Does Kiddush-Happy Hubby Need Intervention?

By Wendy Belzberg

Published January 10, 2003, issue of January 10, 2003.

On Shabbat my husband drinks almost an entire bottle of wine by himself. He makes kiddush and, after the rest of the family has had their obligatory taste, he polishes off the bottle. Does this mean he is an alcoholic? Should I be concerned?

— Bottoms up

By all means be concerned. As for whether your husband is an alcoholic, you would know better than I would. Does he drink during the week? Has his alcoholic intake been increasing? Is there a history of alcoholism in his family? I wonder if you came to me first or if you’ve had this conversation with him. The best place to start is by talking to your husband. Until then, it is a far leap to the land of wine and roses. His response will tell you everything you want, or are willing, to know (emphasis on the former). I suspect that if you are writing to me you know more than you think you do.

* * *

Last week I had an interfaith couple to my home for dinner. The wife is not Jewish, and the husband is. Their son recently became a bar mitzvah, and I made a point of saying that any child who is not converted according to Jewish law is not considered Jewish. Needless to say, their children were never converted — nor was their mother. In essence, I told them that their son was not Jewish. I have not heard from them since — not even a thank-you for dinner. Should I call to apologize?

— Serving up Halacha

It depends why you are apologizing, and what you hope to accomplish. While your remarks were insensitive, they are true according to Orthodox Judaism. You could call to apologize for being insensitive enough to make the statement, or you could call to apologize for pointing out that their children are not Jewish. Then again, you could always say that you have changed your point of view entirely — which would certainly come across as disingenuous — or simply call to apologize for your black-and-white view of “who is a Jew.” Any way you play this, it seems you stand to get yourself into further trouble by revisiting the topic. And who knows, you may have miscalculated the reason for your friend’s silence: Perhaps you are not the only one with bad manners.

* * *

My husband and I decided not to have television in our home. We believe that conversation and books are the way to go, but we seem to be the only family that has taken this position, and my son spends a lot of time at the homes of his many friends. Can and should I enforce our family rule when he is at the home of others?

House rules

You will find that if you insist on enforcing your rules when your child plays in other people’s homes, your child will be a very lonely boy — and that you will be very lonely parents, too. You cannot dictate what your son does on a play date any more than you would welcome the advice of another mother about what her child should do at your home. Which might just as well be to let the children watch TV. You may find that your son gravitates to friends whose parents do not have a no-TV rule — as my son once did to the homes of families that let their children eat as much candy as they wanted. The choice is yours: Give up your policy so your child will at least be at home when exposed to the kind of television from which you are trying to protect him, or stick by your guns but pay the price of watching your son prefer other people’s houses. I might add that sheltering our children from what we consider harmful — from Eminem to unpasteurized cider to Play Station — is probably the most difficult, and most variable, part of child-rearing.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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