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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

Improving One’s Mood

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

For the most part, my husband is a very good husband and father. He loves our children and will often go out of his way to make sure their needs are met. He is also loving and good to me. However, he often comes home with a very negative attitude. When he arrives home from work, he sees nothing good. He criticizes the children for not being in pajamas or for not finishing their homework. Even if he is right on both counts, he does not convey his criticism appropriately or at the right time.

When my husband comes home, he should be excited and happy to see the children and me. I want him to be positive and loving and to notice all the good things the children have done. I want my children to be excited when my husband comes home, and not want to go to their rooms as soon as possible. While I don’t blame the children for not wanting to be around when my husband is acting negatively, I wish my husband would be more positive so that the children would look forward to his return home. I do not think that they dread his coming home from work; however, they are definitely learning to stay away from him.

I know my husband works hard and wants time to relax after a long day. But the children miss him and want his attention. What can I do to help my husband come home with a happier attitude?


Dear Anonymous:

It is difficult to ascertain why your husband is coming home in such a bad mood. Perhaps he is hungry and tired from a long day at work and wants to relax a little when he gets home. Maybe he is experiencing a lot of stress at work and is bringing it home with him. Or it’s possible that he just grew up in this kind of home and is recreating what he went through. If your husband is simply tired or hungry, or just wants some time to relax when he comes home, you will be able to easily remedy your situation.

When he is calm and not hungry, you can explain to him, in a gentle and loving manner, that he seems to be coming home in a very bad mood. It may be something he doesn’t even realize is happening. Ask him why he thinks this is. If he says that he does not know, ask him if he is having a hard time at work or if he is extremely hungry or tired when he returns home. If he says that he is hungry, one solution may be to send an extra snack with him to work, so he does not come home with an empty stomach.

Making your husband aware of this – in a non-accusatory way – is a step in the right direction. If your husband becomes defensive, make sure to remain calm and tell him that you know that he is a great husband and father. Assure him that you want to help him feel better when he comes home.

Devising a plan that works for both of you is key. It would be ideal if your husband could think of a solution, as people are generally more invested in something when it is their idea. So, even if you originate the jointly accepted idea, try to make it seem as if he came up with it. If he expresses a liking to your suggestion, say to him, “What a great idea. I like how you thought of it.” And if your husband is not on board with your idea, then make every effort to jointly create a plan of positive action.

Attempt to explain to your husband how hard you try to have things organized during the hectic period before he gets home, and that you get nervous when he comes home feeling unhappy. Using an “I feel” message generally helps people not to become defensive, as it puts the “blame” on you and not on the other person. Thus, saying things like “I feel bad when you come home upset. I want you to be happy to come home and I want the children to feel good about the time they spend with you. What can I do to help make this time easier for you?” would be helpful. This will likely make it easier for your husband to explain to you what is going on with him at the present time, and it will help you arrive at a solution together. Also, this is generally more effective than saying something like, “Why do you always have to be in a bad mood when you come home? It is extremely annoying and obnoxious, and I want you to stop it!” These ineffective comments will probably lead to a fight, and although you may release your frustration you will likely feel worse afterward.

Dr. Yael Respler

Danny Danon: Remembering Shamir – The Integrity of ‘No’

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The people of Israel lost a true leader with the passing of Yitzhak Shamir. Before assuming the reins as our seventh prime minister, Shamir dutifully served his people and his country first as head of the underground Lehi, then in the Mossad where he was responsible for tracking down and eliminating some of our worst enemies including Nazi war criminals who had fled to Egypt, and finally in the political arena where he served as a Member and then Speaker of Knesset, Foreign Minister and finally Prime Minister after the resignation of his mentor Menachem Begin.

Upon the death of a loved one, we often take the time to look through the memory book of their life and search for the lessons that their legacy can teach us. In the case of Yitzhak Shamir, a multi-volume set of thick bound tomes might be more appropriate a metaphor. These books are filled with the earth of the whole land of Israel, and immersed in values and an understanding of our unique place in history. His spirit and his values are an inspiration to all of those who love this land, and especially to the members of his beloved Likud movement that strive to stay true to Shamir’s teachings.

You do not negotiate on your core ideology. This is what guided Shamir in his steadfast defense of the rights of the Jewish people to their historic homeland. In the years that he guided Israel’s foreign policy, he would not compromise on this basic tenet. In 1992, under intense pressure from the American administration, Shamir stood fast and made clear to the world that money cannot buy and replace values. He bravely rejected the US demand that he stop building in Judea and Samaria in return for loan guarantees. This money was very much needed to absorb our brothers who were then coming home from the former Soviet Union, but Shamir knew such an act on his behalf would create a slippery slope that would set a terrible precedent for the future leaders of Israel. Such a move on his behalf would have endangered his beloved settlement enterprise which he knew was invaluable for the future well-being of the State.

Shamir’s decisions and policies were not always popular or politically correct. There was no end of criticism both in Israel and form the international community. In fact, there were times when his refusal to abandon his core values probably cost him at the ballot box, such as when he lost to Yitzhak Rabin in the 1992 elections. Nevertheless, over time, his steadfastness disproved today’s assumption that you must be guided daily by opinion polls to obtain power, and then govern. Without ever abandoning his beliefs, Shamir was able to not only reach the highest office in the land, but he also ended up serving in office longer than any other prime minister since David Ben Gurion. Moreover, because of his intellectual honesty and core decency, since leaving office Shamir is admired by all Israelis – whatever their political persuasion – for the great leader that he was.

To better convey Shamir’s unique foresight and leadership capabilities, I must share a short story. In the early 1990s, while serving as a Betar emissary in the United States, I invited one of my childhood heroes to visit my host community. Yitzhak graciously agreed to come and speak at an event I had organized promoting Israel and aliyah. When he was asked for his opinion about the demographic threat that is so often raised, Shamir answered with full confidence that we must remain steadfast and work tirelessly to bring millions of Soviet Jews home to Israel. At that time, such a prediction seemed completely unrealistic and even a tad naïve. Nevertheless, Shamir’s analysis proved with time to be completely accurate and proved how important it is for a leader to remain true to his values. By believing and planning, one million Russians ultimately came to live in Israel, changing our core demographic reality forever.

That night, after he had finished addressing the group, I had the honor of spending an evening with the former Prime Minister. I was enthralled with his stories and life lessons, especially with his core conviction that a leader must truly believe in and be ready to defend his policies. If a leader does so, he told me, there is no need to worry about the criticism that will inevitably follow any brave decision.

Danny Danon

Chukas: Chastisement And Perfection

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Hashem criticized His holy nation relentlessly, yet Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that for 38 of Israel’s 40 years in the desert, Hashem expressed no criticism at all. Herein is a lesson in Israel’s greatness.

“And the sons of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin, in the first month” (20:1).

Thirty-eight years have elapsed since the episode of Korach. Miriam passed away in the first month of the fortieth year since the Exodus, Aharon passed away in the fifth month and Moshe passed away in Adar, the twelfth month (Megillah 13b).

From the preceding section of the parah adumah until now, no events or prophecies are recorded in the Torah, and by now all the generation of the episode of the meraglim have passed away (Rashi, lbn Ezra). No complaints are mentioned, and even by the very stern standards of Hashem no fault is found in the nation.

This lack of criticism is actually an immense encomium both for the old and for the new generation. In view of the supremely exalted standards required by Hashem, and considering the scathing criticism to which the generation had been so frequently subjected, the absence of any comment for this period of 38 years is actually a declaration of extraordinary commendation.

The severe chastisements proved a great blessing for this holy nation, for the people gained in greatness from each episode until they rose to the heights of perfection Bilaam recognized when he spoke the words of Hashem’s sublime approbation.

A great question arises: How can the psalm declare “Forty years have l quarreled with this generation; and they knew not My ways” (Tehillim 95:10)? For 38 of these 40 years not a word of criticism is written in the Torah, except in the episode of the daughters of Moab (25:1). Especially when we consider the words of Bilaam (23:8-4:9), this crushing expression of disapproval seems wholly unjustified.

It is clear that the Torah is written so as to serve as a stimulus to remorse and penitence forever. Just as the pious Jew beats his breast and recites on Yom Kippur a confession of a list of sins he had not committed, so also does our nation read the Torah contritely and flagellate its conscience for national sins which actually would be the pride and boast of any other people had they performed so few misdeeds as those for which Israel is castigated so severely.

“It is better for the righteous ones when Hashem shows His wrath in this world” (Shabbos 30a), and because of the stern disapproval shown to this greatest of all generations they became the most perfect in history. But all the castigations are merely the Face of Hashem. What actually was in the Mind of Hashem?

For the answer, we have recourse to the superlative declaration of Hashem’s eternal love, as enunciated by our archenemy Bilaam (23:7-24:17).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller

IMRA: Gestures To PA – But Keep The Gloves Off

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The current series of Israeli gestures could serve a vital role in enabling the Jewish State to keep the “ball” in the Palestinian “court” without being sucked into renewing the “settlement freeze”.

But making gestures should in no way be accompanied by a reconciliatory approach towards objectionable Palestinian behavior and Palestinian pronouncements.

Toning down criticism of the PA not only doesn’t serve the interests of Israel – it ultimately does not serve the interests of the Palestinians.

First, Israeli interests:

Israeli criticism of the PA serves both to highlight and emphasize the standard of behavior that we expect the Palestinians to meet while providing vital evidence that these standards are not being met.

The failure of the Palestinians to meet these standards can serve a critical role in justifying Israel’s final status requirements.

After all, if the Palestinians had honored Oslo – in particular the security elements of the agreement – we would be facing incredible pressure in final status talks to accept paper thin security arrangements.

The gross failure of the Palestinians to honor their security obligations makes “peace for piece of paper” a farce that no serious third party would even consider suggesting – let alone trying to impose.

But there are also Palestinian interests.

If you believe that the Palestinian leadership genuinely wants to implement a “two state solution” rather than a “two state stage” with the ultimate goal of destroying Israel then one would want to empower them to be able to honor their obligations.

And the best way to empower the Palestinian leadership is to put them in the position that they can point to the sharp criticism they suffer from for violations in order to justify compliance to their “street”.

For everyone’s best interests – let’s keep the gloves on.

Dr. Aaron Lerner

Rebuke: The Malpractice Of A Mitzvah

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

When the Torah mentions the obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew, it ends with the words, “and do not bear a sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17).

The Targum translates this as, “and do not receive a punishment for his sin.”

According to the Targum, it appears that if Reuven ate a ham sandwich and I didn’t rebuke him, I would be punished for his sin. This seems difficult to understand. Why should I be punished for his sin? At most, you might argue that if I was capable of rebuking him and didn’t, I would be responsible for the sin of not rebuking him. But how do I become responsible for the sin he perpetrated? He transgressed it; I didn’t.

The answer to this question is based on understanding the connection one Jew has to another.

The Kli Yakar brings a mashal. Imagine a man who is on an ocean voyage. One morning, he hears a strange rattling sound coming from the cabin next to his. As the noise continues, he becomes more and more curious, until finally, he knocks on his neighbor’s door. When the door opens, he sees that his neighbor is drilling a hole in the side of the boat.

“What are you doing?” the man cries.

“Oh, I’m just drilling,” the neighbor answers simply.


“Yes. I’m drilling a hole in my side of the boat.”

“Stop that!” the man says.

“But why?” asks the neighbor. “This is my cabin. I paid for it, and I can do what I want here.”

“No, you can’t! If you cut a hole in your side, the entire boat will go down.”

The nimshal is that the Jewish people is one entity. For a Jew to say, “What I do is my business and doesn’t affect anyone else,” is categorically false. My actions affect you, and your actions affect me – we are one unit. It is as if I have co-signed on your loan. If you default on your payments, the bank will come after me. I didn’t borrow the money but I am responsible. So too when we accepted the Torah together on Har Sinai, we became one unit, functioning as one people. If you default on your obligations, they come to me and demand payment. We are teammates, and I am responsible for your performance.

The Targum is teaching us the extent of that connection. What Reuven does directly affects me — not because I am nosy or a busybody, but because we are one entity, so much so that I am liable for what he does. If he sins and I could have prevented it, that comes back to me. A member of my team transgressed, and I could have stopped it from happening. If I did all that I could have to help him grow and shield him from falling, I have met my obligation and will not be punished. If, however, I could have been more concerned for his betterment and more involved in helping to protect him from harm and didn’t, I am held accountable for his sin.

This perspective is central to understanding why rebuke doesn’t work.

When Reuven goes over to Shimon and “gives it to him good,” really shows just what did wrong, the only thing accomplished is that now Shimon hates Reuvain.

To properly fulfill the mitzvah of tochacha, there are two absolute requirements. The first relates to attitude, the second to method.

What’s My Intention?

When I go over to my friend to chastise him, the first question I must ask myself is, “What is my intention?”

If my intention is to set him straight and stop him from doing a terrible sin, I will almost certainly fail. The only intention that fits the role of a successful mochiah is: “This is my friend; I am concerned for his good.”

If I am looking out for kavod Shamayaim, or if I am a do-gooder concerned for the betterment of the world, my words will accomplish the exact opposite of their intended purpose. I won’t succeed in separating my friend from the sin; I will only succeed in separating him from me. The first requirement for the proper fulfillment of tochacha is that it must be out of love and concern for my friend.

The second condition for tochacha to be effective has to with the way it is delivered. The Chofetz Chaim was once approached by a certain community leader who complained that no matter how much he reproached the people of his town, they didn’t listen. The Chofetz Chaim asked this person to describe how he went about rebuking his townspeople. The man described his method of yelling fiery words at them. The Chofetz Chaim asked him, “Tell me, when you put on tefillin, do you shout and carry on? Why do you feel the obligation to do so when you do this mitzvah?”

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Encouraging Without Pushing

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I recently lost my husband of 51 years, and I am very depressed. He was a true talmid chacham and a loving husband. Every morning when he was well, he went to shul early. He never missed a minyan and he learned every day. All his life he ran a business and, baruch Hashem, he worked hard and took excellent care of our children and me. I look at my grandsons and my grandsons-in-law and they don’t hold a candle to my husband. Even the children who learn in kollel are not as careful as my husband was about being on time for minyan.

Everyone seems too busy for me, and I feel very lonely. My daughter says that I am pushing the children and grandchildren away since I am too critical. Has anyone ever heard of constructive criticism? I want to help my children and grandchildren become better people. My friends’ children and grandchildren are always calling and visiting her. Mine come to see me, but they seem anxious to leave. My friend, who is really great to me, also tells me that I am too critical. She says I push my loved ones away with my remarks. What do you think?

Lonely Widow

Dear Lonely Widow:

Years ago I spoke in a Lubavitch community, where the rav at the time, Rabbi Sachs, expressed the brilliant thought that constructive criticism is an oxymoron. We all love to hear positive, loving things, but unfortunately some people tend to give more criticism than compliments.

Most people gravitate to those with a positive outlook. When I do marriage counseling I attempt to begin breaking the negative cycle by assigning this task to the couple: they must give each other at least three sincere compliments a day. This is generally difficult for them, but it begins to change the negative marital cycle. We can then evaluate more deeply the negative marital patterns that are destroying the relationship. Similarly, I advise generally critical people to be more positive and complimentary in an effort to break a negative cycle in their lives.

Your letter appears to reflect that you may be overly critical of your loved ones. Perhaps your daughter is correct, and you are distancing them from you by being critical. I am certain that your intentions are honorable, but think about this: Would you want to be around someone who is disapproving and critical of you, or would you rather be with someone who is positive and loving? Is it possible for you to share some of your concerns with your children and grandchildren in a more affectionate manner and with a soft, gentle tone? Remember that if we are generally loving and occasionally critical, our words have more validity.

It would be helpful if you asked yourself the following questions, as they may help in your self-examination: Do you criticize others, possibly subconsciously, in order to gain control in the relationship? Are you more critical when feeling insecure? Did your parents criticize you when you were a child? Do you feel that you show your love to those you care about?

Complimenting people is the easiest way to build someone’s confidence. Doing this makes you closer to the person and makes the person want to be closer to you. We can always find something good to say about someone. So the next time you see your children and grandchildren think about a compliment you can pay them, not necessarily one that can improve them. Of course we all want to improve our loved ones and ourselves, but people generally do not take well to criticism. True improvement comes from much love and statements phrased in a positive manner. As it is always hard for individuals to accept criticism, people are more likely to accept it if it comes from someone that they feel loves them and thinks highly of them.

You will not be able to help your children and grandchildren improve unless you build a positive relationship with them and they feel emotionally safe with you. They must understand that you have a high regard for them and that you only say something negative when it is important. Being consistently critical will get you nowhere because it is likely that no one will listen to your words. Most individuals in this kind of predicament generally tune out the negativity and become defensive when anything critical comes up. Thus the only way to have a good relationship with others is to work on being more positive and complimentary.

People cannot improve everything at once, so if something happens that you feel is important to mention, use a positive and loving manner to help the person improve. Give the person a compliment and then offer your opinion as to how this improvement can take place. For example, if one of your grandchildren is not speaking with derech eretz to his or her parents, you might say something like, “Honey, you are such an amazing child and I often see you go out of your way to do mitzvos. I am so proud of you. I am sure that you do not realize that the things you sometimes say or the way that you say it is not with the proper derech eretz. I know that you want to be respectful, so maybe this is something we can work on together. What do you think, my special grandchild?” This makes you sensitive to your grandchild’s feelings, while still getting your point across. This may still be difficult for your grandchild to accept, but at least he or she will not feel like staying away.

Dr. Yael Respler

The Academic Jihad Against Israel

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

In Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Dr. Richard Cravatts pulls no punches, relentlessly anatomizing the pedagogic bias currently in place, which is neo-Marxist in its orientation and undeniably anti-Jewish in its expression.

The university, he charges, is by and large no longer “a place where civility and reasoned scholarly discourse normally occurs,” given the “gradual ratcheting up of the level of acrimony against Israel and Zionism” and the Left’s insistence that such criticism, no matter how incendiary or libelous, “is no more than political commentary on the Jewish state.”

He furnishes a near- interminable list of “strident anti-Israel initiatives” that mar the intellectual life of the “liberal” and “humanistic” university, including academic boycotts of Israeli professors, the fostering of vociferous and occasionally violence-prone anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish Muslim student groups on campus, the furthering of divestment and disinvestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with them, and the shutting down of pro-Israel speakers.

Cravatts points to an influential 1965 essay by Herbert Marcuse, titled “Repressive Tolerance,” which planted the seed of political and epistemic subversion in the fertile soil of American academia. “Purporting to endorse freedom of expression for all,” Cravatts writes, the essay instead reserved “that right, in actual practice, only to favored groups.” The program “could only be accomplished…by favoring ‘partisan’ speech to promote ‘progressive’ or revolutionary change,” which would be, in Marcuse’s phrase, “intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo.” By the latter, Marcuse meant classical liberal thought with its emphasis on tradition, individual autonomy, civic responsibility and limited government.

Our contemporary Marcusians have learned their lesson well. In this way, the door was opened for the delivery of mendacious doctrines from post-colonial fanatics and postmodern destabilizers like Edward Said and Michel Foucault who have done so much damage to the principles of intellectual honesty and objective study on which the university is presumably founded.

Marcuse, a leading member of the left-wing Frankfurt School, clearly drew his inspiration from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, whom Cravatts does not mention but whose spirit pervades current “humanistic” thought. The godfather of the current mob of academic gangsters, Heidegger was appointed rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933, using his considerable reputation to further the Nazi supremacist dogma. For Heidegger, the function of the university was to provide what he called, in his Rector’s Address, “service to knowledge” as an obligation to the National Socialist state, that is, to entrench a species of politicized education – in this case, the absurd theories of National Socialism, the restriction of free expression, and, ultimately, a lethal campaign against the country’s and the continent’s Jewish inhabitants.

The current academic campaign against Jews and Israel, expressed in the condemnation of Israel as an apartheid and occupying regime engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, is merely an updated and partially laundered variant of the German original. It is a palpable lie masquerading as an apodictic truth supported by fraudulent research and revisionist infatuations. The invention or suppression of facts and the propagation of fictitious memes and venomous tropes have become the liberal academy’s stock in trade.

I should indicate that Cravatts’s subject has been addressed before by several erudite and committed writers who have lobbied to clean up the latrine of higher education in America. David Horowitz in such books as Indoctrination U and Reforming our Universities, Gary Tobin et al. in The Uncivil University (referenced several times by Cravatts), and Stephen Norwood’s chilling The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower expose the academic Left’s growing rapprochement with tyrannical doctrines and especially with the metastasizing Islamic movement, such rapprochement constituting a symptom of its abdication from founding principles and the betrayal of its mandate.

* * * * *

There is no doubt that the natural corollaries of the narrow, deformed and prejudicial temper prevailing in academia are anti-Jewish odium and anti-Israel denunciation. The two are indissolubly linked. Loading “cruel and destructive invective on Zionism,” says Cravatts, the professors are in reality “promulgating vile, disproportionate opprobrium that frequently shows its true face as raw anti-Semitism.”

Norwood, for his part, reveals how Harvard, Yale and Columbia during the 1930s embraced or were sympathetic to the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. Today, as Cravatts amply demonstrates, the educational establishment cultivates an equally comprehensive sympathy for Islamofascist themes, curricula and organizations. Third-rate thinking, ignorance, ingratitude, chicanery and political indoctrination have become the mainstays of the Humanities, Middle East Studies programs and misnamed Social Sciences departments.

As an instance of such dissembling, Cravatts directs our attention to a BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) manual, Fighting the New Apartheid: A Guide to Campus Divestment from Israel, authored by Palestinian-born Fayyad Sbaihat of the University of Wisconsin, in which we read that the divestment campaign should avoid “debating facts on the ground.” In order for the BDS agenda to be successful, “Israel must be characterized as a pariah state” regardless of “specific events and facts [which] can prove illusive when one attempts to build a case around them.”

David Solway

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