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Family First Inbox: Issue 811

“I wanted to give up. I still might want to give up. But getting a glimpse into the other side of the story gave me the chizuk I needed”

The Other Side of the Story [A Bitter Pill / Issue 809]

A year ago, I might have read “A Bitter Pill” with a raised eyebrow, wondering why content like this needs to be in front of frum families everywhere. I look back at that past self and wish I could find a way to give her a dose of reality without her having to experience the harshness of real life. In real time, I read the article and cried. I’m the one picking up the pieces of the addict in my life, trying to keep my head above water while dealing with the stress and exhaustion and pain of supporting someone else’s family while they try again to get the help they need.

I wanted to give up. I still might want to give up. But getting a glimpse into the other side of the story gave me the chizuk I needed at this exact moment to keep it going one more day.

Name Withheld


You’re Not Alone [A Bitter Pill / Issue 809]

This is not necessarily a response to the article this past week about a recovering addict; it is more a glimpse and hopefully invitation to those family members in need of support and acknowledgment.

I am the wife of an addict. When I saw the title of the article, my heart tensed up. I know of the deep pain, shame, guilt, and nonstop self-loathing that consume an addict’s life. I also know the unmeasurable pain, worry, self-doubt, and codependent life of a family member. Family members go through many different emotions and uncomfortable pain, whether it’s watching the addict suffer without being able to speak about it, or having mistrust constantly invade the foundation of the relationship, being scared that one day the addict will just not be around anymore, and so much more. This takes a huge toll.

This does not negate or take away the immense amount of pain the addict is constantly in; the two are true at the same time.

This being said, I would like to invite anyone who lives in Israel (especially Yerushalayim) who is married to an addict or someone with addictive behaviors to reach out to wivesof@gmail.com and get the support you so badly deserve to have. Whether you’re looking for support groups, or just a network of others who are in the same situation, please reach out. You are not alone.

The wife of an addict


Should This Be a Rule? [Family Reflections / Issue 809]

Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s recent article made a great point: Rules need to be backed by consequences. But I didn’t think the moral of the story with Ezra’s mom was that she should have enforced the rule about his losing his riding privileges if he did not focus on where he was going. First, there were instances when the parent misjudged the situation, so consequences could be negotiable if in fact Ezra was not at fault.

But more importantly, the mother shouldn’t have made the rule to begin with. Don’t make vague rules that you can’t enforce. “If I see that you aren’t watching where you are going” implies that you can actually measure this kid’s attention by whether or not he hits something. What if he’s not watching where he’s going but no one happens to be around? What if he hit someone but it was a moving target out of his control? Especially for an executive functioning or motor coordination challenged child, it’s pretty hard to make rules like these that can be enforced. Do we think Ezra really wants to knock into people? He doesn’t! (And if a kid were actually doing this on purpose, that could probably be more easily managed by a rule with a consequence.)

It seems it might have been better for Ezra’s mom to restrict his bike riding to a certain area (attainable, enforceable), perhaps with objects around him so he could train himself. Maybe she needs to take him to a park with wide open spaces and no one around so he can enjoy. It seems to me that rather than making this a discipline issue, it should have been a training issue.

Mindel Kassorla


Sarah Chana Radcliffe responds:

You make a good point: all children (and all parents!) are unique and require tailor-made interventions.

My articles always address the “average” person and child unless specifically stated otherwise. Your suggestions for a child with executive functioning and/or motor coordination difficulties are excellent for the initial stages of bike training for such a youngster, although actual “sidewalk training” would naturally present more challenges and possibly require further interventions.

In this particular article, many assumptions underlie my suggested intervention: The child has no particular special needs that require special interventions, the parent has no special needs that require her to adjust her own behavior, the child has already received completely adequate instruction for the activity in question (in this case, how to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk), the parent and child have a secure and loving relationship, and the child has responded appropriately to normal guidance till this point in time.

In other words, there are no special considerations that need to be taken into account — except possibly for the effect of the modern secular worldview on society. “Discipline” and “rules” have become toxic concepts in Western philosophy. This might be because they have been associated in the past with abusive or authoritarian parenting styles. However, decades of research continue to show that authoritative parenting — warm, loving parenting combined with non-angry discipline and clear limits — produces the healthiest outcomes in children. Like authoritarian parenting, “laissez-faire parenting” — parenting without rules — causes a host of negative outcomes. The title of the article refers to the current dilemma: “Afraid to Rule.” Many of today’s parents are afraid that clear rules will harm their children! There is no reason to fear or avoid discipline but every reason to learn how to do it in such a way that it is helpful rather than harmful.


Keep It Away — From Teens [A Month of Control / Issue 809]

After reading the article about women who tried to break free of the hold their phones had on them, I agree that it’s an excellent idea to charge your phone away from your bed, in order to help with phone usage and/or addiction. But if you have teenage children at home, you shouldn’t leave your phone unattended overnight; this is creating a nisayon that your children might not be able to handle, even if you have a password and/or filter. I’ve had too many students tell me that they either knew their parents’ passwords or were able to figure them out; many were able to get around the filters.

It’s a better idea to charge your phone in a closet or on the other side of your room. You can also shut it down before going to bed; the delay of having to restart the phone will prevent you from checking it during the night.

A. Rosenbaum


Matter of Faith [A Better You / Issue 803]

Dina Schoonmaker attempts to “dispel a myth” about bitachon by quoting the Chazon Ish. Actually, the so-called myth referred to — that bitachon means everything will work out as you want it to — is not a myth, according to illustrious sources, Rishonim such as Ramban, Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, and later sources like the Leshem and Sefer Ha’ikarim. These Rishonim say that bitachon is trusting that Hashem will come through for us.

When a little child is secure in her mother’s providing food and clothes for her, it’s because she has absolute trust that these things will be provided. It’s not that the child believes nothing is random and Mommy knows what’s good for me. There’s no question in that child’s mind that there will be supper when she comes home. This is a mashal to our trust in Hashem. Even a rasha, G-d forbid, who trusts, will have his trust requited. Why? Because of his trust.

Yehudis Homnick


Dina Schoonmaker responds:

Thank you so much for relating to this important topic. Like many other topics in hashkafah, there are various opinions on this matter.

The Chazon Ish’s opinion is stated clearly in the beginning of the second perek of his sefer Emunah U’bitachon. As you mentioned, there are other illustrious opinions that disagree with the Chazon Ish. I once heard, in the name of a known mashgiach, that we confidently eat food with a trustworthy hechsher while we also know that there are other trustworthy hechsherim that may have different criteria. Or for a more specific example, if you wait three hours between meat and milk, you do so confidently while knowing that others wait six hours. Similarly, in hashkafah, we can follow a derech of our gadol, while knowing that there are other gedolim with different opinions.

Regarding your specific point, I believe the “ myth” that the Chazon Ish is attempting to dispel is that we think we know exactly what is right for us. Hashem is omnipotent and is capable of providing us with everything we want and more. But due to His omniscience, He knows what is best for us. So if He approves of our plan for the future, we will receive exactly what we hope for. But if it is not good for us, His plan will win.

Of course, we absolutely trust that Hashem will take care of us. We just humbly accept that He will dictate the terms, and we will not. Practically, this means that we daven for what we hope to be the desired outcome.

Yet we leave room for the fact that Hashem may disagree with our request. As Chovos Halevavos writes (Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, cheshbon 18): ”If my lack of intelligence causes me to ask for things that are not good for me, Your choices, Hashem, are better than mine.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 811)

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