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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Friend’

Balancing Respect And Reality

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael: My friend comes from a comfortable, balabatish home in the New York vicinity, and is married to an out-of-town boy from a very wealthy family. During the first few years of their marriage, the young couple managed to juggle visits to both sets of parents for the Yamim Tovim and bein ha’zemanim. As the family grew larger and the grandchildren got older, the amount of time they had to spend with either side of the family became more limited. However, the out-of-town parents would not agree to fewer visits. They felt that since they were still financially supporting them they were entitled to the bulk of the visits. The schedule of their son’s learning, the grandchildren’s yeshiva and their daughter-in-law’s work were disregarded. During all this time my friend’s parents were always supportive and helpful – but never demanding.

The young couple tried to keep shalom and travel out of town as often as possible, but felt that their efforts were not appreciated and that their visits were never enough. While it is obvious to me that some intervention is necessary, the young couple is reluctant to inflict pain and is uncertain as to how to approach the parents about their situation.

Perhaps you can discuss their problem in your column (the parents are regular readers), thus opening the door for a frank family discussion.

Thank you in advance. I am sure your positive input will help their situation. A Friend

Dear Friend: It is difficult for a couple to be put in this predicament.

Since this young couple is still financially dependent on the husband’s parents, they may feel uncomfortable having a frank discussion about this matter with them.

Unfortunately, money sometimes comes with strings attached. But it’s possible that these parents would expect these visits even if they did not support their son and his family. When parents live away from their children and grandchildren, they treasure the time spent together.

Is it possible for the parents to come to the New York area and stay nearby? Perhaps the children would enjoy these visits more, especially if they were able to minimize the work involved.

The best way for the couple to handle the situation is to speak to the parents directly – in a respectful, loving manner. If your friend and her husband tell his parents that they love them very much and appreciate all of their help, and then present ideas on how to deal with the scheduling issues, the parents may get some solace.

Another way to make the parents feel more valued is to call often, write letters and cards (especially from the children), and to try to maintain a close connection.

The message these parents need to get is that they are loved and appreciated. Additionally, though time constraints and work/school pressures may limit the children’s visits, the children must find ways to show their deep love and hakaras hatov. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Yael: As a reader of all of your columns on hakaras hatov, here are my feelings as a child with loving parents.

My husband and I both come from good homes. Both sets of parents support us as my husband is learning in kollel. But my in-laws, who are much wealthier than my parents, give exactly the amount that they agreed to while my parents tend to give us more.

I realize that in life, it is not what is in one’s pocketbook that counts, but what is in one’s heart. Somehow generous people find a way to give more money, time and love to others – even when they have less money and/or time.

No one is obligated to give me and my husband any money, but as a young kollel couple, the support is needed and greatly appreciated. I do not, chas v’shalom, want to sound ungrateful to my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but in some way they make me and my husband feel that they are giving us money out of obligation. As I have gotten older, I have recognized that while many of my friends and I sought to marry boys from affluent homes, this was a misguided ambition. I am, Baruch Hashem, very happily married, and have come to realize that money and material things do not make a person happy. Rather, having someone who is caring and willing to give is paramount to true happiness.

I hope that young single men and women are reading this column, so that they can look for the right things in a potential spouse. I was lucky enough to have found an amazing husband, even at a time when I was swept up in materialism. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not as lucky and they regret having looked for the wrong things in shidduchim. I know now that all of my jewelry and clothes cannot take the place of a loving and giving relationship.

A Little Bit More Sensitivity

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I am writing you regarding a situation I have come to realize is much more common among couples than people realize. The subject is infertility. My husband and I have been married fifteen years and have had serious medical problems having children from the start of our marriage.

The physical, emotional, and financial stress infertility has put on our marriage and on our lives has been enormous. I am not writing to complain. Rather, I’m writing because, unfortunately, time and again I have had to deal with very hurtful and foolish comments.

For example, I’ve been asked many times by people who thought they were making polite conversation, “How many children do you have?”

Why assume a married couple has children? This is not always so, and to have to say, “Oh, I have no children” is simply awful.

Then there are people to whom G-d has given a gift – they are able to have children easily, naturally, and as often as they want. Some of these people think this makes them experts on the subject of fertility, and they freely give out unsolicited advice on how to get pregnant.

One of these “experts” even said to me with great conviction, “Oh, these days everything can be corrected to achieve pregnancy” – while we’ve been told by real experts that nothing more can be done.

Some people have suggested, “Maybe you’re too overweight” – while others wonder whether I’m too underweight. Then there are people who tell us about “guaranteed” methods for women to get pregnant – swallowing a crushed ruby, eating seeds from a certain fruit, crying at a specific person’s grave and other segulas too numerous to mention.

When we hear all this, we must grin and bear their brilliant advice. It never occurs to these people that we are praying; that we are reciting Tehillim; that we are shedding tears; that we are visiting the gravesites of holy sages, that we are trying to be as meticulous as possible in our observance of mitzvos – and I believe this holds true for all observant couples who are childless. In the Torah world, children are the ultimate purpose of marriage.

I know these people mean well and I hold no malice toward them, but they must realize that in trying to be do-gooders they can cause more pain than good. In short, unsolicited advice not only can be non-productive, it can actually cause harm.

Our sages cautioned us to be careful with our speech, for the better part of wisdom is silence. People must realize that observant couples with fertility problems have done their due diligence, have consulted medical experts, and have not hesitated to undergo painful medical treatment.

There may well be a doctor who has had great success in this area and of whom a particular couple is unaware, but even in such a case sensitivity must be exercised when offering information.

I am sure that many others in my situation have come across people who say and do the wrong thing out of sheer ignorance.

I am hoping you will publish my letter so that people might exercise caution when speaking to people in difficult situations. (At the same time I admit that we who are hurting tend to magnify every remark because our pain is so deep.)

If we could be spared unnecessary comments, it would make our difficult journey somewhat easier. As for me, I have come to recognize that G-d may have given me this challenge so that I can relate to others with greater sensitivity and make people aware of our teaching that “Life and death are in the tongue.”

Dear Friend:

The points you make are well taken and there is very little I can add to them. Unfortunately, very few are aware of this problem – not only regarding infertility but in other areas as well – raising children, illness, parnassa, shidduchim, etc.

People ask thoughtless and hurtful questions – “Why aren’t you married already?” “What are you waiting for?” – and it never occurs to them that those they are addressing would, more than anything, love to get married but unfortunately have not found their soul mates.

Then there are those who consider themselves mavens and offer sagacious advice that cuts and wounds. And there are still others who make “lovely” remarks behind one’s back, thinking those who are hurting will not be aware of them.

One woman told me her husband had been out of work for over three years. During that time, she did not buy herself or her children any clothing. Of course, the “do-gooders” gave her “good” advice. “There’s an anniversary sale going on at Loehmann’s. You really need a new outfit. That suit you’re wearing is gone!”

Not only are these remarks terribly painful, they involve many transgressions, including putting people to shame and inciting jealousy.

To sum up, our sages taught us that there is no greater virtue than silence, so before we speak let us think, evaluate, and remain silent.

May Hashem grant you a nes – a miracle – and bless you with the gift of children. Do not give up. There are many such miracles I have seen.

Plagued By Guilt (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In last week’s column, I published a letter written by a tormented widow who agonized over what more she could or should have done for her terminally ill cancer-stricken husband. Her agonies were many: In retrospect she felt that, at the first sign of illness, she should have insisted that he consult with a specialist rather than with their local internist. She also felt guilty about the hospital she chose for his post-surgical treatment. In short, she questioned everything she did regarding his care.

Additionally, she felt lost and alone. Her husband’s demise left a hole in her life and she couldn’t find a place for herself anywhere. One of her daughters suggested that she move in with her and even offered to build her a private apartment in her house. She wondered whether it would be wise to take her up on her invitation – she was especially concerned because, whenever she visited for Shabbos, she could hardly wait to get home. In short, she is troubled and can’t find peace. The following is my reply:

Dear Friend:

I fully sympathize with you and understand your torment. Most of us who lose a loved one go through this trauma. We second-guess ourselves with “I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” but truth be told, such speculation has no place in Judaism. We know that life and death are in the hands of Hashem, and if He charges the Angel of Death to act, there is no gate, no matter how tightly bolted, that he cannot penetrate. On the other hand, if Hashem commissions him to retract his sword, a man can survive even under the most terrifying and hopeless circumstances.

If you have read my books, if you have heard my lectures, you know that I base everything I say or write on the wisdom gleaned from our Torah, so let us see where in the Torah we can find a teaching that will shed light on your dilemma and serve as an example for you to follow.

If there was any one person among our Torah giants who would have been justified in flagellating himself with questions of “If I would’ve,” it was surely the patriarch Abraham. The story is familiar to all of us. Time and again, Abraham was tested, but his tenth test, in which G-d commanded him to “take his son, his one and only son, his beloved Isaac and bring him up as an offering” was the most trying and severe of his life. The patriarch passed this test with awesome faith, love, and devotion, and returned with his precious son Isaac at his side.

But no sooner did he arrive home than another painful test challenged him. In his absence, his beloved wife, Sarah, was called On High.

One can only imagine the questions that could have tormented him, the thousand-and-one “ifs” that could have plagued his mind and heart. Abraham however, was at peace, and when he eulogized Sara, the word “livkosah – wept” is written with an extra small “chaf,” testifying that he accepted that this was the Will of G-d.

The passage itself is further proof of G-d’s Providence, for it is written: “Sarah’s lifetime was 100 years, 20 years, and seven years – these were the years of Sarah’s life.” The words, “these were the years of Sarah’s life,” appear to be redundant and superfluous since we already know that she lived to 127. They are there, however, to testify that our matriarch, Sarah, did not die before her allotted time, that indeed, those were the years designated for her life.

To be sure, she was shaken and traumatized by the ominous news revealed to her by the Satan who announced that her beloved son Isaac had died, but no matter what the Satan may have said, if G-d had wanted her to live longer, she could have survived. If

G-d so wished, He could have fortified her with strength and blessed her with more years, but this was the day destined for her to depart and return her soul to G-d. Thus, the repetition of the words, “these were the years of Sarah’s life.”

Undoubtedly, it may appear that the immediate cause of her death was the news of the sacrifice of Isaac, but that which the human eye sees does not reflect the full picture. As a matter of fact, some of our sages teach that with her last breath Sarah Imeinu blessed G-d for having granted her the privilege of raising a son who was capable of rising to such a kiddush Hashem So again I remind you that just as Sarah died because that was the day that G-d designated for her to return her soul, so every man dies in his or her appointed time.

It is futile for you, dear friend, to torment yourself with could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. No one can outsmart the Angel of Death. He knows the address of a person and he knows how to unlock even the most formidable gates. When G-d sends him on a mission, no one can escape him.

As for your questions regarding the doctors, here, too, it is foolish for you to second-guess yourself. I have seen prominent specialists make mistakes – if G-d wills it, the eye doesn’t see and the hand fails, and this holds true in every area of life. So, instead of agonizing over what you should or could have done, why don’t you concentrate on all of the things that you did do? Think of the joy and the shalom bayis that you shared, the zechus (merit) that you had to be at his bedside during his final journey and the loving care that you imparted to him.

There are many couples who never experienced this – who lose their spouses and have few positive memories to look back upon. Instead of loving recollections, their memories are full of mean, hurtful words, bickering and contentiousness. They have much to regret and carry many painful scars that give them no peace. So count your blessings and thank G-d that you are not among those unfortunate ones.

Instead of brooding, do something positive to elevate your husband’s neshamah. Intensify your prayers, participate in Torah study, join chesed programs and if you have the means, make dedications in his memory. In this way, you will not only elevate his neshamah, but you will elevate yourself as well.

You question whether you should accept your daughter’s generous offer to build you an apartment in her house and move in with her. Time and again, I have shared with parents who are widowed the sage advice of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l: “If at all possible,” he would say, “it is best for widowed parents to maintain their own home. Yes,” he would add, “go to visit your children, but even as it is good to visit, it is good to have a home to return to – a home that is your own.”

May Hashem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may you find meaning, peace and blessing in your life.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/14/09

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Differences…

Dear Rachel,

Our communities seem to be plagued with a “shidduch crisis.” We constantly hear of picky boys, fussy girls, torn parents, frustrated shadchanim, etc., etc. It’s not a lack of “work” that frustrates shadchanim, but the line most frequently used to rebuff their suggestions: “Sorry, not what we hand in mind…” – while the clock keeps ticking as singles count their birthdays…

Now, who am I to talk? My husband and I are so different from one another that many have often been left to wonder how it is that the two of us ever got together in the first place.

For you see… I am the talkative type, and he keeps to himself; he is a day person, up and running before the crack of dawn, while I am a night owl. I lean towards the unconventional, he is most comfortable with status quo; my cup is always half full, his is forever half empty; his eye for design runs along symmetrical lines, mine toward asymmetry. (Reflective of our divergent thoughts perhaps? My thoughts do tend to travel helter-skelter, while my husband’s mind is scrupulously organized.)

And that’s not all. Sugar and caffeine serve as his upper, while I get high on broccoli and sweet potatoes. Whereas I’m raring to go, he is endlessly patient. I am the English major, he the math wizard. I primp and preen before heading out and yet he must be cajoled into brushing the lint off his hat, let alone his teeth.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m a hopeless romantic, and yes, you guessed that the man at my side is a cold realist who believes that the very notion of romance is but a figment of one’s fantasies.

And about that painting on the wall that’s always hanging a bit lopsided – I must straighten it, whereas to my husband it’s not crooked at all. By now, Rachel, you should be getting the picture

How on earth have we managed to stay together for all of these years, you may be wondering. Like I’ve often commented to my other half: Imagine how dull life would be if we had no differences, if we’d think the same and act alike. What a colorless world it would be if we saw eye-to-eye on everything! There would be no excitement and no challenges, no interesting and stimulating exchange of thoughts and ideas, and so forth.

Have I ever wished for him to see it my way? Of course I have, just as he has at times wanted me to think like him. (We are human, after all!)

So what does it take to make a marriage work out between two very distinctly different individuals who were raised apart, in two diverse environments? The key is “compromise,” arrived at through “communication” and accompanied with a heavy dose of shared “respect.” And let’s not overlook the most crucial component of all: “self-respect” – without which no venture undertaken can possibly stand a chance at succeeding.

Take note, all of you smart, talented and with-it singles out there who tote your laundry lists of must-have’s, must-be’s and no-ways: if s/he is decent, if your values and goals basically match, and – very important – there is a mutual attraction, you can be assured that the rest will resolve itself in the natural course of time with the help of the One Who brings zivugim together (regardless of who gets the credit down here for clinching the match).

Both my husband and I have long ago conceded that in spite of our many differences, or more accurately because of them, we have learned much from one another. And our children, too, have benefited, by way of, Baruch Hashem, growing into well-rounded, open-minded, tolerant and perceptive adults.

No need to convince you, Rachel, because you’ve known me forever (if I may so reveal) and can vouch for the validity of my words.

An old friend…

Dear Friend,

Sure have and sure can. Thank you for setting it all down in painstaking fashion so that others can take a cue.

I am reminded of Rena and David (all names disguised), two mature and intelligent young adults who had gone out on their first shidduch date. For some reason, which Rena herself could not define at the time, she was left unimpressed and declined a second date. Urged by the shadchan as well as her parents to give it another shot, she did – as a favor to them (she thought at the time). Today they are married for over 25 years, have raised a beautiful family and are thriving in every respect.

Rechel and Mechel crossed one another’s paths briefly the first time. When the idea of a potential shidduch between the two was put forth, Mechel’s father scoffed at the preposterous proposition. He, a bessere mensch (“better person” – usually denoting affluence and influence) be meshadach with plain and poor folks like Rechel’s parents? That’ll be the day!

So Rechel and Mechel went their separate ways and married others. Their marriages successively dissolved, and Mechel’s father’s “affluence and influence” mattered little the second time around. Hashem has His way of dealing with bessere menschen when He is so inclined.

Shira was popular, pretty and smart, but it just wasn’t happening. At the suggestion of Beryl as a possible shidduch, she turned her pert little nose up but finally caved in to give it a try. (What would it hurt to see him once, she reasoned?)

An inner glow and sense of this-is-it settled in after only the first date, and the rest is history. (Shira had always been adamant in her refusal to date a smoker, a concern she had often voiced. This time, however, Beryl’s vice somehow escaped disclosure. By the time she suspected – on her first date – it was already too late to make a difference.)

Lighten up, singles!

Please send your personal stories, thoughts and opinions to rachel@jewishpress.com

Kiruv – Outreach – A Family Affair

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I come from a solid, yeshivish family. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all “Torahdik” people. Most of my friends have similar backgrounds, and when the time came for me to go to seminary in Yerushalayim, I was most fortunate to be accepted with my friends at a great school. I had an amazing year in learning and in inspirational experiences. An entire new world opened up and I loved every minute of being in Yerushalayim. Now that I am back in New York, I truly miss Eretz Yisrael and feel sad not to be there. It was probably one of the happiest years of my life.

As you can guess, I am now entering a new phase of my life – the shidduch parshah. People are calling my mom with recommendations and asking what sort of young man I am looking for. Obviously, like all seminary girls, I hope to marry someone who is a real ben Torah, with good middos (character traits) and also, something more. I would like my husband and myself to make a difference in the world, and I would like to be a partner with him in this dream. I would truly love to do kiruv – outreach.

My family is trying to discourage me. They tell me that it’s one thing to have guests once in a while, but it’s something else again when you make a career of it and it is constantly happening. I have been told that children growing up in kiruv homes very often become casualties. They take second place to the many guests who need personal attention.

Additionally, I have been told that when children are exposed to a variety of people, some of them with difficult backgrounds, they could be negatively influenced. There are always so many guests who need attention that the children get lost, and along with that, family life. To be honest with you, I am confused. I have always thought that it would be wonderful to bring people to Torah and mitzvos, but after hearing all this I just don’t know.

Since you are a pioneer in kiruv and started Hineni decades ago, and since you are also, Baruch Hashem, a bubbie and have seen generations grow up, I thought I would ask for your opinion. I would really appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this subject, although I guess that at this time, the entire matter is a moot point, since I do not have a shidduch candidate in view who is a ben Torah and also interested in kiruv.

Please don’t misunderstand…. while my parents have tried to dissuade me, they would never stand in my way and will help as much as they can. But they would like me to go into this with my eyes wide open. They agree that it would be good for me to consult you since they have followed your articles for many years. If you decide to publish my letter, please omit my name. Thank you so much and hatzlachah. May you continue your avodas ha’kodesh for many years to come.

Dear Friend:

Kiruv – outreach, is probably one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have. It is much more than reaching out and helping someone – it is nothing short of re-building and resuscitating Am Yisroel. Kiruv impacts on untold generations and changes the world. When you are mekarev someone, you not only reconnect an individual with Hashem, but more significantly, through that individual, you impact upon an entire family, an entire nation.

This is a concept that even children can be inspired by, but like anything else, it is all in the presentation. If the children are made to feel part of this vision, they will indeed be excited and ennobled by the experience, but if they are left out resentment can result. In a future article, I will elaborate on how kiruv was realized in my own family and how we practiced it. In the interim, I invite you to read an essay written by one of my own granddaughters on this very subject. It was a school assignment and the subject was “Cultural Differences That Are Unique to Each Individual Family.”

This granddaughter is the embodiment of chesed, tznius and humility, and we would never have known about this essay had it not been that my daughter (her mother), found it by accident while cleaning the house. I suggest that you read her words carefully and see for yourself how children and grandchildren can be impacted by kiruv. The following is her essay:

Writing about a “cultural experience unique to my family” seemed at first like an almost impossible task. I always thought that culture implied religion and, therefore, any experience unique to my family would also be “unique” to every other girl sitting in my class as we all come from Orthodox Jewish homes. However, as I thought more and more, I realized how although all of us do celebrate the same holidays and traditions throughout the year, each family adds its own twist, which makes it exclusively theirs.

My family’s secret twist is my grandmother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a world-renowned speaker. Growing up with a celebrity grandmother has taught me so much. Judaism is a very family-oriented religion, and so usually, for each holiday, families congregate and hold festivities together. However, my grandmother, being the public figure that she is, has always celebrated each holiday differently.

From California to Canada (and everywhere in-between) my grandmother usually has speaking engagements booked over the holidays. And so, if my family wishes to spend time with my grandmother over a holiday, we accompany her to wherever she may be going. From these precious times that I share with my grandmother, I have learned an important lesson – to share her with the multitudes of people who wish to ask her advice or hear her speak. And I am able to learn how to interact with others the same way that she does, so that hopefully, one day, I can try to follow my grandmother’s ways.

The high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of prayer and awe. While most families spend those holidays at home and in the synagogue, beseeching G-d, my family does something a little different. We pack our bags and head for the Plaza Hotel, located in midtown Manhattan, and there, we transform a ballroom that is meant for lavish weddings and dinners into a beautiful synagogue. All this is done under the direction of my grandmother who has a passion for Jewish outreach. The goal is to attract those who may not otherwise come to High Holy Days services and expose them to the beauty of an Orthodox service.

My family has been conducting these services for the past 13 years. When I say my family, I do not just mean my parents and siblings, but all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. It is a true family affair. When I was a little girl, I looked forward to spending time with my cousins and exploring Central Park as the adults prayed for seemingly endless hours.

However, now that I am older, I am able to truly appreciate the importance of the services. My two uncles serve as the rabbis; standing at the pulpit from the beginning of the services through the end calling out the page number we are up to in the machzor and giving insightful explanations for all the prayers and the Torah readings. As most of the 500 people who attend the services are not literate in Hebrew, this is very important so that they can follow along. My father, who is blessed with the sweetest, beautiful voice, leads the congregation in a melodious service that lasts for many hours.

My role, as well as the rest of my extended family, is to help the hundreds of congregants pray. We sit side-by-side with them, pointing and turning their pages in order to help them follow along. There are many people who are praying for the first time and are not sure what to do, and so we tell them when to sit, stand, bow, etc. My grandmother, who is our role model, had us take an active role in outreach from the young age of eight or nine years old. I have gained a lot from all the members of the congregation who pray with great concentration and sincerity, even though many were not raised with a religious background.

The way my family spends the High Holy Days is unique when compared to most Orthodox Jewish families. It has served as a great conversation piece for me, as most people find it interesting that I “do Tashlich” in Central Park. I view it as a tremendous privilege to be able to be involved in outreach and help many Jews become more involved in Judaism, especially when the future of every person is decided in the Heavens Above.

(To be continued)

I Am Saddened (Part Three)

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

In my last two columns I published a letter from a mother/grandmother who felt very saddened and discouraged at the shameless chutzpah that marks today’s parent-child relationship. In the first segment of her letter, she cited the disrespectful conduct of children, and in the second, she gave examples of the deplorable behavior of young adults – even married couples.

To be sure, there is a huge difference between the two. When children are chutzpadik, you hope that in time, they will learn, but when young adults are insolent, it is reprehensible – they should know better, but alas – it seems that they don’t. The following is my reply:

Dear Friend:

The chutzpah to which we are witness today should not surprise any of us. Long ago, our sages predicted that impudence and brazenness of the young would mark the pre-messianic period, referred to as “Ikvesa d’Moshicha.” We are into that generation. It is we who have been destined to witness the breakdown of our beautiful family life – the ignoble rebellion of the young against their elders. But that, in and of itself, should give us hope, for what we are witnessing are not random happenings, but the unfolding of prophesy.

Our Talmud relates that Rabbi Akiva, upon beholding the ruins of our Temple, smiled, while his colleagues wept. “How can you smile?” they asked.

“I smile,” he replied, because now that I see the prophesy of destruction fulfilled, I know that the prophesy of birth and redemption will also be realized.”

Similarly, we should take comfort in the knowledge that, even as we are witness to this intensification of chutzpah, so too, with the help of G-d, we will behold the time when Elijah the Prophet will come, reunite the generations and restore our people to their glorious past.

But this in no way means that we should countenance this chutzpah and regard this shameful behavior as acceptable. As Torah Jews, we have a manifest destiny to swim against the tide and battle the cultural waves that threaten us. Our ability to cling tenaciously to our Torah values has enabled us to overcome the vicissitudes of every generation and convert our homes into fortresses of Torah – fortresses in which the Word of G-d prevails and illuminates our families – We can do no less.

Recently, I was invited to speak for N’shei Agudas Israel on this very subject – “Enforcing and Enhancing the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av V’eim.” In my talk, I pointed out that if we are to address this issue in a meaningful manner, we must first identify the cultural manifestations of our 21st century, which condones and generates chutzpa vis-à-vis parents and elders. Therefore, before we even attempt to address this crisis, we would do well to expose the value system that gives license to this abhorrent attitude so that we may insulate our families from its ravishing effects. In the limited space of this column, it is impossible for me to cover everything that I discussed, but I will outline just a few points.

1) Being a Pal to Your Children – Ours is a culture that encourages friendship rather than respect between the generations. “I want my children to like me. I want to be their friend” is the popular mantra by which we raise our children. So it is that toddlers raise their hands against moms and dads without being reprimanded – that children horse around with their parents, even to the point where they call them by their first names and don’t hesitate to lecture them: “You don’t know what you are talking about” or they indicate the same through their body language…rolling their eyes in exasperation and giving a look that says, “I can’t believe that you’re so stupid!”

Some of these young people are so far removed from Torah that it doesn’t even occur to them that sitting in their parents’ seats or failing to rise in their honor is a violation of Torah ideals. Unfortunately, nowadays, such respectful conduct is regarded as archaic. How sad that we have lost our way.

I shared with my audience, that I, who belong to another generation, was raised with a different set of values. On Shabbos Eve, when before Kiddush, our parents bentsched – blessed – us, we rose in awe and gratitude and kissed their hands. To contradict our parents in any manner, shape or form would never have occurred to us…to refer to them as “he” or “she” was so alien a concept that we couldn’t ever conceive that Jewish children could speak of their parents in such a manner.

Moreover, when we visited our Zeide (of all my grandparents, only my maternal Zeide, HaRav HaGaon Tzvi Hirsh HaCohen,zt”l, survived the Holocaust), we children witnessed the reverence and love with which our parents related to him. The honor and love that they showed him remained forever engraved on our hearts. Sadly, this new generation has not been privileged to see such an example. Their frame of reference is one of disrespect and disregard. Too many parents mistreat their own mothers and fathers. Now, if this is the example that children see from their own parents, what can we possibly expect from them?

2) “Me Generation” – We live in a selfish, egocentric world in which sacrifice, devotion and commitment are rare. Parents are selfish, and they raise children who are even more selfish. “It’s coming to me!” – “You owe it to me!” they protest, but it never occurs to them that the reverse is true…. that it is they who “owe one!”…and it is they that it is they who are indebted!”

On what is this egocentric morality based?

(To Be Continued)

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/26/07

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Rachel,

The following is in response to “Lonely stay-at-home mom…” (Chronicles 8-31). I am an avid reader of your column and wish you brachah and hatzlachah in your important work! Thank you.

Dear Friend,

I don’t know you, but I know your pain. To be married and lonely can feel like the worst emotional curse. As married women, it is normal for us to expect love and affection. When our expectations are not met, we are faced with a harsh, painful reality – life not treating us the way it is supposed to. And it hurts badly.

The agonizing loneliness leaves us feeling desperate for any sign or signal from our partner that will tell us if we are loved at all. The mere fact that you crave affection and feel lonely means that you have a heart that wishes to receive. And if that is the case, you also have a heart that can give.

You probably tried giving to your spouse early in your marriage but got frustrated, because “emotionally cold” people usually do not know how to release love either. My husband has other issues that also affect our marriage, but I certainly know what “cold” means. And it’s not much better to hear “I love you” in the bedroom and then be screamed at the next day or be shown disrespect in front of your children. So if your husband is “decent” to you, don’t minimize this. I’m not attempting to downplay your pain, but as Rachel so aptly put it, your cup may be half full.

When I’m down, I think of my single friends who are not only unmarried, but don’t have children either. Use your emotional energy to give to your children. Make eye contact, hug and kiss them. A noted educator once told me that it’s not enough to love them. Don’t underestimate the power you have in your home to instill the much needed love and warmth. A healthy dose, even from one parent, will enable them to grow into normal, productive adults.

Believe in yourself. It’s not easy to summon that inner strength, but I’ve embraced this as my test in life, ever since I have concluded that being single is not less lonely than being married to a cold man (except for not expecting the love anymore).

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of getting married again (especially with children), and as Rachel noted, you definitely trade one set of problems for another with the family all split up and kids bounced back and forth for visiting, etc.

Allow your friends to fill some of that lonely space – a couple of solid friendships that are mutually supportive (and I don’t mean using your friends to talk about your rotten marriage; find a good therapist to unburden yourself to if need be). Friends who truly care can be there for you and lighten your day. Being there for them will open your giving heart again without you even realizing it! Ignite old friendships; make time for a lunch date with a friend. It will give you that extra boost you need to face the challenging household.

A talent or hobby you enjoy is also great as an outlet. So put the music on during the day – that always helps. And when the pain strikes at night when you put your head on the pillow (and I know it will), think of all the people who do care for you – who would reach out and give you the hug that you need. And you’ll probably develop a deeper appreciation for anytime that anybody does do something nice for you.

Ultimately it’s obviously your decision to stay or to go. (By the way, my husband and I actually switch off weeks with the same therapist. It’s less threatening than going together.) As you may have already done, try communicating to your husband that you believe in him, that he has the ability to make you happier (no doubt he feels like a failure inside, which for men is a trap they find impossible to escape sometimes), and that he needs to learn the right tools, even if he hasn’t yet.

I ask myself the same question you do: will I regret my decision to stay when I am old? I don’t know, but at the moment it’s one day at a time. I daven to Hashem to help me make the right choices – and I pray for you, that you find enough other resources to comfort your aching heart and make your life bearable and at times joyous again. Yes, a happy mother is a happy child, though of course much easier said than done.

I know you are lonely, but you are definitely not alone.

Also lonely but so far staying in it too

Dear Also Lonely,

Thank you for your moving words and for sharing your pain – painstakingly written in longhand. It is obvious that you have a giving heart.

You also submitted a touching poem that you composed, but the column’s space limit prevents me from including it here. I will save it for a future column.

The many reactions precipitated by “Lonely Mom” and her forerunners (Feeling hopeless 5-14; Wishing it could have been different 6-29; Still feeling hopeless 8-24) testify to the fact that despite the loneliness, she is far from alone.

Stay tuned.

On an entirely different note: I would like to inform my wonderful reading audience that the Agunah in Agony (chronicle of 9-21) has Baruch Hashem been freed – as she herself puts it, “3 years, 3 months and 10 days later, Chasdei Shamayim!” MAZEL TOV!!! May your heart know of no more sorrow, only the strains of sweet melody.

To the big-hearted readers who reached out with offers of help – there are no words. G-d bless you all!

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/06/07

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Rachel:

I am raising an issue that should be of great concern in our frum community – the fad/fashion of using Chinese Auctions to give tzedakah. To me, this is a form of gambling and is highly addictive. Through my work as a geriatric social worker, I see many families getting into debt over participation in this activity.

People run up their credit cards in order to try to win the “grand prize” and are then left with a huge debt. I am aware of some who spend cash that should be used to support their children, to buy them clothing and food!

I am by no means against giving charity, but I do feel there are better ways for organizations to fundraise. There are way too many Chinese Auctions taking place, and these exert financial pressures on families who are already burdened by high rents, mortgages, food, clothing, yeshiva tuition, health care, and other basic needs of life.

I suggest that organizations seek other means to fundraise, such as bake sales, yard sales, barbecues, sports events, and other type of social events.

People are truly addicted to Chinese Auctions, and I see this addiction as being no different than going to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, playing the lottery, betting on horses, etc.

When I mention this to others, I am accused of being cheap. I give my ma’aser of tzedakah as required by the Torah, but I won’t place myself in debt gambling at Chinese Auctions. Someone in whom I recently confided about this reacted by saying that people need to control themselves when spending at these functions. But how many people do have self-control?

How many large families are suffering the effects of Chinese Auction addictions and not talking about it, while in the interim this is destroying the financial integrity of the frum family?

I know a person who has not paid child support in more than a year, claims to have no money to pay child support, but seems to have enough to blow on a Chinese Auction.

I would like to make it perfectly clear that I am by no means against giving charity, but it should be done in a way that does not place one’s family in jeopardy.

Thanks for allowing me to unburden myself. Let’s help people in trouble the right way, with the right kind of chesed, and without being judgmental.

A Friend

Dear Friend,

The concept behind the Chinese Auction is not a new one. Tzaddikim of years past would run a goral, a lottery of sorts, to auction off a silver becher (goblet) or a silk bekitche (traditional Chassidic robe) in order to raise money for a good cause.

Unfortunately, the needs out there among our people are great. And there is no doubt that the prizes offered at these so-called Chinese Auction affairs are appealing, enticing, and beckon to the party-goer.

That being said, most people attend functions that they have some affiliation with: their shul, their children’s school, a charity that covers a community’s general needs, etc. In other words, these are organizations they would be writing a check to in any case. Are checks being made out for larger amounts? Some probably are. Most people with whom I have taken up the subject are adamant in not deviating from a preset amount allotted for a set charity, no matter how tempting the prize. Others freely admit to leafing through the inviting colorful brochures that arrive in the mail, dreaming of big wins, and leaving it at that – window-shopping, if you will.

If one is a gambler at heart, his/her craving will not be satisfied at a Chinese Auction charity gathering.

The person who was of the opinion that people need to exercise self-control is onto something. Everyone knows his/her own limits. If someone ends up spending more than what s/he originally intended to in order to secure a better chance to win a preferred item, then the money will have been well spent. Who hasn’t splurged on an evening outfit that ended up costing more than originally anticipated? How about the extravagant meal in that “fancy” restaurant to celebrate an occasion? Is a worthwhile charity not equally deserving of that extra dollar?

Yes, it does seem to boil down to self-control – something we must generate in many areas of our daily living. And yes, charity begins in one’s home. But let’s not get carried away in making the fund-raising Chinese Auction the scapegoat for our ills.

If one needs to unwind and a couple of hours of pleasant socializing in a genial atmosphere will do the trick, a Chinese Auction may be just what the doctor ordered. On the other hand, if your timetable is cramped as it is, but the charity is one you believe in and wish to support, your mailed-in contribution will be just as appreciated.

To go or not to go… The option really is all yours.

Thank you for writing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-67/2007/07/04/

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