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Inbox: Issue 1017

“Fertility treatments are prohibitively expensive, but that’s not why most people give to these funds”

She’s Always There to Help [Job Search / Issue 1016]

I was delighted to see Gitty Gellis featured in your article about sonography as a field of employment.

Although I’ve been living in Yerushalayim for many years, baruch Hashem, I never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance until this past Erev Shavuos, when I found myself in her ultrasound room about an hour before Yom Tov.

As I’d been going about my last-minute Yom Tov preparations, I suddenly started having severe abdominal pain, and since I was at the beginning of a pregnancy, I was concerned that this was a medical emergency. I called my doctor to ask if I needed to go to the hospital — not something I relished doing, knowing that it would probably mean I’d get stuck there for all or much of Yom Tov — and she said, “Well, you certainly need an ultrasound. Maybe you can find a technician who’s willing to do a home ultrasound.”

I opened the Newcomer’s Guide to find someone who does home ultrasounds, and dialed Gitty’s number. In response to my apologies about calling at this crazy hour, she sounded totally unflustered, and told me to come right over. Calmly and patiently, she performed the scan, and reassured my husband and me that everything looked fine.

Thanks to her, I went into Yom Tov relieved instead of panicky, and baruch Hashem, the pain eased within a short time. So when Gitty says that she’s available 24/6 — yes, she actually is!

I was just happy to know that I wasn’t the only one to show up in her ultrasound room at that time, and also that I wasn’t the latest to arrive — at least I didn’t come after the siren!

Name Withheld

This Year Especially [Guestlines / Issue 1016]

I was very happy to see the article about the importance of teaching our spiritually thirsty brethren about Shabbos by Rav Neuberger. The importance of Shabbos can’t be understated. It’s incumbent on the Torah leaders of our nation to make Shabbos an integral part of the basic education of every Jew. It’s quite unfortunate how little people know about the halachah, and especially the hashkafah, surrounding this holiest day.

Specifically this year, at the beginning of the year, many — including Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita — pointed out how crucial Shabbos is to the year 5784. We saw on Simchas Torah of this past year how shemiras Shabbos saved the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters.

The Aruch La’ner writes in his sefer Minchas Oni (parshas Ha’azinu) that historically the years that Rosh Hashanah has fallen out on Shabbos have either been very good, or the opposite. In those years we had the churban haBayis of both the first and second Beis Hamikdash. It was also the year of the atonement for the Eigel Hazahav and the inauguration of the Mishkan. The Aruch La’ner explains the usually we have the zechus of the shofar to protect us from harsh decrees. However, when Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, we don’t have that zechus protecting us. What we need to replace it with is the zechus of Shabbos. That can only come if we truly appreciate and connect to the day.

It was with this in mind that I started a shiur immediately after Simchas Torah on the sefer Shabbos Malkesa by Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus ztz”l in our kehillah in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The purpose of the shiur is to give us more of a connection to the day that means more to the Jewish People than any other day of the year, to really understand what Shabbos is about and how we can make the most of it. This is the zechus that we need in this very difficult year.

I invite anyone to listen to these shiurim, which I’m now beginning to put on the 24six app. For those who don’t have the app, I invite you to be in touch with me through Mishpacha.

Rabbi Ari Klapper

Maggid shiur

Yeshivas Ateres Yaakov

Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

System Abusers Hurt Others [Inbox / Issue 1016]

The letter suggesting we better vet recipients of tzedakah to make sure we give only to those who truly need reminded me of the following incident: Due to the economy tanking during the Obama years, the nonprofit organization I worked for, for almost 30 years, decided to bring their restructuring plans forward by several years.

They laid off over 100 workers. As the person with the highest salary in my department, I was one of them. I got a nice severance package and received unemployment payments. I applied for food stamps and was denied them because my income was too high. What the federal government didn’t consider was how much I had to pay for medical insurance, since I was too young for Medicare and not eligible for Medicaid. I couldn’t find any independent company to insure me, so I had to rely on a program called COBRA, under which your former employer must cover you, but you pay for it. I had excellent insurance, but it was very expensive.

Almost all my severance pay went to cover it until I reached age 65, so I cut back on my expenses wherever I could.

I was in the fruit store and they had cherries — my favorite fruit. They had two kinds — one was $3.99 a pound the other $6.99.

Naturally, I bought the cheaper one.

There was a well-dressed lady with beautiful jewelry who bought the more expensive one. She paid for it with food stamps.

I was so annoyed that I remember the incident to this day.

That was our tax money she was spending.

Whether it’s tzedakah or food stamps, people who abuse the system hurt those who really need the assistance.

On an entirely different topic, the letter from Shevi Furst about her attending the asifah for Soviet Jewry mentions the tzaddik Rav Manis Mandel. My family came to the US in March 1959 from Hungary. My parents had persisted in their efforts to leave Europe so my brother and I could get a proper Jewish education. We moved to East Flatbush after Pesach and encountered a major problem. No Bais Yaakov or yeshivah was willing to take us for such a short period at the end of the school year. My parents had to go to work, since the only assistance we ever received was $35 a month from the Joint when we arrived. We had to go to school.

Rav Mandel took us in and we went from Williamsburg to Yeshiva of Brooklyn until the school year ended.

Ever since then I have hakaras hatov for this wonderful mensch.

Yehi zichro baruch.


Brooklyn, NY

Screening Is Impractical [Inbox / Issue 1016]

The letter regarding tzedakah reform suggested that there be a screening process for every tzedakah solicitor to see how deserving they are. Now while in a perfect world the letter writer is 100 percent correct, as someone who is involved in numerous organizations, I can assure you that this is just not a practical option.

Yes, there will always be those who need help more than others, but in general, if someone is reaching out, it means they need help. To start suggesting that a newly married man should get $500 from his kollel and the yungerman with three kids should get $2,500 is not practical.

In addition, while it’s known that office jobs in Lakewood pay higher salaries than in most places, once the kids start coming, most women can’t work full time anymore; thus their salaries are reduced immensely.

Something I always tell my children is that when someone says “everyone” has something, it means three of their friends have it. If you look around at the neshei chayil of Lakewood, I can assure you that you will see the vast majority are not wearing eternity bands.

Lastly, I’d like mention a something my rebbeim always told me, and that is that we know that Hashem acts middah k’neged middah. The way we act toward others is the way Hashem acts toward us. In the zechus that we give generously to tzedakah without asking too many questions, Hashem should give to us generously without being medakdek to see exactly how much we deserve.

I can personally attest to the tremendous brachah I’ve seen since partnering up with Adirei HaTorah. I’m asking everyone to give, and give specifically to Torah learning, and you’ll see the shefa start flowing in every area of your life.

Name Withheld

Fertility Treatments Prohibitively Expensive [Inbox / Issue 1016]

Thank you for the interesting Inbox discussion on the topic of “tzedakah standards.” There’s a lot of good food for thought here about communal standards in general, and how they affect tzedakah allocation (and vice versa). One letter on this issue provided some valid points. But the writer quoted an example that I felt was grossly misapplied, and which, in my opinion, reflects a very distorted view held by the writer on chesed organizations.

The letter described a young couple having gone through fertility treatments with financial assistance from a fund, and at the same time having been able to put aside some money. Let’s get something clear: fertility treatments are prohibitively expensive, but that’s not why most people give to these funds.

A couple experiencing infertility is in a difficult place: communally they are somewhat cut off from their neighbors’ frequent child-rearing and stroller discussions; shalom bayis can be a mess as each partner experiences the challenge individually while trying to support the spouse; and the stress levels are tremendously high with trying to juggle intense decisions of where to apply hishtadlus and how to fit in all the extra medical appointments. These are just a few of the challenges….

I know because I’ve been there — and the first few years are killer. The emotional burden these couples carry is so heavy. A little financial help can relieve a lot of that tension.

Baruch Hashem, the wife referred to in the letter was able to continue working, and the couple could put aside money. What a brachah! (Someone who believes in and understands the mission of an infertility support fund would have been happy to hear this, not disappointed that the money had gone to waste. Thank G-d they now have a family to buy a home for!) But this doesn’t lessen the need for assistance, financial or otherwise.

Please don’t compare assistance with infertility to tuition breaks. A more appropriate comparison might be your donation to organizations that help children with serious illness to have fun summer camp experiences, or those that run events for older singles. No one is asking for the recipients’ bank statements, because the point is communal support and an emotional boost — not simply a signed check.

And if all of the above does not resonate with you, unknown writer of the Inbox letter, that’s fine. Your tzedakah should go to an organization whose mission you believe in most.

A grateful recipient of much-needed support

A Bissel More Bitachon [Inbox / Issue 1016]

I have been following the recent discussions about the “standards of living” within the frum community and the various perspectives on the legitimacy of giving and receiving tzedakah. What I find most disturbing is the absence of a fundamental consideration: the role of Hashem’s Hashgachah pratis and halachah in these discussions.

To find a clear Torah hashkafah, refer to the Chofetz Chaim’s Ahavas Chesed, where the guidelines for giving are unequivocally clear. I have never found within it the notion that those who give tzedakah should engage in personal calculations about the recipients’ worthiness.

This is not to suggest that I believe individuals in kollel should be afforded luxuries such as eternity bands and brand-new car leases while also receiving support from Tomchei Shabbos. However, making such considerations should not be part of our calculations when giving to the many mosdos that support our fellow Yidden. Our focus should be on fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedakah as prescribed by halachah.

Ultimately, what we need is a little more bitachon — relying on Hashem that He has the best plan for all of us. We should be grateful when we can be among the givers rather than the recipients. This perspective will not only align us more closely with our religious obligations, but also foster a more compassionate and supportive community.


Far Rockaway, NY

Myths about Infertility and Finances [Inbox / Issue 1016]

I would like to take issue with a letter written that insinuates that organizations that help couples struggling with infertility are feeding into a high standard of living and letting these couples “live easy.” I cannot say if the specific story he relates is true, but being in touch with many other struggling couples, I can say that it is certainly not the norm.

There are a few points I’d like to make.

First, the fertility organizations that I have dealt with to help us with funding asked us for our tax returns as well as inquiring about any support, extra income, and investments we have. They asked us for references who could attest to our financial situation. It is slanderous to the amazing organizations that exist to help people like myself with funding to imply that they simply cover anyone’s bills and distribute their funds irresponsibly.

Second, the writer mentions that his acquaintance put aside $2,000 a month during this time. I would like to point out that in certain cases, a single cycle of fertility treatment can cost nearly $20,000, especially if factoring in things like travel expenses, time off of work, and in some cases, hotel stays that no organization helps cover. Many couples do two to three of these cycles a year, so even $2,000 a month is not enough to cover many couples’ treatments.

It is a myth in most cases that couples with no children are more financially stable. In many cases it is, in fact, the opposite — we have many more expenses, but we have no dependents to list on our taxes and rarely qualify for subsidized health insurance or food stamps. To imply that couples struggling with infertility are living comfortably is ignorant at best.

Finally, I wanted to point out something that our rav told me after we were told that the organization we applied to qualified us for full reimbursement for our fertility treatment. I told our rav that I felt it would be wrong for my husband and me to spend on “extras” like going out for pizza or getting away for a few days if we are receiving tzedakah. Our rav disagreed and told me that, for the sake of our shalom bayis and emotional health, we must keep doing these things. Those who are generous enough to help us pay for treatments are doing a chesed, but would not expect us to deprive ourselves of the things we need as a couple.

Respectfully, those who struggle with infertility are in no way contributing to the raising of standards in the frum community. We are not spending wastefully or irresponsibly. Hashem has just given us a nisayon that requires a great deal of financial outlay. Anyone who donates to organizations that help us is doing a huge chesed and can be assured that every dollar they give is going to a good cause.

Name Withheld

Let’s Be Realistic [Inbox / Issue 1015]

To the girl struggling with shidduchim,

Your letter was very difficult to read. I’m sad that you have been taught to believe that the only acceptable way of life is being married to a long-time learner, and no other occupation for a young man is acceptable.

I’m sad that you have been taught to believe so fiercely that you must marry someone who learns in order to have a chelek in his Olam Haba, and that the suggestion of a boy who isn’t learning means you’re missing out.

I have news for you. Not all boys are cut out to learn all day. Does that mean they have less-than-stellar middos? Does that mean they don’t daven with the same kavanah? Does that mean that the shiurim and the learning that they are able to do are “less than” because they weren’t in the beis medrash all day? Does that mean he is “less than” because he feels it is his obligation to share the burden of financially supporting his family so that the weight is not solely resting on his wife’s shoulders as she, G-d willing, goes through pregnancies (which are not always easy) and maternity leaves (sometimes with babies that leave you exhausted and depleted as you care for them) and young children (who are wonderful, baruch Hashem, but also draining sometimes)?

I can tell you from my personal experience that when I came out of seminary I felt kollel was the only way of life, Hashem had other plans for me, and as I got older (without being married) and came into myself, I discovered that for me, kollel life was not the right path. I, baruch Hashem, have married a truly wonderful gem of a husband, with wonderful middos, who is a wonderful father, has a kavua chavrusa, learns Daf Yomi, has made siyumim on Shas and Mishnayos, and yes, he does work.

And you know what? Baruch Hashem for that, because as life took us down the path we are on, we would be on the streets if we wouldn’t have two steady incomes.

Please, we need to be realistic in today’s day and age. We’ve had enough young women collapsing under the burden of being the sole breadwinner to understand that we need to make and encourage changes.

Name Withheld

On Any Other Night [Double Take / Issue 1015]

Staying up all night to learn isn’t a mitzvah. It isn’t mandatory and it certainly isn’t halachah.

I understand the need for creating a learning program. Torah is sweet and unfortunately in today’s generation, it’s common to find young men who are unable to sit and focus for too long or appreciate the Torah’s sweetness.

But there is a time and place for everything.

Leil Shavuos is neither the time nor the place for a spirited gathering with high- end catering.

The young men who are eager to do what’s right are more than welcome to either sit down and focus for as long as possible on this holy night, or create a beautiful uplifting event with speeches, deluxe refreshments and derhoibene singing and dancing any other night of the year.

I’d probably be in attendance for such an event.

Shavuos is when we celebrate the Torah. And the reason for staying up at night is to atone for the morning of Matan Torah, when Bnei Yisrael slept in on this holy and significant day. It’s a beautiful atonement, one which the chachamim never forced upon us. And until recently, it was only the true masmidim who stayed up all night to learn.

It is not a night for “connection,” a concept which is overused by today’s generation. It’s not a night for “inspiration.” It’s a night of learning. And it’s not a requirement.

If you can’t do it, don’t. But don’t create a loose — and quite frankly, leidig-geyer — atmosphere because you can’t commit to sitting and learning for more than 30 minutes.


My Brother’s Publishing House in Basel [Bucking the Trend in Basel / Issue 1014]

I enjoyed reading the article about the “out of town” Basel Jewish community. Besides the many interesting and cute tidbits, it was also nice to read a bit about Mr. Victor Goldschmidt ob”m and what he achieved with his publishing of the famous Roedelheim works and some other works.

However, it was very painful to realize that when dealing with Basel as the city of the Jewish books, the article totally ignored the Morascha Buchverlag (www.morascha.ch) run out of Basel by my dear brother Edouard Selig ob”m and now run by his widow and his sons.

To mention just a few of Morascha’s publications: A new edition of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch’s works (Chumash, siddur, Tehillim, etc.), Rav E. Kitov’s Book of our Heritage, and many, many more important Torah works previously only available in English or Ivrit. Add to this an entirely new user-friendly set of siddurim and machzorim with a new German translation. This project alone is helping German-speaking Jews to connect or reconnect to Hashem and His Torah and mitzvos!

Though my brother founded and ran his publishing house first out of Zurich, during the past 30-odd years until his untimely passing three years ago, he lived and worked out of Basel. And just like Victor Goldschmidt referenced in the article, my brother, too, did his work out of pure idealism to spread Yiddishkeit far and wide.

Actually, it would not be out of the way to say that Morascha was one of the catalysts (perhaps even the main one?) for the V. Goldschmidt publishing house to adjust to the changing need for modern German Torah literature.

Writing an article about Jewish Basel without mentioning Morascha was a gross oversight. Just go to the Morascha website to see what they have created and keep on creating.

Though I personally had nothing to do with my brother’s publishing house, I felt the need to send in this note to do justice to the one frum Basel Jew who most likely made the biggest and longest-lasting contribution to German-language Torah knowledge since the Nazi era.

Marc Daniel Selig


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1017)

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