Dear Emuna,

This is quite an awkward and painful dilemma. When I was two my father was arrested for sexually abusing my 12-year-old brother. It was the 1980s and all that happened was that my father went on probation and had mandatory therapy. During the course of his therapy, it was determined by a doctor that he was at high risk for re-offending.

My parents soon divorced and for the rest of my childhood I had limited and supervised visits with my father. Because all my visits were supervised by another adult (which was mandated by a judge) I was never abused. Now that I'm an adult, the stipulations have been lifted.

When I became pregnant with my now three-year-old daughter, I made a decision to sever any and all ties with my father. Knowing what I know makes me highly frightened for my daughter's safety and I can't take the risk. Not to mention I don't want an awkward conversation of, "No Dad, my daughter can't spend the weekend with you because of your past...."

Am I dishonoring my father? Am I giving him a life-time punishment for something that happened almost 30 years ago?

-- Don't Want the Risk

Dear No Risk,

The commandment to honor your parents does not require you to put your family at risk. Your primary job is to take care of your daughter and to raise her to be an emotionally and physically healthy human being, as much as it is within your power to do so. You certainly need to protect her and even the slightest risk is too great. She is your priority. Her safety and security are paramount. That is clear and there is no need to second guess yourself on this point.

Your daughter is your priority. Even the slightest risk is too great.

I don’t know if supervised visits with your father are an option. Perhaps that could be arranged with very strict parameters. But if it makes you the least bit uncomfortable or raises even a small concern, don’t do it. The potential downside is just too great.

You also have an obligation to protect yourself. You are the foundation of your family, of your husband and daughter’s life. Your daughter needs a physically and emotionally healthy mother and your husband needs the same in a wife. If contact with your father will be toxic for you and impede your ability to perform these essential roles, then you should also steer clear.

You are not punishing your father. He continues to learn the hard way one of life’s most important yet sometimes painful lessons – that actions have consequences.

-- Emuna


Dear Emuna,

I married a wonderful man 15 years ago. He is a good father to our children. He has his faults, which oftentimes anger me; but on the whole he is very good to me. I know he loves me a lot though sometimes it is to the point of putting me on a pedestal and not really seeing me for who I truly am.

My question is what do I do? How can I develop a deep, meaningful relationship with him so that I can come to develop real love for him? Believe me, I do try to focus on the good in him and all that he does for me, and this allows us to function well together and accomplish the task of raising our children. But isn't marriage supposed to be more than this? I don't feel an "inner" connection to him.

We both came into our marriage with much emotional "baggage" (who doesn't?). I have been working for years on my own growth and have developed a lot from when we first got married. I don't see him growing or changing (or wanting to, for that matter). I think this is part of the reason that it is truly hard for me to form a real connection with him. At the same time, he continues to treat me very well and be a good father. How do I fill the void that I feel for a meaningful relationship?

-- Feeling the Void

Dear Feeling the Void

I understand the desire for a husband with whom you can forge a deep connection. I understand the desire for a husband whose drive for growth matches yours. I understand the desire for a husband who appreciates the real you. But it is truly rare (in fact, well nigh impossible) to find one person who can fill all our desires. It puts an unfair burden on your husband and on the marriage. You describe your husband as a wonderful man, a good father and someone who is kind to you. You are one very lucky lady. And you’re raising a family together. Take a moment to appreciate what you have; a lot of women would give anything to be in your position.

You state that even when you focus on his good, you have a hard time developing real love. The Torah teaches us that love comes only through giving. Think of it as a mantra: “You give, you care.” This may not come naturally and may require a lot of practice.

This is the secret formula for a good marriage: You give, you care.

You mention how giving your husband is to you, how well he treats you but you don’t mention your own behavior. You need to be at least as giving to him, not for his sake but for your own. Give to him, constantly, over and over and over again. That’s the Torah way to build a relationship. That’s the Jewish path to true love.

That connection you seek doesn’t come through those deep meaningful conversations (those DMC’s my kids like to make fun of!) but through giving – every day, whether you feel like it or not, especially when it’s “or not.” This is the secret formula for a good marriage.

Marriages never thrive and love never grows based on what we’re getting. A marriage, a relationship, our love is enhanced solely based on what we’re giving.

-- Emuna


Dear Emuna,

I work at home and I love it. I can move at my own pace. I can save money on my wardrobe. I can even take an afternoon nap if necessary. The only downside is the constant proximity to the refrigerator. I can also eat all day long. There’s breakfast, early morning snack, mid-morning snack, late morning snack…you get the picture. It’s too tempting and I’m starting to gain weight. Any helpful thoughts?

-- Pudgy Mommy

Dear Tempted,

There is probably nothing I can tell you that you haven’t read in a million weight-loss books and articles. Nevertheless some of them may bear repeating.

The biggest challenge of working at home is structure. That applies to all aspects of the job and in your case especially to eating. Establish regular break times each day and ONLY enter the kitchen at those designated moments.

In some ways you actually have it easier. You can stock your fridge with healthy snacks. You are not at risk of the office saboteurs, the ones who bring in home-made brownies or have a large jar of chocolates on their desk or who order pizza and cupcakes for everyone’s birthday.

And, like everyone else, you need to choose alternative activities for those moments of the day when you feel low-energy or frustration – a quick nap, a change of focus, a walk around the block.

I’m not sure this is actually a bigger challenge for those who work from home. It’s a dilemma for anyone who struggles with their weight. And the strategies – willpower, self-discipline, distractions, asking the Almighty to help – remain the same.

-- Emuna