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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘chesed’

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.

The Uniqueness Of Modern Orthodoxy (Part I)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Question: What is unique about Modern Orthodoxy?

Answer: In the Middle Ages, theologians analyzed Judaism to assess its essential nature. Their concern was to locate a component that, if missing, would render Judaism something other than Judaism. A modern example of such an inquiry would be to seek the essential component of a car. A car without air conditioning or a radio is still a car. A vehicle without a motor, however, is not.

What is the essential component of Modern Orthodoxy? Some have suggested chesed. But chesed is not unique to Modern Orthodoxy. Many Jews and non-Jews consider kindness essential to their way of life. Anyone hospitalized in New York City will attest to the wonderful service of Satmar women who provide kosher food to patients free of charge. I still recall one woman who travelled with two different busses for over an hour each way to bring kosher food to my wife.

If not chesed, then, what makes Modern Orthodoxy different than other streams of Orthodoxy?

First, we must narrow down the possibilities. It is well known that we say a berachah upon meeting a great scholar in worldly wisdom. HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l, however, argued that we don’t say this berachah if the great scholar is a Jew (Pachad Yitzchok, V’Zot Chanukah, 9:2 and 9:5). One only says a berachah over a Jew who possesses Torah knowledge, not a Jew who wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry, for example. Conversely, one does not make a berachah over a non-Jew who possesses tremendous Torah knowledge.

Rav Hutner argued that this is implicit in the wording of the Shulchan Aruch, which list two separate halachos: that we say one berachah over a non-Jewish scholar with worldly wisdom and another berachah over a Jewish scholar. The two berachos are “Blessed are You…who has given of His wisdom to those who fear Him” and “Blessed are You…who has given of His wisdom to human beings.” The two berachos are separate and should not be confused. One only makes a berachah over a Jew with Torah knowledge and only over a non-Jew with worldly knowledge.

Why? In regards to berachot, there is a guiding principle of ikar and tafel (essential and secondary). For example, one only recites a blessing over spices if the spices were originally designated to provide fragrance – their main purpose. If the spices, however, were designated for another purpose, one would not recite a berachah over them even if one enjoyed their fragrance.

So too, contends Rav Hutner, in regards to the blessings over scholars. The prime purpose of a Jew is to learn Torah. This is the goal of his existence. Everything else, including secular scholarship or scientific knowledge, is of secondary value to the Jewish soul. It may be important. It may even be vital to life, but it is still secondary to Torah. As such, one only recites a berachah over a Jew who excels in his primary role – Torah. So too with non-Jews. One does not say a berachah over him if he is an expert in Torah because Torah is not his primary role in life.

Getting back to Modern Orthodoxy: Since Torah is the distinctive character of a Jew, the uniqueness of Modern Orthodoxy must lie in Torah. We then must reformulate our original question. What makes the Torah of Modern Orthodoxy uniquely different from the Torah of the yeshiva or chassidic world?

(To be continued)

Our Holy Visitors

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Sukkos comes to us as a beautifully wrapped gift from Hashem, right when we can use some pampering. Having just completed an exhaustive round of appeals to our Father in heaven to forgive our iniquities and grant us yet another chance to prove ourselves worthy of His beneficence and mercy, we emerge as newborns – clean and pure and free of the stain of sin.

An infant upon birth is immediately swaddled in blankets to protect it from the sudden change in temperature of its new confines. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur we are forgiven our transgressions and likened to a newborn; hence Hashem protects us with the sukkah, shielding our newly acquired holiness from becoming sullied by the vulgarities that surround us.

How apropos to celebrate a new beginning by inviting our elite leaders, our role models from time immemorial, to join us in the Sukkah. Enter the Ushpizin (Aramaic for guests) – the seven holy shepherds who blazed the trails for us to walk in, whose merits we invoke for our benefit at every turn in life.

The luminaries that comprise the Ushpizin are Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Dovid, each representing one of Hashem’s divine attributes and each possessing a spiritual essence uniquely his own, along with the combined middos – the character traits – of them all.

Avraham Avinu represents the divine attribute of chesed (kindness) and is the epitome of the perfect host. He has served as our model for the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim ever since he invited the angels to “sit under the tree.”

According to a fascinating midrash, it is as a result of this gesture that Avraham’s children were rewarded with the mitzvah of sukkah. Shedding light on the correlation, the Zohar teaches that Avraham Avinu’s intent when inviting the malachim to rest beneath the tree was to teach his guests (the angels disguised as mortals) that one is to place Hashem before him always. The seven days during which we are commanded to sit in the sukkah correspond to the human lifespan of seventy years – during which time our every act and deed, physical or spiritual in nature, is to be done l’shem shamayim, for the sake of heaven. (Alshich HaKadosh)

Yitzchak Avinu represents the divine attribute of gevurah (strength). Who can possibly begin to fathom the remarkable strength of a young man who had allowed himself to be bound by his father, in readiness to be offered as sacrificial lamb to God per divine instruction? Their complete submission to the will of Hashem attests to both father’s and son’s unerring faith in their Creator. Their actions have spoken for all eternity and have achieved atonement for our weaknesses and failings time and time again.

Yaakov Avinu is aptly accredited with the divine attribute of tiferes (beauty). By integrating the qualities of his father (gevurah) and his grandfather (chesed), Yaakov managed to achieve the perfect blend of character traits to qualify him as progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Following Yaakov’s defeat of Eisav’s ministering angel, Hashem named him Yisrael – which contains the words yashar (straight, upright) and Kel (one of God’s names), thus validating Yaakov’s uprightness in his service of Hashem.

Moshe Rabbeinu, whose legacy lives on in teachers of Torah throughout the generations, personifies the divine attribute of netzach (eternity). The mere mention of Moshe Rabbeinu invokes the trait of humility. Yet if he was truly “more humble than any man on earth,” how is it that he did not have an issue with being summoned to ascend to the top of Mount Sinai to accept the Torah as an intermediary between God and the Jewish nation? Shouldn’t he have protested “Who am I to go…?” as he did when Hashem told him to approach Pharaoh?

Moshe knew Hashem had chosen the smallest mount for Mattan Torah and rationalized that it was fitting for him, as the smallest Jew, to be mekabel the Torah on the smallest mount. (Kedushas Levi)

Aharon HaKohen, bestowed with the majesty of the kehunah by the Almighty Himself, represents the divine attribute of hod (glory). The role of kohen gadol was most suitable for Aharon, whose love for his fellow man was legendary. He was close to the people and genuinely took their troubles to heart. As one who took upon himself the tza’ar of Klal Yisrael and constantly prayed that their burdens be lightened, he was the perfect candidate to wear on his heart the choshen – the breastplate that depicted the twelve tribes of Israel via precious gemstones set upon the woven square. (Be’er Mayim Chaim)

Pleasure vs. Happiness In Marriage

Friday, September 21st, 2012

If you would like to know if your marriage is relationship centered or not, the way to find out is to ask yourself about your core values. For example, what is the most important principle of your marriage? Is it your desire for money or pleasure? Do you dream about being comfortable, being honored by your spouse and having a lot of fun?

Experience has shown that couples who place their relationship at the center of their lives have the greatest chance of sharing a successful marriage. Unfortunately, our society has sold us a distorted image of marriage, one which maintains that external factors such as money or comfort are what makes the marriage work. Just think about how popular culture depicts the perfect couple – the one with all the conveniences imaginable. They have all the money, pleasure, and fun they could ever want, but are they happy? That’s the million dollar question.

I believe that there is no real way of knowing how happy a marriage is, except this: ask them how their relationship is doing. Afterwards, you’ll know if their happiness is real or illusive.

Although many people may choose wealth, pleasure and honor as core values, in the long run, experience has shown that these are temporal. True happiness has very little to do with externals, and those who focus on these values often find their relationships unsettled, lacking direction, and without the strength to last a lifetime. In fact, over the years, I have witnessed many families with little financial means who have strong, healthy relationships. Against the conventional wisdom that money alone buys happiness, these families prove that success is dependent on other variables such as spiritual values, healthy attitudes, and high levels of emotional intelligence. Above all, they are dedicated to maintaining and nurturing the most important commodity in their lives – their relationship.

As a young yeshiva student, I learned a lesson about true happiness when I spent one of the most rewarding Shabboses in my life volunteering in an old age home in Sanhedria Murchevet, a small ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem. My predicament that weekend was that I wanted to spend Shabbos visiting the old age home, but didn’t have a place to stay. Thinking out of the box, and knowing I was in an ultra-orthodox community that was famous for its chesed and hachnasos orchim, I decided to take a chance by asking some elderly chassidim, who frequented a small shopping mall in the neighborhood, if they would be kind enough to take me in as their guest for Shabbos. After waiting for about five minutes in front of the store, an elderly chassid from the Viznitz community walked by with his younger daughter. In my broken and heavily American-accented Hebrew, I tried to explain to him where I volunteered and what I needed. Without blinking, the man said that he would be delighted to have me as his guest.

The elderly chassid met me just before sunset at the local shul and brought me home to meet his wife and family. At first, when I walked into his home, I felt that I was entering one of Roman Vizniak’s scenes from pre-war Poland. Despite my initial discomfort at feeling out of place, my fears were quickly relieved when I was warmly welcomed and asked to bring my suitcase into the room where I would be sleeping. After arranging my clothes, I was served a pre-Shabbos treat: a hot cup of coffee and some chocolate rugelach. Just as I finished my last bite, the Shabbos siren blew and I ran off to daven Kabbolos Shabbos at the old age home.

After davening, I returned to my host’s apartment to sleep in a very comfortable bedroom. The next morning I awoke and realized that, despite the fact that they had seven children, there were only two bedrooms, and I was sleeping in one of them! It turned out that they had set up their children’s beds in the living room and the parents had slept in the one remaining bedroom! Embarrassed and overwhelmed by their generosity, I walked out of the living room to wish a good Shabbos and, once again, my hosts insisted I sit down for another cup of coffee. That Shabbos, we spent hours eating, drinking tea and talking about our lives. They were devoted members of the Viznitz community. The father worked as an accountant for the local Chevra Kadisha and his wife was an assistant in the community kindergarten. They were married during the War of Independence and for many years lived in Meah Shearim. About ten years ago they had bought this apartment, and one of their dreams was to have special guests over for Shabbos. I happened to be one of the lucky individuals who would benefit from their kindness and hospitality.

For Victims of Abuse – A Warm Embrace

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: I usually take this time on the eve of the New Year to reflect on what kind if a year this was for me. The sudden death of my grandson Reuven who suffered from cancer was unexpected. Although his prognosis was never great, he had defied the odds by living as long as he did. People all over the world davened for him and for that I am still grateful.  But it was not meant to be.

On one unusually warm morning in early March of this year Reuven was taken from us as he suddenly collapsed – never to resuscitated. That was one of the hardest days of my life.  But I am grateful to God for all the blessings he as otherwise given me.  And with God’s help I look forward to a much better year ahead.
 
Aside from that personal note, I am going to relinquish the space I give here to any additional reflection or the Dvar Torah I usually give on Erev Yom Tov- to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He asked me if I would cross post an essay from his website on my blog. After reading it, I decided that there is no Dvar Torah that I could deliver that would be more important than his words.
With all the troubles facing Klal Yisroel now, I don’t think there is a single issue more important than the issue of sex abuse in our community. We all know the horror stories the survivors of abuse tell us. And we all too often hear of the devastating consequences they face – some for many years after.
 
In part the altered lives they live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community.  It is to this sad reality that Rabbi Horowitz speaks. The new year is not only a time for reflection. It is a time for change. If there is one thing we need to change as a community it is how we treat victims of abuse.
 
Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all. The following are Rabbi Horowitz’s words.
As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy).
Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim’s 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to “prove” his own innocence.However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread* following these lines, and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them, as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.
Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.
Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamosour holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them, because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured.
Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.If the great tzadik, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity, and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”
Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.
*Harry Maryles: As always, I welcome all comments to this post. Rabbi Horowitz is also taking comments in the form of Brachos to survivors on his website. If you can, it would be wonderful to get as many readers of this blog as possible to do so. Once again, Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all!

‘I Want to Get Married Too!’

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

“Is it possible for my disabled child to get married?” This is a question that parents often ask. Their son or daughter may often convey the sentiment, “I also want to get married, just like my sister or my brother or my friend.”

It is painful for persons of disabilities to see others get married while they are left behind. At the same time, there are naturally, additional challenges in marriage amongst those with disabilities.

How can we navigate the best path?

Everyone needs hope. People with disabilities need to feel that it is possible for them to achieve and accomplish their life goals, up to and including enjoying the companionship of a relationship and marriage.

Considering how to help a child with disabilities prepare for marriage, there are many challenges that parents and adults face. Sometimes parents have difficulty learning to let go and allow their child to make their own decisions. Since they have been managing their child’s life for so long it is hard for parents to envision their child functioning without their assistance. Dealing with one crisis after another for many years, has accustomed them to constantly being on alert. It is understandable that it can be very difficult to view such a “child” differently. Often, someone from outside the family, such as a mentor or coach can see things more objectively. A dating mentor can make an assessment as to whether the child is capable of learning the socialization skills necessary to have a relationship and get married. A dating mentor can coach the individual in skills that are basic to having a strong foundation in a relationship, such as how to communicate, solve problems, compromise, show and give respect and how to have empathy.

Of course, there are serious concerns and obstacles. Many such couples will require ongoing supervision and support in order to maintain a stable relationship. Furthermore, while most marriages include an expectation of establishing a family, these couples in consultation with a posek and mental health professional may need to think along different lines. In the short and long term, there are no “one-size fits all” solutions.

Recently, David Mandel, CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services invited some of OHEL’s married couples for dinner to talk about how to help more individuals inside OHEL and in the larger community improve their chances for having meaningful relationships, and possibly getting married.

The couples had the opportunity to share what helped them get married and what helps them successfully remain married. Their case managers and resident managers were also present at the dinner.

Many shared how the support of their case managers has been helpful to them in addressing problems before they escalate, as well as their assistance with being connected to appropriate resources, such as marital counseling in order to deal with the typical and not so typical stresses of married life.

Some participants shared their joys and struggles, making the listeners laugh and cry with them. One couple invites friends every Shabbos in order to increase their chances for finding someone to befriend. Stigma is still an issue many struggle with, especially when trying to find a shadchan to set them up. Their experiences have been that many shadchanim are unfortunately very dismissive of individuals who seek to marry and who are effectively managing their mental illness – an understandable disposition that requires much more community education. One person offered to be a shadchan in order to fill that void. Another suggested joining online websites and having a special section for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses. Such discussions are important to break down the barriers that prevent individuals from pursuing their goals for establishing meaningful relationships and getting married.

Chesed is a cornerstone of the Torah, and the chesed of helping Adam find his mate was the first recorded chesed in the Torah – performed by none other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Persons with disabilities have the right to enjoy as much of life as typically developing people do, and it is great chesed to help those who need the extra support and guidance to achieve their goals. We are embarking on a new frontier to give individuals with disabilities some of the same opportunities the mainstream population appreciates. There are no easy answers and the road can be long and bumpy; however, we need to join together and ask, “what are the obstacles that we need to overcome” until we reach our goal.

Look Out

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I just finished trying on all my pre-nine day clothes. You know the drill: Wash your clothing but leave enough time to parade around in what will be worn for the next nine days. This way, it will not be freshly laundered. What amazes me is that each year I am sure it will be a very easy activity, since I have nothing to wear! Yet, somehow I find it very time-consuming.

There are other challenges an out-of-town Jewish woman faces, besides the usual length of her skirt and which top to wear. At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I were in a Yeshiva kehilla (community). This meant that the interaction between men and women was much more segregated and constrained. It was what I had became accustomed to, that is until our first move out-of-town.

My husband and I arrived in our new city and were guests of honor at a welcome barbeque held in someone‘s backyard. My husband was eagerly greeted by a mom who was wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. After living in a Yeshiva atmosphere for a while, I cringed. How could she come over dressed like that and initiate a conversation with my husband? Before I had a chance to recover, a dad, also clad in leisurely summer attire, lumbered over to greet me. I left the barbeque deep in thought. It seemed we were now in place with informal boundaries. Could I ever be comfortable here and how was this atmosphere going to affect my own children?

Time helped me acclimate to our new environment. There were some hairy moments, like the time one well-meaning and appreciative father thanked me for teaching his daughter. He grasped my hand and, before I had a chance to withdraw it, kissed it! Another mortifying moment was when a father spotted me at dismissal and rushed over for a bear hug! It’s hard to be gracious when one feels embarrassed and uncomfortable.

How my children dress has also evolved. I had originally expected my children to want to dress like those in the yeshivish community we had lived in, never imagining them wanting to look any other way. After all, I reasoned, I had come to live out-of-town to impact others, not to be influenced by that environment. But a funny thing happened. We all evolved – my children, and my expectations of them.

On a visit to another city, our sons begged to wear black suede yarmulkas like their friends instead of their black velvet ones. My husband allowed them to buy the suede yarmulkas in the bookstore and I wept. I believed that all my hopes and dreams for them were dashed. My husband laughed. “What does it matter, as long as they cover their heads?”

When my first white-shirted son came of age we were thrilled that he was accepted to a prestigious yeshiva. Black hats and white shirts dotted the campus. I was beaming. This is perfect, I thought. We will send all our sons to this wonderful yeshiva and they will love being yeshivish.

I was unprepared for the bump on the road to this utopian dream. Our son noticed some un-yeshivish behavior at this school and told me about it. I was concerned, and also a little naïve. I called the administration, expecting the matter to be resolved quietly. Instead, our son was taken from the dorm that very night in full view of the other boys and asked what he had seen. When my son returned from the interrogation, the boys believed him to be an informer and ostracized him. They vandalized his belongings and threatened him. One Erev Shabbos, my son called to wish us a quick good Shabbos. “I’m not sure if I will survive over Shabbos,“ he whispered and hung up the phone. What an anxious Shabbos that was! My fourteen-year-old could not understand why the boys were acting menacingly to him and was very unhappy.

A few months later, we transferred our son to a different yeshiva. The new yeshiva had wonderful rabbeim, and students from a variety of backgrounds. It was a warm and safe environment; but it was not exclusively filled with white shirts, dark pants, and black hats.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/look-out/2012/08/10/

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