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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘family’

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.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Light In The Darkness

Dear Rachel,

Over the last few weeks you published letters that were filled with vitriol and criticisms as readers took issue with parents whom they view as being not caring enough of their children’s eating habits, or with adults who spend lavishly on mishloach manos or simchas, and on and on.

I have a different story to put out there, one that demonstrates true ahavas Yisroel and caring. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy seems to have brought out the best in and among us.

The Five Towns and Far Rockaway were especially hard hit by the storm, and when I urged my children who live there to come out to us in Monsey where they’d enjoy light and warmth, they answered simply, “You won’t be able to fit us all in.”

I soon learned that my son and daughter-in-law ,who were without electricity or hot water since day one of the hurricane, had opened up their home and hearts to a family of nine from the Bayswater area who had even less — for their own home had become inhabitable.

When I questioned how they could possibly accommodate all these extra people, my daughter-in-law answered that some of my grandchildren had given up their bedrooms and joined mom and dad in the master bedroom for the interim.

My curiosity was piqued; without working refrigerators and ovens, how did they manage to feed such a brood? My daughter-in-law could not say enough about the magnificent outreach of their local Chabad that was providing hot meals daily, clothing items and blankets to make life more tolerable in the cold indoors, as well as programs at the Chabad center to keep younger children entertained.

You hit the nail on the head, Rachel, when you said in a recent column, “We are creative and enterprising, compassionate and giving, and family oriented.”

Mi k’Amcha Yisroel!

Dear Rachel,

Many of us have been grossly inconvenienced, to put it mildly, by nature’s latest whoppers, beginning with Hurricane Sandy. In my neighborhood many families opted to leave their darkened homes and move in with relatives who had not lost power or had it quickly restored.

This has left empty houses vulnerable to looting since alarm systems are disabled, and sadly many a homeowner has returned to find their premises broken into. If this is not adding insult to injury, I don’t know what is. But more horrifying yet has to be staying put and realizing in the middle of the night that a burglar has let himself in with the help of the blackout.

I am reminded of an incident a close friend of mine experienced many years ago. Those were the days when many households made do with fans in place of air-conditioners. One summer Friday night my friend was suddenly awakened from her sleep and opened her eyes to the sight of a stranger standing in the doorway of her bedroom.

She froze as her heart raced wildly, while her husband was fast asleep in his own bed. She thought of just closing her eyes and pretending to be asleep but feared that the intruder had already noticed her waking and would approach to do her harm.

Almost as naïve as the man in the White House who believed that if he’d make nice to our enemies they’d become our chums, my friend rationalized that if she’ll speak softly to the lowlife he’d certainly have no reason to want to hurt her. Pulling her covers up to her chin (this being a sweltering August night, she wasn’t very tzniusdik’ly attired), she sat up and asked, “Who are you?” with wide-eyed innocence.

Must have been the last thing he expected, because the intruder turned on his heels and ran. That’s when she first alerted her husband and they both got up to check on things and make sure he was really gone. It turned out that the burglar had entered through a small space over the kitchen counter. By early the next morning a neighbor had found my friend’s emptied pocketbook discarded in her yard; her awakening had apparently interrupted the intruder’s poking around in their bedroom.

On Motzei Shabbos the young couple made out a report at the local precinct house where the officer on duty told my friend that her daring move was unwise and that she was lucky not to get hurt. The best thing to do in such a circumstance, he advised, is to pretend to be asleep. Desperate thugs can be dangerous when confronted.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-182/2012/11/22/

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