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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Yael’

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I’m stunned by the courage the brave baalat teshuva has shown (Dear Dr. Yael 9-2).

Unfortunately, in some communities people can be very small-minded and, if they see someone who is not an exact replica of themselves, they can act cold, distant and unwelcoming.

Your writer said one thing that I thought was amazing: “I’m here to stay.” I love that; I love that she has the smart attitude of someone who is really connected to Hashem, and acknowledges that no one person or community will change her commitment to and love for Hashem and His Torah. As Shlomo HaMelech says in Shir HaShirim, “Mayim rabim lo yachul lechabot et ahava, Many waters wouldn’t be able to extinguish the love.” In this case, the waters are the negative vibes that she is receiving from the very people who are supposed to welcome her with open arms – those who are frum from birth and who are supposed to be her role models.

Can I say directly to the writer: Yes, baalei teshuva are on a higher madreiga, level, than even tzadikim gemurim. And yes, it is sad that the people you have come in contact with do not seem to have processed or accepted the message of Chazal. But as long as you do, as long as you internalize that you are special and that Hashem treasures you, life may be challenging, but the light of Torah and Yiddishkeit will shine in you. Always remember that your strength and courage comes from Him.

I agree with Dr. Respler’s advice that you move away from any community where people do not appreciate your specialness and the commitment you have made.

I wish you tremendous hatzlacha in all of your endeavors and daven that Hashem grant you a Shana Tova, a year filled with bracha. Please feel free to get in touch with me at any time; I would love to be part of your support system.

Leshana tova ticatevu,


  Dear Orah,

Thank you for your beautiful letter. Reading your letter to our writer made me realize that we both overlooked one very important point: being dan le’kaf zechus. It is essential in all of our dealings that we try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps those who have been ignoring our original writer or acting in a manner that appears rude are really just quiet and shy. It’s possible that they are insecure and do not know how to make new friends. If this is so, then they are not ignoring this young woman because they think she is unimportant, rather, they may be uncomfortable with themselves, which may cause them to seem aloof and uncaring.

While I still think it may be a good idea for this woman to start anew in a more friendly and accepting neighborhood, it may also be good for her to speak to a local rav or rebbetzin about what she is experiencing. Maybe within this same community there is a more open and inviting shul.

In general, most people are self-focused and need to be reminded that there are new people in shul or on the block. Sometimes it is up to us to be the one to greet the other with a big smile and nice “Good Shabbos” as a way of opening a conversation.

Another point of note to the original writer: It seems you wrote your letter after Tisha B’Av. Many people keep the minhag of not greeting others – especially strangers – as a sign of aveilus. So, again, what you saw as rude may just have been people keeping the custom of the day. You could have taken the opportunity to say, “I hope you have a meaningful fast.” I would think that most people would be hard-pressed not to respond to that.

As we continue through Chodesh Elul let us make a concerted effort to make sure that others feel welcome in our shuls and communities.  May our efforts in ahavas Yisroel bring Moshiach b’meheira b’yameinu!

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I sit on the floor with the other women, and my friends sit near me while we mourn. I forget to not say “Hi” to someone that I know as she walks by me. I wear the proper clothing, and – most of the time – only say the proper things. I talk to Hashem all day, and most of the night, because I am of the age of “no sleeping” or “trying to sleep.” I sit in shul and watch the young couples with their children, families with their zaydies and bubbies and think, “That will never be me.”

I am a baalas teshuvah and never realized that “coming back” would be so hard. Dedication to Hashem is easy compared to the emotional baggage I struggle to carry each day. Many FFB (frum from birth) women look past me as if I don’t exist. They purposely look down and away if I try to smile in their direction. I long to say, “Why do you sit on the floor, if I have become Bar Kamtza in your eyes?”

We are told that baalei teshuvah stand on a higher level than talmidei chachamim. If that is true, how can frum people read this with their eyes, yet shun me as if I am an insect?

I will never go back, no matter how hard it is, but I would like to send a message to those who may recognize themselves from my description: I am here to stay. Please do not teach your children through your actions that I am beneath you. You hurt me and when you do that, you hurt yourself. We are Klal Yisroel.

Anonymous in NY


Dear Anonymous,

I find it painful to read your story, but I thank you for having the courage to show us how hurtful people’s actions can be! I hope, as you said, people will recognize their behavior and open their eyes to what they are doing.

Unfortunately, there are others besides you who suffer from either being ignored or from nosy and painful questions. I am speaking, of course, about couples who struggle with infertility and older singles. It doesn’t matter if they are baalei teshuvah or FFBs, the suffering is the same.

Whatever the reason, pain is pain and ignoring someone is sinas chinam, the reason the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed and the reason why we are still in galus. Ahavas Yisrael is what will bring the geulah and I hope that reading your letter will help people find a greater sensitivity in the way they treat others.

As to your current situation, this may sound extreme, but have you considered moving? There are many warm and friendly frum neighborhoods where people are accepting of others and you can feel at home. Perhaps you can contact me privately and I can be of some help in this area.

Dear Readers, Has this ever happened to any of you? What are your thoughts on this type of behavior? Any ideas on what you feel we can do to ameliorate this situation? We would love to hear from you.



Dear Dr. Yael,

I read your column every week and appreciate that as a frum therapist you incorporate Torah-true hashkafa in your therapy. That is why I took exception to the letter you published from the woman who had found mistakes in the kesuva from her first marriage. She urged you to ask readers to check their kesuvos after a rav advised her that it was possible that her failed marriage resulted from the mistake-laden kesuva.

Let’s put aside for the moment if this truly causes marital rift. Surely, you will concede that some marriages with 100% kosher kesuvos suffer, while others with no kesuva thrive. I know that as a therapist you recognize that people have a tendency to look for the easy way out and blame others rather than look within themselves for the cause of relationship problems. And frum people like to look to the nistar, kabbala, and the mystical when they can’t rationally understand why they are suffering, whether it be illness, lack of parnassah, shidduchim problems or family strife.

And, although you did not expressly endorse her theory, your publishing the letter and using it to remind your readers to check their kesuvos is a tacit endorsement of her proposal. As a therapist, I submit that is not your job or the right use of your platform. I believe your column should be used to dispense therapeutic advice and you should leave the non-therapeutic and non-scientific “why me’s” to rabbanim.

All the best,



Dear M.C.,

Perhaps you are correct that this was not the right forum for the letter; however, it just might help someone else in a similar situation.

As noted many times in this column, marriage is work and couples must be willing to put in the time if they want their relationships to be happy and successful. And, of course, professional help is something we always recommend.

However, I appreciated the writer’s sentiment and have learned to respect other people’s opinions and ideas. Hatzlocha.

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I read your July 22 letter from the husband who was separated from his wife and family and hoping to reunite with them. He said that with the help of his therapist he had made changes.

I debated whether or not to write to you as our family, baruch Hashem, was able to reunite. When my husband and I separated it was very difficult for our children; they love their father very much and begged me to let him come back home. We went for therapy many years ago and today people refer to us as a couple with a very good marriage. As a matter of fact, most people do not even know that we were ever separated.

Without going into specifics, I can say that both my husband and I really worked hard and made changes. I don’t know anything about the couple in the letter, but I do know that with a commitment from both parties, a happy marriage is possible.

We have been blessed with more children since we got back together, and today one of our children is happily married. I don’t know if that would have happened had we not set the right example for them.

I hope this couple finds their way back to each other and to their family.

A Reader


Dear Reader,

Thank you for your letter. During my years as a marital therapist, I have been privileged to work with many couples who separated and, baruch Hashem, reunited happily. As you said, it takes a lot of work, but ultimately the children and the couple are happier. Divorce may seem like an easy solution; however, it brings with it a whole host of other issues. I wonder sometimes if we would have more happy endings if more people would be willing to put in the effort.

Of course, every situation needs to be evaluated and sometimes divorce is the answer. However, many of us let things fester instead of dealing with issues when they crop up and before severe damage is done. Once couples have caused each other a tremendous amount of pain, it is much more difficult to repair the relationship, though not impossible.

Dear readers, even if you think divorce is your only option, please seek help from a professional who has a good track record of saving marriages. Once you and your spouse begin to treat each other with love and respect, you will most likely recover some of the love you had for each other. With time, you will hopefully want to stay married and continue to work on building a strong and healthy relationship. Of course, this will take a lot of emotional work, but the dividends are well worth the challenge!

Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that kemayim hapanim lapanim ken lev haadam l’adam – the way in which we treat another is the way he or she will treat us. In most cases (not in cases where a spouse is abusive or mentally ill), how you treat your spouse is how you will be treated. Thus, if you are complimenting your spouse and treating him or her with love and respect, your spouse will likely treat you in kind.  On the other hand, if you are generally cranky when your spouse comes home (or when you come home) or you speak disrespectfully to him or her, you will be treated the same way. We are all entitled to an “off day,” but our general attitude should be positive and we should always consider what we can do to make our spouse happy.

If both halves of a couple act this way, their marriage will be beautiful and enjoyable! If only one person is acting this way, it can cause some resentment. In that situation, it’s important to communicate your needs to your spouse in a loving and caring way. You can do this by saying something like, “I really appreciate how hard you work and I love you very much. I believe that I try to do the things I think will make you happy, but sometimes I feel like you don’t take my feelings into account. Do you think that you can try to be more sensitive to my needs and help me with ______?” It’s important that you have this conversation when both of you are in a good moods and not hungry or tired.

People think marriage is easy and that when it’s not, it’s because they married the wrong person. However, more often than not, that is not the case. Being married means putting someone else’s needs before your own, even when you don’t want to. It means being calm even when you feel yourself getting upset and speaking in a loving tone even when you want to scream!

Thank you for sharing your story and for showing us that many marriages can be saved. Enjoy your nachas. You deserve it! Hatzlocha!

Dr. Yael Respler

Dear Dr. Yael

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Dear Dr. Yael,

I was going through some personal papers recently, and I came upon my ketuvah from my former marriage. It was in the style of artwork that one hung upon the wall like a picture. In his Pesach book, Rabbi Blumenkrantz, zt”l mentioned that one should check a ketuvah over at least once a year, before Pesach for example. That is not something I had ever done. But now I did. And I noticed a number of mistakes.

I consulted with a rav who told me that it is possible that the problems in my marriage stemmed from bad mazal as a result of the mistakes in the ketuvah.

This is why I am writing to you. Please advise your readers that a ketuvah should always be checked over before use at a wedding and, as Rabbi Blumenkrantz suggested, once a year to be sure that no mistakes have developed.

Kol Tov


Dear G.S.,

Thank you for sharing this important information with us!  It’s integral to always check mezuzos and your kesuvah to make sure that there are no mistakes or missing letters!



Dear Dr. Yael,

I have been married for several years and I recently realized that my wife and I generally fight about the same things again and again. For instance, I am a very flexible person and can roll with the punches. My wife, on the other hand, is more rigid and likes to follow a schedule.  Thus, most of our disputes are about me wanting her to be more flexible and her wanting me to keep to her schedule.  I find that we both want things “our way,” even if it means that we continue our fight. Why is marriage about “who is right”?  I know that I contribute to this as well, but if our true goal is to “get along,” then why do I often feel like it is more of a competition?  Dr. Yael, please help me understand why this is so.

A Confused Husband


Dear Confused Husband,

Your situation is a very common one, as many couples fight about the same things over and over. It is something most couples are unaware of; however, if they would pay attention to their arguments, they would find that for the most part they are variations on the same theme. In addition, your observation that both partners seem to vie to “be right” is very keen. Most people don’t realize this is happenings as they are too wrapped up in their desire to be right.

There is a concept called Ta’avas Hanitzachon – the need to win – which is extremely strong and difficult to overcome.  With this need comes stubbornness and a strong sense of personal ego. That makes an individual more willing to continue fighting than be the first to give in. I’ve heard many people say that it is “a matter of pride.”

My response is always, “Is that pride more important than having a loving and harmonious marriage?” While most of my clients agree that a solid marriage is more important than their pride, this feeling generally lasts only until the next argument. Granted, it is challenging to put your ego in check and give into someone when you think you are right, or even recognize when you are wrong. However, when an individual “wins” the argument and has the last word, he or she may temporarily feel good, but in the long run when a couple is at odds with each other, neither one is happy. At the end of the day, if you cannot overcome your taavas hanitzachon, you may have won the battle, but you will lose the war.

Dr. Yael Respler

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/impact-women-history/yael-eckstein-fierce-fighter-for-torah-values/2016/08/01/

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