Every person needs to have a certain ‘Egypt’, to deliver themselves from it with a strong arm or with grinding teeth. Every person needs terror and great darkness and comfort and promise and redemption so that they would know to look up to the sky. Every person needs one prayer that would always be on their tongue. A person needs to bend once – Every person needs a shoulder.
Every Person Needs to Have a Certain Egypt, Poem by Amnon Ribak
1. It’s only betrayal when it’s against the homeland
They have been married for 30 years, they have three grown sons, three apartments they bought with the intention to bequeath one day to each of the sons and a large house. At the age of 53, they had reached financial prosperity and they thought they had reached that stage in life where they could sit back, appreciate their three successful sons and their prosperous careers and start enjoying all the wealth they had achieved.
At least that's how it looked from the outside.
On the inside, love has been dead between them for a long time. He found his solace in discreet affairs and she found it in the company of the sophisticated and successful women she hung out with at lavish charity events and women conferences. From time to time those women would talk about cheating and it was she who would claim that you could never forgive a cheater and that there was no chance her husband was cheating on her. When she spoke passionately against cheating, her girlfriends would text each other ’she’s living in a fantasy world.’ However, none of them was willing to open her eyes and tell her that the whole city was talking about her husband's affair with a former model who was in the midst of brutal divorce proceedings from her rich husband.
Despite her loyalty speeches, she did not love her husband and on certain days she even despised him. She had always had a sharp tongue and used it to lash at him with sarcastic remarks, which stemmed from the bitterness of someone who lived in a relationship that was just an empty shell.
One day she got a phone call from the model's husband. He introduced himself and said that they had something in common. When she didn’t understand what he was talking about, he made it clear that her husband was sleeping with his wife and that the whole town was talking about it. She was so stunned that she hung up the phone. After a few minutes he texted her, asking her to check her email. In that email there were attachments of reports and pictures that left no room for doubt.
At that moment she decided to divorce. She sent her husband a copy of the email with the headline “Do not Come Home”. He did not come home that day out of fear but returned the next day with a bouquet of flowers asking her to recant her decision and not to dismantle the family empire. The requests turned into pleas and then into anger and eventually into denial. “An affair is not a betrayal,” he said, “It’s only betrayal when it’s against the homeland,”. He refused to discuss the divorce again, denying her decision and trying to subjugate her to his choice to leave the shell of the family unit intact around a crumbling relationship.
She felt she could not live another day with this man who she had stopped loving many years ago and asked me to send him a clear and firm letter – “your wife had decided to divorce you. There are two ways of doing it, by consent or via the legal route. We are prepared to negotiate a settlement but you have the right to choose the legal route too. Either way, we are prepared for every scenario.”
That was enough to get him to cooperate with the divorce process and within a month and a half they reached an agreement. She insisted on getting the Gett (Jewish divorce document) before Passover, feeling that she had been given her freedom. Emotional freedom.
2. The crusade
The year was 2004. He was serving in the military reserves and when he returned he informed his wife that he was divorcing her, following an experience he had which made him realize he preferred men. He said it had been hidden and suppressed deep inside him but that now the train had already left the station and could no longer be stopped.
Her response was very harsh. She felt cheated, betrayed and terrified by the thought that her daughter's father preferred men. An all-out war began in court, centered mainly on her strong desire to keep him as far as possible from the girl, who was the apple of his eye. His sexual inclinations were put under a microscope at the hearings, along with the mother's anxieties and her tireless attempts to prevent the daughter from sleeping over at her father’s place. The religious judge accommodated the mother and appointed an expert to examine the father's threat to his daughter in light of the mother's arguments, which were based on the father's sexual orientation. In 2004 it was an accepted discrimination.
I made it clear to this lovely father that he had to take a breath and go through the process, at the end of which he would undoubtedly be a significant father to his daughter. He was very angry that someone doubted his fatherhood, which by then was no less significant than his wife's motherhood but realized that he had no choice but to go through this agony, carrying the cross of his sexual inclinations on his back.
At the end of the examination the expert was investigated in court not only by the mother but also by the judge. “We examined every possible aspect,” she said, “using every empirical tool that exists. We’ve found that not only this father is not dangerous in any way to his daughter, but also that he is a responsible and loving father and it is in the child’s benefit to stay with him no less than with the mother.” Three years after his life-altering experience, he proudly lived with a partner whom his daughter loved very much, raised her in joint custody and cherished every moment with her.
Years passed, the girl didn’t miss a moment with her father and his partner and was particularly proud to showcase her special family on family day. The mother, who understood that if she continued fighting that relationship she would lose her daughter, decided to follow the rule ’if you cannot beat them join them’ and gradually accepted it.
When the girl was the flower girl at his and his partner's wedding, wearing the dress her mother had bought for her especially for the event, he knew that the crusade was over and he was free.
3. The empire rises again
At the age of 20 he already had a studio apartment in his name. His father, who was like a god to him, taught him to never trust banks, save half of every dollar he earns and invest only in real estate. He was a smart guy who internalized those rules and at 45 he had dozens of real estate assets and quite a few businesses that yielded a lot of wealth, which was saved every month as per the iron rules he learned during his childhood.
When he got married, he made it clear to his wife, who grew in a home without those strict rules and without financial awareness, that she would be treated as a queen who would want for nothing only if she obeyed the ground rules he dictated. Since she was very young when they got married and was impressed by her husband's economic skills, she acted exactly according to his instructions and over the years became a docile and opinion-less woman, certainly when it came to money.
She did not work as he said they had enough and didn’t need her salary. She did not have her own bank account and was using a weekly allowance that her husband was giving her, which was enough to live like a queen. He also got her a luxurious car, trips abroad three times a year and a spacious house with a private pool and sauna, so she completely believed him that she was living like a queen.
When a friend suggested that she join a lecture of an inspiring woman, her eyes were opened. She then continued to be exposed to more and more content and gradually began to develop and grow. She realized that she deserved more. More than a weekly allowance dictated by her husband, more than an aimless comfort life, more economic freedom, more independence, more love.
Her husband did not like this development, to put it mildly. As far as he was concerned, he had the perfect wife and he did not want "more" from her. To stop her growth, he began to restrict her economically, demonstrating to her how financially dependent she was, so as to force her to straighten up, as before, and behave in accordance with his rules.
One day she was fed up. She started a divorce proceeding and asked for half of everything accumulated during the marriage. Her husband found it hard to part with much of his assets and did everything possible to make her regret her decision. It did not help him, she was determined. Despite her financial fears and her dependence on him, she knew that with half of the property she could do a lot.
She had goals and plans for how to reach them and she couldn’t wait for the division of property so she could carry them out. After three years of complicated proceedings, they reached an agreement that divided the assets.
She didn’t waste a minute. She had enough money and assets and she was not afraid to build a small empire for herself, managing it carefully and wisely. Every year it grew larger and every Passover she has been sending me a holiday card with the logo of the empire she founded – “thank you for helping me out of emotional slavery to economic freedom.”
Every person needs to have a certain Egypt, to redeem themselves from it, from the house of slavery, to go out in the middle of the night to the desert of fears, to march straight into the waters, to see them spread open at their feet. Every person needs a shoulder, on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their backs. Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt, and a Jerusalem, and one long journey, that they will forever remember in their feet.