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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Mazel Tov’

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!!


Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/06/09

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Dear Victimized,

In your letter (which appeared in last week’s column) it didn’t seem as though you were seeking advice as much as simply needing to air your frustrations and pent-up emotions repressed for the many torturous years of your dysfunctional marriage.

Surely there is much more to this fiasco than the details in your letter reveal, yet you can rest assured that reader sympathy leaned heavily in your favor. How could anyone help but empathize with you and the miserable situation you endured for so long?

At the same time, we are somewhat puzzled. For instance, for most of your letter we are led to believe that your spouse was an uncaring, ungrateful, unfeeling and selfish witch. Then about three quarters of the way into your letter, we are suddenly exposed to your ex-wife’s suffering from an “eating disorder.” That tidbit of information out of left field shifts the force of our emotions, for a person thus affected cannot be held totally accountable for his/her actions.

And of course the question that begs to be asked: Why didn’t you put an end to your distress by ending the marriage long before 14 years elapsed? (You indicate that it was your wife who finally took the initiative to dissolve the marriage.)

Though you don’t state so outright, we are given the impression that you have availed yourself of some counseling, but presumably only towards the very end of your marriage or after you found yourself alone. Consulting a reliable therapist early on would have sooner brought home the realization that you were not to blame for the shabby treatment your ex doled out on a regular basis. Plus, a professional counselor would have steered your wife to receive medical attention for her debilitating condition. And if your relationship had proven to be unsalvageable despite professional guidance, you would have at least been able to resolve to break free of your misery, perhaps at a much earlier time.

If your ex was, in fact, ill when you married her (as you imply), how did she manage to have children, and how badly did having them further wreak damage to her already delicate mental and physical state? Where was her family (who must have been aware of her eating disorder) while all this was transpiring? Where was yours…?

Your story offers some vital lessons.

(1) At the top of the list: Every shadchan (or anyone playing the role) has an obligation to divulge any medical and/or physical condition to the interested party. Withholding such important information will inevitably lead to heartbreak and serious repercussions for the couple as well as their families.

(2) Constant putdowns can affect a victim’s self-worth to the point where s/he will feel deserving of the abusive spouse’s wrath. (Your feeling at fault was a normal reaction to your wife’s abnormal actions.)

(3) Professional marriage counseling can help avert or mitigate the agony of a victim’s “battered person syndrome” (see #2 above).

(4) “Eating disorders” are serious ailments often accompanied by depression and anxiety. They can cause irreversible organ damage and can be fatal if medical attention is not solicited in a timely manner.

(5) You made it clear in your letter that you and your ex-wife were not on the same page in your religious standing. Though this may not necessarily have been the undoing of your marriage, it nevertheless contributed to the discord and underscores the importance of seeking a mate with whom one shares common values and goals.

(6) Every divorce action leads to heartache and emotional upheaval, particularly where children are involved. Badmouthing one’s ex (lashon ha’ra) only serves to compound and prolong the misery all around.

(7) Embitterment and hope cannot co-exist. To get on with a meaningful and purposeful life, one must purge all bitterness from the heart. Life may at times seem unfair, but it is wrong and senseless to judge all of man (or woman) by the actions of some.

(8) A newly divorced person is greeted with Mazel Tov for having dissolved a hopelessly unworkable union and is wished good fortune from here on in – something that can be realized only by leaving the past behind.

You end your letter with a unique observation: “… the first woman on earth gave the first man on earth to eat of the apple so he should not live and so that she could marry someone else.” You then ask, “So who is selfish – man or woman? Who was wronged? Who had the problem, and who is the snake?”

It was, indeed, the first woman who gave the first man to eat of the forbidden fruit, but it was the snake on two feet who instigated the whole spiel, hoping to gain Chava for himself (for he thought that she would first offer the fruit to Adam who would then die).

A forgiving Creator spared the lives of Adam and Chava. The serpent, however, was immediately condemned to lose its legs and to slither on its belly and eat the dust of the earth for eternity – for it had spoken lashon ha’ra against Hashem (when it tried to convince Chava that a jealous G-d did not want man to possess the knowledge only obtainable by eating from the Etz HaDa’as).

Hopefully, you are on the road to a full recovery from your ordeal and are receiving both therapeutic and legal counsel in order to cope and deal with the unfortunate circumstance of your children’s unhealthy living conditions.

Preparing for the Purim holiday brings to mind a most remarkable woman – our brave and beautiful Queen Esther, the Megillah’s heroine who used her attributes and then some to help bring about a miraculous outcome for her persecuted people.

Esther HaMalkah’s beauty shone from within; her outstanding trait of discretion, both in her bearing and speech, is one that every woman should make note of and strive to emulate.

Hatzlachah for a better and brighter future… and Simchas Purim!


Baruch HaShem: Other Views

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

One Way

Paintings and Objects by Lynn Russell

Chassidic Art Institute

375 Kingston Ave., Brooklyn, New York 11213;  (718) 774 9149

Noon – 7pm; Sunday – Thursday: Zev Markowitz, director

Until January 24, 2008


Lynn Russell’s current exhibition at the Chassidic Art Institute challenges us with a piety that resists all easy answers.  First there are the Baruch HaShem pieces, highly unusual collaged texts combining letters, images and objects that somehow lead us to the painted and altered photographs of Jewish life, finally guiding us to her signature image, “One Way.”  Exactly where is the artist taking us?


In 2006 Lynn Russell created a petite series of collages that explored variations on the common phrase of Orthodox piety, “Baruch HaShem.”  She was interested in how this commonplace utterance could find itself, visually, in diverse contexts.  We see the letters initially on a box of matches, a paper cookie, a discarded piece of cardboard and finally a box of Gefen Lemon Extract.



Baruch HaShem (2006), 11 x 14, collage, photograph and oil paint by Lynn Russell



On the most banal material, the letters – each salvaged from a unique source – take on a kind of visual poetry of their own while on the more recognizable host, they battle for recognition, tending to obscure and bully the everyday object.   In her use of these commonplace objects as the foundation and foil for the expression of thanks, Russell manages to illuminate yiddishkeit with a “pop” sensibility, somehow grounding the expression of acceptance and gratitude with the nitty gritty of everyday life. 


As we see her series develop, the material becomes more complex, moving first into Russell’s familiar terrain of the photographic image.  Bus Lane captures an image of speed and danger in a night scene that suggests that a vehicle has just whizzed by on a busy city street, narrowly missing the viewer (or the viewer just missing the bus) and eliciting the bold asymmetrical collaged response of “Baruch HaShem!”   She next explores the varieties of newsprint, the very elemental stuff of letters, here the text pasted over an everyday automobile advertisement.



Bus Lane (2006), 5 x 7, collage and photograph by Lynn Russell



Finally her vision fixates on an ultimate manipulation of image and text in Baruch HaShem.  She has photographed a collage of the text with each letter seeming to take on a life of its own.  There are swatches of colored paper and traces of other collage material, all composed with more of an eye to rearrange the text rather than elucidate it.  But the surprise is that now Russell has photographed the original collage and painted in oils on top of it, adding yet another level of visual complexity. The final effect is of an integrated painting; viscous, deep and personal, even though the artwork is neither totally painting, or photograph or collage. 


Lynn Russell’s next set of images returns to works we are more familiar with from her earlier exhibitions, the manipulated photograph or Xerox print.  Here however she starts out with a very limited palette, exclusively black and white.  The first two images are immersed in celebration taken from a wedding; a kallah posing in front of a screen and a group of Hasidic men dancing.  But simple documents, they are not.


Kallah is a visual conundrum.  Practically the entire scene has been appropriated by Russell and the photographic backdrop a mere pretext for visual fireworks, a virtuosic calligraphic feast that squiggles and decorates a Matisse inspired tableau centered on the bride’s happy face.  Her moment of marital joy has become an occasion for the artist’s joy.



Mazel Tov (2006), 23 x 28, Offset print painted with ink by Lynn Russell



Similarly the dancers in Mazel Tov celebrate with the chassan, clad in a white kittel, but here, seem to be black-hatted actors in another more ominous drama.  The environment is super-charged with agitated lines that generate an uneasy tension and the chassan suddenly seems vulnerable and alienated from the revelers.


Her next set of images is even more radically rendered in black and white.  Four stark images of men; each individual virtually anonymous because of the radical nature of Russell’s copying, enlarging, re-photographing, and copying until she has transformed the original image into her own vision.   They are ciphers of religious men engaged in otherworldly pursuits, removed from the world by the very nature of the artist’s manipulation.  In a startling way these black and white images reach their fulfillment in the three large-scale, painted color photographs that crown the exhibition’s ambitious theme.


Each of these images represents a core value of Judaism boiled down to its essence.  Sukkot represents the hiddur mitzvah involved in carefully choosing a beautiful lulav and esrog.  Two men are patiently examining one aspect of the four species.  The image is disarmingly familiar, black jackets and hats contrasting with stark white shirts, both facing the same direction to examine respectively an esrog and a lulav bundle.  But the abstraction that results from Russell’s reworking of the photographic image obliterates their faces and individuality, rendering these pious young men into a chilling symbol of what Jewish men methodically, perhaps obsessively, do before yom tov. 



Bar Mitzvah (2006), 30 x 24, painted photograph by Lynn Russell



In her most radical distillation, Bar Mitzvah, Russell depicts the public reading of the Torah as a confrontation between the brilliantly lit white scroll and a deeply silhouetted figure, clad in tallis and kipah.   The reader is concentrating, focused only on where the yad has momentarily rested.  At this moment he clearly knows no other world than the holy words.  It is an image of enormous solitude even though we know with certainty that this scene can happen only in the public scene of a congregation. 


Finally the reassuring textual message of One Way stands in stark contrast to the widely eclectic visual language that Russell employs to animate this (and most other) images.  A father and son, rendered in bluish monochrome, walk hand in hand through an urban landscape fraught with visual danger.  These Hasidim stand as sacred islands in a sea of unaccountable, indeed threatening, changes and turmoil.  The surrounding world is drenched in violent colors of crimson and sickly, yellowed browns, effaced and brutalized in her vision.  The father must guard his son by the only other stable element in the composition, the simple street sign proclaiming the certainty of religious faith, “One Way”.  But is there really only one way?  Is it that simple?  It is exactly this tension that gives this image such a powerful impact.



One Way (2006), 27 x 21, painted photograph by Lynn Russell



Lynn Russell’s artwork resides on a very fine edge between the deeply felt piety of “Baruch HaShem” and all the doubts and tension that pursuing a religious life can have on our individuality, our independence and freedom.  Do the words “Baruch HaShem”, uttered in thankfulness, faith, and submission to God’s will, also mean that we must lose a bit (or more) of ourselves in the Divine will?  Do we become less or more in these encounters?  These are the questions that Lynn Russell’s current exhibition makes impossible to avoid.


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art.  Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com  

Richard McBee

A Lesson In Self-Control

Wednesday, September 12th, 2001

The objective of Pre-Marital Counseling is for couples to learn new skills on how to improve commu­nication, and resolve conflicts creatively. It would seem logical that the parents of these couples have learned from being together and through a lot of tough times that good communication is the single most important aspect of a satisfying relationship.

Take the case of Yoni and Dina, ages 22 and 19. The couple was referred to me by a leading rav in the community. Both Chassan and Kallah came from excep­tionally fine families and yeshiva backgrounds. Yoni was accepted to dental school and Dina was still in school. The wedding was only weeks away and the couple was getting a little nervous. As with all couples, I did a short intake and assessment in our first meeting.

Yoni’s personality is easy going — he likes quiet, uninterrupted time alone for reflecting, reading and studying new subjects.

Dina’s personality is outgoing — she likes people, she’s warm and friendly, and she likes organizing projects and events.

After the fifth session, I wished the happy couple Mazel Tov and off they went into the “sunset”!

It wasn’t until three months later, as I was rush­ing to get a haircut, that I met Dina standing outside the barbershop waiting for Yoni to finish his haircut. The timing was perfect. With every couple I do a three-month follow up. As we talked about married life, Dina explained that “Yoni is very busy in school and I knew how hard he was studying, but since he started school we never talked! It was just Yoni and that book! We didn’t go out anymore be­cause that would be a waste of study time.” But, as time passed, Dina said “I started feeling lonely. Yoni noticed that I was get­ting moody but said noth­ing, and with time, I started getting angry at him. The loneliness scared me, all I wanted to do was to release this rage of anger. But if I did, Yoni could no longer study. As I was just about to breakdown and cry, Baruch Hashem, I noticed that refrigerator magnet you gave us in our last session. It stated that ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it’ and with that, I remembered what we talked about. At that moment, with all my strength, I stopped myself. I needed to talk to Yoni, not yell or cry. I did the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life, I waited until the next day. At that point, I was calm and relaxed enough to talk to Yoni. We took turns talking and listening to each other, as you taught us. We discussed our preferences and what I was feeling, and for the first time I felt that he was listening, which made me feel so much better!”

In the spring of ’76, Rabbi Moish Chait, shlita, stated in one of his lecture series at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim that “Hashem held back a part of Himself in order to create the world. When a spouse holds back anger as a form of self control, that couple merits the Shechina to rest upon them.”

Moishe Herskowitz MS., CSW, is a marriage coun­selor and maintains his private practice in Brooklyn as founder of CPC. He is an educator, lecturer, consultant and adjunct professor at Touro College. He is the coun­seling coordinator for Career Services at Touro College and the At Risk Center in Brooklyn. Moishe is presently working as a licensed guidance counselor for the NYC Board of Ed. in Special Education.

For more information or to obtain a free brochure, please contact Moishe Herskowitz at 718-435-7388 or at Ladino23@aol.com.

CPC — Center for Pre-Marital Counseling, is en­dorsed by Rabbi Pikus of COJO of Flatbush, and leading rabbonim and Torah authorities in the NY community.

Moishe Herskowitz

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/a-lesson-in-self-control/2001/09/12/

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