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Inbox: Issue 1001

“I walked to my car with such pride that I was living in the USA in 2024 and am an avid sports fan, and yet I totally forgot about the super game”


Yes, You Do Need Math [Works for Me / Issue 1000]

In Works for Me, the author writes, “Sometimes, I wonder who came up with the college curriculums, and where they are today so we could ask them things like how mathematical knowledge factors into someone being a good psychologist.” Perhaps if you met those people they would respond along the following lines:

Among the behavioral health fields, psychology is particularly quantitative. Like so many fields, statistics is part of the curriculum because it plays an important role in the majority of studies. Additionally, psychology is very heavy on the use of scales (many with complex scoring schemes) to capture and understand multiple dimensions of complex concepts and behaviors. These play a major role in testing, evaluation, and diagnosis. Accordingly, some basic math is necessary.

I understand why people might wonder what “math knowledge” has to do with being a psychologist. It is that way with every field that requires substantial study — there are aspects that just won’t make sense to someone who isn’t involved in that field. Would anyone’s “common sense” tell them to treat heart disease with poison (digitalis)? Or to treat angina (chest pain) with an explosive (nitroglycerin)?

Maybe it’s just that I’m wrong more often than most people, but I’ve learned that when I hear something that sounds ridiculous, but comes from experienced professionals and experts — they’re usually right and it’s my own lack of knowledge that caused me not to understand. A general rule that I’ve come up with is, “Common Sense + Ignorance = Nonsense.”

As for the young woman who wrote in about her difficulty passing her math class — yes, a tutor is a great idea. But, as someone who has taught statistics successfully to many people with math phobias, I can say that the biggest obstacle to success may be her own self-belief that she can’t do it. This is frequently the result of bad or even traumatic experiences in school, sometimes the result of ineffective teaching that is unfair to the student. Also, know that many who struggle with math find statistics to be a very different and pleasant experience.

And she should be sure she wants to be a psychologist (which requires a doctoral level degree) as opposed to a therapist (e.g., master’s in social work with licensure to be a therapist). I wish her hatzlachah! May her perseverance and success serve as a good example for her future patients.

Mendel Singer, PhD MPH


Respect Goes Both Ways [Open Mic / Issue 999]

I’d like to respond to the Open Mic piece written by an avel who feels people are inflexible and insensitive about the timing of his davening.

No one would ever consider going to the amud, avel or not, at a vasikin minyan if he could not start Shemoneh Esreh at the proper time — to the second. Aveilim who find themselves at that minyan will either pass on the amud, or daven elsewhere. No one questions that the baal tefillah at this minyan absolutely must “hit the mark.”

So the question is why an avel at a regular minyan feels that since it is just a schedule, it can now be ignored. Minyanim set times for a particular reason: a bus schedule, carpool, or when a seder or shiur starts. It can also be times that have been negotiated by members of the tzibbur to match the pace that the majority wants to keep. A regular mispallel will usually get some leeway, but a guest or someone who is shopping for an amud should take it upon himself to fit in, or find a different minyan.

A shaliach tzibbur can train himself to be as exact as possible. This shows basic respect for the minyan. The avel should remember that he is the shaliach for the tzibbur, and he has an obligation to them with respect.

Over the years I have helped aveilim first navigating the davening landscape. Many find it frightening, confusing, and nerve-racking. I have always worked with the new aveilim so their transition to expert from novice is as smooth as possible.

Here are my suggestions to make the experience more palatable.

Listen to the gabbai and take any gentle corrections seriously. Don’t get upset. He is only trying to keep shalom in the minyan, and guide you. Remember that you are now embarking on something that you might not have a lot of experience doing.

Realize that some people are insensitive and they are going to complain no matter what (even if you hit the schedule exactly). I was talking to a friend during shivah and discussing the issue that he would be criticized for when he started davening. He told me that he doubted that would happen, as he already davened Shacharis three time a week from the amud. A week after shivah was over, he called me in shock to tell me that people had in fact started complaining about his davening!

If you feel the criticism is constant, over-the-top aggressive, or offensive, try to ignore it. When people want to be heard and listened to, they speak nicely so it will be received. Obnoxious people just want to be obnoxious. If it continues, ask the gabbai or rav of the shul to privately ask that person not to give you any more “advice” since they are taking care of it. You can also gently remind people that you are working with the gabbai so if they have any comments, they can be directed to him.

If the situation becomes unbearable, it might be best to walk away and daven somewhere else. If you can’t, ask your rav what other options you might have.

You can see the measure of a man in how he is mevater when someone else needs the amud, and how he deals with the adversity that you mentioned in the article. Use the experiences to grow in your bein adam l’chaveiro and being mevater, thereby gaining a zechus for yourself and for the neshamah you are davening for.

Oscar Greunkern


Courage and Clarity [Perspective / Issue 999]

I found Rabbi Soroka’s account of the Chicago meetings riveting and terrifying. I can imagine that the only thing more difficult than being in the gallery was being on the chamber floor defending the Jewish state’s war on terror.

Such was the case for Chicago’s only Jewish alderman, Debra Silverstein. I watched Ald. Silverstein’s remarks in complete awe for her courage to speak with such clarity surrounded by the hate. As I understand, the interruptions were so frequent and loud during her remarks, the mayor called for a recess and had to clear the gallery.

In her words, “How do you support a resolution that allows a terrorist regime to stay in power, so that it can continue to attack the world’s only Jewish state?”

The Jewish community of Chicago is fortunate to have a proud, shomer Shabbos alderman that is not only committed to their local interests, but advocates for all our concerns across the globe.

Samuel Shiel

New Hempstead, NY


Help Us Now [As They Grow / Issue 999]

Two weeks ago, a parent wrote in to Rabbi Greenwald: When their older children got married, they had less money. Now they are marrying off their younger children and have more money available to help. Should they now gift the older children to make things fair?

Life is not fair, by nature. By default, the older children have a whole mother and half a licorice, while the younger have a whole licorice and half a mother. But that means that the younger kids by default have more in the material department. And as much as the older siblings loved having present parents, it is hard to look away at siblings getting so much in the materialistic realm and console thremselves that they got more time and attention from their parents.

In my humble opinion, the parents do not need to “compensate” or “pay back” the older children. They should rather be forthcoming to those older kids and help in ways that make them feel taken care of.

Parents, if you’re able to help, even in the slightest, please help all your kids, especially the older ones. No amount is too big or too small. They need it (often more than the younger ones). It can be matching pajamas for the kids, coats for the new season, a Yom Tov outfit, a new sheitel, a pair of shoes.... And of course, if possible, help these older children make simchahs! The few thousand dollars toward a bar mitzvah goes a loooong way.

An Oldest


The Yerushalayimer Illui’s Seforim Cache [Bridge to Heaven / Issue 999]

Rabbi Feuer remembers my father in-law, his rebbi Rav Chaim Yissocher Frankel ztz”l as having an influence on his learning and he recounts the story of his rebbi’s love of seforim. I thought I might add some details.

Chaim Yissocher was born in Yerushalayim in 1914. He taught himself how to read and started to learn Chumash at age three and a half. At age five and a half he started Gemara. In Yeshivas Eitz Chaim at that time, Mishnayos was not studied as a separate subject; the boys went from Chumash straight to Gemara and Gemara was learned together with halachah. He learned Tanach between Minchah and Maariv and credited this time with his expertise in all 24 seforim. He was known as the “Yerushalayimer illui.”

His father, Rav Yisroel Avrohom Frankel, was in America at the time. (He would eventually follow his brother Rav Menachem Mordechai Frankel to Chaim Berlin to become the menahel of the new mesivta — the latter became a rav in Philadelphia.) Due to his father’s absence, his great uncle Rav Dovid Kamen, author of the Bais Dovid on shechitah, monitored Chaim Yissocher’s learning. When he was six years old, Rav Dovid wrote to his father, “I tested him on the Gemara and he knew it like a veteran. I spoke to the menahel, Rav Aryeh Levin, who after consulting with his rebbi, Rav Avigdor, intends to put him up a grade.”

On Purim, when he was eight years old, he went to deliver mishloach manos to Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank. “What Gemara are you learning?” the rav asked.

Bava Kamma,” he answered.

“Tell me, what does it say in Bava Kamma about Purim?”

“It could be that the halachah that applies to one who causes an accident when running to prepare for Shabbos, also applies to one who is going to deliver mishloach manos on Purim.”

“That is exactly what I was thinking.”

The story Rabbi Feuer tells occurred when Chaim Yissocher was in elementary school, well before his bar mitzvah; His mother, Pesha Rochel, gave him two mil to buy a cup of hot tea that the Yemenite janitor at Eitz Chaim brewed to sell to the boys at lunchtime. A mil was the equivalent of a half penny. Instead of buying a whole cup of tea, he shared the drink with a friend and saved a mil a day until he could buy a section of the Pnei Yehoshua. He bought one section after another until at the end of the year, he had saved enough to buy the first volume and the second year he saved up enough to have it bound.

He and his family joined his father in the US in 1930. At some later date he found an incomplete set of the remaining volumes for 25 cents.

Rav Chaim Yissocher Frankel ztz”l went on to become a rav and maggid shiur for over 60 years. A talmid, Rav Matis Greenblatt, remembered that there was a kind of aura about him; he seemed to know everything, his yedios were wide-ranging and there was nothing beyond his ken.

A close talmid, Mr. David Martin, who learned with him for ten years said, “It seemed that he knew the Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, Rishonim, and Acharonim by heart. He started with the Gemara and went into the galaxies. When he finished, I had to walk around the block. He was a living sefer Torah.”

Rivka Frankel


Locked Out [They’re All Our Children / Issue 999]

I suppose this article was meant to point out the chesed of Klal Yisrael and give chizuk to parents of children with special needs. It had the opposite effect on me.

Here again is an article that highlights all the services provided in cities with major Jewish communities. Not only that, there are now agencies that will help you determine which services are best for your child.

But what all of us who do not live in a major Jewish community? What are you doing for families with children with special needs who get no services, not from the government and not from any Jewish organization? I don’t imagine you realize how painful this article, and all the advertisements for services available only if you live in the right location, can be to someone who has no access to respite, socialization, and an appropriate Jewish school.

I am spending $30,000/year to keep my daughter in a far from ideal, but Jewish environment. In a neighborhood full of baalei chesed, no one can see that my daughter needs a friend. In 17 years, precisely one person offered me true respite — and that ended with the outbreak of Covid.

Please remember, there is a world out there that is bigger than New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Chicago. We also need help! Will you lend a hand?

An out-of-towner in need


Why Can’t We Do Better? [They’re All Our Children / Issue 999]

I am grateful to Mishpacha for opening the conversation about support for special-needs children and the help that is available to support parents on their journey.

Open up a local circular in any community, and I’m sure you’ve seen the ads: HCBS, OPWDD accepted! Trips! Programs! Support groups for mothers, evenings out… the supports seem endless, what’s available to help abounds.

But here I am, a mother ready to debunk that myth. Raising a special-needs child is a long, arduous, and often lonely journey. I can vividly recall the day this child was born; the uncertainty, the confusion, the worry about the future. How will I raise him? Where will he go to school?

I sent a tefillah up to Hashem, buried those fears deep inside, and put one foot in front of the other. Brought my bundle home. And so my journey began.

I assumed this path would be well-worn, and others around me could guide me easily. This isn’t the first special child in Monsey. I’m sure things are worked out. The beginning was slow going but manageable. Early Intervention, CPSE; the options were available, the path forward clear.

And then we celebrated his fifth birthday. And suddenly, we hit a roadblock. A boulder so big, I’m not sure the way around it.

I love the Monsey community. I live here happily, surrounded by supportive neighbors, and my other children are thriving. But the options for this special-needs child are so limited. I look around and I wonder, what am I missing?

I know that endless options exist in Brooklyn and Lakewood, but here in our thriving community of Monsey, which extends in all directions, there are no good options. Do I have to compromise on the quality of services delivered to my child? Or use my hours for support in order to have a place to educate my child? Does he need to be a guinea pig to try something new?

Every organization I reach out to, every professional I speak to says the same thing, “oh yes, things are complicated there. There isn’t much we can do. Yes, your meeting may be frustrating. Yes, the program they offered you doesn’t really meet your child’s needs.

Before you move to the next letter, hear my plea.

This is not just my son. These are Klal Yisrael’s children! We need help accessing services that our children are entitled to. Why have we accepted that this is the fate for the children of Monsey? Why can’t we do better? And who can help?

A Desperate Mother


Totally Forgot [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 998]

Rabbi Besser’s article describing how the culture of sports has seeped into our community was spot on!

As a lifelong sports fan, I have always looked forward with much excitement to the “super” game. Even in years that I had little interest in watching the game, I would go party hopping to see which balabos had the nicest spread of food (a preview of the upcoming Purim parties).

During this past winter break, our family was faced with an emergency situation that resulted in my wife being hospitalized for a lengthy period of time. Baruch Hashem she is home now and slowly recovering, but I will forever remember this past Super Sunday by my wife’s hospital bedside, totally focused on her care and recovery.

At around 10 p.m. (Central time) my shvigger arrived at the hospital to relieve me for the night. As I left the hospital the security guard said, “What a great game it was, what did you think?” I was very confused, but then I remembered that today was Super Sunday. I simply said, “Yes, great game.” Then I walked to my car with such pride that I was living in the USA in 2024 and am an avid sports fan, and yet I totally forgot about the super game.

It may have taken a shocking and grueling medical challenge, an emotional rollercoaster of numerous tests, observations, and surgeries, but this past Sunday, beis Adar I, February 11, I had no anticipation or excitement of any football game taking place that day.

Yoni B., Chicago, IL


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1001)

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