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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Better’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Dear Rachel, 

This year, just as my children were eagerly anticipating the Chanukah gifts they would be receiving, my wife was busy contemplating a beautiful vase she had just received from an acquaintance, whom we occasionally have over for dinner.

When I questioned her preoccupation with the gift, (she was turning it this way and that, as though expecting something to fall out of it), she said she was pretty sure it had been re-gifted (meaning the giver had received it from someone else and had decided for whatever reason to give it away). My wife says it should have had some sort of sticker at the bottom and that the box it was wrapped in did not fit properly.

I didn’t see a problem if it was re-gifted, but my wife seemed to take it as though someone had unloaded an unwanted item on her.

All of this recalled an incident that occurred when I was about twelve years old. We lived in Montreal, Quebec and had baruch Hashem a wonderful childhood — notwithstanding the anti-Semitism in the neighborhood, being children affected by the holocaust syndrome and at the mercy of somewhat broken-down, battle-weary rabbis trying to teach us the art of frumkeit. Yet, all in all it was a normal life.

Erev Pesach came around and my aunt and cousins would be coming over for the Sedorim. (My uncle had passed away at a very young age, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves.) They would always bring us presents; nothing elaborate, just a gift, like some new toy. But the mere expectation was delightful.

We were taking our forced afternoon Erev Pesach nap (in order to be able to stay up for the Seder) when the bell rang. We knew the presents were here. But this time around they brought me a toy that I remember being disappointed in. I never even opened the packaging and placed it in a drawer in my room.

Weeks later a close friend had a birthday coming up and I thought, “Hey, why not re-gift? It’s still in the original packaging; he will love it.” Meanwhile my young mind was rationalizing: if he will love it, if it is a cool fun toy, then why was I disappointed enough to reject it?

There I was, holding the gift in my hand, questioning my great idea to give it away and wondering if maybe I should keep it for myself. I guess it was a two-fold lesson: one, that we should appreciate everything – especially gifts, and two, that giving to someone was a great feeling and the right thing to do.

I tried explaining this to my wife. To get a gift, I reasoned, to truly appreciate it and to thank the person giving it to you is first and foremost, but then to be so selfless as to be able to give to another, now that is a beautiful thing.

Sure, it may seem callous to give away a gift someone gave you, so each scenario should be examined on its own merit; after all, you don’t want to be offending anyone who might see it as a lack of appreciation. So how do we make one another appreciate the fact that it’s the actual giving and receiving that is the real gift, and that loving the vase or toy or car seat warmer is secondary?

Sometimes it is nobler to re-gift if you do so to make someone happy, especially if that person is having a rough life, G-d forbid, and is in need of some TLC. This then becomes the power of friendship and chesed and true appreciation of the act of giving, not the actual utilization of the gift.

I say rise to the occasion and re-gift. (My wife still has this look on her face that says I haven’t convinced her.)

Better to give than to receive  

Dear Better,

It is the giver’s pretense of having gone to the trouble and expense of buying something for the specific occasion that makes the recipient uneasy. When realization dawns that the present is a re-gifted one, the personal element falls away and the receiver is left feeling as your wife does — that she was used as a receptacle for the disposal of another’s undesired item.

Weren’t you, as a 12-year old, about to do the same when you instinctively reached for the gift you felt you had no use for, which had been left to languish in a drawer? It was only when you anticipated your friend’s excitement at receiving it that you had second thoughts about its value.

Nonetheless, your argument is a convincing one. A gift should be considered as precisely that – a gift. It’s not an item asked for or earned, and the recipient should appreciate and acknowledge the giver’s generosity. After all is said and done, if someone were to give me something of theirs that they know I’ve admired and would love to own, I’d certainly be touched.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/23/10

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Dear Rachel,

In response to “Unfaithfully yours” – I am the woman he cheated with.

To give you some background: I am a totally “normal” girl, grew up in a pretty happy home and have no childhood baggage. I was always pretty, confident, smart and popular. I got married in my early 20′s to a wonderful guy, enjoyed a happy marriage and had no problem getting pregnant and having four wonderful, healthy kids. I am not lonely or unhappy, and if you knew me you’d think me the LEAST likely person to fall into something like this. I really had (and have) it all going for me.

I am also very into boundaries when dealing with other men, having always made it a point not to become too friendly with my husband’s friends or men in shul. I also know I have a very flirty side, so I was always careful to keep that in check. So how did someone like me get into this?

I was at a friend’s house for Shabbos and someone mentioned a website for married people interested in cheating on their spouses. I was horrified, but out of curiosity I logged on to check it out. Within a few days, “Unfaithfully yours” contacted me. Curiosity led to a little flirting, which led to hours of online chats, and then an actual meeting.

Before I knew it, I was completely engulfed in this crazy relationship. It brought out this crazy side of me that I didn’t know was there. Of course I knew it was wrong and I felt guilty, but the fun and craziness of it all was just too good to give up. As hard as it is to believe, he really is a nice, good guy, a very caring husband and father, and someone who people just really like.

We were “loyal” to each other, exclusively doing this with only one another. I am not rationalizing, just explaining how it all came about. Our relationship was way beyond physical; we became very close friends. We told each other things we would never dare tell our close friends or even our spouses.

On several occasions, my guilt got the better of me and I tried to break up with him, but he was very persuasive and we always got back together. I tried so hard and so often to really end it, but because I could not confide in anyone, I had no support system and it never worked. I even ended up becoming friendly with his wife because our families spent time together! That’s how sick and distorted this whole thing was.

Yes, I am talking past tense. That’s because it’s over. Finally, one Friday night when I was lighting candles, I reached out to Hashem and asked Him to please help me somehow really end it. Let’s just say that VERY scary and freaky things happened that week. I made a vow that if I got through them, I would never do this again.

I know “Unfaithfully” is reading this and I REALLY hope he completely stays away this time and makes this easier for me. Let me tell all you ladies out there, DON’T DO IT. The few hours (or weeks, or months) of fun are NOT worth the hell of the after effects. I will NEVER look at my husband in the same way. I had always told him everything and now I have this crazy secret that I can NEVER share. There is also a halacha that if he were to ever find out, he would HAVE TO divorce me.

And you can never erase memories – which will now forever permeate my once holy marriage. When I look at my four beautiful children, I am stunned at how I could have placed their happiness and stable family life at risk.

I am lucky that he will never tell. When someone you are involved with would think of doing so, your life as you know it would be totally over! You should never trust yourself too much or underestimate the dangers of even just “chatting.”

If you met me, you would NEVER guess. I am the picture of a nice, happily married, stable good mother. These things don’t only happen to unhappy, lonely, miserable people – it happened to ME.

As for “Unfaithfully yours,” he really has rationalizations for his actions and hardly ever feels guilt, despite being a good, normal guy. If anyone feels they can get through to him and help change his ways, that would be a great thing. Putting him down will not lead to anything productive.

A note to husbands: Don’t give your wife too much freedom. I was able to get away with it because my husband NEVER asked questions. Ask why she’s dressing up, where she is so late, why she’s on the computer so late at night. Do it tactfully but ASK. And give your wife TONS of attention. In our almost ten years of marriage, my husband always has, but during the month I met “Unfaithfully” he was going through something and so I was more vulnerable than ever.

As for wives, OPEN YOUR EYES. Don’t assume that what your husband says is true. Be smart. Don’t let him feel like he can easily get away with it, and maybe he’ll think twice.

I hope that my letter will help others in a similar situation change their mind. I could have ruined my beautiful life.

Better late than never


Dear Better-late-than-never,

Thank you for letting us in on a nightmarish chapter of your once orderly, almost enviable, life. Your letter highlights the dangers of the Internet and of chatting with strangers – a vital message for parents to practice extra vigilance, especially with their children, in making sure that filters are installed and working.

One cannot help but take exception to your depiction of “a nice, good normal guy.” A wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps…?

We are indebted to you for your candor and are gratified that you have wrenched yourself free from a liaison that was playing havoc with your life and could have ended on a disastrous note for you and your loved ones.

Your experience moreover teaches that Hashem is never far away and awaits our outstretched hand. Wishing you much hatzlacha in maintaining your recovered level-headedness and may G-d grant you the pardon you seek and the strength to effectively deal with your emotional turmoil and all too vivid memories.

Confidential to Veil-Lifter, aka Unfaithfully yours: Instead of lending legitimacy to your actions, your further excuses and arguments – as elaborate as you seek to make them – actually accomplish the reverse. You can argue all you want about the mores of a “meaningful” versus a strictly physical relationship if they are extra-marital, taking place behind your spouse’s back, there is no quality to speak of for they become automatically disqualified in any sense whatsoever and can only be described in terms of invalidity, immorality and depravity.

You further cast aspersions on our society by citing incompetence among our leaders and the blight of corruption and abuse. We don’t live in a perfect world and clearly it is the duty of each and every one of us to strive to improve it in even the smallest of ways. Are you by any chance implying that two wrongs make a right ?

Tragically, your yetzer hora seems for now to have succeeded in completely distorting your perception of Godliness and truth, and the Torah advises even the most learned of men to be extra cautious when wrangling with a non-believer. To that end, we will play it safe and put the matter to rest, but not without first wishing you a refuah shelaima, a speedy recovery from the sickness that has, G-d help us, overtaken your better senses.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-239/2010/04/21/

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