Why can’t we stop judging others by their outside appearance?
This Should Never Change [Inbox / Issue 886]
With utter disbelief I have read and reread Rabbi Shafier’s response to a letter-writer about hierarchy in marriage.
Moshe emes v’soraso emes! Our heilige Torah is timeless for all generations until Mashiach comes. We get married and continue to be married for the same reason Adam and Chava got married thousands of years ago.
You want a best friend? Go get one and have yourself a party... but that is not what marriage is all about. Yes, v’hu yimshol bach — your husband is your melech and you are his princess! And there is nothing more profound, deep, and more beautiful than a marriage where the husband is the giver, the mashpia, and the wife is the receiver, the mekabel.
Just take one look at the famous Rambam (Hilchos Ishis end of chapter 15) where the Rambam clearly states the exact and explicit forms of respect that a woman has to treat her husband with. The Rambam is the best guidance which every couple should follow and will gain tremendously — guaranteed!
And for all of you out there who are picturing a controlling husband and a victimized wife shackled under her husband’s reign, you can be assured that there is nothing further from the truth than that. A woman who respects her husband and strives to do his will, will live a blissful and peaceful life showered with brachos and menuchas hanefesh. And if she has an objection or difference of opinion, there is definitely a time and place for her to voice it in a respectful manner, stating her opinion while giving her husband the last word. And yes, a husband who is given the proper respect will a hundred times faster listen and respect his wife’s wishes.
Woe to us that we have fallen into the trap of the western democratic ideology! Yes, times have changed but our basic hashkafos should never.
A baffled (woman) reader
Big and Small [Inbox / Issue 886]
Although after I read some of Rabbi Shafier’s columns I’m relieved to be past that early stage of marriage, I always do find myself enlightened by his direct, refreshing, “tzum zach” approach. His response to well-meaning J.F. — who was under the impression that hierarchy in marriage is a Torah ideal — was no less a gainful read.
Rabbi Shafier’s points were spot-on — look at the mefarshim, it’s not so simple what “v’hu yimshol bach” means; Chazal do not encourage autocracy and practically, it just doesn’t work today. I would like to add dimension, meaning, and context to Rabbi Shafier’s response. The phrase “v’hu yimshol bach” is not describing an ideal; it is a temporary, imperfect state, necessary in order to rectify the chet of the eitz hadaas. In fact, the Torah already contains many different halachos and hashkafos designed to sweeten this curse, as the Torah is directed at fixing chet eitz hadas.
But it goes deeper. The historic inequality between genders symbolized a much more catastrophic inequality — that of the feminine aspect of Elokus, Shechinah, the light of Hashem that is in This World — to the masculine aspect of Elokus, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the light of Hashem that is beyond This World. The source of all suffering, pain, and evil is the diminishment of Shechinah.
History is a path that begins with the diminishment of the Shechinah and of the light of Hashem, signified by “v’hu yimshol bach.” It ends with “v’haya bayom hahu… tikri ishi v’lo tikri lie od baali” (Hoshea 2:18); Klal Yisrael, whom the Shechinah dwells upon, will call Hashem by a name signifying equality – ishi — and not one that connotes hierarchy — baali — because the light of the Shechinah will be equal to that of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
As we get closer and closer to this utopian state of being, women become more and more equal to men and people understand the marital bond to be one of equality.
I understand the bossing of husbands by their wives that Rabbi Shafier noted as an expression of women who don’t know how to rise in kedushah. Women who think they need to be small but are in actuality equal, tend to be very frustrated. It takes tremendous wisdom to rise in the right way, and we cannot begin to tap into that wisdom as long as we think we are still supposed to be small.
Two English seforim that deal with this topic are The Moon’s Lost Light by Devorah Fastag, and Circle Arrow Spiral by Miriam Kosman, and Kabbalistic Writings on the Masculine and Feminine by Sarah Yehudit Schneider. Tamar Taback has an online school, thenexus.org, where these teachings are further explored on a practical level.
Why Judge? [Inbox / Issue 886]
In response to all the comments to Rav Shafier’s column regarding the wife’s need to dress up: Why can’t we stop judging others by their outside appearance? So what if so-and-so’s wife dresses fancier than does her neighbor?
We will never be able to understand the reasons behind others’ dress or behavior. Why can’t we try to see through the clothing and see the good within? Let’s not destroy others’ shalom bayis and our own by focusing on the externals.
It reminds me of a story I once read about Rav Aryeh Levin. He met a young man whom he knew and who no longer kept mitzvos. The young man felt uncomfortable in front of such a great tzaddik and apologized for not wearing a kippah.
To which Rav Aryeh replied, “I’m very short, I can’t see the top of your head, I can only reach until your heart.”
Thank you Rav Shafier for your wonderful column, and Mishpacha, for your amazing publication!
Still Spending [Inflation Nation / Issue 886]
Your article “Inflation Nation” paints an inaccurate picture of the impact of inflation on the US (and frum) consumer. The article conveys the incorrect message that consumers are cutting back on spending due to inflation.
This is simply untrue. Commerce Department figures released this past week showed that US retail sales rose 1.7 percent in October, which was higher than expected. In September, retail sales rose 1.4 percent. Americans are still sitting on large amounts of cash due to stimulus payments and reduced spending on travel and entertainment during the pandemic. This has helped to offset the diminished purchasing power of inflation.
Many, if not most, frum families with large numbers of children are receiving new monthly child care payments in excess of the rise in prices due to inflation. If a family is receiving $1,500 a month in enhanced child tax credit payments, there would be no logical reason why a monthly inflationary price increase of $175 would cause them to cut back on spending.
Additionally, the photograph in your article of empty store shelves is unnecessarily alarmist as anyone who goes shopping knows that our store shelves do not look like that.
We live in a hyper-partisan environment where people are sold on stories of doom and gloom for partisan advantage. You owe it to your readers to keep it honest and fair.
Quality Time Sans the Date [Made in Heaven / Issue 886]
I completely agree with Rabbi Shafier that making time to build a connection with your spouse is extremely important, but I think it could put a lot of stress on couples to say that you must go on a date every week, and if not, your marriage may fail. I know at least for me and others, getting kids off of schedule puts a lot of stress and sleep deprivation on the family. I am probably not the only one that the thought of having a babysitter put your kids to sleep once a week is anxiety stirring.
But there are other ways to spend quality time together. Here are some examples:
—If the kids are little: After bedtime, you have a designated in-house date, you play a board game, order takeout...
—If the kids are older and that is too difficult, go out on a date once a month, for example, on Rosh Chodesh.
A date out of the house once a month is a lot more doable and practical than once a week, and the other weeks, couples can take even half an hour to sit down together and talk over a cup of tea (and make it a rule they can’t talk about logistics).
Having a date night game handy will help ensure they are actually having a “date” and not a family meeting. You know those games we played when we were dating? For example, having cards with different questions on them that the other person needs to answer? Play a game like that when you are on your date, and that can help ensure it’s actually a date.
(If not, couples can just spiral into talking about kids and logistics. It’s easy to say go to a restaurant and have a date, but if you are only thinking and talking about your hectic life, that “date” didn’t really build your connection with your spouse).
Uncomfortable Truths [Inbox / Issue 885]
With growing concern, I’m reading the letters arguing with the writer of the column “Made in Heaven,” as well as the well-penned recent “Screenshot” by Shoshana Friedman about finding the right way to broach sensitive topics.
First, please know that there’s a world of readers out there who are greatly appreciating every installment. Rabbi Shafier’s grasp of human nature and relationships is astounding. This column is providing a great springboard for discussion for our extended family, and one of my sisters is tearing out its pages each week to save it for when her teenage girls grow up.
Second, I think the reason many are finding points to disagree with is because this column raises very many uncomfortable truths for them. Perhaps they’d be wise to take that discomfort, and instead of writing letters, channel it into an attempt to improve their marriage, perhaps by having some very honest conversations with their spouse.
Time to Develop [Inbox / Issue 885]
In the correspondence over recent weeks on the topic of bochurim, their pastimes, and the way they spend bein hazmanim, I feel an important point has been missed.
During the zeman, a bochur lives something of an idyllic existence — for good reason. His sole focus is to learn, and he has little responsibility besides this. This is a wonderful setting in which to grow in learning, but it risks leaving other aspects of a bochur’s personality undeveloped.
Bein hazmanim is an opportunity to develop these other aspects of personality, aspects that will prove critical later in life. Through camps and other communal activities, a bochur can develop leadership, organizational, and management skills. In short, he can learn to become a baal achrayus.
This is why a trend away from communal activities and toward road trips ought to be of concern.
Everyone Needs a Break [Inbox / Issue 885]
Dear Former Bochur,
I read your letter regarding bein hazmanim. Your point was that those who had a good, fulfilling zeman — got up on time, learned with a chiyus etc. — will thrive through bein hazmanim by continuing to get up on time and having their usual geshmak learning seder.
I want to challenge your premise. Being a good, fulfilled, even choshuv bochur who enjoys trips and a relaxed schedule during bein hazmanim is not a stirah.
I’m a good boy in a top yeshivah, and, come bein hazmanim, most boys (the majority, really!) do not get up the same time as during the zeman. I’m talking about even those that soared in Torah v’avodah and really learned with a bren. When it comes to bein hazmanim, we boys are just recharging and enjoying Hashem’s scenery a bit, taking hikes through nature, so we may come back with renewed vigor to the new zeman. I’m obviously not talking smoking, drinking, and the like.
I know of many really good boys who, once Nissan comes around, are cleaning cars and batei medrash for Pesach, helping out at home, making orders — things we don’t do during the zeman. Come Tishrei, you’ll find us busy with kapparos, building succahs, etc., doing “big boy” stuff. During Av and Elul, summer break, many bochurim go to mekomos hakedoshim in Eretz Yisrael, the country, enjoy summer activities with family.
Of course, through all this, a bochur definitely opens a sefer with much geshmak when he can. He could even have a designated daily chavrusah or two.
You also write that there are great boys who really are stretching their rigorous zeman schedule into bein hazmanim... I believe you’re talking about malachim. Every human requires a break, each on their own level. There are definitely exceptional illuyim out there, but it’s a blatant exaggeration to state that a boy’s bein hazmanim schedule is the yardstick by which to measure his previous zeman.
My mother always believed in giving us boys a good bein hazmanim to refresh us so we’d have renewed energy to start with a geshmak and cheshek to shteig during the upcoming zeman.
A bochur from yeshivah who’s following the “Bein Hazmanim Crisis”
All We’re Asking [Inbox / Issue 885]
As a second seder shoel u’meishiv, I get a chance to speak to bochurim pretty much daily, and a lot of the bochurim confide in me about their problems.
In his original article, Reb Yisroel Besser was just trying to convey a simple point. He wasn’t writing an article pro bochurim smoking, drinking, or waking up late; all he was saying is that we have to be a little easier on our boys, maybe even try to be dan l’chaf zechus.
As someone in the field, I understand their nisyonos a little deeper. When I know a bochur comes from a very tough home or has been mistreated by a rebbi and then I see him taking a cigarette before shiur, I’m probably not going to say anything.
The Torah says we have to be dan l’chaf zechus. We don’t know the inner turmoil of every teenager, and we can’t understand it in today’s day and age when you can’t walk home from yeshivah without getting hit in the face with taivah on every corner. We can’t fathom the struggles of bochurim.
All we’re asking is to be a bit more understanding. Is that too much to ask?
Don’t Catastrophize [Inbox / Issue 885]
Everyone I know is talking about an inbox letter in this magazine that made a blunt diagnosis: if your son is waking up late and not learning during bein hazmanim, he has a zeman problem.
It’s possible that this is often the case. But to present it as an authoritative, black-and-white formula seems foolish to me. Why? Because I’m a mother of yeshivah bochurim, and I know it just isn’t true.
I have all sorts of sons. A son who has better and worse zmanim, a son who thrives in the beis medrash and who goes back to learn some more after the cholent and after Havdalah and after his bein hazmanim hikes, a son who’s set up his own rigorous learning program in addition to the yeshivah sedorim, and a son who still hasn’t found that magical “click” with his Gemara.
Guess what? Virtually all of my sons have a hard time getting up early during their bein hazmanim vacation.
I come from a home with very disciplined, hard-working parents who wake up very early every day and brook no laziness. But with time, I have come to understand that bochurim who have a hard time parting from their pillows don’t have a moral flaw. They don’t necessarily have a “zeman problem” either. They just have a hard time waking up early.
Let’s not conflate these two things. Let’s allow our teens to be teens. Let’s not diagnose end-stage spiritual “cancer” for a bochur who just needs a break before diving back into a full zeman of three sedorim a day. Let’s refrain from condemning those boys who benefit from a change of pace and some intense basketball sessions after an exhilaratingly challenging, or just average, or even a rough zeman. Let’s not catastrophize a very common and human trend and see it as a reason to write off a bochur, a zeman, or an entire system.
A mother who knows
Proud and Humbled [A Yeshivah Bochur Like No Other / Issue 883]
Shloimy Hoffman’s feature on Al Moskowitz was not just a profile of a magnificent person, but also magnificently written. To convey to the readers what was so important to the subject so that it jumped off the page into our hearts is not a simple feat.
I didn’t know Al Moskowitz, though I’ve heard about him over the past 30 years from my brothers in yeshivah, but one thing is clear after reading about him: He recognized what many of us seem to overlook and that is that yeshivah bochurim are the future of our People, and the yeshivos which educate them are the foundation of our Nation. Mr. Moskowitz saw that these are the elite, and he acted accordingly. He could have invested in biochemistry, the atmosphere, research of any kind, but he chose Torah and those who make Torah their lives as the place to earn eternal dividends.
I am proud and humbled to be part of a nation that can produce an Al Moskowitz a”h. Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu. Thank you for a beautiful article, and I look forward to seeing more from this masterful writer.
Where Credit is Due [Inbox / Issue 881]
My family has a decades-long relationship with Mrs. L. Neuman and her family. Friendship notwithstanding, I am compelled to point to a significant error in her recent letter (Kashrus Pioneer, Issue 881).
Mrs. Newman writes about her illustrious grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Hersch Kohn, who certified Maxwell House coffee for Pesach starting in 1923. While she is correct in noting Rabbi Kohn’s seminal role in American kashrus supervision, she errs in stating: “After selling his kosher certification business to the Levy family (which evolved into Circle K supervision), he went back to Jerusalem and stayed there until he was niftar.”
Yes, before Rabbi Kohn made aliyah in 1964, he did sell his supervision service to Rabbi Berel Levy. And yes, Rabbi Levy did purchase the Organized Kashruth Laboratories (the OK or Circle K). However, the two events have no connection.
The OK was begun by my great-grandfather and namesake, Abraham Goldstein. After starting the OU’s kosher supervision division in the early 1920s, Abraham left and founded the OK Labs, circa 1934. Upon his passing, his son (my grandfather) George ran the OK until 1968, when he sold the company to Rabbi Levy.
Rabbi Levy, who had been active in Torah Umesorah and other Jewish education endeavors, forayed into kosher supervision in the mid-1960s. When Rabbi Kohn decided to make aliyah, Rabbi Levy bought his hechsher. And therefore, it is fair to say that Rabbi Kohn enabled Rabbi Levy’s early experience in kashrus, helping pave the way for his purchase of the OK. However, again, Rabbi Kohn had no ownership stake in the OK; that sale was made directly by George Goldstein to Berel Levy.
Importantly, all these gentlemen played significant roles in bringing kosher food to the American Jewish public, a fact in which both the Goldstein and Neuman families can take enormous pride.
Avi Goldstein, Far Rockaway, NY
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 887)
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