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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/07/09

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Dear Rachel,

When our new next-door non-Jewish neighbor moved in, I greeted him and we made some small talk.

I soon discovered that his lady-friend would be living there on and off – by no means an unusual arrangement in the secular world and none of my concern, you would agree… until I found out that she was Jewish, and that she, moreover, comes from a practicing religious family.

This revelation caught me off guard. To be truthful, it tears at my gut. I am saddened and disappointed, and at a loss as to how to handle the situation. Do I continue being friendly with them? They are very, very nice people.

It seems that she is divorced and that her children actually attend yeshiva. They’ve occasionally been over but don’t stay with their mom on her overnight visits.

At first I thought I should be mekarev her and her children; I really want to and actually did to some extent, but then I got to thinking what if my doing so gives her the impression that their relationship/living style is okay with me.

She really cares very much for this man, which doesn’t surprise me since he comes across as a nice, gentle and loving person.

But it hurts.

Is there any advice, chizuk or light you can shed (for me) regarding my position in all of this? What would be the right thing for me to do?

I am NOT one of those who are able to influence people. Yet my heart just breaks for her, the children, and the glory of Hashem.

Thanks so much.

Bothered and Bewildered

Dear Bewildered,

You epitomize the Jewish heart; not for naught are we considered a people of chesed.

From the sketchy details in your letter, it is difficult to know just how close you’ve become with your neighbor. Needless to say, whether you will be a positive influence on your new friend is no question; she will surely gain invaluable insight simply by observing your living style and will hopefully be inspired by the way you practice your religion and carry on the valued traditions of our heritage.

You hurt for good reason: how frustrating to see a Yiddisheh neshamah go astray! Yet, there is no telling what circumstances led her to become disillusioned to the point of abandoning a Torah way of life. To be critical or judgmental is not an option; your responsibility lies in teaching by example. At the same time, you are obligated to let her know that you do not condone her lifestyle nor approve of her living arrangement, which is contrary to our teachings.

This can be communicated via casual conversation in a non-condescending manner, even as you carry on in your warm and neighborly way. Don’t hesitate to lend an ear or a shoulder, to share your recipes and your books; be pleasant, kind and understanding – but be forewarned not to allow yourself to be drawn into heavy or lengthy discussions on the subject. Coming up against a non-believer can be daunting, to say the least.

Our Sages advise us to handle the non-believer’s rationalizations as we would (or should) our yetzer ha’ra: shrug off any and all arguments and justifications by claiming to be neither a chacham nor a philosopher. Simply head off any discussion that threatens to be going nowhere with a “you are entitled to your opinion.”

Don’t fret about your inability “to influence.” Just be yourself, be sincere, and be respectful of your neighbors as fellow human beings. Leave the rest to Hashem!

Dear Readers,

As much as we may yearn for time to slow down a bit, there is no stopping the clock. The main thing, though, is to make the best of our time in this world – an objective easier stated than accomplished, especially for those who patiently wait to meet up with their life partners with whom they are meant to forge a meaningful and fulfilling existence.

The advent of Tu B’Av is an apt reminder that it is incumbent on all of us to do some hishtadlus in the arena of shidduchim. Once upon a time, the fifteenth day in Av was joyously celebrated by young singles who aspired to attract their other halves.

On Chamishah Asar B’Av, as well as on Yom Kippur afternoon, the young maidens in Jerusalem would don white dresses and sing and dance in a circle in the vineyards – each with the respectable goal of catching the eye of her zivug.

The words to the tunes sung by the maidens relay a powerful message. “Lift up your eyes and choose thoughtfully ” they sang. “…Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; a woman who fears G-d shall be praised ”

Who of us is not acquainted with a single (or two, or three)? In light of the significance of this day, we appeal to our readers to take time out from their busy itineraries to look around them and to see how they can make a difference in this worthy cause.

Lifting a page from the book of our rich history and tradition, we feature two lovely young “dancers” who, with uplifted hearts, hereby put their best foot forward in their dance of hope.

The reader is invited to contribute to the noble endeavor of pairing zivugim by helping our dancers “get in touch” with their prospective mates.

A.A. is an attractive and accomplished young woman of 32. Amicably divorced, this vivacious mom of two who stands at a graceful 5-foot-6, seeks a warm-hearted and loving mate (preferably Sephardic) who is adept at juggling a learning/working agenda. Single or Divorced / Widowed / not exceeding 40 / with children OK.

E.N. is intelligent, cultured and soft-spoken. A striking young lady of 31 who stands at a stately 5-foot-7, she seeks her match in sincerity and sensitivity; an emotionally and financially stable thinker and doer who can laugh at himself defines her elusive other half. Modern Orthodox / 31-38 / Single or Divorced w/o children OK.

Please e-mail detailed profiles of any potentially suitable candidates to Rachel@JewishPress.com.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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