"This Double Take story only reinforces our society’s preoccupation with externalities and superficialities"
Rebbi, Father, Friend [Text Messages / Issue 901]
I was greatly inspired by Reb Eytan Kobre’s beautifully written article about the beloved and unforgettable rosh yeshivah and mashgiach, Reb Yeruchem Kaplan.
In it, he makes mention of the book that I wrote about his father, Reb Mendel Kaplan. I must admit that if indeed the book is a considered a classic — or even that the book came out altogether — it is all thanks to the painstaking editing work of Reb Yeruchem, who in his great humility did not even allow me to publicly thank him in the book.
In the introduction of the biography of Reb Mendel, Reb Yeruchem (anonymously) wrote the following about his great father:
“And Esther would captivate all who saw her (Esther 2:15). Chazal (Megillah 7b) explain this to mean that she found favor in the eyes of people of every nationality. Each nation believed she was one of them. Reb Mendel would explain that each nation had its specific quality and character, and Esther possessed the positive qualities of all the nations, so each saw in her their particular uniqueness. So it was with Reb Mendel. Everyone had his Reb Mendel. To a chacham, he was the chacham; to a lamdan, the lamdan; to an illui, the illui; to a mensch, the mentsch; to an anav, the anav. Whatever quality one had in himself, it was that quality that he saw in Reb Mendel.
Every talmid and friend would say he was “my Reb Mendel.” He could reach up to the greatest and bow to the simplest. He was whatever the situation or the person warranted or needed.”
This description equally applied to Reb Yeruchem. I was blessed to have been close with him, from the time of Reb Mendel’s passing until his final illness. To me, Reb Yeruchem was not only my rebbi, but also a father and a friend. Whenever I called him on the phone, his first words were always, “Ahhh, Reb Yisroel!” in the same exact way Reb Mendel used to say it — in a tone of voice that conveyed it was his greatest pleasure and honor that I called him.
When I took a subway to visit him in his home in Bensonhurst, he would always drive me back to my home in Boro Park. He continued this practice even after he was diagnosed and began displaying the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In the late stages of his final illness, I stopped calling him, so as not to burden him. Not too long afterward, a family member called me up and said that Reb Yeruchem was worried about me since I hadn’t called him for a while, and asked that I continue to call him.
Reb Yeruchem was a gadol b’Torah and a gadol b’mussar, but “my Reb Yeruchem” was one of the most normal, down-to-earth people I have ever met, who always loved, cared, respected, and believed in me.
With his passing, I feel a little piece of me is missing as well.
Yisroel Greenwald, author, Reb Mendel and His Wisdom
At What Price? [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
I’m writing in response to the recent Double Take story regarding the clothing boutique. I’m saddened and disappointed that society has come to the point where we judge people based on the money they do or don’t have, and on the flip side, we are forced to make difficult monetary decisions for our family caving to societal pressure.
This isn’t the forum to lecture the store owner that parnassah comes from Hashem, not the wealthy customers in your store. The issue isn’t even that she made exceptions for those with money that she didn’t make for the general population. The fact that she lied and turned a blind eye to a fellow Jew in need is despicable.
I recently went shopping for my daughter for a dress for Yom Tov. Even though it is still winter, I had to shop for spring clothing because the stores are selling out of items already. Not only that, but to dress my young daughter in clothing that her friends and those in our community are wearing, I had to shell out double the amount of money I would spend on a dress for myself, and that is for a dress that will only last one season — if even that!
Why have we come to that point? As the mother in the story writes, “you’re not paying for their clothing, you’re paying for their social success.”
We need to reconsider our materialistic priorities. Yes, we want to look nice and feel good about ourselves, but at what expense? Stretching our wallets too thin? Reacting to societal pressures and expectations? What message does this send to our children?
Stick to Your Values [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
I sincerely hope that all Double Take fans were as deeply disturbed as I found myself to be when reading the most recent dilemma.
Let’s just put aside for a moment that the entire premise of the story is a high-end clothing store where a girl’s wardrobe can cost thousands of dollars. Enough has been said about the commercialization of Judaism (read: Hedonism).
Here’s the line that really pressed my buttons: “The shadchan called to tip me off that the Landaus were balabatish people, you know what I mean, clothing matters, impressions matter. The mother keeps asking me about how she dresses, it’s important to project the right image...’”
And at the same time: “The boy was just what Ruchie was looking for, and the family was well-known and Torahdig.”
Please tell me, what is Torahdig about a family who keeps asking about how the girl dresses, and expects that she wears high-end clothing?
As a shadchan and dating mentor, I’m all for both parties looking their best on a date, as a kavod to the other. But if you want to marry into a family that has proper values, that cares about chinuch and limud haTorah as Ruchie’s kollel family seems to, why would you have your daughter date this boy? Why do people continuously enter into shidduchim where they need to project a certain image that is not in line with their values?
A friend of mine recently shared with me advice she received from her rebbetzin about how to look into her daughter’s potential match: When a suggestion came up in which the family had significant traumas and challenges, she was advised to continue her research to see if there was reason to go ahead with it, before nixing it right away. But when she received a suggestion in which the boy’s relative was continuously inquiring about the girl’s exact dress size, my friend was advised to drop it from the get-go.
When we need to prioritize our values, what comes out on top? What is the image we are most concerned with projecting, if not one of honesty and dignity?
Hatzlachah to everyone looking for their zivug. May you see how it really is Hashem Who makes the match.
Mindel Kassorla, Jerusalem
What’s the Takeaway? [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
I am an avid reader of your magazine and it has always been my impression that your mission statement is to provide your readership with material that is informational, inspirational, and entertaining, too. It is my understanding that each piece that goes to print is carefully vetted to meet the above criteria.
I usually enjoy reading the “Double Take” feature among many others. Most of the time, the issue is one of miscommunication, or just simply two parties whose opinions are both different but valid.
This week though, I was quite taken aback by the entire story. From the boutique owner’s perspective, I can totally understand that she has to do what it takes to keep her business profitable and her bread-and-butter customers happy. I do sympathize with Henny Minkoff, who would love to see her daughter married and is trying to do her utmost hishtadlus to achieve that goal.
What I was trying to figure out, though, is what message the reader is meant to take away. Is it that going to a hotel for Pesach is the preferred choice? Showing off a new stylish outfit at every meal is the epitome of tzniyus? Being the fashion trendsetters in the community is what makes you popular? Perhaps we should start a Charidy campaign to help the Minkoff children wear up-to-date, stylish clothes every season? After all, we don’t want anybody to be the nebs of society.
I really don’t understand why Mishpacha even wasted a drop of ink on this piece. Isn’t living within your means the Torah way? Did any of our avos and gedolim look for a girl who dresses in the latest fashion and whose parents have to turn themselves into pretzels to cough up money they don’t have? As far as I am concerned, a girl’s merit should be her Yiddishe chein, common sense, yiras Shamayim, tzniyus, and chesed.
Yes, we are human and we do tend to get caught up with the zeitgeist, but dear editor, I think it is time to rethink, reframe, and keep your magazine the quality literature that it has always been.
Raizy Brief, Los Angeles
Self-Imposed Dictatorship [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
Atara’s dilemma is understandable. Although she sympathized with Henny, she ultimately chose to keep the private sale exclusive to a select group of customers. Fine.
The real problem is that Henny finds herself in such a situation in the first place. In this particular case, she may have been right: She was treated unfairly, as she was willing to pay full price. Generally speaking, however, she may need to adjust her perspective.
Why pursue a shidduch in which the family places so much emphasis on what type of dresser her daughter is? It’s obviously not going to be a one-time occurrence. Is that the kind of pressure that Henny and her daughter want to be subject to if the shidduch proceeds? Why not seek a family that’s less focused on appearances?
Of course, Ruchie should look presentable and well put together, but shopping at the most expensive store isn’t the only way to get there. If the boy in question is actually suitable for her, and his family wants the girl to dress with flair, she can accomplish that with a little creativity.
Very few people are actually so well-off that they can afford to shop anywhere without considering cost. It is not only kollel people who look at price tags. There’s a very wide range between kids actually feeling deprived, and parents paying exorbitant amounts for an outfit.
If anyone feels the need to present themselves as gazillionaires while they’re actually barely making ends meet, that’s nothing more than their own insecurities. The sooner they learn that their self-worth is not defined by their net worth, the better off their families will be.
This Double Take story only reinforces our society’s preoccupation with externalities and superficialities. It gives credence to the notion that shidduchim can only work out if a son attends a certain yeshivah (which may not be the optimal fit), or if parents commit to support a couple beyond what they can afford, or in this case, if a daughter wears the right stuff.
One might say that as much as we don’t like it, it’s the game we gotta play. We didn’t make the rules, it’s just an unfortunate reality we must contend with. But the truth is that it’s possible to find a balance of living an authentic life without completely ignoring social “norms,” yet at the same time not being governed and victimized by them.
There’s no high-up powerful authoritarian creating these “rules.” Rather it’s those who choose to abide by them who are perpetuating them. It’s nothing more than a self-imposed dictatorship.
Whether a reader identifies with Henny (who needs the latest dress for her daughter as if life itself depended on it) or with Chava (who’s under pressure to outfit her girls for each and every hotel meal), ultimately doesn’t matter. The unfortunate takeaway message of the story is the normalization of these “norms.”
M. M., Monsey NY
P.S. On a practical note, if Ruchie Minkoff’s shidduch is truly dependent upon whether she’s wearing the stunning tan-colored dress, she can get the next size up and have it altered to fit.
Temporary Sacrifice [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
We all understand Henny’s disappointment and empathize with her pain. However, there is one very important fundamental rule that she must always remember.
When a couple makes the admirable decision to dedicate their lives to ruchniyus, and the husband joins a kollel full time, they (hopefully) do so cognizant of the reality that they are automatically sacrificing a great deal of gashmiyus. They do this, presumably, because they value the reward in Olam Haba infinitely more than all that they could possibly achieve in Olam Hazeh.
Consequently, they must always be content with the fact that others, who live a different lifestyle, will have more than they. This includes housing, clothing, food, and other luxuries such as vacations.
If they want their children to follow in their illustrious way, they must also teach them their value system.
It is advisable, as was mentioned by a reader some time ago, that they live in a neighborhood with others who share their mindset, so that they and their children are not constantly exposed to others who have more than they do, and are not tempted to be jealous of them.
There is something else they should teach their children. The fact of the matter is, whether right or wrong, that steady customers who spend a lot of money, like the Halbs and their group, will invariably be provided with special privileges.
In Novardok, where the relationship to Olam Hazeh was extremely limited, they would be mechazek themselves in various ways. They had many songs that they composed and sang frequently. One of them was based on the words of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (6:5): “Do not desire the tables of the ministers, for your table (in Olam Haba) is greater than their table; and your crown is greater than their crown; and your Employer is reliable, that He will pay you your due ‘salary’ for your work.”
One of the best mashalim of the Chofetz Chaim involves the story of a rich and prominent dealer of diamonds and precious stones who would travel once a year to some far-away place to buy beautiful diamonds, which he’d resell at a profit upon his return.
He would take 200 rubles for the expenses of his trip going, another 200 rubles for his return trip, and an additional 3,000 rubles for his purchases.
Once, after he had bought all that he had money for, he headed toward his hotel, planning to return home the next day. Suddenly, someone approached him and offered him a once-in-a-lifetime deal: a pouch of fabulous diamonds worth a fortune, which he was ready to sell at a fraction of their price.
The merchant would have been thrilled to buy them, but it was too late; he had no money left for purchases, only enough for the expenses of his return trip. The seller explained that his merchandise was about to be confiscated by the government, by no fault of his own, and therefore he was willing to take literally any price, no matter how small; for the money would remain his, but not the diamonds. The diamond dealer repeated that he simply couldn’t make the purchase. However, he said he was just curious to see them.
They went into a private alleyway. The seller opened his pouch and revealed the most spectacular diamonds the merchant had ever seen. He knew that at home he could resell them at an exorbitant price and become significantly wealthier overnight. Although he had no money left to buy anything, he had the funds for his trip back home. Instead of traveling like a VIP, he could perhaps make it back with 20 rubles. This would leave him with 180 rubles to buy the precious diamonds. He said that he knew that this was a ridiculous offer, but that was the best he could do in this situation. To his amazement, and to his delight, the seller agreed, since it was better than nothing.
Now began the dilemma of how to get home on only 20 rubles. Instead of traveling first class, he rode with the paupers in the lowest class available. Instead of lodging in expensive hotels, he ate bread and water and even slept on the floor when he couldn’t afford to rent a room.
One day, an acquaintance of his was shocked to notice him lying on the floor. He asked him if perhaps he had lost all of his money. With a smile, the dealer explained his situation and, while showing him the spectacular goods, asked his friend if he had done the right thing. He’d have to suffer poverty for a short while, but when he returned home, he would gain thousands of rubles.
His friend agreed wholeheartedly that he had done the right thing but asked him how he was able to withstand the filth he was living in, even for a little while, seeing as he was always a refined person.
The merchant replied that it was indeed difficult for him, and sometimes it was totally unbearable. But in those difficult times he would go into a private corner, open his pouch and glance at his precious goods, and contemplate what luxury awaited him when he arrived home, if he could only push through for a little while longer. That would strengthen him and give him the encouragement to continue on his way despite all the hardships.
This, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, is what every ben Torah should do when he feels that his situation in Olam Hazeh is too hard for him. He should “open his pouch” of Torah and mitzvos and think about what luxuries await him in Olam Haba. “And your Employer is reliable, that He will pay you your due ‘salary’ for your work.”
A Mashgiach from Yerushalayim
Reality Check [Job Search / Issue 899]
Thank you for a very insightful article two weeks ago regarding the actuarial field. As an actuary with about ten years’ experience, I felt it’s incumbent to add two valuable pointers, especially as they pertain to beginners for whom these kinds of articles are most relevant.
Firstly, the industry has changed a bit in terms of what the job entails. Your first few years will not be spent on analytics as much as understanding your data. For the first five to ten years of your career, you’ll be mostly modeling and coding. Those seeking an entry-level job are now expected to be somewhat proficient in manipulating large data sets via Python, R, and SQL. You’ll also need to be able to pick up modeling skills quite quickly.
Second, almost all jobs are strictly corporate jobs. You are expected to pass two exams, have internship experience, and obtain a college degree for an entry-level position. To obtain a summer internship, you’ll need at least one exam, and you’ll need to apply during the October-November prior to the summer entering your senior year in college. (This means that if you graduate in June 2023, you should have applied for your summer 2022 internship by October 2021.)
Obviously, as yeshivah guys or Bais Yaakov girls, we need to take some shortcuts and ultimately, the Eibeshter helps. But I think we need to know the system prior to embarking on the career path so we can better tackle it to the degree that it’s possible. I am happy to assist any reader who’s interested in learning more about this field; I can be contacted through Mishpacha.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 902)
Oops! We could not locate your form.