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Inbox: Issue 850

Today, when so many parts of our machaneh in Klal Yisrael are causing a chillul Hashem, we must stand up and say “ad kan, enough”



Nothing Controversial About It [Outlook / Issue 847]

I would like to salute Yonoson Rosenblum for his amazing column on kiddush Hashem. I am sure there were naysayers who said not to print his column since it may be controversial.

May I suggest that there is nothing controversial about kiddush kavod Shamayim. The baalei mussar expound on the pasuk in Vayikra 22:32, where the Torah says we should not desecrate Hashem’s name and Hashem will become kadosh. They ask, isn’t there something between chillul Hashem and kiddush Hashem? The response they give is that there is not, because if we are not mekadesh Hashem, then we are automatically mechallel Hashem.

Today, when so many parts of our machaneh in Klal Yisrael are causing a chillul Hashem, we must stand up and say “ad kan, enough.” I was always deeply troubled by the minyanim on airplanes, even before the pandemic. I could not fathom how people would stand in front of the restrooms, blocking people from using the facilities, because they wanted to daven with a minyan. But the Jewish guilt also bothered me: How can I miss a minyan?

So I spoke to Maran Hagaon Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita, who immediately paskened, “Daven in your seat, and don’t even stand for Shemoneh Esreh.”

Here we are speaking during a pandemic when people are concerned for their lives. And rightfully so. Our frum community has been hit so hard, Rachmana litzlan, along with the rest of Klal Yisrael. Yet we blatantly ignore common decency, and for what? Does Hashem really want this type of tefillah b’tzibbur? Or does He want V’nikdashti besoch Bnei Yisrael? The answer is clear.

Additionally, in one of his famous ma’amarim, Rav Yisrael Salanter said, “When the yungeleit in the Kovna kollel learn Torah lishmah, it helps bring yiras Shamayim to Paris.” Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. When people in our circles create a chillul Hashem, it hurts every one of us. We may not be mefagel our yiras Shamayim and our Torah.

Thank you, Rabbi Rosenblum, for taking the necessary stand. A stand that all gedolei Yisrael applaud.

Rabbi Yaakov Bender

Like Father, Like Son [Forever Young / Issue 849]

I read Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s story about Melaveh Malkah with Rav Sheftel Neuberger with much interest. I experienced a similar story with Rav Sheftel’s son, Rav Boruch.

I was a first-year bochur in Ner Israel and found myself at Rav Boruch’s house one Motzaei Shabbos to ask him something. He asked me if I had eaten Melaveh Malkah. When I told him I have mezonos in the dorm, Reb Boruch proceeded to make me a fresh deli sandwich, and he and his rebbetzin sat down with me for a Melaveh Malkah. While we were eating, Reb Boruch went on to explain the significance of this mitzvah. It has been many years since then, but washing for Melaveh Malkah has been a constant for me.

While they are busy with Klal Yisrael, the Neuberger mishpachah and the Ner Israel rebbeim take an interest in Reb Yisroel, building greatness one talmid at a time!

Moshe Dov Heber

Horrific and Dangerous [Perspective / Issue 849]

I was absolutely horrified by your decision to give space to the dangerous op-ed “We’re Only Addressing Half the Problem.” Your publication may have provided an important voice in the past regarding serious issues. However, this was inappropriate by all accounts.

The statistics presented in this piece are completely skewed. Others more well-versed in the dynamics of abuse will surely write in proving that one quarter of women are victims versus 1/10 of men.

As a supporter of Bat Melech and a former spouse of an abuser, I cannot sit by and not write something. This is the breaking point and I may need to cancel my subscription if a serious retraction and serious article combating the dangerous op-ed is not published. You could easily give power to abusers and sentence victims to death by encouraging a comparison of abuse.

Hoping for better from you.
Dismayed by such factual inaccuracies

About Time [Perspective / Issue 849]

Baruch Hashem, finally an open, direct, research-based article on male spousal abuse!

I am a female psychotherapist in practice for almost three decades and have worked with many men who have been abused subtly and not so subtly by their wives. I have even witnessed this in action during couples’ sessions. The spectrum is wide, from subtle to obvious.

One incident that stands out is a wife who reported, during session, that her husband had called her a bad name and clenched his fists at her. She was scared so she called the police.

When I asked them to describe the events that preceded this, she told me that they had been arguing, and though her husband had never gotten physical with her before, she thought this time he might. He sat sheepishly in my office and shrugged when I asked him for his take on things. After some encouragement, he told me that she had said some “not nice things to him and then slapped him.” I asked her if this was true and she shot him a cold look, said he was a liar, it was barely a tap and that he deserved it.

Guess who the police warned and almost arrested? Guess who was threatened with a call to the rav and to social services and accused of having a narcissistic personality disorder? Guess who was told he’d better watch himself because he won’t see his kids if this keeps up? Guess who learned to keep it in all inside because anything he says can and will be used against him?

I meet with men who are blamed, assigned sole responsibility for all the difficulties in the relationship, terrified of losing their kids, their homes, their money, and their way of life. They are dangerously under-resourced, unprepared, and tasked with hiding their feelings and problems lest they be disbelieved or further ostracized.

I have worked with men who have already lost their children, their homes, and their financial stability under the accusations of being an abuser. And I have sat with couples where the wife disregards her own negative behavior but undermines her husband in countless ways. She never apologizes, never admits she’s wrong, never takes responsibility for her tone of voice or how loud she speaks or yells at him and/or the kids or the words she uses, for ignoring him, calling him names, jumping to conclusions, provoking him, and more.

Let me be clear that I am not aiming to simplify the complicated dynamic of abuse in a letter to the editor, but I cannot express strongly enough how overlooked men are in this area in so many ways — and how deeply this affects our children.

I fully understand that there are those among us who are traumatized, underdeveloped, or disturbed or abusive in ways that precede marital dynamics. These people require much daas Torah and intervention, and some may not be able to function in a healthy enough way to engage in the work that marriage requires. But I don’t believe that’s most of us. I think we are all mostly teachable before the damage gets too bad, before the cycle of distance picks up too much speed.

I have met my share of narcissistic men in my office, but honestly, the majority of the men I see are guilty of little more than cluelessness, frustration, and fear. And by the time they are in my office, things are often beyond repair. Men do have to learn to step up and show up — but how does that happen when a woman is on the attack, even subtly?

I find myself wondering a lot why it is that with all of the chassan and kallah classes and marital classes, we are not able to better prepare our boys for the emotional needs of a woman and how to seek help if they are stuck or hurting. And why we are not preparing our girls who become wives to have proper expectations, expressed without yelling, attacking, demeaning, and criticizing?

In the meantime, how does a man admit he’s abused or even unhappy and get help without being shamed, blamed, disbelieved or mocked, and risk losing everything? Why are there so few safe places for men to turn for support and guidance?

It’s about time we open our eyes to the untold story of the men in our community who are not the abusers, but the abused.

Name withheld for the privacy of my clients, LCSW

Full Circle [Swiss Dreams / Issue 849]

In last week’s article about Institut Ascher — an Orthodox Swiss boarding school that for decades provided a safe haven for Jewish children from all over the world, giving many of them their first taste of authentic Judaism — there was a section describing a Shabbos drama involving the Institut and Holocaust rescuer Recha Sternbuch and her activist family.

Three bochurim had fled Nazi-occupied France and made their way to Montreux, Switzerland, arriving on Shabbos and making their way to the yeshivah — on the very morning that Recha Sternbuch’s only son, Avraham, was celebrating his bar mitzvah. The bochurim barely had time to tell their story and daven, when the police tracked them down and hustled them away back to the French border for deportation.

Meanwhile, in Montreux, the Sternbuchs raced home in the middle of their son’s bar mitzvah and got on the phone to try and determine the whereabouts and the fate of the three French bochurim. Eli Sternbuch, Recha’s brother-in-law, remembered that the Ascher family owned a building adjacent to the Institut that they rented to the military regional headquarters. Would someone in the school be able to get inside the building and secure the necessary information?

When the phone kept ringing on Shabbos, Moshe Ascher, who helped run the school together with his brother Simon, realized this was a wartime emergency, answered the phone, and agreed to steal into the building and look for a ledger of postings — at risk of being arrested for espionage if caught. He was able to locate the information, the officer was contacted (it turned out that the boys were actually under his personal jurisdiction), and the bochurim were released.

But the story doesn’t end there. Forty years later, Moshe Ascher’s granddaughter married the son of Avraham Sternbuch — the bar mitzvah boy whose celebration was interrupted on that fateful Shabbos.

And Reb Avraham got regards from his truncated bar mitzvah again years later, when, one year on Shabbos Bereishis in a shul in Flatbush, a stranger bought him an aliyah. When, after davening, Reb Avraham approached his benefactor to thank him, the other man said, “It’s my hakaras hatov for making your mother miss your aliyah all those years ago. I was one of the three boys who were held up at the border facing deportation.”

D. G.

Miracles in the Math [Fuzzy Math / Issue 848]

As a teacher of economics in a Bais Yaakov high school for many years, I often conducted a project in which students were given a hypothetical family and tasked with devising a balanced budget for them.

Besides the many shalom bayis issues they faced (What do you mean a vacation at the X Hotel? And here I am scrimping on suppers to make ends meet!), the girls were also told that getting a PHD would mean automatic failure — “Papa Has Dough” could not be the means of covering your own spending.

A very positive outcome was that the teens began to notice all the small things that go into setting up a Jewish home. Yamim Tovim had to be taken into account, as well as Chanukah gifts to rebbeim and teachers. Actually pricing the food and clothing needed, as well as the three types of shampoo each girl “needed,” seemed to help them understand why parents asked them to turn off the lights as they left the room or not turn on the shower until they were really ready for it — a change many parents commented on to me.

One year, I decided that it was rather disingenuous of me to demand that my students balance their “budgets” while I had never worked out the numbers for my own family. So I put pen to paper and began to list our major expenses. My husband noticed the list, removed the paper from under my pen, and said, “M’tor nisht megaleh-nissim zein, one may not expose nissim.”

And this is what I explain to my students now, at the start of the project: If it balances, it’s a neis!

In this, I agree with C.I. who was disturbed by “Hashem always helps out” being dismissed as a “pat solution.” It is not a pat solution, but the only solution. If we approach our finances with the attitude that we need to do our hishtadlus within the parameters Hashem set for us, both for sources of income and needs for outlays, then some decisions become a bit easier. Higher standards? Are they within Hashem’s parameters? Maybe for the proverbial Joneses/Cohens, but perhaps not for me.

Looking good for others, making the right impression, feeling like a successful provider/household manager — these are all ways the yetzer uses to make us forget Who really is Hazan es hakol.

Chasya Bernstein

Angels in Brazil [True Account / Issue 848]

Thank you for publishing a great magazine. If I may, I would like to add some light on the protagonists in the amazing event of Yossi Tzemach’s adoption.

The rav in Ashdod who helped the Tzemachs is my uncle, Rav Shaul Dolinger. His brother in Brazil is my father, Max Dolinger a”h, who together with yibadel l’chayim my mother, were involved in countless efforts advocating for Jews locally and around the globe, becoming the stuff of legends.

I asked my mother about this story. She remembered it and sent me a picture of Yossi Tzemach and his sister a few years after they were adopted.

There is another snippet to this story. My grandmother, Mrs. Rosa Dolinger a”h, traveled from Israel to visit my parents around the same time the Tzemachs were dealing with the authorities in the north of Brazil. When she heard the Tzemachs were facing difficulties leaving the country, she hopped on a five-hour flight to the north to advocate on their behalf.

Baruch Hashem, it all ended well. The Tzemach family were allowed to travel to Rio de Janeiro. My parents escorted them to the airport and the rest is history.

This story should serve as an inspiration to all of us. No matter who we are, no matter where we live, we could make a difference in other people’s lives and create an impact that lasts an eternity.

David Dolinger, Highland Park, NJ


Eytan Kobre’s column on the Capitol riots [Issue 849] attributed a police officer’s death to “being bludgeoned by rioters,” in accordance with news reports immediately following his death. However, later reports by medical examiners did not find signs that the officer sustained any blunt-force trauma, and as of this printing, the cause of his death has not been clearly established.

Yochonon Donn’s feature on the election of James Gennaro [Issue 848] mistakenly mentioned Rabbi Oren Yaniv. It should have referred to Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, executive director of the Chazaq organization. We regret the error.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 850)

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