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August 3, 2015 / 18 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Road To Recovery

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Dear Brocha,

Thank you so much for your column and for shining light on this matter.

Addiction has been gnawing at the souls of our community for a long time. Yet, it still remains a disease that is swept under the table.

At first, when I found out that my wife of 21 years was addicted to pain killers I was relieved!

She has been suffering mood swings the likes of which I had never seen before, since our three-year-old son passed away about six years ago.

Soon after he was niftar, my wife fell into a deep depression. She went to doctors who prescribed painkillers to help her cope with his death. Apparently, once she was hooked my wife began taking cocktails of medications without my knowledge. As a result, our lives turned from tragic to chaotic.

We went from grief counselors to marital therapy. However, my wife’s behavior kept getting more erratic. She went from being a warm, caring & loving mother to a paranoid, angry & depressed person whom none of us recognized.

One day, our twelve-year-old daughter came home and found my wife passed out on the floor.

She called Hatzolah, and it was at the hospital that I was made aware of my wife’s addiction.

My wife was frightened that she had a seizure and agreed to go to a rehab to get proper treatment. I was told that her having been found passed out on the floor by our daughter was her rock bottom.

My wife is presently at an out-of-state rehab where the goals are to wean her off the drugs, and then teach her proper coping skills.

The last couple of weeks have been tough on all of us.

My children are ashamed that their mother is a drug addict – and miss her and how she used to be.

I am having a tough time coping with the guilt of not having realized how much she was hurting, and what was truly happening to my family.

Evidently, my drug of choice was to throw myself deeper into my work.

I am beginning to see that I was numbing myself in that way, and wasn’t there for my wife and children when they needed me most.

I have been attending Al-Anon meetings and placed our children into therapy. We are all trying to heal. Yet, I see it’s a slow painful process. The facility my wife is in will be hosting a “family program” next weekend. Thus far, I have already attended two family Sundays by myself and have found them to be highly informative and helpful. My wife looks better each time I see her. Her spunk for life seems to be coming back and I am really hopeful that we have just received a new lease on life! For this upcoming family weekend, my wife’s counselor wants me to bring our children.

Truth be told, ever since my daughter found my wife on the floor, she does not want to have anything to do with her. When my wife was in the hospital she didn’t want to visit, and is refusing to come along for the weekend visitation. When I try talking with her about it, she tells me that her brother’s death affected everyone in the family, but only her mother chose to be a “druggie.” I don’t know what to do? Do I force my daughter to visit her mother? I feel that if she would see for herself how hard her mother is working on her recovery, and how much better she looks, she will be able to let go of some of her anger and resentment. Do I force her or try to trick her into coming?

Trying to keep my family together

Dear Trying,

I feel so sorry for your predicament. My heart goes out to you and your family.

I am also very grateful and impressed that you are so forgiving and understanding of your wife’s addiction.

Addiction is a disease and is treated in the medical community as one. However, socially has yet to accept it as such.

Although your daughter is still young in age, she was obviously forced to grow up very fast.

My Soul Is On Fire (Part I)

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Allan is a very troubled nineteen-year-old who has been coming to see me since August. Actually, I’m never sure if Allan will make it to the next appointment. Since we first met, I have been amazed at the amount of emotional turmoil and pain he is in. Every appointment seems to bring another “cry” for help. His anguish is noted by his constant crying and threats of harm to himself and others. In fact, he doesn’t seem to filter his words and randomly ensures that I know about his aggressive thoughts. Just last week he told me that nobody ever believes him when he is in pain and so he feels the need to show them – he says that he doused his hand in a flammable liquid and set it on fire just to show others how much pain he is in. (I don’t actually believe he did this, as there was no sign of his hand being burned).

Allan’s life is full of inconsistent events. He seems to have a support system in his parents but I have only met his father, who is very concerned about Allan. On the other hand, his father often feeds into Allan’s overly dramatic behaviours and, at times, seems to compete with him in regards to histrionic scenes.

Recently Allan said to me, “I’m in such agony; my soul is on fire.” What a telling statement – he feels overwhelmed, lonely, humiliated and like a failure. Now you know why I say I don’t know if he will make it to the next appointment. As it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss his situation further, I would like to focus on childhood and teen feelings of distress.

Telling kids that their teen years are the best years of their lives is not necessarily true. In fact, I often say that I would not like to be a teenager today. There is so much stimuli bombarding them at every moment, they so many decisions to make, and they deal with so much stress and expectations – with limited resources at their disposal.

A local Toronto radio station has as its motto, “Beautiful music for a crazy world.” I’m almost surprised with their honesty. It really is a crazy world we live in and it tends to make some people crazy, or at least feel as if they are. We are all bombarded with changes – some good, some not so good and others just difficult to understand. We struggle to the best we can.

For kids, often the level of stress or distress they deal with is dependent on their familiarity with the situation. When our environment is chaotic or fear inducing, we may have a hard time separating ourselves emotionally from what is going on around us. In fact, internally we become part of the chaos. We all adjust better to more familiar situations. That is, we learn to cope best with situations as they become more familiar to us.

Dealing with personal or family challenges is difficult in the best of times. For children and teens it’s even harder. Life for many young people is a painful tug of war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, coaches, employers, friends and themselves. Growing up—negotiating a path between independence and reliance on others—is a tough business. It creates stress, and it can cause serious depression for young people ill-equipped to cope, communicate and solve problems.

Some experiences are more severe or long lasting, while some kids may react to setbacks in different ways. Children and teens may indicate to their parents or others that they are distressed or unable to cope directly, or more often, through various hints. Most common for a teen is to show his or her distress through changes in mood or behaviour, at home, at school or with friends.

The teen years are emotional, fascinating, tumultuous, exciting, fearsome, lonely and social at the same time and filled with angst over the ultimate question, “Who am I.” What I’m about to say is difficult for adults to hear as well as comprehend. Nevertheless, here it is: I believe that much of an adolescent’s rebellion is, in fact, part of the developmental transition from childhood to adulthood. Almost by definition, adolescence is a time of chaos and struggle for one’s self identity: He or she is no longer the dependent child. Teens go from relying on us (and most of us enjoying that role) to learning to make life changing decisions, becoming independent and a self-fulfilled adult. As they push us away and ask to be allowed to make their own decisions, and mistakes, they are using the only tool they believe they have to become self-actualized.

It’s Stupid Destruction Day!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

You’re looking at the demolition of five buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of the Jewish town of Beit-El, north of Jerusalem, November 27, 2012. The High Court has decided that the multi-family dwellings built by Jews were on a privately owned Palestinian land, and so they had to be demolished, in the name of justice, liberty and the pursuit of really crazy and wasteful choices.

In a country of law, if such a dispute erupts more than 10 years after an enclave of residential buildings had been erected and families had set roots there for close half a generation – a dispute between the land’s sellers, a dispute over a stupid missing document, a dispute fueled by “evidence” provided by the Ramallah-based officials of the great democratic state of Palestine – then the two sides would have gone to court and debated their opposing positions; then the court would have decided. And should the court have decided that the half of the Arab family that disagreed with the sale of the land was right, then the same court would have decided on an amount of money that either the other half of the family, or the innocent buyers, were to pay in compensation.

But to demolish the buildings? What insane, sociopathic judge would have decided on demolition as a remedy for injustice?

When the right wins the day – again – in the coming elections, before we do anything else, before we implement the Judge Levi recommendations, before we protest yet another Palestinian move for independence that reneges on all our mutually signed agreements, before we send the first IAF plane to hit back at Gaza for this or that volley of rockets at our civilians, before we do any of that – we must change the way we pick supreme court justices.

In a civilized country, the sovereign, which is the people (you, me, my wife, all of us) choose representatives and they decide who will be our high court judges. Once they decide, those judges are no longer under anybody’s thumb, totally independent. But to get there they must receive our approval.

Not so in Israel, where our elected representatives are a minority in the body that picks high court justices, and the older justices basically nominate their friends, family, the nice girl from Apt. B-2.

This has to stop, now, this is a travesty, this court is not enjoying the support of the people, it is, in fact, an enemy of the people. And the nice thing is, the people have the power to change this. So, let’s.

Three More Gazans Crossed Border

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Three Palestinians crossed over into Israel from Gaza near the town of Netiv HaAsara. The town went on alert.

The three were caught and brought in for interrogation.

The alert was finally called off an hour after no additional signs of infiltrators were found.

On Monday morning a terrorist entered the town of Sdei Avraham and tried to kill a Jewish woman and her family, who successfully fought him off.

Happy Thanksgiving – 2012

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Well… once again it was turkey day. It had been a while since I regularly had a big Thanksgiving dinner. But back in the good old days when our children were young – one of our extended family members would host such a meal every year which we would all attend. I guess now that all of our kids have grown, that custom sort fell by the wayside.

But that doesn’t mean that I no longer support the idea of a Thanksgiving Day meal. I do. My Rebbe R’ Aharon used to have Thanksgiving Day turkey dinners with his family. One of my favorite stories is told about the Rav. He had scheduled his Shiur in YU early one Thanksgiving day in order to be on time at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

As I say every time there is a national holiday in this country, we ought to participate and show our appreciation for the privilege of living in America.

Some historians propose that the holiday of Thanksgiving was originally based on Sukkos. According to these historians the pilgrims lived together with Sephardic Jews in Holland for 10 years prior to coming here. Holland was considered a safe haven from religious persecution. Understanding that Sukkos represented deliverance from religious persecution in Egypt, they used that as a paradigm for their own celebration of deliverance from religious persecution.

Being “Old” Testament oriented, it seems natural for them to embrace this time of year for that celebration. There was also a desire to thank God after the Autumn harvest. This too is based on Sukkos which is called the Chag HaAsif – the ‘holiday of gathering’ when the fall crops would be harvested. (Israel was then much more of an agrarian society.)

It was George Washington who by proclamation in October of 1789 finally established Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be celebrated in November. The fourth Thursday in November was established by federal legislation in 1941 – for people of all religions to give thanks for what we have.

I see nothing wrong with our participating with all American citizens in observing Thanksgiving. And apparently neither did my Rebbe nor his illustrious brother, the Rav.

But there are some Poskim who do not like the idea at all and are opposed to it in spirit if not in strict Halacha. Rav Moshe Feinstein said that it is permissible to celebrate Thanksgiving by having a big dinner since it was not established as a religious holiday. But he felt it was not a proper custom.

I can’t say for sure, but my guess is he didn’t like the custom because by participating with non Jews in a national meal of thanksgiving – it was too close to being involved with them in a religious way. But that is just speculation on my part.

In any case I agree with his Psak that it is permissible but disagree with his view that it is best not to do so.

Unfortunate are the lengths his approach has been taken to by the right. Celebrating Thanksgiving is frowned upon and virtually ignored as anything more than a day off from work.

But I agree with my Rebbe. Thanksgiving is yet another way to express our Hakoras HaTov to this great nation of ours. And yes – to thank God for it. So, Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are going to have a big festive meal with family and friends – enjoy. And eat your Turkey guilt free. (Religiously speaking only.)

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Thanksgiving

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

When I married my husband, I was surprised to learn that his family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. His parents were Holocaust survivors, born and raised in Europe, threatened and nearly killed by the Nazis. They immigrated to the United States because anywhere, everywhere was better than Europe and the US was the first place that came through with enough visas for the brothers and sisters on both sides that had survived. Gone were the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Each had lost siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors.

They were a generation cut off from their roots but not their future and the one thing they knew for sure was that their future would not be spent in Europe. As far as I know, the only other time they went back to Europe was on a personal “heritage” tour in which they went with my sister-in-law and at one place, were met with a woman and a knife because she thought they had come to take her home – the one she had stolen from my father-in-law’s family – away from her.

It was the United States of America that accepted them, welcomed them, and gave them a secure place to raise their children. They accepted many things from their new homeland, but not this holiday of Thanksgiving. For them, as Orthodox Jews, thanksgiving was something you gave every day, not once a year, they explained to me (as others have as well).

In practice, the concept of thanking God is so ingrained in the Jewish religion that it is the first words we speak each morning – Modeh Ani –

מוֹדֶה (מוֹדָה) אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

I tried to explain to them that for me Thanksgiving was about family – it was the chance to gather everyone close on a day that was not Shabbat, when Jews are unable to travel, use electricity, and generally stay close to home.

So, each year, most years, we made a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. When we moved to Israel, we made a few dinners with American friends, but for the most part, the tradition fell away. It’s been years since I did it. Until Lauren came into our lives and asked about the holiday.

I decided this year to make a turkey and invite my parents and my sister – her children, my children. And then, Israel went…well, as it turns out, not really to war but into Operation Pillar of Defense. Elie was called in and I wasn’t sure what to do. I decided that whatever Lauren wanted, we’d do and so I asked. I think she was surprised that I asked – hadn’t considered canceling. You don’t cancel Thanksgiving, after all – it’s there. And so my husband picked up the turkey, I stuffed it and cooked it. Lauren made pumpkin pie and a delicious soup – and my parents and my sister and one of her kids (and her fiance, who is also named Elie), came.

And though he didn’t make it in time for dinner – but rather time enough to grab leftovers and eat them straight off the plate as a happy Lauren packed him food – Elie came home.

Thanksgiving is a time – one time along with every day and every minute of your life that you should stop and give thanks. Some families go around the table and have everyone say one thing for which they are grateful. That’s not something we have ever done, but perhaps we should.

I am so very grateful, God, that You brought my son home safely. I’m grateful for the rain that pours down on this land at this moment, and even for the thunder and lightning. I am grateful for the land in which I live; that we are able to defend ourselves as we were not able to do when my in-laws lived and nearly died in Europe.

I am so very grateful for the blessings in my life – my husband, my children, my grandson, the three that have married my children to form families of their own. I am grateful to the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who answered the call without hesitation -in staggering numbers and with staggering efficiency. They rushed to answer the call – out of love and dedication.

The Doll’s Tale

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dear Readers:

The following short story is fictitious, but the situation of Jewish children during the Holocaust being raised by gentile families or in Catholic convents and orphanages is not. While some were re-united with family members who survived the death camps – many were not, and remain lost both physically and religiously. This story is in memory of all the lost children. May they be reunited with their families with the coming of Moshiach.

The Doll’s Tale

Nine-year-old Ruchi was not at all upset when her brother and cousins nicknamed her “Ricki.” She liked the sound of it and it certainly suited her – had it been up to her, she would have been a boy. Boys had more fun and never had to wear dresses and other girly clothes. Her brother Dovi got to wear pants, giving him the freedom to hang upside down on the monkey bars in the park, and to turn cartwheels – while she was prohibited from doing such fun things – because hanging upside down while wearing a skirt was not tznuisdik. After all, she wasn’t three anymore!

And then there was the matter of the ridiculous gifts she got on her birthday or from out of town guests. Dovi would always get a fun toy like a truck, while she, without fail, would be given a useless doll with a smile plastered on its plastic face. Ruchi’s only consolation was that forthwith, the dolls would become perfect targets for Dovi’s water guns or darts. Often they would play “barber” delighting at the pale, pink head that would surface, the outcome of the doll’s “haircut.”

Yet Ruchi was to gain a deeper appreciation for these plastic entities than she would ever had imagined.

The 180-degree change in her attitude took place when she and her family traveled to Israel for the bar mitzvah of the grandson of Bubbi’s older half-sister, Malka. Malka was a rare entity, a child survivor of the Holocaust. She had been born in Poland – unlike Bubbi, who had been born in Israel several years after the war had ended.

Sadly, Malka had passed away three years earlier, at the young age of 65, just months after her and Bubbi’s father. Malka had had a massive stroke, brought on, it was said, by her extreme distress upon losing her father.

Erev Shabbos, Ruchi watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the bar mitzvah boy’s mother lit the candles, hugging a very ragged, ripped up cloth doll. After her tefillah, she kissed it, as did her children.

“What was that all about,” she asked her 11-year-old cousin, Chana, as they lay in their beds that evening. “Why did your mom do that – is that a family minhag? It’s weird!”

It was then Chana told her the story that would forever change Ruchi’s view on dolls.

It was 1942, in Nazi-occupied Poland, and their great-grandfather, Shimon, was beside himself. It was only a matter of days before he, his wife and daughter would be taken out of the c transported to the camps. A former employee of Shimon’s dry-goods store, a Polish girl who appreciated her kind and generous boss, had sent word that her aunt, a highly-placed nun at the convent on the outskirts of town, would hide his child.

Shimon was torn between his desperate desire to save his child’s life, and the horrible thought of placing her in this completely foreign environment.

Two days before a mass deportation, Shimon surrendered his three year old, blond haired daughter, Malka, into the waiting arms of a nun. He and his wife had left her crying inconsolably, fiercely clutching a Raggedy Ann doll – a gift from a relative in America and her constant companion.

Three years later, a gaunt and battered Shimon returned to his town, alone; his beloved wife Zisel had starved to death. While he was incarcerated in Auschwitz, thoughts of finding his little Malka were what kept him alive.

Shimon had been hearing horror stories of Polish families that had been entrusted with Jewish children deliberately disappearing with them. Sometimes, even if the child was found, he, or she, refused to leave the only home he knew, denying any connection with the walking scarecrows who showed up claiming to be kin. The child would make the sign of the cross to protect himself from the sickly looking vagabonds who belonged to the people who had killed the beloved savior.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/the-dolls-tale/2012/11/22/

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