"Am I the only one who shrinks to hear fine, frum Jews pontificate in defense of a gun-toting teen for all to hear?"
Crossed the Line [Trial by Media / Issue 887]
Like most of the world, I followed the Kyle Rittenhouse trial proceedings and subsequent acquittal with fascination, and engaged in lively debates about the complex issues that arose from the whole story. Your follow-up interview with Ben Brafman was an informative summary of the legal mechanisms at play, and helped make sense of all the noise that exploded following the conclusion of the trial.
But this case has aspects that remain unaddressed, and there seems to be a real need for clarity among our community.
I think most frum Jews can agree about the importance of right to self-defense, and the possible ramifications of this verdict in other scenarios. But there’s a fine line between expressing relief that Rittenhouse was acquitted, and actually glorifying him and everything about him — his behavior, his motives, and the totally bizarre loophole that rendered his gun possession legal to begin with.
Am I the only one who thinks that too many people I know have crossed that fine line? Am I the only one who shrinks to hear fine, frum Jews pontificate in defense of a gun-toting teen for all to hear, including their very impressionable teenage sons, neighbors, and nephews?
Picture this: If chas v’shalom a scenario like the one that took place in Kenosha came to one of our neighborhoods, and there was a need for civilians to exercise their legal right to protect their properties, livelihoods, and families, who would be the ones we send out to face the rioters? Do any parents in their right mind really think they’d encourage their 17-year-old son to be on the front lines, fully armed, independently facing off with any number of hostile opponents?
(When I asked a very yeshivish friend this question, he said, “What’s the big deal? The IDF is full of 18-year-old kids with guns and they’re protecting a whole country at war.” Okay, buddy, did your son get their training?)
Even more sobering than the previous thought is the whole question of whether a yarmulke-and-tzitzis-wearing kid on the defense stand, with an equivalent legal team and jury, would garner the same consensus and outcome as the one here. Again, we don’t ever want to know the answer to this question, but anyone who’s automatically drawing parallels of “victory for us” is being very naïve to think it’s so straightforward.
Jewish history is full of precedents that support both sides of this argument, and I have no clue what contemporary daas Torah would rule in our generation. But as long as we are dealing with hypothetical scenarios, I think it would behoove us all to dial back our enthused collective infatuation with the extreme-right media narrative (in general, but in this case especially) and pay closer attention to the messages we’re sending to our youth.
Barring any extreme circumstances — of which there are no indications at the moment — it should be clear to every 17-year-old bochur that Kyle Rittenhouse is no hero, and that our bochurim have the opportunity to be heroes in the eyes of their parents and teachers every day, by staying right where they’re supposed to be: behind the walls of home, yeshivah, school, or whatever safe and supervised framework their parents have entrusted them to, and leaving the cops-and-robbers games to the adults.
The True Extent [The Beat / Issue 887]
In this week’s magazine, we were treated to a picture of Rabbi Avrohom Sugarman receiving a coveted MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) award from HRH Prince William for his service to education. For those of us who have never heard of this award (and that includes me), Wikipedia noted that it is conferred to individuals who have made significant “contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service.”
While I doubt any of Mishpacha’s readers were surprised to hear that a frum person was at the forefront of providing chesed to his community, the unusual aspect of this story may have been that his efforts were recognized by the British monarchy.
Overall, it appears that this MBE award is given to over 1,000 UK citizens each year. If the UK monarchy truly appreciated the extent, range, and scope of chesed that is performed daily in virtually every frum community, they would probably be hard pressed to limit this award to 1,000 frum people every year, as there is likely more chesed performed in each of those frum communities than in all other communities combined (and frum Jews make up only approximately 0.079 percent of the UK population).
While we definitely appreciate seeing the frum Jewish community receive some positive press coverage, I am convinced that Rabbi Sugarman, together with all those individuals who are quietly performing chesed every day, are more eager to receive the most coveted award possible, from the One Above, the only true Monarch in the world.
Definitely Cutting Back [Inbox / Issue 887]
I, for one, cannot relate to Aaron Saile’s response to the article “Inflation Nation.” Mr. Saile claims that most frum families aren’t affected by the inflation because of stimulus money and new monthly child care payments, and says that “there would be no logical reason why a monthly inflationary price increase of $175 would cause them to cut back on spending.”
I have a beautiful family of five and bring in $150,000. We got the tax credit, which we use to pay tuition for our most recent addition. Keep in mind that this tax credit is a unique 2021 credit, and the “additional income” will end in just a few months, while inflated prices will not end.
We are not eligible for any sort of food stamps or other programs. Costs have risen in the frum world well beyond $175 a month — gas, haircuts, kosher food, cars, housing and rent, sheitels, etc. However, my salary did not rise. We are most definitely cutting back significantly, and most people I know are doing the same.
There’s a Reason [Inbox / Issue 886]
I’d like to respond to an Inbox letter from a teacher who entreated principals to support their staff.
I have been a principal for many years, and like most principals, I appreciate and support my teachers, seasoned ones and novices alike. Principals need to train their new teachers; they are teaching our students, and we need them desperately. We will advocate for our teachers, and we certainly do not want to throw them under the bus.
The letter writer states “what often happens is that kids act out, parents complain, and suddenly, the person on trial in the classroom is not the child acting out or being chutzpahdig, but the teacher.”
I have worked with many teachers, and in my experience, when a school stops backing a teacher, there are always serious reasons — reasons that other faculty members are not privy to.
So the teacher who left the classroom for an office job because she “didn’t get the help she needed” may actually not have been cut out for teaching. A lawyer who fails his clients by losing case after case should not be a lawyer. A teacher who cannot teach well, understand her students, or carry a class, should not be a teacher. Teachers deal with neshamos and the principals have an achrayus to take care of their students.
Let’s stop bashing schools and principals because we don’t always know the full story.
Such a Great Man [For the Record / Issue 886]
Thank you for devoting an edition of For the Record to Rav Dovid Leibowitz. A number of years ago I heard the following story from Rav Binyamin Kamenetsky ztz”l, the son of Rav Yaakov ztz”l. It gave me insight into Rav Dovid’s greatness.
As soon as Rav Yaakov had moved his family to America, he sent his son Binyamin to learn in Rav Dovid Leibowitz’s yeshivah.
When he arrived, a young Rav Binyamin was taken aback by the very less than adequate material environment and provisions. The beds in the dormitory were literally touching each other side by side because there was almost no extra floor space, and the menu consisted of soup and day-old bread.
Rav Binyamin sent a letter to his father and complained, “For this I could have stayed in Europe.”
Rav Yaakov sent a costly express letter back with the following message: “Rav Dovid is such a great man that if I were a gvir in Europe I would have sent you to America to learn from him.”
Why Only Once a Week? [Made in Heaven / Issue 886]
I would like to respond to Rabbi Shafier’s statement on the importance of a once-weekly “date night.”
I am baruch Hashem married almost 28 years, and I fully agree that couples need to spend time together to maintain a strong connection. However, I believe it needs to be a consistent, day-to-day connection. A date night assumes that we are so busy, we can’t speak to each other — but once a week we will “catch up.”
Around ten years ago, my husband and I were both very busy. We hardly had time to schmooze; we were like ships sailing past each other. At some point, this came to a head, and we realized that we needed to spend more time together.
We came up with the idea of going for a walk every night. Our oldest was old enough to stay home with the younger children, and we thought 20 minutes a day would allow us to connect, while the kids would be okay.
The problem was finding a time that worked. There was really no good time! There was homework, and baths, and the kids needed me the whole night. But as we know and believe in our hearts, our marriage comes first. So we decided we would go right after supper.
When we told our children, they were very upset. They revolted! They followed us on our walks! But after a while, they got used to it — and even came to admire and appreciate the fact that we took time to spend together.
We started this ten years ago, and we continue to walk almost every weeknight. Our daily, consistent check-in has developed a closeness and connection that no words can even describe.
I’d recommend that every couple carve out 20 minutes a day to spend together, without interruptions. And if your children are too small for you to leave the house, you can do what my sister and brother-in-law did. They would close the door to their room after supper and schmooze, and the kids knew that this was their parents’ “kodesh kodoshim” time. No one was allowed to interrupt unless it was a real emergency.
When Humor Causes Pain [The Kichels / Issue 886]
I would like to comment on the topic the Kichels column has recently portrayed: the attempt to buy a home in the Lakewood area.
As someone whose children have been lucky enough to buy inexpensive homes in Lakewood’s surrounding areas, my heart goes out to all those young kollel couples who’ve spent years in crowded basement apartments, and during the last two years have been outbid, out-invested, and basically ousted from the housing market (unless they have wealthy in-laws who are willing to foot the higher bill).
To capitalize on their pain by making “choizek” of their plight is insensitive and distasteful. I know this column is meant for humor and not for chizuk, but I believe this time the humor is just plain sad and aims an arrow at the heart of the many young families looking for the affordable housing that was available to them just a few years ago.
Maybe the Kichels should have avoided this topic as I am sure it is causing pain to others, and I know and trust that would be the last thing they intended to do.
Like a King [Inbox / Issue 886]
I am writing in response to Rabbi Shafier’s comments about hierarchy in marriage.
Rabbi Shafier insinuated that in these times we need to do things differently, even if it’s less than ideal. That concept baffled me. People, circumstances, times, struggles and cultures may have changed. But the way the Ribbono shel Olam designed a marriage to work and function at its best did not.
Having struggled like so many for so many years and having come to a beautiful harmonious marriage “the old-fashioned way,” I feel qualified to speak about this issue. Putting our husbands on a pedestal, giving utmost respect (which all women think they do, but most men admit to feeling disrespected), and most importantly, following the Rambam in his specific guidelines, is a great formula. The Rambam writes (siman chaf) that a woman must respect her husband tremendously and with his fear upon her she should fill his every word. He continues that she should see him as a sar melech, fulfilling all his desires and distancing whatever he dislikes. That is the way of the Jewish marriage and such a marriage is pleasant and praiseworthy.
What is most interesting is that after I implemented this method, my husband and I now have that “best friends” relationship you speak of. There is a misguided notion that this method creates a shmatteh of a wife, and she is resentful, and it doesn’t work. What I (and thousands of other women) found was that when they let go of control, and fully respected and treated their husbands like their melech, only then did it become his utmost desire to complete her happiness (because happiness has to first be created by her, within her) and to want to spend more time with her. As a result, she in turn feels like his queen.
There are many frum certified people that specialize in this training, and having tried so many “conventional” other approaches, I now have a better understanding of why they never worked or helped. Following the Rambam is clearly the only way to achieve this because that’s how Hashem created man and women to become and feel like one.
May all couples experience only harmony and joy.
Mrs. S. Malka
Avoid the Scammers [True Account / Issue 883]
A few weeks ago, you had a true story in your magazine about a scam where the parents got a call saying their son was in jail in Mexico and he could be let out if they sent a bribe of $10,000. According to the story, the scammers were using an AI program that cloned the bochur’s voice and even the cadence of his speech, so when he “confirmed” that he was in jail, it sounded real.
In our family, we have what we call the Seigel family motto, which I won’t disclose here. But I’ve told my kids that if you ever get a call like this, ask the family member ostensibly on the line for the Seigel family motto before agreeing to send any money. Obviously, a scammer or a clone program will not know the answer.
You should pick something for your family motto that can’t be found in a Google search. Examples could be: “The Baal Shem Tov says water is a siman brachah,” or “Who is rich? A person who is happy with his lot.” Or “tracht gut vet zein gut.” Find your own!
This will help you avoid this type of scammer.
Crown Heights, NY
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 888)
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