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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Winning The Blame Game; Losing The War: Teaching Responsibility to Our Children

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Schools have long been grading students on responsibility. But in recent years, teachers report that marks in responsibility have been plummeting. This is an alarming phenomenon – but it is not a coincidence. Responsibility is becoming a rare virtue.

We live in a world where politicians, executives and professionals fail to act responsibly or take responsibility for their actions. Parents, teachers and students often follow suit. Instead of behaving with responsibility, people often are reckless and shift the blame for their mistakes onto others.

A senior politician who “forgot” to report income blames his Turbo Tax software. Homeowners who bought homes with risky mortgages blame the banks for taking them away. CEOs seeking bailouts for their companies travel in exorbitant private jets. Slowly, the very fabric of society withers into a total mess, as the culture of irresponsibility infiltrates our homes and lives.

According to expert mechanchim, this plague of irresponsibility lies at the crux of many chinuch problems. Children and adults are becoming less accountable and less responsible. They are blaming everyone but themselves.

“My child isn’t doing well because he doesn’t have a good rebbe.”

“I didn’t behave because another girl made me be chutzpadik.”

“I’m late because the bus came early.”

Maybe your child doesn’t have a good rebbe, but that doesn’t preclude his halachicobligation to learn Torah. Maybe the girl sitting next to your daughter is disruptive, but that doesn’t grant your daughter a license to misbehave. Maybe the bus came thirty seconds early, but you could have been at the stop sooner.

This culture of irresponsibility is extremely damaging, both on an individual level, and to society at large.

At the last Agudah Convention, Harav Mattisyahu Solomon shlita addressed the painful issue of “When Children Stray.” He said that the phenomenon of children rebelling is a reflection of Klal Yisroel’s rebellion. When the Ribbono shel Olam cried out in anguish, at the beginning of our galus, “Banim gadalti veromamti – I grew and raised children and they betrayed me,” Klal Yisroel should have felt that pain, and responded immediately, “Tatte, we are sorry and we want to return and be loyal to You.”

Unfortunately, Klal Yisroel did not hear the message. Hashem decided that the only way to bring them back is to let them personally feel the pain that kavayochal He is going through.

This refusal to apologize is blatantly irresponsible. A responsible person not only behaves correctly, but also admits errors, accepts blame and does whatever he can to repair the damage.

As Yidden, the ability to take responsibility lies at the heart of our existence. In Parshas Mikeitz, Yaakov Avinu refused to allow Binyamin to travel to Mitzrayim with his brothers. Although the family’s food supply was dwindling, and the Egyptian viceroy had made Binyamin’s presence a condition for purchasing more food, Yaakov feared for Binyamin’s life. Until Yehuda arose. “Anochi e’ervenu” – I will guarantee him, he said. I will take responsibility.” And so, the history of Klal Yisroel unfolded.

This was not the first time Yehuda accepted responsibility. When Tamar presented the staff, cloak and ring of her unborn child’s father, Yehuda said, “Tzadkah memeni” – she is expecting my child. He did this at great personal sacrifice. Yet it is of this union that Malchus Beis Dovid was born, and it is this sense of responsibility that characterized it. Dovid behaved similarly after the episode with Batsheva.

In contrast, when Shmuel Hanavi asked Shaul why he had not killed the animals of Amalek, as Hashem had commanded, he said, “chamal ha’am” – the nation had mercy on the animals, so that they could sacrifice them to Hashem.” He blamed his mistake on the people. This was a two-fold lapse of achrayus. First, Shaul acted irresponsibly by not eradicating Amalek in its entirety, as he had been commanded. Second, he refused to accept responsibility for his mistake, and instead blamed the people. This twofold mistake brought untold suffering upon the Jewish people and cost Shaul his kingdom.

What Is Responsibility?

In regard to chinuch, there are two main aspects of responsibility. The first is the ability to fulfill responsibilities. A person who fulfills responsibilities is answerable to himself, to others and to the Ribbono Shel Olam. His behavior is disciplined, and he follows rules and regulations. He understands that as a member of a family, class and society, there are things he must and must not do.

A responsible person won’t come late to Shacharis, because he believes that it would be wrong to a) himself, because he will miss out on part of the tefillah; b) other mispallelim whom he will disrupt with his entrance; and c) the Ribbono Shel Olam, because his tefillah will be rushed and he may miss out on several Ameins, Amein yehei shemei rabbahs and other chiyuvim.

The second aspect of responsibility is acknowledging the effects of an action or decision and accepting its consequences. A child who does poorly on a test should be able to assess his behavior and come to responsible conclusions. He should tell himself, “I should have studied harder”, “I need to learn how to take better notes” or “I’m going to listen better in class” as opposed to blaming the teacher, the test or the class.

Teaching Responsibility – Role Modeling, Duties And Consequences

There are many ways parents can inculcate responsibility in their children. The first is to be good role models. A child who lives in a disciplined, structured home will grow up to be disciplined and structured – essential middos for responsible living. A child whose parents exhibit a responsibility to others will likely grow up with that same trait. This is required of us. The Torah teaches us, kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh. Parents who pursue chessed, are involved in their children’s schools and contribute to tzedakah, model to their children that we do not live for ourselves alone. This attitude is a hallmark of responsibility.

Another way to teach responsibility is to assign age-appropriate chores. Here, parents must tread a fine line between overburdening children and challenging them. If all choices and decisions are made by adults, and children have no responsibilities, they will be dependent and incompetent. If we expect too much of them, they will feel overburdened and again, incompetent, because they won’t be able to fulfill expectations. So parents need to carefully consider the duties they give to their children. Parents should also create rules and enforce them.

Children must be taught not only to act responsibly, but also to accept responsibility for their actions. Parents can teach this by allowing children to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Children should not get “bailouts” from their parents.

A chronic latecomer should not be given late notes. She should be made to experience the consequences of her lateness. Several doses of detention may be just what she needs to propel her out of bed in the morning.

Why Are People Irresponsible?

People behave irresponsibly because shifting blame is so easy and convenient. It is much easier to blame a person or situation than to acknowledge wrongdoing and change behaviors and habits. It is much easier for a parent to gripe about the rebbe than to learn with his child or hire a tutor. Sadly, in our easy-way-out society, the easy way usually wins.

This “easy way out” lifestyle stems largely from the plenty our community enjoyed in the past decades. Luxury homes, expensive vacations, designer clothing and $85 Kipling briefcases for children have become the norm. Ours is the “es kumt zich mir” generation, the era of instant gratification. “I deserve to get these curtains or buy this dress or take this break.” Even now, with so many amongst us struggling for parnassah, the trend continues. All this luxury comes with a very big price tag.

In Shiras Haazinu the pasuk says, “vayishman yeshurun vayiv’at” – Yeshurun grew fat and kicked [in rebellion]. Their rebellion was a direct result of the abundance that caused them to “grow fat.” Instead of thanking Hashem for His plenty, they attributed their blessings to talent and hard work. They said “kochi v’otzem yadi asa li es hachayil hazeh” – my power and the strength of my hand accomplished this great feat.

There is a certain sense of entitlement and power that comes from living on “easy street.” Children, who have every wish and whim fulfilled, may have a hard time telling themselves “no.” Incidentally, this phenomenon is not correlated to income level. The availability of cheap snacks and toys, bargain stores, and inexpensive clothing has created a society of low-income spendthrifts. Low-income children are just as easily spoiled as their wealthy counterparts.

Whatever their income level, parents must insist on withholding pleasures and giving children responsibilities, otherwise there is a very real danger they won’t develop the ability to do so – even when the pleasures they seek go against rules or societal norms, or could be harmful to themselves or to others. Such children also find it hard to acclimate to the demands of adulthood.

Parents who overly shield and protect their children do so in the name of love. But they are doing their children a great disservice.

When one girl felt pressured in high school, her father called the principal to complain. The menahelexplained that it was important for students to learn to cope with stress and pressure, because school is a training ground for life, and life is full of tension. The father answered -

“My daughter will not have any stress or pressure in her life. I will protect her.”

One can only marvel at the “kochi v’otzem yadi” mindset that brings a father to make such a statement. And one can only hope that his daughter is able to overcome her bewilderment when life hands her a challenge that is beyond her father’s protective reach.

Responsibility vs. Happiness

Not so long ago, all children had chores. It was a given that everyone who lived in a home had to help maintain it. Today, many parents believe that giving children responsibilities means robbing them of the joys of childhood. This attitude is also a reflection of society – where pursuit of happiness is a goal in life, and paradoxically, unhappiness and depression abound.

This unhappiness is largely the result of the lack of responsibility in our generation. Marketers would have us believe that we can purchase joy in a chocolate bar. But nothing could be more fleeting. Did anyone ever rejoice because he had really good chocolate two days ago? On the contrary, responsibility equals satisfaction, and satisfaction equals happiness. People are happiest when they are productive and responsible. Parents who wish to shield their children from responsibility because they want to grant them freedom and happiness, are withholding the keys to the very happiness they want to bestow.

Interestingly, every Jewish simcha is a celebration of responsibility. At a bris, we celebrate the entrance of a Jewish male into the Covenant of Avraham – a pact that brings with it the responsibilities of being a Jew. At a bar or bas mitzvah, we celebrate the entrance of a child into the responsibilities of adulthood. And at a wedding, we celebrate marriage – a union that again brings myriad responsibilities.

As a veteran teacher, I am in a unique position to track societal trends. Thirty years ago, when I would tell parents that their child had a problem, they would become attentive and apologetic. They would ask for advice, and work to improve the situation. Today, parents can’t accept criticism about their children. Complaints are met with disbelief or blame.

“Yanky can’t be misbehaving. It must be a problem in the class.”

“Menachem is not keeping up? He’s so bright. The material is way too hard for this grade level.”

“Of course he didn’t do his homework. You give them so much work, it’s impossible.”

So Yanky and Menachem and all the other sweet innocent little boys are never given the help or direction they need for proper chinuch and growth. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people in our generation are buckling under the responsibilities of adulthood?

It is time for us all to take responsibility for the way we live, spend money, and parent our children. Perhaps the current economic meltdown is meant to cure us of the societal ills that led to Vayishman Yeshurun vayiv’at – and perhaps our response to it will bring us to an era of achrayus, with the rebuilding of Malchus Bais Dovid.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Why Can’t I Get Married? (Part Two)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Last week’s column evoked tremendous response. Many men contacted me expressing interest in meeting the young lady. I will be more than happy to follow-up. However, it’s my policy to make shidduch recommendations only after I meet the candidates. So to all those who wrote, may I suggest you call our office for an appointment?

The e-mails from women far exceeded those of the men. This letter touched a sensitive nerve in many hearts. They all echoed the same refrain, “Me too! I find myself in the same boat…I too would like to get married, but the years seem to have passed me by.”

Most of the women were in their late 30s, early 40s. They had all invested many good years in relationships that they hoped would lead them to the marriage canopy, but it proved to be futile. Having sacrificed their best childbearing years, they felt cheated.

Why has that short walk down the aisle become such a long arduous trek for so many? The woman who wrote had everything going for her – attractive, successful, and fun-loving. Why was she having such a difficult time? Why did marriage elude her?

Firstly, I feel compelled to comment on the general tone of her letter. In describing her family’s Jewish ties, the woman wrote that they attended High Holy Day services; she and her siblings were confirmed and had visited Israel. She went on to write that her older brother was intermarried and had no intention of asking his wife to convert. Her younger brother was dating mostly gentile girls. Her parents would have preferred they marry Jewish, but would never think of interfering with the “happiness” of their children. My response:

My Dear Friend:

I could almost dub the portrayal of your family’s Jewish life, “The American Jewish Tragedy,” compounded by the sad fact that the protagonists aren’t aware that they are choreographing a tragedy. Please do not take this as condemnation, but as I said, I feel compelled to comment on the sad reality you described.

You, as well as many others, are what our tradition refers to as “tinokot she’naflu b’shevi” – innocent Jewish souls who were never given a true Jewish education compared to infants who were kidnapped and weren’t privileged to know their real parents. Such individuals have no way of gauging what they are missing or have lost.

Similarly, Jews who grew up devoid of Torah, never tapped the vast treasures buried in its every word and letter, who were never nurtured by the Torah’s life- sustaining milk, have no way of comprehending their deprivation.

So it is that you, your family, and so many others are under the impression that making token gestures to Judaism is all there is to our faith. Judaism is not comprised of a superficial confirmation class, a token visit to a temple on the High Holy Days, or touring Israel.

We are the nation that stood at Sinai and sealed an eternal covenant with Almighty G-d. Not only is Torah our legacy, but our very life. Without Torah we cease to exist and are quickly swallowed up in the melting pot of the nations. Intermarriage is the death-knell of our people, leaving no memory in its wake, not even a Kaddish.

I realize that your parents would have preferred that your brother marry Jewish; nevertheless, they accepted a gentile wife for him and are prepared to do the same for your younger sibling, because “they don’t want to stand in the way of their children’s happiness.”

Never mind that your brothers will be the last Jewish males to carry your family name, thousands of years of Jewish life will come to an end in them, and that which Hitler, yemach shemo, could not do through gas chambers, they are willingly, if unknowingly, doing to themselves – and it’s all justified under the guise of “happiness.”

If someone claims that he feels “happy” taking drugs, would anyone sane accept that rationale? Wouldn’t we warn the person that he is on the path to self-destruction? Similarly, if someone obliterates his Jewish past, shouldn’t we warn him that he is committing spiritual suicide?

During the High Holy Days, we wish one another a Happy New Year but, such a greeting doesn’t exist in Hebrew. The expression is “Shanah Tovah” – “Have a good year,” or “Kesivah V’Chasimah Tovah” – “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year” – the emphasis on goodness rather than happiness – and there is a world of difference between these two words. Good is based upon responsibility, giving and sacrifice – taking the harder, more difficult path over the easy, attractive one.

Happiness, on the other hand, is a shallow pursuit that blurs all absolutes. It is rooted in self-gratification and satisfying passion, irrespective of the harm it inflicts on others. This pursuit of happiness is at the root of many of the ills that plague us. Shattered families, broken homes and drugs, can all be traced to it and people wake up too late and discover that chasing happiness is like chasing a butterfly, which flies away as soon as it rests on your shoulder. Genuine happiness can only be realized through goodness, through doing that which is right, moral, and decent.

Jewish opposition to intermarriage is not a matter of racism or prejudice. In order for the Jewish people to continue, and for children to be born Jewish, they must have Jewish mothers – it’s that simple. We are a minuscule minority in the world. In America the intermarriage rate ranges from 50-70 percent. In some European countries, it is as high as 90 percent. During the past 60 years, there has been no Jewish population growth in the U.S. If anything, our number has diminished, and not because there was a Hitler here who, G-d forbid, took us to the gas chambers.

Tragically, we built our own spiritual gas chambers that snuffed Jewish life out of our people. That is why I dubbed your story, “The American Jewish Tragedy.” There can be no bigger tragedy than to live in a free society in which you can live as a Jew, and yet choose not to, thereby underwriting your own demise.

Again, I apologize if you find these words hurtful. G-d forbid – that is not my intention. I would never want to cause anyone pain, but in all good conscience, I couldn’t allow your statements to pass without comment. Perhaps someone who reads these words will re-think his vacuous Jewish life, search out his heritage and discover G-d’s holy words that were engraved upon his soul at Sinai.

As for the personal dilemma that prompted you to write and ask why you can’t get married; after years of serious relationships, the guys just don’t propose? I will discuss that, Please G-d, in next week’s column.

Speaking The Language Of Children At 99 – An Interview With Gussie Levine

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Gussie Levine is a 99-year-old great-grandmother who worked as a teacher for the New York City Board of Education for many years. She volunteers for many worthy causes, and has participated in a new educational program, Mobilization for Youth – working with children of all ages.

 

Gussie has lived at FountainView, a retirement community located in Monsey, NY, since it’s 1998 opening. As a resident she is involved in many aspects there, including the presidency of the Resident Council, and as a volunteer in the resident-run store and at the corporate office. Gussie also writes poems for all events at FountainView, and participates in the knitting group, book club and senior club.

 

            The Jewish Press recently spoke with her.


 


The Jewish Press: Have you been writing for many years?


Gussie Levine: I’ve always loved writing, but it’s only the last couple of years that I started writing a book. As a volunteer I attended the head start program, an intergenerational program where preschool-aged children got to know grandparents. [I] spend some time together [with them] as a surrogate grandmother with the other members of the group from FountainView. We listened as the teachers read stories to the children, and they were nice stories. But I felt that I could do something better, and that’s what started me to write.


I also love to write poetry, and I write for FountainView’s newsletter.


Can you tell us about your first book?


I wrote my first book when I was 96. The book is about twin boys who play in the park and don’t like the fact that everyone doesn’t get along. So they find a way to put the mean people behind a wall. That’s the name of the book, The Wall that Grew and Grew. As more people act naughty they get put behind the wall, but eventually the wall gets so high that it shuts out the sun from the people on the good side. So the boys decide to be nice to the naughty people, and then they would be nice to everybody else.


The story shows children how they can avoid behaving a certain way and how they can all get along far better if they act nicely toward each other. The golden rule: you be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.


How about your second book?


My second book was written when I was 98. It just got published now, after I turned 99. This book is called The Miracle Leaf. I don’t know why it happens but the trees in the fall are so beautiful. The thought of these beautiful leaves falling to the ground and becoming mulch led me to think about the story of one leaf that didn’t want to be part of the pile and become mulch. This leaf stays on the tree until it falls at the right time for a child to find it and bring it home. The children bring it home and plant it in a pot, and it miraculously begins to grow.


The mother tells her children that they should make a wish on the leaf and try to share the happiness they feel from the leaf growing with others.


Did anyone work on the books with you?


Well, I wrote them, but my daughter [Susan Lukin] did the illustrations of my books. She used to be an art teacher, and she does very nice drawings that really make my books look beautiful.


What would you say is the biggest difference between being a child nowadays and being a child when you grew up?


When I watch my great-grandchildren, they have play dates arranged and get taken everywhere by car. I grew up in Manhattan; we used to walk everywhere. We had no school busses; we would walk to school. We spent a lot of time in libraries because the libraries were around the corner.


My grandchildren play soccer and little leagues. My brothers used to play stickball in the street, and I would play jacks on the stoop. I was taught how to knit and sew. No televisions; we didn’t even have a telephone.


Is there a message you are trying to convey with your stories?


The message in both books is that I wanted people to be happy because I’m happy. My happiness can be traced back to my family. I had a good family, and we used to do a lot of things together. I like people, but I don’t push myself on them. I’m quiet. I like people because there’s something in everybody.


What do your grandchildren and great-grandchildren think about your books?


Well, the first book I dedicated to my great-grandchildren and this one to my three children. They’re very pleased; it’s nice to have a book dedicated to you.


Do you have plans to write another book?


For now I’m still working on selling this one. All of the proceeds from the book are donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Every penny from both of my books I send to St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a research hospital for children who have cancer. They never turn a child away. Last year I was able to send them a $1,132 check from the [proceeds of the] first book, and my goal this time is $1,200.

A Recipe for Failure

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

(Names and Situations changed)


 


Last week I wrote about how, through keeping a gratitude journal, we can program ourselves to experience more happiness in our lives. However, just as we can program ourselves to be happier, we can be programmed to be miserable and think less of ourselves. This can happen when someone we trust and respect tells us we cannot accomplish what we have set out to do. When our mentors or role models tell us that we do not have the intelligence or creativity to succeed, we begin to see ourselves as inferior. We begin to think less of ourselves, surround ourselves with a sense of failure and accomplish less because we feel incapable.  After all, people rise to the height of their own expectations.

 

            Sybil was working towards getting her degree and was succeeding. She had mastered the techniques needed for the highly interpersonal tasks required for a specific course. Being very much a people person, her innate ability to relate, empathize and be supportive of others along with her high motivation to succeed was a tremendous asset.  It was the text work that was giving Sybil difficulty. One day she discussed a particular problem she was having with her counselor. As Sybil explained her problem with the assignment, red flags were raised in the counselor’s mind. The way Sybil handled the assignment seemed to be consistent with how a learning disabled adult might attack the task. And so the counselor decided to ask Sybil if she’d consent to some testing. Wanting to succeed and hoping that whatever the test revealed might help her with her schoolwork, Sybil agreed. Unfortunately the results confirmed the counselors’ suspicions and it appeared that Sybil’s difficulties stemmed from some learning problems.  Instead of making suggestions on how Sybil could compensate and work around her disability, the counselor advised Sybil to quit the course, telling her that she really didn’t need this degree, would probably not succeed anyway, so why bother. Sybil was devastated. Her self-image plummeted. She quit the course and felt she was condemned to never being able to find success in any academic endeavor or even succeed at a job.

 

            Karen always knew she wanted to be a teacher. And so after high school she enrolled in college with that goal.  Though her grades were good, her counselor called her in and told her she really needed to rethink her career plans. Her test scores, related the counselor, made being a secretary a more realistic goal. Fortunately for Karen, she refused to listen and continued with her studies. Today Karen holds several doctorates and is a respected professional.

 

            When Albert was a student teacher, all the professionals he worked with were concerned with the way he related to young children. He used verbal put downs and insults as his means of controlling his class. And though the children hated him, few acted out, not wanting to be a victim of his whipping words. What was most surprising was that none of Albert’s supervisory staff ever discussed this verbal abuse in their evaluation of his work. They just passed him on with adequate recommendations. Today, years later, Albert is still moving from school to school never understanding why his one-year term appointments are never renewed.

 

            Being in the position of directing a person’s future is an ominous job. You can often determine that person’s future life prospects with your words. It is important to be honest and accurate but never underestimate the power of hard work and motivation. Letting a person know where their difficulties are does not have to be a death sentence. Being honest but giving ideas about how to get around the disabilities while letting the individual decide if they continue with a program is paramount. 

 

            Hearing a person tell you, you cannot succeed in your life’s choice is devastating. But you do not have to accept what is being said. More often than not success is in your own hands and a reflection of your attitude about yourself.

 

            Not giving a person the facts about their aptitudes or performance is as unfair as making career choices for them. We cannot grow if we do not have an accurate idea of our strengths and weaknesses and are given a chance to developed those strengths and change what is negative.

 

            But in the end it must be up to each individual to evaluate the difficulties and the assets they bring to a life choice. It is up to them to decide whether to continue or quit. Making the choice for them by telling them they will not succeed as they are or allowing them to think they will succeed when they need to revaluate can very well destroy their future.


 


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Happiness Is A Gratitude Journal

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

          You’re cooking or cleaning and the radio is on in the background to keep you company.  You really are not listening and have no idea what’s being said, but suddenly “Israel” is mentioned and you rush over, turn up the volume and listen. How does that happen? What made you hear that word?  What made you pay attention, while you had ignored the thousands of other words that might have been said in the minutes before? More importantly, how can we get that to work for us and make us happier?


 

I recently heard a fascinating lecture by Roz Malin, a motivational speaker, entitled “Happiness is a Choice”.  In the lecture Ms. Malin explains just how this process works and how we can use it to feel better about ourselves and the various issues we have to cope with.


You see it is impossible to deal with two opposite emotions at the same time. When we feel joy, we cannot feel sadness at that same moment. What we focus on, we will attract. Just as our mind has been trained to focus when we hear the words “Jew” or “Israel,” no matter where we are or what we are doing, so too, we can train our mind to focus on happiness and let joy enter our being while other emotions are ignored. But just how does a well spouse manage to focus on the positive and thus attract more happiness into his/her life?

 

Ms. Malin explained that at the base of our skull is our RAS, our Reticular Activating System. It is this system that filters the information we receive and lets into our psyche what agrees with our inner core, whether it is positive or negative.  Further, she says there is a way to reprogram our RAS so that we allow in more positive data and focus on things that are more affirming instead of those that are negative.

 

Ms. Malin’s plan involves less than five minutes of our time ever day, a gratitude journal and a commitment of at least 21 consecutive days in order to make us happier human beings. A minimal investment for great rewards.

 

Each night, before we go to sleep, we must write down in our journal, three things we are grateful for.  Our gratitude journal should have no other purpose but to record this information. It should be pleasant to look at (not just a few pieces of paper stapled together) and perhaps be enhanced with a special pen that is for this purpose alone.  The statements of gratitude must be written and not just spoken out loud or thought about. Writing uses a different part of your brain than thinking or speaking. The journal writing must be done uninterrupted for 21 days or more because it takes 21 days to make a habit. After about a month of keeping your journal you will begin to see a change in your outlook. It is important to continue keeping the journal, writing in it each night, long after you begin to feel more positive, as this will help that feeling of happiness become a part of you.

 

 For well spouses, this may not be an easy task. After care giving 24/7, and coping with the negative feelings that can accompany daily chores, caregivers may have to really search for things to feel grateful for. But even if at first, all you can find to write about is that your teeth have no cavities or you were able to get a little more uninterrupted sleep last night, find any three things each day for which you are grateful.  You will start to see that finding things to write down gets easier with time and that is the beginning of your change.

 

It is very important to be consistent and not miss a day.  Writing in your journal before you light candles Friday night and again after Havdalah or before bed when Shabbos is over, enables you to stay with the program. And the program is worth staying with!

 

             In the end, the way to enjoy life is to appreciate what you have. It is not to long for things we don’t have through a misguided sense of entitlement. For many well spouses, seeing what is still good in their lives has been lost. They have been blinded by the drudgery that comes with care giving. Having a gratitude journal and writing in it each night is a way of bringing a feeling of happiness back into their life.


 


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com 

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/08/09

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

I was really taken by the series on “Esther” and want to thank you for sharing the extended fascinating story with your readers. Her experience, as she herself had indicated, has much to impart. But perhaps as her story took on momentum, the primary lesson that first sparked the tragic occurrences in her life was obscured.

When she first wrote last May, her main lament was her rejection of a young man who had wanted to marry her and whom she dismissed out of hand for no other reason than that she had considered him to be inferior due to their dissimilar backgrounds.

It didn’t take her long to realize her mistake, which cost her dearly, and there was no way to undo the damage or to turn back the hands of time.

Unfortunately, many young people err in their judgment by exercising very little forethought before making the most crucial decision of their lives. Esther’s story is a powerful lesson for singles who are obsessed with outward appearances and who insist on pursuing material wealth over moral values.

Thank you, Esther, for allowing us to glimpse your pain in the hope that others will think twice about following their foolish aspirations. May you know only of happiness from now on and forever.

A Grateful Reader

Dear Rachel,

Just wanted to say thank you for that upper on Erev Pesach – the wonderful conclusion to Esther’s story. In these hard times it was especially gratifying to hear good news and to be uplifted by a very happy ending (or beginning?) to what started out as a real tragedy.

What a zechus for you, Rachel, and for the Jewish Press! You literally revived a Yiddishe neshama!

Keep up the good work!!

Still smiling

Dear Rachel,

I made copies of all the letters that comprised Esther’s story and shared it with all my married children who were just as enthralled as I was. Now whenever we are tempted to get annoyed by everyday nuisances, we remind ourselves of a woman who suffered unspeakably and who managed to survive despite tragedy that must have made it excruciatingly difficult for her to face each new day. Suddenly, our own inconveniences seem petty in comparison.

Esther certainly deserves her new found happiness and we wish her all the best and more.

Counting our blessings

Dear Rachel,

I’ve been following this fascinating story from the beginning and am awed by the kindness of Hashem for the complete transformation in “Esther’s” life. From someone who sympathized in her pain, I wish to convey my happiness for her and wish her all the best in her new life with her new husband, her son and family, and with her Aliyah. Her life truly made an Aliyah!!!! When things settle down, perhaps she would write a book; this could be a bestseller.

Cheering from the sidelines

Dear Rachel,

I write to convey my Mazel Tov to Esther. Wow! To believe that in our times of Hester Panim a miracle like this can happen! How a life can be turned around from a torturous existence to a joyous productive life with just a little bit (or a lot) of caring from family and strangers!

Mi Keamcho Yisroel!

Dear Rachel,

Like you, I became misty-eyed as I read of Esther’s engagement and of her imminent departure to the Holy Land. Like others, I suspect, I was so overcome with excitement over her good fortune that I was practically dancing in my living-room out of a genuine desire to be mesameach Chossen v’Kalla. I extend my heartiest Mazel Tov to Esther, as well as my wish that other sad souls be inspired by her story to hope and pray for a brighter future.

Hope indeed springs eternal

Dear Rachel,

As I glanced heavenward on Erev Pesach and beheld the glorious sun that so many around the globe were hoping to see on this particular morning of Birchas HaChama, I couldn’t help but think of Esther and of how she wrote “The sun rose on me in middle of the night! Miracle of miracles!!!” Yes, as you said, in the realm of G-d nothing is impossible. May the sun keep on shining to light Esther’s way as well as all of Klal Yisrael’s!

Never doubt that the sun will come out…

Dear Esther Enthusiasts,

Many of you have written to express your heartfelt congratulations to Esther, and we all seem to be in accord – we wish her fulfillment of her heart’s desires and a happy life forever after. Thank you all for your heartwarming comments and letters. Hopefully Esther continues to stay in tune, even as she embarks on her new life. Baruch Hashem!!

A Spiritual Child

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Title: Raising a Child With SoulAuthor:  Slovie Jungreis-WolffPublisher: St. Martin’s Press

Many a parent would like to see their child follow in their footsteps.  Sometimes it is a very hard act to follow, but in the case of Slovie Jungreis-Wolff it is a nachas to all of us to see her following the path of her world-renowned mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

Jungreis-Wolff has just published a book, Raising a Child With Soul, that mirrors her mother’s easy style and excellent life lessons.  One doesn’t usually hear it said of a non-fiction book, “I couldn’t put the book down,” or “One page flowed into the other until I had finished the whole book.”   But it can be said of this one – and so much more.  It is a tribute not only to her mother, but also to Slovie’s father, the late Rabbi Meshulam Jungreis, zt”l, to whom she dedicates her book, that all of their teachings inform her very life.

We live in a time when children are given permission to “do their own thing.” Respecting parents is considered old-fashioned and even in our own Orthodox society “off the derech” children are all too common.  Jungreis-Wolff reminds us that the key to our survival is the Jewish home, a mikdash me’at, a sanctuary.  “Children who grow up in a home where the Presence of G-d is consistently acknowledged are spiritual children.”  They are not afraid because they have been given a strong foundation of faith.  Children who observe the strong faith and deep commitment of their parents to G-d, grow up with soul.

 

 

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

How many of today’s children are taught to express gratitude?  Jungreis-Wolff reminds us that Judaism teaches us that saying thank you is a means of building character.  It keeps us humble.  If children hear their parents saying thank you, they will learn to do so as well to their parents, teachers, etc.

  We thank G-d in our daily prayers, an act of hakaras ha’tov – recognizing the good bestowed on us by our Creator and also by people. We teach our children to begin each day with the Modeh Ani prayer in which we thank G-d for giving us another day of life.  And we let them hear us express gratitude to our spouses, our parents, our friends -   and anyone else who shows us kindness.

Where is the road to happiness?  Slovie Jungreis-Wolff gives us the key to helping our children find true happiness in discovering a sense of mission and purpose in life. If we arm them with the tools and skills that are inscribed in the pages of this book, they will be well prepared to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Raising a Child With Soul is written in anecdotal style similar to the books by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.  Real life stories are used to convey the wisdom on each page.  There is a beautiful chapter on nighttime rituals and especially the recitation of the Shema.  The section on priorities will give everyone pause.  And there are the very personal stories of Slovie’s life that she freely shares with us. 

There are chapters that will make you smile and chapters that will bring tears to your eyes, but all who read this book will gain tremendous insight into raising a child with proper Torah values – raising a child with a beautiful soul.

 On Monday evening, February 23, Slovie and her mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis will discuss the art of childrearing at Barnes and Noble at West 82 Street and Broadway at 7:00 p.m. The public is invited. A second symposium will be held on Thursday, February 26, at The 92 Street Y at 8:15 p.m.  Slovie will be available to sign books after the programs. For information and tickets to the Y program please call 212-415-5500.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books//2009/02/04/

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