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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Rebbetzin’

An Eternal Legacy

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin:

I am a 62-year-old Conservative Jew, recently retired from teaching and planning to relocate to Florida. My three children are all married and living in different parts of the world: a daughter in Jerusalem, one son in Toronto, another son in California. Those living in Jerusalem and Toronto have become very Orthodox, while the son living in California is totally uninterested in religion. As a matter of fact, he is married to a non-Jewish woman. As you can see, there is no happy medium in my family, but I cannot interfere in the lifestyle choices of my children.

Five years ago my husband, who had been a physically active and healthy man, fell sick. By the time we discovered the source of his illness it was too late – the cancer had spread throughout his body. The pain, suffering and degradation he experienced before he finally passed away are beyond words. I don’t think I will ever get over the trauma of his illness and death.

Now, to add to my sorrow, my older sister, who had always been in the pink of health, was felled by a major stroke. Though she is home now, her prognosis is not promising. She has lost her speech and mobility and spends her time either in bed or a wheelchair. Her children feel they can no longer give her the care she requires and plan to put her in a nursing home. It’s heartbreaking, but they say they have no choice and I can’t interfere.

Having witnessed the pain and degradation of two loved ones who lost command of their bodily functions and were at the mercy of aides, companions and other health care functionaries, I’ve decided I do not wish my life to be prolonged if I am seriously incapacitated or reduced to a vegetative state. I would rather die.

It is because of this that I have prepared a living will and I need the support of someone with a religious outlook to encourage my children to respect my wishes.

I have discussed this matter with my children, and the two Orthodox ones are vehemently opposed. My son in California would be happy to carry out my wishes, but I would like the children to act in concert. I would not want to widen the rift that already separates them due to their extremely different outlooks on life.

My religious children claim a human being has no right to shorten his or her life, and therefore the Jewish faith prohibits them from carrying out my wishes. I cannot understand how this would be considered shortening life; existing as a vegetable cannot be considered living.

I sometimes have occasion to visit nursing homes, and when I see the people just sitting there, many of them strapped to their wheelchairs or restricted to their beds, pathetically waiting for someone to look at them, clean them, or turn them over, I shudder. I can’t bear the thought of ending up like that.

To me, it’s much more compassionate and humane to pull the plug when illness becomes severe and it is obvious that recovery is out of the realm of possibility. I think modern medicine has played a cruel trick on us by prolonging our lives. When the body or the mind deteriorates, it’s time to say goodbye.

I have been tolerant of my children’s Orthodox ways. Why can’t they extend the same courtesy to me? My attorneys have prepared the papers and everything is ready to go, but they refuse to give their consent.

As a reader of your column I can’t help but be impressed with your emphasis on honoring parents. Therefore, I hope you will advise my children to fulfill the commandments and respect my wishes.

My Dear Friend:

At the outset, let me assure you there are ways of dealing with your problem within the framework of halacha, Jewish law. While this column is not a forum for halachic discussion, I can tell you that Agudath Israel of America has literature available on this subject, and I suggest you contact the organization. You might just discover that there can be a meeting of the minds between you and your children, and that where you thought you had a problem, none exists.

I can assure you that while it may not seem obvious to you, your religious children do respect your wishes. What they are trying to communicate to you is reflective not of personal bias but of Torah law. I realize this concept may be difficult for you to accept, for our secular culture does not recognize religious, moral, or ethical absolutes. In secular society, everything is contingent on personal predilections and absolutes simply do not come into play.

The Jewish way of life, on the other hand, is based on the commandments that were proclaimed at Sinai, commandments that are non-negotiable and encompass every facet of life and death. Contrary to popular belief, our lives are not our own, to do with as we wish. We did not will ourselves to be born, nor did we choose the families assigned to us.

Even as we cannot choose the day of our birth, we cannot choose the date of our death. Such decisions belong to the One Who gave us life, and only He (and I emphasize He) can determine these things. We are merely custodians, and we’ll have to answer to G-d for the safekeeping of our bodies and souls.

Life itself is sacred, and that sanctity is not diminished even in the case of terminal illness or incurable disease. Nor is it for us to determine whether a life is worth preserving or whether it should be snuffed out when it becomes too burdensome. Instead of “quality of life” we Jews refer to the “sanctity of life.” Instead of the “right to die” we speak of our “responsibility to live.”

I realize you would not wish to become an emotional or financial drain on your children. You should, however, find comfort in the knowledge that, precisely because your children are anchored to Torah values, they would never regard you as burdensome. Nor would they behave rashly or arbitrarily when decisions regarding your health had to be made. Rather, they would consult qualified rabbinic authorities before acting. In a genuine Jewish home, having parents and grandparents is a zechus – a privilege – which neither children nor grandchildren ever lose sight of.

If you are truly interested in making a living will, I suggest that you make one that will live long after you are gone. Prepare a letter for your children to read after your passing. Ask your family to always remain together, united as one. Ask them to gather on your yahrzeit in prayer and study. Ask them to build Jewish homes in which Torah is kept alive, and ask them to make certain all your descendants study in yeshivas and remain Jews.

I realize you are not yet observant. Please note I wrote not yet. Deep in the heart of every Jew is the desire to be observant. It is just that in our crazed society it is easy to lose sight of whom we really are. May I suggest that instead of fighting and opposing your children’s Torah way of life, you try it, savor it, embrace it – and you might just discover the serenity, beauty and majesty that is the essence of a true Jewish home.

I would further suggest that instead of moving to Florida and seeing your children and grandchildren only on special occasions, you spend time with them. The years fly by very quickly; don’t deprive yourself of the joy of being a hands-on Bubbie. Don’t be a Bubbie in name only.

A true “living will” will impart values and love to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – so that in years to come, after G-d calls you to Him, your memory will remain alive to them, etched upon their minds and hearts.

‘What’s Happening In The World? – I’m Afraid’

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Special Note: I would like to thank the many people who have written expressing their appreciation for my series of columns titled “When Children Fall Through the Cracks.” I am most grateful for the overwhelming response and I hope everyone who wrote will understand that while I would have liked to publish all the letters, for the time being I am closing the discussion to focus on the many other subjects that have reached my desk.

The following are just two letters that convey the fear and worry people have regarding the rapidly deteriorating world situation.

Letter # 1: Fear of Tomorrow

Dear Rebbetzin:

The world is a scary place right now. The Middle East situation threatens our safety; our economy is nearer to collapse than many people would even imagine; natural disasters are hitting with alarming frequency and devastation, and being a Jew is more of an inherent risk, even in our “civilized” society, than it was before.

I’m just a regular frum woman struggling financially, trying to raise a family and terrified for the future of my children. What can we do? Clearly, Hashem is telling us something. Clearly, something is brewing, but I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. Many say to move to Eretz Yisrael. That’s not an option for everyone. I know the obvious answer is do teshuvah and daven. I know a FFB (frum from birth) woman is not supposed to say these kinds of things, but before and during the Holocaust many people, many mothers like myself, davened plenty and it didn’t save them or their children.

Maybe I am being childish and shallow and shortsighted, but when it comes to the safety of my family, I can’t stomach the “sometimes Hashem says no” line of reasoning. I want to know how to get a “yes” – how to make sure that whatever happens, we will be fed and warm and together and alive.

Spiritually, the world situation makes me feel farther from Hashem than ever. I feel small and helpless, doomed to go with the tide. I can see the writing on the wall and there is nowhere to run. Anyone I have tried to bring this up to, including my husband, either thinks I’m an alarmist and paranoid or gives me tired clichés that really don’t answer any of my specific concerns.

You, Rebbetzin, are a Holocaust survivor and have seen times like this before in your life, at least in some respects. You have a strong faith and are blessed to be able to see through some of the smog to a glimmer of truth and make it understandable to the masses. What can a frum mother with shaken faith and fear for the future do, in practical, realistic steps, to protect herself and her children from the turmoil brewing in the world and whatever it cooks up?

Letter # 2: From a Holocaust Survivor

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I hope you will get this letter. I have been told you only respond to e-mail, but I do not know how to write e-mails. I am eighty-five years old, and though my little great-grandchildren have no difficulty getting on the computer, I cannot get used to it. All this new technology bewilders me and makes me feel out of touch with this generation. I have shared my feelings with some of my friends, and they agree – we all feel so unintelligent, so lost in these times. Very often, my friends and I feel like has-beens, and that, I must say, that is not a pleasant feeling.

It’s not easy getting old, but I’m not complaining. I’m most grateful that I’m not, G-d forbid, in a hospital or a nursing home – that I’m here, alive and comparatively well, while most of my friends no longer are. I must add that I’m even grateful to Hashem that I am able to collect my thoughts and write this letter to you. I know very well that, sadly, not all people my age are able to do this. Nevertheless, I still feel frustrated, not only because of the technology, but because I feel my thoughts and concerns are dismissed.

Ours is a youth culture, and people have no respect for the elderly. When I speak, my children and grandchildren listen respectfully – but they dismiss my words and attribute everything that I say to my Holocaust experiences and my age. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression – they are good children, but I can see by their reactions that they don’t take me seriously. So let me share my worries with you.

I was born in Poland. My parents were wonderful people who were always kind and considerate of others.When the Holocaust began, we were all taken to Auschwitz. My parents and younger brothers were immediately taken to the gas chambers and my sister (three years younger than me) and I survived.

After our liberation, we were taken to a D.P. (displaced persons) camp where I met and married my beloved husband, a”h. We came to America in 1947. My sister, on the other hand, went to Israel and settled in Petach Tikva where she lives to this day. She is also a widow; her husband, a”h., passed away six years ago. She has two children – one lives in Tel Aviv and the other in Ranana.

Upon arriving in America, I was determined to learn English and educate myself. I wanted to become a productive person in my new environment. My husband and I built quite a successful business, which my children are now running, and I retired ten years ago. Sometimes I think I should have stayed in the business. My days are long – I have too much time to think – but then again, I realize that nowadays business transactions are done by computer, and that is a foreign world for me.

I follow the news regularly and, frankly, am terrified by what I read, see, and hear. I see pre-Holocaust Europe being repeated all over again and no one is paying attention. And now that Eretz Yisrael is being surrounded on all sides by Muslim terrorists who openly proclaim that their main agenda is to, heaven forbid, annihilate our people, I am overwhelmed by fear. It doesn’t leave me for a second!

When I speak to my sister (we call each other once a week) she expresses the same fears. And even as no one takes me seriously here and attributes all my worries to my Holocaust past, so she finds the same reaction to her worries in Eretz Yisrael. It seems that people who did not experience that gehenom first hand cannot understand – just like we couldn’t understand what was happening in Europe before the barbaric evil of the Nazis became a reality.

Rebbetzin, my fears do not leave me. I am not afraid for myself – I am already eighty-five – but I fear for my children and grandchildren and for all our Jewish people. So I am writing to you now because you too are a Holocaust survivor and you never hesitate to speak out. You are a woman of great faith, committed to our Torah and mitzvos and if there is anyone who can understand and give some guidance, it is surely you. I hope you will receive this letter and that you will respond to it through your column. Again, I emphasize that I’m not seeking this guidance for myself – I am old, but I am worried for our people.

(To be continued)

The Sword In The Tongue

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Letter #1

Dear Rebbetzin:

I am not sure whether this is the right forum in which to discuss my concern, but I am hopeful that your widely read column can be used as an arena to air this issue.

We are taught from a very young age about the prohibition against engaging in scandalous language against our friends/neighbors/acquaintances. There is a plethora of literature out there on the topic as well as shiurim, audiocassettes and clubs whose members commit themselves to being extremely mindful of what they speak and what they listen to.

We are aware of and repeatedly taught about the dire consequences of speaking lashon hara.This transgression is severe and multifaceted. Thankfully, guarding our tongues and ears against malignant speech is a subject that has, baruch Hashem, made its way to the forefront of Jewish life.

There is another abuse of speech I have noticed lately which I feel is a rather neglected or even non-existent topic of discussion: impertinence. I find that everywhere I turn lately I encounter this form of vulgarity in language; it seems to be commonplace, almost accepted.

Two weeks ago I was at a shul function. Also attending was a woman whose family had been going through a trying and painful period due to the broken engagement of her child – which came as a surprise to the community, not only because of the seeming compatibility of the couple but also the suddenness of the breakup. In such a case, one would think a kind word of comfort would suffice. I was shocked to witness the level of brash and shameless questioning this poor mother had to endure: “What happened?” “Who made the decision?” “What other factors were in play?” “Is he/she back on the market?” “What was the monetary impact?”

The woman tried to be polite and answer generally, but her growing discomfort was obvious and the interrogations were unrelenting.

Recently, I wanted to schedule an outing with a friend during which we would both run errands while taking the opportunity to catch up. At first I was rather offended at her seeming hesitation and reserve, but later she confessed to me that she no longer shops and runs errands on the route we often took together. The reason? Her youngest child suffers developmental setbacks that have unfortunately become more and more apparent and she can no longer stand the impertinent and pressing inquiries into her personal matters, especially by people who are barely connected to her.

I was really able to empathize with her sentiments. The financial climate has affected my family to the point where we were unable to send our children to camp this summer. Not too long ago my eight-year-old daughter told me she didn’t like her carpooling arrangement and wanted it changed. It turned out the woman with whom I share carpool duties asks too many questions and makes her uncomfortable:

“Is your father working at the same job?” “Has your mother started to work since she got her degree?” “What camp did you go to this summer?” “What?” “You didn’t go?

“How come?” “What did you do all day?”

This insensitivity impacts on all generations. I was helping my mom find a place to rent temporarily while she was about to embark on a home renovation. This is the type of “chore” my father doesn’t like to involve himself with, which I don’t think is that out of the ordinary, but the frum woman showing the apartment apparently found it strange enough to ask my mother, “Do you have a husband?” and other personal questions.

My mother and I were both flabbergasted. What difference does it make to her either way? Why is it her business? When is enough enough? When did intrusiveness become acceptable? I hope people realize that damage can be inflicted without saying something directly nasty. Why do we feel entitled to know our neighbors’ entire goings-on?

Sincerely,

Fed Up

Letter #2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

Recently, I went through a harrowing experience. The pain and the shock are things I cannot describe, but as difficult as my experience was, the insensitivity of others made it much worse. The saying “rubbing salt on an open wound” really hit home.

I am 21 years old and was expecting my first baby. For my parents, this would have been the first grandchild and for my in-laws the first male grandchild (all their grandchildren are girls). Grandchildren are always awaited with great anticipation by bubbies and zeides, but I am certain you will understand their joy was even more intensified. As for my husband and me, we were flying. Once we found out we’d be having a boy, we made plans – we even had the bris all planned out. I went with my mother for baby furniture; as is traditional, we were careful not to finalize a purchase but just designated our choice.

I went into labor two days before my due date. I had a very hard time. From the outset, there were complications and my beautiful little baby was stillborn. As I wrote above, I am unable to describe my pain, my suffering, and my depression. But as terrible as it was, it was made ten times worse by people’s insensitive remarks:

“Did you have to sit shiva?” “Did you give him a name?” “Did you have a regular leviah [funeral]?” “What exactly happened?” “At what point in the labor did you find out that something was wrong?” “Was it the doctor’s fault?” “Are you suing?”

Instead of saying something kind like, “I’m certain that Hashem will give you the bracha of many more babies — a beautiful large family,” they ask about gory details, which only makes everything so much worse.

Rebbetzin, every question was another knife in my heart. When I discussed this with my husband, he challenged me with: “Why don’t you do something about it?”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well, for one thing,” he answered, “you can write to Rebbetzin Jungreis. Her column is highly respected and has a large readership ranging from the secular to the religious, from the young to the old.”

I saw the wisdom of his suggestion. The thought that perhaps some people will learn to be more careful with what they say, and how they say it, gives me a measure of comfort.

A Brokenhearted Almost-mother

‘Who Takes Care Of Whom?’ – Three Letters

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

For the past two weeks my column has been devoted to the plight of seniors who find themselves incapacitated and in the unfortunate situation of being placed against their will in nursing homes. For various reasons, their children are unable to care for them or engage proper help to safeguard their well being.

The response has been enormous – I received countless letters expressing various ideas and offering suggestions. Obviously, it is impossible for me to publish all of them, but I do thank all those who have taken time to write and share their thoughts. The following are just three examples of the letters that reached my desk:

Letter #1: A Senior’s Perspective

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I read with great interest and deep emotion your response to the children of the elderly, incapacitated mother who struggled with the decision to place their mother in a nursing home against her will. I am seventy years “young.” As a matter of fact, I just celebrated my birthday last week. I am part of a group of friends ranging in age from 70-80. We each live alone because we are either widowed or divorced. We often discuss this very situation: What would happen to us if, heaven forbid, illness took over and we would no longer be capable of caring for ourselves? What would our children do?

Sadly, none of us could say with certitude that our children would care for us and not place us in a home against our will. Even those among us who have some savings (as I do) have this fear lurking in our minds. Nowadays, children do not wish to be bothered with the care of elderly parents – even though they may hire companions and nurses’ aides, they do not want the responsibility of monitoring such help. I know from whence I speak. Unfortunately, I have only too often witnessed this.

Then there are financial considerations as well. Although the children may not be willing to admit to it, they often fear that the cost of caring for their parents (although it would be coming from their parents’ estates) would cut into their inheritance. Unfortunately, this too I have seen. So when your article appeared, we were glad you brought the issue to the fore, especially when you quoted the Yiddish proverb, “Ein mama ken aushalten tzen kinder, uber tzen kinder kennen nisht aushalten ein mama” – “One mother can care for ten children, but ten children can’t care for one mother.”

I just hope that some of those “busy” young and middle-aged children who don’t have the time to visit their elderly parents will re-think their conduct and attitudes. Often, my friends and I tell each other that G-d should spare us from ever having to need our children. One of my friends, who is seventy-seven, and whose condition demands that she make regular doctor’s visits, shared with me that when it comes to going to her physician, there is always a discussion among her five children as to whose turn it is to take her. That “back and forth” discussion is mortifying and very painful to her. She has very often told them they shouldn’t do her any favors, that she’ll take a cab and go by herself, but then they become indignant, and things become worse. No matter which way she turns, she can’t win.

So once again, thank you, Rebbetzin, for bringing this problem to the fore – it’s long overdue. I just hope that the children of the elderly will read it and absorb it!

Letter #2: Solutions That Have Worked

Dear Rebbetzin:

I love your columns and your books and I thank you for all I’ve learned from you. I read this column with interest as I was in a similar position before my mother of blessed memory passed on four years ago.

My sisters and I solved this dilemma in a way you did not mention, so I thought I’d write you about what worked for us.

We tried the local Jewish Home Services but found the people they sent didn’t relate well to my mom nor she to them. Since all the alternatives were equally costly, we settled on hiring me as my mom’s professional helper. I was already helping a retired rabbi in her neighborhood and I had half a day available, so I took on my mom as my second client. Because I was working in a paid position, I was able to have more patience with my mom than I did in the role of daughter/helper. Also, this alleviated any guilt on the part of my sisters who lived in distant cities for their inability to visit more than a few weeks a year. My salary came from my mom’s savings and Social Security. The savings were to be our inheritance, so we all shared equally in paying my salary.

We carried on this way for a few years. When my mom needed more, we found a university student in her 40′s who was attending graduate school. She needed a place to live, so in exchange for her board, she was a companion for my mom in the evening, and in case of emergencies, she could call me to come over. This also worked well until my mom needed the additional help of nursing staff.

She spent her last year in an assisted living apartment, as she could no longer climb the stairs at home, which was a necessity. She also had much more stimulation from the activities at the facility than I could provide for her on my own, so it all worked out very satisfactorily. She had not wanted to live in such a facility, but finally remarked that it was the best place for her in the end. This was a huge admission on my mom’s part; it taught me that though parents are adamant against leaving their homes, if they have to be carried out and end up in a decent facility that is the last confining for them, they may eventually realize that it is the best place.

I just wanted to share this. It is an idea that many people overlook for many reasons, but I think it is a great solution for those whose savings allow for it. In this regard, many states used to provide stipends for family members who spent regular working hours with parents as their helper, and it’s good to check with state agencies about this possibility.

Letter # 3: City and Communal Help

Dear Rebbetzin:

There are many city and community agencies to help this woman with regard to her mother. Her lack of funds should in no way impede her access to care. The Department for The Aging website – www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/html/home/home.shtml – should lead her to sources within her zip code. If her children use a computer and Google NYC Department for Aging, they can access a panoply of services. Furthermore, her local assemblyman’s office in Boro Park should be able to direct her to both Jewish and community services. (Assemblyman Dov Hikind serves the 48th District – Boro Park, Dyker Heights, Kensington, and parts of Flatbush. Address: Dov Hikind, New York State Assembly District Office, 1310 48th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11219. Phone: 718-853-9616. Fax: 718 436-5734.)

Regrettably, the writer’s problem is not unique, but help is available. Good luck!

It’s All From Hashem

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Special Note: Several weeks ago, I published a letter from a young father, Akiva Shapiro. Many years ago, Akiva discovered the world of Torah through Hineni. He not only became part of our organization, but a leader and an activist. I was also privileged to introduce him to his aishes chayil- his soul mate, and today, he and his lovely wife are the proud parents of a beautiful family.

Even as many others, Akiva was hard hit by the economic crunch. In his letter, he described how he lost his business and his home, and how he had to confront a new reality and find new ways to support his family. Instead of crumbling and becoming despondent, Akiva, like Rabbi Akiva of old, greeted all of life’s painful, difficult tests with “Gam zu l’tovah- This too is for the best.” This Akiva also rose above his crisis and demonstrated his faith in Hashem. His belief that G-d was guiding him and that ultimately, it would “all be for the best” was conveyed most powerfully in his letter. I requested his permission to publish it so that our many readers might benefit from his experience.

In response to his story, I received many letters, and I am pleased to share one of them with you.

Dear Rebbetzin,

I am an avid reader of your column, and I have often read in your articles that there are no “coincidences” in life. As a matter of fact, on one occasion, I recall you writing that the Hebrew word, “mikreh – coincidence – happening,” really means, “Kara min Hashem – It happened from Hashem.” The older I become, the more convinced I am of the truth of that teaching. There is no other way to explain the unbelievable things that are befalling us these days.

As I said, I read your column regularly. It’s one of my Shabbos afternoon pleasures, but this past Shabbos, I did not think I would have the time, because my children and grandchildren came to visit, and that, as you can well imagine, is a “pleasure” that demands all my attention. As things turned out, however, my son and daughter-in-law decided to take a walk, and asked me to watch the baby. I accepted happily, but I was also certain that I wouldn’t have a minute to even scan The Jewish Press, but lo and behold, the baby fell asleep while playing on the couch and I didn’t want to move him for fear of awakening him. Nor could I leave him alone on the couch lest he fall off, so I sat next to him and picked up the paper.

I turned to your column and read the story of Akiva, which inspired me no end. I decided that as soon as the children departed and I got the house together again, I would write you a letter in response to Akiva’s story. I must tell you that, for the longest time, I have been thinking the very same thoughts that Akiva expressed in his letter.

I was deeply impressed by Akiva and how he responded to the things that were going on in his life. Despite the economic crisis that he was undergoing – the collapse of his business, the loss of his home, his faith remained constant and more, he found the time, energy and the desire to say three little words, “Thank You, Hashem!” How powerful those words are. How amazing his courage, and how beautiful his faith. Despite his ordeal, he stands tall and straight and moves forward.

I remember from my own childhood – I was just a little girl when I was overcome by an all pervasive feeling that told me that there was a G-d who runs the world and controls everything, even though at times, we may think that we are in charge.

But it was not until I was much older that I fully understood what faith is really all about … that life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we find ourselves in a deep valley; sometimes we are on top of the mountain, but no matter where we are, no matter where life takes us, our faith must remain constant. In illness or health, in poverty or wealth, in war or in peace, there is only one reality, and that is Hashem. If I remember correctly, I read that in one of your books.

Personally, I have gone thought a lot in my life. too long a story to tell .. But one thing is certain – without the presence of Hashem, I would never have made it.

My beloved father recently passed away. He did not have an easy life, but he had much emunah and bitachon – faith and trust in G-d. He was in a concentration camp for over three years, and all the while he never gave up, even when he was beaten (and that happened many times). He accepted his suffering without complaint …he lost half his family … . he came to America broken, but never broken in spirit.

In those days, many people changed their names and assimilated. My father never gave up. Torah and Shabbos remained the focus of his life. At one point, he lost his job because he insisted on going home from work early on Fridays. He never doubted what he must do, so he picked himself up and went on to the next job. Time and again he was fired until he went into his own business, but he never faltered. Just like Akiva, he never stopped believing, even during his most trying days, he thanked Hashem.

My father never sat with his hands folded … he took any job that came along even if he had to sweep floors – anything that would put food on the table for his family. No job was beneath his dignity – he was determined to make his way and refused to live on handouts.

I remember when I got married. A year later we had our first child and my husband lost his job. We did not even have money to bring the baby home from the hospital. Did we cry? Did we ask our parents to support us? No, we asked Hashem for help. Like my father, my husband did not sit with idle hands. He tried everything, no matter what it was. Long hours and hard work did not frighten him. Coming home just in time for Shabbos and leaving minutes after Havdalah… working two jobs – nothing intimidated him. I remember my friends asking me how I could let my husband do this. “He needs to be home to help you out!”

“No,” I would answer, “he should make a living and put food on the table so that we wouldn’t have to resort to taking help from others. We have to do our part, and Hashem will do His.”

I am not big on davening, but I always talk to Hashem – three little words. “Please help me!” Two little words – “Thank You!” You don’t need special knowledge for that – just a Jewish heart.

I say thank you for a good day. I also say thank you when my days are not so good. There is always something to say thank you for. I even said thank you when I had a terrible accident and fell and was in pain for months. I said thank you when I did not have a job and when I had no money. I thanked Hashem for giving me the ability to find a new job.

I look around and I see today’s generation and I’m sad to say that this faith, this willingness to work, to take on any job that is available, is sadly missing. This is a generation that is pampered and spoiled. They sit with folded hands. “This job pays too little…. This job is not appropriate for me…this job requires that I start too early… This job ends too late…. Me sweep floors? That will never happen!!”

People feel that they are entitled and can make demands on others – and worse, they make demands on Hashem, never realizing that Hashem does not owe them anything, but they owe everything to Him!

So to you Akiva, I say … I admire you. I respect you. You give people like me chizuk – strength, and I thank you Rebbetzin for never giving up, for never stopping…for going forward …for writing your powerful articles and your inspirational books. May Hashem give you long years and the strength to keep us on our toes, to awaken us from our sleep. I thank all those people who are at your side and who help you. …

From Someone Who Never Gave Up

It’s All How You See It

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

There are no coincidences in life. We know that everything that befalls us is basherte – to the point that even if a man stubs his toe that too is orchestrated from Above. It was not by coincidence that, on Parshas Tazria Metzora, I received an amazing letter from an amazing young man. Some 10 odd years ago, I had the privilege of launching him on his Jewish journey.

In the Parshah of Tazria/Metzora, we find the Hebrew word “nega,” plague, which our sages point out is comprised of the same letters as the word “oneg,” joy, the difference between the two words is to be found in the placement of the letter “Ayin,” which literally means “eye.” In the word “oneg – joy,” the Ayin is at the beginning, while in “nega – plague” it is at the end, teaching us that everything depends on how our eyes see things.

If we look at our challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth, as wake-up calls from Hashem, then indeed, they become “oneg – joyous” experiences, but if we view our difficulties as senseless, painful ordeals, then they can become plagues that torment us. Given this preamble, allow me to share with you an incredibly powerful story, which I believe can serve as a great source of strength and inspiration to our troubled generation.

As I said, it all started some 10 years ago when Akiva (as he came to be known) walked into one of our Hineni Torah classes. He had heard about me but hadn’t considered coming to a class because he heard it was “religious.” One day during a dark period of his life, after having lost his job and used up his savings, through an inspiration he received (which he also credits to Hashem) he had an irresistible urge to come to my class.

Once exposed to the Emes (truth of Torah) his life was never to be same. So it was that one Tuesday night he came to speak with me after class. What was this Torah that opened wellsprings of emotion in his heart all about?

That night proved to be a life-transforming experience. Akiva couldn’t get enough Torah and thirstily drank up every word. In no time at all my sons, our Hineni Rabbis, were teaching him to navigate the deep seas of the Talmud.

Akiva became aware that what he had always been seeking, but could never pinpoint, was also within the Torah way. He wanted to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael – a true Jewish home, and more than anything else, he wanted to meet a girl who would appreciate that calling and commit to raising sons and daughters who would follow the path of Torah.

“Rebbetzin,” he told me, “you are in charge. You must find me that girl!” And with the help of Hashem, I did.

Akiva was an expert computer technologist and was subsequently able to earn enough parnassah to enable him, and his lovely bride, to commit themselves to building a true Jewish home based on Torah learning and values. However, when the computer sector crashed in the early 2000s his stocks plummeted, work dried up, and he went through a new financial crunch.

Just as things were about to collapse for him, he and his bride called out to Hashem that whatever was to happen, they had emunah (belief) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem that it was the right thing for them and was ultimately good. Within a few weeks, their tefillos (prayers) were answered. A technology company owned by Akiva was purchased by a large Wall Street Bank. Akiva was back in business.

This new reality presented him with new challenges and he and his wife decided to leave the New York area and move to a smaller community where they could open a retail business and spend more time dedicated to learning Torah. His aishes chayil was supportive and in time, they built a magnificent Torah family and developed a viable business as well. And now to phase two and the letter I received from Akiva on Parshas Tazria Metzora:

Dear Rebbetzin,

It’s been a long time. Much has happened – where do I start?

Overall, it’s been an incredible trip and I see Hashem guiding my every path. We lost everything financially. Our house is in foreclosure, our savings dried up, and I am excited. Yes, you read that correctly…. I am excited and I say thank you to Hashem. Our situation is so drastic that it’s obvious that it could only come from Him.

I am reminded of the time when I lost my job and became frum (observant), and the time when the computer sector crashed and ironically, it turned out to be the perfect time to sell my technology business. Those times seemed to be a very dark moments in my life, but they turned out to be wonderful opportunities.

During the past 10 years, we have grown in our commitment to Torah and mitzvos and Baruch Hashem, we have been able to give tzedakah too. And now, darkness has descended upon us once again, but this time, in its most destructive, extreme form. Yet, I say, Baruch Hashem, for I recognize that that which seems to be the darkest time, can be a set-up for good times to come. When I look at it this way, I see Yad Hashem, the Hand of G-d in everything.

It is interesting how my business got taken down. One of the workers that worked for the company before I took it over, sued the old owners, but since they were out of the picture, I was held personally responsible. Suddenly, I found myself embroiled in lawsuits…the attorneys’ fees were astronomical.

The case dragged out in court for a few years. Eventually I couldn’t afford my attorneys anymore, so I had no option but to represent myself. I was writing motions and responses to motions and arguing my motions in front of a federal judge. I won some and I lost some, but I was putting up an unbelievable fight.

During this time, there were lots of potential purchasers and financial partners interested in my business, but once I told them about the lawsuit, I usually wouldn’t hear from them again. I didn’t have the resources to go on, so eventually my business went belly-up.

In the end I put the business and myself through bankruptcy. This cleared out the debt and the lawsuit and the house and pretty much everything else. As I went to pick up the pieces, I realized that I was having such a great time with the legal grappling that I decided to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Hashem helped while I studied non-stop for two months, and Baruch Hashem, I did amazingly well. I applied to a bunch of schools and as of this writing, I’ve been accepted to most of them, Baruch Hashem, many with full-tuition scholarships.

The yetzer ha’ra tells me, “Unfair! Unbelievable! Why did Hashem do this to you?” but my yetzer tov – emunah, my faith, tells me, “Not so, it’s Hashgachah Pratis. G-d is guiding you, showing you a new path, launching you on yet another journey.” Now, more than ever, I am committed to devoting myself to Torah and grateful that He is opening new doors for me on the great highway of life.

I thought I’d share the good news with you. We’re planning on moving back to New York soon to go to law school, and once again to become part of Hineni – to learn and teach Hashem’s Torah.

‘How Do I Cope?’

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Special Note: The letter written by the woman experiencing a financial crisis has evoked a strong response. Many people identify with her plight and still others have come forth to share their own experiences in confronting painful challenges. I am pleased to publish one of these letters. Since the financial crunch has become a universal problem, many are suffering and unable to cope. Therefore, I invite those of our readers who have successfully dealt with their own challenges to share their trials and tribulations so that others may learn from them and be strengthened.

‘How Do I Cope?’
The Readers Respond

Dear Rebbetzin,

Please accept my thoughts on the painful letter regarding one family’s financial problems. My mother, ob”m, contracted breast cancer when I was 10 years old. My father, an engineer, worked full-time, which provided our family with sufficient funds. We were not wealthy or even “well off,” and my parents made sacrifices to ensure that my sister and I received proper training. The onslaught of sudden illness made a considerable impact on our situation to say nothing of the emotional devastation.

My parents, who had always taught us well about money management, dealt with the issue forthrightly. Yes, it was difficult for my father to speak of this with my sister and me, but I remember my father’s words well. He advised us that our family structure and basic needs of food and shelter would not be threatened, but that each of us was to have a role in dealing with the immediate and long-term situation, which would require hiring part-time help in our home plus additional expenses to keep the household running. These sums were far from insignificant for my father.

My sister and I were told that our part involved giving up our weekly allowances (these were very small sums indeed) and to think carefully before asking for any future purchases. If we truly needed something, and it was possible, the arrangements would be considered – not guaranteed but considered. I cannot describe the pain this caused my father, but neither can I adequately explain the level of elevated esteem to which he rose in my eyes. His example has followed me all my life.

While this dear lady’s situation is much more complex and likely more dire, the principle remains the same. Deal with situations with honesty and humility; express your pain and regret to family members and remind them and yourself that true family is not built on finances but is built and sustained on joint loving support.

If the family as a unit, and as individuals, calls upon Hashem with its whole heart, even drastic life changes can be borne. I believe my parents gave my sister and me great honor by trusting us to do our small part and certainly the younger and adult children of this situation will respond in the same manner if they are approached with honesty and love.

As to gifts for Purim, we can all rethink the issue of extended gift lists and perhaps develop alternative, even if not customary, gifts. Perhaps instead of fruits and nuts, we can give friends our time and abilities, even exchanging such mundane tasks as ironing, watching children for an hour or two so that parents can have some time to themselves, or simply giving each other the gift of a phone call on a regular basis. It may not be possible to be as generous as in previous times, but by closely examining our lists, appropriate choices can be made.

We should not overlook the impact of a sincerely written note rather than ordering traditional baskets. These are extraordinary times and we are being called upon to look deep within ourselves to find new methods of expression while continuing to affirm the goodness of Hashem in our daily lives.

Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion. May these difficult times pass by, and like the thunder which accompanies life-giving rain, remind us that we are always to trust Hashem’s plans. If you feel any of these words would comfort others, please feel free to share them at will.

Sincerely yours,
Deinya Mautz
Jacksonville, Florida

My Dear Friend:

Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story. After what you have been through, it’s very kind of you to consider that our letter writer’s problem is more severe than yours was. G-d should not test any of us, but terminal illness, losing a mother when you were a child, was surely more devastating than any financial crisis, although you tasted that as well. Too often, when hearing of challenges experienced by others, people who have suffered tend to dismiss them as minor compared to theirs. But a sensitive, kind person will understand that to each person, his/her pain is the most acute.

In regard to your suggestion vis-à-vis mishloach manos, I would like to point out that while the acts of chesed you recommend are certainly very meaningful and worthwhile, they are not substitutes for the mitzvah of mishloach manos, which requires sending at least two ready-to-eat foods to a friend. Such a gift need not be expensive and is certainly within the reach of everyone. The problem is not the mishloach manos, but the extravagance and lavishness that too often accompany it and the desire of people to impress and outdo others.

Esther and Mordechai instituted this wonderful concept to build friendship, harmony and good will among our people. If someone wishes to go beyond the letter of the law and send to many people, it is praiseworthy to do so. But we should bear in mind that, even as we have been given the mitzvah of mishloach manos, we have also been given the mitzvah of matanos l’evyonim – gifts to the poor. If a choice must be made, it is more important to increase our gifts to the poor.

Having said all this, I am in total accord with you that we have to re-think our manner of giving mishloach manos nowadays, and I addressed this issue in my last column. Additionally, in our current financial climate, matanos l’evyonim should be a priority and replace the extravagant gift baskets. But again, I must emphasize that this does not mean that we should, chas v’shalom, do away with the beautiful, joyous mitzvah of mishloach manos.

Purim is an amazing, wonderful Yom Tov for the entire family, and children especially revel in the joy of the day, delivering little food baskets to friends and neighbors. But again, these need not be expensive – two different, ready-to-eat foods that are symbolic of love and good wishes are all that are required, and if we keep it simple and modest, we will be able to include many people on our lists. Your suggestions of chesed however, are well taken, and can be added to, but not substituted, for mishloach manos and matanos l’evyonim.

I invite all our readers to share their experiences. Please e-mail your stories to rebbetzin@hineni.org. May Hashem grant that this Purim brings true joy and redemption to all our families and to Klal Yisrael.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/how-do-i-cope/2009/02/25/

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