Not even a banana –

As a young couple, Yonason And Devorah Adler lived not far from her parents, but their refusal to eat her mother’s less kosher foods was a point of contention. The Rebbe gave them advice and then predicted what would happen next.

Here’s my story

Yonason and Devorah Adler are retired systems analysts for the Social Security Administration and currently live in Baltimore. They were both interviewed in February 2024.

Yonason Adler

I met Devorah in graduate school, and after a few months of dating, I asked her to marry me. She said yes, but her mother objected. I was a real hippie type, with shoulder-length hair, and she didn’t feel comfortable with that. But I didn’t give up, I cut my hair and after three years, in 1969, we got married and settled in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington DC.

By then, Devorah and I were also becoming more observant, but even though my mother-in-law had agreed to the marriage, she still wasn’t entirely happy with the idea of ​​her daughter being religious. Because my mother-in-law did a lot of entertaining and hosting gatherings for family and friends, our refusal to eat food in her home that was not kosher by Orthodox standards was a problem.

Initially we tried to make some changes that would allow us to eat there. She bought meat from a kosher butcher, but then she made a mistake so there was still kashrut problems with eating. We offered to buy a place setting to match her fancy china and that we would cook for ourselves the same food she served, but she didn’t like that idea. She kept pushing us to eat her food, we kept refusing, and the tension in our relationship kept getting worse.

During those years, my wife and I had a very good relationship with a Chabad emissary named Rabbi Itch Springer. After talking to him about the problems with my in-laws, he suggested that we make an appointment to meet the Rebbe.

We came to 770 on a Sunday evening. There we sat on a bench with a list of questions for what seemed like forever. At about two o’clock in the morning we entered the Rebbe’s room.

We had already been given instructions on how to act during an audience with the Rebbe: not to shake hands with him, to stand instead of sit, and so on. But when we walked in, my wife felt very faint, so the Rebbe took one look at her and said, ‘. “Sit down!”

We found ourselves very focused on the Rebbe; he seemed to fill the entire room. He took the piece of paper I had brought with me and gave it an incredibly brief glance, rolling through it as a rolled piece of paper goes through a typewriter. He then placed it face down on the desk and answered all our questions in order.

When he came to the question about my mother-in-law, he said, ‘You have to stop eating at your in-laws’ house: no banana, no apple, nothing. But you also have to go more often than you are going now.”

My in-laws lived about three miles from our apartment, so we were often on the road. We walked there every Shabbat afternoon in the summer. But he told us we had to go even further. We had to show my in-laws that we didn’t want to separate ourselves from the family, even if we didn’t eat with them.

“It will get worse for three weeks,” he continued, “and then it will all get better.”

Okay, if you say soI thought.

So we started visiting my parents-in-law more often, but we stopped eating from them. In the beginning it bothered them a lot. They shouted at us and accused us of breaking up the family.

But then, after three weeks, my mother-in-law said, ‘Come on. Bring your own food, bring plastic plates, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you’re here.”

And after that everything was fine.

The Rebbe understood that if we had continued to eat some of their food, we would continue to face challenges: If you eat this, why not that? By not eating anything, my mother-in-law finally looked at the bigger picture and accepted our different norms.

By insisting that we visit my wife’s parents more often, the Rebbe ultimately made my relationship with my mother-in-law much better.

Devorah Adler

In that same audience, the Rebbe also started picking our brains and asked us many questions about the Jewish community of Washington, DC and Silver Spring. He was collecting data.

The Rebbe was then silent for what seemed like a very long time before he spoke again.

“In Washington,” he noted, “there are none bubbles.”

Hey? I thought. Are there no grandmothers?

He meant that Washington was a transient community because people came from all over to work for the government. “People have bubbles‘, he explained, ‘but they don’t live in the same place. And that’s a problem because there’s no one to teach the young people about it Tahara Hamishpacha.”

The Rebbe referred to the laws of family purity, regulates the relationship between Jewish spouses. It’s a sensitive topic, so it can be difficult to find teachers who can pass these traditions on to the next generation.

Then he looked straight at us: “You are going to teach Tahara Hamishpacha.”

I was completely stunned. If we weren’t right in front of him, I would have assumed he was talking to someone else. Having only been observant for a year and a half, I felt terribly unqualified. I knew the laws and followed them, but teaching is very different. Yet, to my surprise, he had confidence in us that we could do this.

We certainly weren’t chasidim at that time – this was our first time meeting the Rebbe. Yet somehow he was very persuasive, and when we got home, my husband and I explained what we were going to do.

Soon a lot of rabbis and rebbetzins came out of the woodwork, connecting us with people who wanted to learn more about Family Purity. We have started offering one-on-one lessons to couples preparing to get married; my husband with the grooms and me with the brides, where they were allowed to ask all the embarrassing questions.

Over the next few decades we met many wonderful people who were very baffled by these laws, but soon became excited about them and saw their marriages develop as a result. In addition to being a pillar of Jewish observance, family purity is a lifesaver for marriages. It teaches couples to relate to each other, to actually communicate, to channel love into listening in ways that deepen their relationship.

And for people who feel alienated and without roots — which, as the Rebbe had noted, was often the case in Washington — it offered a paradigm shift. Normative religious Judaism in general, and family purity in particular, helps one cling to something that is not superficial. It says, son the back burner, build relationships, hold fast to holiness.

However, we would never have done this willingly until the Rebbe told us, “You can do this!”