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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/12/07

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Readers React to Disappointed Husband (9-29) and His Critics (11-10/17/24)

Dear Rachel,

The letters in response to Disappointed Husband consisted of back-and-forth quibbling about love versus attraction and polished but empty career women versus frumpy but loving homemakers.

The main problem is that women these days are stretched too thin.

Society marries men off at around 22, often without concrete plans for supporting a family. Their wives are thus being forced into the workplace to cover the expenses. Between self, work, home, and the large number of children that we Baruch Hashem are having, many women are overburdened and must compromise priorities. When weighed against the mortgage and the children, the husband is often the first to be neglected.

We have to work our men harder. Women are falling apart picking up the slack, and the Jewish family is suffering. The time has come to balance our aversion to “materialism” and insistence on young men’s spiritual growth with an honest acknowledgement that the cost of supporting a frum family these days is in the six figures and climbing. Boys should be rushed through GED programs if necessary and sped into lucrative jobs, like marketing and the sciences, so that they are financially prepared to marry.

Money issues have turned the shidduch scene into a competition over whose parents have the deepest pockets. And now, as the letters to your column prove, they are eating into ourshalom bayis. Let’s take care of them.

A Realist

Dear Realist,

That we live in a materialistic world that goads us into wanting it all is unfortunately the way it is. Consequently, fortification of our spirituality is a dire necessity to counteract the inducements we are confronted with. But there is that fine line that allows us to take advantage of modern day conveniences – which in turn actually serve to provide us with more time for spiritual reinforcement. Simply stated, anything taken to an extreme will prove harmful rather than beneficial, whether it is overindulgence of materialism or staying the learning course despite financial exigency.

The focus of the letter that prompted readers to state their points of view centered on the traditional family – man of the house as wage earner, woman as homemaker. All the same, women in the workforce (unfortunately the focal point of our Disappointed Husband’s concentration) are here to stay – and are, by and large, making significant contributions to the business world.

There is no blanket solution for all families. Each has to base its decision on its own special and individual circumstance. Generally speaking, you make a valid argument. A couple embarking on a life together should be prepared to meet the needs of a growing family. Among a father’s responsibilities is to ensure his son’s preparedness for life’s journey – both in a ruchnius and gashmius capacity.

Dear Rachel,

I have some questions to ask of the woman who touts looking good for the hubby all the time. Does she wear her best clothes when she is cleaning the oven? When she gets up in the morning, must she rush and present herself in a glamorous way before she can say good morning to her husband with whom she just shared her sleeping quarters? Does she suggest that we wear our Shabbat best when taking out the garbage?

There is a time and place to “dress up and to dress down.” Must a woman wear makeup 24/7 – even when she is giving birth? Following the birth of my son, I was told “could you dress up for visitors who will come (to the hospital) to see you?” a half-hour after a 12-hour labor and delivery ordeal, by my late step-mom!

The fact is we cannot always look like kings and queens. As long as we are presentable and maintain cleanliness, there is nothing wrong with wearing casual clothes around the house. Do we wear ball gowns while bathing the kids, cooking, cleaning, or engaging in other mundane chores?

The notion that women are to be “made up” morning, noon and night is unrealistic and fanciful, as well as unhealthy. (Our pores need to breathe.) And why all this concentration on “packaging?” With trust, kindness and respect between spouses, we set the right example for our children. Is it beauty and perfection that we want in the home, or real life?

As for the original letter writer who started this hot debate, my main concern is how the husband treats his wife, not the robe that she wears.

May Hashem bless all our homes and help us build Bayit Ne’eman B’Yisrael.

Living in the Real World

Dear Living,

Many of our readers seem to associate the robe and snood with sloppiness and unsightliness. In truth, there are women who wear a snood well, even while others wouldn’t be caught dead in one. Robes, too, can be most flattering and stylish – or ill fitting and unattractive. It all depends on the wearer. If she takes pride in her appearance, she will look good whether she wears designer labels or hand-me-downs.

A husband who genuinely loves his wife will love her all the more when he is greeted at the end of his workday by the mouth-watering scents of homemade fare and bright-eyed children fresh from being bathed. Some flour dusting on his wife’s robe or wet rolled up sleeves won’t bother him a whit.

For, as you say, at the end of the day the qualities of the virtuous wife will override the artificial exterior of the woman whose every hair is in place and who won’t risk damaging her freshly manicured fingernails.

A word of caution to women whose husbands prefer that they dispense with the robe and/or snood: you must not have any hesitation in deferring to your spouse. Maintaining shalom bayis and creating an aura of good feelings that come from pleasing one another are top priorities.

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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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