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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘derech’

Instilling Derech Eretz

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I enjoyed your recent column concerning the jealousy a girl had toward her newborn brother.

As you deal with derech eretz-related issues, I need to tell you that I am having a hard time with my children regarding this very topic. They no longer follow the rules you set in your DVD, “Chutzpah is Muktzah 2.”

I wonder if their deteriorating attitude is happening because my husband and I are arguing more often. Unfortunately my husband lost his job, and although I am working and he is collecting unemployment, he is very nervous at the lack of job opportunities. This is causing him to fight with and act very disrespectful to me. Can it be that the children are picking up on this and acting disrespectfully toward me as well? I am trying hard to be supportive; I know that this situation is very hard on him. My husband had a high-level, prestigious job and is very educated, so being home and feeling inadequate is very difficult for him.

I, Baruch Hashem, have a great job, enabling us to manage financially. Due to the circumstances, I am not making any major purchases and not putting any pressure on my husband. But between his anger and the children acting out, I am going crazy. Dr. Respler, please help me deal with this situation. While I try to support my husband, I must get my children under control.

A Mother Who Is Losing Her Mind

Dear Mother:

It sounds like you are correct and your children are feeling the tension at home, which may be adding to their stress level. This stress, in turn, may be manifesting itself in their behavior and speech. Nevertheless, you can begin to change it.

Try to speak to your children and your husband in the same manner with which you want them to speak to you. This will permit them to hear proper speech all day and it will begin to become second nature to them. You can also speak to your husband about how your children’s level of derech eretz (or lack thereof) is bothering you and that you want to start changing the way people speak to each other in the house. Tell him that if the two of you start to speak to each other and to the children in a very respectful manner, they will respond in kind. It follows the premise of practicing what you preach. This may alleviate some of the tension because even though your husband is edgy, once everyone starts to speak nicely at home, things may become calmer.

You can also start a derech eretz chart with your children. Every time they speak with derech eretz, you should give them a sticker and make a big deal about it. After 10 stickers, your children can choose a small prize or treat. The prizes/treats can be tangible or something like special time with you or your husband. Give your children a lot of positive reinforcement when they speak respectfully. They will crave this attention, and will continue to speak with derech eretz because they will want to continue to receive it. When your children speak disrespectfully, remind them in a calm and loving way of the proper way to speak – and give them a chance to self-correct. If all else fails, you can even remind them of the prize for which they are working.

In order to alleviate some of the tension, try talking to the children about what is going on. Parents generally feel that they should shield their children, and thus do not talk to them about life’s stressful things. While this may sound like the best course of action, it actually can be harmful to children. Children pick up on stress and hear bits and pieces of what is going on. This often becomes very scary to them because they know you are upset, and this upsets them as well.

Moreover, because no one ever sat down with them and told them what is going on, they may think something terrible is happening. It would be a good idea to sit with them and explain that Daddy is going through a hard time because he lost his job. He may look sad and angry, but everything will be okay and the family will be fine. You can ask the children to try to listen and talk nicely, so that the situation becomes easier on Daddy. Ask them if they have any questions and inquire about how they feel regarding what you just told them. Try to answer their questions as honestly as possible and in a soothing way. While not saying anything that would scare them, don’t lie to them. Listen to their feelings and tell them that any questions they may still have should be directed to you, not your husband. Explain to them that it is too painful a topic for him to talk about.

Whatever Happened To Derech Eretz?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Years ago at a Torah Umesorah convention, I heard a presenter state that there is a correlation between derech eretz and the distance one is from New York. I have often thought about that statement as I squirmed in my seat at the rude behavior on the part of “frummer” Yidden I witnessed at many Jewish music concerts – in New York proper, Shabbos Nachamu in the Catskills, even a fancy hotel in Florida during Chol HaMoed Pesach.

I recently had occasion to reflect on that once more as a history teacher in a right-wing yeshiva.

I am a well known and well regarded educator. I have been a day school teacher, a yeshiva principal and a college professor. I spent many years in the classroom and I never had a discipline problem. Whatever the subject matter or level, students understood basic classroom procedures: Come on time, bring a notebook and where necessary a textbook, take notes, raise a hand to ask a question, don’t call out, don’t do homework from another class, pay attention, and sit respectfully while the teacher teaches. Students did misbehave at times, but there was never such blatant chutzpah and lack of derech eretz as I experienced at this yeshiva.

I am retired, but recently went back into the classroom when asked by a colleague to fill in for a teacher who retired midyear. The school is a very well known yeshiva in Brooklyn. It is clear that Torah study takes precedence over all else. However, there are secular studies in the basic core areas late in the afternoon. It’s a very long day for the boys. I was told that written homework assignments are out of the question. The boys do take Regents examinations and a few even take SATs and go to college, but most do not.

This is a black and white school. Everyone wears black and white and the value system is also black and white. Torah is primary. Everything else doesn’t count. I understand this and respect it. However, as long as there is a secular studies program, what message is conveyed to non-Jewish and non-religious public school teachers who have to put up with unacceptable behavior? Perhaps because these teachers come from the public schools and have to deal with similar discipline problems there they may be more acclimated to it. However, I would hope bnei Torah would be on a higher level than public school students.

The rebbeim do not experience this as much, since it would not be tolerated by the yeshiva. Many prominent families with distinguished lineages send their sons to this yeshiva. In the lower grades it’s not a problem. In the 11th and 12th grades they want to graduate. My mazel was to teach the 8th and 9th graders.

There is a textbook and a workbook. I only used the textbook. Teaching was made difficult because many boys would not come prepared with their books or notebooks. Their attitude toward this class was negative. They would not stop talking even after being asked to stop. They would throw things back and forth, eat and drink in class, ignore me as if I weren’t there, litter the classroom, jump up and down out of their seats, yell to each other, read, sing, etc.

Even after some were suspended and even after I spoke with their parents, it didn’t stop. I was very frustrated. It is clear they don’t want to be there and most couldn’t care less about learning history.

The secular administration (all rabbonim) was very supportive but all they could do was suspend a student and threaten to expel him. Even though I was a secular studies teacher, I dress like the rebbeim and davened Minchah with them every day (black hat and all). They too were frustrated and embarrassed by their students’ lack of elementary derech eretz. Apparently the previous secular studies principal approached the rosh yeshiva and asked him to give a talk about the need for derech eretz in secular studies classes. He refused. I was told this happens at other yeshivas as well.

Derech ertez kadmah l’Torah doesn’t merely mean derech eretz is something one is obligated to work on prior to learning Torah. R. Aharon Kotler, zt”l, said that without proper middos, all of a person’s Torah is flawed. R. Chaim Vital asked why there is no specific mitzvah that deals with refining one’s character. He explained that proper middos must precede the Torah since they are the foundation on which Torah is based. Were derech eretz to be a mitzvah, it would imply that it’s a mitzvah like all other mitzvahs. In truth, it’s much more. It’s a precondition to observing the Torah.

I asked myself why this was happening. Perhaps if I dressed in jeans like the other secular studies teachers, the students would respond differently. Perhaps if I didn’t cite rabbinic sources when we studied ancient Greece and Rome they would have behaved better. To be sure, there were boys who genuinely wanted to learn, who paid attention and took notes. But there was this overall sense that the subjects being discussed were bittul – a waste. It is a mindset that if allowed to continue will follow them into adulthood, with negative consequences that will embarrass us all.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

From 1986 through 2004 Regesh Family and Child Services ran a renowned residential treatment program for difficult and at-risk youth and children.  Over the many years of providing residential, as well as outpatient care, we realized that children and youth with symptoms of an attachment disorder acted out the most and were difficult children to make immediate progress with.  These children always required more long-term care and much caring and patience.  These children display defiance, opposition or, maybe worst of all, indifference.  A child with insecure attachment or an attachment disorder doesn’t have the skills necessary to bond with caregivers or build meaningful relationships.  The behaviors of these children leave adults exhausted, angry and often feeling helpless and hopeless.

Attachment problems fall on a spectrum, from mild problems that are easily addressed to the most serious form, known as reactive attachment disorder.  It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the various types or their treatments.  However, in brief, attachment disorders are the result of negative experiences in a child’s earliest developmental stage and early relationships.  If a young child feels repeatedly abandoned, isolated, powerless, or uncared for—for whatever reason—he or she will learn that other people can’t be depended on and that the world is a dangerous and frightening place.  Consequently, their behavior reflects these feelings.  Some causes of this phenomenon include, but are not limited to: infants with teenage mothers, infants with extended hospital stays, parents who do not give the required attention to the child or parents whose attention and caring are inconsistent (that is, sometimes they are there for the child while other times they cannot be relied on).  Other conditions leading to possible attachment problems include the young child who gets attention only by acting out or displaying other extreme behaviors; a young child or baby who is mistreated or abused, or a baby or young child who is moved from one caregiver to another (this can be the result of adoption, foster care or the loss of a parent).

Healthy attachment, like trust, begins in infancy.  The infant quickly learns that when he/she feels discomfort, i.e. from being wet, hungry or in pain, there will be someone, a caregiver, usually a mother, there to relieve the discomfort.  This first stage of developing trust leads to the development of an attachment between the infant and the caregiver.  The infant develops a clear preference for being with, and interacting with, those specific caregivers over lesser known individuals.  Thus, without proper attachment to this primary individual, the child’s emotional and nurturing needs are not met. When the normal attachment process does not occur, children develop abnormal relationships with caregivers, leading to potential serious mental health and behavioral issues.  Due to the pervasive nature of this disorder, subsequent interpersonal relationships, such as the development of normal peer and ultimately romantic relationships in later childhood are often distorted.  In addition to unconditional loving and consistent parenting, therapy is often required to work with such children and adolescents.

Why am I giving you all this background?  Lately I hear a common theme in the attitudes of at-risk youth.  Perhaps you have heard it as well.  It goes like this: “Who do you think you are?”  “You have no right to tell me what to do.”  “You can’t make me” or the challenge “Try to make me.”  The theme is the same; the parent, caregiver, teacher does not have any rights or better, any connection or relationship with the youth, in his or her mind.  There seems to be a disconnect between the child and the adult.

Why do kids do what we ask of them?  Really, think about this question.  At what age does a child make up his own mind to do as he wants, not as you want?  (This is a whole article within itself). When do we no longer have the “power” to “make” a child do what we want?

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

Several thoughts came to mind when I read the letter regarding the behavior of children in shul and adult reactions to it. In my opinion, this is a serious problem and the letter writer was completely correct, yet it was a strong letter that can be construed by some as bordering on sinas chinam.

If everyone showed basic derech eretz, we wouldn’t have this problem. Unfortunately, not only will many parents do nothing, but they will get angry if anyone says anything, because any criticism could damage their darling children psychologically and impede their development.

When my sons were very young, I would take them outside of shul if they made any noise. As they grew older, I taught them that it was completely forbidden to make a sound during leining, Kedusha, and the Mourner’s Kaddish. Later, I taught them that no talking was permitted during davening. When they were old enough and tested me, I would punish them appropriately. Today I have the nachas and zechus to see my frum, yeshivish son put his finger to his lips if someone talks to him during Kaddish.

Years ago I davened in a shul with a prominent rav. If a baby made a sound during his sermon, he would start screaming that the baby should be taken out. On the other hand, when my sons were growing up we went to a shul where the rav’s attitude was that all babies and children should be brought to shul. I won’t comment on the former case, knowing that most people share my opinion. However, if parents won’t show derech eretz, the rav has to deal with it. The following anecdote will show how one rav coped beautifully:

Many years ago in a shul in Brooklyn, just as the rav began his sermon one Yom Kippur, a baby in the front row started whimpering. The rav began: “On Yom Kippur there are three whom we must forgive.” (The baby started crying louder, and the mother was visibly mortified and frozen.)

The rav continued: “We must forgive ourselves…” The crying intensified. “We must forgive our fellow man…” The crying became still louder. I fail to recall the exact context of the sermon which took place over forty years ago, but I do recall the rav finally saying, “I forgot, there’s a fourth we must forgive. We must forgive babies who cry during the sermon.” Everyone laughed, and the mother relaxed and took the baby out.

Finally, things might be easier if adults also behaved appropriately during davening, especially during the three instances mentioned above. However, that’s a different parsha.

 

A Sweet Year to All!      A Tichel-Wearing LA Girl stirs emotions (Chronicles 10-7 and 10-14)

Dear Rachel,

I would like to thank the tichel-wearing LA girl for sharing her story. Though we live in a very yeshivish community, I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief when coming across young wives who flaunt their long and glamorous (fake) custom locks of hair that cascade down the middle of their backs. There is no way they can miss the looks they get and the seductive message they communicate.

LA girl’s letter (and your reply) was enough to motivate me to honestly assess my own modestly priced wigs. I think I’m going to trim the length of one that may come across as too youthful for a mom of five kids.

Thanks for the eye-opener Thank you LA Girl!

I totally second your point of view! It’s deceptive and untznius’dik, especially when married women flirt and flip their sheitels. As a single man, I find what goes on in the streets of Brooklyn today to be absolutely horrible. Kudos for having the courage to write about it!

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/17/10

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I am a regular reader of your column for many years and I feel that it is a way to get out a small message to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Jewish community.

The summer passed by very quickly, with unfortunately too many tragedies taking place here and abroad in Eretz Yisrael, where a whole family was wiped out in an instant. It makes us wonder why these things are happening.

I see it as a wake-up call to all of Klal Yisrael for what I feel is a lack of ahavas Yisrael – respect and love that we should be showing one another, regardless of what type of Jew the other person may be.

From my own experience, I can tell you that I have felt the lack of ahavas Yisrael in many ways throughout the years. My husband and I are regular frum members of the community and like everyone else try to raise our four children the best that we can, by sending them to well-known yeshivas. Like many families these days, we have had some difficulty in raising our teenagers.

We brought our children up with love and open-mindedness and never shut the door on any of them when he or she had some difficulty with self-awareness or self-esteem, etc. Yet, like many other parents, we have had to face the absolute worst when dealing with the yeshivas in whose care we place our very own treasures, our children: repudiation.

Helping out a child who may have some minor learning difficulty is not an option in the yeshiva system; kicking the child out is. And what happens to a young boy or girl once they are shunned by the yeshiva they had been attending? I am sure I don’t have to tell you. We all know – he or she becomes known as a child “off the derech.”

Of course he is “off the derech” – his rabbeim made sure that their “derech,” their road, is closed for them. It is so much easier to just get rid of the rotten apples, as they are termed, than to practice ahavas Yisrael by embracing these children or leading them in the right direction.

The yeshiva’s rejection affects entire families who are left to suffer as a result of the callousness of so-called “teachers.” They suffer in shidduchim, others in the community look down upon them, and their children are maligned by the lashon hara spoken about them. (I, as a parent, have personally been given the cold shoulder at neighborhood social gatherings by people afraid to talk to me because one of my children may not have measured up to theirs in degree of frumkeit.)

Baruch Hashem, despite some hardship in raising our kids, I am proud to say that they have grown up to be wonderful people and proud Jews who do not look down at any fellow Jew. We taught our children to be respectful of everyone; we taught them that a long beard or no beard, a black hat or no hat, does not define the individual or make someone a better Jew. A person’s exterior is worthless if he is lacking on the inside.

My message to all of Klal Yisrael: “Please wake up! We are lacking in the most important midda: “v’ahavta le’reiecha kamocha” – love your brother as you would love yourself. Respect each other regardless of Yiddishe background. And if you see a friend or neighbor going through difficulties in raising a child or in maintaining a livelihood, be there for them; ask what you can do to help; do not push them away because you are afraid for your own name.

And last of all, the rabbonim of every yeshiva have the obligation to take care of every child in their yeshiva – to help each of them go in the right derech and not to send them off the derech.

Hope you understand me

Dear Hope,

Indeed many of us do, though not everyone is ready or willing to accept the truth, which may be too painful to confront.

To be fair, it is not necessarily the teachers who are at fault; more often it is the administrators of the yeshivas who curry favor with their wealthy benefactors by acquiescing to their demands of maintaining a “pristine” presence in their learning institutions. These patrons make it clear that they will not tolerate “exposing” their children to students whom they regard as “inferior.”

Those who are in the habit of assessing themselves as being a notch or two above the rest of us may be well advised to do some serious soul-searching. They can begin the process by taking the eminent Chassam Sofer’s teaching to heart:

We frequently excuse our shortcomings to G-d by citing our mortality. After all, we argue, we come from earth and will return to earth; that is our lowly nature. In our Neila prayers on Yom Kippur we actually say, “You, Hashem, know that our end is earth and worms and therefore You should forgive us.”

He who looks down upon others may G-d forbid lose any hope for reprieve, for he cannot invoke humility in his defense.

In other words, by being pompous fools we only end up fooling ourselves. Hashem sees all our flaws and knows our weaknesses, regardless of the show we put up for others.

May we all be inscribed for a happy and meaningful life!

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Don’t Sweat Over Small Stuff (Part One)

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

There’s a popular adage that tells us not to sweat the small stuff. I always thought that it meant we should not make an issue out of insignificant incidents that impinge on our kavod. When we are victims, we should categorize all this as “small stuff” and the best way to deal with it is to forgive, forget and move on.

Our sages teach us, “Everyone who overlooks and forgives his kavod will have his sins forgiven.” In our society however, it’s the reverse. When we are the victims who suffer a slight, we are quick to protest, declare our outrage, and indignantly refuse to forgive or forget. But if we inflict the hurt and are guilty, we wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s all “small stuff” – why is everyone getting into a sweat? So we dismiss it all with a wave of the hand.

I bring this to your attention now because the Yamim Noraim are soon approaching – a season that demands that we do teshuvah, examine our lives, reconnect with Hashem, His Torah, and His mitzvos. This self-scrutiny requires that we evaluate our character traits and the manner in which we communicate with our fellow man – especially those who are nearest and dearest to us, for it is there that we tend to be most negligent. We are the generation of Ikvesa D’Moshicha – the generation that is destined to precede the coming of Messiah, when chutzpah will abound and the young will rise against their elders. This chutzpah will be so prevalent that often, we will not even be aware of it.

A mother and her teenage daughter came to consult me about a situation that was creating conflict at home.

“Would you like to tell me about the problem?” I asked, as they made themselves comfortable in my office.

“Problem?” the teenager repeated sarcastically. “I have no problem; it is ‘she’ who is making the problem.”

“Who is ‘she’?” I asked, pretending that I did not understand.

“She,” the girl insisted, pointing in her mother’s direction.

So again I asked, “Who is she?”

This interplay went on for quite a few minutes, with the girl stubbornly refusing to utter the word “mother,” and I, refusing to give credence to “she.” Finally, she grudgingly conceded, “Okay, my mother,” but even as she did so, she flippantly added, “Rebbetzin, I don’t know what you’re making all this fuss about. She/he, mother/ father, it’s all the same. I think you’re making a whole big hullabaloo about nothing!” And then, to add insult to injury, chutzpah to chutzpah, she muttered under her breath, “This is the craziest thing … wasting all this time on such nonsense!”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Nothing, nothing. Let’s just finish…it doesn’t mater.”

“But it does matter,” I insisted. “It matters a lot. We can’t address your issues without first rectifying this grievous wrong.”

“I can’t believe this!” she responded sarcastically. It’s a grievous wrong to say ‘she?’”

“Yes,” I answered, “if that ‘she’ is a reference to your mother.”

“This is really sweating over small stuff,” she muttered, under her breath.

“What you consider ‘small stuff,’ I told her, “is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.”

“Give me a break! Everyone I know refers to their mothers as ‘she.’”

“But we are not everyone,” I told her. “We are Jews who stood at Sinai and have an imperative to live by the Law of G-d, and one of the basic tenets of our faith is to respect and honor our parents.”

“What does saying ‘she’ have to do with anything?” the girl continued to argue.

“Everything,” I said. “‘She’ is not a respectful way of speaking about a parent. ‘She’ is anonymous; ‘she’ can mean anyone. Your mother is not a ‘she.’ It is not a ‘she’ who gave life to you, cared for you and nurtured you. It is not a ‘she’ who agonized and continues to agonize over you. And it is not a ‘she,’ who is sitting next you, crying.

Just look and see the tears your mother is shedding. Tears like that cannot be shed by a ‘she.’ They emanate from the broken heart of a mother who loves her child more than life. …a mother who has no peace knowing that her child is troubled. No, such a person is not a ‘she’!”

For the first time, the girl was silent, but I wouldn’t let go. “I also heard you mumbling under your breath,” I told her, “that I was wasting your time! Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the opposite may be true…. that you are wasting my time? But your chutzpadik feelings of entitlement have blinded you so that you see no one but yourself.

“If your eyes were open you would realize that there are many people waiting to see me this evening, and you would apologize for taking so much of my time. You would be humbled by the awareness that after our talk, you will be going home, while I will remain here until I see every individual. And yet, you dare to say that I am wasting your time. Never mind that I’m a little bit older than you. Never mind that common decency would dictate that you say thank you a thousand times.

“So why, you may wonder, am I doing this?” I challenged. “We are a people who sealed a covenant at Mt. Sinai and honoring parents is the root of all our relationships. The manner in which we relate to our parents will color all our interactions, so if you do not understand the difference between ‘she’ and ‘my mother,’ then you don’t comprehend the basics of derech eretz. Without derech eretz,” I told her, “you will never know how to live by that covenant. You will never know shalom bayis – a good marriage, and worse, your own children will suffer the consequences, for your chutzpah will define their lives.

We spoke a while longer, and she finally did listen, although I sensed that she still had a belligerent attitude. I got up from behind my desk and reached out to her, but even as I did so, I felt her resistance. Nevertheless, I enveloped her in my arms, gave her a brachah with a kiss, and said, “Now let’s start all over again,” and for the first time I saw tears in her eyes that told me that her Yiddisheh neshamah had awakened. And so it was that Baruch Hashem, we did start all over again.

To be sure, I could have avoided this entire confrontation and ignored her insistence on referring to her mother as “she.” Through bitter tears, her mother confided that “she” was a good word compared to some other terms her daughter used. Her mother also admitted that for a moment, she was nervous, wondering whether I had been too strict, making too much of “small stuff” rather than focusing on the major issues.

So I explained that it all starts with “small stuff,” which, if allowed to go unchecked, can poison all relationships. If a parent becomes just an object, then children will have license to say or do anything they wish. Children do not feel duty-bound to honor a “he” or a “she.” But when it is “my mother” or “my father” – it’s an entirely different story. In short, a breach of derech eretz leads to escalation of chutzpah, which leads to family breakdown.

Let us examine our relationships and pay special attention to areas that we consider “small stuff,” for we might just discover that “small stuff” is not so small after all.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/22/08

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Dear Rachel,

I read your columns all the time and appreciate The Jewish Press and your commitment to addressing issues that many people would rather sweep under the rug.

There is much written about kids who go off the derech, but I have never seen anything on parents being off the derech nor how to deal with it. My husband of over 20 years is off the derech. We recently split up. (Many of our problems were due to his attitude toward Yiddishkeit and his lack of observance.) This was not a sudden decision on his part; it happened over many years, and for a long time he was living a lie. I caught him violating Shabbos, among other things.

I spoke to many rabbonim, who generally refused to get involved, because they felt they had no influence over him. The one rav he would listen to wasn’t very effective.

The issue now is the effect on our children, especially the oldest who is past Bar Mitzvah. They are very embarrassed and angry. For the sake of my children’s privacy, let’s just say that the issues range from the fact that my husband no longer wears a kippah (the kids don’t want to be seen in public with him) to his unwillingness to pay for their education.

My oldest states that he isn’t his father anymore, that he will change his name when he grows up, etc. He is often very chuzpadik to his father. What can this father expect after training this child in the derech of Torah and then deciding to leave Our son is angry and confused. I have made it clear that no matter what he is not to be disrespectful to his father. We do not know for sure that he is not keeping Shabbos, kosher, etc. We do know he is doing other non-kosher things because he tells us.

When I asked someone to learn the laws of kibbud av v’eim with my son, I was told it wasn’t a good idea because the halachah states if a parent knowingly violates Shabbos there is a question what one is obligated to do in terms of respect. I need to know if this is true. I highly doubt it.

We have been separated for a few weeks with no legal proceedings in the works as of yet. He is paying me child support, but if my son continues this behavior he will stop paying. My kids are mortified, angry and understandably upset. They are happy that we are apart but cannot deal with their father being off the Torah derech. What do I do?

By the way, even if he would become observant again, there is no hope for our marriage. I have wanted out for years. We have been to counseling, but there are just too many issues. What I need to know now is how to handle this with the children without being the bad guy and negative about their dad. I know that it isn’t good for me to say negative things about their father, but in this situation how do I avoid it?

My husband is not living in our neighborhood and his living arrangements do not allow him to have the kids for Shabbos or Yom Tov, so that is not an issue.

I do not want this to be a war − too much of our marriage was war and the children have had enough. Thanks for any help.

Hurting for my children

Dear Hurting,

There is no rocky marriage that leaves children unaffected, lending credence to the belief that it is far better to come from a broken home than to live in one. Your children who were caught up in the turbulence of your relationship with their father need constant reassurance that they are not at fault for the friction between their parents.

I had earlier conveyed to you (upon original receipt of your e-mail) that the mitzvah of kibbud av is not optional and is not to be compromised. However, the act of showing respect to a parent is not necessarily reflective of a feeling of love for that parent. Your 13-year old is old enough to be given to understand that regardless of how he may feel about his dad, a Divine commandment is not to be transgressed and he is to behave in a respectful manner at all times.

You, as their mother and role model, are in a position to yield tremendous influence. For instance, by reinforcing a positive outlook and refraining from displaying anger, you can lighten your children’s emotional burden and make it that much easier for them to cope with the less-than-ideal life situation they are mired in.

Their father may be the malefactor, but it is your attitude that can make all the difference in your children’s adjustment and emotional health. Instead of alluding to their father as being “right” or “wrong,” show enthusiasm toward your own high standard of commitment and principles. Expound on the beauty of being observant. Explain to your children that just like there are people who grow frummer with time, some unfortunately go the other way but will hopefully one day find their way back.

Denigrating their father will sow seeds of anger and resentment in your children and will complicate the matter of interaction between them and their father, whereas taking pride and obvious delight in your own chosen way of life and its pleasures, while expressing sadness (in place of anger) at their father’s dissatisfaction and his need to escape, will dissipate your children’s anger and anxiety − which may even give way to sympathy for a neshamah gone astray.

Voice the hope that – by seeing his children thriving and enjoying what he has left behind – their father will be brought back to frumkeit.

May this transition in your life proceed smoothly, and may you go on to reap much nachas from your children and future generations.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-115/2008/08/20/

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