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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Torah Jews’

The Sword In The Tongue (Readers Respond)

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I’ve received an inordinate amount of mail in response to the letters I published two weeks ago regarding onas devarim – painful and abusive language. It seems this problem is prevalent in many circles, among children as well as adults, indicating this is a societal condition that is unfortunately reflective of our culture.

We live in a time in which sarcasm is an acceptable mode of communication, in which people lack sensitivity for the feelings of others and everything is legitimized as long as it brings on “a good laugh.”

I received letters from wives who wrote that they dread going out socially because their husbands seem to take pleasure in putting them down in front of their friends. The ridicule touches upon many aspects of their lives – their cooking, their appearance, their clumsiness on the tennis court, etc. Bottom line – the remarks are very hurtful and these wives have to take it silently lest they be accused of being “poor sports.” They wrote of the devastating effect this has on their marriages and the tranquility of their homes.

The letters also described the sarcastic jibes and cutting remarks wives make regarding husbands, such as “My husband always looks like a shlump – nothing he puts on ever matches”; “He can’t hold a job”; “He snores so loudly the walls rattle and he wakes up the whole house”; “He never remembers my birthday or our anniversary, but if by some miracle he does, you can be sure he will buy me something tasteless, something I have no use for, and then expect me to thank him profusely”; and on and on.

Parents wrote that their children address them in the most disrespectful and reprehensible manner: “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” “Get off my back!” “It’s none of your business!” and other expressions best not repeated in a Jewish publication. All the parents who wrote seemed to agree that seldom do they hear a kind word or an expression of appreciation – but are instead subjected to a barrage of nasty and inflammatory words.

The complaints did not stop there. Teachers and rabbis also wrote in relating their stories. They too feel assaulted by disrespectful language, and, sadly, the opposite also seems to hold true – it appears that teachers and parents can be equally guilty of resorting to offensive, painful language.

Obviously, meanness and sarcasm have become accepted modes of communication, leaving terrible damage in their wake.

I have summarized all this because I cannot possibly publish the many letters and e-mails that crossed my desk, but I am certain you get the picture. It is time for us to do a good housecleaning and learn to speak as Jews should. I will share one heartbreaking letter that, Baruch Hashem, had a good ending – though I must emphasize such endings are the exception rather than the rule.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

The letter written by the woman who decried the insensitive and cruel manner of communication that has become the norm in our society touched a very painful chord in my heart. If not for the mercy of Hashem, I could be a basket case today or a nasty, angry person as a result of all the suffering I was subjected to by my school, my schoolmates, and, sadly, even my parents.

As I write this letter, I still feel tormented by the many torturous memories that come to mind. Just the same, despite it all, I felt I should write in the hope that others might benefit from my experiences, re-think their words, and, as you wrote, utilize Hashem’s gift of speech discretely.

You pointed out that the tongue is a mighty sword, and therefore Hashem gave us two gates to protect ourselves from its deadly effects – our teeth and our lips so that we might lock those gates and contemplate whether we should allow our tongues to go loose or we should keep them under lock and key. If we could only learn that discipline, we could save many lives including our own. And now to my story:

I was born into a difficult family. My parents never had shalom bayis. They were always shouting and fighting. Although my father had a good profession, he was never successful and that made my mother very angry. We lived in a good neighborhood and she resented that she couldn’t keep up with her friends, shop where they shopped and do the things they did.

As young as I was, I was impacted by all this. I too felt dowdy next to my friends. When we got together socially, they were dressed in the latest – their mothers took them to the best shops while I wore hand-me-downs from my cousin. I felt them looking at me and whispering behind my back. Admittedly, they never said anything directly to me, but I always felt left out and ignored.

Soon, I became a problem child and began to act out, which resulted in my mother screaming even more and slapping me around. I was tagged a “troubled kid,” but the more abuse that was hurled at me, the more of a problem I became. I stopped studying, my grades dropped, and I was forever in the principal’s office. And then one day, the roof caved in – someone in the class was stealing! The principal called a meeting and asked whoever took the items to return them. He added that he didn’t want to put anyone to shame, so the guilty party should just leave the stolen things on the teacher’s desk.

A few days passed and nothing was returned. Once again, the principal made an appeal, but still, nothing was returned. And then my ordeal began. All eyes were cast upon me! Everyone was positive I was the thief – and my life became a living nightmare. Even now, as I write about it, I feel a need to defend myself and to tell you that while I had a lot to grapple with and I may have been a tough kid, in my life I never stole! But now I was labeled a thief by my classmates and by the school administration.

At home I was subjected to further accusations, shouting, screaming, and name-calling. I wanted to die! In fact, very often I contemplated suicide. Then came a letter from the principal asking my parents to find another school for me. Well, that was another nightmare. No school was willing to accept me because as soon as they investigated my past, they closed the doors, so my parents had no option but to enroll me in a school for troubled children.

I hit bottom. I hung out on the street smoking and drinking – one day was worse than the other. I met a boy who had also gone through a similar experience. We connected and hung out together. Someone in the community – a very good woman – reached out to us and invited us for Shabbos. We spent many Shabbosim in her home and then, one day, she asked that we go with her to your class. To be honest, we were reluctant to go, but she had been so kind to us that we couldn’t refuse her.

As you read these words, I am certain you recall us. I remember the first time we met you and you gave us berachos. No one had ever given us a beracha before. You assured us that if we willed it, these berachos could change our lives, heal our scars, and wipe out the bitter past. To this day, I can hear your voice telling us these berachos came straight from the Torah – from Hashem, from Aaron the Kohen Gadol, from our Avos and Emahos, our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and they have the power to overcome all the craziness of our world. We discovered the many treasures that Hashem gave us and slowly but surely became Torah Jews and decided to get married.

As you know, today we live in a warm Jewish community in New Jersey. We have three wonderful children who go to yeshiva. We would like to come to your classes again, but the distance is too great and we can’t afford baby-sitters, but we never miss watching your classes on the Internet.

I have written this letter because I feel a responsibility to share my story. When I hear of young people falling through the cracks, living shattered broken lives, becoming addicted to the most horrific habits, I say, “Thank You, Hashem, because there, but for Your grace, goes me.”

I hope my story will teach parents, educators, young and old, to be ever so careful with their words because those words can actually destroy a person and the damage they can inflict is incalculable.

Why Can’t I Get Married? (Part Three)

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

In my last column I posed a simple question: Why has that short walk down the aisle become such a long arduous trek and so painfully difficult for so many?

The question becomes even more troublesome for those, like myself, who survived the Holocaust. Although just a child, I vividly recall how, after the liberation, people were so anxious to marry. Broken and shattered, bereft of family, without a roof over their heads, without a penny to their names, they married. Often the oddest shidduchim (matches) were made.

Those survivors had one common goal – to give a name for loved ones, who had perished and to bring new Jewish life into the world and rebuild the nation. Amazingly, despite all odds, the great majority of these shidduchim worked and a beautiful generation emerged from them.

In contrast, the majority of today’s singles are blessed with family and the ability to earn a livelihood…. to be sure, some less, some more. But no one is homeless – no one has to wonder where on this planet he/she will be able to find sanctuary. Today’s singles have an entire infrastructure at their disposal, from the Internet to shadchanim, to myriad chesed programs – all designed to ease their transition from the singles state to marriage.

But despite all this, marriages are not taking place. Jewish babies are waiting to be born, but there aren’t enough mommies and daddies to bring them into this world. Perhaps never before has the Jewish community been confronted with such singles crises. So the question still remains – “Why?”

To be sure, there are no pat answers. Many contributing factors come into play, and with G-d’s help, in future columns, I will try to explore them.

On Their Own

Years ago singles lived at home until they married. Parents were actively involved in helping their children find their mates. At the very least, they pressed them to get on with it and establish their own homes.

Today however, things are different. In the more secular Jewish world, as soon as young people graduate from high school, they are on their way – from college to their own apartments. And even if they should move back home, parents are advised to adopt a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to their children’s personal lives.

Often mothers and fathers contact me and say, “Rebbetzin, could you please speak to my daughter/son. As the parent, I cannot get involved.” There is a tragic irony to such requests. Parents have no right to speak – but strangers do? Is there anyone who cares more for their children than their own mothers and fathers? Yet they are muzzled. How very sad. Moreover, our culture encourages young people to focus on their careers and place marriage on the back burner. This has taken a devastating toll.

Immersed in their professions, young women have seen their biological clocks tick by. They have been misled into believing that they have all the time in the world, only to discover that the years that have passed can never be retrieved. Although this is a tragedy that afflicts both genders, women are hit hardest, not only because of their biological clocks, but because basically, they are nest builders. Their very bodies cry out the supplication of the matriarch Rachel (who for many years was barren), “Give me a child lest I die” (Genesis 30:1).

The promise of modern science, assuring women that it is possible to have children in their 40s, is more often hype than reality. Yes, from time to time there are some wonderful stories that make great copy, but reality is quite different. Even if by some stroke of luck a woman in her 40s finds her mate, the road to childbearing can be filled with much heartache and painful, expensive medical treatment, resulting more often in frustration than in babies.

A successful young woman in the corporate world came to consult me about finding a mate. “Rebbetzin,” she said, her voice full of emotion, “I always thought I could have it all – a successful career, marriage, children, the works – but I’ve discovered that there’s a double standard out there. Men can combine marriage and parenthood with a successful career, but it’s not so simple for a woman. We’ve lost the best years of our lives. We’ve been misled.”

Whose fault is it? It doesn’t matter. An entire generation has been led down the garden path. Although it may be true that there is a double standard and that men fare better in the singles world, experience has taught me that men are also suffering. Many sincerely desire to marry, but can’t. Again, there are many factors that render them phobic (and this can apply to women as well).

Relationships – The New Morality

With our new morality men feel that they no longer have to get married. They can just as easily have relationships. These relationships however, come with a high price and leave indelible marks on the soul. You cannot be intimate with someone and then cancel that person out without consequences. Even if one is in denial, the heart, the mind, and the soul have long memories. It is little wonder then, that today’s singles carry heavy baggage, and with each passing year pick up more shtick, all of which works against commitment to marriage.

In short, no one can outsmart the Torah that does not countenance relationships or prolonged dating and calls upon all singles to enter into holy matrimony. Couples are advised to make up their minds, get engaged and married or move on. The endless dating and living together that has become vogue in the secular world is anathema to marriage and simply unacceptable to Torah Jews. Physical contact is a magic gift, reserved for husband and wife, but if that gift is abused, the magic is lost.

The relationship that bonds a man and a woman must be different from that which prevails in the animal kingdom. The lion and the lioness can also connect physically, but humans, if they are to marry and have a lasting relationship, must have a “soul connection.” If husband and wife are to establish a true Jewish home in which serenity and love abide, they must share common aims and goals. They must be on the same page and gaze in the same direction. Passion, on the other hand, is blinding and obscures reality.

Thus, two people can be totally wrong for each other, but their physical desire can be so overwhelming that it blurs their judgment, and only after investing many precious months and years, do they discover that their relationship took them down a dead-end street and left them with much pain and disappointment. These failed relationships inflict deep scars that cannot be easily erased…. that turn into heavy baggage that the victims often carry throughout their lives and make marriage so much more difficult.

To be sure, many singles reading this column may protest that I’m not realistic -that what I advocate is simply not 21st century America. I am the first to concede that they are right. Twenty-first century mores have created a sick, immoral society. Thank G-d we the Jewish people march to the tune of a different drummer. Our values, our mores, were proclaimed at Sinai and are not subject to the vagaries of time.

I always advise single girls to explain to their dates that they are preserving their physical selves for the man they will marry – the man who, please G-d, will one day be the father of their children. In order however, to determine who that man might be, it is essential to get to know him intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Only thus can two people decide whether they are suited for one another or not – whether they are soul mates.

But if girls sell themselves short and live with a man without the sanctification of marriage, then it is likely that the marriage will never take place, and the relationship will terminate with, “I love you, but !” and with that “but,” the girl is politely told that she has just wasted the best months and years of her life.

Still, you might protest and ask, “What about all the girls who come from observant homes, who are very discriminating in their dating, who would never compromise the Torah’s laws of tznius? Why are there so many singles among them? Why do they have so much difficulty making that short trek to the chuppah?”

(To be continued)

Chanukah – Fighting Spiritual Cancer

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

        This past week I took time out from my daily activities to have a medical checkup – something I highly recommend. I know too many people who only go to a doctor when they don’t feel well, or if something seems out of sorts, but never when they actually feel fine, the excuse being that they don’t have time for a checkup, or can’t fit in a mammogram or a colonoscopy, or a blood test etc. into their busy schedules. They are overwhelmed at work, and their “free” time  is saturated with “must do” activities – their chesed project or babysitting grandchildren or taking elderly parents to their appointments. They just don’t have the time, they claim.

 

         The incredible irony here is that making time for medical tests may actually give them more time.

 

         I have friends whose lives were extended because they did go for their pap-smears, mammograms, blood pressure monitoring, and they did have that “little cough” checked, etc. They are alive and well. Tragically, I know others who ignored the tiny lump or bump or stomach ache – “it’s nothing, it will go away by itself” – and tragically weren’t around to dance at their children’s weddings.

 

         When I saw my doctor I asked him to look at a little bulge near the crease of my left arm. I really didn’t think it was anything serious- but wanted him to confirm that. And B”H he did: Just a fat pad under the surface of the skin – something quite common. I was, of course, relieved by his diagnosis (but also a bit annoyed since I weight lift on a regular basis – but I’m not complaining). At least it wasn’t something truly ominous. Like cancer. Which brings me to Chanukah.

 

         “Cancer and Chanukah,” you ask, “what’s the connection?” In both situations you have normal versus abnormal. When you look at the Chanukah story, it’s about “normal” Jews who, due to their exposure to a toxic spiritual environment became “abnormal Jews” – they assimilated and no longer behaved as Jews. Their spiritual DNA – their souls – became mutated.  And no content to live and let live, they tried to force their views on the still “normal” Torah Jews and have them become like them – abnormal entities no longer recognizable as Yidden.

 

         Such is the case with cancer. Cancer is not something you catch, like the measles or the flu, rather cancer used to be ordinary, regular cells, e.g. lung cells – that are altered due to toxins or pollution or genetics or viruses that attack its core – its DNA – and they no longer act like normal cells. These now-abnormal cells do not stay put but spread and take over the normal ones.

 

         To get rid of them, a surgeon will take a scalpel and cut them out. So too, Mattityahu, and his team of Maccabeen “surgeons” took up their swords and removed from their midst the spiritual tumor that threatened their existence.

 

         But as is the case in many situations where there is cancer, radiation is utilized to finish the job.

 

         So too the threat of the cancerous, assimilated Jews and their Greek supporters was removed by the radiation emanating from the Torah – in the form of the dazzling lights of the menorah that illuminated the Holy Temple for eight days.

 

         Sadly, in the 21st century, Jews of all backgrounds and hashkafas are threatened by both physical and spiritual malignancies brought on by exposure to a noxious cultural environment. It behooves us to do what we can to fortify ourselves from this life-threatening hazard.

 

         On the physical level, we must do what we can to strengthen ourselves. That means not smoking – ever; getting enough exercise and rest – as there are a lot of sleep-deprived children and adults out there who are at risk because of weakened immune systems or because they are not alert and paying attention; eating nutritious food – in normal amounts – not overindulging and definitely not starving oneself; getting timely check-ups and tests; reaching out to others who are professionally able to help you if you need help; in turn, helping others in a capacity you feel comfortable with – if it’s simply packaging food for Tomchei Shabbos or preparing a meal for a woman who has just given birth; and most importantly being vigilant and aware  of your physical and emotional needs and addressing them in a timely and appropriate manner.

 

         On a spiritual level, you can fortify yourself and your family against the cancer of assimilation by being connected to a community via a shul or chesed organizations; ensuring a Jewish education for your children and your neighbors’; filling your household with warmth and an unconditional love in which all family members – wife, husband, children – are included; letting your children see that you practice what you preach; and giving them a love of Yiddishkeit and such a strong sense of their rich culture that they will develop a strong immunity and resistance against an enticing but perilous environment outside your home.

 

         May the glowing lights of Chanukah radiate your lives with good health and good deeds. A freiliche Chanukah!

Migron First

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

In Israel, when a politician wants to label the start of a process, he often uses the concept “. . . first!” In other words, let’s start “here” and see what happens. If it works out, then we will continue the process.

Who would have believed just a few short years ago that Arik Sharon, a right-wing leader, would be willing to make one-sided concessions to expel Jews from their homes, without anything in return from our enemies? It is funny to me that even Shimon Peres has expressed opposition to Sharon’s one-sided concessions.

Everyone railed against Rechavam Zeevi (HY”D) when he suggested transferring Arabs from their homes in order to make Israel a safer country. It was considered inhumane, unjust and prejudiced. Yet, when Sharon openly plans to expel Jews from their homes, it is considered just, democratic and reasonable.

What is Migron? Four years ago, several families fulfilled their dream of setting up a  community on a hillside. The community is a young vibrant settlement made up of workers, soldiers and Torah scholars who joined together to establish a town of Torah Jews. Today more than 40 families live in Migron.

The evil decree that threatens to evict them from their homes hit them suddenly. With sadness but with implicit faith in Hashem, they have decided to passively defend their homes against this decree in the hope that the decree will be rescinded. They have called upon Jews from around the country to join them in their struggle.

Migron is just a trial balloon floated by the Likud government that has brazenly abandoned all of its Zionistic principles and promises. It is fear of America and of Europe that is propelling these tired leaders to take unilateral steps of capitulation. Migron is the first step in a process that will lead to a true “transfer” of Jews out of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. If the dismantling of Migron succeeds, my community and many others like it will be in jeopardy.

The dismantling of the city of Yamit near the Sinai by a previous Likud government was heralded as the beginning of “peace” with Egypt and the other Arab states. Menachem Begin was fooled by American and European “guarantees” into making concessions and he believed that it was the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity. What peace? Which
prosperity? All we see are continuous condemnations and repeated attempts to undermine Israel and throw us out of the UN.

What will be the result of the pillaging and sacking of Migron? Will Arafat move even one
centimeter closer to reducing terror, or will he be encouraged to keep up the terror because it gets results? Will this “transfer” result in peace, stability and prosperity, or is it just the beginning of another horrifying process of displacing Jews from their homes?

What kind of gesture is the self-destruction of Jewish communities? Migron is a blossoming
community, not empty caravans. Is American pressure so strong and so intimidating that Sharon is being forced to knuckle under? Has Sharon become so afraid that he has forgotten what it is to lead?

One-sided concessions! What a pleasant term for such a mistaken idea. When have the Arabs made any concessions? Maybe we should insist that the United States make one-sided concessions to Saddam Hussein? Why is no one calling for the US to negotiate with Saddam? He is still the only legal governor of Iraq. No one has replaced him legally, yet. Why is
Arafat greeted as a hero by all of Europe?

I guess Arafat chose his enemies well. When Jews are the victims, the non-Jewish world calls for negotiations with the terrorists. They call for concessions and for understanding. When non-Jews are the victims, America will rush in with blazing guns and no thought of concessions, negotiations or concern for collateral damage.

Unfortunately, we again are seeing an older generation of Jewish leaders who have become fearful and meek and who cannot handle the international pressure that is aimed at any Jewish success. If Migron is first, will Bet El, Hashmonaim and Kiryat Sefer be next? All of us (G-d forbid) are in danger of being evicted from our homes. Forty nice Jewish families are about to lose their homes. They are about to be expelled and “transferred” for political reasons.
What do you plan to do about it? Will we be silent, again?

Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/migron-first/2004/01/28/

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