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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘derech’

July 19, 2012 – An Open Letter To Anyone Who Cares

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

A couple of years ago The Jewish Press published a letter I wrote about how people treat “kids/teens off the derech.” I wrote about my daughter who had totally left religion and how I felt people could make a difference in these children’s lives; they either inspire them or turn them off. The response to my letter was overwhelming. People contacted me wanting to help and others wrote about their children in similar situations.

I want to follow up and let you know that Hashem has been good to my family. Today, my daughter is extremely frum, married to a guy who also had his “journey” and they are leading a pure Torah life. On her journey home, she worked with girls going through their own struggles and was able to inspire them because she had been one of them – and this gave them hope.

So yes, Baruch Hashem my daughter has changed, but unfortunately not everything has. Why are there still so many people who look down on these kids if they are not dressed the same way they are? Is it really better to be dressed in a tzniut fashion but to speak loshon hara about others and be mean? Does having your legs and arms covered really make you a better Jew and a better person? Does it give you the green light to judge someone and act like you are above him or her? This is not what real tzniut and a true Torah life is about.

If you want to help bring these kids back to yiddishkeit and inspire them to love our way of life, then you need to act towards them with love and compassion and be a good role model. Being judgmental and snobby isn’t going to do it; it will just turn them off more.

People need to wake up because everyday there are more kids turning away – and so many of them are acting in self-destructive ways. My daughter’s journey was seven years long – and things are worse today in our community than when it began. We need ahavat chinam for these kids too in order to bring Moshiach.

Beth
changeofftoon@gmail.com

Criticizing While Respecting

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

My parents, who I love dearly, constantly contradict what I say to my children. They constantly interfere with the way my wife and I raise our children. For her part, my wife is very frustrated with this situation. What makes it harder for her, her parents live out of town while my parents live close by and are thus more involved with our children.

My mother is forever criticizing my wife, who is a wonderful mother and very caring and compassionate with our five beautiful children. My mother has a different view of how to raise children, and honestly, that makes we wish I had a mother more like my wife.

I struggle with low self-esteem, which my wife tries to bolster with her enormous love and sensitivity. I believe that my low self-confidence emanates from having critical parents who never complimented me.

My children are, Baruch Hashem, doing well in school. They have derech eretz, clearly showing that my wife’s childrearing techniques are working. My parents, conversely, are nervous people, and believe that children should be seen and not heard. They believe that we are wrong in not hitting our children. They are so critical that it drives us both crazy. I have spoken to them numerous times about not interfering in the way we raise our children and he last things I want to do is keep the children away from them.

We have spoken to our rav who has made it clear that while we do not have to accept their child-raising suggestions, we are obligated to respect them. Please help us with this challenging situation.

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

It appears that your parents need to control you in some manner and choose to do so through criticizing the way you raise your children. Critical people are often insecure and need to control others in order to bolster their own self-esteem. Is it possible for you to change the subject when your parents begin to criticize you? If their criticism persists, you can respectfully disagree by saying, “Mom, Dad, is it possible that even if you don’t agree with our childrearing techniques, you can respect our methods and not criticize us? We feel hurt when you constantly criticize the way we raise our children. It is also not healthy for the children to see this disagreement.”

In my professional practice, I see grandparents who were very strict with their own children and then undermine them when they are disciplining the grandchildren. This is incredibly in appropriate. It is only in situations where grandparents witness their children damaging their grandchildren in some way or, chas v’shalom, acting abusively or neglectfully toward them do they have the right to intervene. Even then, they should tread lightly to ensure that their interventions are taken the right way.

I support your efforts to respect and love your parents by not severing the important bond between them and their grandchildren. However, you must demonstrate derech eretz toward your parents when discussing with them their inappropriate, meddling behavior and when telling them that you do not want to ever be faced with the possibility of having to sever that very important bond. If your parents realize how serious you are, they will hopefully back off. Continue to be supportive of your wife by working with her in continuing the successful chinuch that you are giving your children.

As for hitting your children, I too do not generally believe in that technique. Sometimes, though, hitting young children gently in order to explain a point may be appropriate. A rav I once spoke to about hitting shared this perspective. The rav felt that American parents who generally hit their children do so in order to pacify their own frustrations, i.e., they hit to rid themselves of their self-anger.

Al pi halacha, we are not allowed to hit children when we are angry. Some tzaddikim were known to hit their children gently when they were not angry in order to teach them. Since we are not on their madreigah and we generally hit our children to alleviate our own frustrations, it is forbidden for us to do so.

Here is a beautiful story that I learned from Project Derech: The eight sons of Rav Shlomo Carlebach, a rav in Germany, all grew up to be rabbanim. Whenever one of his sons was late to minyan, his punishment was to not get jam on his toast. But Rav Carlebach also did not put jam on his own toast, to show the child that he felt his pain and would thus deny himself that eating pleasure as well. This level of childrearing is one that we should aspire to. If we deny ourselves of a small privilege and therefore share the pain with our children, they will be less likely to have punitive feelings toward us and will ultimately have a very deep regard for us, their parents.

Getting Serious About Get-Refusal

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

It’s human nature to hide our heads in the sand. That may be because we are mostly optimistic. We believe everything will be all right even when we know we are taking a chance.

On the flip side, it’s emotionally very difficult to admit we have a problem. We are worried about how others will regard us. Moreover, addressing a problem entails gathering strength to go about solving it. It’s so much easier to hide our heads in the sand.

About ten years ago, at a rabbinic convention in Israel, I was introduced to a well-known American Orthodox rabbi as a to’enet rabbanit – rabbinical court advocate. The rav politely asked me what I do. I briefly explained how I work with dayanim in Israeli batei din on cases of Get-refusal they have difficulty resolving. I stressed my focus on prenuptial agreements to prevent the agunah problem from arising in the first place, through the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

“Oh, I know all about prenups” the rabbi replied. “My daughter just got married but I didn’t tell her to sign one. We don’t need these things.”

This rav, one of the most effective leaders in the American Orthodox world, did not recognize the very real agunah problem in his community. In fact, I have received cries for help (even though I am in Israel) from women who belong to every manner of Orthodox community in the U.S., from chassidishe and haredi to Modern Orthodox and everything in between.

Truth be told, it is difficult for a rav to admit publicly to a problem of Get-refusal in his community when no one is admitting it in the other communities. It is more comforting to imagine that should an agunah case arise, the community will take care of it. However, individuals who begin to tread the path of a me’agen are becoming more and more resistant to communal pressure or even rabbinic influence.

By recognizing the potential for the problem and arranging the signing of prenuptial agreements for its prevention, communal and rabbinic influence can be restored. The problem needs to be prevented from taking root in each individual case before it is too late.

Nevertheless, the practice is to hope for the best, rationalizing the agunah problem with statistics. “What,” we think, “are the chances of this happening to me or to my daughter?”

And yet our communities have overcome deep-seated reluctance in order to deal with other widespread problems. To cut down on the number of cases of genetic disease afflicting the Orthodox community, for example, practical yet dignified solutions were found. The community needed to find a way to assist individuals on a communal level and so now many Orthodox educational institutions routinely bring professionals into twelfth-grade classes to administer blood tests.

In this manner, the individual understands the implicit stamp of approval by the rabbanim and the fear of “what will others think?” is erased, since all are working toward the prevention of the problem.

Similarly, the leadership of each of the various Orthodox communities can make practical arrangements for prenup education with every educational institution – high school, yeshiva gedolah, seminary or college.

A service should be provided whereby every student, man or woman, who becomes engaged is called in. The school’s rabbi or counselor can present the couple with a halachic prenuptial agreement together with an explanation, and arrange for notarization services in the school’s office. In this manner the community will quickly understand that all are expected to sign a prenuptial agreement. It will become “automatic” – one of the things you have to arrange before you get married.

Even those who marry later, while no longer under the aegis of educational institutions, will remember to sign a prenuptial agreement since it will have become a standard part of the shidduch process.

Twenty-one rabbanim of one of Americas’ Orthodox communities – roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University – recently signed a (second) kol koreh calling on all rabbis and the Orthodox community to promote the standard use of a halachic prenuptial agreement. They were spurred to do so by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. There are those who may feel YU or ORA is not their derech, but that does not relieve them of the responsibility to address the agunah problem in their own communities.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Inaccurate Characterization

In his July 6 “Charming Nation” column, Dov Shurin wrote that the only death caused by Saddam Hussein’s Scud attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War was that of a man who suffered a heart attack – a man Shurin characterized as an opponent of Shabbat road closures.

The truth is that man was not someone who opposed any Shabbat laws. He was a fine, Orthodox, God-fearing Holocaust survivor who had seen most of his family killed in Europe. His heart gave out when the Scuds started falling and air raid alarms were sounded.

He happened to have been a friend of mine and it was very disturbing to read Shurin’s claim that he had been against Sabbath observance.

Amy Wall
New York, NY

The Times Already Lost It

Re “Is the Gray Lady Losing It?” editorial. June 29):

The question really should be “When did the gray lady lose it?” While certain sections of The New York Times continue to be credible, the news, editorial and op-ed pages lost any credibility years ago. The motto of the Times should be changed to “All the news we choose to print” from “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Those looking for accuracy and balance should turn to a paper like the Wall Street Journal.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, MD

The Roberts Decision

Reams of analysis and debate will doubtless be generated in response to the incoherent and inexplicable legal finding by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts validating Obamacare (“Not the Supreme Court’s Finest Moment,” editorial, July 6).

The 2,700-page bill was passed through bribery, intimidation and funding falsehoods, though no one in Congress actually read it. Former speaker Pelosi’s (in)famous diktat “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” speaks to the hubris of the Democrats in Congress.

This mammoth legislation is the harbinger of an anticipated flood of new regulations to be administered by thousands of new bureaucrats enforcing the new rules still being written.

As for Chief Justice Roberts, his decision to deliver such a convoluted decision will set back the Supreme Court’s reputation for years.

Fay Dicker
Lakewood, NJ

Handful Of Fanatics

Re “Haredi Men Arrested in Yad Vashem Vandalism” (news story, June 29):

Neturei Karta is a small (albeit vocal) group that is in no way representative of the haredi community as a whole.

On the one hand, from a haredi perspective the Holocaust is seen as just another chapter in the history of persecution, albeit more efficiently executed and more recent. That is why haredim generally do not observe such commemorations as the Warsaw Ghetto anniversary, subsuming it instead in the general mourning on Tisha B’Av. This does not, however, mean haredim in any way approve of such offensive vandalism as was perpetrated by this handful of fanatics.

On the other hand, there is certainly a feeling in the haredi community that a wholly exaggerated cult of the Holocaust has become a sort of substitute religion for those estranged from Torah Judaism. Haredim object to this negative definition of one’s Jewishness by reference to the hatred of others rather than pride in one’s heritage.

Only someone completely prejudiced against haredim could consider these nutcases as being in any way representative of the greater haredi community – but unfortunately such an attitude is all too common.

Martin D. Stern
Salford, England

Making Our Own Choices

As the brouhaha over the Internet continues, I would like to make a few comments to those who vehemently oppose the Internet in Jewish homes.

New York City is home to many Jewish institutions but also, lehavdil, to a number of obscene and lewd establishments. Should Jews be prohibited from living in New York because they might be tempted to frequent such places?

We can use our two legs to take us to perform mitzvos, but we can also use our two legs to take us to commit aveiros. Shall we cut off our legs because they might take us to sinful places?

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum – but we do have the ability to know the difference between right and wrong and the strength, imparted to us by our parents and teachers, to follow a moral and ethical way of life and to make the correct choices for ourselves.

Pesach-Yonah Malevitz
Los Angeles, CA A

Shabbos In Midwood

Them and Us

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

“Monopoly was created for a summer Shabbat and Fast Days…”!

So I heard, time and again, in my early years.

Distractions are perfect for these two days, and thus, some suggest, the less you think about what you’re missing [i.e.- be it the T.V/Computer on Shabbat, or food/water on a Fast-Day,] the better off you will be.

Years later, I know rather too well that while “Monopoly”  has a place in the Jewish home, I am not sure about it’s appropriateness to either Shabbat or a Fast-Day. Leaving the former for another time, let’s talk about the latter.

Seems to me that being “distracted” on the fast day… is exactly the opposite of what the intention of our sages was. In the words of the Rambam [Laws of Fast-Days, Chapter 5/1;]

“There are days that all of Israel fast on, because of the tragedies that occurred on them, in order to awaken the hearts, and open the paths towards Teshuva/Repentance, and they shall be a reminder to our wrong/evil ways, and those of our forbears, that were like our own today, which has/had resulted to them and to us in these tragedies, and by remembering them, we will return to proper ways… .and they are… the 17th of Tamuz…

In a word, the Rambam is saying that a typical Fast day is a means to an end-it’s a tool for us to repent for actions and behaviors that caused both tragic events of the past and those of the present.

Following suit, seems that we should be distracted on this day, and the natural feeling of hunger and thirst should lead us to deep introspection as to the way we act, speak and more.

So, as I sit in front of my screen on this commemoration of the 17th of Tamuz, allow me to pick on but 1 behavior pattern that seems to be a throw-back to then, and to my dismay, is continuing now.

It’s no secret that we are fasting today to recall, amongst others, the breaching of the walls surrounding Jerusalem, probably [only] during the period of the 2nd Temple [Tractate Ta'a'nit 28b, which suggests that during the 1st Temple, this happened on the 9th day of Tamuz.] It is also well known that the 2nd Temple, according to the prevalent view of our sages, was destroyed due to “Sin’at Chi’nam”/Senseless hatred [Tractate Yo'ma 9b.]

Putting two and two together, seems like today is a day that we are still fasting, and not [yet] feasting [as, hopefully, we will-see Tractate Rosh-Hashana 18b] due to such senseless hatred still continuing in the year 2012.

“But I don’t hate anyone?”

True, we probably seldom used the term “I hate…” for another Jew. But there is something that is still be done today, and is a by-product of the above- the use of the word “them” about fellow Jews.

You all know the scene – you are watching the news, and see some sort of an occurrence. As Jews seldom stays quite and refrain from voicing their opinion, I am sure one of the following statements were uttered recently about the latest events in Israel;

  • They should make a deal and go to the army”
  • Violence won’t get them anywhere.”
  • They are really two-faced, just demonstrating in the summer and not in the winter…”

The list goes on, but I’m sure you get the point.

There’s only one problem with it; “They” are really… us!

We are not speaking about some group in the hinterlands of the USA doing this or that, or what the locals are constructing in the Far-East! We are speaking about… our fellow Jews!

  • You may not formally have a membership card into the [so-called] “Charedei” world, but when seeing the recent controversy concerning the “Tal Law”, how many of us said, “I feel bad… for us” versus “them?”
  • You may not live in Tel Aviv, and thus are not part, or are not personally effected, by the “Social demonstrations” of recent. But how many of us looked at the news reports on it, and commented that this is not a good thing… for us, rather for “them?”

Sin’at Chi’nam”/Senseless hatred is not just hating someone. In my opinion, it would include creating a feeling of two nations within the same people/it would include looking at current events in Israel, being produced by fellow Jews, and referring to it as “what’s happening to them.”

Getting Back Together

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

We all know we have to take the Three Weeks seriously. But at the same time we all just want the time between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av to pass already.

Each year seems more worrisome; this year is no exception. Every day brings new evidence that the world situation is deteriorating, with tzouris on every level. Of course, Israel is becoming more and more isolated. The rockets fall, and no one cares except us.

What exactly should we focus on during this sober time of year?

We all know that sinas chinam, gratuitous hatred between Jew and Jew, caused the destruction of the Second Temple. We all know it, but clearly we are having trouble incorporating it into our lives. The knowledge is not going to help us unless it becomes an imperative whose urgency is driven by our desire for a real solution to our problems.

We’ve all become somewhat depressed, affected by the cynicism we learn from the surrounding society, which is content to try to enjoy itself as the world spins out of control. How many people really believe the world can ever be transformed into a peaceful planet on which the Children of Israel can live in our Holy Land, “each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)?

Let’s try to understand how we can really make this happen. If we took this seriously, we could well be rejoicing soon in the new Beis HaMikdash. Since we are not there yet, we obviously need to hear it again.

Here is the source:

“[At the time of] the Second Temple, [we know] that the people occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness. Why was it destroyed? Because of the gratuitous hatred that existed there. This teaches you that gratuitous hatred is tantamount to the three sins of idolatry, immorality and bloodshed [put together]” (Yoma 9b).

I know of instances in which Jews try to hurt each other and do hurt each other. This is crazy, of course.

People are not using their brains. Maybe it is because so many of us are lost somewhere inside our smart phones or computers. If we would think, we would not act this way, because this behavior is suicide.

All our tzouris stems from the fact that we have no Beis HaMikdash.

“Because of our sins, we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil. We cannot ascend to appear…before You…in the…great and holy House upon which Your Name was proclaimed…” (Yom Tov Mussaf). When we will return to our land in teshuvah, Hashem will “command rain for your land in its proper time, the early and later rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied” (Shema prayer/Devarim11:14).

* * * * *

I am going to suggest a few ideas.

There are things we can do.

We have to become closer.

We are one family.

My wife and I recently conducted several programs in the beautiful Syrian community of Mexico City. Before going, we wondered how we would be able to relate. After all, we are Ashkenazim from New York. It’s a different world, right?

Wrong!

It is unbelievable how close we all are. In fact, we learned that our granddaughter from Israel was best friends with the daughter of our host in Mexico. They had met at camp in the Catskills. Do you understand? It’s 7,732 miles from Israel to Mexico, and they met at a camp in between.

Mashiach is almost here. We are all about to unite as “one man with one heart.” Let’s get serious. It makes me insane when I see not only how cruel we can be to each other but how we often just distance ourselves. Would you pass your brother on the street and not greet him? Would you stare in the other direction as if he didn’t exist? If we all would try to modify our actions, then perhaps one – even unnoticed or invisible – act of chesed could tip the scale and bring Mashiach.

Improving A Child’s Derech Eretz

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I have five children, and am struggling with my oldest son. He can be so good at times, but then he will talk to me with such chutzpah. I want to have a good relationship with him, but I worry when he speaks to me this way – and therefore, I end up reacting badly. This creates a vicious cycle, as he speaks back to me with even more chutzpah. I know I should react differently, but how can I respond kindly when he is speaking to me in such a disrespectful way? Wouldn’t that set a bad precedent?

My other children are beginning to follow his behavior, and I feel like the situation is spiraling out of control. What can I do to stop my other children from speaking to me in the same wrongful manner as their brother? And how can I get my son to speak to me more respectfully?

A Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother:

Thank you for your letter. I do not know your son’s age, but if he’s age-appropriate he should view my DVD, “Chutzpah is Muktzah2” (available in Judaica sefarim stores). If he’s past the age of eight, making him too old to get much out of this DVD, perhaps you should purchase it for your toddlers and younger children. The DVD teaches them how to behave with derech eretz (e.g. saying please, thank you, don’t wake Mommy, I’ll do it with pleasure, I am sorry, etc.) and features great musical interludes with famous Jewish singers.

The issue you raise is, unfortunately, very widespread. But you are already one step ahead of the game, as you recognize that your son’s behavior is inappropriate and are properly taking steps to rectify the situation. It is important to speak to your son when he is calm, explain to him that you love him, but it is hurtful when he speaks to you disrespectfully. Tell him of your desire to have a good relationship with him, and that you want his input into how this can happen. Try to come up with a joint plan focusing on how each of you treats the other. Explain to your son that as his mother, he must speak to you with derech eretz – but that you will change your tone with him as well, speaking towards him with greater derech eretz.

To give the plan an improved chance of success, devise ways to ask each other to do things while explaining the reasons why at times those things cannot be done immediately. A good way for your son to speak to you (and for faster results for you to speak to him) is to say “I’ll do it with pleasure” when you ask him to do something. Another thing to say if he can’t fulfill your request right away: “Is it possible for me to do it in one minute?” If he does not seem amenable to these scripts, develop your own verbal thoughts that work for both of you. (Remember that a prepared script is likely to make it easier for your son to speak more appropriately to you, as he will have a better idea of what you are looking for.)

Make sure to heap praise on him when he speaks with derech eretz. Similarly, if he reverts back to speaking disrespectfully, calmly say, “Can you please say that again with derech eretz?”

It is not a good time to attempt to change your son’s behavior if he is extremely tired or hungry. In those situations, it would be better to have him get some rest or eat something. Then you can quietly and calmly tell him that although you know he was tired and/or hungry, you still expect more from your special son than to speak with you in an unsuitable way. By staying calm, you are telling your son – without engendering more disrespect – that his actions are unacceptable.

Once the tone with your oldest son improves, your other children will likely follow suit in the way they speak with you. But you should speak with each of them as well. You and your husband should also converse in the same mode, setting a good example for your children to emulate. Children generally learn and act through the examples set by their parents. Additionally, it’s a good idea to role-play with them on ways to speak more respectfully, as this will ready them when the real situations arise.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/improving-a-childs-derech-eretz/2012/06/28/

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