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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Readers Speak’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/28/11

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Readers Speak

Dear Rachel,

Reading the responses you received regarding an elderly mother who gives the daughter who cares for her a very hard time (Chronicles, 11-19-2010), how true is the saying of our fathers: “Al tadun et chavercha ad sh’tagiah limkomo” – don’t judge another person till you find yourself in his place, or the saying about walking in someone else’s moccasins.

It is obvious that none of those writers really know what it is to be in the company of such a person day in and day out.

The only one who had a good point was “Suffering is for fools” (Chronicles 12-31-2010) who wrote, “Maybe the mom has a psychiatric problem that causes her to act like she does.”

I, too, must wonder whether that mother was a well person (psychologically and emotionally) to begin with. I talk from experience.

Before I became aware of being verbally and psychologically abused by my mother, she should live and be well, I suffered a lot.

At that time I was teaching elementary school children and there was a workbook put out about derech eretz.

In that booklet I found a din, a Jewish law that says yes, we have to honor our parents, but the onus is on the parent to make sure that the child will BE ABLE to keep this mitzvah and not put stumbling blocks in his/her path to perform this most difficult commandment.

How glad I was to learn this! It freed me of my guilt.

My mother, G-d bless her, is in an assisted living facility. I call her every day. I’ve learned that at certain times of the day she’s more amenable to pleasant conversation and I try to avoid calling at other times.

I visit her about twice a week. Sometimes the visit goes well, other times she starts out with negativity and accusations.

When I try to reason with her, I get caught up in a state of deep discomfiture, so when I feel I’ve had my fill, I detach myself from her with love, and leave.

What a blessing. I’m glad that in your response (Chronicles11-26-2010) you suggested to her the possibility of placing her mother in an assistant living facility. It’s a G-d sent concept for many a “frustrated” family.

Walking in those moccasins

Dear Rachel,

Many of the replies to the woman caring for an elderly parent stressed the privilege of being able to do so and the importance of the mitzvah of kibbud eim. This approach is totally on target and not to be taken lightly.

But… the writer says she has been doing it for a while and she is afraid it may “end badly” or disrupt her “family harmony.” She is not being flippant about her responsibilities. In fact, she is writing because she is so torn about making such a weighty decision.

If she is brave enough to say she is finding it difficult, she needs to be listened to carefully, her concerns seriously weighed and various options and solutions considered. She should discuss it with a compassionate and wise rav or friend.

There are no absolute answers and solutions, just values that have to be weighed carefully – and marital harmony is an equally important value to be considered.

Malky Shaulson, LCSW

Dear Rachel,

“Why am I still single?” (Chronicles 12-24-2010) reflects upon a myriad of causes she believes as being responsible for today’s single crisis. I don’t think she is correct in her assessment. At least, I don’t find myself in the circle of single friends who share these issues. For my friends and myself, it is the men who have those issues.

I did, however, appreciate your response to her immensely. Just sign me

A Sane Single

Dear Rachel,

In your response to the single who lists some keen observations regarding the single scene, you were pretty much on the mark, but I respectfully disagree with you on one point that may on the surface seem superficial.

“Why am I still single?” cites a “dowdy physical appearance” with “easily curable physical defects like a huge nose” as one of the obstacles some singles create for themselves – to which you remark: “neither a weight issue nor a large nose seems to have hindered countless singles from acquiring a spouse.”

Be that as it may, Rachel, in my neighborhood there are two sisters from a lovely family, both in their late thirties and still single. The bigger rachmonus is that with all their wonderful attributes they pay no heed to their appearance.

Both have small pale faces with huge noses, dress unfashionably and wear absolutely no makeup – ever.

Though we should all be focusing on the inside of a person rather than on outward appearances, it would be very difficult for anyone, let alone a boy seeking his mate, to get past that first impression.

I don’t mean to offend the many readers with imperfect noses (mine is certainly no model of perfection). In fact, I know a couple of people with prominent noses who are attractive and engaging and far from dowdy. (Think Barbra Streisand.) For that matter, how many of us can truly claim to be “viewable” when facing ourselves in the mirror first thing in the morning?

The right hair-do, enhancing makeup and suitably flattering wardrobe are mandatory for those on the lookout for their intended. Ideally, it is a mother’s job to teach her daughter of these necessities, but in the case of an absentee mom (literally or figuratively), friends, relatives and even teachers shouldn’t hesitate to step into the role and encourage a makeover.

First impressions count

Dear Rachel,

In my opinion, much too much emphasis is being placed on physical attributes and many viable shidduchim are thus being passed up.

Reminds me of the Yiddish saying, “a sheina ponim hot imzinsteh frahnd” meaning literally “a pretty face has free friends.” This of course implies that beauty garners undeserved attention. Let’s not forget that beauty is as beauty does – it is one’s middos that render one beautiful, inside and out.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 7/28/06

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

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Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.


Readers Speak

Dear Rachel,

I found the letters relating to the subject of boys who learn rather than earn really interesting and very true. The writer I most agreed with was “A parent who represents many others” (Chronicles 2-3).

I think my perspective is a little bit different because I am not a parent but rather a post-seminary girl. I am 19, and I haven’t yet started dating, although most of my friends are. I feel like I can be somewhat objective about it because I am not yet entangled in it.

I attended a pretty mainstream seminary. Learning in general was looked at as an ideal. Many of our female teachers supported husbands in kollel and worked and mothered – a pretty incredible feat. They chose to live that sort of life and were happy with that choice. As students, we got mixed messages. Mostly the message was that learning in kollel is the ideal, but that there are other acceptable options.

For many of us, it’s not all right just to be “acceptable” – and therefore my friends often gravitate towards boys in learning, because they are considered “better” boys. The question really is, “Is there truth to the idea that boys in learning are generally better in avodas Hashem?”

This cycle will continue unless strong evidence comes out showing that this is not the right way. This evidence would have to be from the roshei yeshivos who are allowing and encouraging this cycle in the first place. It is important to realize, though, that even if this is a wrong hashkafa, it is coming from a very positive place and we can’t judge those people.

Dear Rachel,

I have never written to a paper before, but I was losing sleep over “At My Wit’s End” (Chronicles June 9). The first part of your response was perfect and seemed appropriate. However, I was deeply bothered by the last few sentences mentioning giving up and losing respect for one’s husband. Giving up on marriage should only be introduced as a last resort by a competent authority who knows the whole story. Giving up and losing respect should never ever be hinted at. Once words are spoken and put into one’s head, it becomes its own reality. How can this woman work with her husband when now in her head, he is a failure? I would love to give her some positive reinforcement and hope.

Dear Wit,

Breaking a bad habit or addiction is tough. Learning good coping skills for today’s complicated world is tough. Overcoming spiritual challenges is tough. That is the purpose of this world. Change does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. Everyone has challenges. Your husband appears to recognize the endless watching of movies as inappropriate as he has tried to refrain. Don’t lose respect for him. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t give up on him. Don’t give up on yourself. Try to understand him.

No one’s perfect and no one is one character trait. Everyone is a package deal. We are on this world to improve ourselves. We are not finished projects. Life is about overcoming spiritual challenges. Marriage is about teamwork, working together to overcome our challenges. His challenge is not his challenge alone – in a good marriage it is both partners’ challenge.

Talk to a rabbi, a therapist. Try and try again. Even if your husband refuses to see a rabbi or therapist, you can benefit by seeking help. You will learn skills to enable you to help your husband. You will be that much stronger as a person and as a couple once you overcome this difficulty together, and with the next spiritual challenge that comes your way you will benefit with having the improved skills to tackle the task of life.

Good Luck.

Dear Rachel,

Cheers for Anonymous’s personal report of permanent change in his own SSA (Chronicles June 16). Even though such changes are reported often in the media, and “Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays” (PFOX) is a growing organization which demonstrates the changes among real people, many in the counseling professions and media continue to insist falsely – and contrary to the fundamental Jewish concept of teshuva – that such change cannot occur. That insistence results from the immense influence of homosexual activists within those groups.

It is important, however, to distinguish between same-sex attraction (which we can call SSA-1) and same-sex activity, SSA-2. Which of the two Anonymous was engaged in is unclear, especially with regard to his pedophilia. SSA-1 is relatively easy to overcome; after all, we all have forbidden sexual thoughts – most of them heterosexual – and they usually recede into insignificance when one is involved in stable, satisfying marriage. When it is SSA-2 that has been engaged in, however, change is harder, and under crisis, relapse – temporary or permanent – is more likely to occur.

If Anonymous had been involved with pedophiliac activities, I would insist on his having gone at least 10 years without them before I would allow him to, say, run a Boy Scout troop. Also: it may be more accurate to see SSA as a habit, for which one is responsible, rather than an illness, for which personal responsibility is lacking.

The fact that therapy/counseling can help people change SSA does not mean that they will, or that the change will be permanent. And without adequate marital satisfactions, the chance of relapse (especially with SSA-2) remains high, no matter how effective the therapy/counseling has seemed to be. That’s the lesson taught by the many Roman Catholic priests who were returned to full duty after therapy/counseling, only to repeat their pedophilic behavior.

Cheers again for Anonymous’s story, and thanks to The Jewish Press for publishing it.

Nathaniel S. Lehrman, M.D
Former Clinical Director
Kingsboro Psychiatric Center
Former Assistant Clinical Prof. of Psychiatry,
Albert Einstein and SUNY Downstate Colleges of Medicine;
One time Chairman,
Task Force on Religion and Mental Health,
Commission on Synagogue Relations,
New York Federation of Jewish Philanthropies

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-28/2006/07/26/

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