web analytics
December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Readers’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/27/11

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Dear Readers,

In the column before last you were led to believe that the subject of community values (or lack thereof) was coming to a close. Please bear with us for one more round of commentary as three readers sound off – including the young married woman whose letter started it all. Thus, we’ve come full circle; no more letters on this topic, please, for now.

 

A focused reader with a practical outlook

Dear Rachel,

Regarding the couple forced to move without help from neighbors: some apartments in Israel have no elevators, making moving from the 5th floor of one building to a similar floor of another building hard work. One option is to hire a handyman with a van or small truck to help load and unload.

About the friends or acquaintances who had supposedly declined to assist this couple, could it have been simply a case of bad timing? These people may have already committed themselves to other plans.

As for the relative friendliness of the large city versus the small town, in the former it is virtually impossible to keep track of who may be moving in from another city or whether someone is simply getting a larger apartment on another block. Most people that I know in large cities have guests over for meals every Shabbos, and most are involved in some sort of community activity, such as helping out in their children’s yeshivas.

While the sheer number of volunteer organizations existing in the large city is astounding, there are doers and non-doers in small towns too. Anyone habitually taking advantage of others might eventually find these others less than eager to get involved. Luckily this generation is not post-war and is not directly involved with coming to the aid of refugees or building a community from the ground up.

Generally speaking, I really don’t see the young as more selfish or less committed.

Out-of-towner from many towns

 

A levelheaded New Yorker with mixed emotions

Dear Rachel,

I’ve lived in New York my whole life and have felt the lack of hospitality here. I’ve been divorced for a while, and although I have wonderful extended family who always invite me out for Shabbos meals, I feel that the people in my neighborhood are into their own lives and don’t pay that much attention to others. That being said, I also see the tremendous chessed that goes on in our community (as the letter writer wrote in response to the reply about arrogant New Yorkers).

Despite some problems, one cannot negate the good. Though I have many neighbors steeped in chessed who don’t realize that there are people living right in their midst who can be the recipients of their chessed, it would be stupid for me to say that New Yorkers are arrogant and only care about themselves. Yes, it hurts me tremendously, but I can’t knock an entire community because of this.

When I read the letter from the original letter writer, I also felt that she came across as expecting too much. Yet, when I read the responses, I started realizing that it’s our constant judging that is the root of many problems. I work very hard at not judging my neighbors, although at times it is admittedly difficult not to do so. When Tehillim groups and various other projects are organized in my neighborhood, I feel like crying at how in tune “they” are to some problems while being completely oblivious to others. I know that this (not judging) is something I have to work on; to say this is the way “New Yorkers” are would be foolish.

Life is not simple

 

The last word from the young woman who started it all

Dear Rachel,

I thank you for publishing my letter, which seems to have generated some spiteful responses.

To the woman – a member of the older generation – who dared to take me to task: Your criticism of my “self centered attitude” makes it apparent that you missed some of the details included in my previous letter. It also demonstrates a lack of class on your part. Perhaps I was a little harsh with the younger generation after all, since it seems like the older generation can be just as cold and selfish (based on the way you’ve described yourself).

Like you, I am not a mind reader — though I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt. And why would you put people who mooch off their parents in the same category as those who ask for help every now and then? Where is the logic in that comparison?

I used to be involved in chessed projects; at the present time I host people for Shabbos, those who have nowhere else to go. Furthermore, when I host guests I make sure to give them attention and not shut them out, for that’s how I was raised. When my parents hosted people, they made it their duty to make guests and newcomers feel welcomed in their home and did not ignore them.

I happen to be from New York, and while I have met decent people I have also experienced rude behavior, selfishness and arrogance firsthand. People there seem more concerned with their level of frumkeit than with kavod habriyos (respect for their fellow-man).

I find it rather shocking that people would be so hasty to attack me rather than delve into the matter. I was not looking for sympathy nor was I asking you for an apology. I was simply trying to raise communal awareness, which ironically ruffled your feathers.

Who are you to call me out for being self-centered when you are incapable of judging people favorably? You don’t know me and are therefore not in a position to make blatant accusations against me. So excuse me for asking people to have a little propriety. You may jump to conclusions about me, but only the One Above knows what I have been through.

Community (lack of) values

* * * * *

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

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/08/11

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Reader Response to Community (lack of) values (See Chronicles 3-18-11) — the woman who wrote to complain about the apparent unwillingness of friends to help her and her husband move to a another dwelling, the lack of a warm welcome and embrace from their new neighbors, and the general indifference of the “younger generation.”

 

Dear Rachel,

Had anyone spoken to me after I finished reading Community (lack of) values, I would have been unable to respond; that’s how dumbstruck I was. By now, of course, I’ve recovered sufficiently to find the narcissistic behavior of a woman in her mid-twenties who calls the younger generation self-absorbed, funny.

I was 42 when I was divorced. I was alone in a 5-room apartment with furniture, had to find another apartment, a job, sell half my furniture, pack what was left to move, then unpack as soon as I moved into 3 rooms, all by myself.

My closest friends were in no condition to help. I won’t comment on the shape I was in during all of that year nor in the years following when the ceiling in my apartment leaked. It would never have occurred to me to ask strangers to help (my brother, mother and sister didn’t offer), nor did I expect them to.

Where is this woman’s husband? Surely two people in their mid-twenties are capable of moving to another apartment without outside help. This is one of the smaller problems one deals with in life. The writer also seems to think she was entitled to the same attention as a woman in the neighborhood who had a baby and was known and befriended by everyone, and who had probably done the same for others before having her own.

The “queen and her consort” wound up having to move most of their things by themselves and had to “announce their arrival” to everyone. How horrible! She’s bitter? She should retire from society. She’ll never be missed. As for being placed at the end of the table at any dinner, I never knew it was something to complain about — unless, of course, there were no diners sitting with her. Pity the poor guests that were, knowing she felt too good to be sitting with them! Amongst other things, this person also lacks social graces.

I am inclined to believe the letter was a plant. How can any woman in her mid-twenties be that obtuse? This baby needs to grow up. Reeking of envy, self-serving, unable to carry her weight (even with the help of her husband), blind to her shortcomings… such deadbeats are to be avoided like the plague. Life is hard. There’s no need to cater to freeloaders. She’s a taker. She doesn’t know how to give.

Rachel, you were diplomatic in the extreme. I hope the complainant realizes this, but I doubt it. A new husband, a new apartment, and already complaining? The future for those around her looks grim indeed.

Be a doer, not a whiner

Dear Rachel,

You should have told the woman who wrote to you complaining about the “younger generation” to get a life. How does a couple moving from one apartment to another think of asking “friends” to help them move? If this was a single guy or girl with just a couple of boxes and some odds and ends, asking a pal for a helping hand is understandable. But a married couple’s belongings and furnishings would normally require the services of a mover for hire.

This woman doesn’t seem to realize how overbearing she is and how it makes people want to keep their distance. Unfortunately, there are plenty of charity cases in real need of chesed, but this couple doesn’t seem to fit the bill. If I’m wrong, they can take advantage of the many gemachim and organizations in their community set up for the purpose of helping the needy.

Otherwise, this woman ought to keep in mind that one who relies on charity when it is not needed will one day find him/herself really needing it.

Kvetching ain’t the way

 

Dear Rachel,

What struck me most about Values’ letter was that her entire focus is on what she wanted to receive from others.  Not once does she mention having given anything to another person. I have no doubt that the parents who had just had a baby and were the recipients of help and meals from the neighbors had themselves helped out other neighbors in similar situations in the past. She doesn’t mention a single thing she did to help others. Is she demonstrating the very same self-centered narcissistic behavior that she is accusing others of?

Rav Dessler, in his sefer Michtav M’Eliyahu, speaks at length about the importance of being a giver instead of a taker. Clearly, one of the side benefits of being a giver is that it makes people inclined to give back to you.

 

A member of the older generation

 

Dear Readers,

Can we really know what motivates our writer to feel and act as she does? Consider the following scenarios:

1) She and/or her husband grew up in a home where their parents were frugal (out of necessity or habit) and they don’t know any better.

2) Our letter-writer did not wish to disclose that one or both of them have a physical impediment.

3) They are simply two lonely souls without siblings who are craving some social contact and are desperate to “fit in.”

Social graces and etiquette are picked up in the home during one’s growing years from role models — generally parental figures. After that, life experiences further hone and mold one’s character traits. Our first reader/responder (above) is the perfect model: She came by hard times and rose to the occasion – most admirably, it would seem – and became stronger and more resilient as a result.

Hopefully the author of Community (lack of) values, now a mere “babe in the woods” in her mid-twenties, will live and learn as she and her spouse mature.

Thank you for giving them some pointers on getting there.

* * * * *

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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/25/11

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The following letters are in response to Am I for real? (Chronicles, February 18)

 

My Dear Friend,

I could have written your letter. I too am a frum woman, married for many years, with wonderful and healthy children B”H.  My husband functions normally to the outside world, but inside the house it’s a different story. He angers easily, rages, has distorted thinking, makes false (and negative) accusations (and believes and acts on them), twists my words, is unstable and so much more.

I began to question my own sanity. I have developed physical and emotional symptoms as a way to cope with the insanity in my home. He can be a terror, yet, at other times, he can be so sweet and loving.

Within the past year, I have done much research on borderline personality disorder and have recognized that my husband suffers from this very serious and complex mental disorder. You must research this condition and see if the behavior/symptoms fit those of your husband. Please read the book Stop Walking on Eggshells by Mason and Kreger. When I read it, lightbulb after lightbulb went off for me; I felt the author was describing all the craziness that goes on in my home.

At the core of the borderline condition is a deep-seated fear of abandonment/rejection. This would explain your husband’s rages when you are not physically available to him, even though the reasons may be totally rational to you and me. People with BPD are not rational. They operate on a purely emotional level and are unable to regulate their emotions.

Since they can hide their craziness from the rest of the world, those who suffer the most are those closest to them. You must get help for yourself since people with BPD are not likely to admit to having a problem. You need to be strong and healthy for your children. Read as much as you can about this disorder, get a therapist who understands what you are going through and begin to reclaim your life.

You are not crazy. You are involved with a severely disordered individual who can bring you down with him. Don’t let it happen.

I wish you much hatzlacha with this very big nisayon, and if you wish to be in touch with me, please do so through Rachel.

A long-suffering victim

 

Dear Rachel,

I think you overlooked a very important part of her letter. She says that her husband is “constantly losing his temper, screaming, yelling and hitting the kids.”

I grew up with a father like that. He made my mother’s life miserable and we all carry scars from living with a man who often exploded and lashed out, most often for minor things. I remember him going nuts because he thought I put too much coffee in my own coffee cup. Another time he went ballistic because he felt the stream of water was too much while I was washing the dishes.

Something has to be done to protect the children. The woman who wrote the letter needs counseling on how to deal with her husband and the abuses he inflicts on their children.  Marriage counseling is important for the marriage, but whether she chooses to do that or speak to a spiritual advisor, someone has to look out for those children.

If the mother cannot discuss intimacy issues with her husband (as when they need to be apart), I highly doubt she is doing much to protect those poor children from their out-of-control father.  They are sure to suffer some psychological damage, as I did.

Been there…

 

Dear Readers,

Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the root of one’s problem from a single letter with scant information. If the troubled wife will heed our advice and seek professional counsel to help her deal with her problematic marital relationship, its negative impact on their children will be appropriately addressed and dealt with.

Thank you for weighing in with your informative comments, which are obviously based on your own experiences. Experience, as they say, is the best teacher. By sharing yours, you not only help countless others cope more effectively with their own circumstances but also give them strength in the knowledge that they are not alone and that help is within reach.

* * * * *

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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/14/11

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Raising children with ample love and attention is crucial, as has been stressed in this column numerous times.

Not long ago we also devoted space to the subject of discipline, discussing its merits as well as the disadvantages of resorting to the “strap” as a means of keeping children in line.

Recently, an engaging young man happened to come to our attention. Once a shattered soul, Mendy (not his real name) has surmounted enormous odds and, Baruch Hashem, finds himself today in a much better place with confidence in his future prospects.

We are grateful to Mendy for giving us the okay to offer our readers a glimpse into his past and some highlights of his struggles and triumphs. It is our hope that Mendy’s powerful message will penetrate the reader’s heart and will touch lives in a positive way.

Rachel: Mendy, today at the age of 24 you are wise and mature beyond your years, and yet not so long ago you were a mixed up kid who had no idea what planet he was on, let alone able to focus on life ahead. How and when did you spiral so badly out of control as to lose any sense of time and reason?

Mendy: For as far back as I can remember, I was unhappy. Not only were my parents always quarrelling, but my siblings and I suffered endless abuse.

Did you at least find some peace and solace during those hours you were in school, away from home?

Not at all. In the cheder I attended through fifth grade [in Brooklyn] I was bullied by other kids and got hit almost every day.

You mean the other children beat up on you? Couldn’t you get the rebbe or principal to intervene and put a stop to this?

Well, not exactly. I got hit by the rebbe because I wasn’t keeping up or when I was slow in responding

What happened after the fifth grade?

I transferred to a yeshiva in Far Rockaway which was much better for me, but the home situation didn’t improve. When I was 16, my parents made aliya in the hopes of salvaging their broken relationship.

Did the move to Israel prove to be a positive one for you personally?

Hardly. My parents actually ended up separating before long, eventually divorcing, but that didn’t do anything to still my mother’s rage.

Your mother “raged” even after your parents were separated and your father was no longer living in the house? Whom did she rage at?

Here’s an example of the type of incident we were exposed to. My mother once took a bottle of apple juice away from my younger brother because she didn’t want him drinking it. She then poured the contents over his head and began beating him with the bottle.

Didn’t you guys have older siblings to lean on for physical and emotional support?

No. Two of my older brothers stayed behind in New York. They had actually moved out of the house much earlier, just as soon as they were financially able to be on their own.

How did you cope with so much misery?

If you call hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and doing drugs coping

What about your father? What was your relationship with him like?

After he moved out of the house I saw him only occasionally, but we were not close. However, I’ll never forget his reaction when I once told him how low I had sunk and divulged to him the bad things I was into. To his credit he said he still loved me, that I was still his son. That’s more than I ever got from my mother.

So how did you finally crawl out of the gutter?

An “angel” from America actually plucked me off the streets (in Israel) and arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach, which became my new home.

And you transformed right then and there?

Not quite. My mother could no longer torment me, but my friends and the bad habits I was into were still very much a part of my daily existence.

I suppose your mind could take you back to many low points in your young life, but how would you describe your lowest?

I had gone out with friends to have a good time I remember that it was my 18th birthday. We partied and drank, and I became very drunk. My “friends” ended up abandoning me, and there I was, stranded in the middle of the street, stone drunk, retching and feeling more miserable and alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. I still recall the endless flow of tears streaming down my face.

How did you pick yourself up and get past that night?

Somehow, out of the blue, a guy whom I had gone to yeshiva with in Far Rockaway happened by. He recognized me, helped me to my feet and got a cab to take me home.

What did that horrible experience do for you?

It was a sobering lesson. I never wanted to experience such feelings of helplessness and loneliness again and was determined to crawl out of the hole I was in, no matter what it would take.

So how did you finally make it back here to American shores?

The same person who had originally arranged for me to stay at Ohr Samayach eventually scheduled and supervised my trip back to Brooklyn.

Let’s see if I got this right: A virtual stranger picks up your signals of distress on an Israeli street and not only helps you escape the clutches of parental abuse but perseveres until he manages to save you from self-destructing by bringing you back here.

Do angels like that really exist among us?

To Be Continued

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/30/10

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Dear Readers,

In a recent column (Chronicles 11-26-10), we responded to a woman caring for her elderly mother who was turning out to be more than a handful and then some. The writer had gone the extra mile for her mom all along but now feared that the older woman’s grumpiness and constant criticism, especially of her son-in-law, would end badly. This daughter wanted to know what her religious and moral obligations are regarding honoring her mom and whether any boundaries could be set in order to preserve her sanity and marital harmony.

Our reply emphasized the significance of the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim and the writer was encouraged to continue being a dutiful daughter, to enlist outside help for relief when necessary and be appreciative of having a supportive family (husband and children).

The following is a sampling of readers’ reactions that came our way:

Dear Rachel,

Regarding the woman who wrote to you about her aging and cranky mom, she should be grateful that her mother is communicative and mobile. I wish my mother could have told me how she felt and offered her opinions. You see, she was rendered mute and paralyzed by a stroke, and it was heartbreaking to see her face and know that her thoughts were trapped in her mind. Lady, at least your mother can express herself.

Count your blessings

Dear Rachel,

I totally disagree with your answer to the woman caring for her mother. First of all, where is her mother’s responsibility in all of this? She needs to be respectful and pleasant to her daughter and her family who are caring for her.

Maybe the mom has a psychiatric problem that causes her to act like that. Also, what about the toll on this woman’s sholom bayis? You are not a rav and yet you gave her very little wiggle room to get out of caring for this mean woman forever! The daughter deserves happiness and, if her mother cannot at least try to act like a mensch, she should be strongly encouraged to move out.

Suffering is for fools

Dear Rachel,

No doubt you have rankled some readers with your candid reply to the woman taking care of her difficult mother. I refer to those who place their own needs above anyone else’s and would never dream of exerting themselves to care for an elderly parent, let alone bring them into their homes.

You were also exactly right about the obligation to respect a mother-in-law. My widowed mother-in-law is about as big a kvetch as you can meet. She criticizes non-stop, is steeped in self-pity, and – as you can imagine – isn’t the most pleasant or sought after houseguest.

Baruch Hashem she is self-sufficient enough to live on her own, but that doesn’t stop us, her daughters-in-law (she has no daughters) and her grandchildren, from making the rounds to visit her, to see to her wellbeing and comfort and to make sure that her food pantry is well stocked. (Some of us travel quite a distance to do so.) We also take turns having her over for holidays and manage to tolerate her crankiness and faultfinding with dignity and good humor.

It’s not always about “me” or “I”

Dear Rachel,

For years my sisters and I tended to our dear mom who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The disease distorted our mother’s normally great personality, and when she stopped communicating with us altogether it was almost too much to bear.

Even then we kept her updated on the details of her large family’s doings and often detected an emotional reaction in response. Her eyes would fill with tears at sad news or would brighten at good news.

What we would have given to engage her in give and take dialogue! If only she had been able to communicate her discomfort or disapproval!

Thank you for reminding us of what counts most in life: practicing kindness and giving, especially to our kin.

Charity begins at home

Dear Rachel,

I really appreciated your answer to the frustrated mom caring for her own mother. I have the privilege of caring for my elderly widowed father, and yes, consider it a privilege.

Like you say, the mitzvah was not meant to be easy. That is precisely why I found your message most inspiring. You boosted my morale just when I needed it most.

A grateful reader

Dear Rachel,

I am a widow in my mid 80′s and I strongly believe that most people pray fervently to be self-reliant until their dying day. As parents age, their biggest fear is to become a burden to their children.

Even with devoted children, you don’t want to be in their way – especially when they are busy raising their own families.

I have a message for my children, and I’m sure I will be speaking for others as well:

I appreciate your concerns about my being alone and your standing invitation to come and spend Shabbos with you. At the same time, please try to understand that I seldom have the energy or stamina to keep up with your schedule or to tolerate the noise level at your place, and that is a big reason why I find it so much more convenient to stay put in my own home, despite my physical aches and pains.

But why must it be “all or nothing.” It hurts when nobody thinks of asking whether I need any help with getting the few things I would need for Shabbos. Is it too much to expect a phone call when you do your own grocery shopping to see if there is anything you can pick up for me so that I don’t have to venture out on a cold winter day?

Just because I choose to remain in my home for the occasional Shabbos, it doesn’t mean that one of my grandchildren shouldn’t stop by with some homemade challah or to see if maybe bubby can use some help.

I won’t be around forever

* * * * *
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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/25/10

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Dear Readers,

In last week’s column, a devoted daughter wrote of the emotional turmoil she endures in caring for her elderly mother. Very frustrated made it clear that she has no misgivings about doing all she can, in every way, to make her mother’s life as comfortable as possible. The writer is blessed with having her family’s backing and cooperation as well, and, in fact, her mother has been on an extended stay in their home now for several months while recuperating from surgery.

The difficulties experienced by this daughter stem from her mom’s negative attitude; the elder woman is distrustful of everything and everyone and is especially critical of her son-in-law whom she derides under her breath at every turn.

In addition, she has the annoying habit of meddling into the family’s affairs – such as when she finds fault with shidduchim for her granddaughters and thinks nothing of inappropriately interrogating their shidduch dates.

As an only child and hence sole caretaker of her widowed mom, Very frustrated has shouldered this awesome responsibility ever since her father passed away (years ago, before she got married). At this time she fears that the dam may soon burst and that her thus-far-forbearing husband will “reach his breaking point.”

Basically, she is interested in knowing where her obligations lie, both in a religious and moral sense, to a parent “who has made me completely miserable my entire life.”

Dear Frustrated,

A reply to your letter would hardly be worthy of print if it failed to sing your praises: Kudos to you for being a devoted and dutiful daughter to your mother!

Lest we forget, kibbud av v’eim is a divine commandment. What’s more, Hashem considers honoring a mother and father in the same league as honoring Him. Essentially, we have no choice in the matter.

But how far must we take this obligation? To what lengths must one go to honor a parent? The Talmud states it clearly and leaves no room for doubt: To the extent that no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassed a child is made to feel by his/her parent, the child must not show any distress or anger towards that parent.

Getting back to your own personal situation you indicate that you have always been there for your mother, and that it’s never been easy. But now she sorely tests your endurance, as you are hurting badly not only for yourself but for your loved ones who are at the mercy of your mother’s acrimony.

On the positive side, you can count yourself fortunate in many ways. For one, it is apparent that you have a mature and understanding man for a spouse, one who knows not to take your mother’s barbs personally and who conducts himself with dignity under trying circumstances. In all probability, he recognizes and appreciates the importance of the role you undertake and roots for you in your noble cause. (For the record, one is obligated to honor and respect one’s in-laws as well as one’s parents.)

Then there are your children (good kids, you say) who reap the benefit of viewing up close the selfless manner in which you dedicate yourself to your mother’s needs – a valuable lesson they will take with them for life.

Whereas honoring a parent in ideal conditions is certainly meritorious, consider how much greater is the merit for one who performs the commandment under grueling circumstances. Besides, where does it state that carrying out the mitzvah is supposed to come easy? And are you aware that each individual act (of your kibbud eim) counts as a separate mitzvah? That knowledge by itself should help you sustain chizuk in fulfilling your lofty goal.

By the time you read this, your mother may be back in her own home and may even have agreed to have outside help. It is perfectly acceptable to have someone reliable assist or relieve you so that you can catch your breath and recharge your batteries. Both you and your mother can benefit from such an arrangement.

You may even go so far as to suggest an assisted living facility (which may be just what your mom can use at this stage in her life), but be mindful of your approach – for you are not permitted to communicate to your mother that she is a burden, nor are you allowed to make her feel pressured to go. The option should be hers alone.

Last but not least: It surely does not escape any member of your family that your mother is an almanah, a widow – who is rendered vulnerable and fragile by her tremendous loss and whose feelings we are divinely warned to be extra-heedful of.

­In merit of your unwavering commitment to the mitzvah of kibbud eim, may you and your husband be rewarded with loads of nachas from your own children. Hatzlacha!

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.

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

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I read with interest your article on disciplining children. (“Hitting is for cowards” – Chronicles 10-15) The debate – “spare the rod and spoil the child” – is an old one and a tough one.

I recall with clarity when my father took me to cheder as a little boy and in front of the whole class informed the rebbe that he can hit me whenever he felt the need to. As young as I was, I was mortified and embarrassed, and I fully believe that the seed of my rebellion was planted at that precise moment.

It took many years for me to reconcile myself to my father’s ways – to understand that he emulated his own father’s ways and that was the only method of discipline he grew up with and was familiar with. My father was in general a mild-mannered man, but he was woefully short on words; verbal communication was not his thing.

Today, as a father myself, I do understand the difficulties in rearing rambunctious children, especially boys, but I steer clear of the strap and the slap. If verbal reasoning doesn’t do it, I resort to penalties – as in no dessert tonight or no friend for sleepovers or early bedtime, etc. You get the gist, I’m sure.

I say ‘spare the rod’

Dear Rachel,

I disagree with your response to Hitting is for Cowards on both counts.

In the first episode, the stewardess did exactly the right thing. A mother who slaps a crying baby to stop him from crying is totally out of control. Had the stewardess just diffused the situation by offering to hold the baby for a short while, the mother would have continued to slap her crying baby when there would be no stewardess around to offer relief.

We’ve heard enough stories about babies killed by parents/caretakers when they would not stop crying. It was crucial to let the mother know in very clear terms that if she abused her baby she stood the very real risk of losing the child for good. I say kudos to that courageous stewardess.

As far as the gym teacher who removed an unruly student by the ear, physical engagement with a student is unacceptable unless someone is in danger of being physically hurt. Every professional knows that. A teacher may not allow his emotions to take control of his actions, no matter what the provocation.

It is also a stretch of the imagination to assume that this young man’s parents are to blame for not disciplining him when he was young. As a teacher, I would venture to guess that his parents were too harsh and draconian in their treatment of him. But neither of us can really know. Maybe he has wonderful parents and something happened on that particular day to set the kid off.

Hitting has no place in civilized society

Dear Rachel,

My heart breaks when I see one of many children in the same household going “off” for no apparent reason. Wonderful parents, ample love, great children – except for the one who decides that he/she wants to be “different.”

I mention this to point out that, right or wrong, hitting children by way of disciplining them does not necessarily trigger rebellion. Still, there is not much to be gained by using physical coercion on the recalcitrant child. If anything, this could serve to drive the child completely away.

The bottom line is we must pray for siyata d’shmaya (heavenly guidance) in all our undertakings, and especially when it comes to the daunting task of raising our children.

Just my humble opinion

Dear Rachel,

I am writing regarding your column on hitting children to make them behave. First of all, the “consequences” that Debbie referred to (08-27-2010, Interview series) may not have been of the physical kind. Psychological or emotional abuse can be equally devastating and painful.

Then there is the sad truth – that countless of us are children of the Holocaust (our parents having lived through a hell that we can never fathom). With their onerous task of rebuilding their lives from scratch, not to mention the emotional turmoil in coming to terms with their tremendous loss, they understandably had less patience and endurance than is required for the task of raising children.

Another thing to keep in mind: there are trouble-prone children who come from the best of homes, and there are fantastic children who emerge from less than ideal environments. At the same time, children’s individual natures need to be taken into account when dealing with obedience issues.

We can all agree, though, that corporal punishment has no place in any of our homes.

A survivor’s survivor

Dear Readers,

Along with the curse of pain in childbirth, we were decreed to have tzar gidul bonim – pain in the process of raising our children. An old saying comes to mind: No pain, no gain. The trials we go through teach us and strengthen us.

Most parents “grow” along with their children. One might say we learn on the job (and we are never too old to learn). The mom of multiple offspring is much more proficient at handling her younger children than she was her eldest. Experience offers us skills and matures us.

As for the wayward child, no one can sit in judgment as to why good parents are made to suffer such hardship. Another prevailing dilemma: At what point (if ever) should parents give up and cut ties to a child who has become totally estranged and is causing them endless tzar?

Someone once asked Rav Avigdor Miller for advice in coping with the hassles of raising a difficult brood. He replied, “Children are like apartment houses. When one tenant is screaming at the landlord to fix a leaky faucet, and another to repair a burnt wire in a fuse box, the landlord has only one thing in mind – the rent that he will collect at the end of the month. Children are the same – they are your olam haba; you will reap the reward for raising them in olam haba. Focus on this, and their noise will sound like beautiful music.”

Thank you all for your input.

* * * * *

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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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-295/2010/11/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: