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Inbox: Issue 885

"She and her friends would wish each other, 'May the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim be an easy one for you'"


Denying Biology [Outlook / Issue 884]

Rabbi Rosenblum’s comment that “men and women have been turned into two suspicious, warring camps” is the outcome of a women’s movement that was formed to address abuse and injustices that morphed into an unnatural divide. It has almost been forgotten that almost every man had a living mother and that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” as William Ross Wallace put it.

Unfortunately, revolutions and movements have an aversion to success and closing up shop. The original goals are often forgotten in the quest to remain relevant and to stay in business. As a result, their complaints and demands grow more and more radical — even to the detriment of the people whom they are purported to help.

It was just after the 2020 election and I was at a nail salon. The women were discussing the election. One young lady, a properly brainwashed college student, said that she was happy that Kamala Harris, a woman, had finally become vice president.

Naturally, I did not agree. So I asked her if she would prefer to work for a man or a woman. She answered honestly that she would rather work for a man. To my surprise, the very diverse group of female customers and staff all agreed: They would rather work for a man than a woman. So much for evil men.

This question, whenever it’s repeated, is still getting the same answer, and I get some interesting insights along the way. For example: If you are stopped by a female cop, there is no way you’ll explain your way out of a ticket. If you can’t hand in your paper on time, and your professor is a woman, forget about getting an extension.

The unhappiness of women, even very successful women, and the social chaos we are experiencing, is due to the denial of creation and basic biology, body, and mind. Women want to be cherished and have an instinct to nurture. Trading in family life for an impressive career does not satisfy the basic nature of a woman. And instead of acknowledging taking a wrong turn — a difficult admission — the women’s movement has gotten more strident and unforgiving.

“L’mishpachosam, l’veis avosam” — we are a nation of families, a patriarchal society. This has been the blueprint for our individual and collective happiness.

Rivka Frankel


Clear and Present Danger [Inbox / Issue 884]

I am disappointed at the decision of Mishpacha to print a letter lauding smoking as “a cause for simchah.” Based on my more than 40-year involvement with cancer research, I think it is clear that smoking is more than a “potential danger” both to the smoker and to those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, including spouses and children.

One of the bedrock principles of halachah is v’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem. For yeshivah bochurim to be encouraged to begin a lifelong habit of smoking is shameful. The financial costs and lack of responsibility should be noted and avoided. Yeshivah rebbeim should enforce policies of no smoking and responsible drinking for the good of Klal Yisrael. The weakness of character demonstrated by a need for tobacco or alcohol is not a positive shidduch quality.

David E. Maslow, Ph.D.



Not the Same Club [Inbox / Issue 884]

I’d like to respond to a letter writer who claimed that the bochurim who take care of their health (by avoiding smoking and drinking) are the ones doing side things, while the vaping, smoking, or drinking bochurim are the ones who stay in the beis medrash until 12.

In my yeshivah, members of the “smokers’ club” and the “beis medrash club” are not the same people at all. To be precise, the people with side interests in addition to learning are the ones who feel most stressed and need to “air out.” Not only does the vaping, smoking, and drinking damage their physical bodies, it creates a negative ruach that takes away from their learning and compounds their need for “airing out.”

So while bochurim definitely need to have outlets, that is in no way a defense for bochurim to vape, smoke, or drink.

A concerned bochur


Not a Bein Hazmanim Problem [Inbox / Issue 884]

I’ve read with great interest the recent debate in these pages regarding the amount of leeway society should grant yeshivah bochurim who need to unwind during bein hazmanim. While many valid and interesting points have been made, the entire discussion is based on a false premise.

We have created this fiction that yeshivah bochurim are just so overwhelmed from all their hard work in yeshivah and thus react in a certain way during the few weeks of vacation. And we then debate which activities are okay and which are over the line. But here’s the inconvenient truth: There are no such bochurim.

Perhaps we just don’t want to admit this publicly, but every former and current yeshivah bochur knows this to be true. Or at least they should. If a yeshivah boy is waking up at 10 a.m. during bein hazmanim, it’s not because he’s burned out from waking up at 6 a.m. the whole zeman. It’s precisely because he didn’t wake up at 6 a.m. the whole zeman. He feels a void in his life. Another zeman has passed and he feels no sense of accomplishment. He has nothing to wake up for in the morning and therefore has trouble getting out of bed.

Why do you think those same bochurim also tend to be the ones who come up with all kinds of justification to leave the zeman early? I assure you it’s not because they just learned so much this past year and are simply about to crack if they learn a little more. It’s because they’re bored and feel empty. They need a change of scenery. Let’s not kid ourselves here.

You want to know where you can find the bochur who learned and accomplished this past zeman? Go to your local beis medrash during bein hazmanim. You’ll find him there. You won’t find him at the 10:30 Shacharis minyan. When a boy loves learning, and feels accomplished in his learning, he continues to learn when he leaves the walls of yeshivah and he doesn’t act up on bein hazmanim trips.

If your son is home and you don’t see him crack open a Gemara, he does not have a bein hazmanim problem. He has a zeman problem.

Girls, if you want a boy who wants to be moser nefesh to build a kollel home with a true foundation of learning, find the boy who doesn’t make excuses for why he needs a break from his work while you don’t seem to need the same break for yours. Those boys exist. Do not fall for the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Parents, if you’re worried about a son who’s doing nothing over bein hazmanim, don’t listen to those who reassure you that everything is okay and that this is perfectly acceptable behavior. Trust your instincts.

A former yeshivah bochur


Sharp and Clear [Brilliant Mind, Golden Heart / Issue 883]

It’s always a sad event when one’s beloved rebbi passes away. I therefore greatly appreciate the memories shared by Rav Tendler’s granddaughter.

I personally found out about Rav Tendler’s passing quite by accident, and I burst into tears on the spot. Even though I was in his shiur for only one year, we established a relationship that lasted many years.

I had a lot of personal zechus avos in my relationship with Rav Tendler, since my grandfather, Dr. Samuel “Shabbos” Friedman, had been Rav Moshe Feinstein’s doctor for many years. I’m not on the proper level as a talmid to analyze his derech halimud, but I can say that his shiurim were interesting and insightful, sharp, clear, and organized. We sat and listened with rapt attention.

Perhaps a peak milestone occurred when, decades later, I held a siyum in my first-grade class here in the Chofetz Chaim cheder in Yerushalayim, where his great-grandson was then a student. Rav Tendler was here at the time and honored our siyum with his presence. My rebbi was thrilled and shone from nachas to see me teaching his progeny. He humbly spoke to the class on their level, and stayed to dance and celebrate with us. What a memorable experience that was for all of us!

As a historical aside, when Rabbi Meir Kahane was incarcerated, Rav Tendler testified to a New York court so he could obtain kosher food in jail. The rebbi took four talmidim with him (I remember that one was Rabbi Menachem “Marty” Gold). There in the courtroom, Rav Tendler was at his best, explaining the reasons for and background of the kashrus laws, and the necessity for a Jew to eat only kosher food. After he quoted a certain Chazal, the obviously well-read judge asked him, “Is that the Jerusalem Talmud or the Babylonian one?”

Yehi zichro baruch and may he be a meilitz yosher for his family, and many admiring talmidim.

His loving talmid,

Rabbi Isamar Friedman


Say It Like It Is [Made in Heaven / Issue 883]

I want to comment on the recent “Made in Heaven” column in which a husband questioned the amount of time his wife spent on her looks.

While it is true that men need to understand that women assign different levels of importance to their appearance, the question seemed to clearly describe a young lady who was definitely spending more time and energy than necessary.

We are way too absorbed in gashmiyus as a generation, and while caring about appearance and dressing our children nicely is important, it has been taken to the next level. Children need to look like they stepped out of a catalogue and houses need to be designed like the pictures in magazines (yours included).

This doesn’t jibe with a Torah lifestyle, especially not a kollel lifestyle, and is creating even more stress on our finances. We need to say it the way it is and not dance around it. Let’s not normalize behavior such as spending excessive time on sheitels and clothing. Please.

M. P.

Rabbi Shafier responds:

I could not agree more that runaway materialism has become a significant problem and is something our community must deal with.

That being said, this particular question was asked by a husband about his wife. His job in the marriage isn’t to be her teacher, rebbi, or mashgiach; his role is to be a support and a friend.

While it may sound noble to aspire for a simple lifestyle, it’s less impressive when you’re doing so on your spouse’s account. This woman’s challenge may be materialism, but her husband’s challenge is tolerance. It’s easy for him to resist the pull toward nice clothing and fashionable trappings, but for his wife it certainly isn’t.

As Reb Yisrael Salanter famously said, “Yenem’s gashmiyus iz meine ruchniyus” — my spiritual obligation is to take responsibility for another’s physical needs. So while I could not agree more that from a klal perspective it would be wise for us to pull back from our focus on clothing and sheitels, from the husband’s perspective, this is not his job as a spouse.


The Degree Advantage [Works for Me / Issue 883]

I am writing to comment on last week’s “Works for Me” article by Shaina Keren. Ms. Keren listed many occupations that require a college degree. However, she left out one profession that is very important in the frum community: education.

There are many yeshivos in which one can teach both limudei kodesh and limudei chol without a degree. However, young women and some young men as well who do earn a bachelor’s degree, and possibly a master’s degree, earn a great deal more than those without a degree. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees open up possibilities for positions in government education programs, or in providing services to the special-needs population, for which those without degrees are not eligible. The degree surely gives them an advantage in covering a family’s expenses and supporting a husband who is learning.

Moreover, a teacher with a degree who has taken courses in education comes into the classroom with the knowledge and skills needed to give children the best possible education and a positive, enjoyable experience. Having knowledge and skills makes all the difference in the world.

Young people have to enjoy whatever profession they choose. If a young person enjoys working with children, a degree in education is something to consider.

Margie Nussbaum


Create the Right Culture [School of Hard Knocks / Double Take — Issue 883]

I read with interest the responses to the first-year teacher who chose to leave her difficult classroom. The responses about the importance of sticking to one’s commitment, showing tenacity even through challenge, and pushing through were all reasonable and predictable, but there’s one side that hasn’t been explored yet.

At the end of the day, the school was missing a teacher! Perhaps it’s time for school administrations to take a deep, hard look at this problem that is not limited to this particular story, but growing in various locations in the frum world.

While it’s true that this teacher should have stuck it out and upheld her commitment, where was the school administration when all this was going on, and how much time and energy was being actively devoted to dealing with it? Did any high-level administrator actively and unambiguously create a culture of no tolerance for inappropriate, chutzpadig, and unreasonable behavior? Was there a clear attitude coming from the top down about what was acceptable in the classroom? It’s hard to tell from the initial article.

It’s time to stop bemoaning and complaining about the teacher shortage in many areas. Teachers want to teach! But it’s up to administrators, boards, parents, and all stakeholders to create a culture in which teachers can teach, to convey a very clear message from the top down about what kinds of atmospheres are acceptable inside classrooms, and to give ongoing, and yes, time-consuming support to make it happen so that our children have teachers in their classrooms.

Please don’t drive out more teachers like Simi from the classroom! Create a work culture and environment in which she can do what she wanted to do. We need teachers to stay, and it’s in everyone’s best interests that administrators and schools create environments in which teachers don’t just survive, but thrive, so they can continue to educate and inspire our children.

With gratitude to our teachers who are doing what no one else can do, and hoping that our children’s excellent teachers continue to be supported in all of their incredible efforts,

A Parent


There to Lend a Hand [Walking Mom and Dad Home / Issue 882]

Years ago, when my doctor, Dr. Murray Wertzberger, and I were both juggling caring for an elderly parent as well as raising children, he referred to the sandwich generation as the “hero sandwich generation.” So true!

To all you heroes out there, end-of-life doulas are trained to give you a hand when the going gets especially rough. They can come on board during hospice care or even beforehand to facilitate legacy work on behalf of your parent. They can spend time simply listening or assisting in the creation of a photo album, a letter, a recording — whatever would be meaningful. Ultimately they are there to soothe both a patient and their caregivers as they approach their last months.

Once, birth doulas were a new and fascinating addition to comfort a patient during her transition to motherhood. Now they are ubiquitous at almost all births. Let us hope that end-of-life doulas eventually get the same reception so that they can assist families at this overwhelming and vulnerable time of transition as well.

Chanie Mandel, Birth Doula and End-of-Life Doula


Valuable Resource [Walking Mom and Dad Home / Issue 882]

Barbara Bensoussan recently wrote a most informative, engaging piece, “Walking Mom — and Dad — Home.”

The title of her article immediately brought to mind a fabulous book, Walking Mom Home: Sharing the Blessings of this Life’s Final Journey, written by Miriam Milhauser Castle, which was enormously helpful to me personally. This book addresses the next stage in a most sensitive, moving fashion. The author wrote this book in collaboration with her mother, during the last stage of her mother’s life. Accompanying our loved ones to the end, watching loved ones fade away, can be emotionally draining, to say the least. I’m forever grateful to Miriam for helping me along that journey.

A very learned, special woman, a Yerushalmi, shared with me that she and her friends would wish each other, “May the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim be an easy one for you.” Amen, kein yehi ratzon, I would answer on behalf of all.

It’s an enormous mitzvah to care for our loved ones during their senior years. May it bring huge merit.

Miriam Liebermann


Why So Holy? [Walking Mom and Dad Home / Issue 882]

I would just like to add my opinion to your latest article about caring for aging parents. As an elderly father’s only daughter who has taken responsibility for his care now that he has dementia, I totally connected to it.

I have quite a few brothers. They would be happy to put my father in a home and shut the door. They don’t even come to visit any more. Their wives are “only daughters-in-law,” so they have an excuse not to help out.

Do you have any idea how it feels not to go to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, any idea how I long to hear and answer to just one Kedushah and Kaddish?

I know, it’s a mitzvah I am doing, and I do it with love. This is what Hashem wants, so I will do it until He is ready for me to go back to shul again.

We are Yidden who do mitzvos. One of them is kibbud av v’eim. I don’t appreciate when people think I am so holy for doing the ratzon Hashem. They don’t tell me what a zechus it is to light Shabbos candles and make challah.

Yes, I live a life of a “seven-layer cake.” I baruch Hashem have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also baruch Hashem have a job and a father. Like I say, when I was a baby, they didn’t put me away, I don’t feel it’s right to put him away now when he is fragile.

I am blessed with a husband who went through the same thing with his father and he is very helpful and there for me and my father. Without that, I definitely would not be able to manage on my own.

I hope Hashem helps me to continue to take care of my father until I (we) can’t. At least until then, I know that I’m doing my best and will be able to face my parents in the Olam HaEmes.

A loving, caring daughter


Playground in Passing [For the Record / Issue 881]

Out of the thousands of students of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School (RJJ) who walked (or ran) past the “Captain Jacob Joseph Playground” on their way to and from the subway, I doubt there have been more than a handful who knew the name or story behind this historic site.

In the name of all my former schoolmates, I thank Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier for enlightening us. In our defense, most of us would walk an extra block to Hester Park during our one-hour lunch break, where we would play punchball or football, and occasionally fight off the Puerto Rican gangs. Such wonderful memories!

Rabbi Joshua Schonbrun

Kew Gardens, New York


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 885)

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