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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hashem Torah’

The Invisible Woman (Part II)

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The following article was written by Breindy Lazor in response to Cheryl Kupfer’s On Our Own column for the week of January 6.

 

Dear Cheryl,

Your thoughts in last week’s column were an absolutely perfect reflection of everything going through my mind and the minds of many of my friends for the last few years.  Thank you so much.  I always enjoy reading your articles, and when I read this one I felt I had to write to you because the topic touches such a nerve with me.

As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s in a “regular” (i.e. middle of the road) Orthodox home in Boro Park, I realize now that I witnessed a societal shift towards the right which happened so gradually that when I look around today I just can’t believe how different things have become.  When did I ever think about who I was sitting next to on a bus?  When did I ever pay a shiva call and find a mechitza separating men and women so that family members in mourning can’t sit beside each other or at least see one another?  Who separated men and women at simchas such as a seudas bris where there would be no dancing?  There has been an all-encompassing change on every level, touching on almost every facet of our lives as frum Jews.  And that change is now so complete that few people even remember what things used to be like, and even fewer seem to remember what really counts and what Hashem really wants of us.

The last straw for me was the appearance of newspapers and magazines, in recent years, whose publishers refuse to print pictures of women.  Despite certain writers, despite certain appealing stories, I made up my mind to stop buying these publications because I feel that by buying them I would be supporting something that is twisted.  Like you, I cannot understand what could possibly be so horribly un-tzniusdik in showing a woman dressed modestly, and at the very least, from the neck up.  One article in such a magazine featured a write up on the life and accomplishments of a very famous author, historian and Holocaust survivor, yet it was her husband who was pictured and not she.  I think that was the issue that shocked me right out of ever buying the magazine again.  What an affront to this woman, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized what an affront it was to all women.

The leap from making women invisible to viewing them as inferior is a small one, and I knew it would come eventually.  It therefore came as no surprise to me that a woman might be beaten if she is pushing a carriage on Shabbos by men who don’t hold of the eiruv or that a girl might be spat on by a man who decides she is not dressed according to his standards of tznius.  One thing I would like to point out is that it’s an even smaller leap from being viewed as inferior to believing you ARE inferior.  The messages I received in school always revolved around tznius and there was always some terrible catastrophe that could potentially occur, to us personally or to society as a whole, if it wasn’t adhered to properly.  We never learned about it as something beautiful to move towards; rather it was always about covering up so as to move away – away from sin and Gihenom.  Small wonder that so many women and girls rebel against that message when they finally leave school.  Smaller wonder that so many women and girls in our community have complexes about their bodies.  Here I am, long out of school, yet the messages haven’t stopped, making it clear to me that I didn’t just have a few misguided teachers – my school was a microcosm of what our society would become.

To illustrate, some months ago I saw signs in Flatbush reprimanding women who wear “flesh-colored” stockings.  The sign said they were inappropriate and may not be worn and had signatures of greatly respected roshei yeshiva.  I was dismayed to see it and glad when I saw the signs had been torn down a few days later.  Once again it was the familiar mussar message of,  “Cover up, girls!  Don’t let anyone know that you have legs, or any other potentially provocative body parts.”  I was enraged.  Why are men looking at women’s legs, determining whether their stockings are flesh-colored or not?  Why are men analyzing women’s skirt lengths?  And why are women always having the finger pointed at them?

It seems, as you pointed out, that recent events are an inevitable outcome of a) women constantly being guilted into feeling responsible for every ill in the world and b) the general public (women included) hopping on board and joining in the chanting of that message.  In my opinion, the only way out of this is a two-fold approach:  Those of us (men AND women) who have been doing the finger pointing need to stop playing G-d and making women or any particular group feel that they are responsible for all the troubles in society, and secondly, and more importantly - because the blaming will not stop so quickly – the rest of us need to stop buying into it!  No one should be telling you that he or she knows what your relationship is with Hashem or how He feels about you.  Each individual has his or her bond with Hashem and the responsibility to look deeply into himself/herself in order to grow spiritually and continue to strengthen this bond.  With this awareness, the guidance of a rav then serves to support this journey.  The rav (or rebbetzin or morah) becomes an enabler – not an accuser.

Avoiding Taxes, At All Costs?

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

 I was recently traveling across the United States/Canadian Border. As soon as people heard I would be traveling that way, my phone began ringing off the hook. Friends, and even strangers, called me to ask if I would take packages for them. From a favorite food for someone’s daughter, baby clothes for a new grandchild, to a much loved breakfast cereal; the requests came pouring in. But what astounded me the most was the requests from people I didn’t know asking me to take jewelry. One person asked if I would take a diamond ring to her son so he could propose. She wanted to send it with me so that it would not be held up for taxes.

 

 I couldn’t help but wonder how the stranger could know I was an honest person and actually trust me to deliver the ring. And then I thought about all these packages I was being asked to take and wondered if they indeed contained what the people told me they did. Forget about them trusting me. The real question was could I trust them?

 

            There are many reasons I do not take packages for people when I travel. I am still astounded that so many people do, even from strangers. Every few months we read another story about someone being arrested for unknowingly smuggling drugs hidden in cans of coffee, birthday cakes, or suitcases. We are all fair game to the unscrupulous or the addicted whether we are close relatives or have never seen this person before. So many innocent people are serving time in prison for helping a friend or a stranger. 

 

So, how can we teach our children (and even ourselves) to maintain a high level of chesed, to be willing to run and do for another, while at the same time staying safe in a world filled with danger? How can we learn to tell the difference between chesed and exploitation?

 

            This is what I would like to suggest as a partial solution to the problem. It may not help in all situations, but I think in most cases it can be effective.  It’s simply to follow a strict adherence to halacha. 

 

 People are asked to take packages for others for a variety of reasons. For some the packages are a way of sending their love. For others it is a way of avoiding taxes. Most of us have come to see cheating the taxman as a positive thing. But in reality it is simply geneiva, theft. The Torah instructs us to obey the laws of the land we live in. Like it or not, taxes are part and parcel of those rules. We need to teach our children, and realize ourselves, that helping someone avoid taxes is simply not kosher. If we are able to get this message through to our children then they will readily refuse to take the diamonds (so a friend can avoid taxes) that turn out to be drugs or the artifact (with the high tax rate) that is filled with Ecstasy or jewelry etc. They will deny the request as quickly as they would deny a suggestion that they rob the local store because they will see them both as theft, which indeed is exactly what they are.

 

 But what of the other items we are asked to deliver – the gift to a daughter living in a different city or the toy to a grandchild or the sealed package for a friend’s birthday. Emes, truth, is our protection in these cases. Simply ask the person to write their own name and address on the package and then be truthful at the border, telling the guard that you are taking a package for this person and you did not pack it yourself. Ask the sender to leave the package open so you can examine it and know what it contains so you can be honest at the border when asked what you are carrying. Anyone, stranger or friend, who declines your request and wants you to lie for them, can just use the mail services.

 

 I am not naive enough to think that this will solve the whole problem. Unscrupulous people will still find ways to take advantage of our children’s and our own innocence and lack of experience. But being meticulously honest and truthful in all our dealings, both within our community and outside it, being extra careful in our halachic observance can only add to our own well-being and safety. The closer we strive to meet the ideals of Hashem’s Torah, the more we infuse ourselves and teach our children to be thoroughly honest and truthful in all our dealings, in business and life, the more protected we will be.


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Take A Child To Shul… Please: Emulating The Ways Of Hashem

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

A terribly sad version of the expression, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” often comes to mind whenever I am approached by single parents (usually mothers) asking me to assist them in finding a caring, responsible adult to take their child or children (usually their son or sons) to shul on Shabbos and/or Yom Tov.

I am very well aware that many of our decent, caring readers may find it incredulous that people in our vibrant, bustling communities are struggling with this dilemma. Trust me, though, when I say that this is a very real challenge for many of the brave and frightened single parents in our kehillos. I’ve lost track of the number of times in the 11 years since Project Y.E.S. was founded that I was approached by single mothers who requested that I help make arrangements for someone to take their son(s) to shul. Countless others have asked me for an eitzah regarding the appropriate response to their son who categorically refuses to go to shul alone.

I am fully aware that the data may be skewed upward in my particular instance due to my family background. My father passed away shortly before my fourth birthday and my amazing, resilient mother raised my two siblings and me as a single parent for two years before remarrying. And since I have mentioned this in my lectures and writings, I assume that many single parents may feel more comfortable discussing these issues with me – as they suppose I will be more sensitive to their reality. But even factoring in that information, there are still far too many children in our communities who fall into the subset for whom Shabbasos and especially Yomim Tovim are very challenging times.

From my vantage point, there are a number of societal factors that contribute to this growing phenomenon. Our communities have, Baruch Hashem, expanded, as has the size of our families. The divorce rate is rising and there at least seems to be a spike in the number of people who are, r”l, passing away and leaving younger children behind.

Another significant sociological factor is that a far greater percentage of frum people nowadays (especially younger couples) are abandoning smaller communities and deciding to live in metropolitan areas with large Jewish populations. Lost in the anonymity of big-city life, many individuals in our community who need a personal, nurturing touch are finding that it is an elusive quest in the bustling setting that is big-city life.

There is much you can do to help single parents and their children:

· Invite a single parent and his/her children for a Shabbos/Yom Tov meal or two.

· Offer to take the boys (and perhaps girls) to shul, and have them sit with you.

· Before or during Yom Tov, please consider offering childcare for a single parent so that she/he can unwind, go for a walk, or just have some precious quiet time. With school out, single parents are on call literally 24/7.

· Please afford single parents and their children privacy and dignity by doing your best to avoid asking them uncomfortable questions. After my father passed away, b’shem tov, all I ever heard during my formative years was people telling me what a wonderful person he was. Nevertheless, all these years later, I still remember my discomfort and the feeling of what-in-the-world-am-I-supposed-to-say listening to all sorts of comments made by well-intentioned people.

I cannot even begin imagining what it is like to be a child whose parents are in the middle of a messy divorce. Our rich and timeless tradition mandates that we begin the Seder by inviting guests to join us at our Seder table. I suggest that we broaden that concept this year, and as we approach the child-centered holiday of Pesach, we look around our neighborhoods and see what we can do to ensure that all our children experience true simchas Yom Tov in the welcoming embrace of our communities.

A recurring theme in the stirring words of our nevi’im (Yeshaya 1; Yirmiyahu 9) is that the Jews of those times were concentrating far too much on spiritual trappings (bringing karbanos) and not enough on the essence of Hashem’s Torah (honesty, integrity and kindness). It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring karbanos to the Beis HaMikdash. But as the navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the yasom/almanah” (Yeshaya 1:16-17). After all, supporting those among us who are weak and who find it challenging to conduct their lives with simchas hachayim is the very essence of Hashem’s Torah.

In these troubling times, we ought to strive to fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu, “Become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).

In the zechus of our efforts to comfort Hashem’s children, may He comfort us with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash – where we can participate in the korban Pesach in all its glory.

Should We Keep Our At-Risk Child At Home?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

We have six children ranging in age from a married daughter of 22 to a son of eight. Baruch Hashem, things are well with us regarding shalom bayis, parnassah and other areas of our lives.

Our 17-year-old son is a very at-risk teenager. We have been supporting him with testing, tutors, etc. throughout his school years, but nothing seems to have worked. He’s been in several schools since 9th grade, but dropped out and is currently working full time. We have an excellent relationship with him, as he is respectful and does not violate Shabbos/kashrus in front of our family members. But he is, at this point in his life, completely non-observant.

Our dilemma regards his four siblings still in our home. We are terribly worried that they will pick up his habits and lifestyle. Here are our questions:

1) Should we ask him to leave our home, as many of our friends suggest? (We don’t think this is a good idea.)

2) How can we allow him to remain in our home while turning his back on all we hold dear?

3) What do we tell our other children? They all know, to some degree and depending on their age, what is really going on.

We are so torn over this situation. Adding to the confusion is all the diverse and conflicting advice we are being given by others. We are hearing, “be firm, be flexible, give him an ultimatum, always keep the lines of communication open,” etc.

We would be most grateful for your advice. Thank you very much.

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

The first thing that struck me about your letter was the part about your confusion over getting conflicting advice from many different people. I hear that from so many parents who are in your excruciating situation. I hope this column helps you sort things out and not add to the swirl of information.

Based on your letter, I have a strong hunch that you are doing exactly what you should be doing since you describe your relationship with your son as excellent. Trust me, if your relationship survived his rocky school experience and crisis of faith, you should be giving guidance to parents yourselves.

While there is little I can do to completely allay your fears about your other children picking up your son’s rebellious behaviors, I can tell you that in my 25 years of dealing with at-risk kids and their families, I have found it extremely rare that a child went off the derech because he or she followed a sibling who strayed from Yiddishkeit. What often skews the data and leads people to believe that off the derech is “contagious” are situations where there are significant flaws in the family dynamics that are left unaddressed and uncorrected despite the fact that a child exhibited signs of rebellion.

Now for some answers to your questions:

1) I am usually reluctant to give advice to people I do not know, but there does not seem to be any reason for you to even consider asking him to leave your home. I would respond differently if you mentioned that he was self-destructing (i.e. substance abuse) or undermining your authority or the quality of life at home, or if you felt there was a clear and present danger of another child going off the derech. But none of these seem to apply, so I don’t think sending him away is open for discussion in your situation.

For parents who have one or more of those three conditions present regarding a rebellious child, I usually recommend that they first go for counseling to try and improve things, and to gain a clearer understanding of the issues at hand. Then, armed with that information, they should visit their rav for guidance regarding sending a child away from home. I do not think parents should make that dinei nefashos (life-or-death) decision without both components – medical and rabbinic advice.

2) Several years ago, one of our leading gedolim told me that a father in your situation should inform his child that he ought not feel disenfranchised from Hashem’s Torah and its eternal lessons just because he does not fully understand it all at the young age of 17. This is because growing close to Hashem and comprehending His Torah is a lifelong mission. You, as parents, can be most helpful in reframing your son’s “no” to a “not yet.”

3) What should you tell your children? Tell them simply that you love them all unconditionally – always and forever. And that means giving each of them what they need when they need it. Period!

Explain to them that, above all, at this juncture in his life your 17-year-old needs understanding and acceptance – and as difficult as this is, you are committed to provide this to him. This is the most honest and beautiful thing you can tell them; that they would get the same measure of unconditional love, time and acceptance from you if they had a crisis of any sort in their lives. Tell them that they, too, should love their brother unconditionally and not withdraw their emotional support for him due to his eroding faith in Hashem.

I cannot predict the future, but I can assure you that the best chance you have that your son will find his way back to Hashem is to follow the darchei noam approach I suggested. The bedrock of your unconditional love will hopefully provide the platform upon which your son can gently and slowly build upon – and return to Torah and mitzvos.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parsha, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs – including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children” – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/should-we-keep-our-at-risk-child-at-home/2008/02/20/

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