Latest update: March 6th, 2012
Re: “A Concerned Grandma” (Chronicles 09-16-2011)
I am writing about the concerned grandma whose son-in-law scolds her grandson for using his left hand. While I really enjoyed your response to this woman about the ins and outs of left-handedness, I was surprised that you did not take a more active stance in insisting that this grandmother speak with her son-in-law about his actions.
I myself am a left-handed college student who is quite outspoken about my left-handedness. I own a lot of left-handed memorabilia, and when it comes to halachic issues regarding matters of left or right-handed objects I tend to research and argue fervently with rabbis and rebbetzins about why I should be allowed to perform the mitzvah with my left hand.
You can tell that I am obviously biased against the son-in-law for his behavior, yet I am not disapproving of your advice, for studies have shown that many naturally left-handed children who were forced to use their right hand developed problems, such as speech impediments, later on in life.
The fact that this father is forcing his son to use his right hand is harmful to his health and well-being, and I believe that this grandmother has a moral duty to inform him of this.
A Concerned Southpaw
Re: “Nowhere to turn” (Chronicles 10-28-2011)
It does not sound like this newlywed couple lives nearby enough to come and help her mother clean. It also seems like this family has no sons upon whom the primary responsibility lies according to halacha, when parents become unable to care for themselves.
One would think that the grown children still living at home would pitch in and clean up, but this sounds like a rather dysfunctional family where the ability to clean and organize may be lacking in some of the children as well as in the parents. It was nice of a sister to spend $20 on kitchen supplies, but the grown children in this family are obviously too financially strapped to hire a cleaning crew and pay for repair of the AC.
It sounds like some household management training would be helpful, but someone would have to be on top of this family to maintain those improvements. In some cases, regular cleaning crews can’t clean because of hoarded trash and rodent droppings that are hazardous to human health, and special HAZMAT crews need to come in.
This young couple may have been away, such as to learn overseas, and the house may have been cleaned when they first married in order to make a good impression; when the couple returned for Yom Tov after a year away, they found the dilapidated condition of the house and the inability of the family to get the house in order, even if just for a yearly Yom Tov visit with the kids.
Hoarding and filthy housekeeping can be a sickness, and some physical illnesses can be the direct result of the filthy conditions, regardless of even the most caring children who may sacrifice whatever money they can to restore order to the home. It is also not easy to ask the bitter single daughter to assume more of the parents’ care and to further exploit her single state.
What I am basically saying is that depending on where they live, they may be in need of some type of Jewish family service or adult protective agency rather than a chesed service. No one can ask the local youth group teens to clean a bathroom that has not been cleaned in a year as a chesed. Even those chesed organizations that pay for cleaning help cannot tackle a job this big. The house may end up being condemned if someone does not get it in order, and then this family could be looking for another place to live.
Re: “Lonely at the core” (Chronicles 07-22-2011) and her male critics (Chronicles 11-04-2011)
The naïveté demonstrated by the male readers who wrote to express their skepticism about the woman who had written about her lowlife husband and about how she thinks of leaving him now that her children are all out of the house is quite disturbing. That someone can tolerate such behavior on the part of a spouse for so many years and then suddenly feel a need to do something about it is apparently beyond their grasp.
Human endurance should never be tested to the degree a mother could handle in order to protect her children from harm. I guess these men (no doubt self-sufficient) couldn’t possibly fathom being in the shoes of a woman who has been reliant on her husband for the security of providing a roof over the family’s head and whose reluctance to turn their children’s world upside down could have motivated her to set aside her own feelings of pain and despair to do whatever it took to maintain an atmosphere of normalcy for the sake of her children.
While some women would fall apart in the process, it would seem that this woman kept it together; her decision, furthermore, was a very personal one and no one has the right to judge her, second-guess her motives or tell her she was wrong.
The male readers commenting from their perch in the peanut gallery must be living in a bubble not to recognize the sad fact that there are many “victims” of loveless and hellish marriages who may either feel trapped or consciously opt for their own reasons to stay in the relationship.
A friend of mine commented that she can’t imagine anyone putting up with what this woman has for all these years, if only for her pride and self-respect. As this friend puts it: “I’d never stand for that type of despicable behavior and would have thrown the bum out long ago!”
One can disagree with the woman’s decision (as my friend does) without ripping into her character (as her male critics did).
I personally admire her strength and fortitude and wish her all the best.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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