The 10th Annual Rebbetzin’s Conference sponsored by the Task Force on
Families and Children at Risk, which took place last week, was one of the best ever. Rebbetzins come from far and wide to participate in this yearly program and leave with newfound strength.
The concept behind these conferences is that many congregants, especially women, feel most comfortable approaching their Rebbetzin with their problems. The Rebbetzin must be aware of the help she can and cannot give. The role of the Rebbetzin today is far greater than just lending a listening ear, and therefore the role of these conferences is immeasurable.
This year’s topic, “Anxiety & Emunah” featured Rebbetzin Faige Twerski and Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. It has become tradition to open the program with greetings and an overview, by Rebbetzin Esti Reisman, to which everyone looks forward. Stressing the importance of this year’s topic, she mentioned the challenging economic circumstances, the situation in Israel and many more anxiety producing events.
According to Reisman a person without faith can have plenty, yet act as if stuck in the desert without food or water. However, she admitted that even with emunah, we have trouble accepting life’s events.
So how do we get to the point where we bridge the gap from having emunah to not worrying about our particular problems? And with this question, the next speaker was introduced.
Rebbetzin Feige Twerski, noted author and lecturer, immediately put us at ease by reminding us that, at the core level, we are believers in Hashem. Referring to the Shema, she asked, “How can you command someone to love?” The Sfas Emes answers that the Torah can make this command because we already love Hashem. But we have to overcome the many obstructions to that innate love.
Rebbetzin Twerski feels we are very hard on ourselves and have to stop beating up on ourselves. She gave an example from the Jews in the desert. They mourned their behavior of always complaining, of the Golden Calf etc., but we see that when Hashem passes judgment on that period he says: “Zacharti lach chesed n’urayich.” I remember the kindness of your youth when you followed me into the desert. He doesn’t comment on the lapses.
According to Twerski it’s all in our attitude. It’s not what you’re given; it’s what you make of it. We should train ourselves to plug into our emunah. She advises that we forget the words, “It could have been it should have been if only ” These thoughts sap our energy and take away our joy. Everything begins with our thoughts, and we have to learn which thoughts to get rid of and which to focus on. We have to clear our heads and make room for positive thoughts, and then when we stop obsessing we will see clearly. Her final words were that every stage of the journey of our life has beauty and it is for us to find it and enjoy it.
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union. His topic was “Psychological and Spiritual Effects of the Economic Crisis.”
Pointing out that man’s self-esteem differs from a woman’s, he stated that he, of course would be talking from the male perspective. Those amusing words, notwithstanding, his speech was quite thought provoking.
Loss of self-esteem for a man can mean the loss of his ability to function, even in the most intimate aspects of life. So many men, who have recently lost their jobs, or life savings, are in crisis mode. Weinreb cited the four roles of a father to provide, to protect, to nurture and to sponsor (teach).
Rabbi Weinreb feels that we must help people in crisis find alternate forms of self-esteem. We have to ask some of these men to volunteer to give shiurim, mentor young students and other activities.
We can help by networking for some and ensuring that these downcast individuals don’t feel isolated. We should resourcefully create ways that people can give of themselves and, thereby, improve their self-esteem.
We can take to heart a quote from Abraham Lincoln “People are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Rabbi Weinreb reminded us that, as Jews, we should always live with hope. Not just “I hope things will turn out ok,” but, “they will turn out ok because I will do things to make it so”.
Miriam Turk, always gracious even under enormous pressure, ran this year’s conference. And as always, special thanks to the Honorable Speaker Sheldon Silver, for his efforts and care to families in need.Naomi Klass Mauer