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Family First Inbox: Issue 882

“For whatever it’s worth, my respect for you and other baalei teshuvah (and geirim) is exceedingly great. I’m in awe of your sacrifice”

Been There [Inbox / Issue 881]

As a single girl in my early thirties who not only permits my younger siblings to get married, but actively encourages them to do so, I’d like to add the following perspectives and food for thought to the discussion following the Matchquest about the topic.

  1. Is it hard to let your younger siblings get married before you? Maybe, maybe not. That will depend on your unique kochos hanefesh. But I can only imagine how much harder it would be to prevent my siblings from getting married and living their desired lives! I would never wish to deny my parents any nachas, and I shudder to think what my family life would look like if my younger siblings weren’t married. They were supposed to get married before me and have children first. My nieces and nephews are adorable, and I couldn’t imagine our lives without them!
  2. Try to have an open mindset. In other communities and backgrounds the submitted dilemma wouldn’t be a question. An older child being married or not wouldn’t come into the equation or be a factor toward a younger child dating and getting married first. Of course, daas Torah should be consulted, and from the conversations I’ve had with my rabbanim, I’d rather be like Aharon HaKohein who saw and rejoiced in his heart regarding the leadership position of his younger brother, Moshe, than emulate Lavan’s get-out-of-jail answer to Yaakov about his approach to marrying off his daughters. Yiddishkeit involves observing 613 mitzvos, 613 responsibilities; it’s not about standing up for one’s rights.
  3. The Hebrew word mafteiach, key, is an acronym for the four keys that Hashem holds: mem for matar, pei for parnassah, tav for techiyas hameisim, and ches for chayah. Since marriage is the methodology through which to bring children into the world, it should be clear to all that one’s journey to the chuppah is one determined for them by Hashem. As such, it is no surprise that some people who have a lot of “baggage,” for lack of any better word, get married younger and others who may have “aleh maalos” wait a while. One’s journey won’t last one minute longer or shorter than that which Hashem wants. You don’t want your siblings’ spouses or their children either. You want what is right for you. Therefore, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by allowing and being happy for your siblings to get married before you, and by doing so emulating the middah of vatranus and bringing nachas ruach to Hashem.

One last thing, while some may find it hard, I often take myself out of my own head, heart, and shoes and wonder what it must feel like to be the younger sibling. It’s surely very difficult for them, too. The nisayon — I say the nisayon and not my nisayon, as it is a shared challenge for us all — affects them, too, as they wanted and davened for me to get married first. My pain is their pain. They daven for me daily. And b’ezras Hashem, we’ll dance together at many simchahs to come!



Imperfect and Proud [Inbox / Issue 881]

I’d like to follow up on the discussion following Sara Eisemann’s amazing response to “Brokenhearted Mother,” who felt pain at having her younger daughter start dating while she had an older sister in shidduchim. I’m a mother who survived marrying her younger daughter off before the older one and our family is still thriving. The author’s reference to Lavan as someone who we certainly don’t take advice from, and Rochel who we literally cry to, was brilliant.

Baruch Hashem we asked daas Torah when a shidduch that was very appropriate for my younger daughter came up. We were told to move forward, but of course not before my older daughter gave reshus. This was obviously my younger daughter’s zivug, and we celebrated her wedding a few months later. I’m not saying this was easy for our family, but we treated everyone with respect, as Sara Eisemann stressed, because this is of the utmost importance.

One point I wanted to add was that my older daughter felt very relieved once her younger sister got married because she no longer felt the stress of having a younger sister waiting for her. Baruch Hashem she found her zivug (who had just started shidduchim) shortly after, and I believe it was as a zechus for allowing her sister to go first.

I think that part of the problem is that our society values presenting oneself as everyone being perfect. People think that going out of order may uncover a family’s imperfection. It’s important for us all to realize that this doesn’t mean we’re imperfect, it means we’re following the road that Hashem paved for us. Please don’t hold your children back for an older sibling! We’re not in control, Hashem is!

Thank you Family First and Sara Eisemann for so brilliantly addressing this important topic.



In Awe of Your Sacrifice [Words Unspoken / Issue 881]

I’m writing in response to “Another Member of the Tribe,” a baalas teshuvah who shared the resentment she feels, 20 years later, upon always needing to work to hide her background and try to conform, who feels that she constantly needs to prove her sincerity, commitment, and worthiness.

Just wanted to say hi from another member of the tribe who happens to be a FFB, but likes to call herself a baalas teshuvah. Because in truth, aren’t we all? If a person is seeking the emes of this world and trying to find Hashem in this deep, dark galus and succeeds somewhat, then I think we all qualify.

I’m so sorry for all the pain and frustration you’re experiencing. As an aside, I’m sure you’re not the only one with these feelings. Anyone (FFB or BT) who wants to live authentically and be real will come across the painful feeling you’re describing, of society just not getting it.

I wish your integration into the shomrei Torah u’mitzvos community wasn’t filled with pain. I think Hashem wants us to collectively build our inner strength, which is why He’s not making it easy for the people who are looking to serve Him with genuine love and passion. He wants us to deepen our relationship with ourselves and with Him, which will lessen our dependence on others seeing our inner gadlus and beauty.

For whatever it’s worth, my respect for you and other baalei teshuvah (and geirim) is exceedingly great. I’m in awe of your sacrifice.

With the greatest respect,

H. Weiss



Full of Admiration [Words Unspoken / Issue 881]

I read your letter and felt compelled to answer you. I wanted to let you know that sometimes things aren’t always the way they seem. There is a segment of Klal Yisrael, and hopefully a large one, which looks at your journey to frumkeit with reverence and wonder. Perhaps they don’t bring up what may seem to be the elephant in the room or verbalize their thoughts because they’re unsure if you’re open about your unique journey. However, the authenticity that drew you to the world of Torah is the very quality about you they admire.

I’m a typical FFB, from a typical mostly FFB Jewish city, yet I have always looked at baalei teshuvah with utter respect. I’m amazed at their grit and determination to live a life of truth. I am amazed how they left their familiar secular lives behind, all in order to embrace a brand-new existence as Torah-observant Jews.

I’ve often wondered: Would I have been so strong if I had been given that test? Would my neshamah have burned so brightly, and my convictions been so ironclad in the face of ridicule? Would I be able to stomach angry confrontations with family and friends? Would I have been humble enough to enter a world where I had to be taught the basics from scratch, and an Ivy League degree wouldn’t make a dent in the process?

Baalei teshuvah are beyond amazing, and an inspiration for us all. I dare FFBs who superficially think otherwise to broaden their simplistic mindset and open their hearts to recognize this stark truth. And I challenge them to answer with brutal honesty if they would have been as strong and as brave to embrace Yiddishkeit on their own had they had been born into nonobservant families.

Know that there are so many who admire your fortitude, resilience, and perseverance. They recognize your authenticity and the purity of your heart. Perhaps the time has come for all FFBs to publicly recognize the greatness that lies within baalei teshuvah; that they’re holy Yidden from whom we have much to learn.

An Ardent Fan and Fellow Member of the Tribe


Overly Optimistic [Family Reflections / Issue 880]

I bless Family First for having the courage to publish Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s column on personality disorders. While this subject is rarely discussed in frum magazines, it’s so common. However, I’m dismayed at the rather chirpy ending that is almost always tagged on at the end of articles on mental illness, i.e., “Everyone can change. Everything can be cured.”

Yes, people can change — to some extent, but first they must want help! Then, they must invest enormous effort to make real change. People with personality disorders often don’t even know they have a problem! Instead, they criticize and blame everyone around them for making them miserable. They usually lack self-awareness, lack empathy, lack the ability to self-reflect, lack sensitivity to the effect of their behavior on others, and don’t feel responsible for their actions. Most people in therapy are there to deal with the damage caused by people who should be in therapy!

Instead of promising “cures,” it would be more helpful to give family members the skills needed to manage the grief, loneliness, and shame that they must contend with as a result of the emotional starvation they experience in such relationships. When therapists provide unrealistic “hope dope” and “happily ever after” promises, this actually retards the process of coming to terms with reality.

Miriam Adahan


Sarah Chana Radcliffe responds:

Thank you for this fantastic response, Miriam! You’re so right on every point and, for the sake of every suffering spouse, I should have qualified that very last sentence that offered hope with a realistic caution concerning the true barriers to both getting treatment and to achieving treatment success in this population.


Daven — and Take Mylanta [Help! My Baby Won’t Stop Crying / Issue 879]

Thank you for your coverage on colic. The article was validating and correct in that so much is unknown about this condition.

One important point about colic that was told to me by Dr. Tuvia Marciano, a GI, is “Daven!” Daven that Hashem gives you the koach and sanity to take care of your baby. Daven that your baby grows up healthy and strong to be an eved Hashem, learn Torah, and do mitzvos. Daven for yourself, your marriage, your family, and for Klal Yisrael and the Geulah. Daven while your baby cries and while you try to soothe him. And daven that his colic ends!

Dr. Marciano also told us to give an infant dose of Mylanta to our screaming baby (1.1 ml three times a day). The Mylanta coats the esophagus, and if the baby is in fact screaming from reflux, this will calm him down instantly. Mylanta helps a baby feel better and be able to sleep and eat better similar to the way Tums helps an adult with reflux.

Always speak to your doctor about medicine options. My babies love Mylanta, and we do see that it helps them. It only helps for about two to three hours, but other medicines can provide longer relief.

Wishing a refuah sheleimah to all crying babies and to their strong and resilient parents,

Chana Bracha Alcabes

Summerlin, NV


A Cultural Issue [Second Guessing / Issue 879]

The article regarding babysitting for an aunt was obviously not written with any input from chassidishe mothers. This looks like a cultural issue. While most of us on the chassidishe spectrum will not send out our girls to babysit in a home where we don’t know the family well, we certainly send our children to babysit for family members.

At the risk of being politically incorrect, and I know I speak for others when I say this, we expect our girls to babysit their nieces and cousins, even when they might not be excited about it. Not every day, not during midterms, not when the kids are up and about, but definitely when the need arises. And no, they don’t take money. Ever. And yes, their nieces will reciprocate a decade later im yirtzeh Hashem.

Esti Muller


I Wear a Ring  [Musings / Issue 876]

Dear Rena,

Your Ten Reasons You Want to Get Married was super entertaining, and thank you for that!

As someone who’s been in the game for a while (although thankfully I don’t meet up with many shadchanim. Who decided that’s hishtadlus anyway? Most of my friends got married through suggestions made by friends, family, or acquaintances!) I felt bad that you feel you need to be married for the reasons you listed.

Here’s my take on each of the ten reasons you mentioned:

  1. You need a break from the weird segulos people suggest: Just stop the segulos and tell people they can do them on your behalf if they really think that’s the missing link to you getting married. That’s what I do.
  2. You can’t plan a vacation in advance in case you get engaged: Plan your vacations anyway! When you get engaged, you’ll either need a vacation to recuperate from the excitement or recuperate from dealing with the one thing that went wrong (which apparently happens with every successful shidduch; don’t ask me, I haven’t experienced it yet).
  3. You have oily hair after a three-day Yom Tov: I recommend Redken Dry Shampoo. But if all else fails, you really can stay home. You will probably do so as a married woman, too!
  4. You need a new siddur: I’ve fixed my siddur twice now, and honestly hope my chassan doesn’t get me a new one. I’m quite attached to this one!
  5. You want to buy a ring already: Get the ring! I have a beautiful diamond ring, and people who don’t know me look at it questioningly. The brave ones even ask about it. But you know what; I have to wait for the Yingel, but I definitely don’t have to wait for the Ringel!
  6. You don’t just want a ring, but a diamond one you wear on the left hand: Guess what, that diamond ring I bought, it’s on my left-hand ring finger because that’s where it fits! (Yes, that means I don’t watch my weight like a hawk either.)
  7. Your students’ parents think you have no right to an opinion on chinuch. I’m a teacher, too! And I’ve had my fair share of parents who think you can only have knowledge about children and education if you’ve had children. Stand your ground. Parents respect teachers who respect themselves and stand behind their (well-founded) opinions.
  8. You’re put at the high school girls’ table. You can’t be placed at the girls’ table if you don’t go to the event. Not a solution for everyone, but it works for me!
  9. You’re expected to give up your seat to married girls. The one thing I don’t have an answer for.... You’re right! Just because we aren’t married doesn’t mean we always have to be the ones standing.
  10. You want to wear the dress you bought for your vort-to-be before it goes out of style. Am I the only one that thinks that wearing a dress you’ve worn before to your vort is not a crime? And that not wearing an expensive and beautiful dress is? Wear the dress you bought for your vort, Rena! B’ezras Hashem you’ll wear it at your own vort soon.

Simchahs bekarov!

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 882)

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