KADDISH FOR WIFE #1 OR PEACE WITH WIFE #2?
My first wife died eight years ago. I have since remarried a woman who is very nice, but we do have some issues that cause great tension between us. One of them surrounds my saying kaddish for my first wife. She becomes very jealous over my recitation of kaddish for her or my lighting of a yahrzeit candle in her memory. She claims that she is my new wife and I have to leave the past behind. I believe that I have left the past behind, but how can I ignore my first wife’s yahrzeit? She bore my three children and we lived happily for 39 years. Should I forego her yahrzeit for the sake of shalom bayit, peace in my home?
Dear Really Torn,
Ouch! This problem sounds like a bruiser. First of all, I commend you for the respect you seek to pay your first wife, while at the same time seeking shalom bayit with your present wife. A second spouse does not come into our lives to replace the first, but to establish a new and different relationship, and hopefully a fulfilling one at that. I would hope that your present wife would understand that your recitation of kaddish in no way undermines your relationship with her. Her expectation that you should so easily give up honoring your first wife’s memory is a bit over the top.
I wonder if your wife’s irritation with your saying Kaddish does not point to a deeper distrust of your devotion to her or a suspicion that the love between you is faltering. It seems to me that if she were completely at peace with the present relationship, she would not only understand your need to say kaddish for your first wife, but even encourage you to do so.
If you could delicately suggest to her that a professional might help the two of you sort out this Kaddish issue, maybe other tensions in the relationship could be exposed and thus dealt with in some effective manner. Good luck and alehah hashalom—may your first wife rest in peace and may you achieve peace with your present wife..
Rabbi Rafi Rank
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