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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shemonei Esrei’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/30/11

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

 

We are a newly married couple and my mother-in-law is already driving me nuts. She doesn’t understand why I won’t go to shul every Shabbos like she does and has done forever (or so she claims).

 

 

I work hard all week and don’t feel like getting all dressed up to go to shul on Shabbos, the day of my relaxation. And my husband is fine with it. Besides, I’ve always found that I can better concentrate on my tefillos at home than when I am among people, where I feel the need to suppress my emotions.

 

 

I have no issue with going to shul when it’s mandatory, such as to hear the megillah on Purim and shofar on Rosh Hashanah, etc. Yet my mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to express her disapproval of my stay-at-home habit at every opportunity.

 

 

The reason I am writing to you is because I know she reads your column and thought maybe you could be my advocate. I can really use one. Thanks!

 

Frum but cherish my privacy

 

 

 

Dear Cherish,

 

Some women have a longstanding tradition of attending shul every Shabbos, but that does not make it mandatory. There is no halacha for women to pray with a minyan, nor are women bound by time-restricted mitzvos.

 

 

While it is laudable for a woman to pray, she is not duty-bound to go to shul (with some exceptions, as you cite). This especially applies to young mothers whose first obligation is to their children. (Young boys should however be encouraged to accompany their father to shul as they get older. Toddlers who may disrupt their father’s time in shul should be kept at home until they mature some.)

 

 

It is very commendable of your mother-in-law to be in shul on a weekly basis, a habit she most likely picked up from her own mom. It is also worth noting that to hear and answer to the Kaddish prayer is a tremendous mitzvah. (The Gemara (Shabbos 110b) states that one who answers Yehei Shmay Rabbah with ardor annuls bad decrees and gets mechila for his sins.)

 

 

On the other hand, it is certainly not a mitzvah to be in shul to socialize. If you find you daven with more intense concentration and less distraction at home, by all means follow your heart. And since your husband sees it your way, perhaps he can speak up and state his opinion in a respectful manner when his mother is within hearing range.

 

 

             In any case, try not to let your mother-in-law’s outspokenness get to you. By now she must surely know where you stand on the subject. Just let it ride and tactfully change the course of your conversation when she brings it up.

 

 

 

 

Dear Rachel,

 

As the holidays approach, I am reminded of the mothers and their young children who have a way of annoyingly disrupting another’s concentration during one of the most crucial prayers of the year.

 

 

I can understand parents who bring little ones to shul in order not to miss hearing shofar. Though this segment lasts a relatively short while, some women stay on for the duration of the mussaf Shemonei Esrei.

 

 

Last year, just as we were immersed in the Shemonei Esrei, a 3-year old came running in with her panties wrapped around her ankles, yelling in a loud voice, “Mommy, I’m finished! Come and wipe me!”

 

 

One woman who brings her little girl along for tekias shofar and stays for mussaf totes a supermarket shopping bag, the contents of which are duly spilled onto the clean, white tablecloth next to our machzorim.

 

 

While her mother and the women around her try to concentrate on their tefillos, this little girl busies herself unwrapping, chewing, crunching and crumbling an array of licorice, taffies, cookies and chips, eating away as though she’s been deprived of a sweet treat since last Rosh Hashanah.

 

 

Not only is this enormously distracting, but the women in close proximity cringe as they try to avoid greasy little fingers soiling their Yom Tov finest.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, Rachel, I too am a mother, but I can assure you that when my children were young and naturally rambunctious I spent Yomim Tovim davening at home. I’d have never dreamed of allowing my small children to disturb the adults in shul and to disrupt the concentration of their prayers.

 

 

I hope you will print this in time for the holidays so that the message gets out, but somehow I doubt this year will be different from last.

 

Craving quality spiritual connection

 

 

 

 

Dear Craving,

 

You are far from the only one with this opinion. To their credit, I’ve seen young mothers with children in tow come to shul and sit in a vestibule off the women’s section; the distance keeps their children from disturbing others, while the mothers are close enough to follow the davening.

 

 

Some shuls do arrange a babysitting setup that frees mothers who want uninterrupted praying time. Also, just about every Jewish community has volunteers who make themselves available specifically to blow shofar for the homebound and who will happily do so for stay-at-home moms with young children. (This should be looked into and arranged beforehand.)

 

 

Here’s hoping that you will be spared this type of frustration this year and that mothers with little ones take your message to heart.

 

 

May all our prayers be answered for a good, sweet, healthy and prosperous New Year! Shana Tova!

 

 

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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, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. 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 – 12/16/10

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Dear Readers,

 

In last week’s column, a mother of a 15-year yeshiva bochur wrote of her exasperation with the tension in their home created by an ongoing battle between the boy and his father – over the son’s unwillingness to wear a hat. Although he wears one for davening in yeshiva (school’s mandate), he refuses to do so at any other time.

 

This mom (who signed herself Thank you for enlightening us) seems to feel that an intelligent argument in favor of wearing a hat may sway their son’s outlook and asks for help on that front.

 

Dear Enlighten,

 

Every normal father aspires to be looked up to by his children, especially his sons, and is proud to have them follow in his ways. In this respect, at least, it is not too difficult to understand why your husband is hurting.

 

To put things in perspective, however, your husband ought to reflect back on his own teenage years, when he too would have felt the need to assert his independence along his way to adulthood.

 

             In your letter you say that you want to “win your son over with logic.” Have you not heard that even the best-intentioned parents come up against a brick wall when trying to reason with their teenager? “Raging hormones” is what we used to blame all of our teens’ ills on. But now we’re being told that recent brain development studies prove that unlike adults who use the part of the brain that governs reason and forethought, teenagers tend to rely more on the region of the brain that processes emotion and memory, and that therein lies their stubbornness.

 

Besides, “doing your own thing” is in and following “like mindless sheep” is old hat (no pun intended) – which is to say that wearing one “just because Daddy says so or does so” is simply not cool. Yeah, teenagers like to believe they are all grown up, when in reality they still have so much to learn and absorb.

 

Putting all of this aside, here are some tidbits of information for your “logic” arsenal:

 

The Mishneh Berura, for one, makes it clear that a man davening Shemonei Esrei should be garbed in a manner that befits the occasion of meeting with an important official. The Shulchan Aruch cites the bigdei kehunah (the Kohen Gadol‘s attire during the avodah in the Bais Hamikdosh) when discussing suitable dress for davening.

 

There are several references in the Gemara that allude to proper attire for praying, such as in Brochos 30:b where it says that one should bow before Hashem dressed as befits one who stands before the King. 

 

             While many orthodox segments of Jews will not allow themselves to succumb to outside trends and influences, members of the modern orthodox may argue that times are not what they used to be and thus justify their no-jacket no-hat attire (when davening) as acceptable.

 

Then there is the rationalization that proper etiquette in the world at large calls for removal of one’s hat in deference to an important figure, such as when standing before a dignitary or monarch. But if that indeed holds true in the gentile world (as we know it does), it should give us all the more reason not to follow such trend in our service to G-d.

 

To readers who go all out when attending their children’s/close relative’s/ wedding/bar-mitzvah, etc., in head to toe spiffy attire (cutting a dashing figure in hat and jacket): Is it not befitting to stand before the King of kings in at least as fine a getup?

 

A fascinating bit of kabbalah that deep-thinkers may appreciate explains why Chassidim and other orthodox sects wear hats over their yarmulkes (a double covering). Each Jewish soul is made up of five levels: the nefesh (soul), ruach (spirit), neshama (soul – Hashem’s breath), chaya (living essence) and yechida (unique essence).

 

The first three, the nefesh, ruach and neshama, are the ascending levels that reside within the physical body, while chaya and yechida – the highest levels (not internalized) – are acknowledged with the jacket and hat respectively. These items of clothing are linked to the makif (encircling light) and thus have the ability to attract the divine light that protects us from the surrounding negative forces.

 

Quite compelling an argument (in favor of wearing a jacket and hat) in and by itself!

 

Nonetheless, your husband would be well-advised to give the “hat” matter a rest and to work instead on building a solid and trusting father/son relationship. To that end, Daddy should be patting his son on the back for his scholarly achievements and giving him the frequent nod of approval for his accomplishments – all the while praying to Hashem for siyata d’Shmaya, to guide you in your parental role and your children in the proper derech.

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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 – 10/28/10

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

These days we often hear the lament of the younger generation being obsessed with a sense of entitlement and of children who want, want, and want some more. Well, maybe we ought to take a second look at the adults raising them. Why should children be any different from their parents and want less?

I know a “grown-up” who is never happy with what she has, regardless of how loaded she is (and believe me, she’s got plenty). Just as soon as someone else has “it,” she wants “it” too. Her constant cravings, I might add, make her one unhappy person.

Some people are simply never satisfied and are constantly striving to attain more and more worldly goods. If only their cravings would be of a spiritual kind, they’d possibly end up gaining something of value.

We need to impress upon our children, while they are still young, that being envious of others is a trait that will leave them embittered and miserable all of their lives. Though I didn’t know this woman in her younger years, I am quite sure that her envious streak manifested itself in her childhood.

The irony is that we never really know what troubles lurk on the other side of the opulent entranceway to our neighbor’s mansion. Instead of focusing on another’s good fortune, let’s revel in our own! We’ll all be better off for it.

I’ll keep mine; you can keep yours

Dear Keep,

A man once approached Reb Meir Premishlaner to bemoan the fact that someone was threatening his livelihood. The Rebbe responded by asking him if he ever saw a horse drinking water from a lake. All the while the horse drinks it stomps the ground with his feet, the reason being that he sees another horse there that wants to drink (its reflection) and it is fearful that the other horse will drink up all the water. We all know that there is enough water in the lake for many horses, continued Reb Meir, and no one can touch that which belongs to you.

As the Rebbe told his worried visitor, the one who has faith in Hashem and believes that everything comes from Him, knows there’s no purpose to envying anyone else.

Envy (being desirous of what another has) and jealousy (additionally not farginning the other to have) not only create a state of unhappiness but threaten the wellbeing of both the person being coveted and the one doing the coveting – so much so that the Shemonei Esrei prayer (among others) includes an entreaty that we be safeguarded from being consumed by envy and from being exposed to the flawed trait in another, directed at us.

The Korlitzer Rebbe, in the sefer Chazon Ish, writes that contemplating another’s success with an evil eye can completely disrupt that success and Shlomo HaMelech (in Mishlei) puts it this way: “The life of the body is a heart at peace, while envy rots the bones.”

So what steps can we take to protect our children from the scourge of begrudging others their due? Teaching by example is number one. A calm and serene home environment will imbue our children with a healthy sense of self. (Children readily perceive a parent’s discontentedness.)

We can further instill self-confidence in our young ones by loving them unconditionally. Siblings are not created equal; their personalities differ, as do their natural talents and intellectual capabilities – which can unfortunately lead some parents to openly favor one child over the other. The overlooked child will inevitably develop feelings of inadequacy and the bitter seed of envy will take root.

Every neshama is special and has something special to offer. The big bonus of helping each individual child reach his/her potential: a satisfied and self-confident adult who is less likely to chase elusive dreams and long for what everybody else seems to have.

According to the Baal Shem Tov, a craving, a desire, in a human being is like salty water for a thirsty person. Not only does it fail to quench his thirst, it makes him even thirstier. The same applies to a desire a person gives in to; indulging the craving will only intensify it until it will do him in.

Hashem provides each of us with our specific needs. If you had your eye on a house and it was sold to someone else before you had a chance to act on your desire, then it wasn’t meant for you. If you got to the sale way past the time you had planned on getting there and still found the robe you had set your heart on, it wasn’t sheer luck – it was meant for you to own.

Appreciate what comes your way and fargin (be happy for) your friend’s acquisitions. You, my dear reader, have the right attitude. Thank you for sharing your invaluable insight.

* * * * *

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-291/2010/10/27/

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