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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘chuppah’

Why Most Marriages Can Work

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Mordechai, 36, and Chani, 35, were married for six years and came to me for advice on how to save their relationship. They seemed to have everything going for them. They were working professionals, successful and upwardly mobile; they shared many common factors including similar religious beliefs, intelligence levels, and were both pleasantly extroverted.

Yet, soon after marriage, it was apparent that they didn’t get along very well. Little things like the cleanliness of the house, or who made dinner, became mountain-sized issues that were often blown out of proportion. The quality of their relationship was going downhill and their marriage was in crisis. Only six months had passed since their chuppah and they were beginning to feel that they were unequipped to deal with each other’s emotional needs. Instead, they tended to withdraw from one another and were avoiding taking the obvious step of working together to solve their issues.

On the outside, they seemed to have everything going for them, yet now they had little to show for it.

What was causing their marital stress? Did they share some deeply-rooted negative patterns? Was it a question of personality differences? Did they have trouble managing their anger?

Mordechai and Chani were also scared, because some of their lifetime friends were also experiencing similar difficulties in their marriages, and the prior year, two of them had gotten divorced. They wanted to know if they were heading in the same direction and if there was anything they could do to sustain their marriage.

Before I began to advise them on ways to improve their marriage, I asked them to draw an imaginary circle in the middle of the room, to represent their relationship. I then asked them to take their chairs and sit in the middle of the circle if they were committed to their relationship. If they weren’t able to sit in the circle together, then, I believed, their marriage would have little chance of succeeding.

I also made it clear to them that, statistically, the overwhelming majority of failed marriages (between two emotionally healthy individuals) end because couples are having trouble building and staying committed to their overall relationship. In fact, many of the negative statistics about marriage boil down to the prevalence of couples losing interest in developing the quality of their marriage.

A 1995 statewide survey in Utah, for example, examining why marriages end in divorce, found that the lack of commitment to the relationship was the top reason for the growing phenomenon.

Specifically, the Utah Marriage Survey asked Utahns who had been divorced to answer the following: “There are many reasons why marriages fail. I’m going to read a list of possible reasons. Looking back at your most recent divorce, tell me whether or not each factor was a major contributor to your divorce. You can say, ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ to each factor.”

The following responses show the percentages of those respondents who answered, “yes,” to each factor that they felt was a major contributor to their divorce:

Men/Women/The Mean

Lack of commitment: 87%/79%/83%

Too much conflict and arguing: 48%/58%/53%

Infidelity or extramarital affairs: 47%/56%/52%

Getting married too young: 39%/43%/41%

Financial problems or economic hardship: 31%/35%/33%

Lack of support from family members: 21%/20%/21%

Little or no helpful premarital education: 19%/29%/24%

Other: 17%/28%/22%

Religious differences between partners: 13%/16%/15%

Domestic violence: 6%/37%/22%

The table clearly reveals what Utahns who have experienced divorce perceive: that the lack of commitment was the number one contributing factor to their divorces. Commitment often involves making one’s partner and relationship a priority, investing in the marriage, and having a long-term view of the relationship.

That’s why the most important issue in marriage needs to be the couple’s focus on the quality of their relationship.

Couples like Mordechai and Chani are a perfect example of a relationship that had migrated onto the back burner. And, as I predicted, after several weeks of counseling, it became apparent that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with this young couple. Neither was particularly high on “control.” Neither of them had a history of serious emotional illness. And both came from parents who were happily married.

Mordechai and Chani needed to learn more about how to negotiate their emotions, how to communicate in a more effective way, and how to begin to recommit to their relationship.

Rabbi Reveals ‘Relationship Theory,’ his Secret to a Happy Marriage

Friday, September 7th, 2012
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Are you looking for emotional first aid for your marriage? If you are, you’re not alone. Today, engaged couples, newlyweds and couples who have been married for years are feeling insecure about their relationships and looking for advice on how to make their marriages work better or simply to heal their relationship wounds.

It’s no surprise that people are feeling unsure about the state of marriage in America. Take the latest studies on divorce. A 1999 study called The Effects of Divorce In America showed a significant increase in divorce over the last seven decades. The report found that:

“In 1935, there were 16 divorces for each 100 marriages. By 1998, the number had risen to 51 divorces per 100 marriages.” In addition, “over a twenty year period the number of divorced Americans rose from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.”

The statistics speak for themselves: relationships in America are in trouble and, as a society we are experiencing more divorce and dysfunction than ever before.

The good news is that I believe that most marriages can work. Often, all they need is a little guidance and direction, and when necessary, a bit of first aid.

It is true that the Torah community does not share these same statistics; our marriages tend to last longer and the viability of Jewish marriage is one of the great examples of the power and the wisdom of the Torah. However, over the last few years, we are beginning to see a new trend. Not a month will pass by when we don’t hear about a young couple getting divorced. The fact is, thirty years ago, “divorce” was an almost unspoken word in the Torah community. Today, divorce is becoming more common and we may be viewing the beginning of a new and dangerous trend. As a case in point, a colleague of mine recently mentioned to me that he stopped giving engagement gifts and preferred to wait until the couple took the final steps to the chuppah! These are signs that relationships are becoming harder to solidify and more difficult to maintain.

In today’s turbulent times, the entire notion of relationships is at risk, and the current tidal wave of divorce is causing a significant amount of anxiety. Worse, as skepticism about relationships grows, couples are becoming wary of promises that, “things will just work out” and “love will conquer all.” Many are willing to try just about anything to know for certain whether their marriage will succeed. In fact, some are so desperate for iron-clad assurances about their relationships, that they are willing to spend hours searching online for articles on marriage, participating in forums, and even taking illusive five minutes quizzes that promise to see if they have found their “true love.”

Here’s an ad I saw for one such dubious website: “Doubting if the person you are with is a right one for you? These tests and quizzes will help you to disclose his or her true essence.”

And that was just one site. There are so many others online that promise answers about romantic compatibility, how to know if you have found your soul mates, how much you have in common, and whether your love will last forever. It’s easy to get sucked into the appealing veneer of these quick and easy answers that aren’t based on fact or sound judgment.

Take Yossi, 25, and Deborah, 22, a young couple that came to talk with me about their fears of marriage and their inability to build a meaningful relationship. When they first walked into my office I was struck by how well they appeared – at least on the outside. They were in the prime of their lives, well dressed, soft spoken and well educated. Yossi was a systems analyst for a software company, and Deborah was a graduate student who had just started her first year in a master’s degree program in psychology.

Yossi, it turned out, was having difficulty deciding to get married. Deborah was scared that Yossi couldn’t make up his mind and that he was unable to commit to a stable relationship.

Yossi had other concerns about marrying Deborah. He was uneasy about the negative vibes he was receiving from what he described as Deborah’s “well-to-do” family. He was sensing that they would be unwilling to support them while Deborah was still in graduate school, and he was worried that he couldn’t carry the financial burden alone.

The Secret To A Happy Marriage

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Are you looking for emotional first aid for your marriage? If you are, you’re not alone. Today, engaged couples, newlyweds and couples who have been married for years are feeling insecure about their relationships and looking for advice on how to make their marriages work better or simply to heal their relationship wounds.

It’s no surprise that people are feeling unsure about the state of marriage in America. Take the latest studies on divorce. A 1999 study called The Effects of Divorce In America showed a significant increase in divorce over the last seven decades. The report found that:

“In 1935, there were 16 divorces for each 100 marriages. By 1998, the number had risen to 51 divorces per 100 marriages.” In addition, “over a twenty year period the number of divorced Americans rose from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.”

The statistics speak for themselves: relationships in America are in trouble and, as a society we are experiencing more divorce and dysfunction than ever before.

The good news is that I believe that most marriages can work. Often, all they need is a little guidance and direction, and when necessary, a bit of first aid.

It is true that the Torah community does not share these same statistics; our marriages tend to last longer and the viability of Jewish marriage is one of the great examples of the power and the wisdom of the Torah. However, over the last few years, we are beginning to see a new trend. Not a month will pass by when we don’t hear about a young couple getting divorced. The fact is, thirty years ago, “divorce” was an almost unspoken word in the Torah community. Today, divorce is becoming more common and we may be viewing the beginning of a new and dangerous trend. As a case in point, a colleague of mine recently mentioned to me that he stopped giving engagement gifts and preferred to wait until the couple took the final steps to the chuppah! These are signs that relationships are becoming harder to solidify and more difficult to maintain.

In today’s turbulent times, the entire notion of relationships is at risk, and the current tidal wave of divorce is causing a significant amount of anxiety. Worse, as skepticism about relationships grows, couples are becoming wary of promises that, “things will just work out” and “love will conquer all.” Many are willing to try just about anything to know for certain whether their marriage will succeed. In fact, some are so desperate for iron-clad assurances about their relationships, that they are willing to spend hours searching online for articles on marriage, participating in forums, and even taking illusive five minutes quizzes that promise to see if they have found their “true love.”

Here’s an ad I saw for one such dubious website: “Doubting if the person you are with is a right one for you? These tests and quizzes will help you to disclose his or her true essence.”

And that was just one site. There are so many others online that promise answers about romantic compatibility, how to know if you have found your soul mates, how much you have in common, and whether your love will last forever. It’s easy to get sucked into the appealing veneer of these quick and easy answers that aren’t based on fact or sound judgment.

Take Yossi, 25, and Deborah, 22, a young couple that came to talk with me about their fears of marriage and their inability to build a meaningful relationship. When they first walked into my office I was struck by how well they appeared – at least on the outside. They were in the prime of their lives, well dressed, soft spoken and well educated. Yossi was a systems analyst for a software company, and Deborah was a graduate student who had just started her first year in a master’s degree program in psychology.

Yossi, it turned out, was having difficulty deciding to get married. Deborah was scared that Yossi couldn’t make up his mind and that he was unable to commit to a stable relationship.

Yossi had other concerns about marrying Deborah. He was uneasy about the negative vibes he was receiving from what he described as Deborah’s “well-to-do” family. He was sensing that they would be unwilling to support them while Deborah was still in graduate school, and he was worried that he couldn’t carry the financial burden alone.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 12: Hodel

Friday, September 7th, 2012

It was impossible to tell which thought gave Tevye more happiness. The thought of stepping foot in Jerusalem, or the thought of seeing his Hodel again. True, Hodel was his own flesh and blood. She was like a little piece of his Golda. Hadn’t he listened to his wife’s painful groans through eight excruciating hours of childbirth? Hadn’t he cradled the girl in his arms when nightmares disturbed her sleep? With pride and with great fatherly joy, he had watched her grow from a tot into a woman. And how empty and heartbroken he had felt when she rode off on a train to follow her Perchik into exile. But Jerusalem – Jerusalem was more than a child. Jerusalem was more than a man’s family. Jerusalem was a dream. It was more than a dream. Who ever thought that the dream of Jerusalem could ever come true?

How could it be, you ask? How could it be that a city which Tevye had never seen could occupy such a powerful place in his heart? For a Jew, the answer was simple. For two-thousand years, three times a day, Jews prayed to return to their city. After every meal, after every piece of bread, and every piece of cake, they prayed for Jerusalem’s welfare. No matter where a Jew lived, the city of Jerusalem was to be the center of his life. It was the place where the Pascal lamb was to be eaten on the Passover holiday, and where first fruits were brought on Shavuos. There, by the pool of Shiloach, joyous water celebrations were held on Sukkos. It was the site of the ancient Temple, the Beis HaMikdash, may it soon be rebuilt. It was the place where the Sanhedrin declared the new months, and where the High Priest atoned for the nation on Yom Kippur. There, the miracle of Hanukah had occurred when the Maccabees had won their great victory over the Greeks. For Jews all over the world, each day started with the hope – perhaps this was the day that God would rescue them from their exile in foreign lands and bring them back to Jerusalem.

But the dream of his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before them, and all of his grandfathers all the way back to Abraham wasn’t to come true for the moment. They only had use of the JCA wagon for a week, so the ascent up the mountains leading to Jerusalem would have to be postponed so that they could make the three-day journey up north to the kibbutz where Hodel was living.

With tears in her eyes, Ruchel kissed her sister Tzeitl goodbye. Tzeitl seemed so frail and so thin, Ruchel feared that she might never see her big sister again, God forbid. For weeks now, Tzeitl hardly touched any food, and the weight she lost had hollowed her cheeks. Her cough clung to her like a menacing shadow, and her always hopeful smile seemed more to comfort others, so as not to cause her family anguish. The sisters hugged without looking too deeply into each other’s eyes. Ruchel kissed Hava, Bat Sheva, and gave the children big squeezes. Then she turned toward her father. The time had come to return to Rishon so that Nachman could assume his new position as melamed, teaching in the Talmud Torah. Tevye wore a big happy grin. If he had done one good thing in his life, it was bringing Ruchel to the chuppah to marry Nachman. Not that the match had been so much his doing, but it showed that he had succeeded in educating his daughter along the right path. Married to Nachman, she would always live a life of tradition. So even if they were setting off on their own for Rishon LeZion, away from the rest of the family, Tevye felt happy and confident that he was entrusting his girl to a God-fearing man who loved her with all of his heart.

“Remember, Abba,” she called from the wagon, using the Hebrew expression for father. “Tell Hodel and Perchik that we are expecting them to come visit us soon.”

Though Shmuelik and Hillel wanted to accompany their childhood friend, Nachman, he advised them to wait until he could arrange permission for them to join the already established yishuv. Though he was skeptical about his chances of persuading Dupont, he felt the resourceful Aharon might be able to help. In the meantime, they agreed to travel with Tevye. The decision required no forceful persuasion – both of them nurtured a secret attraction for Bat Sheva, Tevye’s fiery, plum-cheeked daughter. Though she hardly glanced at them, each had high hopes.

A Tale Of Two Friends

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Dear Readers

The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it?

Below is a fictional illustration of this human foible – focusing on the perceived benefits in another person’s life while failing to appreciate your own.

A Tale Of Two Friends

Suri looked at the full-length, wall-to-wall mirror that some thoughtful contractor -who must have had daughters – had installed in the ladies’ room of the wedding hall. It was quite insightful of him to have done that, as if he knew all too well that the friends and close relatives of the chossan and kallah who were marching down to the chuppah needed a full head to toe view of them-self before they were put on public display.

Especially the single girls – who needed to make the best possible impressions on the ladies among the assembled guests who dabbled in shidduchum, or who had eligible sons in the parsha. And if you were an “older” single of 25 like she was – and your 20-year-old sister was the kallah, – it was extremely crucial that you look your best.

Most importantly, the smile you affixed on your face had to look genuine, not plastered on, and had to radiate confidence and joy.

In other words, Suri had to make sure that the sadness and sense of failure that permeated her inner core did not show. She had to look cheerful and gracious when the inevitable onslaught of “im yirtzeh Hashem by you” and “maybe you are too picky” comments, would assail her. By looking proud and assured, perhaps the pitying looks would not accompany these well-meaning, but nonetheless painful remarks.

Squaring her shoulders and holding her head high, Suri walked out of the room with a smile on her face that would have have made any actress proud.

Several hours later, a very tired and emotionally drained Suri gratefully entered her room, threw off her sweat-stained gown and collapsed in her bed. She had managed to keep her composure despite the fact that she silently “heard” the word nebach attached to every mazal tov she was greeted with.

The wedding of course, had been beautiful, her sister dazzling and her mother had been radiant with relief – one less single daughter to worry about.

Some of the guests, her mother had confided on the way home, had approached her with suggestions, and hopefully, a few would actually follow through on them. Suri had told her not to get too excited; that they were probably men whom people expected her to be grateful for the opportunity to date.

After hitting 24, well-meaning but clueless people, had tried to set her up with men who were totally inappropriate for her – the widely held belief in the community being that anything was better than nothing. Divorced men with kids who were in high school when she was born, and men with obvious physical and emotional challenges were being redt to her. And she was chastised as being “picky”!

Too wound up to sleep, Suri let her mind wander. She enviously thought of her best friend Miriam. Everything seemed to have fallen in her lap. She had been introduced to her future husband during her seminary year when both were Shabbat guests of the rav and rebbetzin who were their respective teachers.

Without out the slightest effort, Miriam had found her zivug and shortly after returning home, had gotten engaged. She was barely 19 when she married and 20 when she gave birth to her bochur Avi, who was joined in quick succession by a sister and brother. Suri loved her best friend and was truly happy that marriage and motherhood had come to her so effortlessly. Go figure, she had even had mazal with the genders of her kids – a boy and a girl back to back – and she was expecting again. Suri thought of her father’s cousin who had just had her fourth girl and the sliver of disappointment that her husband must have felt – as much as he embraced this new bracha in his family.

Miriam had never had to experience the horrible pressure and relentless stress that she herself was under. From being tastefully dressed, made up and coiffed every time she stepped out of the house – even just to mail a letter, “in case someone sees you,” her mother would admonish. Then there were the hours in front of the mirror spent getting ready for a date, knowing that all that effort would be a waste of time, trapped into making and listening to small talk ad nauseum because, though from the start she knew the guy wasn’t shaich, “you never know – sometimes when you meet it just clicks.”

My Big Fat Jewish Wedding

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

צאנז 111 from bhol on Vimeo.

Not being a Chasid of his (or Chasid of any kind) I don’t really know much about the Munkatcher Rebbe. But if he is like most other Chasidic Rebbes, he will have a huge blowout of a wedding next Monday for his grandson – similar to the one in the above video for the Sanzer Rebbe. The size of those crowds are comparable to those of Presidential inaugurations. Crowds numbering 10,000 people are not uncommon. An article in Matzav.com adds:

The chuppah will take place on the promenade in front of the shul on an especially erected elevated chuppah to ensure that all participants can see and hear all that transpires.

Following the chuppah, special buses will ferry the throngs of chasidim to the cavernous Palace Ballrooms on McDonald Avenue where the celebration will continue. During the meal, thousands of chasidim and well-wishers will have the opportunity to personally wish mazal tov to the Rebbe and mechutanim.

Whenever I see one of these events, I am reminded on the so called “Wedding Takanos”. These were guidelines established by members of the Agudah Moetzes (but not officially by the Moetzes themselves if I understand correctly) in order to combat a phenomenon where tons of money and resources are spent on lavish affairs.  They include*:

The Wedding:Typical families may only seat up to 400 invited guests at the seudah. The kabbolat panim smorgasbord should be limited to basic cakes, fruit platters, a modest buggest (sic), and the caterer’s standard chicken or meat hot dishes. The seuda menu is limited to three coures (sic) plus a regular dessert.

No Viennese table. No bar.

The Music:A band should consist of a maximum of 5 musicians or four plus vocalist. Recommended: a one man band.

Flowers and Chupa Decor: Total cost should not exceed $1,800. It is one thing when wealthy people have a lavish wedding. But the “Keeping up with the Cohens and Katzes” factor has caused some people who cannot afford it to do the same thing. They borrow money –sometimes putting second mortgages on their homes just to have that lavish wedding for their own children. And ‘prove to the world’ how successful they are. All that debt for keeping up an image – and one day of fun!

Contrast this with the tuition crisis. The parents who go into huge debt to make lavish weddings for their children are the same parents who ask for – and receive scholarships based on their actual income.

I need not go into the details of how unfair that is to schools whose huge budgets go mostly to pay teachers. Teachers that deserve to be paid a lot more than they actually are paid. These budgets require huge tuition bills which are more or less based on a cost per child basis to the school. A typical Orthodox family with four children will generate a tuition bill of at least $40,000 per year and a lot more in many schools.

Most people do not earn enough to pay that kind of after-tax money and require scholarship assistance. Thus placing a burden on the school to raise enough the difference between what parents pay and what they should pay. In many cases fundraising goals are not, putting schools in to debt. Year after year of accumulating debt in order to just meet the payroll obligations to their underpaid teachers.

One can easily see the absurdity and gross unfairness of parents borrowing money way over their heads to pay for a lavish wedding (just to keep up with the Katzes) who have in the past asked for and gotten scholarship assistance.

Although these wedding Takanos are well intentioned, I’m not sure they have been all that effective. Which means that there are still people borrowing money for weddings they can’t really afford.

As an aside I have never been a fan of these Takanos because I believe that wealthy people have a right to spend their money as they choose provided they meet all their financial obligations. And the wealthy people I know do meet their obligations and a lot more. The problem is with those who are not wealthy but for some reason feel the need to project that image. If a Takana could be made so that the wealthy would not be affected, I might support it. But Takanos don’t work that way.

How To Throw A Party

Friday, August 17th, 2012

For my upcoming birthday, instead of waiting for my friends or my husband to make me a “surprise” party, I decided to throw one myself. I settled on a cozy and intimate evening, celebrating my birthday with professional cake decorating and fruity cocktails with my nearest and dearest. But as with every gathering I plan, things started to get out of control. At first, I just planned on inviting my sisters, my sister-in-law and a couple of friends. But how could I leave out friends I haven’t seen for a while, neighbors whom I chat with daily, and co-workers whom I spend more time with then my own husband and children? The guest list was trembling at over forty invites and my expense budget was beyond what I normally spend on a three-day yom tov. It was time for some quality-control.

First, I narrowed in on what I really wanted for my birthday, which was to celebrate the day in a meaningful fashion. I had recently finished reading the beautiful biography of Rebbetzin Kanievsky. Hafrashat challah was very important to Rebbetzin Kanievsky and she was particular to do the mitzvah not just every week, but even every day, when she would go down to a nearby bakery and take challah from there. On Thursday, she would host groups of women who would answer amein to her brocha. I was inspired to follow her example, but the few times I made challah, no one would eat it.

Thankfully, a good friend of mine, Soshie, is a culinary graduate of the Arts Institute of New York, and breads have always been her thing. Although she now works as a physician’s assistant, she was willing to give a demonstration on the proper way to make challah and how to flavor the dough with herbs, cinnamon and sugar, onions, roasted tomatoes or garlic, etc. Afterwards, we could all make the brocha together.

The decision to do specialty challot cut out the need to hire a professional cake decorator, and eliminated the need to provide a spread of food and buy chic paper goods. After all, if everyone’s hands are busy kneading dough, they can’t quite sit down and sample different salads and hoers devours. Instead, I served iced decaf coffee and tea, and just a few platters of candies and cookies.

There was this great idea in Real Simple magazine by Michelle Slatalla to reduce an overloaded guest list. You take the list of people and divide them into categories, i.e. neighbors, co-workers, friends, children’s friends, etc. If you want to invite one person from a category, everyone gets invited. To minimize hurt feelings, consider where the categories overlap, like in a Venn diagram. The concept was brilliant, but unfortunately for me, all my categories overlapped. I couldn’t figure out how to cut any group out, so instead I set the party at a time that would be most convenient for me and Soshie, but not necessarily for others. This way, I figured girls would come only if they really wanted too.

One week before the party, I made the cookies and froze them. Three days before, I went shopping. Two days before, I made sure there were sufficient clean chairs and tables in the house and confirmed the RSVPs. The day before, I cleaned the house. That afternoon, knowing my kids will never stay upstairs in their beds while there’s a party going on, I had them bathed and dressed them in their cutest pajamas and then I let them help me prepare the drinks and platters and set the table.

The party was called for seven and my guests began to arrive at 7:30. Being that it was quite a diverse group of women the challah demonstration was a great icebreaker. The demonstration was superbly done and sorely needed. Apparently, I’m not the only woman who wasn’t endowed with the gift of baking underneath the chuppah. Who knew that the need to proof yeast is only for dry yeast that may have expired and by using fresh yeast, you can save yourself ten minutes or so. It was fascinating to watch Soshie swirl the mixture with one hand as she added the wet ingredients followed by the dry. She poured, without measuring, about two thirds of the recommended amount of flour, and then let the dough rest and form together. I used those ten minutes to speak about the spiritual and unifying factors of making dough and then gave the stage back to Soshie. She continued to add flour until the dough was solid, but still slightly wet and sticky. “Know your dough,” Soshie admonished us, and indeed we were becoming quite familiar with it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/for-the-home/how-to-throw-a-party/2012/08/17/

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