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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘rav’

Loving Parking Tickets: Wearing The Right Glasses

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Is it really possible for any self-respecting New Yorker to love parking tickets? I have seen those orange rectangular pieces of paper become the nemesis of society. As a result, those trying to earn a meager living giving out these tickets have become Public Enemy Number One. We view them as “out to get us,” deliberately attempting to make our lives miserable. I have often seen people wearing frowns for hours because of the audacity of the meter maid – or the city at large – to cause them this needless expense and for not respecting their freedom to park their car. I have witnessed people yelling at the top of their lungs, to no avail, at a blue-clad individual who is writing a summons, when it is obvious that their hysteria will not only not prevent the ticket from being written, but is probably not good for their mood or blood pressure (not to mention the unjustified Chillul Hashem they are causing). So how is it possible that these perceived menaces of society could actually be appreciated?

Chazal tell us that patience is one of the best ways to regulate our middos, and help us gain the proper perspective on life. The tefillah of the patient person is accepted—perhaps, as a result of his patience towards others, Hashem is “patient” with him and gives merit to his prayers. Not only are his prayers accepted, but he also gets forgiven for his sins. The Gemara relates that when you forgive others, even when they are not deserving of your forgiveness, then Hashem forgives you even though you may not be worthy of His forgiveness. And as we can all use the gracious forgiveness of the Almighty, it is worth finding a way to give others a pass for their indiscretions.

Additionally, one who remains silent when he is attacked gives existence to the world; by remaining silent, he is reducing the interpersonal conflict and conflagration that can destroy the world at large – and the peace of our individual worlds. YES, it is very hard to stay in control when we are attacked, but if we make the effort to restrain ourselves, we are given siyatta d’Shmaya (Divine assistance). Furthermore, refraining from responding – even when it may be allowed and justified – allows us to access the greatest heavenly blessings of forgiveness and goodness. The reward is immense for an act that is difficult, yet takes only a few seconds to accomplish.

The Gemara relates (Rosh Hashanah 17) that Rav Huna was very sick, to the point that the other Sages thought he would die, and requested that his shrouds and coffin be prepared. In the end, however, his life was spared. Rav Huna explained that he was granted life because he did not stand on ceremony and defend his honor. He showed patience and respect for others; in return, he was granted a miraculous recovery. Is it not worth a long life to keep it quiet at difficult moments?

There is a well-known story of a couple that had been childless for 20 years and went to a Gadol for a bracha. The rav told them that they should seek a blessing from someone who does not respond to insult; such a person is clean of sin and eligible for miraculous life—in this case, in the form of a child for the childless couple. At a wedding the following week, the couple observed as someone remained silent as insults were being heaped upon him. As per the rav’s suggestion, they requested a blessing from this righteous person. Within the year, the blessing was fulfilled; after two decades, they were finally parents.

The enormous restraint and patience on the part of the man who was being insulted resulted in the fulfillment of a blessing, of miraculous life. The magnitude of exhibiting self-control in the face of humiliation has rewards beyond comprehension.

Traditional advice to the newlywed is to refrain from going to sleep while in a state of anger at one’s spouse. When you go to sleep while the marriage is not in balance, it demonstrates a lack of regard for harmony, for how could you sleep in such a state? Additionally, by allowing the anger to remain and simmer, it becomes internalized; you become an angry person. At the beginnings of a dispute it may be simpler to retreat and prevent conflict. As time goes on, however, each party may ruminate about the incident until they are each able to view it in a way whereby each one believes that he/she is 100% correct. A moment of patient forgiveness, a moment of “letting things slide,” is the building block of both harmony and personal strength. The Gemara (Megillah 28) relates that Rav Zeira was asked why he merited a long life. He responded that he was not makpid in his house – he was forgiving and did not stand on ceremony with his loved ones. Thus, anger management and self-control have direct effects on our physical and spiritual planes of existence.

My Machberes

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Chassidim Elected To Public Office

Yidel Perlstein (left) and City Councilman David Greenfield.

The election on March 28 of Yidel Perlstein as chairman of Community Planning Board 12 in Brooklyn is an indication of unfolding voting patterns that are changing the face of local governance. His election follows the November 2011 election of Aron B. Wieder to the Rockland County Legislature, representing its 13th District.

 

Aron B. Wieder

Wieder, running on the Democratic, Republican, and Independence lines against an incumbent, won a resounding victory, garnering 79 percent of the vote. He has since been appointed to four important Rockland County Legislature Committees: Economic Development; Government Operations; Public Safety; and Environmental. The appointments are an affirmation of the respect and confidence he has earned from his colleagues and of his viability as a public servant.

Rabbi Jacob Z. Goldstein

Perlstein was elected with an impressive 75 percent of the vote. He had received the endorsement of several elected officials. Community Board 12 represents more than 200,000 residents. He succeeds Alan Dubrow, a member of the board since 1978 and chairman since 1990. Perlstein joins Rabbi Jacob Z. Goldstein, another chassidic elected official, who has served, with distinction, as chairman of Community Board No. 9 (Crown Heights) since 1979.

 

Who Might Be Next?

Of course, being elected to public office is no easy matter. We can laugh at Mark Twain’s comment, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress – but I repeat myself.” But the reality is that getting elected to any public office is a noteworthy achievement. One must have the intuitive understanding to effectively communicate to the people whose votes are necessary for being elected. Being elected by a constituency that extends beyond the walls of one’s beis medrash is to be truly admired.

Our community has an impressive number of individuals worthy of public office. But they have to be encouraged and persuaded to run for office. Few, however, rise to the towering level of Rabbi Aaron Lewin, zt”l Hy”d (1879-1941), Reisha Rav and author of Hadrash Veha’iyun. Grandson of Rabbi Yitzchok Shmelkes, zt”l (1828-1905), author of Beis Yitzchok, Rabbi Lewin served in the Polish Sejm (parliament) from 1922 until the Nazi invasion of Poland in September of 1939. He was murdered in the Holocaust.

The internationally renowned attorney Nathan Lewin is a proud grandson of the Reisha Rav. Nathan Lewin is the son of Rabbi Yitzchok Lewin, zt”l (1906-1995), Agudath Israel Leader.

The Reisha Rav was extraordinarily unique. Nonetheless, there are individuals in our communities who are worthy of serious consideration. One name that immediately springs up is that of Chaim Israel. He was instrumental in the work of SEBCO over the last 35 years in stabilizing the neighborhood known as Boro Park West (the lower numbered avenues and streets), which thrives today. The same principles were applied to other neighborhoods. Those successes have received national attention.

Chaim Israel, back row, fourth from right.

Chaim Israel is well respected by administrators at Maimonides Medical Center and other area hospitals. He organized Vaad Refuah and propelled it to the forefront of Bikur Cholim challenges. In that capacity he leads volunteers from all walks of life: attorneys, businessmen, health care professionals, rabbis, real estate developers, men and women from yeshivish and chassidish backgrounds, all dedicated to improving the health and the delivery of health care services to our community.

He is the son of Rabbi Avrohom Meir Israel, zt”l (d. 1995), late rav of Honiad and author of Vaya’an Avrohom and Imrei Avrohom, and ybch”l Rebbetzin Chava Israel. Rebbetzin Israel (may she have a speedy recovery and be restored to full health soon) is the ideal bikur cholim practitioner, having made countless visits to patients during her decades of daily rounds of visits to every bed in area hospitals.

Surviving the Holocaust, Rabbi Avrohom Meir Israel served as chief rabbi of Vienna and was a key figure in guiding the resurgence of religious life in postwar Europe. He worked alongside post-Holocaust Torah leaders such as Rabbi Boruch Leizerowski, zt”l (d. 2000), Lodzer Rav and author of Taam Boruch who survived Dachau and Auschwitz and was appointed chief rabbi of Munich and later served as chief rabbi of Philadelphia.

Rabbi Avrohom Meir also worked shoulder to shoulder with Rabbi Eliezer Paltiel Roitblatt, zt”l (d. 1998), Shenitzer Rebbe, who was appointed rav of Shenitza, Poland, in 1935. He was the last surviving rav who served in Poland before the Holocaust. Surviving the Holocaust, Rabbi Eliezer Paltiel was appointed rav of the displaced persons camp in Lintz-Weigsheid and was instrumental, together with Rabbi Avrohom Meir, in freeing many agunahs whose husbands were murdered in the Holocaust but had no absolute proof.

Kerovim Or Rechokim: Where Should Our Kiruv Priorities Lie?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

As rav of the Brooklyn Jewish Experience, a local kiruv organization devoted to reaching out to Brooklyn’s almost 70 percent non-observant Jewish population, I also teach and counsel young adults (18-33 years old) from the frum community. These students are often indistinguishable from their frum peers. Outwardly they may appear frum, but inwardly they’re disenchanted, jaded, and alienated. Their exterior appearance is largely a façade and their feeling of disenfranchisement from frumkeit is frighteningly real. There are others that are part of our program who, tragically, already took the next step and are no longer observant.

Admittedly, our primary mission and Brooklyn Jewish Experience’s success has been working with the not-yet frum, but our programs are inundated with the aforementioned members of the community who find our hashkafa and kiruv-styled shiurim to be invigorating, refreshing, rejuvenating, and often life-altering.

I will never forget an incident that occurred during a weekly shiur several days before Yom Kippur. The lecture introduced our students to the concepts of teshuvah and a philosophic but practical understanding of the restrictions of the holiday. After the shiur I fielded halachic and hashkafic questions about the impending fast.

Following the Q&A session, a student approached me privately to ask a question. He was exceedingly fidgety and nervous and I had to calm him to elicit his query. He confided that though he was almost thirty years old and grew up in a frum home, he had, astoundingly, never fasted on Yom Kippur. After several minutes of intense conversation and a warm, supportive embrace, the fellow said, “I want you to know that because of what you’ve told me, this will be my first year fasting on Yom Kippur.”

I was in tears.

* * * * *

That encounter and numerous others led me to reassess my role. Who is to say that the rechokim, those raised in irreligious homes, are more paramount than the kerovim, those brought up in frum homes but, for whatever the reason, are no longer inspired and committed? It is for this reason that Brooklyn Jewish Experience will not turn away kerovim who sincerely seek to learn and grow in a tolerant and non-judgmental environment.

In my work with this segment of students, I’ve drawn several conclusions concerning what may be surefire ways to keep children inspired and enthusiastic in their observance and prevent them from deviating from and abandoning Yiddishkeit.

Most often the success of a child developing into a passionate frum adult is directly correlated to coming from an emotionally stable home. Just as plants and trees need sunlight and water to blossom and thrive, there is an optimal environment in which a can develop. Children need love, stability, and structure.

Children need to receive love from both parents to be emotionally healthy. Kiddushin 31 teaches that a child is more inclined to respect his mother because of the love and nurture a mother provides. The very first time the Torah employs the word love is not in a spousal context but rather in a parent-child relationship, between Avraham and Yitzchak, a father and a son. I believe this is to stress the importance of a parent, particularly a father, showering a child with love. A child needs love from both mother and father in order to develop into a psychologically healthy adolescent.

Parenting requires tremendous perseverance and self-sacrifice. We learn a lot about the parenting imperative from the Hebrew word for parents, horim. Rashbam and others teach that horim is etymologically derived from har, mountain, which symbolizes stability. This means it is vital that parents convey a sense of stability and consistency. Tehillim says “Esa einai el heharim m’ayin yavo ezri (I lift my eyes to the Mountains from where my help does come), which Yalkut Shimoni interprets to mean “I lift my eyes to my parents from where does my help come.”

In other words, help comes from parents who prioritize, placing their children first and their own needs second. The Gemara teaches that in addition to symbolizing stability, harim, mountains, also signify eternity, so that horim, parents, denote eternity to a child (Avodah Zarah 17a and commentaries on Tehillim 121). There is a definite correlation between good parenting and the preservation of mesorah in children. When parents are derelict and fail to properly provide stability, consistency, and love, the child often loses interest in perpetuating the eternal chain of tradition.

Rav S. R. Hirsch said: “The maintenance of Yiddishkeit requires parents who will faithfully transmit the faith to their children, and children who are willing to accept from the hands of their parents. The survival of Yiddishkeit rests entirely upon the obedience of children to their parents…. Parents in fact represent the tie that binds the child to the past of his people and that enables the child to be a religious man or woman.”

Rav Yosef Hochgelanter

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Rav Yosef Hochgelanter, the rav of the city of Zamushet, where Rav Akiva Eiger received his early training while still a young boy, was a great scholar and the author of Mishnas Chachamim. At the time he was chosen to be rav of the city he was the son-in-law of a very wealthy man who was very generous with his support.

Because he had no need of money, Rav Yosef insisted that he would only take the position on condition that he not be paid a salary. Oddly enough, however, he did insist on the implementation of one particular custom. For many years it had been the rule in the city that all the butchers had to supply the rav with a set amount of meat each week. Rav Yosef was particularly adamant about the butchers’ faithful fulfillment of their obligation.

Wife Surprised

Rav Yosef’s wife could not understand why her husband was so insistent on this point. “Tell me, my husband,” she asked, “Why is it that when it comes to a salary you absolutely refuse to accept money, a decision that I fully agree with, since we have no need of it. When it comes to the butchers’ quota of meat, however, you are adamant and insist that they pay it. Why is this so?”

“It is not for myself that I insist on this meat, my wife. Thank G-d we have enough money to support ourselves and have no need of the meat.

“What, however, will be the situation if the rav who follows me is a poor man? If the butchers get into the habit of disregarding their obligation because I do not insist, they will cause the poor rav to suffer terribly.”

The Seder Meal

It was this Rav Yosef who recognized quite early that his young student, Shlomo Kluger, would grow to be a giant of Torah in Israel.

Because of this, he took great pains to encourage and show warmth to his young student. It was the custom of the rav, each Pesach, to invite the best of the students to his home to participate in the Seder. Young Shlomo was also invited to attend.

As the evening progressed and the Haggadah was read, they reached the part that told of the four sons – the clever, the wicked, the simple and the one incapable of asking. One of the students turned to Rav Yosef and asked:

“Why does the Haggadah call one of the sons’ ‘wise’ and the other ‘wicked’? After all, what is the difference between them? The Haggadah says that the wicked son ‘took himself out of the general congregation of Israel since he asked: ‘What is the meaning of the service to you?’ If we look carefully, however, we will notice that the wise son also used this language when he asks: ‘what are the witnesses and commandments and law that the L-rd our G-d commanded you?’ After all, does the wise son not take himself out of the general congregation when he used the term ‘you’ instead of ‘us’”.

The Answer

Rav Yosef, who was expert in the Rambam, immediately answered that according to the Rambam, the version that we have in our Haggadah is, indeed, incorrect and that the correct version is that instead of ‘you’ the wise son says ‘us.’ “We see, therefore, that there is a very great difference between what the wise son and the wicked son said,” the rav concluded.

When Rav Yosef finished, young Shlomo shyly said: “If I may be permitted to add something, I believe that there is an additional difference between the two sons, even using the version that is found in our Haggadah.”

All those assembled looked to the young Shlomo to see what he had to add to the conversation. In a soft and low voice, the young scholar said: “If we look carefully we see that while the wicked son never once uses the name of the Almighty, the wise son does say that ‘the L-rd our G-d commanded.’”

As Rav Yosef nodded in satisfaction, Shlomo continued: “A similar difference is found, I believe, in the very first chapter of the Torah in the story of the creation of light and darkness. It says there: ‘And G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night.’

“Note that in the description of the light the name of G-d is mentioned whereas in the phrase that mentions the darkness, the Holy Name is not.

“It appears to me that this is the reason that Chazal say: ‘and G-d called the light, day – these are the deeds of the righteous, whereas the darkness in the verse refers to the deeds of the wicked.’ The meaning of Chazal is that it is the custom of the righteous to always speak with G-d on their lips, unlike the wicked.”

Q & A: ‘Ba’arbeh – With Locusts’

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Question: In the Torah’s description of the ten plagues Hashem inflicted upon Egypt, we find the Hebrew preposition “beit” [meaning “in” or “with”] only in connection with the plague of locust: “Neteh yadcha al eretz Mitzrayim ba’arbeh.” Why is this so? And why do most of the commentators on Chumash ignore this question.

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Your question refers to the pasuk in Parshat Bo (Exodus 10:12): “Va’yomer Hashem el Moshe: Neteh yadcha al eretz Mitzrayim ba’arbeh v’ya’al al eretz Mitzrayim v’yochal et kol esev ha’aretz et kol asher hish’ir habarad – Hashem said to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for [lit. with] the locust, and it will ascend upon the land of Egypt and eat all the grass of the land, everything that the [plague of] hail has left.”

You note that, for the most part, this verse’s use of the preposition “beit” is not dealt with by the commentators. However, as we will see, the opposite is true. If we carefully dissect their words, it becomes clear that they very much did address your question.

Both Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan translate “ba’arbeh” into Aramaic as “bedil gova,” which assumes that the preposition “beit” in this instance means “bishvil,” as in “bishvil makkat ha’arbeh – stretch out your hand so as to bring about the plague of locust. Indeed, Rashi, based on both Targumim, offers the same exact translation: “Bishvil makkat ha’arbeh.”

Ibn Ezra quotes R. Moshe Hakohen who says that “ba’arbeh” denotes that Moses put a locust on the staff he was holding. R. Moshe Hakohen, therefore, understood the “beit” to mean “with.” Hashem was instructing Moshe to stretch out his stick with a locust on it. Ibn Ezra, however, argues that this explanation is incorrect. Instead, he suggests that “ba’arbeh” to mean “so that the locust will come.” His interpretation is thus similar to that of the Targumim and Rashi.

Or HaChayyim states (agreeing with an alternative explanation of Ibn Ezra’s) that “ba’arbeh” may indicate that Hashem wished for Moses to say the word “arbeh” when he raised his hand, and that extending his hand was for the purpose of bringing the locust. This explanation also assumes “beit” means “with,” and Hashem is instructing Moshe to stretch out his hand along with saying the word “arbeh.”

Sforno argues that “beit” is a directional preposition referring to the side from which the locusts were to come (which is generally the south). Thus Moses was to summon the locust from their natural habitat. Sforno obviously derives this from the Aramaic translation of “ve’yeitei gova – and let the locust come.” Come from where? Thus, Sforno explains: from their natural habitat.

The Noam Elimelech (R. Elimelech of Lyzhansk) is also perplexed by the word “ba’arbeh.” In order to explain it, he first discusses the plague of barad (hailstones) and refers to two verses in Parshat Va’era (Exodus 9:15-16): “Ki ata shalachti et yadi va’ach ot’cha ve’et amcha ba’daver vatikacheid min ha’aretz. Ve’ulam ba’avur zot he’emad’ticha, ba’avur har’ot’cha et kochi u’lema’an saper shemi bechol ha’aretz – For now I could have stretched out My hand and smitten you and your people with pestilence, so that you would be obliterated from the earth. However, for this I have let you endure, in order to show you My might and so that My name be proclaimed throughout the land.”

The Noam Elimelech asks why Hashem gives this explanation specifically on the occasion of the plague of barad. He answers that all the plagues meted on Egypt were due to merits that the Children of Israel possessed, or would possess, in the future. Each plague corresponded to a specific merit. And barad was due to the merit of the words that the Children of Israel constantly spoke in praise of Hashem (barad and “dibbur – speech” have the same three letters – beit, daled, resh). Doesn’t the plague of dever, however, also contain the same letters as dibbur (even containing them in the same exact sequence)? The Noam Elimelech therefore explains that since it already says “Va’ach ot’cha ve’et amcha ba’daver” in the first pasuk, the plague in merit of the Jewish people’s constant praise of Hashem was barad instead.

The Noam Elimelech now returns to the problematic word “ba’arbeh” and asks: In what merit of the Jewish people did Hashem inflict the plague of arbeh upon the Egyptians? He suggests that it was in the merit of Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his only son. We see the connection between Abraham and arbeh in the pasuk (Genesis 22:17), “V’harbah arbeh et zar’acha – I will greatly increase your offspring.” The Noam Elimelech thus understands the word “ba’arbeh” in Parshat Bo as “because I said to Abraham ‘v’harbah arbeh.’ ” In other words, Hashem is not instructing Moshe to do anything by saying “ba’arbeh.” Rather, He is explaining to him in what merit He is bringing this plague.

A Child-Centric Seder

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Dear Gary,

As Pesach approaches, I get worried because I want to have a great Yom Tov, and yet, every year, the seder ends in some sort of fighting and arguing. My husband wants the seder to be all about divreiTorah and so do I, but between the younger children (who we want to be awake for the whole seder) and guests, we somehow end up in stern looks and squabbles. I’m happy we have guests or else we’d probably start yelling at each other and even Eliyahu Hanavi would bail. I know everyone jokes about how tough Pesach is, but I can’t see the humor anymore – and neither can my children. What can we do to manage a calm (I don’t even wish for happy) seder?

A Sad Mom

Dear Sad Mom,

You are far from being alone in the scenario you describe. Imagine the request: a serious reliving of our yetzia (exodus) – knowing that every additional minute spent in serious discussion is praiseworthy – mixed with a need to eat enormous amounts of unusual foods (matzah and marror to name a few), along with a lack of normal food being eaten until hours into the event which begins well after most children’s bedtimes. Oh yeah, and let’s drink a lot of alcohol. But, it’s all about the kids.

Most families struggle when it comes to the sedarim, and with good reason. The seder for a 6-year-old is a completely different experience then for a 16-year-old and even more different for an adult, family member or guest. We rarely ever put all of those people together in one place, expect them all to do the same things and sit for the same amount of time. Too often, it is a recipe for anger and disappointment, which is so unfortunate because we work so hard to prepare for Pesach. To work that hard and be met with a sense of failure can be overwhelming.

The answer (note that I am not writing as a halachic authority) lies in envisioning how you want yourself and your children to look back at the seder night. Like with every mitzvah, parents have to consider the age of their children and how each one will react to the experience. If both you and your husband think about how you want to feel when you wake up Yom Tov morning, you will be well on your way to a better chag.

Sometimes, we get caught up in what we think or have been taught is “right” or “necessary,” and lose sight of what will actually be a healthy spiritual experience. We want our children to look forward to the seder and have positive associations, not memories of family distress. Here are some simple ideas people have suggested to me over the years. Consider these ideas and if you have any halachic questions about any of them, consult your local authority.

1. Feed younger children before the seder begins. Typically the seder begins late – especially on the second night – and it takes a while to see real food. Hungry children are not easygoing children. Feed them earlier so that they are not starving at the start of the seder.

2. Make it about the kids. The Mah Nishtana, the afikomen and so much of the Hagaddah tells us to be festive and engage in childish behavior – if it is with the purpose of teaching and learning. There are songs you can download that are fun spirited. Act out the different parts of the story as you read them. Kids (and adults) can dress up as different characters.

Play charades – create a stack of Judaic situations (Moshe and the burning bush, Avraham smashing his father’s idols, Rivkah giving Esav’s clothes to Yaacov) and then have teams act it out, with everyone else guessing what is being depicted. Do this at different times during the seder.

Have the younger kids grouped together at one end of the table, so if there is a serious discussion taking place, they can be doing something else.

Have small prizes for kids and young teens who ask any legitimate question. This idea can really generate great discussions. If a kid gets a small prize every time he or she asks a question (it doesn’t have to be a great one, just one that isn’t silly), that child feels a part of the seder and is adding something real. Often the adults can answer or consider the questions, which creates an excitement in the child.

3. Let all your guests know before the seder begins what special things you will be doing so everyone can take part.

Encouraging Without Pushing

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I recently lost my husband of 51 years, and I am very depressed. He was a true talmid chacham and a loving husband. Every morning when he was well, he went to shul early. He never missed a minyan and he learned every day. All his life he ran a business and, baruch Hashem, he worked hard and took excellent care of our children and me. I look at my grandsons and my grandsons-in-law and they don’t hold a candle to my husband. Even the children who learn in kollel are not as careful as my husband was about being on time for minyan.

Everyone seems too busy for me, and I feel very lonely. My daughter says that I am pushing the children and grandchildren away since I am too critical. Has anyone ever heard of constructive criticism? I want to help my children and grandchildren become better people. My friends’ children and grandchildren are always calling and visiting her. Mine come to see me, but they seem anxious to leave. My friend, who is really great to me, also tells me that I am too critical. She says I push my loved ones away with my remarks. What do you think?

Lonely Widow

Dear Lonely Widow:

Years ago I spoke in a Lubavitch community, where the rav at the time, Rabbi Sachs, expressed the brilliant thought that constructive criticism is an oxymoron. We all love to hear positive, loving things, but unfortunately some people tend to give more criticism than compliments.

Most people gravitate to those with a positive outlook. When I do marriage counseling I attempt to begin breaking the negative cycle by assigning this task to the couple: they must give each other at least three sincere compliments a day. This is generally difficult for them, but it begins to change the negative marital cycle. We can then evaluate more deeply the negative marital patterns that are destroying the relationship. Similarly, I advise generally critical people to be more positive and complimentary in an effort to break a negative cycle in their lives.

Your letter appears to reflect that you may be overly critical of your loved ones. Perhaps your daughter is correct, and you are distancing them from you by being critical. I am certain that your intentions are honorable, but think about this: Would you want to be around someone who is disapproving and critical of you, or would you rather be with someone who is positive and loving? Is it possible for you to share some of your concerns with your children and grandchildren in a more affectionate manner and with a soft, gentle tone? Remember that if we are generally loving and occasionally critical, our words have more validity.

It would be helpful if you asked yourself the following questions, as they may help in your self-examination: Do you criticize others, possibly subconsciously, in order to gain control in the relationship? Are you more critical when feeling insecure? Did your parents criticize you when you were a child? Do you feel that you show your love to those you care about?

Complimenting people is the easiest way to build someone’s confidence. Doing this makes you closer to the person and makes the person want to be closer to you. We can always find something good to say about someone. So the next time you see your children and grandchildren think about a compliment you can pay them, not necessarily one that can improve them. Of course we all want to improve our loved ones and ourselves, but people generally do not take well to criticism. True improvement comes from much love and statements phrased in a positive manner. As it is always hard for individuals to accept criticism, people are more likely to accept it if it comes from someone that they feel loves them and thinks highly of them.

You will not be able to help your children and grandchildren improve unless you build a positive relationship with them and they feel emotionally safe with you. They must understand that you have a high regard for them and that you only say something negative when it is important. Being consistently critical will get you nowhere because it is likely that no one will listen to your words. Most individuals in this kind of predicament generally tune out the negativity and become defensive when anything critical comes up. Thus the only way to have a good relationship with others is to work on being more positive and complimentary.

People cannot improve everything at once, so if something happens that you feel is important to mention, use a positive and loving manner to help the person improve. Give the person a compliment and then offer your opinion as to how this improvement can take place. For example, if one of your grandchildren is not speaking with derech eretz to his or her parents, you might say something like, “Honey, you are such an amazing child and I often see you go out of your way to do mitzvos. I am so proud of you. I am sure that you do not realize that the things you sometimes say or the way that you say it is not with the proper derech eretz. I know that you want to be respectful, so maybe this is something we can work on together. What do you think, my special grandchild?” This makes you sensitive to your grandchild’s feelings, while still getting your point across. This may still be difficult for your grandchild to accept, but at least he or she will not feel like staying away.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/encouraging-without-pushing/2012/03/23/

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