her and these include communication, and observance of Jewish traditions. When divorce is inevitable, she stresses a mutual respect between the exes, for the sake of the children.
In her chapter "A Good Heart", we are told that the good heart is the only way to get through in a marriage. She supports her theory with real life stories of husbands and wives who have consulted her in her role as rebbetzin. Finally, it is "peace and harmony" in one's home that are imperative and attainable. The reader may finish this book and question if today's marriage can achieve these goals realistically, wondering if the solutions are not slightly sugar coated.
For this very reason, we are told in the afterward that her publisher had the same reservations. While Rebbetzin Jungreis concedes that marriage can be blissful or painful, she purports her "method" can provide positive results. Her belief in the Torah as protection against a failed marriage is not only convincing but a challenge worth attempting, for those in need.
Susan Shapiro Barash is the author of non-fiction women's issue books, including SECOND WIVES: The Pitfalls and Rewards of Marrying Widowers and Divorced Men, MOTHERS IN LAW AND DAUGHTERS IN LAW: Love, Hate, Rivalry and Reconciliation, and RECLAIMING OURSELVES: How Women Dispel A Legacy of Bad Choices. She teaches Critical Thinking/Gender Studies at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.
Pitching My Tent by Anita Diamant
Scribner Hardcover / $23.00
The Committed Marriage by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis Harper San Francisco/ $23.95
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