The Abused Wife and Yom Kippur

The Abused Wife and Yom Kippur

I heard this powerful story in a class* taught by one of my favorite teachers, psychologist Chani Juravel, on the High Holidays. And it made me cry. It made me realize the extent to which I, like Chani Juravel’s abused client, had also been envisioning Hashem standing over me with a report card. How wonderful to approach Yom Kippur imagining Hashem’s accepting embrace instead.

Psychologist Chani Juravel recalled:

I was working with a woman a few weeks ago. The moment I saw her, my heart was filled with sympathy. She started telling me her story. How she was terribly neglected as a child, and how any love she received was terribly conditional.

“If you do this, then I’ll give you that.”
“Oh, you’re so pretty, so I’ll give you…”

And she entered into a marriage that was all about setting the bar higher and higher. She would never be deserving of her husband’s love. And she lived her life in constant fear. Afraid she wouldn’t get it right. Afraid she wouldn’t be deserving. Afraid she would be even that much more beaten down.

I asked her, “What do you imagine would alleviate your fear? What would it take for you not to live afraid?”

She told me, “I know what it should take, because I went to a class. And the teacher taught us, ‘You’ll never know if you’ve done a good job. You’ll never know if Hashem is really happy with you. You’ve got to just keep plugging away, you’ve got to keep wanting, and when you die you’ll know that Hashem was really happy with you if He looks at you and says ‘Good job!”

And the woman said, “So, I guess if Hashem said that to me, then that would be OK. But that won’t be until I die.”

I told her, “You know, it’s amazing that you allow yourself a vision of God in your life. But I don’t know if that’s the healthiest vision. And I don’t know if Hashem is standing over us with a report card. Let’s shift the vision. You don’t have to wait until you die…”

“When you wake up every morning, and before you get out of bed, you envision Hashem hugging you and holding you and saying, “I really hope you have a great day, because I’m rooting for you and I’m here for you, and I think you’re great. I know you’re great, and I want you to know how great you are.”

That was on Tuesday, she called me on Friday 10 minutes before Shabbos and she said, “That changed everything. Thank you”

*Heard on the Chazak Hotline


  1. That was great, thank you. It’s funny, but as I was raised with philosophy of Hashem loves, cares, and roots for you. I actually wonder how to instill the feeling of dread during the Yomim Noraim. My children were playing contendedly after the meal on second day Rosh Hashana, so I was able to daven a belated Musaf. At one point, it struck me, “Hey, it’s yom hadin. Hashem is judging my actions from the whole year. Opps. Better get serious.”
    I think it’s important to cultivate a healthy balance between a sense of AWE and CLOSENESS. Both are vital for a healthy relationship, like a couple needs mikvah for some off-time to boost their on-time, we need to fear Hashem in order to love Him to a greater degree.

  2. Nechama, it sounds like this woman already had a huge sense of awe that just needed balancing with the idea of closeness, which was absent.
    I experienced domestic violence and severe verbal abuse. It is really a huge effort to train your mind to see G-d as loving and close. I am working on it, as I have a ruling from the Beit Din not to remarry till my baby is 2 years old. I see it as an opportunity to learn that G-d is a G-d of loving kindness and mercy. Hashem wants me for Himself for a time and I need to understand what and make peace with that.

    • Sounds like you have an incredibly positive perspective on your own situation. May Hashem grant you many long, happy and peaceful years ahead.

  3. I’ve learned from experiance that the more we look for Hashem’s hand in our everyday lives, the more He shows it to us. That strengthens our awareness of how much He loves us. Look for Siyata Dishmaya everywhere. It’s so easy to find. And with each discovery, remind yourself “Hashem loves me. ” When we live with that awareness it’s easier to believe that even when hashgachah pratit is hidden, everything’s for the best.

  4. Abused husband can feel this way too.

  5. Thank you! I want to put that in my Yom Kippur Machzor and my siddur. What a great image and message to have to start your day!

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