| Family First Inbox |

Family First Inbox: Issue 889

“Why did Chelli agonize over a decision that wasn’t hers to make in a vacuum? She had 14 other people to consider”

The Used-by Date Has Passed [To Be Honest / Issue 888]

I’ve been an avid reader of Family First for years and often find myself nodding in agreement while reading an article or essay in your pages. I’m consistently impressed with your material. However, nothing prepared me for last week’s To Be Honest column. I practically jumped off the couch to offer Mrs. Schon a standing ovation.

No, she didn’t offer solutions for world hunger or peace in the Middle East, and yes the issue of “faux vulnerability” is a quintessential “first world problem,” but let me be clear — my soul felt seen.

You see, I, too, feel the bile rise in my throat when I get one of those emails, with that sort of copy, or scroll through LinkedIn for business purposes only to be confronted by one million posts dripping with nauseatingly “vulnerable” writing. I respect everyone’s right to drum up business in whichever way they see fit, but Mrs. Schon and I (and I suspect many other people out there) have a message for the world; the vulnerable copy trend has run its course. Unfortunately, at least for this consumer, it now has the opposite effect entirely and I run for the hills whenever I’m confronted with it. Mrs. Schon, your professionalism and unwillingness to stoop to gimmicks and silly trends is admirable and shows a tremendous strength of character. May Hashem continue to bless you with abundant parnassah!

Tova L.


No One Is Responsible for Your Welfare [Second Guessing / Issue 887]

Chelli, you probably did the right thing when you told Paulina that your married friend Bayla and her husband and children couldn’t join your meals at your singles shabbaton.

But you didn’t have to be mad at Bayla for asking!

Bayla didn’t get married and have seven-year-old twins plus two carbon copies davka to antagonize you, nor did she visit Europe and wind up in the same hotel as you and invite herself to your seudah with that goal in mind. She’s just living her life. Sure, it would have been nice of Bayla to realize where she wasn’t wanted, but she’s no mind reader. Neither are you, by the way.

It could be that, as you said, “She thinks she’s doing us a favor, saving us from having to make Kiddush by ourselves, poor older singles doing all the man jobs,” but it could just as well be that she’d rather spend Shabbos with a frum group than alone with her family in their hotel room.

It sounds like assertiveness is something you struggle with in general. If your boss Dr. Abrams promised you parking, you should be making sure he follows through. If a patient is standing there talking your ear off instead of going to her appointment, politely interrupt her and let her know that the doctor is waiting.

Your boss, your annoying patient, your expectant baby sister, and your old high school friend with her posse of small people aren’t responsible for your welfare. You are. And each of these individuals become far less threatening when you realize that.

You’re allowed to say no. And because you’re allowed to say no, you don’t have to resent anyone for putting you in a situation where that’s what you’ve got to do.

By definition, setting boundaries means that you expect people to try to cross them, intentionally or not. It’s up to you to decide how you react, including how you choose to interpret the situation.

Name Withheld


Wasn’t Her Decision  [Second Guessing / Issue 887]

Why did Chelli agonize over a decision that wasn’t hers to make in a vacuum? She had 14 other people to consider. She should have asked them for their feedback and made the decision based on the collective opinion of the group. This would have freed Chelli of the burden of guilt as well as teach her a valuable tool that will serve her well in all her relationships (especially one day with her spouse and future children): You shouldn’t make decisions that involve other people without their input.

Shani Gerlitz


Know Your Place [Second Guessing / Issue 887]

I was pretty floored at Bayla and her husband’s ask. For starters, how in the world is it appropriate for a young married couple to spend the meal with a dozen single women? In my right mind I can’t conceive a scenario where a boundary of a firm no shouldn’t be in place here.

Oh, and second: Know your place. Imagine a couple with their kids had a flat tire and landed at a shabbaton for couples going through infertility. They would hopefully lay low and inconspicuous. Bayla, lay low. You’re not in the same space as these women. Know your place.



Geographical Tongue [Windows / Issue 887]

The article on not knowing that other people perceive things differently reminded me of the time I realized that most people don’t taste food the same way I do. I was born with a geographical tongue, which means that areas of my tongue are missing those white bumps usually found on tongues, and are therefore more sensitive to sensation.

One day I was reading up on it and I found out that people like me find it painful to eat certain foods such as pineapple, eggplant, and tomatoes. My immediate reaction was, “You mean not everyone does?” When I asked my husband if eggplant hurts his tongue he looked at me as if I was nuts.

This opened up a whole new world to me. I now believe that to my veggie-loving husband vegetables actually taste different than they do to me. When he begs me to just taste the kohlrabi, I sigh and explain that I just don’t taste what he does. And if he would taste what I taste, he wouldn’t like it either!



It’s Life-Changing [A Perek a Day / Issue 887]

I was so excited to see that Family First recognized the OU Women’s Initiative and its Nach Yomi program for women. I wanted to join the first cycle but never got around to it, but I joined the second cycle when it started and participated in the siyum in February. I’m now a committed Nach Yomi participant. The experience has been life-changing in ways I cannot articulate.

I’ve learned many of the sifrei Nach over the years — from elementary school through seminary and beyond — but being part of this sisterhood enhances the learning immeasurably. Knowing that every day (or sometimes when I fall behind, not every day) there are thousands of women learning the same perek that I am is inspiring to say the least. My family has a group of women who are learning and that group has grown with every cycle.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say kudos and thank you to Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman and the OU for this wonderful program.

Debby Levi

Passaic, NJ


Hope to Get on the Bandwagon [A Perek a Day / Issue 887]

The Nach Yomi feature really hit home. As much as I enjoyed sitting at my high school desk, doing all good things high school, I always felt an undertone pressure of not being able to fully enjoy the lesson. There was the constant note-taking stress, being tested on the material, etc. Hearing from women from all different walks of life taking on an initiative purely lishmah really awed me. I hope to get on the bandwagon soon. Very soon.

Kol hakavod!




Of Mentors and Mixing Generations [Inbox / Issue 886]

I’m writing in response to the ongoing conversation about mentoring. I’ve turned to mentors throughout my adult years, and couldn’t be where I am today without them. I sought out relationships with women who inspired me — I saw something in them that I wanted to become. Over the years I’ve quoted many of the pearls of wisdom that I received to my friends, and they have expressed that they wish they could talk to someone so wise.

The thing is, many of my friends wouldn’t have chosen my mentors. They would have found them too direct, out of the box, intense. I chose mentors that worked for me. Each person has to seek out people that talk to them.

I think the problem is that when looking for a mentor, often we’re expected to find someone who is ahead of us spiritually and religiously, an authority figure. I’ve found it far more helpful to be connected to women who have walked my path, or who are still walking it. They’re not teachers or rebbetzins, but they have leaned on Hashem through their lives and have much to teach me.

Something I think is really missing from the frum world is a mixing of generations. The grandmothers and mothers of our world have so much acquired wisdom to impart.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create gatherings of women from different generations, just for the sake of connecting? I went on an amazing Jewish women’s retreat that changed my life. It was a smallish gathering of women of all ages and walks of life. It was such an enriching experience.



(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 889)

Oops! We could not locate your form.