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For Better or for Worse

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As the saying goes, the family that prays together, stays together. So while batting down rumors that her marriage to Guy Ritchie is over—and denying she was “romantically involved” with baseball star Alex Rodriguez—Madonna has been attending Shabbat services at the Kabbalah Centre in Manhattan with her husband. “The Kabbalah Centre teaches [that] a really Kabbalistic marriage is one of generosity of spirit, loving kindness, forgiveness, unconditional love,” says Dr. Jody Myers, author of Kabbalah and the Spiritual Quest: The Kabbalah Centre in America. And over the years, through good times and bad, says a source, the couple’s Kabbalah teacher Rabbi Eitan Yardeni “has been the glue that’s really held things together for them.”

For all the talk that Ritchie, 39, isn’t as devoted to Kabbalah as his wife, 49, it should be noted that the director—in between taking the kids to the park or to the movies with Mom—hasn’t skipped any Shabbat services since arriving in New York City June 30. And though a source says Kabbalah was once “a bone of contention” in the marriage, even Madonna‘s brother Christopher Ciccone says in his just-published tell-all Life with My Sister Madonna (which actually tells very little) that the Jewish mystical tradition has had a positive effect on their marriage. Writes Ciccone: “I know Madonna and Guy love each other, and that, apart from anything else, they have been passionately committed to working on their relationship with the guidance of Kabbalah.”

In the world of Kabbalists, the concept of marriage is rooted in the idea that before creation, there was one androgynous soul, says Daniel Matt, author of The Essential Kabbalah. The soul split in half and created males and females. “A successful marriage is when two souls who were originally one find each other,” he says. (Interestingly, A-Rod, who also studies Kabbalah, referred to Madonna as his “soulmate” in a letter sources say his estranged wife, Cynthia, discovered.)

In a few weeks Madonna, Ritchie and their three kids will head back to London so the singer can put the final touches on her tour (which kicks off in Wales on Aug. 23). Come fall they will be leading separate lives again: In October Madonna returns to the U.S. to tour for two months, while Ritchie begins filming Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. in London. Will their marriage be strong enough to survive? “People around them are questioning whether they will make it,” says a source. Divorce among Kabbalists is “undesirable,” says Daniel Matt, but permitted. “Certainly a rabbi or a Kabbalistic teacher,” he adds, “would try to have a couple try to work things out.”