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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Family Issues’

Above And Beyond The Court System

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

After my recent article about the difficult trials divorcing couples face within the court system (Family Issues 1-13-2012), especially when there are children involved, I received a heartfelt e-mail from a grandfather in tremendous pain over the demise of his son’s marriage and the subsequent custody battle over his beloved grandchild. He was concerned that his son would be portrayed to the court as incapable of caring for his young child due to recent debilitating health issues his son has unfortunately suffered. The grandfather felt conflicted over the fact that a beit din would not hear the custody concerns but instead a judge would hear the matter during a family court hearing. As an observant Jew he felt that going to a secular or civil court was not an acceptable option for his family. His daughter-in-law, who was seeking the divorce, felt differently and requested that the beit din only take responsibility for securing the get, the Jewish divorce decree, and subsequently appealed to the secular court system to deal with matters of custody, visitation and child support.

Unfortunately divorce is on the rise in the Jewish world. Sadly, each new day brings additional broken families. In fact, the average couple divorcing is no longer a shocking occurrence. I recall that when my marriage fell apart over sixteen years ago, due to what would now be considered “typical” circumstances, it bordered on scandalous in my small community. At that time I could count on one hand the number of divorcees I had ever come in contact with. Sadly, today that is not the case.

Shalom bayit, a peaceful and joyous home with a happy harmonious family is the dream of every new couple starting out. Sometimes that dream gets sidelined to such a degree that there is simply no other option except to divorce. There are even circumstances where a divorce is warranted according to halacha. When a relationship has broken down it can become toxic to the point that the individuals transgress the Torah laws that govern how one should treat his fellow Jew. Hashem’s precious Torah is all good, and allows for the possibility of the dissolution of a marriage – it even provides the necessary guidelines for divorce. There are appropriate steps that must be taken, laws that govern the proper way to give and to receive a get in order to retain the dignity, sanctity and holiness of the process and the respect for the parties involved.

Living in galut, as we all do these days, where we are governed by laws other than just halacha, there is often no choice but to utilize the family court system, in addition to beit din, to some degree in matters of divorce. Enforcing child support, parental rights and parenting time are but a few of the standard functions of the court system. In Israel the system is a bit different as the beit din is considered part and parcel of the legal apparatus and therefore the decision of a recognized beit din can be (but is not always) enforceable by law. In most places the results of beit din arbitrations are considered a form of mediation between the parties and are accepted in civil court; but judgments in child-custody cases are not necessarily binding until they are filed with the civil court system. Each court system, the beit din as well as the family court, is honest about their directive; they each claim to be to be looking out for the best interest of the child/children, yet their interpretations of what “the best interest” is may differ. The rabbinical court will often put greater emphasis on the spiritual well being of the child while the civil courts may see the religious upbringing as secondary to other concerns.

Entering into a civil court situation to decide on the “best interest of your child” is a scary reality that so many parents face today; you are to a certain degree handing over your right to make decisions for your family. Allowing others – people who may or may not understand your personal ideals, priorities and standard of religious beliefs – to make certain decisions that can radically change the course of your life. Taking that chance is essentially a roll of the dice; you never know the outcome until it is too late.

Parents who once shared hopes and dreams for their children now become the prosecution and the defense in family court. Each side fights for control in an attempt to protect what they feel are their “rights.” As difficult as it is for divorcing couples to agree on certain issues, if the opponents take a step back and honestly weigh their options, it would be hard for me to accept that they would choose to surrender control to a third party, and allow strangers to take the reins when deciding on the daily lives of our precious children. Understandably there will be conflict and compromises – and most certainly sacrifices – that would inevitably have to be made on both sides in order to provide the children with the continuity they deserve in order to grow up in a stable home environment, but isn’t it worth it?

Remembering: A Year Later (Part II)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

In the first part of this article (Family Issues 3-2-2012) I shared the many memories resulting from my year of avaylus (mourning) for my mother. This week I would like to connect those memories to a better understanding of how good could potentially come from bad happenings in an effort to improve relationships.

The questions are: “How does one make the best of a bad situation or turn it into an even better one? Do we have the capacity to look for the silver lining in bad situations? When things are tough, can we find the ‘toughness’ within ourselves to turn things around? Can we always say that we can find something good from bad?”

I believe most people would agree with me that it is not so easy to find good in bad. However, we should not assume that bad means bad. I believe that when something bad happens, we have to see it for what it is. Many would say we should think, “It’s not so bad. It could be worse.” Of course every bad situation could be worse, but how does that help?

Bad situations are usually perceived from the “me” perspective, but could also be viewed from the “us” perspective. In the “me” perspective we think: what is this event as it pertains to me? How does this event affect me? How does my life change because of this event? In the “us” perspective we ask how the bad event affects the bigger picture, the world at large or others outside our immediate selves. It’s very difficult to see things through both perceptions at the same time. Nevertheless, we can all view the “me” perspective and then the bigger “us” perspective in most occurrences.

A death in my family has a definite large and meaningful “me” effect, while having a very small effect on those outside my immediate family. Others might feel badly or they might even not care. On the other hand, a tsunami in a far off country has an immediate catastrophic effect on those directly affected, but has a very different affect, beyond emotionally feeling sorry for others, on me, thousands of miles away. That doesn’t mean I don’t care or feel bad, but the “me” perspective is very different. Furthermore, the “me” affect that I am experiencing is different from another person effected by the same bad situation. I recently paid a shiva call where four siblings and their mother were mourning the passing of the father/husband. They were all mourning the same person but in very different ways.

Once one recognizes the “me” effect the situation has, one must gather strength and determine how much power he will allow the situation to have over his life. The saying, “knowledge is power” is certainly true. I believe we cannot muster up the power to control negative situations without the true knowledge and understanding of the total situation. Of course, if the situation is very emotional it’s difficult to have a “free” understanding, because emotional “thinking” influences the way we can understand the situations we find ourselves in. This is why we often need an outside person, someone beyond the “me” thinker, to help us understand it from a different perspective.

First and foremost, it is important to always remember the following: “We act the way we feel and our feelings are based totally on our thoughts.” Don’t take this for granted, as it is imperative to personal control. How we relate to others, what we do in various situations and the effects of such behaviors and actions, all come down to our interpretations and understandings of the situations. Whether we are happy, sad, disappointed, etc. is all-dependent on the way we understand and think. From those thoughts develop feelings, which lead to our actions.

It’s important to understand the ways in which we think. There is both conscious thinking (whereby we are able to understand exactly what we are thinking while we process the thoughts) and subconscious thinking (where our brain is very active yet we are not actually aware of the process). Nevertheless, subconscious thinking has definite affects on our daily functioning and feelings. A good example of subconscious thinking is when someone is having an emotional reaction but cannot “put my figure on what’s bothering me.” This lack of understanding how one feels is a telltale sign of the unconscious at work.

Why is it that sometimes someone seems to be bothering us but we don’t know why we feel that way? Why is it that I feel very attracted to someone without knowing why? Our brain is busy working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can see this when we understand dreams. Our subconscious thoughts develop from our upbringing, our daily occurrences and people who have meaning to us (good and bad).

Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You (Part II)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In Part I (Family Issues 10-14-2011) we discussed how many of us personalize different situations and how that affects our effectiveness in dealing with those situations.  Specifically we focused on foster parents who have expectations of their role and what will help their foster child and what happens when the foster child and/or the foster parent doesn’t have those expectations filled.

This led us to the prevailing difficulty of dealing with an attitude of entitlement.  We said that entitlement is a sense by a person that something is coming to them simply because they want it.  “It’s coming to me.  You have no right not to give me that.  I must have that.  I deserve that.”

This sense of “I deserve it so therefore it’s mine” has unfortunately reached epidemic levels in today’s society  – in both the secular and Jewish world.  Let’s be honest… we have all felt this way at some time, on some level.  In fact, next time you go to a buffet where the food is there for the taking, watch as people take more food than they could eat, or would ever eat if the food weren’t there in abundance. “I paid for the buffet, they have all this food for me to take and I’m definitely going to get my money’s worth.  I deserve it since I paid for it.”

Most people who feel entitled will always have a reason or rationale behind their thought process. Whether it’s “I deserve it” or “because of what I have been through…” the end result is the same – somehow its coming to them.  It has so proliferated our culture that many governments – on a federal or local level – have what’s called “entitlement programs.”  Now in the United States, there is much discussion and debate about government cutbacks, especially in regards to social services programs.  However, if these programs are “entitlements,” the basic argument is that they can’t be touched because, after all, people are entitled to these benefits.  Even within schools, this entitlement theory exists.  In this form, children are entitled to advance to the next level or class, whether or not they have successfully completed and earned a passing grade.

Where does this come from?  Sure there are those who theorize on the positive and negative effects of holding a child back or pushing them ahead.  However, what must be examined and debated is what we are teaching children when, regardless of whether or not their work is completed, they get moved ahead.  What about the employee who has been with a company for several years who feels, regardless of the merit of his or her work or the success of the company, he or she is entitled to a raise?

In Jean Twenge’s book , Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, she supports the assumption that people from their teens to their 20’s are plagued with entitlement.  Is this increased sense of entitlement a society shift or more of a generational one?  In fact, did this sense of entitlement always exist and was it always this bad?  As the saying goes, “in degree, not kind.”  That is, it’s the amount of entitlement, or degree, that becomes the problem.  A sense of entitlement has existed.  In his book The Me New Generation, author Jake Halpern describes the entitlement generation as “smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement.” They are the “co-workers who drive you nuts.” On the flip-side, he says that these individuals are also free-thinkers who are willing to break the status quo and pursue their dreams. Their confidence is what allows them to accomplish great things and help the companies they work for grow and be successful.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/don%e2%80%99t-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you-part-ii/2011/10/26/

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