At the end of the Sabbatical year, my plants are looking rather sad and forlorn. During the Sabbatical, a Biblical concept unique to Israel, Orthodox Jews must observe a range of rules, but in a nutshell it comes to this: not planting and doing just the bare minimum to keep existing plants alive.
It’s a bummer for hobbyists gardeners and backyard homesteaders, but much beyond that for people who rely on growing crops to make a living. Some resort to ritual “selling” of the field to a non-Jewish person; others abandon their crops altogether and spend a year doing something different from agriculture, or go into hydroponics.
Similarly, when buying vegetables, one has to check that they come either from a “sold” area or from regions that don’t count as part of Biblical Israel – which includes some regions of the modern State of Israel, like Eilat and parts of the Arava.
I wish I could say I can’t wait to get to planting again after Rosh HaShana, but the truth is, I’ve gotten a bit of used to neglecting my plants. There’s just too much to do – and sometimes I wish I could enjoy lush greenery and succulent tomatoes without doing any of the work 😉 I guess I’ll get back into the swing eventually.
Either way, I’m wishing everyone a most happy Jewish new year and look forward to seeing what it brings.
In my last post, I responded to a question I saw in a Shabbat leaflet. It dealt with a woman whose husband opposed her buying a new dress for her sister’s wedding. I raised my concerns over the potential red flags of such a situation – namely, financial helplessness and covert abuse – and one reader suggested that I might respond to the woman by writing to the newsletter.
Well, I did it. I wrote to the editor, and today I received a response, along with a copy of this week’s leaflet, in which my comment (abridged for reasons of space) and their answer appeared. I’m copying and pasting their answer here.
“Thank you for your comments! Financial abuse is not only extremely harmful, but can be used as a tool to trap a victim in an abusive relationship. As with emotional abuse, financial abuse is generally not about a specific situation. In most relationships, there are periods of financial stress wherein the couple must reduce their spending or make other decisions and adjustments.
However, with financial abuse, the abuser usually wants to control, manipulate, trap and dominate the other person. Some examples involve controlling the victim’s acquisition and use of money and assets, preventing the victim from working, putting the victim into large debt and/or ruining their credit, creating legal issues for the victim, controlling all the spending, refusing to work, withholding basic needs and hiding assets. Even if they are only using one of these tactics, their behavior may still be financially abuse.
While there may be indications of possible abuse in the woman’s question, it might also be simply a tight financial period. A good idea, as you mention, would be for the woman to know the finances. Her husband not agreeing would be a red flag. However, assuming he agrees, she should also participate in financial decisions, hopefully lessening her resentment.
Shalom Bayit (for my non-Jewish readers: this refers to marital relationships, literally “peace in the home”) counseling is delicate. The goal is to bring the couple closer while also being attuned to the individual needs and vulnerabilities of husband and wife. Before introducing a label such as emotional, verbal or financial abuse, it is important to gather as much information as possible.
Targeted questions, involving the subjects mentioned above, will enable both the counselor and the counselee to understand whether it is abuse or not. If a person feels their situation might be abusive, they should speak with a professional who can help them assess their situation and move forward with a healthy, successful and normal life.”
I have just a few words to say in conclusion. First, I appreciate the editor’s attention to my concerns, and I am thankful they chose to give space to the subject of financial abuse, often subtle and not enough recognized in Orthodox Jewish circles. I also agree that it is impossible to find out, just on the basis of what we know, whether the writer of the original question is going through financial abuse or just a period of financial strain and faulty communication.
However, there is one thing I just wanted to note: “If a person feels their situation might be abusive” may be hard to pinpoint. Many people live in a financially abusive situation for years without being aware of it. They might feel it’s normal, or it may happen so gradually that they look back one day and realize they have given up all their financial freedom and capability.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just that I hope people will gain more awareness of financial abuse. A couple of years ago, a few Israeli Knesset members tried to pass a law that would protect victims of domestic financial abuse. I am sorry to say that Orthodox and right-wing PMs were the ones who stopped this law from passing. They ridiculed the suggestion of giving more legal protection to financial abuse victims and claimed this law “interferes in family dynamics.” I found a brilliant article that discusses it here.
Also, for whoever is curious, the leaflet that prompted me to write these last two posts is Living Jewish.
Today we went on another one of our hikes, and guess what we found? It’s the first one I saw since we had moved here.
A cool moss-covered rock. We had a rainy weekend, so everything was fresh and lovely and not too hot.
We all had so much fun!
A breathtaking view on a lovely afternoon.
And, most importantly, we still adhere to social distancing. Our government is opening everything up way too fast to my liking – but just because something is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is recommended.
Well, the final hectic rush of Passover prep and the seder night are behind us. It’s time to enjoy some well-deserved rest, and today the kids and I managed to sneak to the lovely, lonely fields near our house again. Of course, we strictly adhered to social distancing and saw nobody but this little agricultural aircraft which my children got very excited about:
It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained all weekend and everything – the earth, the plants, the sky – was delightfully fresh and there was a smell of honey in the air. Thousands upon thousands of flowers swaying in the light pleasant breeze. It was like walking in the midst of a lovely fairytale.
The ladybug season is here, too!
They had such fun exploring. It was honestly one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life.
As the shadows were lengthening, we went home in a roundabout way, making sure not to run into anyone.
I hope we can make it out there again soon. Stay safe, everyone!
By this time, I have cleaned both my refrigerators and things are rising to the feverish pitch that will culminate in the Seder night on Wednesday, but we’ve still had some time to spend in the garden lately and I even sneaked in a couple of short walks with the children (strictly keeping to empty, lonely places). Last week we saw this flock of cranes right next to our house.
These birds sure aren’t doing social distancing!
One of our little house geckos. The kids love to play with them.
Shira tried to make a smiley egg face here, but this didn’t quite work out. 🙂 I am so extremely grateful for our plentiful and healthy eggs these days. The stores are just empty of eggs at the moment, and I’ve read they are forced to import to meet demand – no knowing what the price or quality will be.
Overall, though we are holding up pretty well, there’s just no denying the situation in the world is kind of crazy right now. I’m so looking forward to the time when it’s possible to lift the quarantine at least a bit – I miss day trips, going to the library, and getting together with friends. There are so many people around the country, from Rehovot to Maalot and from the Shomron to Ramat Beit Shemesh, who are often in my thoughts, and though social media and email thankfully make it easy to keep in touch, nothing can replace a good ol’ cup of coffee together. So this is my post-quarantine resolution: make more time to visit with friends in person.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and enjoying spring despite the necessary limitations. No better time to start a garden if you haven’t yet!
I’m off to take all the stove knobs apart and give it a good polish.