"I will tell you a reason why some women work so hard on their appearance. They feel it is a crucial component in ensuring the stability of their marriages"
A Second Branch [Inbox / Issue 889]
I enjoyed Eli Blum’s Inbox letter last week. Instead of just talking about the housing crisis, he had a creative solution!
I don’t think BMG picking up and moving is practical, for many reasons, but I do think it might be a good idea for them to open a second branch outside of Lakewood. This would give so many yeshivish people wanting to buy a house another solid place to move.
Let Him Pay [Yiddishe Gelt / Issue 888]
I didn’t get a chance to share my opinion when the Yiddishe Gelt conversation was going strong. But this week when I noticed that the conversation has picked up again, I decided to finally share my two cents (pun intended).
Am I the only one who’s uncomfortable with the direction this conversation is taking?
Here’s why I think something’s off: Our purposes in This World is to do the will of our Creator. Period. And everything we do is directed at achieving our ultimate purpose. (At least that’s the way it should be!)
With this outlook in life, let’s reevaluate the Yiddishe Gelt conversation. Why do we have all these crazy expenses? Simple. Because we are fulfilling ratzon Hashem.
That’s why we pay skyrocketing tuition. That’s why we send our kids to camp. That’s why our grocery bills are astronomical. That’s why our tzniyusdig clothing (as opposed to off the rack from Target) comes with a hefty price tag, etc.
Hashem’s pockets are infinitely deep. When we budget and calculate and count our pennies, we are blocking His shefa.
We need to do our thing, and let Hashem do His. We do ratzon Hashem, and Hashem grants us the means to cover those expenses. When we do Hashem’s will, He foots the bill. And He doesn’t need our help, input, or budgeting advice to “make it work”!
Life experience has shown that adopting this mindset and strengthening our emunah in this area is key.
Do try this at home!
With much appreciation for an amazing magazine,
H. M., New Jersey
Snoring Solution [Made in Heaven / Issue 888]
We buy and read your magazine each week; it really enhances the Shabbos, especially for the teens and young people in our house.
About the shalom bayis question with the husband who put on weight and has a snoring issue, and it disturbs his wife, I am sure that my husband can empathize with her. In our case it is I, the wife, who snores. I come from a family of snorers.
Some of my children snore and with experience the only way to stop or reduce the snoring is to keep the sinuses clear and healthy. It is not directly related to weight gain.
Using Neil Med sinus rinse twice a day to flush the nose with a saline solution, and follow that up with a low-dose steroid nose spray (may have to get it on prescription, depends on your country and pharmacy). The two together can keep the sinuses nice and clear and therefore the noisy sleeper can more easily breathe through his or her nose and try and sleep quietly.
Anonymous for my family’s sake, Europe
You’re Enabling His Behavior [Charitable Allowance / Double Take — Issue 888]
I’d like to address my letter to Basya, the wife in the Double Take story whose husband arranged a family trip to Israel while accepting tzedakah money.
Dear Basya, did it ever occur to you that you are enabling pathologically irresponsible behavior from your husband? How you are being “judged” by others is probably the least of your problems.
Your main problem is that you are married to a child, not to a man. Someone who won’t hold down a job and is busy with “ventures” while his family is drowning. Someone whose pride and “feelings” come before the well-being of those he is responsible for. Someone who will splurge your inheritance on a luxury trip to Israel instead of using the money to help you get out of the hole you are in.
Hiding behind holy ideals like shalom bayis and family time doesn’t change the reality. I’m sorry to say it, but your life is a mess.
Give Without Judging [Charitable Allowance / Double Take — Issue 888]
My family has been on the receiving end for years. The Double Take story about people judging a family on the receiving end just highlights a small aspect of our judgmental world. This is for sure not what Hashem created tzedakah for.
I have had family simchahs ruined by unsolicited advice. I’ve had people conditioning their help on controlling which hall I could use. I got comments on how could it be that everyone looked so good if I used other people’s money. I’ve had people from the community go over a list of everything I spent. I have won a sheitel in a raffle and gotten comments from people to the effect of “wow, you got fancy.”
I no longer take money from anyone who will tell me how to spend my money. I do my own solicitation and will never take money if there are strings attached.
When one has to be on the receiving end, it’s hard enough. Our kids need to feel accepted by their peer group and sometimes we need to buy things or go places just to feel normal. It’s time people stop judging others. Be happy you have money; I am sure you wouldn’t want to change places.
Most people who get tzedakah ask their rav sh’eilos how they can spend the money. I wish people who have money would learn the halachos of tzedakah before judging others.
Childhood Mentors [A Letter to Our Teachers / Open Mic — Issue 888]
Thank you for the beautiful letter written by Rabbi Danishevsky in which he thanked teachers for the vital role they play in their students’ lives. It was a very encouraging and validating read for me, both as a teacher, and also as a student who once upon a time was nourished by her own teachers.
I have much hakaras hatov to the special teachers of Bais Yaakov Baltimore for teaching me with love and warmth, under the guidance of Rabbi Diskind, Rabbi Freedman, and Rabbi Steinberg, zichronam livrachah, who embodied the dictum of treating one’s student with greater respect than that of his own.
Perhaps it is because of the nurturing I received as a young child, after the death of my father, that I bring that to my own classroom. Perhaps it’s because I internalized the message of how much of a difference a positive role model can make in a child’s life, especially at a young age. That said, teaching is not for the faint of heart. It is, as a gadol said, dinei nefashos.
It is imperative that every mechanech view his student as a unique individual with a specific role to play on this earth, despite his challenges, difficult as they may be, and never to forget that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim.
Wishing continued hatzlachah to those dedicated to this avodas hakodesh, and encouraging people who really want to make a difference in this world to come join the holy and noble world of chinuch.
Changing Neighborhood [When Zaidy Was No Longer Young / Issue 888]
It was a pleasure to read your highly detailed report on the Home of the Daughters of Jacob. Many times in the course of my work, I’ve traveled past its Bronx facility, not realizing that this palatial structure was designed by a Jewish architect for a Jewish organization.
After reading the story, I visited the senior home at 1201 Findlay Avenue for a closer look. There in the South Bronx, the Jewish star unexpectedly appears atop the cupola and the gates. Across the street, an expansion completed in the 1970s carries the name Weinstein-Ratner House.
A New York Times report from 1973 noted the changing demographics of the neighborhood, and the senior home’s insistence on staying put, keeping kosher, and serving as “an opportunity to revive and hold the neighborhood together.”
But the story also noted its nonsectarian admissions policy. Within that decade, the federal government began subsidizing this home as the South Bronx was burning and its once-visible Jewish presence faded away.
In many of the city’s declining Jewish neighborhoods, the elderly are often the last to leave. My grandparents lived in a senior home in downtown Flushing, which was built for Jews, but also had a subsidized nonsectarian admissions policy. As the neighborhood changed, fewer Jews applied to live in their home. With my friends, I walked an hour each Shabbos to lein the parshah and keep their minyan active.
We must never forget to take care of our geographically isolated seniors, as their homes were built with the support of our esteemed rabbanim and baalei tzedakah.
My Own Circle of Miracles [Forever Grateful / Issue 888]
I was really moved reading the “Circle of Miracles” feature. Not only did I know many of the people mentioned involved in the miraculous stories, but they also brought to mind my miracle of surviving a deadly car crash 11 years ago.
It was around 6 a.m., and I was on my way to the hospital as a nurse on a pediatric unit in a major New York hospital. A truck hit the rear of my car, and I lost full control of the car. The brakes and steering wheel would not work.
I spun multiple times across four lanes of I-95 and went headfirst into the guardrail of the highway. The cars behind me saw me spinning and stopped to give me space. All the windows smashed into smithereens and the air bags inflated. I was awake the entire time thinking my life was over, then and there.
Some kind onlooker got out of his car to ask if I was okay and told me to exit my car. I walked out without a scratch. My car was completely totaled, and I was whisked away by ambulance in a C-collar. Aside from muscle pain the following days and psychological trauma requiring EMDR therapy months later, I was alive. Bentshing gomel was extremely emotional. I am so grateful to be alive.
Shevi Rosner, Clifton NJ
Explosion of Gratitude [Forever Grateful / Issue 888]
I was pleasantly surprised to see the article about the 18th Avenue explosion in your Chanukah issue. It is a day that I will never forget. Yanky “Ziggy” Zagelbaum and I both experienced nissim there on that day.
At the outset, I’d be remiss not to mention that propane tanks are highly combustible and can only be safely stored outside. They should never be stored indoors or in an enclosed area such as a garage, shed, or basement.
As an interior designer with a specialty in kitchen and bath design, I was hired by Ziggy and his partner Benjamin — two of the nicest people I’ve ever worked for — approximately nine months before the explosion. My job was to outfit the empty second floor into a showroom and run it.
A few months later, I hired my good friend Chaya to start a tile department. She came in early to open, and I stayed late to close the showroom.
The day before the explosion we had a meeting with a kitchen cabinet salesman, and decided to put a few sample doors on display. Chaya was to look at them in their factory at 9 a.m. the next morning, the only time he had available.
That Tuesday was going to be the first time that I would be coming in early to open the showroom. As a night owl, my friends all know that I have problems going anywhere early. Chaya joked to me, “Chevy, for once in your life, try to be on time tomorrow.”
At 5 a.m. that morning, I was jerked awake by a dream. My grandmother, Rebbetzin Yocheved Rivka Twerski Halberstam, was warning me of something in a very excitable Yiddish. I couldn’t understand what she was saying and fell back into a disturbed sleep. However, I was ready to arrive on time for the opening.
My husband had left early to meet his mother in the city for some medical tests until his sister could relieve him. My mother-in-law had gone through the war with three small children, escaping to Shanghai along with the Mirrer Yeshivah. It was a traumatic time for her, and since then she has never gone to or been left alone in a doctor’s office.
So you can imagine my surprise when just as I left my home, my husband pulled into our driveway, blocking me. It was the first anomaly of the morning, but apparently my mother-in-law had sent him back to Brooklyn, insisting that she was fine on her own and could wait alone for her daughter to arrive. That had never happened before or since.
That whole episode put me ten minutes behind schedule. But it didn’t end there. If there is a term for the opposite of “kefitzas haderech,” then that’s what I experienced driving to work. Every light turned red before I got to it. On 53rd Street, I was stopped by a garbage truck picking up a mountain of garbage. The car behind me wouldn’t back out, and it seemed like a conspiracy to make me late. Of course, finding a parking spot also took longer than usual. I was now 40 minutes late.
In your article, Ziggy said his partner Benjamin was not there, as he had gone to the grocery. That may be, but Hashem put him back where I needed him to be. As I rushed toward the building, Benjamin appeared and stopped me.
“Chevy, don’t go in yet,” he said. “Someone dropped a propane tank into the basement and it smells inside.”
Less than 15 seconds later, the building exploded in front of us. We were standing in front of a car service whose storefront was all glass. We both saw thousands of shards of glass flying toward us, and we ran for our lives. Baruch Hashem, we walked away without a scratch.
I was not the only one experiencing a neis that day. Our downstairs receptionist, Nofia, had gone to the airport to pick up her future in-laws. She was mistaken. They were coming in the following day. But her mistake saved her life. Mrs S., an expectant mother of six, had left the adjoining building five minutes before to take her children to day camp. The building came down with the explosion.
I’m sure there were others who were likely saved as well.
Windows were blown out in the entire vicinity around the blast, with one notable exception. Immediately behind our building were the offices of the “Torah Tape Library,” a free tape lending library run by Reb Meir Apfelbaum a”h. Inexplicably, not one window was shattered there, nor was a single tape knocked to the floor.
The next few days were chaotic and unreal. As his frum coworkers, Chaya and I represented the company by going to a funeral chapel to pay our respects to a Pakistani coworker who was killed. It was the last time that I hope to attend an open casket funeral.
I struggled for weeks with guilt, trying to understand why I was saved when others were not. It was pointed out to me that I was an only child with two sick elderly parents to take care of. That doesn’t negate the gratitude of knowing that I had an open miracle performed for me. It changed my perception forever. I don’t recite Modim the same way since then. It’s a very humbling experience to have Hashem perform a neis for you.
There is now a large supermarket in the area of the explosion. If I pass the site and it’s been more than 30 days since I’ve been there, I recite she’asah li neis bamakom hazeh.
Transfer of Power [At His Rebbi’s Command / Issue 887]
The article “At His Rebbi’s Command” by Chaim Hager was a wonderful read. It was an interview with Rabbi Wolf about his inside view of his great rebbi, Rav Shach ztz”l, in honor of his 20th yahrtzeit.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the article and learned some new things from it, there was one thing that I would like to take issue with. In the closing paragraph of the article, the author wrote, “While there have been other gedolim who have filled the slot of ‘gadol hador’ over the last 20 years, none of them were appointed successors; such an idea would have been anathema to the Rosh Yeshivah.”
I respectfully beg to differ.
In the days before Rav Shach himself stepped away from public view due to his ill health, he made the (now) famous trip to Yerushalayim to the home of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv to personally hand over to him the “mantle of leadership” (these were his own words).
I know this not from the many biographies of Rav Elyashiv that mention this historical visit (some incorrectly), but from a bird’s-eye view of the visit.
Upon hearing that the gadol hador was on his way to Yerushalayim for this historic visit, my friend and I headed over to the house to try to gain access to view the exchange between these two Torah giants. We were allowed access to the house, but denied entry into the actual room where the discussion took place. However, one of the people who was present in the room at that time, shared with us the dialogue. That person was none other than Rebbetzin Elyashiv herself.
When Rav Shach attempted to “pass the torch” of the leadership of the Torah world to Rav Elyashiv, explaining that he no longer had the strength to lead, Rav Elyashiv begged off and said that he was not “ra’ui” (worthy) of it, suggesting that the position be given instead to Rav Aharon Leib Steinman. Rav Shach would not give in, though, and what resulted was some form of shared leadership roles between Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman.
As a matter of fact, from then on, when we presented certain “communal issue” sh’eilos that were not halachic issues per se, Rav Elyashiv would tell us to present the questions to Rav Steinman (something that we had never heard from him before).
Thank you for this wonderful and inspiring article.
Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Zev Ginzberg
Crucial Component [Inbox / Issue 885]
Kudos to Rabbi Shafier for responding to the “24-year-old young man married for three years” complaining about his wife’s lack of ruchniyus because she spends, in his opinion, an inordinate amount of time and energy on her appearance and on the appearance of her children. Rabbi Shafier discusses the issue of “mind blindness.”
I was dismayed to read the response of Elisheva Appel the following week. How does she have the right to say “with 100 percent certainty that the wife is not safeguarding the sanctity of her marriage by expending effort to match her daughters’ socks and headbands… I actually think that linking tzniyus with a specific, highly polished look is a terrible disservice we do for our girls…”
Is this daas Torah? Did you take a poll? Did you ask therapists and or attorneys who listen to the voices of sadness from our frum young women who do everything they can to make their husbands happy and then are still criticized?
I will tell you a reason why some women work so hard on their appearance. They feel it is a crucial component in ensuring the stability of their marriages.
I went to law school in Miami, worked as an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Florida, and then in New York as a criminal defense attorney for Legal Aid in Manhattan and the Bronx. I thought that after so many years, I had seen so many forms of violence, stabbings, drugs, alcoholism, etc.
But nothing quite prepared me for the voices of the frum women who came for help when I founded a not-for-profit organization to represent women in beis din. Nothing prepared me for the voices of anguish, pain, and suffering of the women who came to my office to help with issues of their domestic abuse.
These women were beautiful, elegant, and tzniyus in every way. Some worked all day, took care of many little ones, baked challah, and prepared beautiful Shabbos meals, but their husbands didn’t appreciate and compliment them. These women told me of waiting every Shabbos morning for their husbands to come back from shul.
Where were their husbands? They were making their way from kiddush clubs to “kiddush hopping” and would finally come home hours later, so smashed that they never even sat at the table.
So many women told me that they had gone to ask for help and were told, “look better, make yourself more attractive, and if you don’t look beautiful to your husband, of course he won’t come home.”
Ms. Appel, you state that based on your Bais Yaakov friend’s example of “28 first-graders giving compliments focused on external aspects… that it is a trap.” Really, why don’t you ask 28 young women from various seminaries as to what they think tzniyus means, and then go to the shadchanim of today and ask them what is considered an easy shidduch for them to make?
I have asked them. The first qualification is money and how much support the bochurim will be getting. Then is the size of the prospective girl…a 2, 4, preferably a 0, and then, of course, comes the photo, for which girls are encouraged to spend a day with hairdressers, makeup artists, and clothing designers to make sure their pictures on their résumés are “perfect.”
Women, young and old, growing up in this culture — or the culture of a long line of Jewish women known for their refinement and beauty — will hopefully always worry about their appearance and the appearance of their children. At the same time, mothers need to teach their daughters that tzniyus is not just the clothes they wear, but the grace and tzniyus of their behavior.
Margaret E. Retter. Esq.
Elisheva Appel responds:
Ms. Retter, I would like to thank you for your heroic efforts on behalf of the suffering women of our community, and I share my admiration and sympathy for the very real pain you feel for this troubled demographic.
My heart goes out to the women who you say were told that if they only dressed better, their husbands would be there for them. While no one will deny the importance of a wife maintaining a pleasing appearance, if there ever was a case of victim-blaming, this sounds like it. Besides being simplistic and flawed, this advice only emphasizes the danger of elevating “dressing well” to a moral value.
You have far more experience in divorce cases and domestic abuse than I do. So I ask you: How many cases have you encountered where a struggling marriage was saved, where a husband stopped getting sloshed at the kiddush club, because his wife had another new sheitel? Or where a man stopped criticizing and started complimenting because his kids, formerly wearing Old Navy and Children’s Place, began wearing the latest styles?
Society’s ills that you so eloquently catalog — the mothers of boys who will only look at girls who are wealthy and impossibly thin; an insistence on celebrity-quality photos along with shidduch résumés; well-meaning askanim who tell women that their inattentive husbands will change if only they look even more up to date —all these are symptoms of the same systemic flaw, that of putting appearances on a pedestal.
Do our communities with the highest material standards have superior shalom bayis, since the wives are working so hard on their appearances for the sake of their marriages? Are men with stylish wives less likely to attend kiddush clubs? I don’t claim to know the answers, but I would be surprised to learn that there is no correlation at all between a materialistic, superficial culture and alcohol abuse.
Every physical indulgence — food, clothing, wine, cars — can be elevated in the service of the spirit. Our wide and varied world has a place for all kinds of people, including those who have more of an affinity to a particular temporal pleasure. But the importance that we as a community place on material standards — including in the advertisements, menus, and tablescapes that fill the pages of this magazine — can easily undermine the delicate balance between the physical and the spiritual that is so vital for the Jew to maintain.
I could not agree more with your closing statement, that “mothers need to teach their daughters that tzniyus is not just the clothes they wear, but the grace and tzniyus of their behavior.” If we all teach and practice this ideal, perhaps we can shatter the myth that dressing to impress is a Jewish value.
CORRECTION The picture and corresponding story on page 54 in issue #889 relate to Rav Dovid Goldberg shlita, rosh yeshivah of Telshe-Cleveland, and not as printed. We regret the error.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 890)
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