"I still don’t feel that it is important and hashkafically appropriate for my kids to read a detailed column about marriage"
Enriched by the Readers [Inbox / Issue 881]
I enjoy history very much, especially when it’s brought to life in your profiles of special figures of Am Yisrael that you regularly feature. But I especially love the letters that inevitably get sent to you — often by people who had a personal connection to the main subject, or someone else mentioned — and then flesh out another detail of the story or time period.
The articles are always inspiring and the follow-up letters only add to the richness and inspiration. Thank you to all the readers who contribute and write in!
Beit Shemesh, Israel
Inappropriate for My Kids [Made in Heaven / Issue 881]
I’m writing in regard to the new column “Made in Heaven” by Rabbi Shafier. I was very shocked and bothered that Mishpacha magazine also started following and giving in to the new trends of publicizing matters that were never considered appropriate to be discussed publicly in the heimishe magazines. I recently stopped buying other magazines for this very reason.
I know that you also cater to a very heimish crowd, and I’m sure that there are many readers who have this concern as well. I don’t feel comfortable for my kids, especially my boys, to be reading this material every week.
I understand that some people feel more comfortable sharing their private thoughts when they remain anonymous, but I still don’t feel that it is important and hashkafically appropriate for my kids to read a detailed column about marriage. I would rather encourage them that if they ever feel like they could use help, they should reach out to a professional in a private manner.
I understand that Mishapacha magazine is trying its best to cater to clients, but I’m wondering: Would this material have been published a few years ago?
A Bothered Reader
It Will Prevent Heartache [Made in Heaven / Issue 881]
The article “Identity Theft” depressed me to no end. How sad the future of our promised land looks.
But then my spirits lifted reading the next article, “Digital Witness.” How heartwarming to read about this special woman, Lily Ebert, who is inspiring so many young people and others to become better people, and that through the medium of social media. Thanks for printing that story, and I wish her many more healthy, happy years of nachas and gezunt.
I also wanted to mention how much I am enjoying the new column “Made in Heaven.” Rabbi Shafier’s answers are to the point and full of wisdom. I especially liked his answer about infatuation last week. It’s a very important topic that many young newlyweds should read about. It will prevent much heartache.
Thanks for a great magazine!
Rivky T., Antwerp
Don’t Call It Dumb [Made in Heaven / Issue 881]
I really appreciate reading the “Made in Heaven” shalom bayis column in the main Mishpacha section. Would it be possible to change the response headline from “Dumb Mistake” to just plain “Mistake”? I don’t think it’s appropriate to ever call someone’s mistake dumb and for sure not in a frum magazine.
I am a second-grade rebbi, and I would never consider telling a student that he made a dumb mistake. Please, let’s try to be a little more sensitive to how we present information in our frum magazine.
P. B. Y.
Rabbi Shafier responds:
I greatly appreciate your comments and I could not agree more. When speaking directly to a person, you must never degrade the question. I was a high school rebbi for about 15 years and I would never tell a student of any age that his question was dumb. Not only is that hurtful and rude, it can also make it very difficult for him to accept any response.
However, my comments in the column are not directed toward the questioner. They appear on a separate page, after the answer is provided, and are structured as takeaways to be shared with the general readership.
My goal in this column is to convey the types of behavior and attitudes that plague relationships and destroy shalom bayis. When we step away from the individual and analyze these reactions, they are damaging. They can cost the destruction of a family. In that sense they are foolish.
If I were pointing out to you that you were engaged in such behavior, I’d be very delicate and very careful. If, however, I was using this behavior as an example when talking to others, I’d try to be as clear as possible in pinpointing just how damaging it is how foolish it is. It’s in that sense that I use the expression “dumb” — not referring to a specific person, or providing a specific answer, but rather to identify a lesson for the general readership.
I would add that I think we need to remain sensitive to the influence of the outside culture and its emphasis on being uber-politically correct — and if not, you get “canceled.” This doesn’t represent the Torah approach; in fact, it’s the antithesis.
So provided that the term “dumb” isn’t used directly to address a person or his specific question, but rather for illustrative purposes, I feel it is warranted.
Not So Funny [The Kichels / Issue 880]
I can’t believe I’m writing a letter about the Kichels, but here goes!
This past week’s Kichel column about the “struggles of this generation” had me laughing out loud, or as in they say in the vernacular, LOL.
I’m wondering if anyone else noticed the (not so) subtle observation at the current state of our societal affairs. Humor has a way of providing a much needed and healthy release from our challenges and difficulties in a witty way, but sometimes it’s really not so funny. Thank you for pointing out what indeed some of us perceive as struggles, when in truth it’s a reflection of so much more.
Hatzlachah to us all and keep the laughs coming!
Tears of Laughter [The Kichels/Issue 880]
I have been buying your magazine for nearly 20 years, saving my shekalim in seminary to purchase what was then just the Mishpacha and Mishpacha Jr., with what eventually became the Family First making up the last few pages of the main magazine. You have printed countless letters to the editor starting with “I’ve never written to your magazine before, but after reading [fill in the blank], I could no longer resist,” and I wondered if this long-silent reader would ever be compelled to join the Inbox crowd. Lo and behold, your latest Kichels finally did it for me.
The Kichels comic portraying the “struggles of our generation” had me crying tears of laughter. As an out-of-town family, all with beautiful, multisyllabic Yiddishe names, I can attest to the validity of Nechama Kichel’s very real struggle spelling her name to customer service. After receiving one too many important pieces of mail addressed to “Tenina Cuffman,” I finally caved in and started using the US Military Phonetic Spelling Alphabet with very satisfying results (Nechama, the “h” word you’re looking for is “hotel”).
On a more serious note, we know that the use of Jewish names is one of the three factors that allowed us to maintain our distinction in Mitzrayim and continues to hold us apart from the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys of our current galus. Every time a doctor’s receptionist struggles with a ches sound or a speech therapist innocently butchers one of our names, we respond with a gracious smile, a good-humored correction, and a silent tefillah thanking Hashem for allowing us to be part of His Am Segulah.
Thank you for being the vanguard of quality frum magazine publishing.
Who’s Entitled? [Inbox / Issue 880]
I am writing regarding the sentiment that I keep hearing over and over again from some readers of this magazine that yeshivah bochurim act entitled or spoiled. As a mother of a few bochurim, I am just confused about who exactly they are referring to.
My boys and all of their friends return home at the end of each zeman, drop their suitcases on the floor, roll up their sleeves, and begin helping their families get ready for Yom Tov.
They are in programs with a demanding schedule that would put most adults to shame. And whether or not they each keep to every seder every day or end up davening in the shtiblach or in yeshivah, it is they who are walking around in black and white and who by the age of 13 bear the name and responsibility as representatives of the “olam hayeshivos” wherever they go. It is they who have the eyes of the entire country always on them.
Maybe it’s different where I live, in Israel, because here they are enlisted either in yeshivah or in the army, and each option comes with strict government rules as to what they can and cannot do, when and where and for how long they can vacation… So our boys automatically know they have a job and are a part of something greater.
During the last few years here in Israel, significant amounts of money have been invested into arranging very exciting trips for our bochurim a few times a year — because here, we believe that our bochurim are, in fact, entitled.
They are entitled and deserve our unconditional support and love, our recognition and admiration that what they are doing is not easy, and that they are valued and that the concept of a ben yeshivah is valued. They are valued for their learning of course, which is holding up the world. But also for being part of a movement that makes up the heart of our nation, our pride and joy. This value is not contingent on whether they made it to davening or seder each day. Or whether they attend a high-level yeshivah or a weak one.
So I, for one, hope that our bochurim will continue to go rappelling down cliffs up north and building our succahs, kayaking down the Yarden and cleaning out our freezers for Pesach, camping overnight alongside the Kinneret and doing our big Yom Tov shopping, surfing the sand dunes in Be’er Sheva and taking their younger siblings to the zoo.
We are proud of you for just being you and we hope and pray that you feel it.
You have a long winter zeman this year and we will send you off with lots of tefillos, love, and some sweet snacks too. You have earned it.
Maya Feder, Beitar illit
Why Do We Excuse It? [Inbox / Issue 880]
Thank you for publishing such enjoyable and thought-provoking content each week.
I am writing in response to “a grateful bochur,” who wrote about not judging his friends for their less-than-impressive behavior.
As a girl in shidduchim, I don’t feel that I can judge a bochur on how hard he works in yeshivah and what he needs to do to relax, because I am not in his place. However, something sounds off to me.
If a boy is really a well-rounded good bochur, does he really need to “vape like a chimney, facilitate second-hand smoking, and drink and party during bein hazmanim”? What is the point of all the learning that was done during the zeman?
The whole point of our lives is to become better ovdei Hashem, and to work on those middos that need to be worked on. Just because a bochur “stays in beis medrash until 12 every night” doesn’t mean that it’s okay for him to party and get drunk every night of bein hazmanim. Learning a whole day in the beis medrash does not excuse someone from any bad middah or taavah.
There should be an awareness that these behaviors are wrong and inappropriate and they should not just be “excused” and even praised. They must be worked on just as someone would work on any other bad middah or taavah.
There is also the aspect of developing healthy coping skills and outlets. Being a yeshivah bochur is intense; learning for hours each day is hard. But so is life. Waking up seven times at night with a crying baby is hard. Living on one salary with three little children is difficult. Dealing with work stresses is tiring. Raising children can be a challenge.
If there is no way to cope with stress and exhaustion in yeshivah other than drinking, smoking, and other unhealthy behaviors, how will these future fathers and husbands deal with much bigger stresses down the line? Is there no such thing as a healthy outlet? It is very important to develop healthy coping skills when life is not so stressful, and not so intense, and not just turn to unhealthy addictive behaviors.
Most of the girls I know are in school getting degrees, working at least one job, balancing volunteer work, and attending shiurim. No, it’s not a walk in the park for them either. However, just imagine what the reaction would be if you heard that a girl you knew was smoking or drinking. It would be a complete scandal, a completely inexcusable and unforgivable behavior.
However, for some reason if it’s a good bochur who is drinking away his bein hazmanim or vaping to relax, we turn a blind eye and give no comment. Why? We as a society have ignored it, and by ignoring it, we have encouraged it more. In fact, we encourage girls to ignore any information that they may have about a potential shidduch’s drinking or smoking habits, because he is a “good bochur.”
Who is the one who is going to deal with the mental, emotional, and health repercussions down the line? The girls who are trying so hard to do the right thing, and get pulled into something without even understanding and realizing.
For the sake of us all, I wish that we, as a global community, would take a step back and decide that no, this behavior is not excusable. No girl wants to marry a boy who will get drunk to relax, and smoke and vape when he feels stressed. For the sake of the future of Klal Yisrael, I wish that everyone would be smart, and think about how their behaviors and decisions are affecting not only them, but their future families as well.
Hoping for change
Our Friend and Mentor [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]
I first met Heshy Hirth in 1993, when my oldest child was six years old and about to enter the Yeshiva Ktana. I liked him immediately. He was charismatic, warm, friendly, and had a smile that lit up the room. He was also, for all his gravitas, unbelievably approachable. And there was absolutely no shtick whatsoever.
For me this was refreshing and reassuring. What most people don’t realize is that a baal teshuvah is an immigrant. And, in a sense, remains one for his or her entire life. We don’t speak the language and are unfamiliar with the customs and rules. We don’t understand the nuances of this new society nor do we comprehend the issues that engage those around us.
Over time we blend in, but at every step of life, we need to learn a new sugya: Raising frum children, dealing with frum teenagers, making weddings, how to be a frum grandparent. And our children’s chinuch! How are we to gauge if it’s adequate? We never experienced any of this growing up, and at each juncture we have to begin learning it from scratch.
Heshy Hirth was an unbelievable friend and mentor in this area. He spent untold hours discussing and counseling baal teshuvah parents about their children. Not for one moment did I ever doubt or have any reservations about handing my children over to his care.
Much has been said about the warmth and menschlichkeit of the Passaic-Clifton community but, in truth, it really came from him. He set the tone. At one point, Passaic-Clifton was about 30 percent baal teshuvah and Heshy was able to knit it all together. Any parent who attended the annual dinner saw firsthand the enthusiasm he had for what he was building and the love and devotion he had for our children.
In addition to the school system he built from scratch, he also built and maintained the mikveh. Two days before Yom Kippur, an email was circulated asking people to bring their own towels to help ease the maintenance of the mikveh. The Hirth family would be sitting shivah and not be available to clean up.
Yehi zichro baruch.
David Baum, Passaic NJ
Shining Lights [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]
The article on Rav Leib Malin ztz”l was excellent. I would like to note one important clarification, regarding the writing and publication of Chiddushei Reb Aryeh Leib.
Before Reb Leib’s petirah, he had written a manuscript of his chiddushim, which was printed posthumously by his nephew Rav Berel Povarsky shlita.
Later, it became known that there was more material, in the form of written shiurim, as well as audio recordings, and Rav Chaim Wysokier ztz”l, who stood at the helm of the yeshivah following Reb Leib’s petirah, wanted these incorporated into a new edition of the sefer. Much of this material was obtained from Rebbetzin Malin a”h.
Rav Wysokier called two outstanding talmidim of Beis Hatalmud — Rav Yisrael Ehrlich shlita and Rav Avraham Bromberg shlita — into his office. He charged Rav Ehrlich with the task of writing the new edition of Chiddushei Reb Aryeh Leib, incorporating the additional material into the original work; and he tasked Rav Bromberg with serving as editor and advisor. In addition, Rav Simcha Zissel Levovitz a”h was the driving force behind bringing Rav Povarsky in from Eretz Yisrael and involving him in the preparation of the project. Rav Povarsky then took the completed manuscript back to Eretz Yisrael and arranged for its publication.
It would be appropriate and important to mention Rav Naftali Kaplan shlita, one of the shining lights of Beis Hatalmud. He was one of the earliest of the American talmidim, along with Rav Mordechai Elefant a”h and Rav Gershon Wiesenfeld a”h. Reb Leib praised Reb Naftali as having “a licht in zein kop — an illuminated mind.”
Reb Naftali later became an outstanding maggid shiur in Kodshim at the yeshivah, greatly impacting the growth of his talmidim and serving as a living example of gadlus in Torah and true nobility of character. He and his children continue to serve integral roles in the yeshivah today.
Thank you again for an excellent and informative piece.
Avinu Malkeinu Strikes a Chord [One of the Flock / Issue 876]
Gedalia Guttentag’s defining moment of the Yamim Noraim, that of hundreds of Jews erupting in singing Avinu Malkeinu in the classic tune, reminded me of an event that happened some years ago.
I was visiting Toronto and bumped into the son of the gabbai of the shul I attended as a child. As a young boy, the gabbai befriended me and we became very close. I wanted to visit him, but his son tried dissuading me by telling me his father had Alzheimer’s and was also unable to communicate with anyone. He was living in a nearby apartment with full-time help. I decided to go and see him anyway and wish him a shanah tovah.
The man was a shadow of his former self. He didn’t recognize me even when I mentioned my name. I tried using word associations but nothing helped. The caregiver commiserated with me but explained that he was in his own world.
Then an idea popped into my head. Since it was the week before Rosh Hashanah, why not sing some tunes from the machzor? Perhaps that might stimulate his memory. I started with a piece from Unesaneh Tokef, but there was no reaction. Then I sang Kol Nidrei. Again, no response. I was about to give up, when I told myself to try one last niggun: I started singing Avinu Malkeinu. At first, there was no reaction. However, when I got to the high part, with the words: “aseh imanu tzedakah v’chesed v’hoshi’einu — treat us with righteousness and kindness and save us” his eyes lit up, he raised his hands, and he belted out the words!
The caregiver couldn’t believe her eyes. Neither could I. Somehow, I had touched a chord. The words that came out of his mouth were from the deep recesses of his neshamah, requesting that Hashem save him along with all of Klal Yisrael who need a yeshuah, a salvation.
May the ultimate yeshuah occur when our heavenly Father and King brings us Mashiach Tzidkeinu, bimeheirah v’yameinu.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 882)
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