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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Yiras Shamayim’

Where Are The Gedolim Today?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe’s request. – Shemos 38:21

Parshas Pikudei begins with a detailed accounting of all of the gold and silver that was collected for the Mishkan. A cursory reading would lead us to assume that while of course a man as great as Moshe was above question, he must have asked for this calculation because public leaders must remove any suspicion no matter how farfetched.

However, the Baalei Tosfos explain things a bit differently. It seems Moshe was in fact suspected of stealing money from the Mishkan. There were 16 Shekalim that were unaccounted for, and Moshe was suspected of having taken them. Therefore, Moshe asked for a formal accounting to remove the suspicion. At which point it was discovered that those 16 Shekalim were actually used in the construction of the hooks of the Mishkan.

The difficulty with this Baalei HaTosfos is understanding how anyone would suspect that Moshe Rabbeinu of stealing. The Mishkan was to be the dwelling place of Hashem on this earth. Monies that were separated for the Mishkan were consecrated and holy. How could anyone suspect Moshe of pilfering those monies? Even more perplexing is that these people knew who Moshe Rabbeinu was. They saw him go up to receive the Torah. They heard the sound of Hashem’s voice speaking through him. From the time he came down from Har Sinai his face shone like the sun. They understood him to be the greatest human ever created. How is it possible that they suspected him of petty thievery?

This question becomes even more difficult when we take into account the circumstances of those times. This was the generation of the midbar – all their daily needs were taken care of. They ate manna that fell from the heavens, drank water from a huge rock that followed them through the desert, etc. – in short, all their needs were taken care of. Their entire focus and occupation was to grow in learning and Yiras Shamayim. It was the ultimate kollel community. If so, what possible motivation would Moshe have to steal the Shekalim?

The answer to this question is based on perspective.

Appreciating Gedolim

The story is told that one day a poor man came to the Chofetz Chaim’s door asking for tzedakah. The Chofetz Chaim invited him in, and offered him a full meal. When the man was finished eating he left. As the Chofetz Chaim was cleaning up, he realized this man had stolen a spoon. The Chofetz Chaim ran into the street after him calling, “Wait, wait, don’t forget the spoon is fleishig.”

While this is a beautiful illustration of the giving nature of a tzaddik, there is as subtle message here: the man stole a spoon from the Chofetz Chaim. How was that possible? The Chofetz Chaim! The revered sage. The teacher of generations. Can we imagine anyone today being lowly enough to steal something from such a holy man?

The answer is that no one today would act that way to the Chofetz Chaim because we have an appreciation of who the man was. But in his generation they didn’t. That stature was something he acquired long after he died. For most of his life, he was viewed as a regular man – maybe a talmid chacham, but nothing extraordinary. And even when the world began hearing of the Chofetz Chaim, it wasn’t as some huge, towering, historic figure. A gadol maybe, but not someone who would shape history.

This seems to be a quirk in human nature. When we live in proximity to greatness it is hard to appreciate the size of the man and we tend to minimize the magnitude. It is far easier to lump him together with other people of the generation and assume he can’t be that much greater.

This seems to be the answer. While the people living at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu knew of his greatness, they still viewed him as a man of their generation. Granted, he went up to the heavens and received the Torah, but he was a human being like everyone else, so who is to say he didn’t just pocket some of the Shekalim? While later generations wouldn’t in their wildest dreams suspect such a man, to those living in the times, such historical perspective wasn’t there, and they couldn’t see him for the lofty giant he was.

This concept has particular relevance to us as we look at the leaders of our generation and say, “Where are the gedolim today”? But we aren’t the first to utter that cry; it has been expressed by every generation since Har Sinai, and will continue through the generations. What we see from the Baalei Tosfos is that this sentiment was expressed even with regard to Moshe.

The Readers Respond (Continued)

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I have received much e-mail from my readers in response to my series on “Why Can’t I Get Married?” There is one common denominator that unites them – finding a marriage partner has become one of the most challenging problems of our generation, and the older one gets, the more formidable this simple quest becomes. While this dilemma applies equally to males and females, by all indications, it appears that women suffer more. At the end of the day, in this area at least, it’s still a man’s world, with older men seeking young women, while the converse does not hold true.

Among the many recommendations that our readers seem to agree upon is that there be less focus on the romantic illusions of our 21st century that have rendered “electricity/chemistry” the criteria for all shidduchim. The time has come to focus on the examples of our patriarchs and matriarchs who regarded chesed – Torah values, as the critical ingredient for marriage.

While this is a vexing problem, affecting many, and unfortunately, there are no silver bullets or magic panaceas, I would nevertheless like to offer my own personal invitation to all singles to avail themselves of our Hineni organization’s shidduch services. And of course, remember that for a shidduch, we need Hashem’s help so constant prayer is essential. Minchah is especially propitious – a good omen for a shidduch, for it was after he davened Minchah, that our Father, Yitzchak met our Mother, Rivkah.

The following are excerpts from e-mail that has reached my desk:

Letter #1

Dear Rebbetzin:

I applaud your addressing the painful problem of older single Jewish women. I am in that category. I can tell you that I wasn’t picky in dating, that I was engaged to an abusive man and broke the engagement (which I do not regret). I am convinced that if I hadn’t taken that step, I would now be a divorcee with even more burdens and scars to carry. I am now 51 and because of my age, I have encountered terrible frustrations in my search. My appearance belies my age – I am slim, very attractive, personable, talented, and hold a good job, yet I have an incredibly hard time finding my soul mate.

Rebbetzin, without going into detail, I suffered much pain in my search. I am not from a religious background and chose to be frum – observant. One would think that, with my qualifications, it would be easy to find a shidduch, but sadly, the opposite is true… I have been reduced to a number – “51″ – and it is humiliating. I just want to marry and build a beautiful Jewish home, but men want women who are much younger than they are. They are simply unrealistic and think that they will get someone 30-years-old even though they are over 50. It is very tragic, because, in our contemporary society, as people get older, they become less desirable as marriage partners.

Surely Hashem must have someone for us. Surely He has not destined us to live our lives in loneliness. What can we do to build a vessel so that we might receive this blessing of marriage? I hope that your column will speak to all older singles – and I mean not only to women, but to men as well so that we might go under the chuppah and build Jewish homes before our lives pass us by.

May Hashem bless you for all the incredible work that you do – for your dedication – your passion – your love.

Letter # 2

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I’ve read your column for many years, starting from before I became observant. Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of singles and non-singles alike. When I read this column, I was moved to write to you for the first time. As you say, this issue is complex, and in my observations it is as difficult in the religious as in the non-religious world. I’ve come to believe that there is a crucial factor that must be addressed. While of course there are always exceptions, and by no means should my comments be viewed as something that applies to everyone, I do believe that among older men, marriage is no longer an imperative, even if they loudly protest to the contrary.

On the other hand, women yearn for marriage and family and are willing to put in whatever effort is necessary; networking with matchmakers and making spiritual, emotional, physical and psychological improvements. They try to look at shidduchim with a “good eye,” but this does not appear to hold true for most men. Of course, this is not always their official position, but in practice it becomes clear that they are not as driven to marry and do not consider the single state an unbearable void in their lives.

We are taught that the first criterion in an appropriate marriage partner is Yiras Shamayim – fear/awe of Heaven – commitment to our Torah values. Of course, this has many implications and dimensions, but what I am getting at is that if observant men would meditate on the fact that marriage is a mitzvah from Hashem, things would look quite different.

In the same way that they would stop at nothing to put on tefillin and search for it even it they had mistakenly misplaced it, similarly, they would stop at nothing to find their missing half – their soul mate. They would realize that to be a frum Jew is to be married – and that their service to Hashem is incomplete without their entering into the holy covenant of marriage.

Marriage is good, it is G-dly (surely it is not rational) and just like a father rushes to make his son’s Bris early in the morning, men must rush to fulfill this vital mitzvah as soon as possible

Thank you for your consideration in publishing this letter.

With Warmest regards and Chag Kosher V’Sameach.

Letter # 3

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have been following with interest your series of columns on the difficulties of getting married in today’s society. I originally wrote to you with my own woes in that area, but I also have thoughts on that issue arising from my own conversations with people in similar circumstances, be they married or single. Since you requested input in your latest column, I decided to share a bit more with you.

You hit on a strong factor with the “chemistry” issue, but I think it needs to be delved into more deeply. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who think romantic love is the be-all and end-all of marriage, and that if the “romance” is gone, it justifies “moving on.”

Like you, I do not deny that attraction is important, but it is not love and should not be mistaken for it. Love is an action of the will, a choice, but so many think it is a force of nature, of something that strikes like lightning and those who are so struck must follow its dictates, even if it means destroying other relationships, whether it be with parents, siblings, or current spouses and children.

In my opinion, attraction can draw a couple together, but love is something else – something that must be earned and given to someone who is honorable and trustworthy and is willing to live up to the demands of marriage and raising a family. Even if you don’t feel “chemistry” right away, love develops over the years. This is substantiated by our Torah. Let us consider the example of Isaac and Rebekah, regarding whom it is written that it was only after marriage that they experienced true love.

Of course, all this assumes that a potential spouse will be evaluated. Eliezer, the trusted agent of Abraham evaluated Rebekah before he recognized her as a proper shidduch. I’ve found that nowadays, many people evaluate a potential spouse less carefully than they would a sitter for their cocker spaniel.

Thanks again for taking on this difficult, painful subject. And I do hope that, G-d willing, you will write a book on the subject!

(If you like, you may publish any or all of the comments in this e-mail, but please do not publish my name. Thanks!)

A Lesson In Chinuch

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Several years ago my husband and I were the directors of a seminary, which girls from all over the world attended.

 

Dina, one student, was a somewhat “strange” girl by anyone’s definition. She had a health condition that needed monitoring, and she carried some emotional baggage. She was loud, often making socially inappropriate comments and failed to keep some of the basics in personal hygiene. None of these qualities particularly endeared Dina to anyone. One glance at Dina could easily let on that she was somewhat “different.”

 

But Dina was also harmless. She posed no threat to the other students in any way, including Yiras Shamayim.

 

The reaction of Dina’s peers was interesting. Some “good” girls who came with references extolling their wonderful middos avoided her entirely, not wanting to be seen having any association with her.

 

Other girls, though, saw Dina for what she was, and reached out to her. They delicately and tactfully taught her. Consistently, these special girls displayed the greatest ahavat Yisrael without making her feel like a chesed recipient.

 

It wasn’t easy. Throughout the year, one issue after another cropped up. But these girls grew from their sensitivity, and their kindheartedness affected their peers too. It was impossible not to learn from their example. These students taught me a significant lesson about true ahavat Yisrael.

 

Why do I write about Dina now, almost a decade later?

 

I received a call about a month ago. It was from Dina’s mother.

 

I hadn’t been in touch with Dina all these years, and had rarely spoken to her mother, due to the time differences of our countries.

 

Dina’s mother sadly informed me that Dina had passed away the previous year, succumbing to her illnesses. She wanted to request that our students study on Dina’s upcoming yahrzeit, in her zechus.

She continued to express her gratitude. She explained a little of Dina’s history that was unbeknownst to me. She shared how her year at the seminary had been the very first time in Dina’s life that she had felt any real happiness.

 

“Due to her health problems, Dina’s childhood had been extremely difficult. Under constant doctor’s supervision, she had been in and out of school, and had always felt alienated from her peers.

“I want you to know how much you did for Dina,” the choked-up mother continued. “Even in her last hours on her deathbed, Dina spoke with a sparkle of happiness in her eyes, about the girls that befriended her and the year spent in your school – even though it’s been over 10 years!”


Did the girls in Dina’s class or dormitory lose out by having this “different” girl in their midst?

 

Despite the hours that our students spent in intense study or devoted to chesed and community work, I can honestly say that Dina was probably their greatest hands-on learning experience for the entire year.

Dina taught me about the real meaning of chinuch.

 

In most elementary schools, every class has a mix of students. Some are the “A” students; others are the non-academic types. There are those who are popular, smart and talented and everyone’s dream friends. But there are also those who are homely, overweight, extremely introverted, lacking self-esteem, unpopular or strange.

 

By being grouped together, students are forced to get along. Moreover, the job of mechanchim is to help their students discover the inner beauty in every individual, regardless of external qualities.

 

True, it is more difficult for teachers to cater to varying academic levels, but good teachers provide enrichment, as well as remedial opportunities. Stronger students are occasionally called upon to help weaker ones, and they gain skills, not only in presenting ideas but in learning how to give, as well.

 

It may be challenging to meld so many different types into a wholesome group, especially those “unlikeable” ones, but everyone gains from reaching out.

 

Nowadays some high schools and seminaries have become extremely polarized, vying for the “top” girls, a.k.a. the smartest, most popular and charismatic.

 

I understand that each director is looking out for the reputation of his/her school. I also understand the need, in today’s climate, of safeguarding the environment by preserving a respectable standard of yiras shomayim and not accepting students who might have a detrimental affect on the others.

 

I understand, as well, a school trying to maintain a high academic level. But truth be told, if the learning is intense, weak students who cannot keep up, won’t look at such a school as an option, and won’t need to suffer the hurt and rejection in the process. On the other hand, diligent “B” students who put in serious effort, can be a bigger asset to any school than an “A” student who gets her marks with little effort.

Moreover, I can’t reconcile myself with the months and months of anxiety inflicted on our children (and parents) to get into the “perfect” high school or seminary, which supposedly is a prerequisite to the next step of making the “perfect” shidduch. I also take issue with the use of “connections” that parents are forced to use, and that seminary directors succumb to, and how this affects acceptances, irrespective of personal merit. Our children are blissfully too naïve to confront such prejudice from the mechanchim that they respect at this stage of their lives.




The whole process would be more enriched and less painful if as a community, we took responsibility for all of our students, to encourage many respectable schools rather than a hierarchy of desirable ones.


But most of all, even after being accepted into the “perfect” institution of one’s choice, I wonder how many of our children are losing out on the valuable life skills and lessons, of reaching out with sensitivity to another. Not as a classroom lesson. Not as a community chesed or ahavas Yisrael project, but as a real-life scenario.


As mechanchim, we may not take pride in having students like Dina. But perhaps it is these students, more than the “dream” ones, who actualize our potential as real mechanchim, while providing our students with opportunities for real chinuch. Just ask Dina’s mother. She’ll give you a whole new perspective on chinuch when she tells you about those special girls who about a decade ago, reached beyond their egos to befriend her daughter.


*Names and identifying qualities have been changed.


A Wake Up Call – More On Yeshiva Girls

Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

Special Note: Several weeks ago, I published a letter written by a young lady who is a student at a very fine yeshiva high school. She described the shockingly inappropriate behavior of some of her fellow students. The letter evoked much comment and concern. I would like to express my appreciation to all those who have taken the time to write and express their views. Of all the letters however, one, written by an outstanding mechanech, offers constructive solutions to this terrible dilemma, and I am pleased to share it with you.

Dear Rebbetzin:

Thank you for publicizing the very difficult issues facing our young teenage girls. While the at-risk behavior of boys has leveled off somewhat, there has been a dramatic increase in the at-risk behavior of girls. I have some insights into the problem that may be of interest to your readers.

We notice it earlier now. The image of the young, angry, pot-smoking teenage male has so frightened us that parents and educators are more attuned to the warning signs. Parents of our boys are more willing to seek out professional counseling at earlier ages and are more willing to listen when sound advice is offered. The problems are still there, yet there are answers. Mentoring programs, specialized high schools, and summer programs have become increasingly available for at-risk boys.

What about the girls? Professionals have been asking this question for several years. It is much more difficult to notice the at-risk girl. She can be academically successful in both Limudei Kodesh and Chol, yet engage in behavior unbecoming of frum girls.

It begins at a young age. Internet chatting seems innocent for a 10-year-old girl. After all, they are just talking with their friends the same way we used to use the phone. But it is not innocent. Neither are the movies that they rent for “innocent” sleep over parties. Relationships with males are idealized, discussed and fantasized. No different than 30 years ago? Watch them. PG-13 films and TV programs that would have been banned in a different generation are seen by “everyone” today. Sooner or later the internet chatting involves the boys. Chatting leads to meetings on Friday at the pizza store.

Eighth grade comes, and while parents may be dreaming of getting their bright young lady into the “top” yeshiva, they have failed to realize that subtle changes have occurred in a few short years. Unknowingly, these girls enter a high school admissions pool designed to weed out the ”bad” girls. Faced with rejection and no school to attend, these girls become depressed and their parents frantically search for answers. While the system may reject these girls, the boys do not. In many cases, the relationship spins out of control and the results are disastrous.

How long can we afford to turn a blind eye to this issue?

I believe that there are significant systemic problems with our girls’ yeshivas that must be addressed before it is too late. Furthermore, parents must be educated and made aware of the specific dangers facing our girls today.

Our Torah society today may be more learned than the previous recent generations, but we lack the simple Yiras Shamayim that characterized our grandparents. The simplicity of the lifestyle and the lack of material wealth enabled our ancestors to build their characters from within. The home was a bastion of emunah and the extended family assisted in the child rearing process.

Today is far different. The media has enabled our children to access the outside world in a manner never before available. Even our cell phones and palm pilots have internet capability. It is no longer possible to shelter our children from the secular world (perhaps with the exception of some very insular chassidic communities). Therefore, we need to give our children the same tools Yaakov Avinu gave Yosef before he was sent to Mitzrayim. We need to inculcate a deep sense of Yiras Shamaym within the souls of our children so that they can counteract the poisonous atmosphere of our world today.

Yet our educational system is sorely lacking in this area. After all, what yeshiva is accorded status based upon an intangible like Yiras Shamayim? Instead of appreciating the spiritual strength of each individual child, our yeshiva girls are recognized for their vast knowledge of chumash and navi, meforshim and yedios klalios. Girls without talent in these areas are segregated at a young age into a low expectation “B” class. What happens to the self-esteem of these vulnerable girls when their friends are elevated to the “top” classes while they languish in the dummy class?

At least in the boys’ schools, weaker classes can cover the same mesechta, albeit on a more superficial level. When asked, the weakest child is “holding in learning” in the same sugya as the strongest child. In a boys’ school, sports can be a great equalizer as well. Success on the ballfield translates into success socially. Lastly, since all men have a religious obligation to learn Torah, yeshivos attempt to instill in their boys a love of learning that will last a lifetime and go beyond the classroom. Because the goal for the curriculum is extra-curricular and inclusive, most boys ultimately find their place in the system. Even if some yeshivas are inappropriate for some boys, there are sufficient places in schools that are set up to serve the individual bachur. Those students who drop out of the system in high school often find their way back in the many yeshivas in Israel that serve their unique needs.

Our girls’ educational system however, does not adequately provide for the weaker student and attempts to foster an exclusive environment of excellence. Why must our girls memorize every Ramban in Chumash and every Malbim in Navi? Is there a mesorah for this approach to chinuch?

Rebbetzin Sarah Schneirer created the Bais Yaakov movement to combat the assimilation of young girls in Poland. Without adequate Jewish education, most girls had their heads in romantic novels and did not have the love of Yiddishkeit their mothers had.

If our girls attend 10 years of yeshiva and their minds are still on romantic novels and inappropriate movies in the eighth grade, something must be terribly wrong. Unlike the yeshiva system that is rooted in a deep mesorah spanning hundreds of years, there is no such mesorah for girls. Therefore, it is imperative that the limudei kodesh curriculum for Bais Yaakovs be completely re-evaluated.

Perhaps we have become a bit too competitive. Perhaps we have allowed the Israeli seminary system to dictate our curricula here? If a school loses 10 girls to the “streets” while 10 others get into the top seminary, is that a measure of success?

Our girls need to feel loved and validated by both their parents and their schools, especially when they go through the difficult trials of adolescence. They respond to inspirational Torah messages. They rise to the occasion when asked to do a chesed for another Jew. They need Navi lessons enriched with Hashkafah. They need to be elevated so they can appreciate the need for tznius. They need to feel the kedusha of our Holy Torah.

Parents also need to listen better and become involved more. We don’t have to send our child to a questionable party or social event just because “everyone” is going. We need to be more vigilant about the material that enters our homes and the access our children may have to inappropriate material on the internet. Even if we may believe that our computer is blocked, our children can access material in very creative ways. If we allow our children computer privileges, they must be very carefully monitored. We should check our children’s buddy lists, making sure we know each child on the list. We must keep the computer in a public space so that we can monitor internet activity better (even adults need to monitor their own internet use!).

Lastly, we need to learn to communicate better with our daughters. It is especially important for fathers to learn to relate better to their daughters. If daughters become alienated from their fathers, to whom will they turn to receive male affection? Who will provide for a daughter’s self-esteem if her father has become detached? Fathers must spend time with their daughters, listening and discussing their issues.

We face huge challenges. Maintaining our frum society is perhaps more difficult than at any other time in Jewish history. We must battle the influences of our corrupt culture by building our children’s neshamos through Yiras Shamayim and Ahavas Chesed. Our daughters need to be loved and validated by both of their parents and their teachers, not isolated and tracked and made to feel worthless.

My fellow educators are perhaps the most talented group of people in Klal Yisrael. If we commit ourselves to working toward solutions, in cooperation with parents, then I firmly believe that, like Sarah Schneirer decades ago, we can formulate a curriculum that will continue to produce Bnos Yisrael who will build beautiful families that would make our grandparents proud of us.

May HaShem help us to begin this monumental effort before it is too late.

Sincerely,
Richard Altabe
Dean of Secular Studies
Yeshiva Darchei Torah

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-wake-up-call-more-on-yeshiva-girls/2003/08/20/

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