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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mean’

Bullying Must End!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Dear Dr. Yael:

My husband and I are having a problem with our seven-year-old daughter. She is having difficulty with socializing and was bullied this past year by another girl. She is a very sweet girl, and it is hard for her to respond when someone is mean to her. I don’t know how to help her and it is breaking my heart to see her going more and more into a shell. I spoke to her teachers and they tried to be more on top of the situation, but I am concerned about this coming school year. My daughter is already starting to dread going back to school because she is nervous that the bullying will continue. What can we do to help her avoid another difficult year?

A Heartbroken Mother

Dear Heartbroken Mother:

It is very frustrating to watch a child being bullied and to not know what you can do to help. The most important thing to do is to empower your daughter and help build her confidence. This can be done in several ways.

Does your daughter have any other girlfriends that would help her stand up to this bully? Getting other girls to help your daughter may make her feel more confident (and less hurt) by the bullying girl. And the girl who is bullying her may be much less likely to continue the bullying if she sees that it will not be tolerated by others. Research has shown that the most effective way to stop bullying is to get the bystanders to become proactive. Even though the other kids who are standing around may not be outwardly contributing to the bullying, they are in essence contributing to it because they are not standing up for the victim, thus allowing the bullying to continue. Someone proactive will defend the victim and not let the bully get away with demeaning anyone or making anyone feel bad. If even just a few girls decide that they will not let bullying occur, they can make a huge difference. Remember that in numbers there is strength. While I am not advocating for the children in your daughter’s class be mean to the bully, they must be assertive and make it clear that bullying behavior will not be tolerated in their school.

It is imperative that you make every effort to raise your daughter’s confidence level so she can have the self-belief to answer the bully and not look hurt while doing so – a very challenging feat. It would be helpful to come up with some witty comebacks and then role-play. Once your daughter feels comfortable with various responses, she will be more likely to use them when needed. Practicing the situation beforehand will help her feel more secure and less scared. Make sure to distinguish between nasty and aggressive remarks on one hand and confident and assertive remarks on the other. While a mean remark may sting the bully and make your daughter feel better in the short term, it will not be effective in the long term – as no one truly feels better when he or she makes someone else feel bad.

There is a huge difference between standing up for oneself and retaliating against others. Retaliation will likely continue the negative cycle and may even get your daughter in trouble. Defending oneself is a sign of self-assertion and strength, not meanness. Appropriate comebacks to bullying include “I’m surprised that such a nice girl like you would speak that way” or “I’m really sorry you feel that way.”

It may also be beneficial to get your daughter involved in some kind of chesed project and/or extracurricular activity. When people give to others, they feel useful and better about themselves. Many young girls and boys assist Tomchei Shabbos and other tzedakah organizations.

Another idea is to have your daughter aid a mother with several young children. These are great ways to do something positive on behalf of the frum community while your daughter strives to raise her sense of self. Getting involved in a specialty class (e.g. art, gymnastics, or dance) will also help her succeed in other areas and improve her self-esteem. These classes can also be great places to make new friends who share similar interests. Any kind of active class will pump your daughter with adrenaline, making her consistently feel better.

Try to minimize criticizing your daughter while maximizing your compliments and words of positive reinforcement. Seek opportunities to praise her for things she accomplishes and for the way she acts. Point out her special qualities in meaningful and sincere ways. For example, instead of saying “great job,” say “I really liked how you handled yourself when your little brother hit you. I could tell that you were upset, but you controlled yourself and acted like a true bas Yisrael. You really are a special girl!” This demonstrates that you were paying attention to her actions, and your praise lets her know that what she did was exemplary. She is then able to internalize the praise because it is meaningful.

If none of these ideas help your daughter, please seek professional help in order to build your daughter’s confidence and give her tools to use in stressful social situations. Never forget that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Getting your daughter help now can save you from years of future therapy. Hatzlachah with your trying situation!

Note to parents whose children are bullying others: Get your children professional help to rectify their abusive behavior. Bullying is a serious problem for the victims and perpetrators alike. It is not something that children generally grow out of. Most children who bully feel insecure about themselves and in order to feel better feel the need to put others down. But in reality this creates a negative cycle that makes the bullies feel increasingly worse because being mean to others does not make them feel better about themselves.

Help them express what is bothering them so they can stop taking out their pain on other children. Now is the time to assets them in gaining more effective coping skills, thereby improving their middos. If they don’t change for the better at a young age, they may have difficulties in the future regarding issues like job security, getting married, and staying married.

Bullying is unacceptable and it’s easier for a bully to change his or her behavior at a young age. So please help your precious children learn to socialize appropriately. In the end they will be nicer to others – while feeling better about themselves.

How to Give

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Listen to these stories. Behind them lies an extraordinary insight into the nature of Jewish ethics:

Story 1. Rabbi Abba used to bind money in his scarf, sling it on his back, and place it at the disposal of the poor (Ketubot 67b).

Story 2. Mar Ukba had a poor man in his neighborhood into whose door socket he used to throw four coins every day. Once the poor man thought, “I will go and see who does me this kindness.” That day Mar Ukba stayed late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as the poor man saw them moving the door (to leave the coins) he ran out after them, but they fled from him and hid. Why did they do this? Because it was taught: One should throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than publicly put his neighbor to shame (Ketubot 67b).

Story 3. When Rabbi Jonah saw a man of good family who had lost his money and was ashamed to accept charity, he would go and say to him, “I have heard that an inheritance has come your way in a city across the sea. So here is an article of some value. Sell it and use the proceeds. When you are more affluent, you will repay me.” As soon as the man took it, Rabbi Jonah would say, “It’s yours is a gift” (Vayikra Rabbah 34:1).

These stories all have to do with the mitzvah of tzedakah whose source is in this week’s parshah:

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need…Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11).

What we have here is a unique and still remarkable program for the elimination of poverty.

The first extraordinary fact about the laws of tzedakah as articulated in the Oral Tradition is the concept itself. Tzedakah does not mean “charity.” We see this immediately in the form of a law inconceivable in any other moral system: “Someone who does not wish to give tzedakah or to give less than is appropriate may be compelled to do so by a Jewish court of law” (Maimonides, Laws of Gifts to the Poor, 7:10). Charity is always voluntary. Tzedakah is compulsory. Therefore tzedakah does not mean charity. The nearest English equivalent is social justice.

The second is the principle evident in the three stories above. Poverty in Judaism is conceived not merely in material terms: the poor lack the means of sustenance. It is also conceived in psychological terms. Poverty humiliates. It robs people of dignity. It makes them dependent on others – thus depriving them of independence which the Torah sees as essential to self-respect.

This deep psychological insight is eloquently expressed in the third paragraph of the Grace after Meals: “Please, O Lord our God, do not make us dependent on the gifts or loans of other people, but only on Your full, open, holy and generous hand so that we may suffer neither shame nor humiliation for ever and all time.”

As a result, Jewish law focuses not only on how much we must give but also on the manner in which we do so. Ideally the donor should not know to whom he or she is giving (story 1), nor the recipient know from whom he or she is receiving (story 2). The third story exemplifies another principle: “If a poor person does not want to accept tzedakah, we should practice a form of [benign] deception and give it to him under the guise of a loan” (Maimonides, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:9).

Maimonides sums up the general principle thus: “Whoever gives charity to the poor with bad grace and averted eyes has lost all the merit of his action even though he gives him a thousand gold pieces. He should give with good grace and with joy and should sympathize with him in his plight, as it is said, ‘Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?’ [Job 30:25]” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:4).

This is the logic behind two laws that are otherwise inexplicable. The first is “Even a poor person who is dependent on tzedakah is obliged to give tzedakah” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:5). The law seems absurd. Why should we give money to the poor so that they may give to the poor? It makes sense only on this assumption – that giving is essential to human dignity and tzedakah is the obligation to ensure that everyone has that dignity.

The second is the famous ruling of Maimonides that “the highest degree of charity, exceeded by none, is when a person assists a poor Jew by providing him with a gift or a loan or by accepting him into a business partnership or by helping him find employment – in a word, by putting him in a situation where he can dispense with other people’s aid” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7).

Giving someone a job or making him your partner would not normally be considered charity at all. It costs you nothing. But this further serves to show that tzedakah does not mean charity. It means giving people the means to live a dignified life, and any form of employment is more dignified, within the Jewish value system, than dependence.

We have in this ruling of Maimonides in the 12th century the principle that Muhammad Yunus rediscovered in our time, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize: the idea of micro-loans enabling poor people to start small businesses. It is a very powerful idea.

In contradistinction to many other religious systems, Judaism refused to romanticize poverty or anaesthetize its pain. Faith is not what Karl Marx called “the opium of the people.” The rabbis refused to see poverty as a blessed state, an affliction to be born with acceptance and grace. Instead, the rabbis called it “a kind of death” and “worse than 50 plagues.” They said, “Nothing is harder to bear than poverty, because he who is crushed by poverty is like one to whom all the troubles of the world cling and upon whom all the curses of Deuteronomy have descended. If all other troubles were placed on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

Maimonides went to the heart of the matter when he said (The Guide for the Perplexed 3:27), “The well-being of the soul can only be obtained after that of the body has been secured.” Poverty is not a noble state. You cannot reach spiritual heights if you have no food to eat or a roof for your head, if you lack access to medical attention or are beset by financial worries.

I know of no saner approach to poverty, welfare, and social justice than that of Judaism. Unsurpassed in its time, it remains the benchmark of a decent society to this day.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/how-to-give/2013/08/01/

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