Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Unsung Heroine

Many of you have written to me over the years to express your appreciation for my work and your support for me against the opposition that my work has aroused. Your letters are always gratefully appreciated, but the truth is, they are almost always addressed to the wrong person. More precisely, they should be primarily addressed to another person.

Sure, I've had a tough time dealing with bans and condemnations and threatening phone calls and dedicated hate-sites and so on. But at least I have the benefit of being very passionate about science and hyraxes and so on, and of having many people speaking to me and giving their support. There's another person who also suffers from the flak that is sent in my direction, but who was never particularly interested in the intersection between Torah and science in the first place. I am talking, of course, about my wife.

When my wife, as a starry-eyed idealist, married me thirteen years ago today, she had no idea what she was getting into. At that time, my work was popular across the board; her old teachers from seminary would quote my works, and I was featured on the cover of Mishpachah magazine. She was a little surprised to discover that I was writing a book reconciling evolution with Judaism - actually, more than a little surprised - but offered her full support nonetheless, even buying little plastic dinosaurs for the book launch.

Then, a few years later, everything changed. There were posters in the street and editorials in the newspapers delivered to our home that were condemning my books. Some of my wife's old teachers started circulating letters viciously attacking me. The "Gedolei HaDor" declared my writings to be heresy! Even I was constantly asking myself whether I was in the right; imagine how much harder it was for my wife, who was never passionate about "rationalist Judaism" in the first place. Not to mention having to deal with a husband who was falling to pieces! And worst of all - perhaps the most horrible moment of our lives - was when she received a phone call relating a threat to the lives of our children.

Yet she stood by me. More than that - she gave me unwavering support. It's no exaggeration to say that I could not have gotten through that turbulent period without her. 

Furthermore, it's not as though the controversy over my work has been the only challenge that my wife has had to endure as a result of being married to me. And I'm not just talking about having to deal with a husband who maintains a blog. When we were dating, I told my wife that my days of keeping pets were long behind me. I think that I even believed it myself. Ha! Over the last few years, my wife has had to deal with chinchillas turning on videos in the middle of the night, bats in the bathroom, and hyraxes on the couch. Her red line - no snakes - somehow fell by the wayside. I've appropriated (okay, stolen) her kitchen utensils for cooking locusts, and taken over the bottom shelf of the freezer with certain Items that I feed to my giant monitor lizards (though, to my credit, at least I put on a warning label saying "GROSS STUFF - DO NOT OPEN"). Currently, while I am accumulating specimens for my forthcoming museum, I have filled up our basement with all kinds of bizarre items, from live reptiles to stuffed carnivores and ungulates and birds of prey. My wife also has to be worried about her husband having dangerous close encounters with lions and bears and great white sharks.

When I go out of the country - which is quite often - things can get even more challenging. Once, during a harsh winter night, my wife noticed that our giant iguana, Billy Bob, had failed to return from his outdoor enclosure to his night-time heated area. Concerned that he would freeze to death, my wife actually donned gauntlets, went outside in the cold and rain, picked up the enormous and repulsive (to her) reptile, and staggered back with him to stuff him into his sleeping quarters. Such mesiras nefesh!

So, here's to my wife. Thank you for putting up with everything with good grace and cheer, and for supporting me through the tough times. And to my readers, I will quote Rabbi Akiva's words regarding his wife - "What is mine and what is yours, is due to her."

31 comments:

  1. אשת חבר כחבר
    May you both thrive and prosper!

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  2. Amen! May you both see many years together full of Torah and simcha.

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  3. Great post! Eish Chayil indeed.

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  4. This post left me teary-eyed and reinforces my respect and admiration for you as a person, as well your 'aishes chayil' to whom we have been 'introduced'. There may have been an implicit assumption that you could not have proceded far without her support - not to mention tolerating a menagerie of exotic animals in her house. It's good, however, to make that explicit and widely known. May you both continue to grow and derive much nachat from your family.

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  5. Thank you Mrs. Slifkin and to all the unsung heroines who stand behind their husbands. Women can truly very often make or break their husbands and we are very grateful to you, Mrs. Slifkin, that you have been, and are, such a strong support to yours. Continued hatzlacha and strength to both of you.

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  6. Superb post. Rebbetzen Slifkin deserves your readers' thanks in addition to yours.

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  7. A wonderful example of Coret HaTov for all of us, especially with long-suffering wives (and aren't they all, one way or another?).

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  8. Such a fine tribute! Blessings to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Slifkin! Especially picking up Billy Boy and returning him to his heated enclosure -- that's going way beyond the call of duty!

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  9. Mrs. Slifkin - From one woman to another - big hugs and an even bigger Thank You!! You are truly the unsung hero. I can't believe you picked up and moved an Iguana! Eeeww! (Sorry Rabbi, Iguanas ARE gross!) And in the freezing rain yet! Perhaps it helps to know that you are part of history in the making, and more importantly, that your husband's work helps so many of us who have intellectual issues which can affect our Frumkeit. Rabbi Slifkin created an island of sanity in what often feels like a raging storm of lunacy. Personally, I don't know what I would have done without his blog.

    Happy Anniversary. May your happiness and love only grow for many, many years together.

    Thank you again!

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  10. Beautifully said. Mazel tov on your anniversary.

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  11. "...picked up the enormous and repulsive (to her) reptile, and staggered back with him...

    Rabbi, no other way of putting it, but reptiles arerepulsive. Icky, always damp, slimy, scaly, salmonella-breeding, non-blinking semi-monsters with, well, reptilian brains. And not a single grain of humour in them whatsoever. Salutations to your brave helpmeet; Temujin, the fearless warrior of the steppes who shrinks from no enemy would shriek as a maiden in distress and jump on a table if told that a reptile is out and about.

    A great, thoughtful post, Rabbi; your best. Honours and blessings to our Rebbetzin Slifkin, your One Who Must Be Obeyed, with many thanks to her for keeping you...and Billy Bob...out of (further) trouble.

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  12. Mazal Tov, Rabbi and Mrs. Slifkin on your anniversary. Wonderful post.

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  13. Beaurifully written - Mazal Tov!!

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  14. Mazal tov and best wishes for many years together of continued happiness and success!

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  15. Heart-warming! Many more happy years together!

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  16. Happy Anniversary, Rabbi Slifkin! May you and she have many more years of happiness, Torah, and mitzvot.
    -Dov in NJ

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  17. Let me add my best wishes. I can not really express the admiration I have for the both of you because you represent TORAT EMET-the search for truth which has sadly been lost by significant parts of the religious community which has been reduced to the goal of "keeping them outwardly religious no matter what the cost and whatever compromises on the truth have to be made". I also greatly admire your courage...I can only imagine how the attacks on you must have hurt, yet they didn't dampen your enthusiasm for your "avodat kodesh"...bringing the truth of Torah for those who are thirsty for it.
    Keep up the good work!

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  18. As the father of an animal-loving daughter who had the pleasure of dining with your family on Shabbat when she was a seminary student, I salute your eshet chayil and wish you both many more years of health, happiness, and hyraxes.

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  19. Happy anniversary to the whole family.

    A very touching tribute

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  20. Brooklyn Refugee SheigitzNovember 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    kol hakavod!!
    the threat on the wife and chcildren speaks volumes about the state of the charedi community today - and why "kiruv" with charedim is basically impossible.
    it should come as no surprise that many communists - including those who engaged in brutal violence and those who joined the Yevsektsia "Jewish Section" of the NKVD (later KGB) were raised in charedi homes and educated in yeshivas.
    the charedi world will just have to collapse. Hopefully there will be a strong community of rational "torat emet" Jews to help pick up the pieces when this happens.

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  21. Kol hakavod to Rebbetzin Slifkin for being supportive despite having no idea what she was getting into (do any of us ever?) and to the Rabbi for recognizing the good he has received and be willing to make his gratitude public.

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  22. תזכו לשנים רבות נעימות, עם הרבה נחת ושמחות!

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  23. Hail the Rebbetzin!

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  24. And Chag Sameach to everyone

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  25. Exquisitely put! Unconditional love at its best! Many happy returns!

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  26. something I had always wondered about but did not feel it was appropriate to ask.

    may I ask according to the rebbetzin.
    how old is the universe.
    (1)5,734
    (2) 13 billion.
    (3) who cares . what does this have to do with social work

    if (2) evolution is
    (1)kefirah
    (2)obviously true
    (3) who cares ?

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  27. @michapeset, i didn't know that you still follow. You contributed some excellent comments in the past & i even saved some on file. If you come back that would be good. kt.

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  28. Happy anniversary and thanks for making me look good. My wife would probably support me through a ban, but I don't think our marriage would survive a reptile.

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  29. Happy anniversary and try to get reptiles that have at least enough sense to come in out of the cold.

    Avraham

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  30. Who on earth are the four people who called this article 'kefirah'??!!

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  31. R.Slifkin, I am one of those (many I am sure) who follow your blog without commenting but this post made me want to speak up. I truly admire your sincerity, scientific integrity, search for truth, and general mentchlichkeit, especially in light of the harassment and abuse you suffer at the hands of the retrograde, primitive, fundamentalists who have hijacked Judaism. Kudos to you and your eishet chayil for being such an inspiration.

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