web analytics
November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Readers’

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.

Shidduchim: Why Personality Compatibility Matters

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Dear Readers:

Much of my private practice is devoted to helping couples in conflict resolve their differences. I have discovered over the years that personality compatibility is an essential component of a happy marriage. Many of the couples I see in therapy struggle with reconciling radically different modes of communicating and coping with life’s issues. As a result, it is often the case that arguments ensue, empathy is strained and estrangement sets in. With that as a backdrop, here are several fictitious vignettes of couples that are personality incompatible.

Devorah prides herself on being punctual. She views it as a mark of responsibility and respect for others to be on time. As a matter of fact, she almost always gets to meetings early. Her husband Yaakov usually arrives for appointments 5-10 minutes late. He always has what he thinks is a valid reason: something came up that he had to attend to. He prides himself on his flexibility and multitasking. Devorah is frustrated because she thinks Yaakov could be more organized and prioritize his life better. The two frequently argue about this issue and it negatively affects their relationships.

Malkie is sensitive to people’s feelings and will go to almost any length to avoid a dispute. Her husband Baruch is strong willed and factual and will press his case even if it involves some degree of dissension. Malkie feels that Baruch is insensitive and bullying. Baruch believes that Malkie is too much of a pushover and that she should stand up for what she feels is right – even if it involves a disagreement. He contends that disagreements are necessary because they lead to a clarification of the truth. This difference in approach leads to frustration for both of them.

Moshe believes that the best way to raise his and his wife’s children is to set firm rules and impose natural consequences for breaching those rules. He doesn’t believe in making exceptions, as it will teach their children to shirk their responsibilities. “The law is the law” by him. His wife Ruchie is very attuned to her children and is more inclined to view non-compliance as stemming from an emotional issue. She gives the benefit of the doubt to her children in many situations. As a consequence of their differing personalities, Moshe and Ruchie frequently argue over their different child-rearing styles.

As you can see, these couples are incompatible in certain defined aspects of their relationship. Neither spouse is right or wrong; they simply have very different personalities. These differences can be difficult to detect during the dating process, when singles are in situations that do not normally pose conflict. However, after the couple is married, these incompatibilities soon assume center stage. If differences are relatively few in number and the spouses possess significant skills in empathy and acceptance of difference, things are manageable. However, the cumulative effect of profound incompatibility is that feelings of trust and intimacy are compromised.

Of course, when couples differ in some ways, they can help each other grow. However, when couples’ personalities are significantly different or incompatible, it can become more of a problem in their marriage. Personality traits that at first seemed appealing because they were different than one’s own eventually become a source of frustration and are seen as a flaw in need of rectification. Individuals who seek to change their spouses’ traits will surely encounter failure. People cannot be coerced into changing their essential nature.

What emerges is that compatibility makes it much easier to establish a happy and successful marriage. Research studies in the field of psychology have demonstrated that compatible couples are more satisfied in their marriages. Moreover, Torah hashkafa emphasizes the importance of being diligent in identifying compatibility in prospective spouses. We need to communicate this knowledge to young adults and their parents who are now actively engaged in shidduchim. We must give them the necessary tools to be able to identify personality-compatible marriage prospects.

To that end I strongly endorse an exciting resource that has just burst onto the frum dating scene, one that will hopefully result in hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages. The website ZivugZone.com uses a sophisticated, state-of-the-art software program to match singles according to their personality compatibility, hashkafa, age and other key personal preferences. My friend and colleague Moshe Coan, with whom I’ve worked closely with in the past, is the website’s founder. ZivugZone.com is free and has become hugely popular since it launched in July. The first two months saw over 1,300 singles register.

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.

An Appeal To Readers

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Dear Readers:

It is Motzei Rosh Hashanah as I write this letter. I have been a therapist for over thirty years and devote a large part of my practice to marital and pre-marital therapy. This year I have had many clients seeking my services after they sought help from other frum therapists. Regarding this, I wish to address the following phenomena:

The frum therapist told many of these couples during the first or second session that they should get divorced. This situation, which has taken place throughout my years in practice, has recently become more prevalent. Yes, there are many frum therapists who do not advocate divorce, but I have to wonder why any therapist would push divorce as an option when clearly the couple is attending therapy to receive help in saving the marriage? If the couple wanted to get divorced they would go to a beis din to secure one. Even the rabbanim who run the batei din try to get the couple to first seek therapy before possibly (and unfortunately) proceeding with a divorce.

Please, readers, tell others as you would advise yourselves: do not continue seeking counsel from a therapist who sees you once and advises you, based on that sole session, to get divorced. Just this Erev Yom Tov I ran into a couple that I treated 20 years ago. At that time this issue was not as common, but they had also gone to a frum therapist who in one session told them to get divorced. They were then referred to me and I had them undergo extensive therapy for six months. It was a difficult case, with the husband needing to work out his anger issues. After teaching anger management techniques to him and effective countermoves to offset his anger to her, they remained married and had several more children.

So 20 years later, they said to me, “We just had our fifth grandchild! We can’t believe we are meeting you!”

This newest grandchild was from the child they had after therapy, a child who would never have been born had they gotten divorced. They told me that they were basically happy and were friends with divorced couples whose lives turned out to be a big mess. They described how the other couples’ children had problems or were off the derech, and how they had so much nachas with their amazing children.

“Being married is not easy and we work on it every day, but we see the fruits of our labor and we share a deep love and conviction. In spite of all obstacles we work things out,” they said. They joyfully told me all the great techniques that they use until this day to ensure that they keep their marriage intact. They continue, even after they stopped going for therapy, to have a date night once a week. They work on complimenting each other and, for the most part, the anger is no longer an active force in their marriage. They still have disputes, but they are manageable and are not of the same nature as the ones they had pre-therapy. This couple learned conflict resolution and the husband has kept his anger in check all these years. For her part, the wife knows how to avoid making her husband angry and how to keep him calm.

It is not easy to be married, but it is surely not easy to be divorced. In certain situations there is no alternative to divorce, but if a couple is willing to work together, a therapist has an open door for the possibility of success. If the husband or wife, however, refuses to seek help or to work on his or her deficiency, the situation becomes more difficult. But even in such cases, I have taught the cooperative spouse (usually the healthier one) how to use effective countermoves to make a difficult marriage work. Other great techniques include imago therapy, with the couple learning how their childhood issues are affecting their marriage and how to deal with those issues.

So, my dear readers, if you go to a therapist one time – with your spouse or alone – and the therapist tells you to get divorced, please seek out another therapist. You can always get divorced, but first try as hard as possible to save your marriage. This may entail not always getting your way; it may mean giving in at times. You may have to learn to agree to disagree on certain issues, and you will have to work on dealing with your anger more effectively – in the process learning self-control. But all this will make you a better person and better able to work on developing good middos.

A Miracle on Siyum HaShas Day

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Dear Readers,

The first day of the second half of this summer will no doubt stand out in the memories of countless people who had the zechus to attend the twelfth Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium. Many more who weren’t there in person were nonetheless able to participate in some way, either by catching highlights of the celebration streamed live or by viewing video clips and photos that managed to capture the essence of the achdus, exhilaration and sheer exultation that was widely in evidence that night.

It’s safe to say that everybody knows somebody who was there, be it a family member, neighbor or friend. A childhood friend of mine whom I shall call Malka stayed home with her elderly mother (who has lived with them for the past several years), while her husband attended the affair. An only child and the daughter of holocaust survivors, Malka was a young girl when she lost her father to a debilitating illness and most of her memories of him center on her visits to his hospital bedside. Her mother raised her single-handedly, having never remarried, and had always been extremely reserved about sharing or conveying her inner thoughts, even to her own daughter.

“My mother said very little, and even that little was spoken in a tone barely above a whisper,” says Malka. Not a bad thing in itself, to be sure, but Malka has often lamented that there was so much she yearned to know about both of her parents, and especially about her grandparents and the numerous aunts and uncles she had been cruelly deprived of ever meeting. According to Malka, “…my mother spoke only when it was essential for her to do so and spent most of her time working to support us and maintaining our small, neat and humble home.”

In the early evening of August 1, Malka was taken by the scene that greeted her when she stepped out on her front porch. Parked curbside along the length of Borough Park’s18th Avenue “were buses upon buses, white and shining, for as far as my eyes could see, with masses of my fellow Yidden – Chassidish, Litvish, Yekkish, Sefardish, Yeshivish, you name it – lining up to wait their turn to board the bus that would take them to the much talked-about event.”

This was something Malka felt her physically frail mother couldn’t miss seeing. “I held onto her arm and slowly guided her to our street corner from where she could clearly see the goings on. I turned to ask her what she thought of the incredible sight…”

Malka searched her mother’s face for a reaction and to her surprise saw tears welling in the older woman’s eyes. “Us they didn’t transport in white buses…” she said quietly, emotion choking her every word as tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

“She didn’t have to elaborate,” says Malka. “Not that she had ever gone into any detail, but I’d read and heard enough to know that she was reliving the horrors that she and innumerable others were forced to endure when they were mercilessly stuffed into the cattle cars… and I also understood that she was overcome with a sense of pride in her heritage that has miraculously survived despite the evil intent of a monstrous dictator that sought to annihilate us.”

And another miracle, albeit much smaller in scope, began to unfold on this day; Malka’s mother began to open up, to share the memories she’d stored in the attic of her mind for decades. The remarkable scene of hundreds of Jews boarding new-like buses to celebrate their joy in perpetuating our G-d given legacy apparently triggered in Malka’s mom a sudden urge to share the heavy burdens of her heart with her future progeny, to make them aware of the savagery perpetrated upon their ancestors who were among millions of victims of the Nazi genocide.

Malka recalls, “Over the years I had come to know that in Auschwitz my mother, then a young woman hardly twenty years of age, was given the job of sorting and checking through the various clothing items of victims stripped literally bare…” But now her mom shared the memory of a heart-stopping moment in time, when she had picked up a woman’s coat and felt something stuffed into one of its sleeves. To her horror it was a baby… whose life its mother had apparently desperately tried to preserve.

A Tale Of Two Friends

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Dear Readers

The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it?

Below is a fictional illustration of this human foible – focusing on the perceived benefits in another person’s life while failing to appreciate your own.

A Tale Of Two Friends

Suri looked at the full-length, wall-to-wall mirror that some thoughtful contractor -who must have had daughters – had installed in the ladies’ room of the wedding hall. It was quite insightful of him to have done that, as if he knew all too well that the friends and close relatives of the chossan and kallah who were marching down to the chuppah needed a full head to toe view of them-self before they were put on public display.

Especially the single girls – who needed to make the best possible impressions on the ladies among the assembled guests who dabbled in shidduchum, or who had eligible sons in the parsha. And if you were an “older” single of 25 like she was – and your 20-year-old sister was the kallah, – it was extremely crucial that you look your best.

Most importantly, the smile you affixed on your face had to look genuine, not plastered on, and had to radiate confidence and joy.

In other words, Suri had to make sure that the sadness and sense of failure that permeated her inner core did not show. She had to look cheerful and gracious when the inevitable onslaught of “im yirtzeh Hashem by you” and “maybe you are too picky” comments, would assail her. By looking proud and assured, perhaps the pitying looks would not accompany these well-meaning, but nonetheless painful remarks.

Squaring her shoulders and holding her head high, Suri walked out of the room with a smile on her face that would have have made any actress proud.

Several hours later, a very tired and emotionally drained Suri gratefully entered her room, threw off her sweat-stained gown and collapsed in her bed. She had managed to keep her composure despite the fact that she silently “heard” the word nebach attached to every mazal tov she was greeted with.

The wedding of course, had been beautiful, her sister dazzling and her mother had been radiant with relief – one less single daughter to worry about.

Some of the guests, her mother had confided on the way home, had approached her with suggestions, and hopefully, a few would actually follow through on them. Suri had told her not to get too excited; that they were probably men whom people expected her to be grateful for the opportunity to date.

After hitting 24, well-meaning but clueless people, had tried to set her up with men who were totally inappropriate for her – the widely held belief in the community being that anything was better than nothing. Divorced men with kids who were in high school when she was born, and men with obvious physical and emotional challenges were being redt to her. And she was chastised as being “picky”!

Too wound up to sleep, Suri let her mind wander. She enviously thought of her best friend Miriam. Everything seemed to have fallen in her lap. She had been introduced to her future husband during her seminary year when both were Shabbat guests of the rav and rebbetzin who were their respective teachers.

Without out the slightest effort, Miriam had found her zivug and shortly after returning home, had gotten engaged. She was barely 19 when she married and 20 when she gave birth to her bochur Avi, who was joined in quick succession by a sister and brother. Suri loved her best friend and was truly happy that marriage and motherhood had come to her so effortlessly. Go figure, she had even had mazal with the genders of her kids – a boy and a girl back to back – and she was expecting again. Suri thought of her father’s cousin who had just had her fourth girl and the sliver of disappointment that her husband must have felt – as much as he embraced this new bracha in his family.

Miriam had never had to experience the horrible pressure and relentless stress that she herself was under. From being tastefully dressed, made up and coiffed every time she stepped out of the house – even just to mail a letter, “in case someone sees you,” her mother would admonish. Then there were the hours in front of the mirror spent getting ready for a date, knowing that all that effort would be a waste of time, trapped into making and listening to small talk ad nauseum because, though from the start she knew the guy wasn’t shaich, “you never know – sometimes when you meet it just clicks.”

Road To Recovery

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Dear Readers,

I do not regret the past, nor do I wish to shut the door on it. I am now able to understand, feel serenity and know peace. No matter how far down the road I have traveled, I now see how my experiences can benefit others. This is part of the Al-Anon/Nar-anon 12 promises that can be achieved by everyone who “works it.” But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:

I had a loved one who was addicted to pain killers, and his disease changed the course of my life forever. My name is Brocha, and I am a grateful member of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.

About 10 years ago, my first husband a”h was badly injured in a fire. He was in extreme pain all the time and his doctors prescribed various painkillers. However, because he did not have a proper pain-management program and did end up suffering from a myriad of emotional issues, he continued using painkillers for longer than was necessary. So much so, that he developed a chemical dependency to the drugs and could not live without them. Unfortunately, he was not alone. There is a rapidly growing network of frum people who have become addicted to prescription medication.

Obtaining these pills is relatively simple; they are readily available in our shuls, breakfast shops and via private people. My husband used – and used a lot. He was involved in a number of car accidents and was seen at times walking in the streets without wearing proper clothing. He developed seizures and many other medical conditions. Ultimately, those drugs robbed him and us of his core personality.

Although I was living with him at the time, I spent most of the first year of his addiction in utter denial. I associated his behaviors with depression and continuously attempted to cheer him up. I went so far as to hide any difficulties I was having at work or with our children in order to protect him from things I felt were contributing to his depression. He went to doctors for seizures – they medicated him. He went to doctors for insomnia – they medicated him. He went to doctors for stomach issues – they medicated him. He went to doctors for depression – they medicated him…the list went on and on. You see everyone was treating the symptoms and not the underlying problem. Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such!

After about a year of my making up excuses for his behavior, a close friend sat me down and broke the news: My husband was an addict. I have to say I experienced a plethora of emotions – the greatest of which was relief that now all of his ailments had a central name… ADDICTION! I hoped that once the illness was defined, it would be easy to cure. In the end, all an addict has to do is stop using… right? At the same time, I was also terribly ashamed and embarrassed. In our community, addiction is still a dirty word. Although I was distraught, I was also sure I would combat this successfully. I asked all of his friends to stop ordering pills for him – he had convinced several friends to place online orders for him, and they had done so without realizing that more than a dozen other people were already placing orders. I began monitoring his computer usage and e-mail addresses and began canceling his on-line orders. I believed that if he had no access to these drugs he would be cured! I went from being naïve to downright foolish, yet my heart was always in the right place.

One night, while both high and depressed, he wanted to commit suicide. I hid his car keys, because I understood what he intended to do. He became so mad and increasingly violent to the point where he couldn’t control himself. That is when it became clear to me that I could not control his addiction, and began looking for help. I contacted an organization that works with both the addict and family members. They met with us and said that we both needed immediate help – my husband for the addiction and myself for what I was going through as a result of the addiction. Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone involved, and I needed to go to Nar-Anon and learn about my part of the disease.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/battling-addictions/road-to-recovery/2012/08/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: