The Férfiak Klubja (Men’s Club) talked to Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Köves, the founding leader of EMIH, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, and rabbi of the Óbuda Synagogue, about marriage, family, lessons learned and life.
What was the dumbest thing you did as a child?
Unfortunately, I don’t remember. But not because I didn’t do stupid things — I was a very bad kid — but because my memory is selective and I only remember good things.
What was the most important life lesson you learned from your father?
As an amateur long-distance runner, my father has been trying to educate me about his love of sports since I was a child. The most important thing I learned from him is perseverance and the wisdom that
one should always look at the goal and get there at all costs and not dwell on the difficulties along the way.
What is the most important message you definitely want to pass on to your children?
I think the most important message I can give them as a father is that
we have the opportunity to take our own destiny into our hands; our existence is not the result of chance but of a conscious creation with a mission. We are all unique, we all have our own special ability and mission in the world.
Do you think coeducation is good or would it be worthwhile to educate girls and boys separately at a certain age?
I participated in coeducational schooling until I was in eighth grade. Although young people may be less motivated to develop certain social skills and, in terms of hormonal needs, there are fewer impulses in a non-coeducational environment, this medium has been more effective and efficient in terms of learning, education, and preparation for life. I think it is worth reconsidering whether coed schools really help the process of learning and education. I am inclined to return to previous practices on this issue.
Can you imagine a situation where violence is justified?
Yes, when defending against violence.
Do you agree that in difficult situations it is better for a man not to cry, better to maintain his composure?
King Solomon said that everything has its time: there is a time to speak and listen, to laugh and cry. A man can cry, but he needs to know when it is not called for. It’s important to be able to cry, but everything must happen in its place and time. Crying is essential as an expression of compassion, sensitivity, but if it comes at the expense of action and serves to simply exempt you from action, then neither literal crying nor self-pity is a good thing.
What type of division of labor do you consider ideal between husband and wife, man and woman?
I believe that male and female roles differ to some degree. There can be male and female virtues. Of course, there are big individual differences, but in my experience, men are mostly more ambitious and pushier, while women are more creative, more persistent, and more sensitive. I find it right that in a natural family setting, there are male and female roles that can rarely be interchanged. Obviously, couples need to find the unique division of labor that is most effective for them, but expecting women to be men and men to be women can also result in a lot of failure and frustration.
Do you do housework regularly, and if so, what?
I have been married for 20 years and the truth is that I have done less housework in recent years than before. As a young spouse, I more often undertook to do the dishes or take out the trash. It doesn’t make up for it, and of course it’s not housework, but bathing and putting the children to bed every day is my duty, no matter how busy a day may be; I insist on that.
How much of a problem do you feel working too much is in your own life?
I don’t feel there is any problem.
If we find a balance in family life, work, recreation and self-development; if we find a set of values that help us navigate when to put what in the foreground, then the amount of work shouldn’t be a problem.
What do you think is the meaning and purpose of marriage?
The more time I have been married, the more I can identify with the idea of the Jewish religion that the meaning and purpose of marriage is to fulfill the human principle, to know and develop ourselves better, to learn humility, perseverance and fidelity, to experience our relationship with the Eternal, to learn to be a part of society at the micro level, to learn responsibility. Without marriage, family life, sexuality, parenting, and love, I would not be who I am today; I would certainly be much less.
If you could start your life again, would you do everything the same?
I think yes. Of course, this is also because I grew up in a loving and caring family, with parents and siblings that gave me all the foundations to build a life. That is why I am very grateful.
You can read the rest of the interview with Rabbi Köves by clicking here.