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Inbox: Issue 1018

“As long as people continue to pay high prices for sheitels, music bands, etc., and this becomes the new ‘norm,’ this problem will only grow”

I’m Willing [Double Take / Issue 1017]

Reading both sides of Double Take about an uncle mad at his nephew for making what he felt was a lavish simchah when he’d provided him with funds for the event reminds me of an old joke.

Two people come to the rabbi to discuss a situation they need adjudicated. After each presents his respective arguments, the rabbi thinks for a moment, turns to the first individual and says, “You’re right.” He then turns to the second individual and says, “You’re right.” The gabbai in the room witnessing the scene asks the rabbi, quite perplexed, “Rabbi, how can they both be right?” to which the rabbi responds, “You’re right, too.”

There is nothing that will be said on these pages that will resolve this issue being presented. It is all-pervasive. Thumb through the ads in any of our newspapers and magazines and you will see why.

Each and every one of our Torah institutions is holding events in venues, complete with menu and décor, on a scale that would make Achashveirosh blush — and this includes our “takanah” weddings. And yes, out-of-town knows how to throw a party too.

There is nothing that will stop it unless until these standards change. We all know the lines. We all know the reasons. We all know the cause.

I, too, love the fashion and the flash. I, too, love the glitz and the lashes and seeing the fairy-tale clothing and excitement on the faces of my loved ones. We all sense how easily we get caught up in it. It is intoxicating.

And therein lies the problem. Everyone, including me, will be indignant, will complain, will compare, will humph and cluck-cluck and point fingers. And then we’ll climb aboard because we can’t allow our simchah to be different — we can’t deny our kids, even if we ourselves are willing to do with less. (What less??)

The problem with being old is that my memory is too good. My very wise mother once told me to be careful about how you admonish your children. Don’t tell them to avoid doing something you know they can’t resist doing. We’ve tried time and time again to rein it all in. All with lukewarm results.

Am I the only one who remembers the takanos that were established in regard to the use of a party planner, hosting both a l’chayim and an elaborate vort, spending x amount of dollars on the flowers for a simchah? How’s that list coming along?

We are so good at justifying crossing the lines, we have even managed to lose that list, or how to dance around it.

Once upon a time, there were always those whose simchahs were celebrated on a scale above what I had or the way I was going to celebrate mine. I knew it and so did everyone else.

Today, everyone has to have what everyone else has. That is now the standard. And it all must be equally beautiful, equally extravagant, and equally presented. Okay — maybe one or two fewer dishes at the shmorg….

I’m willing to acknowledge that change is needed. I’m willing to make that statement and help make things change. (Except for having place cards.) I’m willing to stand up and be counted. I’m willing to downgrade my simchah. Tell me how, because I’m willing to be second.

Right after you do it first.

Gitel Moses

Cleveland, Ohio


An Ayin Tovah Was Called For [Double Take / Issue 1017]

Unfortunately, the issue this Double Take brought up is a problem oft talked about, with little done to ameliorate the situation. Chasunah expenses are exorbitant, and even a very basic wedding can be very expensive. Basic is relative to everyone, and each town differs in this. As long as people continue to pay high prices for sheitels, music bands, etc., and this becomes the new “norm,” this problem will only grow. No one wants their child to feel different or prejudiced because of their parents’ financial situation. All kallahs want to feel that they get to shop the same way as their counterparts and peers, irrespective of financial bracket.

Which group of people is going to be brave enough to stand up and say, “Let us stop all this extravagance”? It needs courage and perseverance and a general turn in the tide for this to happen. Kudos to the parents who feel they can say no to their kallah if the standard is above their means, but this is certainly the minority.

What is really important is that individuals do not introduce new norms for chassan and kallah gifts and expectations at the actual chasunah, thereby raising the bar.

If I could tell Uncle Heshy something, it is the following: Ezra never asked you for money, and if you did give the money, give it with a full heart instead of a critical eye.

You can see that he did try to cut corners with fake flowers, and the guy playing the violin was free. It is a shame you spoiled the wedding by calculating each expense in your head during the wedding and then giving off an iciness that was certainly out of place. I would have thought that a bit of an ayin tovah here would not have gone amiss and would have added to the sincerity of your gift.

Mrs S. Halle


Men at the Chuppah [Open Mic / Issue 1017]

Kudos to Rabbi Boruch Leff for pointing out something that I have noticed about people at chuppahs: They’re too focused on the food instead of the kedushah of the event.

I have sat next to men who play video games on their phone during the chuppah, men who talk to their neighbors — not so quietly — throughout. I’ve seen crowds of many younger yeshivaleit schmoozing away in the back or on the side. But the women are all quiet and/or davening.

I’ve seen some men who learn from a sefer for the whole chuppah, but I don’t think I’ve seen gedolim or rabbanim learn then (before it starts, yes). The point is that we men have to “up our game” in realizing the power of the moments when the Shechinah is at the chuppah and act accordingly.

Thank you for raising awareness of this issue.

David Mervitch

Lakewood, NJ


An Irreplaceable Gadol [Seven Becomes Eight / Issue 1017]

Allow me to share a precious memory of Rav Moshe Wolfson, ztz”l, whom you featured in the wake of his petirah. Operation Desert Shield of the First Gulf War began on Thursday, January 17, 1991. Two days later, I rearranged my regular Shabbos routine to participate in the Shalosh Seudos at Emunas Yisroel in Boro Park, where Rav Wolfson was the mara d’asra. I had heard that he would often address current events during his Shalosh Seudos derashah, and I was thirsting for some daas Torah on the conflict, which at the time posed a serious existential threat to Eretz Yisrael.

I was not disappointed.

During his derashah, after speaking about the parshas hashavua, Rav Wolfson spoke about the war. He said this was a historic battle between the descendants of Yishmael and Klal Yisrael. The outcome of the conflict would not be determined by tanks or planes, he emphasized. Rather it would only be determined by the power of limud haTorah.

Rav Wolfson went on to point out that the main focus of our limud Torah today is the study of the Talmud Bavli. And just as the center of the enemies arrayed against us were located in Iraq, which is the equivalent of the Bavel of yore, our victory will come only through our study of Talmud Bavli.

To drive his point home further, he reminded the packed, partially darkened beis medrash that the malach had prophesized to Hagar that her yet unborn son, who would be called Yishmael, would be a “pere adam, yado bakol, v’yad kol bo — a wild man whose hand would be on everyone and everyone’s hand would be on him” (Bereishis 16:12). Then he brought an audible gasp from everyone in attendance when he said that the gematria of the description of Yishmael he had just quoted was exactly equal to the gematria of “Talmud Bavli!”

After Shabbos I took out a calculator and verified for myself that the gematria was, in fact, exact. And it stands out for me as an unforgettable illustration of the creative chiddush and breathtaking Torah insights of this irreplaceable gadol.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Dr. Meir Wikler

Brooklyn, NY


Fiction and Real Life [Serial / Issue 1017]

I have been following your latest serial about a newlywed couple with interest and sadness. Though it’s technically a fictional work, the story is unfortunately a reality for many newlywed and not-so-newlyweds. Mishpacha has an incredible ability to clearly yet sensitively present challenges within the general frum community worldwide in order to spur a positive change or solution. If the climate in too many marriages is troubled, leave it to Mishpacha to carefully tease this issue to a public space to let those couples know that they’re not alone.

I personally know couples who have been through challenges identical to the ones mentioned in your story. Almost everyone can navigate these problems and even much harder ones with proper guidance and know-how, and live in harmony for many happy years.

Even older couples who have friction in their regular routines can turn over a new leaf and create a lasting, loving bond. If you’re suffering, reach out for help!

Nachum Shore


No Laughing Matter [Kichels / Issue 1016]

I am writing in response to a joke made in the Kichels last week in which a contestant could win a large sum of money and the bonus was that they could do so without the tuition committee finding out.

The Kichels often and so accurately portray the reality of frum life in a humorous fashion, but as a tuition committee member and the wife of a rosh yeshivah of an English-speaking yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, I was disturbed that the reality of lying to a tuition committee has become a laughing matter.

The cost of tuition, whether elementary, seminary or beis medrash, is an enormous burden for many families and the fundraising burden that each institution has is also enormous. No one ever wants to turn a Yiddishe child away because of money.

For those who claim tuitions are hiked up anyway or that someone must be taking in the money, I would implore them to go look at how mechanchim live. No one is earning a ton, that’s for sure.

We have so many families in kollel or klei kodesh who simply can’t pay full tuition and desperately need scholarships. Additionally, we have so many families in which both parents work regular jobs and are therefore not eligible for kollel or klei kodesh discounts and also just can’t pay that much tuition for an average-sized frum family. They are doing the best they can and it’s not their fault. Thankfully, many do pay full tuition.

And then, of course there are those who can pay more but aren’t, because they lied. The same people would never dream of accepting a Shabbos box from Tomchei Shabbos because they wouldn’t want to take away from those who do.

Tuition should be no different. Let’s be very clear — receiving a scholarship from a Jewish institution means you’re taking tzedakah, and lying about income, marital status, financial obligations, and the like in order to “get a better deal” is geneivah. It’s stealing money and it’s also stealing time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to bite my tongue so hard it bleeds when my husband meets with parents of a bochur who is receiving a significant scholarship and yet visited their son in Eretz Yisrael for a second time in one year.

With a quick calculation, that’s easily over $5,000 that they could have paid to our yeshivah. That’s $5,000 we didn’t have to raise, that’s hundreds of hours spent fundraising instead of mentoring and teaching, and $5,000 that a generous donor didn’t have to give or could have given to someone who needed it, not wanted it.

Behind every tuition committee is someone going around asking for money, someone setting up a campaign that the same deal-seeking parents roll their eyes at, some very weary mechanchim going door to door selling the importance of their institution and how they don’t want to turn anyone away.

To the parents who are honest about what they can pay, whether it be full or half, I applaud you for your hard work and your integrity. To everyone else looking for a better deal and not disclosing their true financial capability, you might just get the deal you wanted. But know that your son won’t have a rosh yeshivah. He will have a full-time fundraiser who sometimes gives shiur, and a child who is confused about the middos and derech eretz you are paying, even with a deal, to instill.

A tuition committee member and a rosh yeshivah’s wife


Joining through the Truth [Inbox / Issue 1012]

I would like to respond to the letter writer who respectfully questioned the relevance of Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s teachings. To maintain interest, a writer of an article will often write one sentence in bold as a headline or byline on the side of the print. These statements, when read in isolation, can be very misleading. For example, imagine if someone randomly flips through the pages of a history book, reading one sentence every few pages. Upon conclusion, the person then reviews the book with the statement, “Riddled with inaccuracies.” However, if one were to read the entire chapter, or sequentially read through the book, a completely different picture would emerge.

Similarly, it is understandable that if one were to leaf through the Toras Avigdor reading the headings, he would misunderstand Rabbi Miller’s message. As an avid reader of the Toras Avigdor, I want to share how much it has transformed my outlook on life. We live in a secular world and are bombarded daily with its messages, through work, shopping, advertisements, health articles, etc. Until I began to read these booklets, I did not realize how much of that thinking had permeated my mindset. I eagerly look forward to Toras Avigdor as it literally provides me with a spiritual reset.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller was a yerei Elokim, and therefore not scared to speak out about practices that went against the Torah hashkafah. As a couples’ therapist, I was fortunate to receive training by Terry Real, the founder of relational therapy. When one partner is unintentionally hurting his or her spouse on a continuous basis, Terry uses a technique called “Joining through the Truth.” By providing empathy and understanding as to where the client is coming from, he is able to ask the partner to stop his or her negative behaviors. The reason this works is because when people hear the truth, it resonates. L’havdil elef havdalos, when I read Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s timely teaching, the words resonate; it is so clearly the emes. I marvel at how his teaching continues to stay relevant to today’s times.

Thank you, Rabbi Markowitz and Rabbi Wolhendler (and so many others), for providing us the opportunity to continue to benefit from the ultimate Truth.

Fraidy Zeidman LMHC MS Ed.

Licensed Psychotherapist

EFT Therapist


Ich Bin a New Havener [Torah Haven in the New World / Issue 1008]

This article about the yeshivah in New Haven was a double treat for me to read since you managed to sandwich the Vishker Illui between the pages on Rav Levenberg. I met the Vishker Illui several times, and his son Rav Yosef took courses with me. I’m a New Havener, so I know about Rav Levenberg well, even though — of course — we never met.

I can add a brief note to your account from an eyewitness. Rav Shmuel Svei zt”l, Rav Elya shlita’s father, told me that he was present at the levayah of Rav Zvi Hirsch Rabinowitz in 1910. When the hespedim were about to start, none of the rabbanim present wanted to be the first to deliver a hesped. The Alter of Slabodka was upset and pushed Rav Levenberg to the shtender and ordered him to deliver the first hesped. This was Rav Levenberg’s inaugural public address in a major public forum. The rest is history.

Also, I heard from someone who heard his mussar shmuessen that a favorite saying of his was: “Nit ken 50-50, nit ken 60-40, nit ken 70-30, nit-ken 80-20, nit ken 90-10, nor a hundert protzent Toras Hashem temimah meshivas nafesh.”

Shnayer Leiman


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1018)

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