Ask Wendy

His Cheatin’ Heart

Dear Wendy,

My best friend discovered that her husband has been having a long-term affair. First she wept on my shoulder, then she asked me what I thought she should do? Is there a right answer to that question? She and her husband have three small children whose lives must also be considered.

Friend Indeed

Dear Friend Indeed,

The only right answer for now is that, as her best friend, you will stay by her side and support whatever decision she makes. But once that moment passes, it’s time for her to pack her bags — period. Or his.

This may be an oversimplification, but I believe that people fall into two categories: those who cheat and those who don’t. Those that do tend to do so again — especially if their transgression was of the long-term variety. If the wronged party doesn’t lay down the law, the transgressor knows, consciously or unconsciously, that he can get away with it again. Anyone who has seen a 4-year-old in action is familiar with this axiom. At the end of the day, your friend needs to ask herself: Do I still respect and trust my spouse? There can be only one answer to that question. And a marriage without respect and trust is no marriage at all, even if the family is still intact.

Unkosher Gift

Dear Wendy,

We received a beautiful mezuzah and scroll as a gift. Our sofer (scribe) pointed out that although written on kosher skin, some letters were written backwards, several words were in the incorrect order, and the heksher on the plastic wrapping was counterfeit. We do not want to offend the gift-giver but we feel obligated to alert her and the synagogue that sold it to her that the parchment is not kosher. What do you suggest?


Dear Perplexed,

Would you worry about telling someone their tires had been found to have a defect and were being recalled? I suggest you choose your words carefully and remember to express your appreciation. Beyond that, your friend and her synagogue store should be grateful for the information. Someone should be ashamed of himself — or herself — and it isn’t you.

Women Pallbearers

Dear Wendy,

At every funeral I attend I see only men bearing the casket. Does Judaism prohibit women from being pallbearers?


Dear Curious,

If ever there is a time when people cling to custom and ritual, it is at the end of life. Part of the ritual of death is to follow traditions already in place; male pallbearers happen to be one of those traditions. (In Jerusalem, another such tradition is that children, no matter what their age, do not go to the cemetery when a parent is buried. Go figure.)

There is no halachic reason a woman cannot be a pallbearer. According to my rabbi, this minhag (custom) was likely established as a matter of muscle: women were not considered strong enough to carry the casket. But even among the Orthodox community, the long-held tradition is being uprooted, one piece at a time. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Ohr Torah Institutions and the chief rabbi of Efrat, has broken ranks and decreed that it is permissible for women to be pallbearers for other women. If you are a member of a Conservative or Reform community, you have most likely already witnessed this shift.

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Ulterior Motives?

Dear Wendy,

My daughter was 10 years old when I married for the second time. My new husband never wanted to fill the role of stepfather; in fact, he paid very little attention to my daughter. But now that we’re divorced (after 17 years of marriage) he calls her frequently and lavishes gifts on her. Recently he bought her a car. What do you make of the alliance and what do you think I should do?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

If he can’t have you I guess he’s decided to settle for your daughter. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

The good news is that you’re divorced from him and no longer need to give a second thought to your ex-husband’s motives. Even if they are rather transparent. Your daughter is another matter. It isn’t everyday that someone offers to buy you a new car. On the other hand, this may be your daughter’s way of getting back at you while getting what she never got from your ex when he was her father. Without making a federal case of it, ask your daughter what is going through her head. Talk to her about your concerns — are there strings attached here? — but don’t let the discussion turn into an argument. You are no longer married to this man. Don’t let him come in between you and your daughter; and, whatever you do, don’t let your ex draw you back in. You divorced him for a reason, didn’t you?