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Posts Tagged ‘frum’

The Shidduch-Shy

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Thus begins Jane Austen’s classic marriage-themed novel, Pride and Prejudice.

To adapt the line for our world, cross out “‘in possession of a good fortune” (not a requirement) and exchange ‘“should” for ‘“must.’ “ For while it is incumbent upon men and women in frum society to marry, it appears that some who want to want to get married are held back by fears of commitment.

What are some of the unconscious rules by which these “shidduch-shy” live their lives?

Rule #1: Prepare your exit from the start.

Meshulam had always been adamant he wanted a younger girl, even though he was now 30. But he had met his match in a new shadchan his mother sent him to, who (“just trust me”) concealed Kayla’s age. Some good Jewish geography on a third date brought reality to the fore, to Meshulam’s disappointment.

“Look,” he said, “it means a lot to me to marry a younger woman. But, I like you more than a lot of girls, so why don’t we see how it goes?”

Kayla was thrilled to have a second chance, and the couple progressed—albeit slowly—to the point of a real relationship. In fact, Meshulam seemed closer to Kayla than to any other girl he’d dated. But as the time came when parents, shadchan, and Kayla herself felt a proposal should be in the works, none was forthcoming.

Finally Kayla’s parents had words with the shadchan, who had words with Meshulam, who told Kayla they had to “talk.”

It boiled down to this: Kayla was a wonderful girl; Meshulam liked and respected her and wanted the best for her. But, really, he’d always said how important it was to him to marry a younger woman, and Kayla was—older. He was sorry, but it just wouldn’t work.

Meet Meshulam, one of the shidduch-shy—who held his exit card all along.

Rule # 2: Keep yourself unavailable.

When dating, the shidduch-shy may keep her date at arm’s length. Even as the relationship progresses, she does not make extra time for its growth. Motzei Shabbos and Wednesday night work just fine for getting together.

Yitzy’s first few dates hadn’t gone well, and he wondered if the whole process might not be for him, when he met Rena. Lovely, intelligent, lively—she seemed perfect. If he had complaints early on, it was in the amount of time it took her to get back to the shadchan.

It took her a while to agree to “graduate” from the shadchan. When Yitzy pressed she said she preferred having an intermediary, which prevented things from speeding up too soon.

When finally they managed the dating schedule, Yitzy found Rena to be anything but available. Family simchas, homework, shiurim she attended, plans with friends—she was busy, busy, busy. But she had plenty of time for long late-night phone chats. At the three-month mark, Yitzy confronted Rena about the pace of the process.

“Look, Yitzy, I’m a busy, social, well-rounded person. I don’t have time to spend every minute of every day with you. You’re just too needy for me.”

Meet Rena, the Arm’s-Length Girl.

Rule # 3: The more available your partner, the more you want to run.
She’s less available? Time to be interested.

Sarah and Shmuel were making progress, even though the relationship was long-distance. Each dating event meant flying to the other’s city, and therefore entailed three or four dates over a long weekend. Just as it came time for the marriage conversation, Shmuel announced he “wanted a break.” Shocked, Sarah cried hard, then, recovering her dignity, said, “No breaks. If you don’t want to move forward, we’re finished.” Once she gave him the cold shoulder, he was interested again, and asked for another go-round.

The healthy adult usually feels closer to others reciprocally: The more you like me, the more I like you. The shidduch-shy are drawn to unavailable people, or people threatening to leave a relationship. It’s safer that way.

Meet Shmuel—who only runs after the one who runs away.

Rule #4: Insist upon a trait in a partner that’s trivial or very hard to find,
and be rigid in your dating needs.

Free Choice Vs Costly Obedience

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Over the past few weeks, I, like many of you, have received wedding invitations, and I truly hope that the young couples-to-be have chosen wisely and will enjoy long and fruitful unions.

But living happily ever after is not a guarantee. I myself am divorced. And while unfortunately, some couples are not able to achieve a good marriage, they should, to the best of their ability strive to have a “good” divorce (though by definition that would be an oxymoron).

In other words, be the ones deciding the quality of your future, not some stranger in a robe who didn’t know you existed before you entered his/her courtroom.

Over my long association with The Jewish Press, (and as recently as this past Rosh Hashanah) I have been approached by embittered men and women, deeply embroiled in a nasty divorce and asked if I could “stop the presses” and publicize what they insist is a horrific miscarriage of justice, one deserving to be front page news. They want the whole world to know how they have been abused, maligned, ignored, threatened, financially milked and generally ruined by what they view as a totally unfair court order – ranging from division of property, jewelry and bank accounts to the children. They are the hapless victims, they claim, of corrupt, bought-off, unscrupulous, incompetent, unsympathetic judges, attorneys, social workers, teachers, rabbis, etc.

How else, they claim, can you explain the court’s ruling? Each party was so sure that the judge or jury, upon hearing their side of the story, would immediately grant them everything they petitioned for – the house, the cars, the vacation property, the investments…the kids.

But that’s not the way it works in Divorce Court. You don’t simply get what you want based on your say as to the character – or lack thereof – of the spouse you are feuding with. You can swear up and down that your now insignificant other is a sorry excuse for a human being, but that’s not necessarily the conclusion the court will come to.

While their perception of what he or she deserves and are entitled to receive, both in terms of assets and custody, may be rather one-sided, narrow minded and hence unrealistic, it is clear that the desperation, despair and the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare is very real. Sadly, many times it is something that he brought on himself. Nonetheless, the emotional pain is relentless.

And that is why I can’t be emphatic enough when I say that couples who feel their marriage is not salvageable – should at least salvage their divorce. In other words, try to work out any post-marriage issues such as custody, visitation and the division of mutual assets yourselves. Don’t allow your lives and those of your children to be hijacked by outsiders who don’t know you, in a delusional belief, fueled by anger, greed or a desire to punish, that you will come out way ahead of your soon to be ex-spouse. You are gambling with the possibility that you will come out with a lot less than had the two of you negotiated fairly.

When divorcing couples “out-source” the resolving of their major disputes, they are essentially giving up the freedom and the right to make decisions whose impact will last a lifetime. To them you are a docket number – much the same way as you are a disease, not a person, to a busy doctor making rounds.

Not only will these strangers (judge or jury) decide who gets what, when and how – they can also impose serious penalties and punishment if you don’t comply with these decisions.

The outcome of custody cases are especially unpredictable.

Basically when a couple goes to court to resolve this contentious issue, they are saying, “Your honor – you don’t know me or my family from Adam, but I am going to let you tell me if my kids will be living with me, and if not, when I can see them, and if I don’t follow your dictates exactly – like if I attempt to see my son on Tuesday instead of Wednesday – then you can find me in contempt and jail me. And for all this I will end up paying a fortune to you and your ‘experts’ (psychologists, social workers) to the extent that I will likely end up borrowing money from everyone I know or go into debt.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Candy Time Again: Another concerned reader’s perspective

(See Chronicles of Sept 28 & Oct 19)

Dear Rachel,

Your response to “Concerned Bubby” about the candy problem is disturbing indeed. But it reflects a much bigger problem. As a guest in many frum homes, chassidish and Litvish, I’ve witnessed this obsession with sweets getting completely out of hand — a health problem you merely pooh-pooh away. Shocking!

What you don’t seem to understand is that training children to overindulge –especially on sugar – sets them up for a myriad of health problems as adults. You are literally grooming the bodies’ cells for obesity and diabetes.

As an example of this insanity: A mother told me that her son (about 6 years old) already had a mouthful of cavities. As I recall, nearly every tooth. Yet, Shabbos he was still given candies and sweetened drinks. Is this not insanity?

I have seen kids proudly show me their spoils from shul, loads of sweet “junk.” More than they could possibly eat.

The glut is especially high on Purim — before Pesach. Is this some masochistic tendency? Mommies just adore cleaning and hunting for sticky chametz in drawers, closets and under beds.

Candies are given as rewards in school. I remember when we got stars and stickers. Why are the yeshivas – our “frum culture” – equating reward with gashmius (materialism), and unwholesome at that! Bad for mind and body.

Stop it already!

We can learn a great deal from the Biblical commentator, the Ramban, who discusses “Naval Birshus HaTorah” – being disgusting within the framework of Torah. Just because something is kosher does not give us license to gorge.

As far as what you stated about maturity, I have heard many a time that famous “adult” excuse at the Shabbos table for overeating: “I’m eating for the extra ‘neshama‘ (soul) I get on Shabbos.” Please!

But this is just a symptom of an overall “sickness.” At one time families were so poor that cakes and candies were luxuries. Now, luxury is the norm in many Orthodox homes. We are furthermore obsessed with any cuisine alien to Judaism, be it Japanese, Chinese, Italian… so long as it is something exotic and expensive.

Our frum culture today actually mirrors the goyish society we are so intent on avoiding. We have lost the sense of Yiddishkeit, of really feeling Jewish.

Most of the songs on Jewish radio are just rock music adapted to Tehillim. And wedding music must blast like an acid rock concert. Even today’s chazzanim are more “entertainers” than the sweet singers of old in baal tefilla style. (As my zeide a”h was a chazzan, I know.)

Mishloach Manos is given the way non-Jews give Xmas presents. We have lost the whole idea Mordechai and Esther intended. We are required to give two prepared foods to a fellow Jew. But no, everyone in the “shtetl” has to get one and everyone must outdo the other. Keep up with the Shapiros… the more expensive and lavish, the better.

The same with weddings and simchas in general — thousands of dollars are spent on but a few hours of celebration.

Then you read about children starving. Has this frum culture no shame? Does just stamping a kosher sign on something make it Jewish or Torahdik?

We read about the lulav and esrog symbolizing the achdus of all Jews, and yet self-righteous individuals view other Jews with disdain because they practice different minhagim (customs).

How many chassidic sects fight each other?

As far as summer camp is concerned, when did that start? Children stayed at home and helped their parents, or found something to do to earn a little money. Each generation is getting more and more spoiled in gashmius and more and more starved in ruchnius (spirituality) — as in understanding, kindness, self-sacrifice and respect of others and especially elders.

These young minds spend all day in school during winter and then are thrown into summer camp, away from the very people who should be teaching and molding them.

In light of all this, is it any wonder our frum kids are going off the derech? What else are they seeing but hypocrisy and parents who don’t want to spend time with them… to bond, to talk about their problems, to feel WANTED?

The yeshivas are no less to blame, encouraging this sense of hypocrisy. Why should yeshivas have instances of bullying and other abuses? Where are the teachers? Where are the parents?

My Machberes

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Satmar Shidduch

In the midst of preparations for the grand Satmar chassunah held on Wednesday, October 17, another grandchild of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, became engaged. On October 15, Zvi Hersh Meisels was engaged to the daughter of Rabbi Naftali Meir Babad, Tarnopol Rav in Kensington and Tartikov Rosh Beis Din; son of Rabbi Asher Aleksander Babad, zt”l (1910-1985), Tartikover Rav, and son-in-law of Rabbi Kalman Pinter, zt”l (d. 2009), Sulzberger Rav.

The chassan is the son of Rabbi Shimon Zev Meisels, Rav of the Beirach Moshe district of Kiryas Yoel and author of Sefer Binyan Shimon. The chassan is the grandson of Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, Seagate Rav, as well as of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. The engagement was formalized in the home of the kallah’s father in Boro Park. In Kiryas Yoel, long lines led to the home of the Satmar Rebbe where well-wishers gave their joyous mazel tovs.

Women And Hatzolah

Rachel Freier, an attorney representing women in the greater Boro Park community, had long felt there was a need for emergency services for women in labor to conform to our community’s level of modesty. The idea “has nothing to do with feminism, it has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty,” said Mrs. Freier.

Though turned down by Hatzolah, she was careful to avoid framing the proposal as a critique of the widely praised organization, whose work she respects greatly. Instead, she said it was a matter of reclaiming a “job that has been the role of women for thousands of years [that of a midwife].” We are proud of Hatzolah,” she said, adding, “Hatzolah leaders do not fully understand what a woman feels like when she is in labor.”

Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “women’s section,” the name of the new organization, is modeled after a program created two years ago in New Square. Hatzolah’s four-member rabbinical board released a memo for members saying they would not engage in discussions on the matter. A similar proposal had been rejected some 25 years ago.

Mrs. Freier had attempted to reach Hatzolah’s leaders to arrange a meeting. “The initial plan was for me to meet with Hatzolah and explain the need for women to join,” she said. “However, I was told that the policy of women not joining Hatzolah was set years ago…. We’re just trying to make a great organization even better. We’re not filing a complaint. We’re coming with a suggestion.”

On February 26 of this year, Mrs. Freier opened a recruitment drive for Ezras Nashim and a number of women indicated strong interest in joining. In total, Ezras Nashim had at its outset more than 200 women with various levels of medical training in its ranks. Mrs. Freier continued discussions on the matter with rabbinical leaders in the community. The new organization has the blessing of several rabbis.

Women And Burkas

In Israel, small groups of women living in some observant neighborhoods have chosen to wear burkas (a loose garment covering the entire body worn by Muslim women) in order to achieve maximum tznius. Not one recognized rabbi has endorsed burkas for Jewish women. On the contrary, several leading rabbis have strongly expressed their opposition to the strange behavior.

On Sunday, October 14, one of the “shawl women” was in the throes of childbirth and refused to be taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for fear of chillul Shabbos.

The story began when a man rushed into the shul on Avraham Ben-David Street early Shabbos morning calling for assistance for his pregnant wife. A member of Ichud Hatzalah of Bnei Brak went with the man. As they were running to the apartment, an ambulance was summoned.

The husband, however, told the Hatzolah member to cancel the call, explaining that his wife would refuse an ambulance since it was Shabbos.

The husband and the Hatzolah member were met by a second the Hatzolah member when they reached the apartment. They tried persuading the mother to travel to the hospital by ambulance, but she refused.

The first Hatzolah member called his mother, a midwife, and the delivery took place at the apartment. After the delivery they again attempted to persuade the new mother to be taken by ambulance but she remained obstinate.

Shidduchim: Why Personality Compatibility Matters

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Dear Readers:

Much of my private practice is devoted to helping couples in conflict resolve their differences. I have discovered over the years that personality compatibility is an essential component of a happy marriage. Many of the couples I see in therapy struggle with reconciling radically different modes of communicating and coping with life’s issues. As a result, it is often the case that arguments ensue, empathy is strained and estrangement sets in. With that as a backdrop, here are several fictitious vignettes of couples that are personality incompatible.

Devorah prides herself on being punctual. She views it as a mark of responsibility and respect for others to be on time. As a matter of fact, she almost always gets to meetings early. Her husband Yaakov usually arrives for appointments 5-10 minutes late. He always has what he thinks is a valid reason: something came up that he had to attend to. He prides himself on his flexibility and multitasking. Devorah is frustrated because she thinks Yaakov could be more organized and prioritize his life better. The two frequently argue about this issue and it negatively affects their relationships.

Malkie is sensitive to people’s feelings and will go to almost any length to avoid a dispute. Her husband Baruch is strong willed and factual and will press his case even if it involves some degree of dissension. Malkie feels that Baruch is insensitive and bullying. Baruch believes that Malkie is too much of a pushover and that she should stand up for what she feels is right – even if it involves a disagreement. He contends that disagreements are necessary because they lead to a clarification of the truth. This difference in approach leads to frustration for both of them.

Moshe believes that the best way to raise his and his wife’s children is to set firm rules and impose natural consequences for breaching those rules. He doesn’t believe in making exceptions, as it will teach their children to shirk their responsibilities. “The law is the law” by him. His wife Ruchie is very attuned to her children and is more inclined to view non-compliance as stemming from an emotional issue. She gives the benefit of the doubt to her children in many situations. As a consequence of their differing personalities, Moshe and Ruchie frequently argue over their different child-rearing styles.

As you can see, these couples are incompatible in certain defined aspects of their relationship. Neither spouse is right or wrong; they simply have very different personalities. These differences can be difficult to detect during the dating process, when singles are in situations that do not normally pose conflict. However, after the couple is married, these incompatibilities soon assume center stage. If differences are relatively few in number and the spouses possess significant skills in empathy and acceptance of difference, things are manageable. However, the cumulative effect of profound incompatibility is that feelings of trust and intimacy are compromised.

Of course, when couples differ in some ways, they can help each other grow. However, when couples’ personalities are significantly different or incompatible, it can become more of a problem in their marriage. Personality traits that at first seemed appealing because they were different than one’s own eventually become a source of frustration and are seen as a flaw in need of rectification. Individuals who seek to change their spouses’ traits will surely encounter failure. People cannot be coerced into changing their essential nature.

What emerges is that compatibility makes it much easier to establish a happy and successful marriage. Research studies in the field of psychology have demonstrated that compatible couples are more satisfied in their marriages. Moreover, Torah hashkafa emphasizes the importance of being diligent in identifying compatibility in prospective spouses. We need to communicate this knowledge to young adults and their parents who are now actively engaged in shidduchim. We must give them the necessary tools to be able to identify personality-compatible marriage prospects.

To that end I strongly endorse an exciting resource that has just burst onto the frum dating scene, one that will hopefully result in hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages. The website ZivugZone.com uses a sophisticated, state-of-the-art software program to match singles according to their personality compatibility, hashkafa, age and other key personal preferences. My friend and colleague Moshe Coan, with whom I’ve worked closely with in the past, is the website’s founder. ZivugZone.com is free and has become hugely popular since it launched in July. The first two months saw over 1,300 singles register.

An Appeal To Readers

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Dear Readers:

It is Motzei Rosh Hashanah as I write this letter. I have been a therapist for over thirty years and devote a large part of my practice to marital and pre-marital therapy. This year I have had many clients seeking my services after they sought help from other frum therapists. Regarding this, I wish to address the following phenomena:

The frum therapist told many of these couples during the first or second session that they should get divorced. This situation, which has taken place throughout my years in practice, has recently become more prevalent. Yes, there are many frum therapists who do not advocate divorce, but I have to wonder why any therapist would push divorce as an option when clearly the couple is attending therapy to receive help in saving the marriage? If the couple wanted to get divorced they would go to a beis din to secure one. Even the rabbanim who run the batei din try to get the couple to first seek therapy before possibly (and unfortunately) proceeding with a divorce.

Please, readers, tell others as you would advise yourselves: do not continue seeking counsel from a therapist who sees you once and advises you, based on that sole session, to get divorced. Just this Erev Yom Tov I ran into a couple that I treated 20 years ago. At that time this issue was not as common, but they had also gone to a frum therapist who in one session told them to get divorced. They were then referred to me and I had them undergo extensive therapy for six months. It was a difficult case, with the husband needing to work out his anger issues. After teaching anger management techniques to him and effective countermoves to offset his anger to her, they remained married and had several more children.

So 20 years later, they said to me, “We just had our fifth grandchild! We can’t believe we are meeting you!”

This newest grandchild was from the child they had after therapy, a child who would never have been born had they gotten divorced. They told me that they were basically happy and were friends with divorced couples whose lives turned out to be a big mess. They described how the other couples’ children had problems or were off the derech, and how they had so much nachas with their amazing children.

“Being married is not easy and we work on it every day, but we see the fruits of our labor and we share a deep love and conviction. In spite of all obstacles we work things out,” they said. They joyfully told me all the great techniques that they use until this day to ensure that they keep their marriage intact. They continue, even after they stopped going for therapy, to have a date night once a week. They work on complimenting each other and, for the most part, the anger is no longer an active force in their marriage. They still have disputes, but they are manageable and are not of the same nature as the ones they had pre-therapy. This couple learned conflict resolution and the husband has kept his anger in check all these years. For her part, the wife knows how to avoid making her husband angry and how to keep him calm.

It is not easy to be married, but it is surely not easy to be divorced. In certain situations there is no alternative to divorce, but if a couple is willing to work together, a therapist has an open door for the possibility of success. If the husband or wife, however, refuses to seek help or to work on his or her deficiency, the situation becomes more difficult. But even in such cases, I have taught the cooperative spouse (usually the healthier one) how to use effective countermoves to make a difficult marriage work. Other great techniques include imago therapy, with the couple learning how their childhood issues are affecting their marriage and how to deal with those issues.

So, my dear readers, if you go to a therapist one time – with your spouse or alone – and the therapist tells you to get divorced, please seek out another therapist. You can always get divorced, but first try as hard as possible to save your marriage. This may entail not always getting your way; it may mean giving in at times. You may have to learn to agree to disagree on certain issues, and you will have to work on dealing with your anger more effectively – in the process learning self-control. But all this will make you a better person and better able to work on developing good middos.

Hallucinatory Realism

Friday, October 12th, 2012

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 was awarded yesterday to Chinese writer Mo Yan “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

I liked that description very much. I went looking for texts by the fresh winner. Among several offerings online, not all of which would befit a frum website, I found the following paragraphs, from his most recent work, “POW!” which is soon to be published in English:

Huang Biao snared a pig’s knuckle and examined it. What was he looking for? It was soft and fully cooked, and would be overdone if he let it stew any longer. But he threw it back in, picked out a dog’s leg, and went through the same drill, but this time he sniffed it. What are you doing, you moron? It’s ready to eat, so turn down the heat before it turns mushy. Next came a sheep’s leg, and once again it was examine and smell. Why don’t you taste it, you moron? . . . Now that the heat had diminished, the liquid was no longer roiling, although a few ripples remained in the spaces between the cuts of meat, whose song had softened as they waited to be eaten.

But then the whole gritty, peasant cooking scene goes way out of bounds when Huang Biao ends up using his bodily fluids as cooking wine, which was just too gritty for me.

I suppose we keep looking for bigger and bigger shock effects. So you should know, Chinese peasant life is pretty shocking.

Anyway, when you now see references to Mo Yan’s brutal style, you’ll have an idea.

Way too much culture gap for me.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/hallucinatory-realism/2012/10/12/

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