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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Baruch Hashem’

Light In The Face Of Darkness

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As I write these words I am still in my new adopted home. Originally I came to my wonderful friends’ warm apartment with the intention of staying just overnight and I did not even bother packing. My children kept pressuring me – “Ima, you have to go!”

My daughter who lives just a few blocks from me was going to move in with a friend who had a generator and she asked that I come with her. But I planned to wait Hurricane Sandy out. I was confident that while it would be a very intense storm it would not require evacuation. Just the same, all my children kept pressuring me. “Ima,” they pleaded, “you cannot stay in the house.”

My son who lives in a neighboring community was going to Brooklyn to my children there. Baruch Hashem, they all have large families, children and grandchildren. Their houses were full but they lovingly insisted I join them. I was debating in my mind what to do when my very kind talmidah – my Torah daughter – called and begged that I come to her. Not wanting to place added pressure to my children, I decided to accept her loving invitation.

When morning came it was not the dawn’s light that awakened me but the nightmarish news that my community and countless others were under attack by the merciless Frankenstorm that was leaving total devastation in its wake. I heard that ten feet of water flooded the lower level of my home but that was the least of my concerns. There was only one concern in my heart, and that was for my children who stayed behind and the countless other children and families there. I kept repeating to myself, “Ribbono shel Olam, Ribbono shel Olam.” Every few minutes I called my children, though usually I could not get through.

So it was with a trembling heart and tears flowing down my face that I davened and then davened some more. As the days passed and more and more painful and horrific stories emerged, my tears and my fears also increased.

Many of you know that every Thursday night I teach Torah at the Hineni Heritage Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was now Wednesday and the immediate dilemma facing me was whether we should close down or keep our doors open and the classes going.

It wasn’t a hard call. Of course we would have to stay open. If ever there was a time we had to gather together, it was now. It did not matter how many or how few would come. We had to raise our voices in prayer, with Tehillim and the study of Torah. No matter what is going on around us, davening and Torah study must continue. Those are our only weapons, our only salvation, our only hope for help.

I have had good training; I know from whence I speak. I learned in the best of universities that majored in cruelty – Hitler’s concentration camps. My daughter once said, “Ima, no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation, you always go back to those days of Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.”

I had never been consciously aware of it, but as soon as she mentioned it I realized she was so right. Sadly, most of us who were there are no longer here to tell the story, and most of those who are here are elderly or infirm and can no longer speak out. So yes, I do go back and I do tell the story and I can never forget.

In that dire darkness, in that pit of hopelessness, my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, taught me to never to give up, never to forget that prayers can awaken the dawn and Torah can be brighter then the sun. Through Torah and prayers the sun can shine again and our worlds can be illuminated.

Our Sages teach us “ein doma – there is no comparison to that which you hear and that which you see.” My daughter, who was there with her family, saw the terror and devastation with her own eyes and experienced it with her own heart and mind. Next week I will share excerpts from her diary.

Talking to Myself

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Ever since I started this question-and-answer column, people have been coming over and asking me questions.

Baruch Hashem, right?

Unfortunately, most of these questions have been about my column. That’s helpful. I can’t just spend every single column writing about my column. But this time, in honor of my first anniversary writing for The Jewish Press, I decided to see how many of them I can get in to one article:

Where did you grow up? And where do you live now?

I haven’t actually grown up yet, but I spent most of my childhood in my parents’ backyard. They live in Monsey, which is nice, because there are actually nice backyards where you can do things like torture insects and dig holes to China.

These days I live in New Jersey, because I wanted the feel of living in a punch line. Particularly, I live in Passaic, which is closer to New York City than most of New York State is. Not that I work in the city. I work mostly in my house with my kids hanging off my arm, because these days you can’t just let your kids play in the backyard unsupervised. What if the Chinese invade through a hole in the ground?

What do you do for a living?

You mean besides write for the Jewish Press? Actually, newspapers don’t really pay enough to live on, unless you don’t have kids and you don’t really need to eat or live anywhere. The Jewish Press is more of a side hobby that pays just enough to keep me from leaving. Other side hobbies that I have that pay just enough to keep me from leaving include writing for Hamodia, Aish.com, The 5 Towns Jewish Times, The Lakewood Shopper, The Queens Jewish Link, The Brooklyn Weekly, and various other magazines, writing a comic strip for The 20s and 30s, putting out books, teaching Language Arts to a bunch of high school kids who don’t really want to learn Language Arts as much as they want to go to recess, and writing and sprucing up speeches, web copy, scripts, and various other things for people who need it. Oh, and stand-up comedy. At the end of the day, I don’t really have time for a job.

How did you get started in writing?

I think I got started in Pre-1A. (For non-New Yorkers, this is the year between kindergarten and first grade. We need the extra year over here, for social reasons.) The teacher sat us down and made us write an “A”, and then a “B”, and so on. And the rest was history. And math and science. And recess.

Also, I used to make up stories with my action figures back then. As I got older, the stories got more sophisticated, and the reason I was still playing with action figures got flimsier and flimsier. Luckily, I’m the oldest of a truckload of kids, so my official reason was “babysitting.”

But eventually, I started actually writing things down, and got into the lucrative field of being rejected by newspapers using self-addressed stamped envelopes that I paid for. And the rest is davening.

What types of readers do you hope to reach?

Anyone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. If the little things offend you, then this column is probably going to make your head explode.

Do you have any plans to write a book, or if you already have, to write another one?

At the moment, I have three books with Israel Book Shop Publications, and have a fourth coming out in May. My first book, Don’t Yell “Challah” in a Crowded Matzah Bakery! is about the stresses of putting together Pesach. My other two books, A Clever Title Goes Here and This Side Up, are mainly collections of articles that I’ve written — short spurts on random topics that are great for people who have Attention Deficit Dis-Let’s go ride our bikes.

This Side Up is also the first book ever to have been purposely printed upside down. That we know of.

Do you want to continue to integrate writing into your life in the future? How?

Like I said, it’s already pretty integrated. My entire life at this point, 24/6, is either writing, teaching people how to write, or thinking of things to write. Actually, if you include that third thing, it’s 24/7. I always get my funniest ideas on Friday nights, and then I have to try to remember them until after Shabbos. The worst is when I get them on the first night of a 3-day Yom Tov.

Keep Up The Good Work

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I feel extremely guilty about my elderly father and am filled with anger toward my sisters and brothers in regards to his care.

First the latter: My five siblings give me, the youngest child and one of three daughters, little help in caring for our father, instead they provide me with constant advice and criticism. Unfortunately I am the only one who takes care him (I visit every day); my father lives near me and has a full-time attendant. Some of my siblings live nearby and others further away, but they only visit him occasionally – and basically expect me to do everything.

My three brothers feel that as sons, they are obligated to do less. My two sisters claim that they are busy with their married children. Well, I also have married children but somehow find the time for our elderly father. One of the things that angers me is the remarks they make. For example, they’ll say that since I was his favorite child, I am the one obligated to care for him. As our parents were wonderful to all of us, I cannot understand how they can turn their backs on him now – just when he needs us most.

At the same time, I feel guilty that I don’t do more for him. My father complains a lot, causing me to sometimes become angry with him. I find it hard to spend a lot of time with him, although I visit every day, take him to doctors, cook his favorite foods, and make sure he has everything he needs.

I need your advice on how to deal with my anger toward my siblings and guilt about my father.

Angry and Guilty

Dear Angry and Guilty:

It is amazing that one father is able to care for six children, but six children cannot care for one father.

I am impressed by your devotion to your father and your adherence to the mitzvah of kibud av. What I would suggest is that in dealing with your father’s complaining try to validate his feelings. You may find that this helps decrease his complaining. Often when people complain, the natural response from the person forced to listen is to say, “It is not so bad, so stop complaining.” This usually makes them complain more. Saying to your father, “I know how you must feel; it is not easy to feel that way,” may make him realize that he’s being heard and understood. As a result, he may complain less.

With respect to your siblings, you should confront them in a nice manner. At a minimum, you will feel better having told them how upset you are and why. They may be rationalizing to themselves that you enjoy having all of the responsibility.

Use the “I feel” message, as others are usually less defensive when confronted with that strategy. Say something like, “I know that you all have busy lives, Baruch Hashem, and you probably do not realize that I feel I end up having to take care of most of Daddy’s needs. Let’s make a schedule whereby everyone can chip in, so that none of us feels overwhelmed.” If they don’t increase their involvement in your father’s care, at least make it clear that you feel bad when you receive their advice and criticism, especially when you are the one handling most of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, it is generally the one who does the most who winds up receiving the most criticism. But please take solace in the sechar that you are receiving for honoring your father.

If you validate your father’s feelings and he continues to complain, validate your own feelings. This does not mean that you should limit your visiting time with him and beat yourself up for sometimes feeling annoyed and frustrated. Remember that taking care of an older person is very difficult, as he or she often does not feel well and thus may be more critical and irritable. With this in mind, let yourself off the hook when you are feeling upset.

While it is certainly important to treat your father with loving care and not show him your annoyance in any way, if you sometimes feel that way (which is only normal), do something nice for yourself instead of feeling guilty. Also, remember two things: your reward may not be evident in this world, and your children will probably accord you the same respect that you are demonstrating to your father.

Jewish Communities Among Dozens Decimated By Hurricane Sandy

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

“It’s like a war zone,” said Rabbi Akiva Eisenstadt, surveying the damage in Manhattan Beach, a day after Hurricane Sandy swept through New York. “It’s beyond anything anyone has ever seen.”

Manhattan Beach, on the southern tip of Brooklyn, was one of several communities in the tri-state area pummeled by the storm, which caused, across the eastern coast of the country, an estimated $20 billion in property damage and left at least 55 Americans dead and 8.2 million without power.

By Wednesday, Manhattan had still only partially recovered from the super storm as much of the mass transit system that transports millions into the city daily remained shut down. Some experts estimate it will take a week or more before service returns to normal.

Simply pumping all the water that flooded New York’s subway stations and tunnels may take several days. Engineers will then have to assess the infrastructure’s structural soundness. Some fear the corrosive salt water may have also destroyed electrical switches, lights, and the power-conducting third rail.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said Tuesday, “The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”

Even New York’s Stock Exchange remained closed Tuesday – its first multi-day, weather-related closure since 1888.

While most of the reports from several communities in New York City – such as Washington Heights, Midwood, Boro Park and Crown Heights – only weathered streets blocked by downed trees and power outages, others sustained a high percentage of homes with massive damage.

Shorefront areas in lower Brooklyn experienced catastrophe. “Two of my friends who lived in ranches lost everything they had,” said Ari Epstein, a resident of Manhattan Beach, where the water filled the streets up to six feet above street level. On Tuesday, after the water had receded, an oily muddy residue remained on every block. Virtually every house in the neighborhood, Epstein said, suffered extensive water damage, destroying furniture and myriads of expensive and sentimental household items. “It’s crazy, unbelievable.”

Rabbi Eisenstadt, who serves as rosh kollel of Manhattan Beach’s Community Kollel, said one waterfront house was on the market before the storm for $9.5 million. Now, “his whole property is destroyed.”

Even Hatzolah was powerless in the neighborhood. The rescue organization received at least two calls about electrical fires but could not respond, a Hatzolah member told The Jewish Press. The roads were simply inaccessible.

Sea Gate, Brooklyn sustained major damage.
(Photo credit: Dee Voch)

In nearby Sea Gate, an area that was similarly overwhelmed by water, one Jewish man survived the storm on top of a garbage truck, an official from the volunteer Chaverim organization reported. The man declined to evacuate when asked; by the time he changed his mind and started driving away, water blocked his path. Seeking higher ground, he spotted a nearby garbage truck and climbed on top of it. Freezing from the cold weather, he wrapped himself in his tallis, the Chaverim official said.

The water also filled parts of Woodmere and North Woodmere, on Long Island, where many homes were almost completely underwater and many residents had to be rescued by National Guard boats.

Summing up the conditions of the Five Towns, Gabriel Boxer, a resident of Hewlett, posted on Facebook: “The entire 5 Towns smells like salt water.”

In addition to the mass flooding and power outages, some suffered from storm-related fires. Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski said two cars exploded from downed electrical wires near his house in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Several other fires blazed on nearby blocks with fire trucks scrambling to get to them. Eventually, firemen took down several power lines to prevent further fires from erupting. Rabbi Serebryanski emptied his refrigerator and headed to relatives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Fires also destroyed more than 100 homes in Breezy Point, Queens. Among them was the residence of Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY).

Bayswater, Queens also suffered greatly. Resident Annette Turner said she has no idea when she will be able to return home after the peninsula community was overwhelmed by water. Among the area’s victims was the Agudah of Bayswater, which was completely destroyed – just one week after the shul had finished repairing damage sustained in last year’s Hurricane Irene storm.

The Highchair

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Yael was tired of sticking the highchair together with glue or Sellotape. It had lasted through five children, a miracle in itself, but now it seemed to have given up all hope – and decided to self-destruct.

Every time she tried to clean it, more parts seemed to come loose. Yael was scared that it wasn’t safe enough to put her little Shloimy in it any longer.

But money was very tight and it was nearing Yom Tov. Shloimy only used the highchair on Shabbos; the rest of the time he sat in his stroller or on a booster chair at the family table.

But on Shabbos, especially if extra guests were present, it was best for him to be in a high chair in order for him to have the freedom to eat as he wished without Yael having to worry about him getting the food on everyone else. And of course it freed up more space at the table. But could she justify spending the money on a chair for one day a week?

Yael went to a store to see just how much a chair would cost. There were an amazing variety of high chairs from which to choose. Who’d have thought the manufacturers could think of so many different possibilities. It had been a long time since Yael had looked for a new one; thus the choice was baffling. Prices varied from the simplest to the 5-star models, with more bells and whistles than she’d have ever dreamt possible. But even the simplest one wasn’t very cheap.

She went home and decided that they’d have to manage a bit longer.

Another few weeks went by with Shloimy at the table during the week and in his highchair, under the watchful eye of his mother, on Shabbos. Yael tried to ensure that his excited movements didn’t unhinge any part of the chair. But eventually her managing the situation turned into surviving it – and the chair just became useless.

Yael went back to the store, hoping that there would be a special offer on highchairs. But the prices remained unchanged.

But then she remembered something she’d been taught in school. She had learned that Hashem returns to you the money you spend on purchases for Shabbos. We’re not always aware of when and how He does this, but if you designate (verbally, if possible) that what you are buying is l’kavod Shabbos kodesh, then what you buy for Shabbos is not an extra burden on the household finances. This is because, it was taught, that if it wouldn’t have been spent for Shabbos items, that money wouldn’t have been in your wallet.

With this in mind Yael chose an economical but sturdy highchair, and as she paid for it she said out loud, “This high chair is l’kavod Shabbos kodesh, because Shabbos was the only day when Shloimy used it. Buying in a Jerusalem store, her loud declaration barely raised an eyebrow, although she received a few smiles from those who heard her.

She went home satisfied that she had done the right thing, confident that her family’s already very tight budget wouldn’t suffer because of her purchase.

She arrived home, paid the babysitter, prepared supper, and bathed her six young children. After supper the older ones waited in their pajamas for their abba to come home from kollel so they could kiss him goodnight.

As he walked through the door, he had a big smile on his face. “Yael,” he said, “You can go and buy the highchair now.”

She turned around from washing the dishes. “Why?” she asked.

“You’ll never believe this but as I got off the bus I saw something on the sidewalk. I thought it must have been something that I had dropped, so I picked it up. It was a 200-shekel note. I was the only one who got off the bus and there was no one else around to ask if it was their money. So according to halacha, it’s ours. That should cover the cost of a highchair, no?”

Yael could barely see through the tears that blurred her eyes.

“Yes. Baruch Hashem, that exactly covers the cost of the highchair and the delivery cost. And it should be here in a few minutes.”

From Depression To Happiness

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a man in my 50s who, Baruch Hashem, has had a good life. I am married with children and grandchildren and was always a happy-go-lucky person, thankful for all the berachot bestowed on me.

This year, though, has been very difficult for me, with many family and personal problems. I have begun to experience something that I have never really had before: depression. Out of nowhere I begin to feel upset and anxious, and I do not know what to do to get rid of these feelings. I have never been a negative or sad person and I don’t know how to return to my old self. I try to think more positively but my mind always starts to find the negative aspects, and it often snowballs and makes me feel more and more depressed. I do not know how to get out of this cycle or how to be more upbeat. I do not want to feel this way, yet find myself returning to depressing thoughts more and more. Please help!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Without having a chance to sit and meet with you, it is hard to say exactly what your issue is. However, it is possible that you are experiencing either an adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood or feeling some dysphoria. Both of these disorders can be similarly treated. Your thoughts seem to negatively impact the way you feel and this in turn makes you think more negatively – and subsequently you feel worse. As you noted, it is a difficult cycle to end. The most important thing to do now is to go for professional help before you get worse. Here are some ideas I believe will be helpful:

One helpful Cognitive-Behavioral Strategy is to restructure your thoughts. In order to do this, you must ask yourself questions. For example, what’s the argument for and against a particular thought? What would I tell a friend in the same situation? Is there any way to look at this positively? Is thinking about this helping me or making the situation worse?

Try to rationally think about the truth. Chances are that you are having cognitive distortions that make you overgeneralize, thus painting a limited occurrence with a broad brush (e.g., believing that if just one problem arises, your life then becomes problematic or terrible). You might also be personalizing things, like when someone ascribes an external event to himself when there is, in reality, no connection between the person and the event. (An example of this is when a stranger or aquaintance is rude to you and you incorrectly conclude that you must have done something to cause the person’s rudeness.)

Another possibility is that you are making arbitrary inferences, creating – with no supporting information – a not necessarily correct conclusion (not necessarily the right one) in a certain situation. An example of this is when – despite no actual information to support his or her belief – a person believes that someone either does not like him or her or that the person believes him or her to be a horrible person. All of these cognitive distortions are untrue and unhealthy because it causes the one with this condition to have a negative self-view.

In therapy the first thing a client will learn is how to identify these problematic thoughts which in addition to increasing depression and anxiety, also reduce a person’s ability to cope with his or her environment. If you are theoretically able to identify when you are doing this and are then able to replace these thoughts with a more realistic view, you will begin to feel better.

The next step is for you to practice replacing these negative thoughts. Some therapists ask their clients to write down specific thoughts, when they took place and how he or she felt at that time. Then they are asked to think of a replacement thought that is more realistic to the situation and to rate how that thought would make them feel. It starts out as an exercise, but hopefully over time you will begin second-guessing these negative distortions and replacing them with more positive, realistic thoughts that engender more positive feelings. It is never helpful for anyone to think negatively, even if a situation is not a positive one.

The Secret of Turning Misery into Happiness

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

By writing this letter I hope that my pain and frustration will cease.

While growing up, my mother had a tough and determined nature and always had the whip in hand when running the family. Contrary to her, my father was always kind, giving and forgiving.

My family was moderately Orthodox, but gradually my mother became more haredi. She changed her style of dress in conformity with the haredi dress code. She then forced all of us to become haredi.

I was about the age of 12, not too old (but still not too young) to willingly change. In all due respect to my mother, she impatiently forced and tortured me to change. She labeled me as the modern, “goyish” one. Her strictness, hitting and threats made me cry. I once felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown but, baruch Hashem, it did not happen. All this led me to begin despising what I considered to be a lifestyle of frum meshugasim.

At 14 I was sent to a well-known yeshiva in Israel where I got some relief – but only a little. Whenever I called or came home, I was heavily criticized. My mother constantly saw me as a non-Jew.

In my mind, I hoped that life would sparkle when I got married. At least then I’d live my own life. When shadchanim started calling, I made it clear to my mom that with my greatest appreciation to her, I had a duty to outline my own independent future that was not parallel to hers. I begged her to please bring forth love and peace to my life and to find someone with whom I had more in common. I wanted a wife that would not dress or act as frum as my mother. As you can expect, she immediately refused, telling me that this was not an option. She decided that my wife would be just like her – including n the way she dressed.

Feeling like a prisoner, I went along with a shidduch she wanted for me. Baruch Hashem, the girl was sweet and beloved. But I held out hope that after the wedding I’d be able to ask my wife to gradually change. I knew this could cause problems, but I was hopeful.

Sadly, after 12 years of marriage and six children, my situation is the same; my wife is unwilling to change. As a matter of fact, contrary to what I had hoped for, the opposite is happening: my wife wants me to change. She says that I am too modern and should become more frum.

On the positive side we both understand each other’s position. I appreciate her for her good middos, and she appreciates me for studying Torah. But arguments about our differences abound, and our lives are so miserable – filled with darkness and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Respler, please help me. Thank you.
Anonymous

Dr. Yael and Dr. Orit reply:

Dear Anonymous:

Despite our best intentions to help bring an end to your pain, it is unrealistic for you to expect us to do so based on an anonymous letter. Nonetheless we will do our best to deal with the issues you raised in a general manner, while at the same time suggest that you seek professional help and speak to a rav that you trust.

The fact that your wife has good middos is probably more important than you realize. You appear to have many correct values and it seems that much of what you are upset about revolves around other issues that have little to do with your inner feelings. Are these issues really important to you? Do you think that you can reach some sort of compromise with your wife, where you meet somewhere in the middle regarding the other issues?

You write about being miserable in your marriage, but that does not come from disagreements about “some issues.” When did the way people dress and act become everything we stand for? Do you and your wife share any of the same views? Of course you will have challenges if you want to raise your children differently from each other and if you have different views on Yiddishkeit, but if you want to remain frum (which seems apparent from your letter) and both of you are willing to compromise there is no reason to allow these issues to make your lives miserable.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/turning-misery-into-happiness/2012/09/28/

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