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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Third Ave’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/30/10

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Dear Readers,

In a recent column (Chronicles 11-26-10), we responded to a woman caring for her elderly mother who was turning out to be more than a handful and then some. The writer had gone the extra mile for her mom all along but now feared that the older woman’s grumpiness and constant criticism, especially of her son-in-law, would end badly. This daughter wanted to know what her religious and moral obligations are regarding honoring her mom and whether any boundaries could be set in order to preserve her sanity and marital harmony.

Our reply emphasized the significance of the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim and the writer was encouraged to continue being a dutiful daughter, to enlist outside help for relief when necessary and be appreciative of having a supportive family (husband and children).

The following is a sampling of readers’ reactions that came our way:

Dear Rachel,

Regarding the woman who wrote to you about her aging and cranky mom, she should be grateful that her mother is communicative and mobile. I wish my mother could have told me how she felt and offered her opinions. You see, she was rendered mute and paralyzed by a stroke, and it was heartbreaking to see her face and know that her thoughts were trapped in her mind. Lady, at least your mother can express herself.

Count your blessings

Dear Rachel,

I totally disagree with your answer to the woman caring for her mother. First of all, where is her mother’s responsibility in all of this? She needs to be respectful and pleasant to her daughter and her family who are caring for her.

Maybe the mom has a psychiatric problem that causes her to act like that. Also, what about the toll on this woman’s sholom bayis? You are not a rav and yet you gave her very little wiggle room to get out of caring for this mean woman forever! The daughter deserves happiness and, if her mother cannot at least try to act like a mensch, she should be strongly encouraged to move out.

Suffering is for fools

Dear Rachel,

No doubt you have rankled some readers with your candid reply to the woman taking care of her difficult mother. I refer to those who place their own needs above anyone else’s and would never dream of exerting themselves to care for an elderly parent, let alone bring them into their homes.

You were also exactly right about the obligation to respect a mother-in-law. My widowed mother-in-law is about as big a kvetch as you can meet. She criticizes non-stop, is steeped in self-pity, and – as you can imagine – isn’t the most pleasant or sought after houseguest.

Baruch Hashem she is self-sufficient enough to live on her own, but that doesn’t stop us, her daughters-in-law (she has no daughters) and her grandchildren, from making the rounds to visit her, to see to her wellbeing and comfort and to make sure that her food pantry is well stocked. (Some of us travel quite a distance to do so.) We also take turns having her over for holidays and manage to tolerate her crankiness and faultfinding with dignity and good humor.

It’s not always about “me” or “I”

Dear Rachel,

For years my sisters and I tended to our dear mom who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The disease distorted our mother’s normally great personality, and when she stopped communicating with us altogether it was almost too much to bear.

Even then we kept her updated on the details of her large family’s doings and often detected an emotional reaction in response. Her eyes would fill with tears at sad news or would brighten at good news.

What we would have given to engage her in give and take dialogue! If only she had been able to communicate her discomfort or disapproval!

Thank you for reminding us of what counts most in life: practicing kindness and giving, especially to our kin.

Charity begins at home

Dear Rachel,

I really appreciated your answer to the frustrated mom caring for her own mother. I have the privilege of caring for my elderly widowed father, and yes, consider it a privilege.

Like you say, the mitzvah was not meant to be easy. That is precisely why I found your message most inspiring. You boosted my morale just when I needed it most.

A grateful reader

Dear Rachel,

I am a widow in my mid 80′s and I strongly believe that most people pray fervently to be self-reliant until their dying day. As parents age, their biggest fear is to become a burden to their children.

Even with devoted children, you don’t want to be in their way – especially when they are busy raising their own families.

I have a message for my children, and I’m sure I will be speaking for others as well:

I appreciate your concerns about my being alone and your standing invitation to come and spend Shabbos with you. At the same time, please try to understand that I seldom have the energy or stamina to keep up with your schedule or to tolerate the noise level at your place, and that is a big reason why I find it so much more convenient to stay put in my own home, despite my physical aches and pains.

But why must it be “all or nothing.” It hurts when nobody thinks of asking whether I need any help with getting the few things I would need for Shabbos. Is it too much to expect a phone call when you do your own grocery shopping to see if there is anything you can pick up for me so that I don’t have to venture out on a cold winter day?

Just because I choose to remain in my home for the occasional Shabbos, it doesn’t mean that one of my grandchildren shouldn’t stop by with some homemade challah or to see if maybe bubby can use some help.

I won’t be around forever

* * * * *
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 – 12/23/10

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I have been in the singles scene for a while and have seen many of my friends get married and many stay single. Of those who have stayed single, I have noticed commonalities among SOME of them, which could imply a bona fide pattern. The symptoms are:

1) Obsession with lofty spirituality. Many of these women unwittingly scare men off by flaunting said obsession on dates as a form of challenge.

2) Fixation with pristine perfection. Many of these women act as if it beneath their lofty dignity to stand in the presence of a man who has flaws. Many of them cannot psychologically handle the fact that many single men watch sports or otherwise fall short of their ideals. They deny their zero-tolerance attitude by saying things like, “I’m not too picky. I’ll date someone with divorced parents.” Or, “I am a realist. I understand that a man who is politically powerful in the community will not be the most involved parent.” These women often consider themselves realistic by agreeing to “settle” for someone who is less than phenomenally wealthy, handsome or otherwise high-status, while still running in horror from anyone with an actual imperfection.

3) Social gravitation towards rabbis, rebbetzins or other parent figures. Many of these women know the name of every maggid shiur in town and can converse intelligently about them. When in shul, they are often quicker to socialize with middle-aged mother figures than even single women their own age.

4) Overwhelming desire to idealize their spouse. Many of these women sincerely believe that they deserve a husband they can look up to with starry eyes. They cringe at the thought of being an equal, let alone an eizer kenegdo.

5) “Take care of me!!”- These women have a powerful need to feel protected from the ills of the world. They want a cushy life in an established community, with a house and a minivan, and do not feel bothered by the question of what they have to offer a man affluent enough to afford this, in return.

6) Dowdy physical appearance. Most of the women I am describing here are overweight, sometimes significantly, and commonly have easily curable physical defects like a huge nose. These women go through the motions of putting themselves together, often with a suit and flat shoes, but somehow do not seem to comprehend the importance of looking young, pretty and feminine. When asked why they don’t wear more makeup or consider an updated hairstyle, some give answers like, “A nice boy doesn’t care about those things.”

Many of these women cannot fathom why a thinner, more glamorous younger sister is married to a sports fan with an entry-level salary, who sometimes misses mincha. They sincerely believe that they are worth better.

I have found that this problem tends to feed on itself, with the proliferation of shiurim, Tehillim groups and segulos for single women creating a sort of ghetto where single women with this syndrome can drive each other deeper and deeper out of reality. At a recent shiur for single women (in which a speaker from Israel instructed the girls to automatically break up with any man who uses the Internet), I was shocked to find that quite a few of the girls had weight problems and almost none of them were wearing makeup.

I have found that the extreme emphasis these women place on segulos, brachos parties, and extremist interpretations of tznius only serves to raise the bar for the men they date, forcing said men to conform to the lofty la-la land they have created for themselves, possibly as a defense mechanism, in order to be considered “good enough.”

I welcome feedback to my letter which is written in the hopes of possibly shedding a faint ray of light on the enormous darkness which exists in place of an answer to the painfully burning question -

“Why am I still single?”

Dear Single,

Allow me to be the first to comment on your well-articulated and plausible critique of the single woman as you observe her, and to firstly suggest that girls with a diverse range of differences were always out there, though with perhaps less prominence than they are in today’s times.

Another thing to take into consideration: like gravitates to like, and the increase in the number of shiurim, Tehillim groups, etc. certainly helps to facilitate the meeting of like minds, on a much larger scale than ever before.

Additionally, trials and hardships have always been known to bring one closer to Hashem, so the upsurge in spirituality – whether in the form of revamping tznius guidelines or reviving old segulos – should come as no surprise.

As for the overweight and the plain-Jane unsophisticated types, they’ve been with us forever. Call it part of the multicolored fabric of society or attribute it to “different strokes for different folks” – either way, neither a weight issue nor a large nose seems to have hindered countless of singles from acquiring a spouse.

This is not to say that taking things to an extreme (as in the scenarios you so lucidly illustrate) is ever advisable or healthy (for marrieds or singles), but just to point out that one needn’t be slim, good-looking, levelheaded, or even down-to-earth with reasonable goals to land a suitable shidduch.

The key is in the word “suitable” – as in “s/he was made for him/her.” After all, it’s not as if there’s a proliferation of perfect young males having a hard time finding the perfect female (or vice-versa). Boys and girls alike have warts and idiosyncrasies that somehow suddenly don’t matter a whit when two souls predestined to be together discover one another.

Two indispensable components in finding one’s zivug (assigned to each of us long before we got to assert our individual characteristics): a dose of good mazel and siyata d’Shmaya. To that end, Hashem awaits our heartfelt prayers.

Thanks for sharing your thought-provoking perspectives with this column.

* * * * *

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 – 12/09/10

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

First let me say how much I enjoy reading your column – Shabbos just wouldn’t be the same without it.

I was hoping you could shed some light on a topic that’s been causing some friction in our home between our 15-year old son and his dad. The yeshiva he goes to mandates wearing a black hat for davening. The problem: My son absolutely detests wearing it and does so begrudgingly – he has no choice.

He refuses, however, to wear one at any other time – not even to shul on Shabbos or Yom Tov. This irritates my husband to no end and has led to constant bickering between them.

Whereas both my husband and I come from black hat families (men always wore hats for davening, at the Shabbos and Yom Tov tish, for special occasions, etc.), in our “mixed” neighborhood there are a number of men who are seen wearing just a yarmulke.

Our son is baruch Hashem very bright and does well in school (when he sets his mind to it), but he is also the type who questions everything: “Why” this and “Why” that

I thought that if you could possibly give us some background to the origin or reason behind the custom of wearing a hat, we might be able to win our son over with logic that would make sense to him.

Thank you for enlightening us

Dear Enlighten,

With all the current headaches in the world, to wear or not to wear a hat may come across to some readers as a relatively trivial matter. Yet to many others this “minor” issue can become a major irritant.

I am reminded of a poem that circulated some years back called “Moshiach’s Hat.” A slightly modified version follows below – as worthwhile a read today as it was yesterday, for youngsters and old timers alike.

Look to our next column for a more in-depth analysis on the topic of a male’s head covering.

In the meanwhile, with Chanukah’s flames having just infused our hearts and homes with light, this is an ideal time to focus on family togetherness and to allow the lingering, soothing warmth to dissolve those annoyances that tend to get the better of us.

‘Twas the night of the Geulah and in the world’s varied shtiebelach

The sounds of Torah could be heard coming from all kinds of Yeedelach

Some were learning in English, some in Ivrit or Yiddish

Some were expounding on apshat or elucidating a chiddish

And up in shamayim The Aibishter decreed

That the time had come “for My Children to be freed”

Moshiach was roused from his heavenly berth

And given instructions to set out for planet earth

He instantly complied and with much jubilation

Descended to earth and entered a shtiebel congregation

I am the Moshiach, he announced. Hashem has heard your plea!

Your Geulah has arrived! I’ve come to set you free!

They all stopped their learning – this was quite a surprise

And looked him over carefully with scrutinizing eyes

He’s not the Moshiach, declared one on a whim

Take a look at that hat, the pinches and the brim!

That’s right, offered another with a sneer and a frown

Moshiach wouldn’t show with a brim that’s turned down

Hmm, thought Moshiach, if this indeed is the rule

I’ll simply turn my brim up before I enter the next shul

So he confidently strode into the next shul in town

Sure that he’d be welcomed with his brim no longer down

I’m the Moshiach, he proclaimed as he made his move to enter

But the Yidden wanted to verify if he was Left, Right, or Center

Your clothes are so black, they cried out in fright

You can’t be Moshiach, you’re much too far right

If you want to be Moshiach, you must be properly outfitted

And they replaced his black hat with a kippa that was knitted

With his new kippa on his head Moshiach shrugged and said

What difference is it to me what I wear on my head?

And so he went on to the next shtiebel for his mission was dear

Though he was fast becoming disillusioned with the Yidden down here

I’m the Moshiach! He introduced himself bravely once more

Hoping they wouldn’t find fault with the clothes that he wore

You’re the Moshiach – without a black hat??

But I do have a hat!” said Moshiach to that.

He pulled it right out and plunked it down on his head

But they all started laughing and one of them said,

If you want to be Moshiach and be accepted in this town,

Try some pinches here and there and turn the brim down

Moshiach was heartbroken and thought the time must not be right

He turned around despairingly and walked out into the night.

But when he reached his chariot and began to enter

All sorts of Yidden came together – from Left, Right, and Center

Please don’t go it’s all their fault! they accusingly said

Pointing to one another and to what each wore on his head.

But Moshiach sadly shook his head and said you don’t understand

As he started up his chariot to get out of this land

Yes, it’s very wonderful that you all are learning Torah

But you seem to have forgotten a crucial part of our mesorah.

Bewildered and befuddled they all began to shout

What does he mean? What is he talking about?

Moshiach rebuked them: The first place to start

Is to seal your lips and open your hearts

To all who deem other Yidden too frum or too frei

Know that all Yidden are beloved in The Aibishter’s eye

If you sincerely and truly wish for me to come
Try working a little harder on Ahavas Chinam

* * * * *

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 – 12/02/10

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

AD MOSAY?

Dear Rachel,

You were kind enough to print my previous letters to you in which I had detailed some of the unbelievable horror, the beatings and torture, the pain, fear and intimidation in which young women, our daughters, live.

I wrote to you about our anger and frustration in the face of cold-blooded and corrupt community leaders who support the husbands and family members who shut their eyes to the pain of their own flesh-and-blood. And I wrote to you about the wonderful shelter – Bat-Melech – which is the only shelter serving the women in the chareidi community. Rachel! There is no let-up.

The following is an approximate synopsis and translation from a Hebrew article by Noam Barkan (which appeared in Yediot Achronot) after a heart-rending visit with the young victim described here. I hope you will print this too because the horror must be unveiled and our community must shout: “Ad Mosay?”

In retrospect, Elanor* should have seen what was coming; her days of engagement should have been ones of joy and anticipation. Instead, they were filled with verbal abuse, cursing and degrading in public. Her chosson, Chaim, would follow her to school or pop in unannounced in order to verify her whereabouts. She had to check with him before she went to visit friends, and he curtailed her actions and freedom of movement. And though he hit her too, Elanor’s naiveté excused it all as “pre-marriage jitters and nervousness.” She was sure that once married his attitude would change for the better.

How wrong she was! Today she is only twenty-years-old; a young woman married to an abusive 25-year-old spineless snake who beat her because she is “not behaving properly.” He beat her in order to teach her, and he choked her because of something she might have said.

No longer able to excuse all this as pre-marital jitters, Elanor attributed this horror to the fact that she did not conceive in the first year of her marriage. “I’m sure he’ll change once I get pregnant. After all, if he knows that he’ll be a father, he’ll mature and his behavior towards me will change.”

And when Elanor did get pregnant, his behavior did change – the beatings increased because, he stated with glee, now Elanor was tied to him forever due to the baby she was carrying and she’d never be able to leave him.

He would punch her in the stomach and choke her into semi-consciousness, jeopardizing both Elanor and the unborn child. In her misery, the young would-be-mother wondered why he is punching the baby After all, it was she who was not behaving properly; what wrong did the baby do?

Elanor ran away to her parents, hoping to elicit their help. They were reluctant to let her in because her husband had claimed that she cheated on him. In anger, they insisted that she should return to her abusive husband and try to be a “better wife” and work on “sholom bayis.”

When Elanor finally had enough and had her husband arrested, it was her father who bailed him out.

And once her husband had elicited Elanor’s parents’ tacit and active support, he felt free and unencumbered to continue the abuse. She could not call her friends without his explicit permission, and he listened to all her conversations. There is so much more, the details of which are sickening.

Afraid of losing the baby, Elanor decided that she must run away. A friend took her in for two days and referred her to the authorities where, with G-d’s help, a total stranger took pity on the hapless woman and immediately referred her to Bat-Melech.

The warmth and safety accorded to Elanor by Bat-Melech’s personnel and other residents instilled in Elanor a sense of worth and security, enabling her to plan for her future. The embrace with which she was welcomed let a bit of sun into an otherwise bleak darkness.

Last week, in an atmosphere of warmth and joy, with Bat-Melech counselors and her shelter-friends surrounding her – ensuring her husband would not get near her – Elanor cried tears of happiness as the mohel performed the bris on her new-born son. Holding her baby gently in her arms, Elanor finally saw herself emerging from the depth of despair to a better and healthier future.

Rachel, when will this stop? Elanor is one of the lucky ones – just one of the many abused and tortured young women who found heaven in the midst of the hell they lived in. She was one of the fortunate ones who found their way to the only shelter catering to the religious woman.

Her rehabilitation is going smoothly; soon she will be transferred to a transitory safe-house where she will get every possible help that she will need to begin her new life with her new-born son. Her self-esteem is solid, and she has long discarded the fear of her husband.

Unfortunately, many more of our abused daughters are in desperate need for either a safe haven or urgent emotional/financial help. Regrettably, the limited sources available to Bat-Melech forces the shelter to turn away far too many.

In the five years that Bat-Melech is in existence, the shelter has had a continuous residency count of forty-five women and approximately 150 children. Given every possible support, most of these women go on to a new and better life, a life devoid of the fear and terror they previously were immersed in.

Bat-Melech’s director, Noach Korman, a highly esteemed attorney, has been giving his entire life and heart to save each and every one of the girls who turn to Bat-Melech. Unfortunately, the limited space and funds force so many to remain in the gehennom they are in.

In conclusion, Rachel, while the disease festers without a solution in sight, Bat-Melech needs all the help it can muster. Perhaps families fortunate to be enjoying the warmth of togetherness this Chanukah will take pity on the plight of these girls and find it in their hearts to extend a much-needed financial helping hand to expand the facilities and resources so desperately needed.

More information is easily available at: www.batmelech.org.

Isaac Kohn

kohnisaac@optonline.net

*Names have been changed.

* * * * *

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 – 11/25/10

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Dear Readers,

In last week’s column, a devoted daughter wrote of the emotional turmoil she endures in caring for her elderly mother. Very frustrated made it clear that she has no misgivings about doing all she can, in every way, to make her mother’s life as comfortable as possible. The writer is blessed with having her family’s backing and cooperation as well, and, in fact, her mother has been on an extended stay in their home now for several months while recuperating from surgery.

The difficulties experienced by this daughter stem from her mom’s negative attitude; the elder woman is distrustful of everything and everyone and is especially critical of her son-in-law whom she derides under her breath at every turn.

In addition, she has the annoying habit of meddling into the family’s affairs – such as when she finds fault with shidduchim for her granddaughters and thinks nothing of inappropriately interrogating their shidduch dates.

As an only child and hence sole caretaker of her widowed mom, Very frustrated has shouldered this awesome responsibility ever since her father passed away (years ago, before she got married). At this time she fears that the dam may soon burst and that her thus-far-forbearing husband will “reach his breaking point.”

Basically, she is interested in knowing where her obligations lie, both in a religious and moral sense, to a parent “who has made me completely miserable my entire life.”

Dear Frustrated,

A reply to your letter would hardly be worthy of print if it failed to sing your praises: Kudos to you for being a devoted and dutiful daughter to your mother!

Lest we forget, kibbud av v’eim is a divine commandment. What’s more, Hashem considers honoring a mother and father in the same league as honoring Him. Essentially, we have no choice in the matter.

But how far must we take this obligation? To what lengths must one go to honor a parent? The Talmud states it clearly and leaves no room for doubt: To the extent that no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassed a child is made to feel by his/her parent, the child must not show any distress or anger towards that parent.

Getting back to your own personal situation you indicate that you have always been there for your mother, and that it’s never been easy. But now she sorely tests your endurance, as you are hurting badly not only for yourself but for your loved ones who are at the mercy of your mother’s acrimony.

On the positive side, you can count yourself fortunate in many ways. For one, it is apparent that you have a mature and understanding man for a spouse, one who knows not to take your mother’s barbs personally and who conducts himself with dignity under trying circumstances. In all probability, he recognizes and appreciates the importance of the role you undertake and roots for you in your noble cause. (For the record, one is obligated to honor and respect one’s in-laws as well as one’s parents.)

Then there are your children (good kids, you say) who reap the benefit of viewing up close the selfless manner in which you dedicate yourself to your mother’s needs – a valuable lesson they will take with them for life.

Whereas honoring a parent in ideal conditions is certainly meritorious, consider how much greater is the merit for one who performs the commandment under grueling circumstances. Besides, where does it state that carrying out the mitzvah is supposed to come easy? And are you aware that each individual act (of your kibbud eim) counts as a separate mitzvah? That knowledge by itself should help you sustain chizuk in fulfilling your lofty goal.

By the time you read this, your mother may be back in her own home and may even have agreed to have outside help. It is perfectly acceptable to have someone reliable assist or relieve you so that you can catch your breath and recharge your batteries. Both you and your mother can benefit from such an arrangement.

You may even go so far as to suggest an assisted living facility (which may be just what your mom can use at this stage in her life), but be mindful of your approach – for you are not permitted to communicate to your mother that she is a burden, nor are you allowed to make her feel pressured to go. The option should be hers alone.

Last but not least: It surely does not escape any member of your family that your mother is an almanah, a widow – who is rendered vulnerable and fragile by her tremendous loss and whose feelings we are divinely warned to be extra-heedful of.

­In merit of your unwavering commitment to the mitzvah of kibbud eim, may you and your husband be rewarded with loads of nachas from your own children. Hatzlacha!

* * * * *

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 – 11/18/10

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I don’t even know where to begin this letter. I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but guilt and confusion would always deter me. I guess my bottom line question to you would be: Where are my obligations religiously and morally to a parent who has made me completely miserable my entire life?

Just to give you some background, I am a middle-aged mother of three grown children, two of whom still live at home. My husband is a wonderful, loving, kind man and my children are either in school or working professionally. They are also kind and loving and eager to lend a hand whenever necessary. Anyone would be proud to claim them as a family – that is, anyone except my mother.

I grew up an only child. My father passed away some time ago, leaving a huge void in my mother’s life. This is not to say my mother was ever a social person. She kept pretty much to herself and her family. She never worked (or even drove) and relied on my father for everything.

When he passed away, I had to take on all the responsibilities of dealing with her paperwork and tending to my mother’s needs, although I was newly engaged and eager to begin my own life.

Rachel, in all honesty I have never resented any assistance I have given my mother. I have always tried to include her in everything – even taking her on vacations with us, calling her 2-3 times a day, taking her food shopping, attending to her medical needs and any issues of home repair that would come up.

On the surface you may say that of course this is my obligation and I shouldn’t be complaining. I have to reiterate that I have no issue being there at all times for my mother, except for the fact that she is, and pretty much always has been, a bitter, critical woman.

Even while my father was alive, she would always criticize him. If he would come home burdened by work-related events, she would taunt and criticize him instead of soothing him.

When I married soon after my father passed away, she would always find fault with my husband, and soon afterwards with my children. For the most part we would try to ignore it and I would chalk it up to her maybe feeling unhappy with herself and her own life, but now as she gets older and obviously needier, she has become much more critical and bitter.

She is very suspicious; she misunderstands what people say to her and therefore feels everyone is watching her and is out to get her.

She recently had surgery and has been staying with us for several months, so all of this has been magnified tremendously. It is much harder to ignore her behavior. She is constantly muttering nasty things under her breath against my husband that she thinks he doesn’t hear (or maybe she actually wants him to hear).

When my daughters have shidduch dates, she constantly finds fault with the young men and pries into the girls’ business, asking inappropriate questions that are hurtful.

She doesn’t want to hire outside help to stay with her in her home, even though she could afford it, and I must admit that she has become so frail that I am afraid to leave her alone for long periods of time.

I work outside the home for several hours a day, and frankly that’s my only refuge. I dread coming home every day in anticipation of a new battle to be fought or a criticism to be dealt with or ignored.

It’s funny, because if you would meet her outside my home, you would think she is the most gracious, loving person. Strangers, doctors, therapists, neighbors always tell me how lucky I am to have an elderly mother who is so cute and sweet, but nobody knows her behind closed doors.

I know I am not the only one with this type of dilemma; I’ve spoken to friends who allude to having similar issues, but I cannot believe they could be as bad as mine.

I’ve spoken to my mother in the past, begging her to please realize that everyone wants her around, that we want her in our lives, but that she is making it very difficult and is constantly hurting our feelings by this behavior.

My husband is patient and tries to look the other way, but I’m afraid he too will reach his breaking point eventually.

I not only ask for your reply, Rachel, but I think it would help if other people in my situation would share their experiences and hopefully any solutions they may have.

I thank you for the opportunity to vent a little.

Very frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Please forgive the delay in hearing from us. Here it is fall – almost winter – and for reasons unfathomable, your neatly handwritten letter postmarked in late August somehow took its time and first made it to this column’s writing table come November.

Of course things can change in the blink of an eye and may have somewhat, or even drastically, altered in the several weeks that have elapsed since you took the time to “vent.”

Nonetheless, we will do our best to address your concerns in next week’s column, G-d willing, and invite others in similar circumstances to share their own stories and strategies.

* * * * *

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 – 11/11/10

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Dear Rachel,

I read with interest your article on disciplining children. (“Hitting is for cowards” – Chronicles 10-15) The debate – “spare the rod and spoil the child” – is an old one and a tough one.

I recall with clarity when my father took me to cheder as a little boy and in front of the whole class informed the rebbe that he can hit me whenever he felt the need to. As young as I was, I was mortified and embarrassed, and I fully believe that the seed of my rebellion was planted at that precise moment.

It took many years for me to reconcile myself to my father’s ways – to understand that he emulated his own father’s ways and that was the only method of discipline he grew up with and was familiar with. My father was in general a mild-mannered man, but he was woefully short on words; verbal communication was not his thing.

Today, as a father myself, I do understand the difficulties in rearing rambunctious children, especially boys, but I steer clear of the strap and the slap. If verbal reasoning doesn’t do it, I resort to penalties – as in no dessert tonight or no friend for sleepovers or early bedtime, etc. You get the gist, I’m sure.

I say ‘spare the rod’

Dear Rachel,

I disagree with your response to Hitting is for Cowards on both counts.

In the first episode, the stewardess did exactly the right thing. A mother who slaps a crying baby to stop him from crying is totally out of control. Had the stewardess just diffused the situation by offering to hold the baby for a short while, the mother would have continued to slap her crying baby when there would be no stewardess around to offer relief.

We’ve heard enough stories about babies killed by parents/caretakers when they would not stop crying. It was crucial to let the mother know in very clear terms that if she abused her baby she stood the very real risk of losing the child for good. I say kudos to that courageous stewardess.

As far as the gym teacher who removed an unruly student by the ear, physical engagement with a student is unacceptable unless someone is in danger of being physically hurt. Every professional knows that. A teacher may not allow his emotions to take control of his actions, no matter what the provocation.

It is also a stretch of the imagination to assume that this young man’s parents are to blame for not disciplining him when he was young. As a teacher, I would venture to guess that his parents were too harsh and draconian in their treatment of him. But neither of us can really know. Maybe he has wonderful parents and something happened on that particular day to set the kid off.

Hitting has no place in civilized society

Dear Rachel,

My heart breaks when I see one of many children in the same household going “off” for no apparent reason. Wonderful parents, ample love, great children – except for the one who decides that he/she wants to be “different.”

I mention this to point out that, right or wrong, hitting children by way of disciplining them does not necessarily trigger rebellion. Still, there is not much to be gained by using physical coercion on the recalcitrant child. If anything, this could serve to drive the child completely away.

The bottom line is we must pray for siyata d’shmaya (heavenly guidance) in all our undertakings, and especially when it comes to the daunting task of raising our children.

Just my humble opinion

Dear Rachel,

I am writing regarding your column on hitting children to make them behave. First of all, the “consequences” that Debbie referred to (08-27-2010, Interview series) may not have been of the physical kind. Psychological or emotional abuse can be equally devastating and painful.

Then there is the sad truth – that countless of us are children of the Holocaust (our parents having lived through a hell that we can never fathom). With their onerous task of rebuilding their lives from scratch, not to mention the emotional turmoil in coming to terms with their tremendous loss, they understandably had less patience and endurance than is required for the task of raising children.

Another thing to keep in mind: there are trouble-prone children who come from the best of homes, and there are fantastic children who emerge from less than ideal environments. At the same time, children’s individual natures need to be taken into account when dealing with obedience issues.

We can all agree, though, that corporal punishment has no place in any of our homes.

A survivor’s survivor

Dear Readers,

Along with the curse of pain in childbirth, we were decreed to have tzar gidul bonim – pain in the process of raising our children. An old saying comes to mind: No pain, no gain. The trials we go through teach us and strengthen us.

Most parents “grow” along with their children. One might say we learn on the job (and we are never too old to learn). The mom of multiple offspring is much more proficient at handling her younger children than she was her eldest. Experience offers us skills and matures us.

As for the wayward child, no one can sit in judgment as to why good parents are made to suffer such hardship. Another prevailing dilemma: At what point (if ever) should parents give up and cut ties to a child who has become totally estranged and is causing them endless tzar?

Someone once asked Rav Avigdor Miller for advice in coping with the hassles of raising a difficult brood. He replied, “Children are like apartment houses. When one tenant is screaming at the landlord to fix a leaky faucet, and another to repair a burnt wire in a fuse box, the landlord has only one thing in mind – the rent that he will collect at the end of the month. Children are the same – they are your olam haba; you will reap the reward for raising them in olam haba. Focus on this, and their noise will sound like beautiful music.”

Thank you all for your input.

* * * * *

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-295/2010/11/11/

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