Title: What Do You See on Purim?
Author: Bracha Goetz
Published by Judaica Press
Title: What Do You See on Purim?
Published by Judaica Press
Dear Gary, I’m very upset with the younger generation today and the way they treat their marriages. I’ve been married for 56 years and admit that it hasn’t always been easy. If I thought about getting divorced each time my husband upset or annoyed me, we wouldn’t have gotten past the week of sheva brachos. It seems to me that today’s newlyweds don’t want to make any sacrifices and think only of themselves. My grandson, the father of two beautiful young children, is getting divorced. He says its because he didn’t make his wife happy enough and spent too much time working at his new job. This is outrageous. Do you think this younger generation is too selfish?
Answer: First of all, congratulations on 56 years of marriage. As you note, it wasn’t easy – and it’s not supposed to be. It is always inspiring to hear stories of a life long commitment to marriage. I only wish you would share with us some of your secrets to marital longevity. Surely, your primary one was the expectations you had going into your marriage. There’s no doubt that marriages today begin differently than those of yesteryear. Whereas I’m not comfortable calling an entire generation “selfish,” I am comfortable discussing your sage point about sacrificing.
Successful marriages have some commonalities, one of them being the realistic expectation that each spouse will make sacrifices. Taking it a step further, it’s really about contentment. We live in a world where we are often taught not to be content. While we are expected to consistently strive for more, this doesn’t mean we should live in a perpetual state of unrest. The successful couple is one who is looking to expand their devotion for each other into something more, while at the same time, recalling the ongoing love that already exists. You can want to spend more time having fun with your spouse while simultaneously being grateful for the positive relationship you now have and the time you presently spend together.
Contentment lies at the heart of a happy marriage and life. However, some confuse contentment with a lackadaisical attitude; if I’m content, I won’t work hard to change. But contentment is about counting your blessings, knowing things could be worse and not taking for granted the positive in your marriage. The beauty of being content with your spouse is that it inspires you to make those sacrifices for each other and not feel that something has been taken away from you. Rather, you’ve added significantly to the marriage, the family and the love that is being nurtured. You have done this by thinking of each other and putting some of your wants on the back burner.
Naturally, this style of marital behavior works when both spouses are in sync in this concept. It becomes unhealthy if only one spouse is comfortable sacrificing and the other is quite happy being sacrificed for. (That is why no one from outside the marriage relationship can judge, because we can’t know the balance or lack thereof.) Relationships are built on a reciprocal give and take. It’s never an exact quid pro quo, but there has to be a feeling that each one wants to make the other happy and a desire to find that ongoing contentment together. Surely, there are those whose very “needs” are not being met. But again, the definition of “need” versus “want” is in the eyes of the beholder.
Try telling yourself you want to be content. Remove the word sacrifice for a while because it always sounds like something’s being taken away. When your spouse isn’t the way you’d like him or her to be, don’t tell yourself you have to accept it and make the sacrifice. Instead, use that moment to recall some of the wonderful things about your spouse, reminding yourself that no one has it all. Make that sacrifice gracefully, with love and the knowledge that this is part of what marriage is all about. Remember that you want your spouse to overlook some of your less than spectacular traits and find you wonderful. You don’t want him or her always thinking about all the sacrifices he/she needs to make living with you.
As a change of pace, I wrote a short story with the hope that it might provide some insight as to how young children can assess ordinary situations in a way that may be surprising to grownups.
Little Dovi was scared, and even though it was morning, even though his room was lit up with bright sunshine streaming through his window, he would not come out from under his blanket where he lay huddled, fearfully clutching his very best teddy bear friend.
If he stayed in bed, he told himself, if he pretended to be asleep, then his mother would be safe. Bad things only happened when you were awake and aware of them – but if you were asleep, you couldn’t know about things and therefore – they didn’t happen! So, reasoned Dovi, he would stay in bed and keep his eyes shut until his Ema would softly call his name and give him his usual boker tov smile. His Ema would be in his room, safe and sound.
Dovi’s anxiety over his mother had begun the previous night, when a loud crash of thunder awoke him. He had jumped out of bed and had run to his parents’ room, the safest, “bestest” place in the whole world. Nothing could touch him there, not with Ema and Tati to cuddle with. But to his extreme horror, the room was empty! Ema and Tati were gone!
An ear-shattering clap of thunder abruptly changed his shock to terror and he had run screaming out of the room, nearly knocking down his Bubbi who had come out of the guest bedroom.
“Ema, I want Ema,” Dovi shouted frantically.
“Sha, sha, Dovela, “his grandmother crooned softly as she hugged him tightly. “Ema and Tati are in the hospital to get your new baby brother or sister. Isn’t that exciting? Ema will come home in a couple of days with a baby and won’t she be so glad that she has such a big boy at home to help her take care of it.”
Dovi had thought a minute, and had decided that this was something to be excited about – since he had been waiting and waiting and waiting for this to happen. He had been told over and over again that the baby was coming “soon”, but “soon” never seemed to come. And now finally, “soon” was here.
“Couldn’t Ema go for the baby in the morning,” he had asked as his Bubbi tucked him into his bed. “Most places are closed at night.”
Bubbi had smiled, telling him that like the store at the corner, hospitals were open all day and night.
Dovi had lain in bed, but could not fall asleep. As the raindrops drummed steadily on the window sill, he remembered a story old Mr. Bredin had told him how thirsty flowers would call out to Shomayim and the malachim, the angels – hearing their pleas for water would feel so sad and cry and their tears came down as rain.
Mr. Bredin always had a lap and a story for his little neighbor Dovi. And then one day, not so long ago, Mr. Bredin was gone. Dovi had been told that Mr. Bredin was taken to the hospital and from there, went to live with Hashem.
It was at that point the previous night that Dovi had bolted upright in his bed, his heart pounding in horror. Ema had also gone to the hospital, that’s what Bubbi had told him. Would she and the baby go to Hashem, like Mr. Bredin had – and never come home to him? Would he wake up only to be told that Ema wasn’t coming back?
A distraught Dovi thought and thought long and hard on how to keep his Ema. And then, the answer came to him! He would not get out of bed. if he “slept”, if he wasn’t “told” and thus didn’t “know” – then it didn’t happen. Hearing about something bad made it real – not knowing about it meant it didn’t happen.
Now it was morning and Dovi could hear Bubbi repeatedly calling him down to breakfast, but he stayed put. Minutes later he heard a car pull up in the driveway beneath his window. He parted the curtains and looked out. It was Tati! But Tati looked so tired and crumpled. And Ema wasn’t with him! Feeling sick, little Dovi dove under the covers. Within minutes he heard heavy footsteps on the stairs.
“I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know,” he sobbed covering his ears with his hands when his father pulled the covers off his face.
Dovi’s Tati was puzzled. Dovi had been so looking forward to having a sibling to play with. Why was he so upset? Could he be jealous or fearful that he would be displaced?
“Dovi,” he said gently trembling son, “you have a baby sister, but Ema and I love you just as much as we did before. We are so happy you are our yingele.”
For a moment, a distracted Dovi forgot his fears. A girl baby! Well, even girls were fun to play with. Chani next door was a girl and she liked digging for worms just as much as he did. He would show his sister how to wiggle like a worm so that they would think she was one of them and not be afraid when they played with them.
Dovi’s father’s words interrupted his musings. “Ema and the baby miss you so much.”
At his father’s words, Dovi burst into tears. “Ema is in the hospital, he sobbed. “Mr. Bredin also went to the hospital – and he went to Hashem and never came home, and now Ema won’t also,” Dovi wailed.
So that’s what this is all about, Dovi’s Tati thought as he hugged his sobbing son. “Look at me Dovi, I never lie to you. Ema is leaving the hospital tomorrow and will be coming home.”
“But Mr. Bredin didn’t,” Dovi shouted, his face awash in misery.
” Dovi, sometimes people don’t come home from the hospital, but most do, especially Emas having babies.”
Dovi quieted down, relief and growing joy replacing his anguish. Ema was going to come home – and so was his sister!
“I’m a big brother, I’m a big brother, wait till I tell Chani,” he shouted with glee as he flew out of the room, the delectable smell of his favorite pancakes teasing his nostrils. “But first I’ll eat, so I can be an even bigger big brother!
Title: What Do You See in Your Neighborhood?
Author: Bracha Goetz
Publisher: Judaica Press
When I sit on the couch with my son and daughter, both toddlers, they love to pick out one of the board books from the “What Do You See?” series for us to cozily read together.
The joy in their little faces is clearly evident as they listen to the delightful rhymes and point to the bright and colorful photos that they can recognize on every page. When there is a new word for them to learn, we look at the pictures and play “Can you find…?” The children get very excited seeing pictures of other adorable little children eating, playing, and singing.
With the newest addition to the series just released, What Do You See In Your Neighborhood, we tour the familiar sights that young children actually get to go and see. Together we go for a walk, stop at the park, attend their playgroup, go to the store, ride in a car, visit the doctor, and even peek in shul – all while still cuddling on the couch.
All the “What Do You See?” board books display regular daily objects and activities in an age- appropriate and enjoyable manner. It is a charming way for toddlers to increase their vocabulary, while learning about the everyday life of a Jewish family.
The book is available at local Judaica stores and from the publisher at judaicapress.com.
Title: What Do You See in Your Neighborhood?
Author: Bracha Goetz
Publisher: Judaica Press
The book is available at local Judaica stores and from the publisher at judaicapress.com.
I am writing in response to Hopelessly Entangled, the 21-year old frum single girl (Chronicles 11-14) who was romantically involved with a 17-year-old off-the-derech boy whom she has no intention of marrying. I have to share that I was in a similar situation. Here is how I managed, with the help of Hashem Yisbarach, to break free of my devastating addiction.
It is said of the yetzer hara, “Bipesach tachas rovetz” – sin lies in “the opening” (Rashion Koheles 4:13). This refers to a human weakness, shortcoming or deficiency that serves as an entryway for the yetzer hara to take advantage of.
Now, most of us have a sex drive, but that alone will not push a frum girl with no prior romantic experience into an affair with someone so utterly out of her league. Rather, he spoke to something that was missing in her life – like any other addictive substance that poses as the solution to some sort of void.
Although I cannot speak for her, I can tell you what was missing in my life when I found myself addicted to a lowlife at the age of 19. I had always been a quiet, well-behaved nerd who secretly envied all of those wild kids who made trouble and cut class. The young man was to me an invitation to finally join the ranks of the world’s carefree, badly behaved kids that I secretly imagined were having all the fun.
As a valedictorian with a rigorous career carefully laid out before me, I had been so busy résumé-padding for college that I had completely neglected my family and friends, as well as simply stopping to smell the roses. My emotional development was completely repressed beneath the endless schoolwork and extra-curriculars, and as a result I fell prey to the hormonal wham-bam of being involved with a bad boy, in desperation for anything that could make me feel again.
I also had had such a disciplinarian attitude towards myself that I think my addiction was a subconscious internal rebellion, my body going out of its way precisely to spite my willpower. To break free of my addiction, I had to learn a whole new system of self-control that was kinder, gentler and more maternal.
Mind you, it took a year of tumultuous soul-searching from the dark abyss of my disease for me to realize that these were the causes of my seemingly inscrutable addiction to something so obviously wrong, and about six months of working on myself to resolve these issues.
To the 21-year-old: There are few simple answers and absolutely no sympathy or emotional support in this world of knee-jerk moralizing and shaming, and there is always a lurking despair that can drive a person to abandon hope and just accept their addiction as is. Just remember that the greater the tzaddik, the greater the nisayon (test) and that other people have beaten this nisayon and are here to give you chizuk.
Hatzlachah with everything, and may you be zocheh to marry your zivug at the right time.
Been there and came back stronger…
Dear Been There,
A wise woman taught me that, taken to an extreme, just about anything will prove to be detrimental. What a blessing for parents to have a child who is studious and serious… and human. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every human being, young, old or in-between, will benefit from some lightheartedness and down time.
Parents of children who bury themselves in schoolwork to the point of exhaustion and to the exclusion of any social interaction with peers and/or family members should insist on a diversion – whether it is in the form of a leisure activity or the occasional vacation. Ideally, both should be worked into everyone’s itinerary.
There are other scenarios that may drive a seemingly model young lady (or man) to take that uncharacteristic left turn. Sometimes parents are too preoccupied with their own busy agendas or large families to pay much heed to their elder, “mature” and self-reliant son or daughter. As a result, the attention-starved child can easily fall prey to the wrong kind of “notice” as s/he seeks approval denied him or her, albeit unintentionally, at home.
Amazingly, you’ve not only survived your ordeal but have gained extraordinary insight into what caused you to veer off course so severely. Your message is of great significance: Addiction can be conquered, hope must never be abandoned, and sufferers should be aware that others who have “been there” before have made it back – stronger and wiser.
One more scourge needs to be mentioned here: the Internet. Yes, the information highway has been a boon to mankind in myriad ways, but it has also unfortunately created a multitude of problems and caused the downfall of many a vulnerable soul.
Like you say, “there are few simple answers.” Short of sequestering ourselves on an island devoid of all secular societal influence, parents of young children need to be alert and aware and teachers must be adept at reading their students’ behavioral patterns. Above all, we should work on strengthening our faith in G-d and continually call on Him to protect our nearest and dearest from the ills that plague the earth’s inhabitants, as perhaps never before.
Thank you for sharing.
My last two columns dealt with the biblical injunction that we “watch over our souls.” Hashem has commanded us to do what we can to keep ourselves healthy and alive. We are not to focus solely on ourselves but also to keep an eye on our families, friends and neighbors – especially those who are alone, infirm, elderly, and limited in their ability to efficiently take care of themselves. This is especially so for babies and children.
I recently was at a busy airport and saw aheimishe family making their way to the check- in counter. There were several children in tow and lots of luggage. People were staring at them and, as I got closer, I realized why. A boy of about 20 months was jumping and skipping around – but was not getting too far. Attached to his wrist was a long leash, the other end of which was attached to his mother’s wrist. Because the leash was stretchable, he was able to prance and run around but could not get away. Some people walked past the parents with disapproving frowns distorting their faces, for the very idea of “chaining a child” was an affront to them. But I thought to myself, kol hakavod.
It is easy for a parent to get distracted while navigating through a busy international airport, with its seemingly endless waiting, the long walk to the gate, and digging up passports and other documents. In a blink a toddler can walk away unnoticed. By having their child on a leash, these parents were “watching over the soul” of their little one.
I think that using some kind of restraint when very young children are in a crowded public place like a mall or playground (where they can easily get separated from their parent/babysitter/bubbe) is the “glatt” thing to do. This is especially so when the teenager or adult has several children under his/her care.
I strongly feel that older children, who are allowed to walk alone, be given “kid-friendly” cell phones, whereby they can receive or call certain programmed numbers if they need help. Better they should have the ability to call home than ask a stranger, even a heimishe-looking one, for help. Tragically, “frum” garb does not always translate into a safe adult.
Despite high gas prices, people need to get into their cars and go wherever they need to go. In this regard, here are some suggestions on keeping children safe. First, before you back out of your driveway, look around to see if there are children playing on the sidewalk or riding bikes. Notify the kids or adults (who are hopefully outside watching them) that you will be backing up, and that they should stay put until you are on the road.
Nowadays trucks and vans are equipped with a warning siren when going in reverse, but unfortunately this is not so with cars. I would like to see all vehicles equipped with one; but until then, be your own warning device. Glance around and make sure it is safe to back out.
If your car was parked outside overnight (or for a few hours in a public parking lot) I suggest you do a walk-around, and glance in the front and back seats before getting in. As improbable as it likely is, a stranger with sinister motives could be hiding inside – especially if yours is a bigger car or van.
And when arriving at your destination also glance in the front and back seats, to make sure you haven’t left something important behind, like your cell phone or pocketbook – or a sleeping infant. It is no laughing matter. Harried, distracted and exhausted parents have tragically left infants in cars where extreme heat or cold resulted in horrific heartache and loss.
I have made a habit when on the subway or bus to look behind at my seat after I have gotten up to get off. On many an occasion, I saw that I had left behind a bag with food, new clothing, an umbrella, or even my pocketbook. It only takes a second to look, and that quick glance has saved me from much aggravation.
With the summer heat upon us, it is crucial to keep young children hydrated. If you come in from an outing and you’re thirsty, no doubt your baby is also thirsty. Crying that you might attribute to tiredness or crankiness can be a desperate plea for something to drink. Young but verbal children engrossed in play may not come in and ask for a drink – but go out and offer them one anyway. They may be dehydrated but too busy playing to notice how hot they are. Make sure all bedrooms, at the very least, have a fan. Young children feel the heat like everyone else.
Always “test-drive” fans and other electrical appliances like lamps that are new, or haven’t been used in a long time. Leave them on during the day for several hours in a room where you can notice if they throw out electrical sparks or are malfunctioning. Always check the wire for any signs of wear and tear. And make sure you have working smoke detectors on all levels of the house, as well as a well-rehearsed escape plan in case of an emergency.
Teach older children to always close the safety gates so that babies cannot crawl onto steps or go into rooms that are not childproof. It goes without saying that there should always be a pair of responsible, adult eyes on babies and young children – especially when they are outdoors. Don’t assume that being with other, slightly older children will ensure their safety. The blind can’t lead the blind – and children can’t watch over children.
While these recommendations do not take much effort or expense, they can save a family much anguish. Hashem wants us to take the initial, necessary precautions to keep our families and ourselves safe. He will do the rest.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We are all aware of the terrible churban that recently took place in Yerushalayim’s Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, where eight precious neshamas were taken from us.
How can I explain and respond to my children when they ask why Hashem has punished these young innocent bachurim, who were the “cream of the crop?” What is going on in Eretz Yisrael (and in Sderot and Ashkelon in particular) is very frightening to kids, especially when young children are suffering so much.
How can we explain the right hashkafah to children who are questioning Hashem’s ways?
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
There is a timeless Yiddish saying, “Vos es feilt in hasbarah, feilt in havanah,” that is probably most appropriate in analyzing your dilemma in responding to your child’s questions. Loosely translated, it expresses the stark truth that when we find it difficult to explain concepts to others (hasbarah means to explain, while havanah denotes understanding) it is often because we ourselves don’t understand them fully.
This adage often rings true in the arena of parenting, as so many of the challenges we face when raising our children are really issues that we as parents are in the midst of grappling with. So I guess we ought to discuss both of the following issues simultaneously: How do we process tragedies through a Torah lens, and how do we respond to the questions that our children pose in trying to understand them?
Since this is such a difficult subject I will start with the don’ts before the do’s, as it is a far easier place to begin.
Do not suppress the questions of your children – about this topic or any other.
Always keep in mind that you never solve anything by taking that easy route. As I often note, an unasked question is an unresolved one. Creating an environment where your child can freely ask you anything that is on his or her mind means that you are positioned to properly be mechanech him or her.
Do not be intimidated or frightened to admit that you don’t have “all the answers” – especially to questions as difficult as these. It will, in all likelihood, be very refreshing for your child to see that you are also finding this challenging. In fact, you will have the opportunity to model appropriate behavior when you are stumped or find yourself looking for answers that are over your pay grade – by posing the question to a rav, rebbitzen or gadol with whom you are comfortable. This can perhaps be done even in the presence of your child.
Do not verbalize or even imply that respectfully asking for answers to questions like these is disrespectful or represent a lack of emunah in Hashem. To the contrary, you ought to explain that looking to gain insight into the workings of Hashem is really a sign of closeness to Him.
It might not be a bad idea to mention that the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is one that has been asked by our greatest leaders and nevi’im over the centuries. According to the Gemara (Brachos 7a), when Moshe Rabbeinu implored Hashem, “Hodieini na es drachecha – Please make Your way known to me” (Shemos 33:13), Moshe wanted to understand the age-old question of why so many righteous people suffer while it often seems that the wicked are prospering. This was the “derech” of Hashem that Moshe wanted to understand.
In fact, according to Rashi, it seems that this was something Moshe had wanted to ask previously, and waited until the opportunity presented itself – namely when Hashem’s mercy was granted to the Jews when He forgave them for the sin of the eigel (golden calf). It would seem that Rashi was wondering why Moshe chose that specific time to ask Hashem for the understanding of His “derachim,” for this request – at least at first glance – does not seem to follow the logical thread of Moshe’s beseeching Hashem to forgive klal Yisrael.
What is noteworthy and perhaps worthwhile mentioning to your child is that a simple reading of those pesukim would indicate that even our greatest leader and navi, Moshe Rabbeinu, was told by Hashem that a full and complete understanding of His “derachim” cannot be granted to humans during their lifetime.
You may worry that your child (and you) may be distressed to find out that there are no easy answers to these questions. But in all likelihood, the fact that our greatest tzaddikim were preoccupied with these thoughts will be comforting to him or her and not leave them feeling like they are on the outside looking in just because they are bothered by these questions.
Next: Some practical things you can tell your children (the do’s) to help them get their hands around this most difficult matter.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/helping-our-children-deal-with-tragedy-part-i/2008/05/07/
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