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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘During Yom Tov’

No Laughing Matter

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

During Yom Tov, a group of my friends – all middle-aged ( but youthful of course) babyboomers were chatting about the usual things women smooze about when one of them shared with us the call she had recently gotten from her son-in-law’s mother. Her machtainiste asked her - a self-employed professional working part-time – if she was going to be working full time, ‘now that the kids were expecting.’ The young husband was learning and my friend’s daughter was a graduate student with years to go and their first child on the way. My friend, who is in her early 50′s told her ‘no, that she wasn’t planning on changing her work schedule . The kids would work it out themselves. The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening.

My friend had suggested something to her machtenesta that hadn’t even occurred to her – the
young couple would take responsibility for the choices they had made. The young man is a college graduate who made the choice of learning for several years – with the full encouragement of his young wife. Both sets of parents had paid for their respective kids’
undergraduate educations and had been generous in helping them set up a household. As for my friend – who had worked hard since her late teen years - she felt had earned her free time.

Everyone present shook their heads in disbelief – some in wonder that this question was asked in the first place by the mother-in-law and some by my friend’s stance on saying ‘dayeinu’. Many in that room were also facing the dilemma of needing to help their married kids, some of whom had their hearts set on devoting their lives to Torah study or helping their husbands to do so.

One woman quipped that soon it would not be enough for the baby-boom parents to help support their kids, but the bubbies and zaydes would have to come out of retirement, sell their condos in Florida and go back to work as well, while their grandsons were hunched over their Gemaras. The image of a 75+ bubby selling knitted scarves in Times Square had everyone bent over in hysterics.

But it’s no laughing matter. Parent do their best to help their children pursue their studies, paying nose-bleed tuitions for day schools/elementary yeshivot, boys and girls high school level yeshivot, and post secondary yeshivot and seminaries in Israel. But by supporting their married chuildren who are creating families of their own on an inadequate income, these parents may be short-changing their younger children who are still in school, and themselves as well.

At this stage of their lives, parents should not have to work additional hours at a a job, or to get a second one altogether, in order to provide for the children who insisted they wanted a less materialistic life, more spiritual life, and are now overwhelmed by the reality of rent bills, tuition, car payments etc. Hard working parents should be saving for their old age and generating financial security in case of serious illnesses or disability. Rather, they should be
semi-retiring and having time to themselves for their own learning or helping their aging parents and not straining themselves to help the younger generation. The fallout is often “stressed out, guilt-ridden parents” and perhaps “resentful younger siblings” who feel they are being cheated both financially and in terms of their parents’ attention.

While rebbeim and other menhanchim feel that they are doing the right thing, influencing their
students to choose a Kollel type life, they are doing a disservice to middle-class level familes and to themselves, as their stuggling alumnae who forgo a secular/professional level college education will not be able to give the high level donations the schools need in order to remain viable. Those who did not heed their call to learn – the doctors and lawyers and business executives are the ones they will be honoring at their fund-raising dinners - not the yungerleit.
And the middle-class girls looking to marry learning boys only - may find themselves left behind as these boys look for wealthy fathers-in-law to sustain a decent lifestyle for their families.

Sitting and learning is a holy undertaking. Just as the Kohanim, Leviim and Yisrael have their unique contributions in Torah life, so does each young man and woman. Some are cut out for the role of life-long learning and should be encouraged and supported in every way. Others should follow another derech and gain merit by becoming an ‘enabler’ of Torah learning by giving donations.

The rebbeim should assess each individual on his suitability as a full-time learner, based on his ‘Torah kop’ and personality, and direct him appropriately towards his life’s work. The same should be done for the girls who may truly want to be Kollel wives, but are not cut out for it after being accustomed to a cerain standard of living.

This would relieve the burden on their families and would cut down on the number of ‘learning’
couples who don’t belong in that world. Discouraging well-intentioned, but unsuitable kollel candidates is crucial, similarly to how professional disciplines, such as medical or law only accept those they think can ‘hack it’.

The genuine kollel types should have community support if their families are not in a position to help them adequatel. And the rest can earn a living , something the greatest gadolim and Talmudists throughout the ages did.

Where Are The Moms And Dads? (Two Letters)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2003

Letter #1 – Can We Afford These Maids?

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I spent Pesach in what would appear to be idyllic surroundings. We stayed at a beautiful hotel, where we were served sumptuous meals and were entertained every evening of Chol Hamoed. Even the weather conformed. Our rooms were perfectly and strategically located overlooking a spacious garden and in close proximity to the dining room. As such, I had ample opportunities to observe the children who played in this garden.

During Yom Tov, I attended various stimulating lectures. Each of the speakers reminded us that it was incumbent upon us to feel that we ourselves were being liberated from Egypt. They each discussed the difficulties of doing so. There was one segment of the population who easily would have understood this concept – the children…. the ones left day after day in the hands of illiterate, inappropriately dressed maids who ignored them.

I watched the maids talking to each other in Spanish, impatiently turning to the children whenever it was necessary to say, “Yes, Yes, Yes” or “No, No, No,” the only English words they seem to have mastered. I watched parents walking by oblivious to their children’s cries. I heard children cry out “Mommy, mommy” and in response the “Mommy” would instruct the maid to “get him/her something to eat so he/she stops complaining.”

So, to those parents who have freed themselves from the constraints of their children, I want to say that there is a steep price to pay for the luxury of hired help. Your children are paying this price every day. Is it the Torah way to subject your precious children to mediocrity - quite literally enslaving them to the whims of an uneducated, unrefined hired hand?

Whether this description fits you or your daughter, your son, your niece or your nephew, we are all culpable. We are neglecting and therefore destroying our future. The question is, can we really afford the price of these maids?

Letter #2 - Dumping On Parents

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have been reading your articles from the time that I was a little girl, as does everyone else in our family. As a matter of fact, your column is always the topic of discussion at our Shabbos table. I never thought that I would write to you with the specific request that my letter be published in your column. The reason why I am making this request rather than asking you to respond privately is because I am hoping that the parties involved who read your column will get the message.

Before I write about my concerns, I would like to make a disclaimer. I have hakoras hatov, appreciation, for the many brachas (blessings) of a family spending Yom Tov together. Baruch HaShem, we are a large family with seven siblings – all married except for me, the youngest. My sister, who lives in Eretz Yisrael, is expecting her fifth child, and is having a difficult pregnancy. My brother has four children and lives in Lakewood. Both these families came to our parents’ home for Pesach. I also had the privilege of coming home this year, since I am currently studying in Seminary in Yerushalayim.

My other siblings went to their in-laws’. My parents are no longer young, so making Pesach for such a large group was not an easy task. Nevertheless, my mother insisted that my sister and brother and their families come, assuring them that it was her pleasure and joy to have them (which I am sure it was) but still, the work took its toll on her.

I don’t have to tell you what Pesach preparations entail. On top of that, serving Yom Tov meals to all those people would tax the energy of even a younger person. Before one meal was finished, preparations had to be made for the next. My mother literally never got out of the kitchen, and when she did, it was to clean the mess that my nieces and nephews left in every room, although she couldn’t quite keep up with the matzoh crumbs all over the floor. Additionally, the sounds of children playing, fighting, and running around was not easy on the nerves.

My father, who is not well and needs his nap, did not have a moment of peace. Everything in the house was in disarray, and by the end of the Yom Tov, my mother looked like she was on the verge of collapse. My siblings acted as if our home was a hotel, with baby-sitting, meals, and maid service.

I understand that they are exhausted and that they work very hard throughout the year. They don’t have much money, so they don’t have help at home and they look upon Pesach as their vacation – their yetzias Mitzraim - their liberation from their chores and responsibilities.

I am certain that you are wondering why I didn’t help my mother out. Well, I would have loved to were it not for the fact that my sister-in-law decided to visit old friends whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. She left her children in my charge…. so I was busy baby-sitting. Her lack of consideration really annoyed me. It never occurred to her that I might also want to see my old friends, and that it might be more important for me to socialize since I am in the shidduch parasha. I wanted to say something to her but I didn’t want to cause friction in the family and upset my parents. Besides, I was so angry that had I told her what was in my heart, I probably would have ended up with a major fight and said something that I would have come to regret.

But now that Yom Tov is over and I am back in Seminary, I have taken it upon myself to write to you because I realized that something has to be said… that if things are left unchecked, the consequences can be terrible. I also realize that neither my sister nor my sister-in-law would take kindly to my mussar admonitions. I spoke to many girls at my school who had similar experiences, so I really think that this problem should be addressed.

I can see why children should come home for Pesach, but not if they are going to burden their families. I hope that when I get married, I will not fall into that trap.

Please accept my deepest feelings of respect and best wishes for your continued success in your Avodat HaKodesh.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/where-are-the-moms-and-dads-two-letters/2003/06/11/

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