The youngest of 7 & raised in a shomer mitzvot home, the surrounding environment of Chadera influenced Tzofia toward a more secular life.
Her warm and wonderful parents, religious immigrants from Algeria, did not know how to stem the wave of secular Leftism swamping their children.
Tzofia's mother already made superhuman efforts to save her family's religiosity.
Back in Algeria, her husband (a Moroccan native) made a down payment on a home in France and set up tickets, a job, and everything to go to France.
But Tzofia's mother discovered the children of relatives in France were going off the derech.
So despite her inability to read or write, Tzofia's mother secretly took their oldest daughter (a 14-year-old who'd attended school and so was literate) to change all the papers and tickets and everything to Eretz Yisrael.
(Unfortunately, Tzofia's mother didn't know the children were going off the derech there too.)
Her husband only discovered the switch when the family arrived at the gate to leave Algeria and he saw everything was set for Eretz Yisrael, rather than France.
But he was known for never getting angry and he did not get angry then either.
Apparently, they were meant to go to Eretz Yisrael and that was that as far as he was concerned.
And they maintained a warm and happy home with lots of generous hospitality.
And yes, their children weakened under the surrounding secular Leftist onslaught, but no one completely assimilated and most of them eventually came back to raise thriving Torah families.
Anyway, fast-forward several years and their youngest daughter Tzofia came back to the fold via a well-respected BT seminary for young women.
She found a shidduch with a young man from a similar background, they married and had twins around a year later.
Not long after that, he started backsliding in his mitzvah observance.
Then he wanted to return to his previous job as a women's hairdresser.
Distraught & desperate, Tzofia tried begging & encouraging him while caring for twin babies and working.
At one point, she pleaded, "Please—at least just keep Shabbat and we can stay together!"
But the menuval refused to do even that and so they divorced, leaving Tzofia on her own with 11-month-old twins.
Years later, I saw him under the chuppah with one of those twins, his daughter as a 20-year-old charedi kallah.
Next to his daughter, he stood there in a plain white T-shirt over his prominent beer belly and no kippah, wearing a disinterested look on his face.
Because even very secular Jews in Eretz Yisrael wear a kippah under their child's chuppah (and especially Sephardi secular Jews do this without hesitation), it demonstrated to everyone what a lowlife he was.
He couldn't even be bothered to put on a kippah or suitable clothing (really, it looked like he showed up in his undershirt) for the occasion, when even the most assimilated Jews do so—but davka at his own daughter's Orthodox wedding he refused.
He didn't care about disrespectful behavior or embarrassing his own daughter at her wedding.
Well, I guess that's not surprising considering he refused to keep Shabbat (when, in addition to being one of the fundamental obligations of any Jew, keeping Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael is so convenient and pleasant and normal) in order to keep his marriage together for his young wife and their children.
So what can you expect from a lowlife like that?
Invasion of the Hishtadlus Zombies
The acquaintance looked at me in surprise and said, "Well, I don't know about that...why didn't she do what another woman did when her husband started going off, and host classes with inspiring speakers in their home all the time?"
"What?" I said.
"Yeah," she continued. "This woman invited all sorts of popular speakers to their home. She hosted classes for the community, but it was really all so her husband would hear the classes. And it worked! He became frum again." She looked at me. "Why didn't your husband's cousin try that?"
Speechless at this completely unexpected & bizarre response, I stammered for a moment, then said, "She had 11-month-year-old twins! She was working and they didn't have much money. When would she have the time and finances to host ongoing classes with these in-demand speakers? How would she take care of her babies? When would she sleep? And who says that her husband would even be home while the classes took place—or that he wouldn't just get up and leave in the middle?"
The woman looked at me in wide-eyed surprise and said, "Well, you've got to do your hishtadlus, ya know."
"She DID!" I said.
"But she didn't do what that other woman did."
"She couldn't! There was no way. And who says it would've worked anyway? Who says he would stick around to listen?"
The woman shrugged. "It worked for that other lady."
"Just for that one," I pointed out.
The acquaintance shrugged and turned away. "Well, I just think she should've done more hishtadlus," she repeated without looking at me.
What also irked me about the conversation was this acquaintance barely did anything without her husband's assistance. He helped her with the childcare, housecleaning, cooking, while being the main breadwinner too.
Who was she to judge Tzofia for lacking superhero powers when she herself could not carry out her most basic responsibilities without her husband's consistent contributions?
However, I found it difficult to blame this acquaintance for her delusional idea of hishtadlut because I knew she didn't develop this on her own.
I saw her more as a victim of the hashkafah popular at that time.
Outliers Don't Prove Realistic Possibility for the Masses
They used examples out of context, such as:
- the 2000-year-old accomplishment of a Talmudic tzadekes who managed to turn her rasha husband into a tzaddik
- a BT woman who managed to raise children to solid frumkeit on her own while married to a secular husband
- and the above-mentioned story of the woman who hosted regular classes given by popular inspirational speakers in her home in order to return her husband to the Torah path.
(The first two stories were the most popular.)
However, I don't know of any other woman who managed to turn her rasha husband into a tzaddik throughout the past 2000 years, nor did I hear of any other women successfully doing what the other two women did.
(NOTE: I've no problem with the Gemara's story. I have a problem with it being used in ways the Amoraim never intended.)
On the other hand...Rav Shalom Arush has the inspiring story of a wife who, via intense prayer, changed her drug-addicted slovenly husband into a decent Jew.
He was indulging his yetzer hara for sure, but I don't know if he was mamash a rasha with his wife and children. A lot of times drug addicts behave according to Narcissist Personality Disorder, but I don't know the details of this specific incident.
However, my questions remain: Did she see something which told her this was possible? Did he display certain good middot at times, or love and compassion at times, which hinted to her that he was a decent guy stuck under a heavy klippah, and she thought it possible to bring out his real self?
Or was she just really into davening & bitachon, and believed she could do it?
When her own father-in-law and Rav Arush themselves had given up on the shlub and were telling her she should divorce him, WHAT exactly made her want to invest in her husband to that extent?
Again, like in the other unique stories, essential details are lacking.
Outliers don't prove that something is possible on a general level.
If it's realistically possible, it should be repeatable.
It's like with Bill Gates's story of success, for example.
His success does not mean anyone can do what he did.
Bill Gates enjoyed specific & rare advantages prior to his stunning success.
And those advantages were:
- his natural genius for math, science, and technology
- the unique availability of computers at his school (almost exclusive to his high school)
- the copious time available to sit at those computers for hours every single day
- his home conveniently & "coincidentally" located near an accessible university with computers
So yes, if you naturally possess those advantages (after all, Bill Gates did not give himself left-brained genius, nor was he the one who ordered the computers within such easy reach, nor did he create his economic standing which enabled so much free time to work with the computers)—then yes, you could possibly do what Bill Gates did.
But if he would've been missing just 1 of those advantages (eg, if he was more artistic than technical, or there were no computers at his school, or his economic situation compelled him to work an afterschool job, or if he lacked the ability to sit & concentrate for hours), then he could not have done what he did.
And this is almost always true.
Yes, miracles can happen. And they do!
But until then, you can only work with what you have.
And a lot of that work involves strengthening emunah & bitachon—and not necessarily accomplishing what your surrounding society thinks you should be accomplishing.
It's the inner accomplishments that matter most to Hashem.
Why It's So Important to Learn Torah Hashkafah on Your Own and Listen to the Real Gedolei Yisroel (P.S. Just because society considers someone "chashuv" doesn't mean he or she is actually "Gadol")
(This was discussed in copious detail here: the-truth-about-a-wifes-ability-to-influence-her-husband-positively.html & here: the-torah-view-on-shalom-bayis-obligations-why-we-need-to-make-sure-the-guidance-we-receive-comes-from-authentic-torah-hashkafah.html)
Unless she is actively destroying him with some kind of abuse, his behavior and dysfunction and flaws are SOLELY HIS responsibility.
In addition to the incorrect pressure this attitude forced onto wives, it caused them to lose support within society because this non-Torah attitude encouraged everyone to blame wives for their husband's dysfunction.
That's why the above acquaintance could not see the reality of Tzofia's situation. That acquaintance was brainwashed into blaming wives regardless of how extreme the situation.
And we see with the behavior of Tzofia's ex-husband years later what a hopeless case he was all along.
We see by the choices her ex-husband made (choices which basically stick it to God and to his own children) that there's nothing much to work with.
(Anyway, he knows the inspiring classes. He attended classes and a yeshivah for baalei teshuvah. he knows. Yet he made yetzer-hara-indulgent and selfish decisions despite all that.)
I'm harping on this particular issue a lot, but it's really just an example of how badly any distortion (no matter how well-intended) of Torah hurts us.
I also want to give credit to all the advisors and speakers who stopped promoting this incorrect hashkafah (or, even better, who never promoted it in the first place).
It's really good to see how the frum community does self-adjust.
But the damage was done. It confused so many people for so long.
And throughout the entire period this incorrect hashkafah remained popular, the following only increased:
- marital discord
- long-term female use of psychotropic medication to deal with their lives (antidepressants, sedatives, Ritalin, etc.)
- adult women going off the derech or weakening in their observance (whether publicly or privately)
- adult women turning to non-Jewish ideologies for support, validation, and guidance (like the whole self-help movement, for example)
This non-Torah-based worldview simply did not work.
It simply did not achieve the goals it claimed it would achieve.
That's because IT WAS NOT TRUE.
It was not Torah hashkafah; it was gobbledygook disguised as Torah hashkafah.
Women must feel like Judaism is FOR them and not against them.
(EVERY Jew must feel this, actually.)
A lot of Jewish women unfortunately believe they won't find what they really need within Torah, so they turn to outside sources.
They're wrong, but they don't know that.
We have to be true to Torah and true to ourselves.
Meaning, we need to be honest with ourselves and do the grueling inner work necessary or else what do we have to give to ourselves and others?
Just distorted lies posing as the real thing.
And this distortion massively messes up people. It affects their mitzvah observance and emunah, dragging everything down.
And they receive unwarranted destructive criticism...for nothing.
But once you do your own research and read the original Torah books, learn halacha, and listen to real Gedolim, then you'll be able to discern better whether the frum shiur, magazine article, blog post, or popular method are actually beneficial and rooted in Torah sources.