web analytics
July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Rachel’

SWEETS to the SWEET!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

As I write this letter, it is chaotic in many homes where children are between camp and school, which has not yet started. Kids running in and out of the house are always looking to munch on something, and exasperated moms let them raid the nosh cabinet.

But it doesn’t start here. This past summer I discovered that sending children to sleep away camp means having to send them a package from home at least once a week. It takes little imagination to guess what those packages are filled with: candy, cookies, chips and chocolate, and more candy. Bags and bags of them. A dentist’s dream; they will earn enough to put all their children through college for sure.

When my kids were younger and went away to camp, I too let them know I was thinking of them; I sent them a goody box twice – if they were there for the entire season. The problem begins with the children who arrive in camp loaded with enough nosh to open a canteen of their own. This creates envy on the part of the “unluckier” kids whose luggage contains only the required clothing and bed linen items, and a case of bottled water.

Why do camps allow this ridiculous abuse to run rampant? Yes, I said abuse. It’s abuse of our children’s physical and mental capacities, abuse of our wallets and abuse of the camp’s food allotments. (The leftovers from meals served to campers whose systems are overloaded on garbage can feed a small army.)

To begin with, camps should limit the amount of candy each child brings or hoards, and they should furthermore place limits on the contents of packages received by campers. Parents of moderate means have a hard enough time meeting the expenses involved in sending their kids to camp without having to go to this ridiculous added expense. And what about the frustration of parents who go all out promoting proper nutrition in the home, only to have their efforts dashed in the span of a summer season in camp?

I was always under the impression that the whole idea of sending kids off for the summer is to give them the advantage of fresh air, sunshine and exercise — after being cooped up for long winter months. Seems to me that all of this permissive unhealthy gorging somehow defeats the purpose we had in mind to begin with.

In this day and age no one can claim ignorance of the value of nutrition or feign oblivion of the benefits of wholesome foods to young, developing minds and bodies. If I may, I’d like to suggest readers check out the excellent Health & Living insert of the August 31st issue of The Jewish Press (if they haven’t yet done so). It has some great articles and one of them discusses the effects of sugary cereals that are a big part of many children’s food fare. The author of the piece speaks about these kids’ behavioral issues in school and of how they’re easily frustrated, mistake-prone and devoid of energy as their day progresses.

I would also like to address the shul Candyman whose sweet nature has young admirers flocking to him in droves: Would it be so terrible to hand out healthier treats to our children? How about substituting honey-wheat pretzels, kettle-baked chips, almonds, raisins and other dried fruit for the empty calorie kind of sweets? Even if the kids fill up on them and skip dinner, they’ll at least have had some nutrients in their system.

A Concerned Bubby

Dear Concerned,

Ouch! You laid the goo on thick. Sometimes facing the truth is almost as uncomfortable as sitting in the dentist’s chair. By pointing out the folly of feeding our kids junk, you may have touched on some other sticky issues.

Can parents (of kids who are in camp) be spoiling them out of guilt for their glee in having them out of their hair? Maybe those packages are meant to keep them happy so that they G-d forbid don’t entertain any notions of coming home early. Or perhaps this is just some parents’ way of saying “we miss you tons.”

If I recall correctly from years back, at least one girls’ camp confiscated incoming packages and kept the stuff in the camp office, allowing the camper just a minimal of its content. I believe the camp had instituted a “no food packages allowed” rule at the start and made sure to enforce it. Many campers were no doubt disappointed, but the headaches associated with these packages – such as peer envy, tummy aches, no appetite for dinner, bugs in the dorms, increased tooth decay – were avoided.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Dear Rachel,

Every now and then life throws us a curveball and we are forced to make hard decisions. I don’t know how well I can present my dilemma without stating all the facts, but I will try because I really need your advice and it would be impossible for me to go into all the background history relevant to this situation. Regardless, I’ll try to make myself as clear as I can.

We are a close-knit family and I am one of several sisters. We’ve always been devoted to one another and frequently guest in each other’s homes for simchas, holidays, or just for a Shabbos — our parents, whom we are all close to, included.

All of us are baruch Hashem married with growing families. So far so good, you’re thinking, and I agree. We have much to be grateful for. But things are not always as rosy as they may seem. One of us sisters has, since early childhood, been a demanding one. I don’t mean in a bratty or spoiled way; she has suffered from emotional disorders over the years that have invariably commanded undue attention at various stages in our lives.

As it happens, one sister has found herself with the brunt of the load. Chalk it up to “broader shoulders” or a soft touch persona, or both — the fact is that I have always made myself available to offer assistance in any and every way I could, despite the inconvenience or burden to my immediate family. I must add that this sister is fortunate to be blessed with a loving, understanding and uncomplaining spouse.

Rachel, I couldn’t possibly begin to describe the harrowing days and nights I’ve spent caring for this sister when she’s had her episodes (which I’d rather not elaborate on for confidential reasons). To have her get back on her feet and function in a normal capacity is all the thanks I’ve ever needed. My being there for her has always been a matter of genuine concern and dedication to one of our own in desperate need (which, I should say, included making certain she received the appropriate professional care).

I regret to say that it’s now been half a year since this sister and I have communicated, ever since she, her husband and their children spent the entire Pesach holiday in our home at our invitation. Suffice it to say that she came, stayed and exited as though she’d visited a hotel with all the amenities: room service, maid service and baby-sitting service. By the time Yom Tov came to a close, I was on the verge of mental and physical collapse.

To clarify, my sister was not ill or incapacitated in any way during this time. That she didn’t lift a finger or offer to help out is one thing. But Rachel, she didn’t even make a pretense of caring for her own children, one still a baby. Here I was, trying to juggle multiple tasks at once while cradling her baby in one arm and my own handful of children underfoot. (For the record, we are of modest means so it’s not like we enjoy the luxury of steady household help.)

But even this I’d have looked past — after all, inviting guests over doesn’t guarantee that they will lend a hand. It’s a chance you willingly take as hostess, and you try to cope with grace. The breaking point came on Motzei Yom Tov when my sister emerged from her “hotel suite” toting her wheelie luggage, her family in tow, and walked out of our house without so much as goodbye, let alone a “thanks for having us over.”

Don’t get this wrong; I have absolutely no regrets about the times I’d gone out of my way for my sister when she was in urgent need. It’s just that I feel there has to be some healthy boundaries in our relationship, and, truthfully, I am hurting way too much at being treated like a doormat. I’d have accepted an apology had she come to realize that she was in the wrong, but it never came. And forget the “have others speak to her” advice. Everyone in our family has tried, to no avail.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communites

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

I need to get this off my chest, so please bear with me. It’s been three long months since my husband and I suffered the traumatic experience of losing our long awaited baby. There was no warning that anything was wrong. Though I’d suffered some early miscarriages before, this pregnancy was normal until the very end.

But it was not to be and our full term first child was called back to Shamayim even before it got to take its first breath.

Luckily for us it happened over a weekend in which Shabbos led to a 2-day Yom Tov. Since no one in our extended families was aware we’d gone to the hospital, we had several hours of privacy that helped us come to grips with the tragedy that had so suddenly befallen us. Not for long though…

The dreaded hour came, when we had no choice but to break the sad news to our parents, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how quickly the word spread. Rachel, I am at a loss of words as to how to begin to tell you of my endless frustration since.

People I hardly knew bombarded us with messages asking how they could help and what they could do. Somehow, the thought that I may not be up to hosting visitors escaped them. Both my husband and I relayed in every way we could that we’d be sure to let them know if and when they were needed.

It didn’t take a day after one such message was conveyed (via next of kin) for a woman I wasn’t particularly close with to come knocking on our door. She was crying. Hysterically.  I had to calm her, to assure her that I was okay and not to take it so hard. In spite of my pain and discomfort, I must have been doing a marvelous job because my uninvited guest was in no rush to leave.

On one evening, a close cousin was over to visit. By the time she was about to leave, I was more than ready to retire for the night. As I walked my guest to the door to let her out, the doorbell rang; there stood a woman I barely knew, with a startled expression on her face. “I was sure you weren’t going to answer the door…” she managed, seeming mortified that I actually had.

I invited her in — did I have a choice? Rachel, believe it or not, she just sat there and said nothing. I was beginning to wonder whether she knew… but of course she did, for she kept looking at me with pity written all over her face. The stress of that unsolicited and unexpected visit killed my night and carried over into the following day.

A word to those who generously offer a generic “If you need anything, just call…” No, I won’t chase you. That would be more than a bit awkward on my part. Unless you are a close friend really ready to help and to make yourself available please don’t bother with empty gestures.

Then there are the women who tell me they know exactly how I’m feeling (no, you don’t!) and even have the remedy handy: “If you go back to work right away, it will help you forget…” At the opposite end, one close relative was so jittery about how to act and what to say that she decided to completely ignore the whole thing and pretend that nothing happened. Let me tell you, that sure felt weird.

Other well-meaning souls who don’t know what to say or how to react have come up with a novel (literally) solution: they put things down on paper — I mean pages of it, filled with G-d knows what. I certainly don’t and neither do I have any intention of reading them to find out. I suppose they need to unburden their heavy hearts. Well, I’m sorry to have to say that their load is too heavy for me to carry at this time.

Please don’t misunderstand me, Rachel… I’m really not a bad person. It’s only that I have no strength for the heavy-handed. A card, a brief call or short e-mail can go a long way in expressing one’s sympathy and good wishes. And yes, thankfully some of my relatives and close friends did have the intelligence and forethought to leave a brief text or message that said simply, “Thinking of you. Tell me when you’re ready to talk… I’m here for you.”

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Dear Readers,

This column recently featured a letter written by a reader who expressed concern about the alarming rise of marijuana abuse in our frum communities by those with the “mistaken notion that the use of marijuana is, firstly, not against halacha, and secondly, not harmful to one’s health.” (Chronicles Aug. 10)

The writer cited the position of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (as documented in Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35) who held that smoking marijuana is in violation of many of the basic laws of our Torah since it causes physical harm to the user and is detrimental to the mind and thus affects one’s performance of mitzvos.

The following letter was submitted by a young man in response to Concerned…

Dear Rachel,

Rabbi Moshe’s teshuvah is, I believe, addressed to yeshiva students who need to keep their minds sharp, though I’ll admit the reasons stated for prohibiting marijuana would apply equally to most Jewish teens. To note: The Torah does not forbid marijuana use, but Reb Moshe does — based on the reason that it is disruptive to a healthy Torah lifestyle. If the reasons underlying that assumption fall, then the issur falls.

The argument that marijuana disrupts kavanah, thereby rendering a user unable to study Torah or perform mitzvos, is highly contentious and something that ultimately only good medical research, that unfortunately does not yet exist, can set straight. A parent’s aggravation is unfortunate, but the fact is that many teenagers – probably not unlike their parents before them – engage in behavior their parents often find disappointing.

In the case of marijuana, the degree of concern warranted is not clear, but one thing is: the more you fan a flame, the stronger the fire gets. Marijuana will not destroy you child’s brain. Most Americans have smoked marijuana and the American who has not ever done so is the exception to the rule. Good or bad, it’s a fact.

Parents who say “We are Jewish, this isn’t our way…” are completely right, but smell the coffee; it’s 2012 and we’re in America. If you can raise a child away from marijuana, away from a computer, and away from a TV, more power to you. If your child has been exposed repeatedly to television, computers, and cholov akum then taking a puff and chasing the dragon fits right into that list.

That’s not to say marijuana can’t be a detriment. It can, and with an unhealthy person, especially one with the usual instability of a teenager, it is a real concern. Many people say marijuana is not addictive. That’s a lie. Maybe not like heroine, but it most certainly can and often does develop into an addiction, and no addiction – besides maybe a Torah addiction – is healthy.

Even here the real concern is not so much the effect the marijuana has on the body or mind but more so the affect it may have on the person’s behavior. Most people in America smoked marijuana and most are not addicted by any measure. Often the person experimenting with marijuana, especially the teenager, is of a fragile nature and will likely respond to conflict by fighting back and digging deeper into the cycle of experimentation.

Better not to fuel that fight and to focus on positive goals. In my opinion the subject of marijuana should be addressed only as far as goals and an otherwise normal lifestyle have been impacted by its use. I humbly advise parents who would like help in dealing with what they believe is a problem, namely a teenager engaging in marijuana smoking, to take the issue to a doctor and rabbi (trusted by both parent and teen) to openly discuss it, with the teen and without. If you don’t have a rabbi and doctor, this could be the first problem and certainly is your first step to reconciliation.

If your teen is smoking marijuana you may think it is a big deal and you may be right, but it probably didn’t start here, it won’t necessarily end here, and you can overreact and make things worse. Try to create a real connection with your child. Take joy in simple things, like preparing food for Shabbos together and eating together. On Shabbos let your worries melt away. Indulge in family togetherness, good food and wine, and read the parshawith the commentaries. Even your estranged teenager is apt to join you in such an environment. Shabbos is an ideal time to reignite the light of love and friendship. Be patient but resilient and see if your problems won’t slip away.

A Frum Realist

Dear Frum Realist,

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

It’s been over 40 years and I am still haunted by the ugly memories. As I relive some of the worst moments of my life, I hurt all over again. The crippling wave of emotions that washes over me does a number on me… again and again I am torn between feelings of guilt and rage. Why did I allow it? What was I thinking? How could he have?!

Somehow with the help of G-d I acquired the coping skills to enable me, baruch Hashem, to raise a family and become a doting grandmother. But the intense pain seared into my psyche still surfaces, and when it does it burns with unbearable intensity.

When I see abusers and molesters, disguised as leaders and counselors, being coddled – while their victims are scorned and their claims discredited, it’s as if I am that young girl again, used and abused at the whim of a recognized and supposedly respectable mechanech.

Therapists I’ve seen over the years have assured me that I have nothing to feel guilty about. But I argue that I wasn’t a child anymore – at eighteen I should have known better and could have spurned the come-ons. Okay, maybe a savvy, street-smart, self-assured 18-year old would have done just that. But with my lack of sophistication and self-confidence, I was easily conned and blinded by his wit and charm. And he had plenty of both, with intelligence thrown in for good measure.

He also had a lovely family. And his wife must have been the envy of every teenager who had a crush on her husband and who would line up at the door of his office every chance they got, hoping to catch a private audience with their rebbe/teacher/principal.

He wasn’t handsome in a striking way, but he oozed charisma. And in his low-key, unassuming and easygoing manner he actually had me convinced that he cared about me, that his sole concern was my wellbeing and happiness, and that there was nothing inherently wrong with our relationship.

It began when my high school years were behind me. I was no longer under his tutelage when I chanced on getting a ride with him from my small hometown to the big city where I worked. We weren’t alone on our lengthy drive, at least not at first. On the second or third round, we were. Then came the convenient “to rest up a bit” overnight stops. He was sweet, gentle, persuasive and he knew just what to say.

It lasted a few months, during which time I would often commute by bus to meet up with him and spend a leisurely Sunday together. Weirdly, he once invited me to spend a Shabbos in his home where I was warmly welcomed by his family, where he behaved of course and acted as the perfect family man practicing hachnassas orchim.

So what made me so gullible? Trust me, Rachel, no one would have believed it of me. I was the studious, no-nonsense, goody-goody type, a conservative dresser, and not particularly outgoing. In fact, my idea of a good time was to curl up with a book rather than hang out with friends. Besides, as a middle child I had always felt upstaged by my older sister whom I considered to be way smarter and better looking than I, while my youngest sib was adorable and deserved all the attention she got.

Our holocaust-survivor parents were devoted to a fault but were mainly focused on making ends meet, serving wholesome meals on time and dutifully attending PTA meetings. Obviously deeply pained about having lost large segments of their families to the gas chambers, they didn’t seem to have the strength or inclination to demonstrate their love for us in a tangible way. Hugs and kisses were reserved for those rare occasions when they would be reunited with kin following years of separation.

So maybe I needed to be needed, to be loved, to be complimented… and to be hugged. And this man, at least 25 years my senior, knew exactly who would be unable to resist his appeal and withstand the nisayon — the net he so cleverly laid out to ensnare his vulnerable prey.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Dor Yeshorim’s take on a reader’s argument…
(See Chronicles July 20)

Dear Rachel,

We at Dor Yeshorim saw your response to the recent letter about our program and appreciate your thoughtful answer.

As you stated, we have upheld our rules for over 29 years, and as you discerned, the rules are based on experience and care. While some would accuse us of being self serving, we would only point out that serving the program to make sure it works as well for future generations as it works today would be described as “serving klal Yisroel.

Due to genetic screening and shidduchim being such sensitive issues, you can imagine how someone who doesn’t understand why we have a particular rule would tend to believe that there couldn’t be a good reason for it. Rather than go through all the reasons for the many rules the program must impose, we would like to ask that Torah observant Yidden at least give us the benefit of the doubt – even if they cannot “think favorably” – and assume that in light of our vast experience and knowledge of our program, we are doing the best we can, in their best interest and in the interest of klal Yisroel.

With regard to your reader’s specific concern, please know that it pains us not to be able to break the rules for him, but the program’s integrity and its confidentiality for all participants are at stake.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Yosef Ekstein
Dor Yeshorim Inc.

Marijuana: A menace in our midst

Dear Rachel,

With sadness and distress, I wanted your opinion and advice about the terrible predicament – the rise in marijuana abuse within the frum community. I believe that this abuse has come about due to the mistaken notion that the use of marijuana is, firstly, not against halacha, and secondly, not harmful to one’s health. While to me it seems obvious that both of these notions are completely wrong, I feel that many find being a Torah Jew and drug addict not contradictory.

The use of marijuana is a violation of halacha. As Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l writes in Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35: “smoking marijuana is in violation of many of the basic laws of our Torah.” He explains that marijuana (1) causes physical harm to the person, (2) mentally affects the person by destroying the mind (one cannot properly perform any mitzvos, and doing them mindlessly is considered as if they were not done at all).

Rav Moshe also explains that a marijuana abuser has similar attributes to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh (the rebellious son), since they cannot control their addictions. He also sees marijuana abuse as a violation of the mitzvah of Kedoshim Ti’Hiyu (You shall be holy) and the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Aim (respecting parents).

Marijuana is very harmful to one’s health as it damages the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decreases the ability of the immune cells in the lungs. Regular smoking has been shown to weaken the smoker’s various natural immune mechanisms, affecting the body’s ability to defend itself against infection.

As someone who knows many Torah Jews who justify the abuse of marijuana, I was curious what we as individuals can do about this horrific plight. I realize that your column is a forum for important issues facing our community, and it has been a source of inspiration and help to many in need.

What do you think is the most effective way to combat this pervasive problem facing the young Orthodox Jewish community?

Concerned…

Dear Concerned,

You certainly have right and reason to be concerned. As you so persuasively point out, the habit of smoking pot is detrimental to one’s physical and mental wellness. Are our young smokers aware that the cannabis plant contains over 400 chemical compounds and that use of its dried flowers, leaves and stems (marijuana) is known to affect not only their brains but their lungs as well — that marijuana smoke is more than twice as carcinogenic than cigarette smoke?

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Vaccinating our Children… (See Chronicles 7-20)
A Reader’s Response


Dear Rachel,

(Please note that the tone of this email is not meant to be defensive, offensive or critical. I am simply sharing my view.)

I came across a question a reader asked you and your answer, concerning vaccinating children against chicken pox. Your response was that the reader was “misguided” by those who say that it’s better for their children to actually contract the disease rather than receiving the inoculation.

First of all, to say that this is misguided is pretty harsh since there are many responsible parents out there, myself included, who will claim the exact same thing about those who do choose to vaccinate their child/ren. At the very least, you can say that you are of the personal opinion that vaccines are indeed the safer way to go but not that it is written in stone. People who read your column trust your opinion and it upsets me that you didn’t even bother to mention that there is anther side to the story.

I know what the medical establishment says – I’ve done my fair share of reading – yet I take the liberty of making my choice based on other things I’ve read and studied. I do not encourage other parents I speak with one way or another — I would not take responsibility for that. Rather, I tell them to do their research. Read, ask and understand before you make a decision.

I would end here because the above is the point I wanted to make but I will share with you, in general, why I chose to not vaccinate.

1) We, in our society, tend to think of the medical establishment as a group who does research and has the answers about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. This is not always the case. In the best scenario the research has been done, and over a long period of time the vaccine has been shown to be “safe.” This means it hasn’t caused obvious dire side effects and not too many kids were harmed. Lately, this has not been the case. Pharmaceutical companies are rushing to come out with new vaccines all the time. These vaccines have been studied for only a very short period and we don’t yet know how the receivers react. Sometimes, we find out the hard way. There is much controversy, even in the medical establishment, of recent vaccines such as the H1N1, Gardasil, influenza, etc. There have been countries that have banned them due to the danger they pose.

2) Whereas when I was a kid there were a handful of inoculations that we received, by now children are being overloaded with them. They start when the children are barely a day old (Hep B) and keep pummeling their small bodies with foreign substances that end up compromising their immune systems. They need to become accustomed to all kinds of germs naturally to strengthen their systems. And let’s not forget about all the additives that are put in with the vaccine. Mercury (at lease that’s been mostly removed), aluminum, formaldehyde… the list goes on.

3) Many of the diseases the doctors try to prevent are not as dangerous as they are made out to be. You mentioned a statistic about children who die from the chicken pox. I am not arguing about the numbers, but one must keep in mind that often those who died of the disease were immunodeficient to begin with. Read, with an open mind, about all those children who have been harmed by the vaccines. How can we justify that? In addition, years later, the doctors discovered that those who have not been naturally protected against chicken pox by actually getting it are much more at risk for shingles, another “scary” disease. (In answer to this, they have come out with a vaccine against shingles…)

There is much more to be said about this, including my views on the matter from the perspective of a homeopath-in-training, but this is not the place. Let’s just say for now that there is much, much more to the subject than what we can imagine, and we need to keep an open mind.

Respectfully yours….

Dear Respectfully,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-158/2012/08/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: