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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/28/11

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Readers Speak

Dear Rachel,

Reading the responses you received regarding an elderly mother who gives the daughter who cares for her a very hard time (Chronicles, 11-19-2010), how true is the saying of our fathers: “Al tadun et chavercha ad sh’tagiah limkomo” – don’t judge another person till you find yourself in his place, or the saying about walking in someone else’s moccasins.

It is obvious that none of those writers really know what it is to be in the company of such a person day in and day out.

The only one who had a good point was “Suffering is for fools” (Chronicles 12-31-2010) who wrote, “Maybe the mom has a psychiatric problem that causes her to act like she does.”

I, too, must wonder whether that mother was a well person (psychologically and emotionally) to begin with. I talk from experience.

Before I became aware of being verbally and psychologically abused by my mother, she should live and be well, I suffered a lot.

At that time I was teaching elementary school children and there was a workbook put out about derech eretz.

In that booklet I found a din, a Jewish law that says yes, we have to honor our parents, but the onus is on the parent to make sure that the child will BE ABLE to keep this mitzvah and not put stumbling blocks in his/her path to perform this most difficult commandment.

How glad I was to learn this! It freed me of my guilt.

My mother, G-d bless her, is in an assisted living facility. I call her every day. I’ve learned that at certain times of the day she’s more amenable to pleasant conversation and I try to avoid calling at other times.

I visit her about twice a week. Sometimes the visit goes well, other times she starts out with negativity and accusations.

When I try to reason with her, I get caught up in a state of deep discomfiture, so when I feel I’ve had my fill, I detach myself from her with love, and leave.

What a blessing. I’m glad that in your response (Chronicles11-26-2010) you suggested to her the possibility of placing her mother in an assistant living facility. It’s a G-d sent concept for many a “frustrated” family.

Walking in those moccasins

Dear Rachel,

Many of the replies to the woman caring for an elderly parent stressed the privilege of being able to do so and the importance of the mitzvah of kibbud eim. This approach is totally on target and not to be taken lightly.

But… the writer says she has been doing it for a while and she is afraid it may “end badly” or disrupt her “family harmony.” She is not being flippant about her responsibilities. In fact, she is writing because she is so torn about making such a weighty decision.

If she is brave enough to say she is finding it difficult, she needs to be listened to carefully, her concerns seriously weighed and various options and solutions considered. She should discuss it with a compassionate and wise rav or friend.

There are no absolute answers and solutions, just values that have to be weighed carefully – and marital harmony is an equally important value to be considered.

Malky Shaulson, LCSW

Dear Rachel,

“Why am I still single?” (Chronicles 12-24-2010) reflects upon a myriad of causes she believes as being responsible for today’s single crisis. I don’t think she is correct in her assessment. At least, I don’t find myself in the circle of single friends who share these issues. For my friends and myself, it is the men who have those issues.

I did, however, appreciate your response to her immensely. Just sign me

A Sane Single

Dear Rachel,

In your response to the single who lists some keen observations regarding the single scene, you were pretty much on the mark, but I respectfully disagree with you on one point that may on the surface seem superficial.

“Why am I still single?” cites a “dowdy physical appearance” with “easily curable physical defects like a huge nose” as one of the obstacles some singles create for themselves – to which you remark: “neither a weight issue nor a large nose seems to have hindered countless singles from acquiring a spouse.”

Be that as it may, Rachel, in my neighborhood there are two sisters from a lovely family, both in their late thirties and still single. The bigger rachmonus is that with all their wonderful attributes they pay no heed to their appearance.

Both have small pale faces with huge noses, dress unfashionably and wear absolutely no makeup – ever.

Though we should all be focusing on the inside of a person rather than on outward appearances, it would be very difficult for anyone, let alone a boy seeking his mate, to get past that first impression.

I don’t mean to offend the many readers with imperfect noses (mine is certainly no model of perfection). In fact, I know a couple of people with prominent noses who are attractive and engaging and far from dowdy. (Think Barbra Streisand.) For that matter, how many of us can truly claim to be “viewable” when facing ourselves in the mirror first thing in the morning?

The right hair-do, enhancing makeup and suitably flattering wardrobe are mandatory for those on the lookout for their intended. Ideally, it is a mother’s job to teach her daughter of these necessities, but in the case of an absentee mom (literally or figuratively), friends, relatives and even teachers shouldn’t hesitate to step into the role and encourage a makeover.

First impressions count

Dear Rachel,

In my opinion, much too much emphasis is being placed on physical attributes and many viable shidduchim are thus being passed up.

Reminds me of the Yiddish saying, “a sheina ponim hot imzinsteh frahnd” meaning literally “a pretty face has free friends.” This of course implies that beauty garners undeserved attention. Let’s not forget that beauty is as beauty does – it is one’s middos that render one beautiful, inside and out.

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

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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