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Family First Inbox: Issue 775

"We would never criticize the ultimate Provider of life circumstances and of personal nisyonos; perhaps it behooves us not to criticize the receiver either"

Sympathy for the “Privileged” [Inbox / Issue 774]

I was so moved by your fictional story, “Mountains Around Jerusalem.” After reading it, I told my husband how impressed I was at how beautifully and effectively you humanized a figure whose predicament was a challenge for many of us to relate to. We all know of and respect those who struggle financially for the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael. And yet, this figure, this girl with the charmed life who tried so hard to make it work, who struggled without whipped cream cheese... she became a real, relatable person in the story, one with struggles, pain, and triumphs of her own.

In regards to the letter to the editor (et tu, Family First?) the writer references virtue-signaling trends such as refusing to buy products from “occupied territories,” but I wonder if she has perhaps fallen for another such trend in her criticism. The idea of sneering down at those who are “privileged,” as if their struggles are somehow less real, less human, than others, is very of-the-moment, but I don’t believe it fits into a Torah worldview. Chazal say that every person is an “olam malei,” and that is true for everyone, affluent parents and doting grandfather notwithstanding. Is her desire for more, for something higher, not an aspiration we can respect? Is her overpowering sense of shame at not having the tools to follow through with her dream not something each of us, in our own way, can relate to?

As Jews, we are rachmanim. As women, we possess binah, X-ray vision that helps us see the person within. We would never criticize the ultimate Provider of life circumstances and of personal nisyonos; perhaps it behooves us not to criticize the receiver either.

Penina Teitelbaum



Tools for Conquering Everest [Inbox / Issue 773]

Dear “Living in Yerushalayim for now,”

You write that you appreciate living in Eretz Yisrael but nonetheless were “met by a harsh reality of what real life is here.” You’re finding living here hard. Yes, sometimes it is (and real life is surely somewhat of a harsh reality everywhere), but as I can attest, it gets easier.

I don’t know your circumstances, but perhaps a couple of things you write are clues: “When [we] moved here, we were living the dream”; “Living in Yerushalayim for now.”

Really, these don’t sound like Eretz-Yisrael problems. It sounds as if you didn’t come with a definite intent to stay permanently — just to stay as long as you could — and you still haven’t committed. You’d probably have a similar experience in, say, Sweden.

If you are in an Anglos-in-kollel bubble where many aren’t intending to stay, and you start feeling different because you’re contemplating it, it might get, as you say, “really lonely.”

Try these (which should work in Sweden too):

  • Decide that you’re staying.
  • Become citizens (unless you have hashkafic reasons not to — not just to avoid dealing with the draft).
  • Move to a neighborhood where people live in Eretz Yisrael long-term.
  • Learn the language as well as you can
  • Consider whether your husband would eventually go out to work if you went back; if so, plan for him to do that here.

Once you’ve done those things, much of what you mention will no longer be issues!

To build on your analogy, I’d say that conquering Everest might be impossible alone but becomes much more possible when done with other like-minded people — especially if they’re on the mountain all the time.

Wishing you a yishuv tov if that’s the outcome you choose,

Yitzchok Lavi, Ramat Beit Shemesh


Seeking Appropriate Support [Touch Base: Screen It / Issue 773]

As licensed professionals who dedicate much of our practices to addiction, specifically related to technology, inappropriate material, and relationships, we felt compelled to respond to Rebbetzin Weinberg’s “Screen It: The Conversation Continues.” While we appreciate much of the Rebbetzin’s insight on habits, mussar, and finding Torah-based support, we were confused as to whether the response acknowledged behavioral addiction and its existence, and about at what point it suggested seeking Torah guidance, and at what point it suggested seeking therapeutic, emotional, and/or 12-Step support.

We were concerned about the potential danger of people minimizing serious behavioral addiction problems by viewing them (intentionally or not) as just religious problems, and thus avoiding seeking the proper support.

Addictions, behavioral included, are very serious. Even the minority opinion that disagrees with the addiction label agrees that these behaviors can lead to spiritual, relational, social, and emotional destruction, as well as pikuach nefesh on a physical level.

People often get dependent on these behaviors to obtain an instant high and to escape or numb painful feelings or memories. While an individual may initially be able to overcome a habit with mussar, Torah, and hadrachah, they may suddenly escalate into needing more of the behavior to obtain the previous high, leading them into significant risky and potentially life-threatening behaviors with high levels of dependence. These behaviors must be treated by appropriate emotional and addiction interventions. It is therefore very difficult to draw a line, especially in a public forum, as to when it is appropriate to seek support through Torah and at what point it is necessary to seek emotional and addiction support and intervention.

It is very painful and unfortunate that many wait until serious crisis and destruction hit to seek appropriate treatment, and we were concerned that this article might perpetuate this problem. We have heard endless accounts of people trying kabbalos, segulos, or mussar seforim with no relief from the addiction, while years went by with more destruction occurring. People who are broken that they were not guided toward appropriate solutions, and instead told to fight their yetzer hara.

It’s extremely important to be very careful and sensitive when writing about this topic, so as not to downplay the seriousness of addiction or cause people to question pursuing the appropriate support. When people who could benefit from addiction help postpone it, they wreak more spiritual and relational damage.

Yosef Flohr, LMSW CSAT

Abby Delouya RMFT CPT


Career of Chesed [“Torah Brings Brachah / Issue 773]

I enjoyed reading your article about Rebbetzin Dvora Zarbiv.

In 1985, I was told about Rabbanit Zarbiv by her neighbor in Givat Shaul, Rabbanit Chana Henkin. Rabbanit Zarbiv was raising a large family, supporting her illustrious husband, and at the same time, was the “life preserver” for multitudes of families and destitute people. The Rabbanit was a magnet of warmth and solace for body and soul.

I was living in Queens at the time, and as one conversation led to another, I was drawn in by her excitement and enthusiasm for clothing the poor. I kept open boxes lined up in my playroom and filled them with our extra clothing as well as our neighbors’. We’d make “family outings” to the post office to mail our mitzvah packages to Rabbanit Zarbiv.

In 1987, my husband and I, along with two of our sons, went for a trip to Israel. On Shabbos, we walked through the park in Givat Shaul, where we spotted a kippah labeled “Rubin bung 16” and children wearing my sons’ polo shirts.

Since we’ve made aliyah, I am able to stop in and visit Rabbanit Zarbiv and be enveloped by her warm embrace and amazing stories. And she will not let me leave without homemade goodies and blessings!

The Rabbanit is a role model for us in how we can stretch ourselves to do chesed. If you have only one loaf of bread, divide it, and give half to a person more needy than you.

May she be zocheh to arichus yamim and continue her wonderful chesed career,

Leah Rubin, Har Nof


Losing Part of Yourself [The Hole in the Family / Issue 773]

I read the article about sibling loss and was so happy that something was finally written about this. I too lost a brother, who was 11 months older than me, at the age of 58. My parents lost their bechor. I was told to get over it because many people lose siblings. It is not like the loss of a parent. We do not get to mourn for a year, we do not get to say Kaddish a whole year, and our grief is not acknowledged like it is with a parent or a spouse.

I am not going to compare losing a sibling to losing a child, because there is nothing worse than that. But losing a sibling is like losing part of yourself, even if you were not super close. It is the same feeling Aharon had when his sister Miriam got tzaraas and he said to Moshe, “Please, we came from the same womb, I feel as if half of my flesh was eaten.” That is how it feels — like half of you was taken a way.

When I go into a shivah house now, I take notice of the siblings who are sitting alone and I am able to give them the comfort that they need by quoting that pasuk. They begin to cry and respond, “Oh, yes, that’s exactly how I feel.”

But those feelings are not acknowledged. Losing a sibling is losing a part of your childhood, part of your memories as a child in your family home. Losing your sibling is watching the pain of your parents who have lost their child. It is a double whammy. Thank you for bringing it to the surface.

Name withheld



In issue 768, the Lifetakes references Shlomo HaMelech saying, “Yemin mekareves u’smol docheh.” This statement is actually from the Gemara, Sanhedrin 107b, and the correct quote reads “S’mol docheh v’yemin mekareves.” We apologize for the error.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 775)

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