"It’s the job of parents to make choices and we try to make the best choices because our children live with the consequences"
Real Respect [Take a Stand / Issue 903]
Following the discussion in Mishpacha last week about the “respect and adulation” we show to celebrities, I would like to contribute the following story.
When I was a high school student, we were privileged to have a well-known music artist perform in our school, an arrangement made by one of my female teachers who knew him personally. (I am leaving out the name of the performer because I do not have a way of confirming if he is comfortable with my sharing the story.)
After the show, I bought a CD from him. My teacher who knew him was standing nearby as I asked him if he would sign it. Coming from a background where autographed items from Broadway shows and baseball games were coveted souvenirs, I had no reason to think there was anything wrong with this, and I had gotten such autographs from other Jewish music stars in the past. But he politely shook his head no, with a slightly uncomfortable look on his face.
Seeing his hesitation, my teacher nodded and told him, “It’s okay, you can tell her why, she’ll understand.”
He then explained to me that his rav had instructed him not to give out autographs. It seemed there was a concern it could go to his head, and that the “worship” element could even border on avodah zarah.
This made a strong impression on teenaged me. I saw a genuine example of what it means to be a yerei Shamayim in whatever you do. And I learned that if there’s any reason to give respect to a celebrity, this would be it.
Mindel Kassorla, Jerusalem
Doesn’t Bother Me [Inbox / Issue 903]
I do not mean to be insensitive to the letter writer on the topic of ADHD (who am I to invalidate someone else’s feelings on the matter?), but I could not relate to the issue with the magazine headline “Everyone’s a Little ADHD.”
Firstly, it is factually true to say that nowadays, most kids are a little ADHD. As was explained to me by a professional I worked with on one of my own kids’ ADHD challenges, the disorder is often linked to lower levels of dopamine in the brain. The body naturally produces dopamine through physical activity — which most of us are sorely lacking. This is in contrast to previous generations, when physical labor was more common, and even a regular day involved a great deal of walking. To say that we are all a little ADHD just acknowledges the fact that we are lacking this important chemical in our brains — and we see the effects.
But I take issue with the letter for another reason. A mental health disorder is identified by frequency, intensity, and duration of an undesirable trait. A little anger some of the time is okay. A lot of anger, a lot of the time, is not. And so on.
ADHD is a description of a set of traits. It is a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms. It is a disorder that exists along a spectrum, as any other mental health issue, including autism (which is now characterized as exactly that — a spectrum). I do not think it is offensive to anyone to say that a person is a little ADHD, a little OCD, a little depressed, or a little autistic (except perhaps to the one being identified).
This kind of label does not minimize the fact that some cases are more severe than others and the challenges are real. Challenges, or even disabilities, are not incapabilities. And someone with a mental health issue does have to work harder, but is not incapable.
I recently discussed this with a fellow educator who asked me if students with ADHD “can, if they just try harder.” The answer is yes, and no. They can if they try hard enough, but may decide that in some areas the effort needed to get organized, scheduled, or focused is not available to them, because they have other demands. For them, the amount of effort may be painful. It’s similar to people who have difficulty with math and choose not to be accountants, though with enough schooling, they certainly could be. We all prioritize based on what is harder or easier and requires more effort, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I am writing this as a parent of someone with ADHD, a spouse of someone with ADHD, and an individual diagnosed with ADHD myself. Go ahead, say you have a little ADHD, a lot of it, or can’t relate at all. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I don’t need my situation to be unique in order for it to be real.
And the only reason I sign anonymously is that as with my kidney stones, cavities, and osteoporosis, I do not think it’s socially appropriate to discuss this so openly.
Another reader with ADHD
A Story that Speaks to Souls [Story for the Ages / Issue 902]
“A Story for the Ages,” the feature about the creation of The Purim Story tape, was a beautifully written and nostalgic snapshot of a piece of history from which two generations have now benefited. Nothing but genuine l’sheim Shamayim motivation could ever have so profoundly impacted so many. A heilige tape indeed!
However, the backstory behind your inset about the fellow who recognized Lew Rudolph’s voice at the amud as the very same vocals he heard doing the “Haman Rap” decades earlier is an inspirational story in its own right; it highlights the actual holy power of The Purim Story tape in dramatic fashion.
The individual who recently encountered Lew in the shul in Beit Shemesh was a child refugee from Hungary 30 years ago; Janos had come together with his mother and sister to New York. Today, Janos — now Mordechai — along with his wonderful wife, Tzipporah, raise their growing family in Eretz Yisrael.
But years earlier, as recent expatriates of a country that had next to no Jewish education, Janos and his sister had pitifully little familiarity with Jewish holidays and tradition. We had the extraordinary privilege of regularly hosting these two immigrant children and their mother, and they became a very natural addition to our family. We remember well sharing our version of the Purim story with them prior to their first Purim, a narrative they had never heard!
Still, we felt that these children deserved better, and we presented them with a gift of The Purim Story tape. There are no words to describe the educational and emotional impact of this heilige tape on these searching and growing neshamos.
The recent episode at the chance meeting in Beit Shemesh bears eloquent testimony to the everlasting imprint that an endeavor l’sheim Shamayim can have, nourishing the longing, and fashioning the soul-connection of yearning Jewish children to chagim u’moadim.
The zechusim live on!
Sorah Esther Hoberman,
Long Beach, NY
Still Singing His Songs [Nest of Golden Eggs / Issue 902]
Your article on the Sufrin brothers hit a poignant nerve. Rabbi Mordechai Sufrin a”h was my teacher in Lubavitch Grammar School, on Kingsley Way in London. He left me with many warm memories.
Rabbi Sufrin would arrange Melaveh Malkah parties during the long, cold winter Motzaei Shabbosim in London. Each grade would get a few Melaveh Malkahs that were hosted by one of the talmidim. (How we vied to have that opportunity to be a host!)
The food was simple — hot dogs, chips — this was the times before endless nosh and sushi. Rabbi Sufrin taught us all the zemiros of Melaveh Malkah: “B’Motzaei Yom Menuchah,” “Eliyahu Hanavi,” “Ish Chassid Hayah,” “Amar Hashem L’Yaakov.” To this very day, those tunes ring in my ear and I can sit at a Melaveh Malkah and sing tunes that no one seems to know, from a bygone era, because Rabbi Sufrin sacrificed his Motzaei Shabbosim for his talmidim.
I remember well the weekend we spent with Rabbi Sufrin in Bournemouth. It was an off-season winter Shabbos and after the night seudah we went with him for a walk on the beach. The fog rolled in with the waves and in this mysterious setting, he regaled us with sippurei tzaddikim, tales of the righteous.
And during Chumash class when I was seemingly daydreaming? He laughingly told my mother that he could never catch me out. He had a real English sense of humor, that dry, wry, and witty way that was simply inimitable.
He was an amazing rebbi and I was lucky to have him as a teacher for five years, although I probably did not appreciate it.
Yehi zichro baruch.
So Many Questions! [Beyond Words / Endnote — Issue 902]
I really enjoyed the Purim edition of EndNote, as I’ve always had some kushyos on various Journeys and Country Yossi songs.
I was extremely puzzled by Country Yossi’s teretz that the chazzan’s father passed away right before Kol Nidrei, when it says meforash in the lyrics that “last night he passed away.”
Also, I don’t understand why Abie Rotenberg needs to come up with such a dochek teretz, that the rebbi should be placed at third. Who says the catcher was safe? The real question is, why the rebbi didn’t accompany him to the hospital?
If I could ask Country Yossi and Abie Rotenberg some of my own questions, I would ask:
- Why throw away the hammer? Why can’t you simply put it in a drawer until after Shabbos?
- How could Abie have bought a Topps card of Joe DiMaggio when Topps only started producing cards in 1951, just as Joe’s career ended?
- Why was the existence of the twins empty and cold if they were inside a warm womb?
- Did Zlateh’s father name him at his bris or when he was three years old?
A Fan of Endnote,
Shmuel Moshe, Boulder, Colorado
The Real Choice [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
I’d like to respond to “Miriam,” the kollel wife who wrote an Inbox letter saying that her teenaged daughters should enjoy high-end clothing because they didn’t make the decision for her husband to learn in kollel.
Beyond making the choice to have a husband in learning, you and your husband have imposed many more of your choices on your children — the city you live in, which rav guides you, the shul you go to, the school(s) they attend, what hechsherim you eat, and the list goes on.
It’s the job of parents to make choices and we try to make the best choices because our children live with the consequences.
You have one more choice, which is to live within your financial means or not. The message to your children is not that you can’t afford the new season’s stuff or latest backpack because their father chose to learn, but because this is within your means or not.
We believe parnassah is min haShamayim. Your husband could be a lawyer but unemployed... or you could have a very lucrative profession to supplement his income. Whatever the scenario, I would assume that the reasonable thing to do would be to live within the reality of your financial situation.
May Hashem repay you for your holy choices in This World and the Next, and may your children follow in your footsteps.
Ditza Friedman, Chesterfield, MO
The Message You Send Your Daughters [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
As an experienced teenager, I read the Double Take story about the clothing store and ensuing comments with interest. I am writing specifically in response to N.S., who wrote that she is spending much more than she wants to, so her daughters will fit in socially. She then claims our society has become so materialistic and this is not a message we should be sending to our children.
So I ask her: Who, if not you, is sending messages here? Now, you might need to sit down for the next sentence. I have been a teenager for six years and I never bought an outfit for more than $75. My parents aren’t even in kollel anymore, and we still can’t afford it. Yet I am alive to tell the tale. And believe it or not, I even got into my first choice of seminary.
We shop online, at sales, and in some lower-end clothing stores, and my siblings and I always look beautiful and put together. I know some of you may be thinking: But does she have friends? Is she normal? How will she get married? Here is where I should write that Hashem takes care of me and I trust that He will find me a shidduch. But I won’t write that, not because it isn’t true, but because that isn’t the point.
The point is that not only am I not terribly scarred, but I believe that I am stronger in my avodas Hashem, more responsible about life, and have my priorities a whole lot straighter than many of my fellow teenagers.
Mothers of Klal Yisrael, you are doing your daughters a huge disservice by showing them that clothing and social image are what matters. Don’t sit around lamenting the fact that it is what it is and you don’t want to make your children the korban, because by continuing to waste money on expensive clothing, you are sacrificing your heilige daughters’ neshamos.
Good Business [Limited Edition / Double Take — Issue 900]
I’ve been reading the letters in response to the Double Take story about the store owner who awarded certain privileges to her better paying customers. Readers are debating issues of shidduchim and materialism, but I think these issues (however thought-provoking they may be) were not the point of the debate.
In the story, a customer who did not regularly shop at the clothing store, nor spend a significant amount, felt betrayed by the store owner store who invited another customer who was steady and well-paying to a presale event. The store owner defended her position saying it was “good business.”
Looking at the business practices of established companies, the store owner seems to be correct. Big businesses regularly reward customers with “the more you spend, the more you earn” programs. Airlines institute point programs and status levels where customers earn privileges such as lounge entry and bumps to first class. My local pharmacy has such a great customer reward program that I often shop there for grocery items just to earn more points.
But it is also good business to treat all customers with respect, fairness, and transparency. Instead of hiding her presale event, having to lie to a customer and defend her business practice, the store owner should consider advertising a loyalty program under which customers who spend more can earn certain privileges, such as entry to a presale event.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 904)
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