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Advice Line

Bassi Gruen

I’m lucky to be married to a respectful and caring husband, and I’d like to think our relationship is very good, although we definitely have our ups and downs. We’ve been married five years, and my husband has put on a considerable amount of weight in that time. His being overweight, his unhealthy eating habits, and his lack of exercise, have all become sources of conflict. Both for health reasons and appearance reasons, I am concerned. How can I get him to lose weight — or convince myself not to care?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

This letter expresses a very real confusion of priorities, one which unfortunately is becoming very common. Overemphasis on appearance has become a serious issue in our world. I threw this question out to my seminary students — quality, growth-orientated girls. And I was blown away by the intensity of their response, a response which says a lot about our society.

There is real anxiety and hysteria about weight, a feeling like we’re being judged not by our inner selves, but by the number on the scale. We all know that there’s a lot of prejudice and discrimination against people who are heavy in the wider world. But now that attitude has crept into our homes. In a society with little real morality, health and fitness have become the new gods, with slim people being considered superior. This used to be a problem just for women, but now it’s spread to men as well. The rise in boys obsessing over their weight, their clothes, their skin, and their hair is startling. Your question reflects a painful reality.

You ask “How can I convince myself not to care?” This shows that you have the realization that perhaps you shouldn’t be caring so much. And that recognition is the first step in dealing with it. Rav Shimon Shkop used to say that the purpose of a home is to create walls which protect one from the street. A woman’s job is to use those walls to make her home a safe bastion, not just physically but morally as well. Eisav was given Adam HaRishon’s coat, because he defined his human worth externally. Yaakov was bequeathed the beauty of Adam’s face, which represents a person’s essence. When we focus on the externals, we’re allowing Eisav to define our worth.


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