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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Yael’

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I’m hopeful and excited, yet nervous and scared at the same time.

My girlfriend and I have been dating for about seven months and are truly in love. She has so many wonderful qualities that I believe would make her a wonderful wife and mother, including her fluid personality, spiritual perspective, and never-say-no loving mentality.

There is, however, one area that concerns me: hashkafa and religious compatibility.

We both attend YU/Stern and come from very similar Modern Orthodox backgrounds. We’ve both gotten more religious since our time in yeshiva/seminary, but express it in slightly different ways. We are shomer halacha and place an extraordinarily strong emphasis on Torah observance, learning, and building a religious home. However, I associate more closely to the Modern Orthodox machmir world whereas she associates more with the yeshivish world. We currently live very similar lives, but my end goal is a working life infused with Torah observance, collecting the best of both the secular and religious world, whereas she wants the more yeshivish, not as secularly-integrated lifestyle.

She sees so much beauty in a lot of the external aspects of Judaism – black hat, tzitzis out – while I hold my Judaism very internally – tzitzis in, no black hat, integrating Judaism into the secular world.

I want us to be able to grow together and get closer to Hashem. I understand that some compromises need to be made in any relationship, but one of the main reasons I value the Modern Orthodox world is because I genuinely see so much beauty and room for inspiration within it. I feel uncomfortable moving to the amount of yeshivish she envies.

We’ve spoken about some of our hashkafa differences and it makes us both nervous and scared. Dr. Respler, do you think there is a middle ground?

A Nervous Boyfriend


Dear Nervous Boyfriend,

Thank you for your letter. While I understand your dilemma, it’s important for you to understand how rare it is to find someone that you feel so strongly about. It sounds like you and your girlfriend are at the point where you must have meaningful discussions about your differences.  I am not sure that there is a major difference in your hashkafas, although if your girlfriend wants you to become more outwardly yeshivish, this can end up becoming a point of contention.  It is imperative that you take the plunge and find a way to talk about this before you get engaged.

Firstly, this will be a great opportunity for you and your girlfriend to learn to communicate effectively with each other and to learn to compromise about important matters. This is the most important ingredient in a good marriage. Secondly, because you and your girlfriend are scared to talk about this, you may both be making more of this than you need to. Talking about your dreams and hopes for the future will help you both articulate what is important to you and what you each want.  It’s possible that your hopes and dreams are not as different as you think! Lastly, if this really is a deal breaker (and I’m not so sure that it is), then it’s better to have this conversation sooner rather than later.

Perhaps you would both be willing to compromise on certain things (e.g., maybe you don’t have to change your mode of dress, but you will both agree to send your kids to a more yeshivish school). There are several ways to find a middle ground, and once you open those lines of communication, you will be headed in the right direction.
As an aside, as the woman is the akeret habayis, it is good if she has very strong feelings about Yiddishkeit. You want a positive, frum and loving role model for your future children.

I often say that the man is the head of the household and the wife is the neck. If the wife is a smart caring neck she can lead the family in the proper direction.

You have shared such beautiful things about this girl. I believe her fluid personality is so important. Flexible people are much easier to live with, especially in today’s challenging world. Knowing that your spouse is a positive person who tries not to say no can make even the most difficult days easier to get through.

I must share an interesting story with you. Many years ago I was counseling a young woman who was determined to marry a boy who was frum and wore a “black hat.”  She met a great boy who was everything she wanted, except he did not wear a black hat on Shabbos.  This really bothered her. I tried to help her see that his middos were more important than his livush, but it was still hard for her.

On one of their dates they were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and instead of getting upset he turned on some light background music and said, “Lets, just enjoy talking and relax.” At that point she realized that he had everything she was looking for and that the livush was not integral to her decision. They got married and, out of respect for her family, he wore a hat when they went to her parents for Shabbos.

Please focus on the issues that really count.  I wish you hatzlocha in your relationship and keep us posted.

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Dear Husband,

I think I spoke to you for a total of four minutes today. But that’s to be expected; I know you just got married. How’s your new phone/Internet wife? You seem to have such a special relationship. In most relationships, the infatuation wears off after the honeymoon, but in yours the infatuation just seems to grow and grow. What’s your secret?

You always make sure to look her right in the eye. You make sure she knows that she is your first priority by keeping your loving gaze on her, even amidst bothersome distractions like your first wife and children. I know you have further excitement coming up – you’re counting down the days till you get your new smartphone like you once counted down the days to our wedding.

The first thing you do in the morning is spend time with her. And you spend time with her until you close your eyes at night. What are you guys talking about? I’m so curious. But I’ll stay out of it. I’m just your food provider, your laundry doer, and the caretaker of your children.

If you ever decide you want to come back, let me know. Just please don’t text, email, call, or WhatsApp me. Just look me in the eye and tell me.

Your Previous Wife


P.S. I just had a great idea. Maybe if I get a different number and pretend to be a client, I’ll get to spend some time with you.

 * * * * *

Dear Previous Wife,

What a powerful letter you have shared with us. You have touched upon an issue that literally plagues couples in marital therapy today. Many wives and husbands feel exactly the same way as you. Cell phone use, and particularly smartphones, can cause such harm to marriages and relationships.

One suggestion I make is having couples draw up a list of phone rules. For example, no phones during dinner – they get put in a drawer or left in another room. How about no phones for at least one hour before bedtime? It is imperative that couples try to establish some “no phone” guidelines; as it is clear from the letter, that the other half of the relationship feels a tremendous amount of resentment. Many husbands and wives use their phones for business, but somehow it becomes an “all the time” thing and the phone never gets put away.

Another important tool is filters for all computers and Internet-capable devices. I am so impressed that yeshivas are finally taking a stand on this issue and not allowing parents to have smartphones. I believe it is the norm in the chassidishe yeshivas and I think that some litivishe yeshivas are coming on board as well.

Honestly, we are an addicted generation. I have had parents in my office complaining that they can’t not have a smartphone – it will affect their parnassah. Many families now have WhatsApp groups, and while they can be a great way for everyone to stay connected, they can also take over our lives.

I get a lot of criticism for my views on technology. I know that there are no easy solutions. Technology can be extremely helpful. We can google information at the push of a button and with apps like Waze we are practically guaranteed not to get lost.

And yet, like the old story of the man who would hang up his problems on the tree before he entered his home, it’s important that we hang up our phones. It is most important that we greet our families relaxed and happy and be attentive to those we love.

Dr. Yael Respler

Yael Eckstein: Fierce Fighter For Torah Values

Monday, August 1st, 2016

One look at her face reveals Yael Eckstein’s passion for a world of kindness. Her face also reveals her fiery resolve to help make this world, especially the Jewish world, more embracing and generous. Her methods are manifold: teaching in schools, lecturing to international audiences, personally visiting the elderly and providing vital supplies to the needy.

Yael is the daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provides great financial assistance to Israel.

From among three sisters, Yael was picked and groomed by her father to assume a leadership position in the Fellowship. In 2010 she was appointed director of program development and ministry outreach. In 2011 she was promoted to senior vice president.

Yet, she considers motherhood a top priority among her activities.  Yael is a mother of three and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children, where, although she is admired as a high-ranking leader of a major organization and a published writer, she delights in living a family life. As an academic, teaching Judaic Studies, she exclaims with joy: “We not only study the Bible here in Israel, we get to see it come alive.”

Yael Eckstein put into writing her ecstasy at having made aliyah. Her book Holy Land Reflections (2012) is a collection of inspirational insights. Two years later she wrote Spiritual Cooking with Yael (2014).  “Any physical act can be transformed into a spiritual experience with the proper thoughts and intention. In this book you will get the simple and healthy recipes to all of my favorite dishes, and learn how to integrate Bible verses, teachings, and meditations into the seemingly mundane act of cooking. After experiencing this new spiritual cooking experience, not only will cooking become an enjoyable and meaningful experience for you, but the food that you make will be embodied with good and holy energies,” Yael declares with enthusiasm.

In addition, she regularly blogs and writes op-eds for The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Yael had an amazingly extensive education both in Jewish and secular studies from American and Israeli institutions. She took Jewish and sociology classes at Queens College in New York, and biblical studies at Torat Chesed Seminary and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

As senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Yael Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson for the $100-million organization. She has also addressed international events, including a Briefing and Panel Discussion on Religious Persecution in the Middle East in Washington, D.C.

In 2014, Eckstein was named “One of Israel’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Makor Rishon, a conservative Israeli newspaper, and in 2015 she was featured on the cover of Nashim, a prestigious magazine.

“Yael Eckstein is a uniquely gifted professional who has been called to be an ambassador for The Fellowship, an advocate for those in need, and a passionate voice for the vision and mission originally bestowed upon Rabbi Eckstein, the IFCJ’s founder and president, some three decades ago,” said board chairman John French.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

Recently you featured a letter by a woman who wrote that she lost her grandson to what she referred to as “permissive parenting.” I wanted to share our nachas story. We too had a grandchild who lost his way. None of us were happy with the company he kept and the things he did. We spent many hours davening that he should open his eyes and see what a disaster he was making of his life. The difference in our story is that our children are great parents and reached out for help.

In the end there were so many people, devoted rabbeim and kiruv professionals who saved our grandson. There were yeshivas that opened their doors and people who opened their hearts. Baruch Hashem, today he is married with a child of his own and learning in Eretz Yisrael.

Dr. Yael, I do wonder, though, why it is that children from solid homes with solid family lives find themselves making serious mistakes. Why do some of them gravitate towards those who are troubled and the lifestyle they espouse?

Can you share some thoughts?

A Fan


Dear Fan,

Thank you for your letter; it’s nice to have a happy ending to share.

You ask why kids seem to gravitate towards that which is not good for them. Simply speaking, the forbidden is always attractive and some kids, despite good parenting, struggle with the pull of the forbidden.

What I always tell parents is that the best insurance policy they have is their relationship with their kids. If it is a strong and loving one when they are young, it will likely stay that way as they get older. The more we love someone, the less we want to hurt him or her. A good relationship with one’s parents makes you less likely to want to hurt them, even when the pull towards the forbidden is strong. That is not to say that if a child veers off the derech, it is because he or she does not have a good relationship with his or her parents. It is possible for kids to sometimes lose their way, especially if they become addicted to something they tried by mistake. Parents should not be blamed for a child’s actions.

While there is no foolproof method to keeping our children safe, here are some important points to remember:

Make sure your children feel valued and loved. One of the ways to do that is by giving them structure and rules. However, it’s imperative that you explain why you have these specific rules and that you show empathy to them when you have to follow through with reasonable consequences. (It’s okay to give your child a free pass infrequently if you are generally consistent and follow through with consequences.)

Help build up his or her self-esteem. One way to do that is by assigning him or her appropriate responsibilities and giving compliments when they are accomplished. Be descriptive and specific in your compliments, especially when dealing with teenagers. Furthermore, asking your teenagers’ opinions and engaging them in conversations makes them feel important.

It’s also beneficial to keep your opinions to yourself unless asked when dealing with teenagers. While we may want them to learn from our mistakes, it’s best to let them try and problem solve on their own. Most of the time teenagers are thinking out loud when they tell you things or just repeating things their friends have said, but if you vehemently disagree with them, it can cause them to go in a direction neither they nor you would like. Don’t give unsolicited advice; however, if your teenager asks for your opinion, make sure to steer him or her in the right direction.

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am writing to you in order to help other people from getting into the situation I unknowingly put myself into.

I am married for 16 years to a smart, pretty wife and, baruch Hashem, we have beautiful and healthy children. Of course, we have our issues, as many couples do. However, my greatest mistake is that instead of focusing on her good attributes, I repeatedly criticized her and the things she did. I was not the team player I should have been.

We are currently separated, even though I still love her and miss our family.

Since our separation I have gone into therapy to work on my middos in the hope of being able to reunite with my wife and family. I only wish I had done this sooner. However, I did not take my wife’s needs seriously or work to prioritize things so that life would be better for us.

I am writing this letter for two reasons: the first is that I hope my wife will see this letter, recognize me and realize that I truly want to make our marriage work and am committed to doing everything I can for her and our family’s needs.

The second reason is to prevail upon your readers to wake up and take action to help their marriages before it’s too late.

A Hopeful Husband


Dear Hopeful Husband,

Thank you for your letter. It is a timely topic and one that affects many in our community. While you are not the only person who waited until late in his marriage to make changes, it does sound like you are taking pro-active steps now. I hope that the changes are permanent and that your wife will be willing to try again.

As a therapist I very often deal with people who only realize they need to make significant changes when their marriages are falling apart. They get caught in what we refer to as a vicious cycle and can’t identify the issues that are causing the problems.

With the major challenges that exist in today’s world we need to fight harder to preserve our marriages. However, built-up anger and resentment that sometimes exist when couples do not communicate well can make it very difficult to find common ground. Most people begin marriage with high and often unreasonable expectations. When those expectations are not met, we feel disappointed, but it’s not always easy to communicate this disappointment in a positive way. Thus, disappointment and hurt feelings are not communicated, and anger and resentment begin to build. While most couples face problems in their marriage, those who know how to discuss things in a loving and productive manner will be able to weather any storm.

Oftentimes people who struggle with these issues are coming from challenging backgrounds; the role models we all generally use to build our marriages is that of our parents and if we did not see open and smooth communication between the two of them it will be difficult to create it with our partner.

While this column has a large readership, do not assume that your wife will read this letter and recognize herself. Perhaps if you write her a more personal letter, telling her how you feel and the changes you have made, she will be willing to listen. However, you must give her time to see that the changes you have made are permanent. You must also remember that all that hurt and anger cannot be resolved just because you have decided to change. It will take time for your wife to recover from the hurt and be able to trust you again.

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I would like to address the misconception that orphans have a harder time then most getting married. As a girl from an out-of-town family of 7, who lost her mother at the tender age of 13, I can certainly share my perspective and point of view on this matter. In my humble opinion, it is not just young men or women who are orphans who remain single. There are plenty of people fortunate enough to have both parents and even both sets of grandparents who are not married.

My genuine advice to all those who have lost parent(s), especially those who have lost their mothers, is to find someone they can trust and really connect to that person. This is critical for his or her emotional well-being. Whether it’s a family member, close family friend, a teacher, or even a therapist, an orphan needs someone who can provide direction and guidance with warmth and understanding. Orphans need someone whom they can really pour their heart out to, because, regardless of how capable one parent can be, he or she cannot perform the task of two. Hashem gave us two parents for a reason. It is therefore of utmost significance that those who lost parents become close to someone in whom they can confide. Many orphans walk around with an everlasting feeling of guilt which can affect their married years later on. I was one of those individuals and can easily relate to that.

I was “fortunate” to get married and engaged at the age of 18; however, I went into it with a lot of baggage and many insecurities. Throughout my teen years there were many people who tried to get close to me, but I wasn’t able to connect with them. Then, almost 15 years after my mother passed away, I was fortunate to become close with someone who not only understood me, but was also able to offer me the guidance I needed. She helped me become a secure and confident individual.

I know that we tend to be closed and hesitate opening up with others, but it’s a risk we have to learn to take as the right person can help us become a more “well-adjusted” individual. Each one has to identify what his or her specific needs are in a mentor, confidante, and surrogate parent. I needed someone who was old enough to be my mother, who was wise, strong, and very insightful. I was fortunate to find that double-fold. So, if you have lost a parent, remember there is light at the end of the tunnel; you just have to open your eyes and search really hard. I wish everyone in Klal Yisrael an easy and painless time in finding your bashert.

An Orphan Reborn



Dear A.O.R.,

Thank you for this insightful and important letter. I agree with you and believe that every person, not just orphans, can benefit from a mentor. While generally that is a job a parent would hold, unfortunately, not every child can open up to and receive guidance from his or her parents. It is especially important for young children and teens to have an older and mature adult who can guide them in making the right decisions. For those who have lost their parent(s) at a young age, or whose parents are not capable of being role models, it is imperative to find someone that they can trust and emulate. Often when a child lacks this connection they are more likely to get advice from their peers or to follow their own instinct, which can sometimes prove to be very destructive.

As an aside, I will say that sometimes orphans have a harder time making a commitment because they are afraid that they will love someone and then lose them. So what you did was quite courageous.

Thank you for your letter and hatzlocha!

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I read the letter to the editor about punitive punishments and suppression with surprise, as that is not how I understood the original article.

It seems to me that the parents who took the phone away from their daughter after seeing an inappropriate text on it are thinking parents who do discuss things with their child. They also seem to be slightly more progressive than the school their daughter attends. Yet, they didn’t just ignore the rules when they thought their daughter needed a cell phone, they discussed it with the principal and received permission.

They also knew that their daughter was having difficulty checking voice messages and the mother was simply confirming that she had received the message; they were not purposely snooping on her and invading her privacy. When they took the phone away, it seems to me that it wasn’t so much of a punishment, but more of a “this did not work out.

Of course, their daughter was upset. But I would hope she realizes that her parents went above and beyond to get her the phone with the school’s consent and that she did not handle things appropriately. The phone was clearly a privilege and it’s important for teenagers to learn about consequences, accountability and trust.

Obviously, the issue of the language being used in the text is something that has to be addressed as well; I am not glossing over it, but it is not the focus of my letter.

Our children must know that we look out for them and love them enough to do what is necessary, even when it is difficult. When we do that with love, there will come a time when our children will look back and appreciate our actions. I personally admire how these parents handled the situation. They were open-minded enough not to blindly follow the system, yet not too close-minded to refuse to admit their mistake.

There is one option I would like to share with parents. About five years ago, our youngest had what we decided was a legitimate need for a cell phone. We found a plan called Kajeet. The plan offers parents control. For example, they can set up a list of specific numbers which the phone can call or receive calls from, it can block other numbers and even set times when the phone can’t be used – like not during school or after certain hours. There is also a setting for exceptions – for example, lifting a late night restriction while on a trip.

We discussed this option with our daughter, who was not thrilled, but was happy she was getting a phone and that we heard and understood her needs. After reading the letter from the mother, I asked my daughter how she had felt about using the plan. She said it had been annoying but okay.

Thank you for your column and the ability to air these important issues.



Dear HRL,

I appreciate your letter and its take on the situation. However, in defense of the person who sent the letter to the editor, there are issues relating to privacy and boundaries that we must discuss with our children. They need to know that we respect them and their space so as not to lose their trust and damage our relationships.

Last week we discussed the differences between authoritative parenting and other modalities. The conclusion research has given us is that authoritative is the best method. In it parents maintain a loving, respectful relationship with their child, yet set appropriate boundaries and consequences. Parenting is a very challenging job and balance is so important.

Thank you for the information about the phone plan and your view on parenting. Hatzlocha!

Dr. Yael Respler

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/dear-dr-yael-78/2016/07/08/

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