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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Readers’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/14/11

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Dear Readers,

In last week’s column, a young outspoken wife and mother captures our attention with her engaging recollection of how, on her way to becoming an observant Jewess, she picked up on the ins and outs of what would qualify as appropriate modest attire. Now, some ten years later, our Los Angeles Tichel-Wearing Girl still doesn’t get how a married woman considers herself fulfilling the Torah requirement to cover her hair by wearing a wig — especially in light of the fact that wigs often outshine the real thing, both in glamour and sensuality. She calls this a deceitful practice.

 

Dear Tichel-Wearer,

Firstly, rest assured that others share your incredulity. Secondly, it may be of interest to you and other young readers to know that many of us can still recall a time in the not-too-distant (relatively speaking) past when human-hair wigs were almost unheard of, when wigs were mostly made of a synthetic fiber and were easily recognized as – well, wigs. That would partially explain why renown and respected community leaders (some no longer with us) sanctioned the wearing of wigs for married women.

It is highly unlikely that these rabbis, in their endorsement, envisioned the knockout versions that many of today’s young brides find hard to resist. But, and to their credit, they did empathize with a woman’s need to feel attractive and understood that not every female would be agreeable to, or could carry off, hiding her hair under a hat, scarf, or other shmatte, especially in public.

As is inevitable, any human invention that enjoys popularity will in time be updated or modernized, the wig being no exception. Further, buoyed by the Prada and Gucci wearing ladies who have enough change left over to line the pockets of wig makers and stylists, the sheitel trade has become a lucrative enterprise  — to the consternation of the average to lower-income household that discovers the purchase of (a minimum of) two custom wigs almost surpassing the cost of the kallah’s entire trousseau.

Though the trend doesn’t show any signs of diminishing, plenty of rabbis have spoken out against it, with similar arguments to yours. To be fair, mention must be made of the communities where women have heeded their leader’s call to dispense with the human hair wigs and wear only the synthetic kind, and of the many married women sporting stylish kerchiefs, hats or wide headbands on top of their wigs, meant to act as a constant reminder (to the wearer) of her married status.

While women who obsess with designer labels and the latest in fashion craze are prone to lose sight of their inner essence, there are simply those who wouldn’t be caught dead without some form of hair on their heads. (Let’s face it: not every girl is blessed with a face that looks good in anything.)

And realistically speaking, there is a marked distinction between wearing a neat, modestly styled do (bespeaking dignity and self-respect) and the drop-dead gorgeous attention-garnering custom sheitel that has the opposite effect of what is meant to be conveyed by a married woman’s head-dress.

I heard a noted wig stylist once confide that when she got married (several years ago), she was able to afford the nicest, most luxurious wig on the market at the time since her parents were in the business. As a newly married couple, she and her husband were out on a stroll when they happened on an old acquaintance of his who had heard of their engagement. Upon being apprised of their marital status, the friend did a double take and embarrassingly admitted that he failed to recognize her as a married woman due to the naturalness of her “hair.”

The woman’s husband promptly had her return the long, stunning wig to her parents and trade it in for a chin-length, modestly styled one – the kind she continues to wear to this very day. Even as a young bride she understood her husband’s concern and complied with his wish.

Unfortunately, some of today’s orthodox males get carried away by the enticements of the outside world and encourage their wives to dress to the hilt, in a misguided bid to exhibit their “catch” to the world.

I suspect that you, our endearing Tichel-Wearer, are one fortunate young woman who has her head in the right place and a mature husband who appreciates what he has. May you continue to grow together in Yiddishkeit and to be an inspiration to your entire family and to all who are fortunate to cross your path.

One of the explanations cited for the biblical directive to “make a Sukkah in which you are to dwell…” is to teach us of the transitory nature of our “residency” here on earth. The sukkah, a temporary dwelling, is supposed to remind us that our goal in this world is to do Hashem’s bidding and thereby secure our place in the lasting World to Come.

Even though Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are behind us, we are given until the solemn day of Hoshana Rabbah to rethink our priorities and resolve to adjust our lifestyles in ways that will endear us to Hashem and seal our verdict for a good year filled with wonderful blessings from Above.

Chag Sameach!

 

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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Dear Readers

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Dear Readers,


It is with mixed feelings that I write this message, wishing you all a g’mar chasimah tovah and a wonderful, healthy, prosperous, joy-filled new year.


At the end of October, the Rockland/North New Jersey office will be closing its doors as I move on to other projects and interests. It’s been quite an experience, these past 22 years, and I thank the Jewish Press for the opportunity it offered me and for putting up with me all this time. I thank you, our audience, for reading the Rockland Section, and for giving me a forum to announce all my family simchas, with a few of yours thrown in as well, of course.


I will not say “goodbye,” but only “adieu,” as you still may be assailed with the fruits of my pen, here and there, as I continue my relationship with The Jewish Press through special writing assignments. May this (finally!) be the year when we all join together in Yerushalayim to greet Moshiach tzidkeinu, b’mheirah b’yameinu!

Addressing the ‘Beef’

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Dear Readers,

From time to time, members of The Jewish Press community take the time and trouble to write or e-mail me sharing their feelings regarding something I wrote. Most of the comments are supportive and encouraging – and some are not. Either way, I appreciate all reader input, negative or positive, as it lets me know that my thoughts and observations are having an impact.

Recently, I received a somewhat irate letter from an indignant reader who took issue with some of my opinions regarding problems in the community. In the article titled, “Putting a Stumbling block in Front of the Blind,” (Magazine, 09-04-2011), I stated that when there is a rabbinic call for teshuva, the focus is usually on shmirat halashon (guarding what we say) and tzniut (modesty). While improvement certainly is needed in these two areas, I felt that they were just two components of a much bigger problem in our community, that being a seemingly epidemic apathy to the biblical injunction to not put a stumbling block in front of the blind. The commentator Rashi concluded this was a heavenly admonishment to refrain from taking advantage of those who were naïve, weak, trusting, unaware, gullible – the “blind” so to speak -for financial or social gain. I stated that unfortunately, the pursuit of money often caused otherwiseehrlich Jews to stray from their Torahdik values.

With her permission, I am printing the letter below with my response to her tiynas, (beefs).

Hi Cheryl,

You made a statement in last week’s (Sept 4) paper about a frum female real estate agent-purposefully lying to a buyer about a non-existent higher offer. I am a frum female real estate agent and I and others I know have actually asked rabbis questions about how to proceed. As do all frum people in many, many different lines of business.

So my question is-since you made a statement/a fact –I’m concluding you were told this by an “out of towner” as something that happened to them. I’m sure you wouldn’t just make up this scenario or voice an unspoken fear that you/people may have. Correct? I mean, even if it happened (G-d forbid) how would the buyer ever find out such a thing? Was the house actually sold for an equal or lower amount of their offer? Any agent would know that this fact would come out in the end and therefore I presume-would never do that–even without being concerned about halacha. Jewish, observant (modern Orthodox through chassidim) are truly being maligned by this article. We work very, very hard and don’t make that much money (most of the time commissions are split 3 ways).

And it fosters mistrust that is not warranted. I’m not sure what makes you think that you are an authority on advising the entire Jewish Press community on their behavior concerning greed, arrogance, jealousy, apathy, indifference and placing stumbling blocks. I advise you to consult a rav before scolding us all and making factual statements about our behavior. Perhaps just encouraging good behavior would be better than assuming the absolute worst of the community. In the end you are very guilty of loshon hora on a grand scale. I would appreciate a retraction or the publication of this letter.

Be well.”

To be honest, my initial response was that this person “doth protest too much,” but I now believe that she must be a very honest businesswoman, hence her rather emphatic indignation over my statement regarding a real estate agent who misled the buyer regarding a higher non-existing higher offer. I never said that this is the rule, rather than the exception in this profession, just that it does happen.

How do I know? I have heard several stories of people being misled by realtors as to bogus offers or the integrity of the property. To their deep chagrin, buyers ended up paying more for their property, and/or found that there were structural problems that they (deliberately?) were not told about in order to make the house more sellable. How did the buyers find out? They asked the seller or found out after moving in!

Out-of-towners who did not have the time or money to scope out real estate in the city they were moving to were especially vulnerable.

I can tell that the writer assumed that when I wrote out-of-towners I meant non-New Yorkers moving to the Big Apple and that I had maligned New York realtors. That is not the case at all. By out-of-towner I refer to people who live in one geographical area and are moving to another. If you live in Cleveland and are re-locating to Atlanta, for example, than you are an out-of -towner. Everything is relative, and there are heimishe communities beyond New York that people actually move to.

I was also rather perturbed by her claim that I am, “very guilty of loshon horaon a grand scale.” Nowhere did I name a specific person or place – and I am confident her rav would agree that a general observation does not translate into loshon hara. If that were the case, rabbanim sending out a kol koreh before Pesach forbidding unreasonable price gouging by food retailers are conceivably guilty of loshon hara, as their proclamation implies that an unethical practice is taking place; ditto for community activists and heads of social services who claim there are frum pedophiles, abusive husbands, people with unsavory addictions, etc. – as well as most of the op-ed writers and columnists in The Jewish Press.

I was also confused by her conclusion that I had set myself up “as an authority on advising The Jewish Press community on their behavior.” Huh? I simply made some observations based on the reality of human nature, and incidents experienced first-hand and or shared and related to me. Am I acting as an “authority” if I see a child wheezing and coughing and “advise” the mother that he is sick and should be evaluated by a doctor?

Sometimes the facts are in front of you and not pointing them out or sweeping them under the carpet ends up tragically backfiring and harmfully counter-productive.

Please accept my bracha that this new year bring with it a heightened awareness of ahavas Yisrael, of putting the other’s best interest before your own, thus hastening the coming of our final redemption. To that end, may you all have a successful davening!

Modeh Ani – A Prayer of Thanks

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Dear Readers: Everywhere you turn, it seems that people are beset with so many problems and worries; some are financial in nature, some revolve around social issues like shidduchim and marriage, some involve setbacks and losses, and the non-actualization of the vision we had of how the days of our lives would play out.

When people are focused on what is going wrong in their life, without balancing the bad with awareness of what is right, then they become susceptible to feelings of depression, anger or even hopelessness. To offset this negativity, which can undermine your well-being, it is important to take a moment to appreciate what is good in your life.

The following is the last of my summer poem series.

Modeh Ani – A Prayer of Thanks

The tired young father,

Shakes his head in dismay,

He has so many expenses,

They seem to increase day by day.

He is consumed by the fear

Of how on he will be able,

To pay the myriad of bills

Overflowing on the table.

He looks up and sees a photo,

Of his baby and his wife,

“Modeh Ani,” he whispers,

For my wonderful life.

The frail old lady,

Has been worn down by her years,

Her face is creased and lined

By long ago tears.

She has suffered much loss,

And is no stranger to pain,

Out of reach are cherished goals

That she will never attain.

Yet she lives on her own,

And is clean and well fed,

“Modeh Ani,” she utters,

That I can get out of bed.

The mother got up early,

Before the clock struck seven.

Sixteen hours later, she’s still up

Though it’s way past eleven.

The chores are never-ending,

There are dishes still in the sink,

The baby is teething,

Her toddler woke up and wants a drink.

She then hears her teenage son,

As he opens the door with his key,

All her children are now home,

She whispers, “Modeh Ani.”

Her oldest is getting married,

An erliche boy, but not her first choice,

She thought her daughter could do better,

She’s not sure she should rejoice.

Suddenly a surge of overwhelming emotion

Suffuses the mother of the kallah,

As her Holocaust survivor parents,

Walk to their grandchild’s chuppah,

Through so much mesiras nefesh,

They rebuilt the family tree,

On the lips of the baalat simcha,

A fervent “Modeh Ani.”

Verbal Tzedakah

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Dear Readers,

Charity should not just be about putting money in a pushka or writing a check. I strongly feel that taking the initiative and offering positive and comforting words, which will in some measure alleviate another person’s pain or burden, should count as tzedakah as well. As we approach Tisha B’Av, followed by Shabbat Nachamu, we should take the lesson of the collective need for ahavat Yisrael that we are so painfully aware of.

Verbal Tzedakah

We passed by each other in the street,

Someone I’ve seen around but I don’t ever greet,

Today I decided to wish her a good day,

A smile lit her face as she walked away.

The chubby girl’s Shabbat dress was a bit too tight,

Other girls snickered while she was still in sight,

I told her the colors matched her pretty blue eyes,

Her face blushed in pleasure and grateful surprise.

I looked at my watch, my new employee was late.

She approached me slowly, I saw her hesitate,

I said, “Raising children and working -it’s hard to cope,

“Don’t worry, it’s alright,” and her tired face glowed with hope.

An old man in a nursing home sat alone on a chair,

A scowl on his face masked his lonely despair.

I went to him and asked,” How are you feeling today?”

His face softened as he thanked me for coming his way.

I called my son’s rebbe, and heard him softly groan,

As he realized yet another parent was on the phone.

“I called to thank you for classes well run,

The kids learn so much but also have fun.”

He was speechless with shock – not the typical call,

Appreciative and fortified that, I had bothered at all.

The single “girl” sits quietly at her niece’s vort.

With one quick glance, one can sense her discomfort.

I tell her, “Hashem hasn’t forgotten, your dream will come true,”

She glows as I reassure her,” Soon the kallah will be you!”

A few words warmly offered, can brighten a dull day.

A few words of comfort can chase distress away,

Random words of kindness are so easy to share,

Verbal tzedakah spreads good will everywhere.

* * * * *

The following are a reader’s thoughts on The Single Aunt (Magazine 07-22-2011).

We read the poem at our Shabbos table with our single 28-year-old daughter. I truly validated her and all the kindness she gives to others despite the days she does tell me she does not know how “she will last.”

There is great value brought to the world from the emunah and strength of character of these singles in pain, especially at family get-togethers. There is much value to their tefillos and in the way they deal with others.

The shame and pain these women experience, especially if they are part of the more charedi world, where they are exposed on a constant basis to those their age and younger marrying and having children, has no answer. Yes, they are becoming true ohavei Hashem, but there is really no consolation to give them.

However, our daughter feels great solace from the fact that her maassim tovim, her good deeds, are her children for now. And she appreciates the respect when it is given, rather than the pity.

We are all soldiers in the army of Hashem. Those already blessed with marriage and children are soldiers as they raise the next generation of guarantors of the Torah. Those not yet blessed with spouses and/or children are soldiers whose focus is tefillah and the polishing of their neshomos.

While it is exhausting to always be working on oneself to be strong and confident – Hashem remembers that exhaustion as well. These women are laying the groundwork for the geula from their extra special middos.

May Hashem help these women see their value in this transient world, and as they help and pray for others, may Hashem grant them the happiness of building their own bayis neeman b’Yisroel.

The Single Aunt

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Dear Readers: There have been many articles in The Jewish Press and in other heimishe publications and websites about the nisayon of being unmarried, especially in a community whose primary focus is family life. Below is a poem that perhaps will give some brief insight as to what it is like to be single in a married world.

The Single Aunt

She gets out of the taxi at her little sister’s place,
As she approaches the front door she slows down her pace.

She takes a deep breath and forces a smile on her face,
Though sadness and anxiety make her heart race.

She sits at the crowded table, surrounded – but alone,
The reunion brought by Yom Tov weighs heavily like a stone.

A guest of her baby sister, a baalabusta all grown,
She aches with the need for a family of her own.

Her siblings and their spouses converse with delight,
Catching up on family news well into the night,
She listens politely, but has little to say,
When you live alone, there is a sameness to your day.

The children stop their playing and run to the tish,
Climbing on a parent’s lap eager for a kiss,
Sweet, shiny faces that reflect childish bliss,
A sharp reminder of what she continues to miss.

The festivities finally over, she goes to her cot,
Sleepless, she agonizes over what she hasn’t got,
No matter how much she’s welcomed, she feels so left out,
Her siblings are flooded with nachas, while her life is a drought,

She prays to Hashem to bring a new tomorrow,
One that will banish her ever-present sorrow.

One where she will finally feel whole,
One where she will meld with the other half of her soul.

This she knows will happen, for she is suffused with belief,
That her Creator is watching, and will send sweet relief,
And that the day will come when she will find her true mate.
She tells herself often she must be patient and wait.

But for all her resolve, her singlehood is not easy,
Being with young marrieds makes her feel queasy,
As do the pitying glances and the resulting exclusions,
The snobbery, the indifference, the negative conclusions.

Emunah and tefillah keep her somewhat afloat,
But at times she feels she’s in a sinking boat,
This is hernisayon, a one she hopes to pass,
But at the end of the day, she wonders if she will last.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/08/11

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

TZNIUS – one more round…

 

Dear Readers,

The topic of tznius has dominated this column’s space in the form of passionate debate for the better part of the month of June and into July. Though the letters kept coming, the same theme seemed to be replaying itself over and over, and so we finally saw fit to wrap it up (in last week’s column).

But then along came a reader whose message we could not bring ourselves to relegate to the bin of unpublished letters. The following is her eloquent articulation, which we found to be a refreshing departure from sentiments expressed by most on a volatile subject. Her perspective is one that is difficult to quarrel with; each and every one of us needs to hear it, absorb it, and live it.

 

Dear Rachel,

The letter written by A Fashion Isha saddened me. She describes herself as a beautiful, frum, spiritual Jewish woman, who loves fashion and dresses herself well… and seems to feel that as long as she is spiritual, she is entitled to dress as she pleases.

It is clear that no one has ever explained to her, and to so many others like her, what the purpose of creation is and what her role in this world is meant to be. Hashem, our Father in Heaven and the Creator of this universe, created this world in order to give. He is a giver, and He created us to be the recipients of His bounty. And He wants a close relationship with us.

In order for us to be able to truly enjoy His munificence, we need to earn it. Working to earn something is much more fulfilling and satisfying than being the recipient of a handout or charity, which does not feel very good.

Giving is what breeds love for another person. Parents love their children because they are constantly giving to them. Hashem, our Father who loves us so much, more than any human being could ever love us, is constantly giving to us, even more than we really need. He has given us a world so beautiful, so amazingly complex and breathtaking in order to give us much pleasure in this world, and transcendent pleasure in coming ever closer to Him.

But what can we give Hashem, Who has everything and needs nothing? We can follow the 613 mitzvos, thereby coming closer and closer to Him, forming an emotional connection to Him. That is what He wants from us. Avoiding something that is forbidden, sacrificing for Hashem is what makes us feel closer to Hashem.

We need to fear doing anything that could, chas v’shalom, damage that relationship and cause distance from Him. We are obligated to be meticulously careful to obey even the minutest command of our Creator, our Father in Heaven, Who created this entire world only to have a close relationship with us — which will, ultimately, result in the greatest transcendent pleasure for us.

The neshama is so much more sensitive than the body. We need to be so careful with what we fuel it. It is forever. There are real consequences for everything we do.

And everything that Hashem requires of us is actually for our benefit! He is omniscient and knows what is in our best interests, even when we don’t understand or agree.

No parent is going to tell his child, “Oh, you don’t want a vaccination because it hurts? Okay, you don’t have to have one.”

The child sees only the immediate consequences – an injection hurts. But the parent sees what the child does not. He sees the long term benefits of the vaccine and is willing to subject his child to the short-term pain and discomfort for the long term, far-reaching benefits of protection from debilitating and deadly diseases. The child sees candy and wants more and more. The parent, however, recognizes that too much will lead to tummy aches and cavities.

We are the daughters of the King of Kings. We need to dress with refinement and modesty, as is befitting daughters of royalty. This is what our Father, our King, requires of us. And He knows, in a way that we cannot understand, why this is what is truly best for us. How can we not follow His directives?

Not perfect but trying my best wrote, “I see plenty of ultra-religious Jewish women who wear seamed stockings and are dressed more than tznius’dik yet gossip about others, humiliate people and are closed minded and judgmental… And I see people who are dressed more provocatively and daven every day, go to shiurim, are careful with their speech, are welcoming and have open homes to all Jews. How can we decide who is more frum?”

The short answer is we can’t; it is not our place to decide who is more frum, and it is totally irrelevant. Each group is doing some things right and some things wrong. Hashem has two sets of requirements of conduct for each of us, and complying with one set of requirements does not absolve us from the requirement to comply with the other set as well.

To have a relationship with our Creator, to whom we owe everything, is not optional. We need to perfect ourselves in both areas of bein odom l’chaveiro (between man and man) and bein odom l’makom (between man and G-d.)

(Anyone wishing to gain more clarity on the purpose of creation and our relationship with Hashem can visit thesixconstantmitzvos.com online. This website’s collection of articles and video clips are very enlightening and well worth one’s time and effort.)

A daughter of the King

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-353/2011/07/07/

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