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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Rachel’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Missed the boat? Readers think not…
See Chronicles of Nov. 16

Dear Rachel,

As I was reading the letter written by “Missed the boat,” I was taken back in time to when our second to youngest daughter fell in love with a young man whom she met at a summer job. She was eighteen years old at the time and certainly didn’t need to rush into marriage.

She also had two still single older siblings and was sensitive to their feelings. At first we all thought that over the course of the following winter the young twosome’s ardor would cool, but that didn’t prove to be the case.

We couldn’t even be upset at our daughter because she was a good girl and up front about her relationship, and the boy who courted her was a serious and decent young man whose parents were casual friends of ours.

Extended family members chimed in with their varied opinions, but Grandma said it best: You can’t let a good thing go in this day and age when shidduchim are not so easy to come by. Grandpa agreed but for different reasons: It’s not healthy to date for so long. Let him do right by her and marry her.

I believe that in our particular situation, having more than one older sibling helped ease the discomfort, for it couldn’t be said or thought that the older was taking her time, etc. Obviously this was all about the younger, not the older. Still, the kallah-to-be sought her siblings’ whole-hearted approval before making it official and made sure that they played an active role in all the preparations for the big day.

Should I assume that there were no hard feelings to speak of? I can only say that there was no outward indication of any, and for that I am most grateful.

What became more complicated with time was that one of the older siblings was eventually skipped over and over, and that was hard on everyone. Despite that, she was a good egg, a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, and she never blamed anyone for her loneliness or frustrations.

You were right on, Rachel, when you said, “thirty is hardly the end of the world.” My daughter who married past that age would back you up. She is today, baruch Hashem, blissfully happy and Hashem has blessed her with beautiful, delightful children of her own.

Relieved Empty Nester

Dear Rachel,

I read the letter written by Missed the boat with great interest. Years ago I lived near a chassidic family whose firstborn, a male, got engaged, married and divorced in quick succession. The next one up was a girl who was getting to be “of age” and there was much hope that her older brother would soon find the zivug meant for him.

Well, if pairing zivugim is said to be hard work, trying to find a shidduch for someone who had already been married can be at least three times as difficult. The point I’m getting at is that these parents saw no sense in holding up the rest of their brood, and a good many of them were married off before the oldest finally found his match.

Of course this is somewhat of a different case since he had already gotten married once, but it was painful regardless.

A nosy bystander

Dear Readers,

If the reaction via incoming mail is any indicator, it would seem that “younger skipping older” on the way to the chuppah is not all that uncommon — at least if one leaves the chassidic sect out of the equation. So why are the latter so adamantly opposed to such practice?

I posed the question to a chassid who seemed surprised at my naiveté and explained that the Torah’s injunction to honor one’s father and mother – kabed es avicha v’es imecha – encompasses the command to respect one’s older siblings. (This is not his personal view but is brought down by the Talmud.)

According to the Arizal, each sibling from the firstborn down is a link in the chain that connects their souls to their parents and from them to G-d, and thereby the mitzvah to respect parents extends to all older siblings.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Light In The Darkness

Dear Rachel,

Over the last few weeks you published letters that were filled with vitriol and criticisms as readers took issue with parents whom they view as being not caring enough of their children’s eating habits, or with adults who spend lavishly on mishloach manos or simchas, and on and on.

I have a different story to put out there, one that demonstrates true ahavas Yisroel and caring. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy seems to have brought out the best in and among us.

The Five Towns and Far Rockaway were especially hard hit by the storm, and when I urged my children who live there to come out to us in Monsey where they’d enjoy light and warmth, they answered simply, “You won’t be able to fit us all in.”

I soon learned that my son and daughter-in-law ,who were without electricity or hot water since day one of the hurricane, had opened up their home and hearts to a family of nine from the Bayswater area who had even less — for their own home had become inhabitable.

When I questioned how they could possibly accommodate all these extra people, my daughter-in-law answered that some of my grandchildren had given up their bedrooms and joined mom and dad in the master bedroom for the interim.

My curiosity was piqued; without working refrigerators and ovens, how did they manage to feed such a brood? My daughter-in-law could not say enough about the magnificent outreach of their local Chabad that was providing hot meals daily, clothing items and blankets to make life more tolerable in the cold indoors, as well as programs at the Chabad center to keep younger children entertained.

You hit the nail on the head, Rachel, when you said in a recent column, “We are creative and enterprising, compassionate and giving, and family oriented.”

Mi k’Amcha Yisroel!

Dear Rachel,

Many of us have been grossly inconvenienced, to put it mildly, by nature’s latest whoppers, beginning with Hurricane Sandy. In my neighborhood many families opted to leave their darkened homes and move in with relatives who had not lost power or had it quickly restored.

This has left empty houses vulnerable to looting since alarm systems are disabled, and sadly many a homeowner has returned to find their premises broken into. If this is not adding insult to injury, I don’t know what is. But more horrifying yet has to be staying put and realizing in the middle of the night that a burglar has let himself in with the help of the blackout.

I am reminded of an incident a close friend of mine experienced many years ago. Those were the days when many households made do with fans in place of air-conditioners. One summer Friday night my friend was suddenly awakened from her sleep and opened her eyes to the sight of a stranger standing in the doorway of her bedroom.

She froze as her heart raced wildly, while her husband was fast asleep in his own bed. She thought of just closing her eyes and pretending to be asleep but feared that the intruder had already noticed her waking and would approach to do her harm.

Almost as naïve as the man in the White House who believed that if he’d make nice to our enemies they’d become our chums, my friend rationalized that if she’ll speak softly to the lowlife he’d certainly have no reason to want to hurt her. Pulling her covers up to her chin (this being a sweltering August night, she wasn’t very tzniusdik’ly attired), she sat up and asked, “Who are you?” with wide-eyed innocence.

Must have been the last thing he expected, because the intruder turned on his heels and ran. That’s when she first alerted her husband and they both got up to check on things and make sure he was really gone. It turned out that the burglar had entered through a small space over the kitchen counter. By early the next morning a neighbor had found my friend’s emptied pocketbook discarded in her yard; her awakening had apparently interrupted the intruder’s poking around in their bedroom.

On Motzei Shabbos the young couple made out a report at the local precinct house where the officer on duty told my friend that her daring move was unwise and that she was lucky not to get hurt. The best thing to do in such a circumstance, he advised, is to pretend to be asleep. Desperate thugs can be dangerous when confronted.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

As a longtime reader of your column, I don’t recall you ever addressing the problem of a single with my perspective. I am nearly thirty and fear that I’ve missed my zivug. I ask those who would be quick to accuse me of being picky, choosy and too fussy to first listen to what I have to say and then to carefully consider what they’d have done in my shoes.

Ten to twelve years ago I was a desirable shidduch prospect but was forced to put my aspirations and shadchanim on hold at the insistence of my parents who were most adamant about not letting me marry before my older sibling. She was two and a half years my senior and hadn’t yet found her bashert.

One year led to another, and I watched helplessly as my friends got engaged and my dreams flitted away.

A bit of background: My family is chassidish where the commonly held belief is that skipping over a child would leave him or her stigmatized and the impression of being “damaged goods” would then hinder the future chance (of the one skipped over) to land a shidduch. I must add that not all families where I’m from are equally prudish and stuck in their ways; there are instances where younger has gotten married before older, but they are far and few between. For the most part, much importance is placed on marrying off children according to chronological age.

A couple of years ago, tired of being viewed as a pity case and finding myself isolated as my friends had long since married and were raising families of their own, I decided to leave home. Since I had a decent paying job I was capable of supporting myself. I moved to another borough, expanded my horizons and my education, made new friends and began to lean somewhat towards modern orthodoxy.

At the same time I kept up with my family and to this day visit frequently, many times for Shabbosim. I must admit I often find myself wishing things had worked out differently. Had my parents not intervened in the way things were progressing for me way back, I know that today I’d be playing the role of a contented house frau busying myself with raising my children and living a typical chassidish lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I don’t go out or that people don’t fix me up, although with each passing year the pool of singles for my age bracket shrinks substantially. The mix of my background and current persona also complicates finding that someone I would feel comfortable with, or for that matter would be comfortable with me. And of course the older I get the harder it becomes to get a decent date.

With all of the changes I’ve made in my life, at the core of my being I am very lonely. That inner sense of belonging eludes me; I miss the chassidish environment and so far find that nothing for me matches the warmth that permeates the chassidish home.

I am not asking for advice, nor do I expect you to have any for me. I know full well that it is up to me to choose my direction and the kind of life I want to lead. The reason I am writing to you is because I know that The Jewish Press has many readers in the chassidish community and I am hoping my letter will talk to their hearts. While I am the type who appreciates old-time values, I strongly feel that some of that old shtetl mentality desperately needs to be rethought.

To parents who face the dilemma of listening to shidduchim for a younger child who has an older sibling still waiting in the wings: Please consider the ramifications of your stubborn refusal to be open-minded. If something comes along that sounds too good to pass up, think twice before you do for you may be pushing away the younger’s rightful zivug and may end up with more than one unmarried child to contend with in your golden years.

Thank you, Rachel, for letting me get this off my chest.

Missed the boat

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

In your column of Oct 26th you published a letter written by B’Ahavat Yisrael (really??) who attacked you for being soft on the candy issue. Actually, she sounded hyper, like someone who overdid the sugar, in her stinging criticisms of the people she (in her signature) professes to love.

She claims that we have lost our “sense of Yiddishkeit” and lists a whole host of grievances she has against us. Besides our “obsession with sweets,” she takes issue with the way we give mishloach manos, the type of music we enjoy and the expense we go to when making a simcha, and to add insult to injury she cites our frum culture as mirroring that of a non-Jewish society.

With all due respect, I would like to address her faulty analysis. Regarding her criticism of the way we give mishloach manos, she’s apparently never heard of hiddur mitzvah (the beautifying of a mitzvah by embellishing it). An example of hiddur mitzvah: some of us go all out to decorate our sukkah, which of course doesn’t mean that a plain looking sukkah does not cover the bases.

The same with the esrog; most men vie for a beautiful esrog, despite the increase in expenditure, and some even use a magnifying glass to check for the tiniest blemish. Would she consider this to be in excess or a sign of materialism? It is neither.

Giving more than the traditional two mishloach manos and getting enjoyment out of applying our own personal touch to them is hardly frivolous. On the contrary, it is putting our G-d given talents to good use. She can present hers without flourish and stick to the minimum required if she so desires, but she is not right in begrudging others their indulgence in a hiddur mitzvah.

She might also keep in mind that those in a position to go all out in celebrating occasions like weddings are mostly the same people who dispense charity to the needy with a generous hand. One should not dictate to others how their money should be spent. There have always been rich people, those of moderate means, and the less privileged. Naturally their different lifestyles reflect their resources; this is the normal way of the world and always has been.

As for overloading on sweets, the subject that led to B’Ahavat Yisrael’s rant in the first place, most of us are aware of the boundaries of unhealthy eating. In fact, overeating altogether (doesn’t have to be sweet junk) is detrimental to our health. Education may be what’s needed; we must talk about it – as we are doing here – and schools would do well to emphasize and promote the value of good nutrition. If we drum it into our kids early on, they’ll be more likely to live that way down the road.

Another disturbing condemnation by B’Ahavat Yisrael concerns summer camp for children. “When did that start?” she asks with incredulity. Would she really rather that they stayed home with nothing to do? Summer camp happens to be a wonderful outlet for children and a healthy way for them to unwind from their rigid school year, make new friends, and learn in a more relaxed atmosphere. Day camp is a lifesaver for those uneasy about sending their children to overnight camp or who cannot afford anything but.

No, summer camp does not spoil our kids, as B’Ahavat Yisrael implies. It offers them healthy physical and emotional outlets in a structured environment. She opines that they should stay put and “earn a little money.” At what age does she suggest they go job-hunting? At eight? Ten, maybe? Thirteen? The enterprising adolescent can, by the way, earn a few dollars by working in camp while still enjoying the benefits of being on camp premises.

As for B’Ahavat Yisrael’s contention that home is the best place for children to be in the summertime, I’m sure those mothers who can’t afford to send their children to camp of any kind would be willing to straighten her out as to the pitfalls of having children at home with nothing to do but play computer games, watch TV, annoy the heck out of their sibs, and eat. Mostly junk. Sweet junk. Lots of it.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Dear Rachel,

My husband and I have been married for eight years. I am very expressive and outgoing and he is the silent type. Even among close friends, he is never the life of the party. We have three children, and although he loves them very much he hardly spends time with them. He leaves all the dealing with the children to me.

I accepted the situation all of these years because in his own quiet way we did communicate and I love him very much. However, for the last six months my husband has been even more closed than usual. He comes home, greets us briefly, then closets himself in his study and works until late.

When I ask him if something is wrong, he ignores me. I am at my wit’s end. How do you talk to someone who refuses to talk? I asked him if he is happy at work and he said he is. I told him that I can’t go on like this and that I and the children need him and he needs to spend some time with us.

I practically begged him for us to go out for our anniversary, and we did. We went to a restaurant and when I tried to talk about us, he asked me if I brought him out to spoil everything.

On Rosh Hashanah I prayed very hard for sholom bayis and to feel warmth and love from my husband, but I don’t know what more I can do. I am certain that there is no one else in his life, because he is home when he is not working and does not have late nights at work, and he is never away on weekends.

Shabbos after shul we eat and then he goes to sleep; Sundays he spends at home in his study.

Do you suggest that I just continue to live like this? Should I threaten divorce even though I don’t want to leave? Should I go for marriage counseling alone? I asked him if he would come with me to a therapist and of course he said he doesn’t believe in it and he never heard of it helping anyone.

I have not discussed this with my mother or my sisters because I thought that would make things worse, and that leaves me feeling very alone.

Any advice you can give me would be immensely appreciated.

Lonely Heart

Dear Lonely Heart,

We have to marvel at how truly amazing it is that two people – usually complete strangers to one another and raised separately – join together with the expectation of living harmoniously under one roof, sharing meals, ideas and the same bedroom, and are committed to love one another above everyone else for the rest of their lives. Whew!

Granted, a concerted effort to establish some commonality and compatibility is made beforehand, but in reality it is a deference to, and mutual respect for, one another and each other’s differences that keeps the relationship on track.

In just the second line of your letter you inform us of the distinction between the two of you; you are the “expressive and outgoing” kind while your husband is the “silent type.” In other words, you are saying that he is this way by nature and has been since the time you got to know him.

You also say you love him, that “in his own quiet way” you communicate, and that you have no interest in divorcing him. While you’ve let him know that you need more than he offers you and that you lack emotional fulfillment, at the same time you are comforted by the fact that he spends all of his non-working hours and weekends home. (Incidentally, you are wise to keep your private life private, but this needn’t prevent you from seeking professional guidance on your own.)

The sketchy details in your letter paints a picture of a man who comes home and escapes to his study — to avoid being confronted by his dissatisfied and fault-finding wife, perhaps? Not very conducive to drawing him out of his shell, if so…

In my humble opinion, the best chance you have of encouraging your husband to be more communicative is by being yourself, by showing him that you are at ease and comfortable in your environment and genuinely eager to share your day and the latest happenings with the person whom you consider to be your best friend.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Candy Time Again: Another concerned reader’s perspective

(See Chronicles of Sept 28 & Oct 19)

Dear Rachel,

Your response to “Concerned Bubby” about the candy problem is disturbing indeed. But it reflects a much bigger problem. As a guest in many frum homes, chassidish and Litvish, I’ve witnessed this obsession with sweets getting completely out of hand — a health problem you merely pooh-pooh away. Shocking!

What you don’t seem to understand is that training children to overindulge –especially on sugar – sets them up for a myriad of health problems as adults. You are literally grooming the bodies’ cells for obesity and diabetes.

As an example of this insanity: A mother told me that her son (about 6 years old) already had a mouthful of cavities. As I recall, nearly every tooth. Yet, Shabbos he was still given candies and sweetened drinks. Is this not insanity?

I have seen kids proudly show me their spoils from shul, loads of sweet “junk.” More than they could possibly eat.

The glut is especially high on Purim — before Pesach. Is this some masochistic tendency? Mommies just adore cleaning and hunting for sticky chametz in drawers, closets and under beds.

Candies are given as rewards in school. I remember when we got stars and stickers. Why are the yeshivas – our “frum culture” – equating reward with gashmius (materialism), and unwholesome at that! Bad for mind and body.

Stop it already!

We can learn a great deal from the Biblical commentator, the Ramban, who discusses “Naval Birshus HaTorah” – being disgusting within the framework of Torah. Just because something is kosher does not give us license to gorge.

As far as what you stated about maturity, I have heard many a time that famous “adult” excuse at the Shabbos table for overeating: “I’m eating for the extra ‘neshama‘ (soul) I get on Shabbos.” Please!

But this is just a symptom of an overall “sickness.” At one time families were so poor that cakes and candies were luxuries. Now, luxury is the norm in many Orthodox homes. We are furthermore obsessed with any cuisine alien to Judaism, be it Japanese, Chinese, Italian… so long as it is something exotic and expensive.

Our frum culture today actually mirrors the goyish society we are so intent on avoiding. We have lost the sense of Yiddishkeit, of really feeling Jewish.

Most of the songs on Jewish radio are just rock music adapted to Tehillim. And wedding music must blast like an acid rock concert. Even today’s chazzanim are more “entertainers” than the sweet singers of old in baal tefilla style. (As my zeide a”h was a chazzan, I know.)

Mishloach Manos is given the way non-Jews give Xmas presents. We have lost the whole idea Mordechai and Esther intended. We are required to give two prepared foods to a fellow Jew. But no, everyone in the “shtetl” has to get one and everyone must outdo the other. Keep up with the Shapiros… the more expensive and lavish, the better.

The same with weddings and simchas in general — thousands of dollars are spent on but a few hours of celebration.

Then you read about children starving. Has this frum culture no shame? Does just stamping a kosher sign on something make it Jewish or Torahdik?

We read about the lulav and esrog symbolizing the achdus of all Jews, and yet self-righteous individuals view other Jews with disdain because they practice different minhagim (customs).

How many chassidic sects fight each other?

As far as summer camp is concerned, when did that start? Children stayed at home and helped their parents, or found something to do to earn a little money. Each generation is getting more and more spoiled in gashmius and more and more starved in ruchnius (spirituality) — as in understanding, kindness, self-sacrifice and respect of others and especially elders.

These young minds spend all day in school during winter and then are thrown into summer camp, away from the very people who should be teaching and molding them.

In light of all this, is it any wonder our frum kids are going off the derech? What else are they seeing but hypocrisy and parents who don’t want to spend time with them… to bond, to talk about their problems, to feel WANTED?

The yeshivas are no less to blame, encouraging this sense of hypocrisy. Why should yeshivas have instances of bullying and other abuses? Where are the teachers? Where are the parents?

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Teaching Children Good Nutrition is No Picnic

Dear Rachel,

The column titled Sweets to the Sweet in the Erev Sukkos issue of The Jewish Press garnered much attention in our family over Yom Tov. Our own children’s bubby, who happens to promote healthy eating by not stocking up on candy when her grandchildren visit, could not relate to the problem as described by A Concerned Bubby.

Not to worry; I set my mother-in-law straight in no time. She had no idea that rebbes in our boys’ cheder are in the habit of rewarding their young talmidim with endless nosh. A Siyum, for instance, gets each of the boys a shopping bag full, while great class performance earns the “lucky” student a large size bottle of soda. (The rebbe may have had himself in mind when my seven year old once came home with a 2-liter bottle of diet soda, no less.)

As a mother who makes every effort to feed her family wholesome nutritious food, I am appalled by all of this unhealthy indulgence. On top of that, I also have to deal with my children’s foot-stomping disappointment when I insist on pouring more than half of the soda down the drain.

One of my young sons – fearing that I would confiscate the bulk and deprive him of his well-deserved “treats” – thought he’d be wise to consume the contents of his Siyum bag on his commute home from yeshiva. The tummy-ache he endured for agonizing hours that night was no picnic for either of us.

Don’t even try to suggest that mothers band together to protest the school’s lack of judgment and lackadaisical attitude in this area. I’ve tried, to no avail; most moms simply can’t be bothered. If you’d observe them as I do on my weekly shopping excursion in our local supermarket, you’d understand. I’ve seen women shoppers scooping up the unhealthiest snack bags by the armful, loading their shopping carts to the hilt with this MSG laced garbage. I guess they (the snack bags) work to keep the kids at bay when mommy is tied up with baby or some other of her multiple chores.

Grown-ups should know better

Dear Rachel,

The letter from A Concerned Bubby was pretty horrifying. I can’t believe in this day and age there are camps that allow parents to send chazerai to camp, or that there are parents that would do it. Makes you wonder what other health matters they are lax in when they’re allowing this.

For the past ten years my son has been involved with Camp Nesher, a Modern Orthodox camp in Pennsylvania that is affiliated with the New Jersey Y camps. He was a camper for eight years and has spent the past two summers as a counselor. Camp Nesher has a very strict policy vis-à-vis packages. There is ONE accepted hashgacha for camp packages, a company called SWAK. They send packages of varying price ranges that contain everything BUT food – puzzles, games, pillows, etc.

In fact, Camp Nesher has a strict “no food in bunks” policy, which I commend them for. Not only don’t the kids need to spend their summers eating junk, having food in the bunk is an invitation to all sorts of unwelcome wildlife. If a camper receives a package from a source other than SWAK, they must open it in the camp office. Food items are removed before the camper is allowed to take the package back to their bunk.

I suggest that all parents inquire as to the policies of the camp to which they are considering sending their children. We all try to maintain healthy eating habits during the school year and need to make sure that vacation time doesn’t undo the good habits of the previous ten months.

Good moms make wise choices

Dear Rachel,

As if to validate your reply to A Concerned Bubby, our kitchen table on Simchas Torah became a colorful display of show and tell as my grandchildren unloaded the vast supply of goodies they brought home with them from shul. And to my chagrin but no surprise, the kids hardly touched any real food at the dining room table.

Oh, we did our best to stop them from unwrapping their sugar treats and noshing away, but they had apparently already done enough of that in the preceding hours to kill their appetite for dinner.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-175/2012/10/18/

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