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Inbox: Issue 1012

Let me be clear. Aniim are not raising communal standards. Tzedakah funds are reacting to the increased expectations set by others.
A Woman’s Role [As They Grow / Issue 1011]

I’d like to touch on Rabbi Greenwald’s response to the mother wondering what to tell shadchanim about her daughter who wants to be a stay-at-home mother rather than marry a long-term learner. While the yeshivah world has done an excellent job of imbuing kids with the significance of the man’s role in this world, I feel we haven’t done enough to acknowledge the importance of the woman’s role.

A woman who recognizes the value she gives her children in the formative years of their lives is quite a special woman, not to mention how fortunate her entire family is to have a present, loving mother available to them. What a lucky future husband and children your daughter will have. I felt the response didn’t touch on this at all: validating and applauding your daughter’s desire to stay at home and raise her children.

As for the practical matter of what to tell shadchanim, I agree with your family and friends that she should be saying she wants a short-term learner. She can work and save up money until a baby comes im yirzeh Hashem, and then work from home part-time while her husband learns a little longer before finding suitable employment. A high-caliber girl like your daughter deserves a high-caliber boy, and most of them do start off learning.

Name Withheld


Ezer K’negdo [The Moment / Issue 1011]

In reference to your tribute to the Biala Rebbe, I just wanted to mention that the Rebbe remarried after his first wife’s petirah. His second wife, tibadel l’chayim, was Rebbetzin Rivka, the almanah of the unforgettable Reb Moshe Dovid Steinwurzel. Until illness made it no longer possible, she served as a loyal helpmate to her husband both in Lugano and Eretz Yisrael. She deserves not to be forgotten.



Thoughts about Rebbi [Ripple Effect / Issue # 1011]

Thank you very much for your article on Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld. Given his unbelievable impact on Klal Yisrael for the last 40 years, it was long overdue. However, while the article strived to explain what makes him such an effective mekarev, we believe there are a few additional essential qualities that have made him such an unbelievable and unique mashpia.

First and foremost, Rabbi Gershenfeld is an unbelievable talmid chacham with encyclopedic knowledge of Shas, halachah, and hashkafah. His unique style of masterfully blending all areas of Torah fascinates non-frum students and yeshivah bochurim alike.

Secondly, his emunas chachamim is second to none. He has been meshamash many of the greatest gedolim of the past 50 years, including Rav Shimon Schwab, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Moshe Shapira, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. More recently, he maintains a close connection with Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rav Aharon Feldman. A conversation with Rabbi Gershenfeld will always include a story about a gadol, where the punchline is exactly the advice one needs to hear.

Thirdly, his mesirus nefesh and genuine love for Klal Yisrael and his talmidim knows no bounds. He will always go out of his way to help a talmid in need, despite his packed schedule. He sleeps the bare minimum and stays awake all night Thursday nights replying to emails from talmidim around the globe. Although he founded Meor, and spends countless hours overseeing its operations and raising millions of dollars for its budget, he has never taken a salary from the organization — giving back to Klal Yisrael is the love of his life and he cannot take money for doing it.

Perhaps the most telling story is the one shared by a well-known, accomplished rav of a large kehillah. This rav grew up frum and went through the regular yeshivah system, and for a while, he gave classes on Judaism at a very prestigious college campus. He was once asked how he deals with the deep, philosophical questions the students posed to him. Didn’t these difficult questions affect his own emunah, the questioner wondered?

The rav responded that there were no questions the students could ever raise that would cause him to question his emunah. He then went on to explain: “I know that there is a Yid in Yerushalayim, Beryl Gershenfeld, and if I were to call him with any question, he would explain to me how numerous Rishonim or baalei mussar have already addressed the issue, and that in reality the question itself is really a proof of emunah b’Hashem. If Rav Beryl Gershenfeld is still ma’amin,” he finished, “the questions these students ask don’t trouble me at all.”

In today’s mixed-up society, we are all fortunate to have such a broad, knowledgeable, and dedicated leader to project truth and a genuine Torah perspective in a way that is accessible to all members of Klal Yisrael.

Talmidim of Rabbi Gershenfeld


Invest Wisely [Covered for Life / Issue 1011]

I braced myself for yet another piece glorifying the whole life insurance scheme, but after I read the article, I was grateful that Mishpacha took the time to educate and speak the truth about this often oversold and misunderstood financial product.

In my work with couples and singles to provide comprehensive financial education and strategies for achieving financial success, life insurance is a frequent topic of discussion. I’ve encountered many newlyweds who were sold these unnecessary and unaffordable policies by well-meaning but uninformed friends or relatives.

I’ve debated numerous life insurance agents who insist that I don’t understand the benefits of whole life policies, promising to “educate” me on why they are the best option. Unfortunately, many consumers are misled by these agents and end up purchasing expensive insurance products that don’t meet their needs.

I often ask my clients why they need house insurance. They typically reply, “In case something happens to the house.” Similarly, car insurance is necessary for potential accidents. Life insurance, I explain, should replace a person’s income when they pass away, ensuring financial stability for their spouse and children. But it’s essential to have the right insurance policy.

In conversation with the director of a well-known life insurance company, I inquired about their target clientele for whole life policies. The director admitted that their best customers are often those who are uneducated about financial matters. These customers are promised that whole life policies will help them marry off their children, take out loans, and build cash value, but these promises are misleading.

Whole life insurance is often touted as a solution for various financial needs, but in reality, it’s unnecessary for most people. Instead of investing $25,000 annually into a whole life policy, buy a term life insurance policy for $3,000 annually and invest the remaining $22,000 in mutual funds. Over 20 to 30 years, this should yield ample funds for marrying off children and retirement.

Yes, life insurance companies invest the money you put into your policy and make profits, but by investing through a trusted financial advisor, you can achieve similar results.

A common argument against term policies is that the money is “wasted” if you don’t die within the term. However, the same logic applies to car and health insurance — you don’t hope for an accident or illness just because you’re paying for insurance.

The purpose of life insurance is to replace one’s income upon death. Ideally, a person should have sufficient retirement savings by the time their term policy expires, making life insurance unnecessary in retirement.

Henny Levine, M.S. SPED, FCMT Through Dave Ramsey


Finding My Value Within [The Kichels / Issue  1011]

I loved, loved, loved last week’s Kichels.

Nechama’s predicament was so familiar to me for so long. I left high school without graduating and always had a chip on my shoulder about my lack of accomplishment. I just wasn’t “good enough.” I blamed my feelings of inadequacy on my lack of education, lack of career, and inability to manage my house while serving beautiful four-course meals despite not working.

Baruch Hashem, I eventually got the help I needed to improve my self-esteem and start to respect myself. Finally, I was able to go back to school, starting with a GED. Today I’m an LCSW doing good work and I’m grateful for that. But it’s not why I feel good about myself. That had to come from within (from Hashem, to be precise).

Imagine if I worked as a therapist in an effort to feel good about myself! Ouch!

Name Withheld


Precision Giving [Inbox / Issue 1010]

Eli Blum wrote a letter to the editor stating that, “Communal standards have been raised not by those who are wealthy, but those who are providing for the poor as if the ani were wealthy.” In response, I wish to clarify the (often misunderstood) operations and impact of tzedakah funds like ours (Tomche Shabbos of Rockland County/Rockland Chesed Network).

Rabbi Shmuli Margulies, founder and director of Mesila and a mentor of mine, has significantly shaped our approach. On my first visit to their offices in Yerushalayim, I presented them with a challenge I was facing. My daughter wanted brand-name Hunter boots, and I asked the team at Mesila how I should respond. I was highly impressed with their nuanced response.

They told me that to guide me they would need to know how many children are in my daughter’s class, and how many of them have Hunter boots. To deny her something that most of the class had could negatively impact her feeling of self-worth, they said, but alternatively, if only a few girls had them, then buying her the boots would only fuel an unhealthy situation. It was my introduction to Mesila’s careful approach.

Similarly, our approach is to carefully assess each individual’s circumstances. When distributing tzedakah we not only look at a family’s income, but their expenditures and lifestyle as well. If we help fund a simchah, we require it to be a takanah simchah.

Let me be clear. Aniim are not raising communal standards. Tzedakah funds are reacting to the increased expectations set by others.

Our fund and others respond to existing societal pressure by helping families maintain dignity without excess. This involves finding less expensive alternatives, negotiating with vendors, and as a last resort, helping financially when family and friends have exhausted their resources. We are well aware of the halachah of “k’dei machsoro,” but that only halachically applies when all basic needs have been met by all members of the community. And in my interaction with numerous other tzedakah funds, never once have I encountered a different approach.

We are guided by daas Torah on a case-by-case basis, and follow their precise halachic guidance as to exactly how and how much we should distribute in any given situation.

I agree with the sentiment that Klal Yisrael would greatly benefit from simpler living standards. This is a community-wide issue that needs more attention.

Thank you for engaging in this important discussion. Together, guided by Torah values and thoughtful consideration, we can continue to support our community effectively and compassionately.

Alan Rosenstock

Tomche Shabbos of Rockland County

Rockland Chesed Network


Shmuli Margulies responds:

Thank you to Mishpacha for hosting this healthy conversation that can only lead to positive change. I’d like to address the responses of Eli Blum and Alan Rosenstock to my piece in the Pesach magazine.

Eli Blum understood my comment about the growing amounts of tzedakah being distributed being a possible cause of people’s struggles as suggesting that tzedakah organizations are giving too much and encouraging higher standards.

While I do think he has a valid point in some cases, what I actually meant was that people who are compelled to cope with a lack of funds tend to work harder, daven harder, and somehow get by. When they have an alternative, however well-intentioned, they are less motivated to go the extra mile. The reality is that the hugely increased amount of tzedakah being distributed, ashreichem Yisrael, has a tradeoff.

My dear friend Alan Rosenstock defends the carefully measured approach his organization — and most others, to his knowledge — use in the distribution of tzedakah money (though, despite his ayin tovah, I suspect that others could learn a lot from him). Alan mentioned that he benefited from his visit to Mesila offices, which exposed him to our balanced, Torah-based individualized coaching approach, tailored to each family’s circumstances and goals, along with our work to initiate long-term social change in our communities.

Mesila believes that tzedakah organizations have a tremendous achrayus to help people who cannot help themselves — like cholim, almanos, and yesomim. However, they are not doing a favor by helping those who can help themselves — doing so is simply perpetuating their need. In my experience, tzedakah organizations that encourage their applicants to benefit from financial coaching can transform recipients into contributors. We have seen much success with such joint ventures.

As Rabbi Yisroel Reisman said in a public interview last year, the rising standard of living is the challenge of Klal Yisrael in the United States. We all see its impact every day on chinuch, shalom bayis, and countless other areas. Real change in this area is possible, and can be affected through awareness, knowledge, and education. Children and adults need to be given the tools and the wherewithal to withstand negative pressures.

With that in mind, we would like to see movement in these three major areas:

Greater cooperation between tzedakah funds and organizations offering financial education and coaching.

Establishment of more organizations that guide families toward permanent financial stability solutions.

Incorporation of the Mesila financial curriculum for all ages in every Jewish school, yeshivah, and seminary, and financial lectures and seminars in every Jewish community.

Shmuli Margulies

Chairman and Cofounder of Mesila


The Best Years of Our Lives [Take Your Place in the Sunshine / Issue 1010]

I usually take a few minutes each morning to relax with my morning coffee and Mishpacha. Today I’m interrupting this “me” time to respond to Binyamin Ehrenkranz’s article about living in Orlando.

Many years ago, when our oldest was six, my husband and I moved from Yerushalayim, where he had been learning in the Mir Yeshivah, to Buffalo, New York, to take a kiruv posting. While we had graduated from the Ohr Lagola program, we were both still in our twenties, and people thought we were a little crazy for moving out to what some might call the “hinterlands.” But we stayed for four years, and while more than 20 years have passed, those four years continue to be our best years.

Our time in Buffalo was transformative, leaving a lasting impact on our family that continues to enrich our lives in countless ways. It laid the foundation for my husband’s career, and taught us so much about interactions with people. Living away from the mainstream community strengthened our bond as a family. Drawing others closer to Hashem also brought us closer to Him. Interacting daily with a diverse range of people added depth to our Yiddishkeit that we couldn’t have gained otherwise.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing — “flying pizzas,” long distance calls, and a well-stocked freezer were our lifelines. Yes, there are numerous advantages to living in a large Jewish community. But living in a place where you stand out for who you are can lead to remarkable growth and enrich your family!


Still Living Out of Town — and Proud of the Phrase


Times Have Changed [Rabbi for Practical People / Issue 1010]

Kudos to Rabbi Markowitz and Rabbi Wolhendler for their Toras Avigdor project. I’ve long been a fan of Rabbi Miller’s Torah, particularly drawn to his fearless and straightforward approach. However, I would urge the rabbis to use caution when disseminating certain views of Rabbi Miller’s outside of halachah, particularly on subjects like secular Jews, non-Jews, and the State of Israel. Many of these views reflected the world that was when Rabbi Miller spoke 50 years ago, and the world is a very different place now.

Back then, assimilation by those who had grown up religious was rampant, and Rabbi Miller excoriated those who left the fold. “The Vanishing Jew” was not just a famous headline in the 1960s, it was a real and frightening prospect, and the rhetoric reflected the fight for the Torah world’s survival. Nowadays, of course, the Torah world is strong and growing, those who go “off the derech” are a far smaller percentage than once was, and secular Jews generally have no idea what they’re missing. Rabbi Miller’s harsh words, essential at the time, are no longer appropriate, and can do great harm if taken out of context.

Israel was a third-world, mostly secular country half a century ago. Rabbi Miller called it “a land of atheism and apikorsim,” and said, “In a few years the Arabs will far outnumber the number of Jewish people; they will elect Arabs to the Knesset and they will drive the Jews out, no question about it.”

But Hashem had other plans. The Jews are still in charge; we saw the first religious prime minister; the Jewish birthrate has overtaken the Arab one; and according to the latest Pew survey, at least 51 percent of the population is religious or traditional — and it’s likely even more, since many families observe mitzvos without thinking of them as “religious” practices.

This is not to say Rabbi Miller was incorrect. It was what his audience needed to hear at the time. But he commented on what he observed, and baruch Hashem, the view has changed. I believe that if Rabbi Miller were alive today, with his great clarity and courageous stance, he might say very different things.

I urge caution when disseminating his views out of context, which will lead to mistaken conclusions and, chas v’shalom, divisiveness. Now more than ever, we must encourage achdus and ahavas Yisrael.

Eric Brand



Deeper with Age [The Kichels / Issue 1009]

I loved your recent Kichels describing the contrast between a shidduch date and a married couple’s date night. It felt extra relevant as it came out just around our 14th wedding anniversary.

At first, I was a little put off, worried that the strip could reinforce a norm of staleness, indifference, and even disrespect in marriage.

Then it actually got me thinking on a deeper level — about how we look back at dating and the early stages of marriage with so much nostalgia. But were these years really so much better?

Yes, as couples are married longer, date nights might take the form of running errands together instead of a restaurant dinner. But there is also less insecurity, more realness and vulnerability in a longer-standing relationship that’s built on way more than overthinking what drink you should order at the hotel lobby.

Ultimately, what I took away from the strip was that the feelings that come from being married a while are so, so much deeper. A superficial onlooker may not even notice them, but that’s part of what makes them so mysteriously private and special.

Yes, there’s a lot to be learned from starry-eyed couples at the beginning of the journey; maybe we can draw on the sweet memories of sensitivity and sparks, and incorporate them more into the beautiful long-term relationship we have built.

But, as my husband and I reflected, instead of lauding earlier times and yearning for what we wish we could return to, we can look at the past however many years and appreciate how far we have come, as well as how much more we can continue to gain in the next however many years to come.

A Starry-Eyed Long-Married


Don’t Knock Real Relief [Word on the Street / Issue 1008]

The writer of this article wrote disparagingly about Kollel Toronto’s fasting pills. Baruch Hashem, she obviously has no problem fasting, and it should remain so.

However, there are countless less fortunate Yidden who suffer illness, headaches, and debilitating migraines, and spend a considerable part of Yom Kippur day in bed retching and suffering; not quite the state one wants to be in on Yom Kippur.

We at Kollel Toronto consider it a merit to have been able to formulate an analgesic/supplement to alleviate these pains. We have received many letters and phone calls from grateful users, some who have been in shul for Ne’ilah for the first time in their lives. Even those who don’t suffer so intensely are appreciative of being able to daven and concentrate on teshuvah without being distracted by headaches and feeling ill.

These few dollars customers pay for the pills do not line anyone’s pockets, but are used by the kollel to support Torah study. Thus, they not only enable the users to have a meaningful Yom Kippur, but also give them the merit of supporting Torah at the same time.

We at Kollel Toronto would be appreciative and grateful if Mishpacha would inform the public that Kollel Toronto’s fasting pills are not some gimmick but a legitimate analgesic/supplement that has brought relief to a myriad of Yidden.

Yaakov Michoel Hirschman

Rosh Kollel, Kollel Toronto


Distributed to Perfection [Family Is for Life / Issue 1008]

Dear Editor,

As an ardent Mishpacha reader, I enjoyed the recent feature in the Pesach issue describing what goes on behind the scenes.

On that note, I wanted to give a well-deserved shout-out to my family member, Yoely Zupnick, who oversees the US distribution of Mishpacha magazine, together with his mother and brother. Together with their dedicated team, they are responsible for making sure that every supermarket and store in the entire USA is stocked with enough copies of the magazine for readers to enjoy each week. The amount of hard work and commitment that goes into this process cannot be overstated.

Despite the challenges that may arise, whether due to Yom Tov, family simchahs, or just unforeseen circumstances, Zupnick and his team work tirelessly throughout the night to coordinate and execute the seamless distribution. Their attention to detail and unwavering dedication ensure that the magazine consistently reaches its audience without any glitches.

On years where Yom Kippur fell out on a Tuesday, Zupnick would make Havdalah and run off to distribute the Mishpacha without even breaking his fast first, so that avid readers would be able to purchase it the next day. While away on family vacations, he would fly back in for one day, just to make sure that the magazine was successfully distributed. And there are so many other little details involved. It’s evident that his passion stems from a deep understanding of how much we, the readers, savor the content of the magazine, and he feels responsible to make sure we get it.

The distribution team’s dedication is a testament to the magazine’s commitment to excellence, and their integral role in the publishing process should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Please extend my appreciation to the entire team, including the unsung heroes behind the scenes who make it all possible.

C. Berkovits


Room for All [Calligraphy / Issue # 1008]

I want to thank you for printing “Birthright,” Shmuel Botnick’s story in the Calligraphy story supplement. I need to photocopy it and hang it on my wall!

I am in the same place as Mordy. My grandparents were from Levittown, Pennsylvania, while my husband’s grandfather was a posek and baal mussar from Bnei Brak. You wrote about us! I know how hard it is to express pride in my family of origin, while trying to be accepted and show I belong to the frum Bnei Brak family.

I’m married for 19 years already, and I still cried when I read about Zeidy “getting tired” in the middle of the wedding, and Mordy not making space for Zeidy’s Torah at the Seder. While Mordy’s behavior was extreme, it can still be the work of a lifetime to build this bridge and give everyone in the family a safe place.

Gitty also has an avodah, though this wasn’t mentioned at all. She needs to be able to respect and appreciate her husband and his family. He should never have to make a show of rejecting them to keep her happy and secure.

Thank you again; I’m guessing I’m not the only reader who found this story so meaningful.

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1012)

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