Should I go to a religious weekend retreat w/my wife and kids even though I am very, very lukewarm towards the the idea of attending a religious weekend retreat?
posted by plowhand to human relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if there's a right answer here, but I would welcome some opinions and a fresh perspective.
Background: My wife and I have an awesome marriage -- married 16 years, two kids, love each other dearly, everything is great.
I was raised in a reform/conservative Jewish home, and a fairly observant one for this flavor of Judaism. I identify culturally as Jewish, but spiritually I am much more of an agnostic. My folks went crazy with the "let's discover our Jewish roots" stuff while I was an adolescent, and even though I’m in my 40’s, it's still something of a sore subject with me. That’s my baggage.
My wife, on the other hand, is half-Jewish by birth, and underwent a Jewish affirmation ceremony before we were married. Her parents are both mathematicians, and she was “raised” as an athiest. Her interest in her Jewish roots was sparked before we met, and has continued to grow over the course of our marriage. She is currently learning Hebrew and studying for an adult b'nei mitzvah (essentially, an adult bat mitzvah). We try to accommodate each other’s needs w/r/t Jewish observance -- I am fine with a lot of the home-based observances, but I get almost nothing out of attending services at the synagogue. For example, yesterday’s Yom Kippur services left almost no impression on me, though I fasted and made an effort to think through the holiday.
Generally, we acknowledge that we are on different planes when it comes to Judaism, but I try not to obstruct her needs for observance, and she tries not to compel me to do things I am uncomfortable doing. We are usually able to compromise and find a middle ground.
On to my question: Our synagogue is having a family retreat weekend in the near future, focusing on both the ritual and spiritual elements of shabbat, and I am really conflicted about going. I know my presence would mean a lot to my wife (who is very keen on going), and it seems antithetical to the spirit of the retreat to send her with the kids while I stay home. At the same time, I have a considerable amount of negative baggage about this very sort of experience, having participated in several of these when I was an adolescent -- my folks got sucked into the Chabad realm for a time, and I was dragged along to a lot of stuff I do not look back on fondly. At one point, doubting my commitment, my folks even sent me away for a month to a “Jewish boot camp”, something they now agree was very heavy handed, and for which they have apologized. Consequently, I view these “retreats” with great cynicism and disdain.
So...do I go with my wife and family to this weekend retreat, even though the very thought of it makes my skin crawl, and I am sure it will bring back a lot of memories of things I’d just as soon forget? I am very comfortable with my current spiritual state, and I am not looking for any changes in that regard. However, my presence would mean a lot to my wife, and I can’t in good conscience send my family without joining them. Furthermore, if I go, I have to go willingly, and with a positive mental outlook. The obvious half-meaure of “they go, I stay home” is not an option for me. I need to balance my wife’s needs against my own, and while I usually have no problem accommodating her needs, this is a very challenging decision for me.
BTW, my wife isn't demanding that we go, but at the same time, she is very eager to go, and would very much regret not going.
Any thoughts or insights from the hivemind?