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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘derech’

Lessons For Drivers

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a female driver dealing with challenges of derech eretz while driving in my community. Every time the light is about to turn green, the person behind me seems to immediately honk the horn, yet no one has a problem double-parking, making me feel as if I am driving on an obstacle course.

People honk with great impatience if another driver is following the normal speed limit. Worse yet is that everyone seems to cross against a red light. I often see young mothers pushing their baby carriages across the street, straight into traffic, also against the light. They are certainly putting their children in a dangerous situation.

It is so frightening to drive in my community that I honk lightly, even if I am going through a green light. Drivers often tailgate me and persistently honk at me. When this happens I either turn toward a different direction or pull over and let them pass me. I then end up right in back of that driver at the next light. The person, so embarrassed, quickly turns right or left so that I will not be right behind and see who he or she is. (It’s perplexing that these same people with road rage can be amazing ba’alei chesed.)

There are times when I can’t pull my car out of the driveway, because of a double-parked car. When the driver is a frum man, even if I ask him to move, he does not do so. He will get out and try to direct me out of the driveway, or offer to pull the car out for me. On occasion, when someone has offered to pull out the car for me, I have agreed, and after being told that I have plenty of room and being ridiculed as a female driver, he has someone move his car anyway, because there really isn’t room to pull out. On those occasions I am always pleasant and thank him for helping me.

I try to never express anger or raise my voice, as I work very hard on practicing good middos and showing derech eretz, even when spoken to in a disrespectful tone.

The most daunting situation I experienced was when I offered a ride to a tired-looking, pregnant, frum woman and the driver behind me honked as she got into the car, even though it was clear she was having a hard time. I have even been honked at while dropping off my elderly parents.

Why is it that so many seemingly nice people undergo total personality changes when they get behind the wheel? Why does the mood of a wonderful ba’al middos become completely different? I know people who show so much patience in other situations, but develop road rage behind the wheel. Are there any studies to explain this behavior?

A Fan

Dear Fan:

Unfortunately, people become more hostile when behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that aggressive driving causes about a third of all crashes and about two-thirds of automobile fatalities. Studies also reveal that many individuals who become enraged on the road do not have prior arrests; rather, they are your average fellow citizens.

Psychologically, people feel a sense of power when driving and often feel slighted when someone cuts them off, even if done inadvertently. Individuals also feel territorial when driving, and if someone steps into his or her territory, it may be perceived as a breach of personal space. Logically speaking, this does not make sense. But unfortunately, people in these situations are usually reacting irrationally. Furthermore, drivers who display road rage believe that their actions are validated by the way they feel. Only afterward, when reality hits them, do they feel embarrassed because they realize they behaved irrationally.

I would hope that all of our readers, especially after reading your letter, will keep in mind the importance of focusing on their reactions to be sure they are rational. Most people, if asked, would say they would never honk their horns if they saw an elderly person or a pregnant woman getting into a car in front of them. But in the heat of the moment they may react illogically.

Mountains Hanging On Hairs

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You arrive home after shul on Friday night. All the dishes washed before Shabbat are locked in the dishwasher. You have no other eating utensils and you want to retrieve them for the Friday night meal. In order to take them out you have to unlock the door by turning the lever lock to the left. The action of the lever to unlock the door automatically turns off the panel indicator lights that advise you the dishwashing cycle is complete. So you cannot open the door without turning off the lights. What do you do?

Clearly, the act of retrieving the dishes from the dishwasher is, in itself, a permissible act on Shabbat. The problem is that it inevitably causes the melachah of switching off the indicator lights. This melachah is the inevitable and unintended result of retrieving the dishes, though it is of no use to its performer. An inevitable melachah that is of no use to its performer and that arises out of a permitted act is known in halachic terminology as psik reishe de lo neecha leh. We shall refer to it as the “inevitable, unwanted melachah.”

If one performed an inevitable, unwanted melachah, one is patur, which means exempt from any biblical liability. The question is whether one is allowed under rabbinical law to deliberately perform an inevitable, unwanted melachah such as, for example, turning the indicator lights off in order to retrieve the dishes.

The answer to this question depends on the classification of the inevitable, unwanted melachah and the existence or absence of any mitigating circumstances. If the inevitable, unwanted melachah is biblically prohibited, then according to the majority of halachic opinions one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes it. There is a minority opinion – that of the Aruch – that permits it, but the halacha does not adopt this minority opinion.

Accordingly, one may not, for example, wash one’s hands over a public lawn because even though washing one’s hands is permitted on Shabbat, it causes the inevitable, unwanted result of watering the grass. And watering the grass on Shabbat is classified under the biblical melachah of plowing and sowing.

Similarly, one may not open a door to the street on a windy day when the inevitable, unwanted result of the permitted act will be that lighted candles placed next to the door blow out.

What if the inevitable, unwanted melachah is not biblically prohibited but only rabbinically prohibited? Still, according to the majority of opinions, one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the rabbinical melachah, except in a limited number of mitigating circumstances. Physical pain or discomfort or the performance of a mitzvah are examples of mitigating circumstances that might permit one to deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah.

For example, trapping a bird inside one’s home is rabbinically prohibited. Yet if a wild bird flew into one’s house in winter, one would be allowed to close the windows to avoid the cold. This act is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah of trapping.

If the red berries on the hadas, the myrtle branch, are more numerous than the myrtle leaves, the hadas is invalid for arba minim. Yet if a friend of the hadas owner picks off the berries on Yom Tov for food, the owner of the hadas would be permitted to use it for the mitzvah of arba minim. Picking the berries in this way is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted melachah of fixing something for use – makeh bepatish – because it enables the performance of a mitzvah.

Is the inevitable, unwanted melachah of turning off the dishwasher indicator lights a biblical melachah or a rabbinical melachah? The biblical melachah of extinguishing fire was performed in the Sanctuary to produce glowing embers needed to smelt metal. Extinguishing fire for any other purpose not used in the Sanctuary is called a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa. Although biblically exempt from liability once performed, a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa is rabbinically prohibited and should not be deliberately performed. The majority of modern poskim agree that turning off an electric light involves the act of extinguishing fire and is therefore prohibited under the category of melachah she’eina tericah legufa. It is further accepted that the rabbis are less lenient with the melachah of extinguishing fire than with other rabbinical melachot.

Easing The Trauma Of Divorce

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I am currently involved in a yearlong custody battle over my three children, who are all under the age of 10. I did not want or provoke this situation. My wife – with limited success – continues to enlist the children over to her side in her declared war on me. I, on the other hand, advise them that this fight is not their problem and that they should stay out of it. I tell them that they are totally innocent, and that they should honor and love both parents.

During my visitation time, I play with them, read to them, cook for them and do school work with them. In short, I do everything the children need, even those things that are traditionally done by mothers.

The children appreciate what I do for them. However, their mother is constantly trying to get them to see things her way. She tells them that they should help her get their visits with me curtailed because, in her words, “fathers don’t know how to take care of children,” and “mothers know how to better take care of children.”

What amazes me most is the percentage of people that share that line of thinking. Rabbis who are affiliated with batei din and marriage counselors who ought to know better have this underlying, forgiving attitude toward mothers – in spite of the children’s needs. Statements like “it is not right to take children away from a mother,” or “children need a mother,” or “children always go with the mother,” or the famous “mothers take better care of children” are commonly offered as so-called self-evident truths. This even applies to fathers who have always been thoroughly involved in their children’s development. Custody is only given to a father (very reluctantly) when there is absolutely no alternative. And when that happens, people see it as unfair.

I find that women almost blindly sympathize with the mother in these situations and are not interested in the facts. They immediately assume that the husband, the beis din, the courts and the lawyers are a bunch of clever villains while the poor mother and her lawyer are the victims.

I wonder if all these people know what divorcing mothers frequently do. They destroy the fathers’ image in the children’s eyes, in order for them to be totally dependant on the mother. They teach their children to lie to, and steal from, their father. They coach them into making false accusations against their father, saying, “The more bad things that you say about Tatty the better.” They inform the children of accusations made by the father against the mother in court and sometimes even show them court papers, in order to arouse their sympathy and sway them to their side.

In a nutshell, many mothers teach their children to betray their father.

My goal in writing this letter is to remind people that when they judge a divorce situation – which really should never be done – they need to consider the best interests of the children more than is sometimes done and to remember that there are no “self-evident truths” in divorce cases.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I hear your pain and feel for you. While much of what you say is true, unfortunately, there are many fathers who play the same game and speak negatively about the mother of their children – to their children. No parent should use a child as a pawn in a divorce situation. To better the odds that a child from a divorced home will become more successful in future life endeavors, couples must work on keeping things amicable rather than stormy. The research of Wallerstein and Kelly makes this point very clear.

It is unfortunate that there are situations in which divorce is the only option. However, the process is incredibly painful for the children involved and parents must make every attempt to ensure that the children feel safe and secure – and that their needs are the priority for both parents.

In our practices, both Orit and I have seen the devastating effect of the trauma on children. For my part, I counsel parents on how to be more effective with their children in all situations. We work hard teaching parents how to imbue derech eretz in their children. Nonetheless, all these wonderful techniques are often ineffectual in a home filled with pain and strife.

When All Else Fails, Play Gin Rummy

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

He recognized me before I recognized him. We were in Yerushalayim on different sides of the street. He was six foot two waving and yelling my name. “Noach, Noach, Noach Schwartz, the social worker! It’s me Yechiel Klein! Don’t you remember me?” He was wearing a hat, white shirt and suit and looked like a regular bochur from the Mir or Brisk. He did not look like the Yechiel I had met ten years earlier at a clinic in Boro Park.

I was the new clinician, right out of school, at my first job. I had so much to learn, no experience and no time. It was on the job training. I was still trying to make heads and tails out of goals and objectives when my supervisor explained that my goal was not to get fired and my objective was to finish my notes daily in order not to get fired.

On a cold January afternoon, an angry couple in their late fifties came in for an intake. They had with them a 15-year-old teenage boy who looked like he was nine. He looked bored with this whole thing. They told me that they were here because Yechiel’s yeshiva was threatening him with expulsion. They painted a picture of a defiant teenager who missed classes often, and was caught smoking, stealing and hanging out with the wrong crowd. His father, a rabbi, told me that until six months before Yechiel was at the top of his class both in Limudai Kodesh and Limudai Chol. He told me he gave up on him and it was now my job to find out what was bothering his son and to fix it. Thank you.

I prepared for my first session with Yechiel and thought I had a good plan. I would tell the kid that I too had been a troublemaker in high school and had also been threatened many times with suspension and look at me now. I figured that Yechiel would relate to me, and change immediately – because I told him to. He would become an A student. His parents would send me a big mishloach manos, the yeshiva would write a letter to my boss, I would not have to write notes and Schwartz would be the greatest psychotherapist since Freud.

I awoke from my dreams pretty quickly. Yechiel did not talk. Our sessions were forty-five minutes of silence. It was brutal. At first I talked, but even people like me get tired of hearing themselves talk. By week five our sessions were limited to games of gin rummy. It was extremely difficult writing notes on silent sessions. However, the kid was a good gin player. I could not win a single round. One day, out of desperation, I told him he should play gin rummy with his mom, and beat her too.

He then told me his mom was dead. He began to talk. He said the lady that came with his dad for the intake was his father’s new wife. He told me she slept in his mom’s bed. Gin!

Yechiel told me his mom died of cancer. She came to his bar mitzvah and then passed away. Slowly, he told me the story of her life and her death. He told me that he had six older siblings – all married. He told me that his mom loved him, because she told him so three days before the levaya. He told me that his mom was dead for eleven months when his father remarried. Gin!

He told me he did well in school through out his mom’s illness and even after the aveilus. He told me he davened for the amud daily in yeshiva and never missed a kadish. Gin!

Yechiel said his father’s second marriage was more devastating to him than his mom’s death. The pain of his mother being gone, and his father having a new roommate was just too much for him to handle. He told me he was trying alcohol and drugs and skipping school. He said he had a morbid joy witnessing the pain of his father and stepmother. He said he had a fantasy that his father would divorce his wife in order to prevent Yechiel from going completely off the derech. Gin!

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Candy Time Again: Another concerned reader’s perspective

(See Chronicles of Sept 28 & Oct 19)

Dear Rachel,

Your response to “Concerned Bubby” about the candy problem is disturbing indeed. But it reflects a much bigger problem. As a guest in many frum homes, chassidish and Litvish, I’ve witnessed this obsession with sweets getting completely out of hand — a health problem you merely pooh-pooh away. Shocking!

What you don’t seem to understand is that training children to overindulge –especially on sugar – sets them up for a myriad of health problems as adults. You are literally grooming the bodies’ cells for obesity and diabetes.

As an example of this insanity: A mother told me that her son (about 6 years old) already had a mouthful of cavities. As I recall, nearly every tooth. Yet, Shabbos he was still given candies and sweetened drinks. Is this not insanity?

I have seen kids proudly show me their spoils from shul, loads of sweet “junk.” More than they could possibly eat.

The glut is especially high on Purim — before Pesach. Is this some masochistic tendency? Mommies just adore cleaning and hunting for sticky chametz in drawers, closets and under beds.

Candies are given as rewards in school. I remember when we got stars and stickers. Why are the yeshivas – our “frum culture” – equating reward with gashmius (materialism), and unwholesome at that! Bad for mind and body.

Stop it already!

We can learn a great deal from the Biblical commentator, the Ramban, who discusses “Naval Birshus HaTorah” – being disgusting within the framework of Torah. Just because something is kosher does not give us license to gorge.

As far as what you stated about maturity, I have heard many a time that famous “adult” excuse at the Shabbos table for overeating: “I’m eating for the extra ‘neshama‘ (soul) I get on Shabbos.” Please!

But this is just a symptom of an overall “sickness.” At one time families were so poor that cakes and candies were luxuries. Now, luxury is the norm in many Orthodox homes. We are furthermore obsessed with any cuisine alien to Judaism, be it Japanese, Chinese, Italian… so long as it is something exotic and expensive.

Our frum culture today actually mirrors the goyish society we are so intent on avoiding. We have lost the sense of Yiddishkeit, of really feeling Jewish.

Most of the songs on Jewish radio are just rock music adapted to Tehillim. And wedding music must blast like an acid rock concert. Even today’s chazzanim are more “entertainers” than the sweet singers of old in baal tefilla style. (As my zeide a”h was a chazzan, I know.)

Mishloach Manos is given the way non-Jews give Xmas presents. We have lost the whole idea Mordechai and Esther intended. We are required to give two prepared foods to a fellow Jew. But no, everyone in the “shtetl” has to get one and everyone must outdo the other. Keep up with the Shapiros… the more expensive and lavish, the better.

The same with weddings and simchas in general — thousands of dollars are spent on but a few hours of celebration.

Then you read about children starving. Has this frum culture no shame? Does just stamping a kosher sign on something make it Jewish or Torahdik?

We read about the lulav and esrog symbolizing the achdus of all Jews, and yet self-righteous individuals view other Jews with disdain because they practice different minhagim (customs).

How many chassidic sects fight each other?

As far as summer camp is concerned, when did that start? Children stayed at home and helped their parents, or found something to do to earn a little money. Each generation is getting more and more spoiled in gashmius and more and more starved in ruchnius (spirituality) — as in understanding, kindness, self-sacrifice and respect of others and especially elders.

These young minds spend all day in school during winter and then are thrown into summer camp, away from the very people who should be teaching and molding them.

In light of all this, is it any wonder our frum kids are going off the derech? What else are they seeing but hypocrisy and parents who don’t want to spend time with them… to bond, to talk about their problems, to feel WANTED?

The yeshivas are no less to blame, encouraging this sense of hypocrisy. Why should yeshivas have instances of bullying and other abuses? Where are the teachers? Where are the parents?

Shidduchim: Why Personality Compatibility Matters

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Appeal To Readers

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/an-appeal-to-readers/2012/10/14/

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