Chances are, if people are getting hurt or there is machlokes, most chumras don’t apply, but navigating this issue requires daas Torah
Caught in the Middle [Principle of the Matter / Double Take — Issue 904]
The Double Take story about the couple who didn’t want to expose their baby to Zoom despite their dying grandfather’s wish to see him struck a chord within me, because I’ve dealt with similar situations many times.
In the early years of our marriage, my husband had unwavering adherence to certain chumras and my family is a little more modern, so we ran into many issues. Unlike Chavi, who was totally on the same page as her husband with the Zoom usage, I often found myself caught in the middle. I wasn’t as dedicated to my husband’s chumras as he was, but because I was dedicated to our marriage, I often felt stuck.
My parents live in Israel, where there are many types of hechsherim, but at one point my husband decided he only wanted to eat one hechsher and nothing else. My parents were offended and not accommodating. I think I was the one who suffered most from all the machlokes and back and forth, and I couldn’t find a rav my husband respected who could advise us properly. It was a mess.
Here are some things I learned as the person caught in the middle:
Find a rav who really understands everyone’s feelings. Chances are, if people are getting hurt or there is machlokes, most chumras don’t apply, but navigating this issue requires guidance of daas Torah.
The goal of a chumra is to bring a person closer to Hashem. If keeping your chumra means you’re hurting someone else, consider if bending your rule a little bit will actually cause you spiritual harm. In the case of this story, being exposed to the Internet on a daily basis can cause spiritual harm, but will showing a one-year-old on Zoom once or twice cause spiritual harm? In that case, hurting your grandfather will cause more spiritual harm and distance you from Hashem, and the chumra will not be accomplishing its purpose any longer.
If you have siblings or children who are more stringent than you, be proud of them and consider how much you can accommodate them without feeling resentful. Sometimes I felt like my parents didn’t accommodate our requests (example: when my husband wanted to use his own mehudar matzah at the Seder) not because it was a bother to them, but just to “prove a point.” That hurt. My husband wasn’t trying to hurt anyone or to be “holier than thou” — he just felt a connection to his chumras.
As a general rule, if it’s not a big deal to accommodate, then just do it to show your love. If it is a big deal, then just gently say that it’s too hard for you to accommodate. But whatever you do, don’t put down another’s values.
No Respect, No Peace [Principle of the Matter / Double Take — Issue 904]
Usually when I tell my husband about Double Take, I get so worked up and involved in my opinions that he has to remind me that it’s not a true story. (Major points to Rochel Samet, who is incredibly talented at painting a deeply realistic scenario, allowing readers to step into the experience equally on both sides). This time, though, it actually is a true story, and we are literally in Shaya’s and Chavi’s shoes. As I read and reread the two different viewpoints, I felt my blood boil, and for so many reasons.
- The subconscious premise. Mindy and Esti, you are, as Chavi so wisely said, pinning all of this on Shaya because of your own insecurities and need for control. Siblings, please realize: When I get a little defensive and describe why I do the things I do, it is not an attack on you. The fact that you’re triggered doesn’t mean I was actually criticizing your choices.
- The rebbi factor. I can already imagine all the letters flooding in asking “why doesn’t Shaya just ask his rebbi, who will put him in his place and tell him it’s okay to make exceptions,” blah blah blah.
Now let’s say, as is often the case, Shaya asks and the rebbi actually says, no, the pressure you’re feeling is not coming from a good place, keep sticking with your principles. The family explodes about extreme, farfrumt old rabbis whom their brother just follows brainlessly, and the psak brings no resolution. Nobody understands Shaya, but worse, nobody respects or even gives weight to the fact that he is an adult and is entitled to make his own choices even if others are frustrated or saddened by those choices.
(Of course, if the rebbi agrees with the siblings, they’re all gung-ho and “told you so.” But then, rebbi-asking is just a formality anyhow, right? Because you’ll do what you want when it comes to something hard for you — e.g., smartphones, filters — but when it comes to me doing something you don’t like, you’ll roll out the “but you need to ask a rav,” even when I personally never had a sh’eilah to begin with).
- The lack of respect. What if Yossi suffered from celiac disease? Would you pressure Shaya to give him pizza, just because the family had weekly pizza parties? Of course not. But when it comes to values you don’t relate to, you give zero sense of understanding, you lay on the criticism thickly, and express nothing but disrespect.
This is not the stuff families are meant to be made of, and creates only distance and contempt. You’re claiming the premise of wanting the family to be close and loving, but you’re going about it in a mean and hateful way. Something about the contradiction makes your requests worth questioning.
- The triangulation. It’s one thing to approach a sibling and try to reason with them, to work things out amiably (which the proverbial Mindy rarely does). It’s another thing to involve Mom. It was clear from Raizy’s discussion with her husband that Mindy had been “tattling” on Shaya and riling her mother up about Shaya’s lack of cooperation. This is a horrible but common, super-unhealthy habit that destroys families exponentially more than they would have been otherwise.
From my own personal experience, this was probably the detail where I most related to Shaya’s hurt. As adults, can’t we work this out between us without putting parents in the middle? It’s one thing to chip away at our sibling relationships, but to add parents into the mix and ruin relationships that way too is not only immature but cruel.
- The lack of credit. All of Shaya’s efforts at peacemaking and compromising and gestures to connect with his grandfather are ignored. Mindy, if for two seconds you would stop being so self-absorbed and bossy, you would step back and realize this insistence is clearly not about Zeidy anymore. Complain to your husband, vent to your friends, but don’t get all in my business and then innocently act like you’re doing it lishmah. We can all see right through that, especially as this isn’t the first time you’ve gotten worked up about hashkafic issues where we disagree.
Sad as Tatty might be, deep down he (and really everyone else as well) realizes that this is who his son is, who he raised him to be, and he actually — genuinely — respects that his son stands up for himself and doesn’t bend his principles at the drop of a hat.
Ultimately people will come to realize Shaya is not someone who succumbs to external pressures, and that is something that takes real strength in this day and age, strength that many people dream of having but can’t seem to muster. I’ve seen this to be true, and it’s what keeps me going each time the family is being unnecessarily torn apart because of lack of respecting each other’s values.
Crucial Need [Principle of the Matter / Double Take — Issue 904]
This week’s Double Take “Principle of the Matter” was very concerning.
From the sound of it, here is a young man who is relatively newly married and building a foundation for his family. It is very honorable that he and his wife are aiming to maintain the purity of their home at all costs, and are living in a kollel community that shares their values.
Though it may seem to him now like technology is a black-and-white issue, this particular situation may be less clear, since he may never see his grandfather again without using technology. Therefore, his first thought when his family approached him should have been to consult their daas Torah. At the very least, if daas Torah agreed with their decision not to use technology to communicate with the dying grandfather, he could have expressed this to his family and removed this huge decision off his young shoulders. If daas Torah did not agree, he could have had a framework for how to conduct himself going forward.
If this young couple think that this brush with technology will be their first and last, they are so wrong. In today’s day and age, at some point the technology question touches every home in one way or another time and time again, be it personally, occupationally, or with our children, and each family needs to consult their daas Torah about how to tread the murky waters of technology.
Some scenarios in life are clear cut: when one is sick, one goes to a doctor; when one has a toothache, one goes to a dentist; when someone’s electricity goes out, he calls an electrician. With this Double Take story, we can see that the need for daas Torah is crucial for all the decisions in the many shades of gray that present themselves day in and day out.
Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are blessed with a rav. Over the decades we have turned to him regularly for guidance that goes beyond the extremes of the status of a dairy spoon that ends up the in meat sink or where to send our children to school.
The truth is that many times, the answers we got were not what we expected, but we knew the rav was able to see the larger picture beyond what my husband and I could see from our narrow point of view, and then we had the yishuv hadaas that the path we were directed to was the correct one.
Every young couple should come into marriage knowing the value of aseh lecha rav, without which there is no blueprint for life. Today’s world is a confusing and complicated place and we are lucky to have rabbanim in our midst with shoulders larger than ours to help us navigate our lives.
Blessed to Have a Rav
A Celebrity’s Powerful Message [Take a Stand / Issue 903]
In this week’s edition of Take a Stand, several panelists were of the consensus that “the respect and adulation for contemporary Jewish music artists is completely misplaced.”
I would just like to point out that one the top singers in our society, Benny Friedman, recently released an incredibly emotional, heart-stirring video highlighting the tragic circumstances the Jewish community in Ukraine now finds itself, inspiring Jews across the globe to do everything in their power to help out. (He also recently collaborated with Abie Rotenberg on an additional video inspiring yearning for Mashiach.)
But most importantly, upon hearing the tragic news of the passing of our gadol hador, he immediately canceled his concert in Eretz Yisrael, which was to be held the next Tuesday, a concert planned for months with tickets sold out for weeks. This sent a powerful message to the world and to bochurim in particular (the vast majority of the attendees) that there’s a time for joy and a time for mourning.
There is so much to learn from our heroes, our stars, who despite all the honor and fame they receive, still remain true to their Jewish values.
Mr. Abe Rosenberg, Jerusalem
Choices Trickle Down [Inbox / Issue 903]
I was very intrigued by last week’s letter in which a kollel mother responded to the recent Double Take story about clothes shopping. What piqued my interest was her differentiation between her attitude toward the choices she has made and the attitude of her teenage daughter.
She explained that although she adopted a certain Torahdig lifestyle along with the simplicity it brings, and has made the conscious choice to cut back in certain areas, her teenage daughter should not be held “responsible” for this choice or be “expected” to have the same values.
Keeping in mind the social dynamics of teenage girls and the peer pressure they regularly face, I still wonder one thing: Can families who have made a decision to conduct a kollel or chinuch lifestyle be enthusiastic and confident enough about their choice, so that it trickles down to the children and they naturally feel excited about their family values? Can we view the lesser levels of gashmiyus as a lifestyle we choose and appreciate, rather than experiencing a feeling of lacking or giving up?
I recently heard an eye-opening definition of the well-known term mesirus nefesh that made me realize I may have misunderstood it until now. The shoresh of moser literally means “given over,” not “give up” or “sacrifice.” To be moser nefesh for Torah means that one is drawn to, and attracted to Torah. If we can truly feel this way toward our Torah values, we can hope that this will be caught by our children, and lead them to appreciate our choices, instead of begrudgingly accepting them.
Not Sustainable [Inbox / Issue 902]
Thank you for printing the letter to the editor regarding buying our young couples apartments in Eretz Yisrael.
My husband and I are both hard working adults, with good careers. We’ve spent 23 years of marriage in Eretz Yisrael and we still pay rent. We moved from the US right after our wedding, and while our parents were very generous in whatever way they were capable, nobody helped us buy an apartment, and we never expected that.
We would love nothing more than to be able to be there for our children and help in any way we can, but as the letter writer wrote, we are not knocking on doors or taking on millions of shekels in debt.
Yes, there is a huge problem in Eretz Yisrael with the prices of apartments and the difficulty settling without one. We live it every day. But we are adults and this is life.
I look at my Israeli chareidi neighbors who must buy an apartment for their children — in order to get shidduchim — and you know what I see? I see a crumbling system, in which kids think they have it coming to them and parents are being crushed under the debt and pressure — literally breaking, physically and mentally. This system is crashing. It is not sustainable.
I won’t claim to know the solution but I know there are a lot of people like us, and if we all stand up and say “enough is enough,” then we can all find a way to move forward and help our children in a more sustainable way. We are taught not to rely on a neis. It is time to help set our children up for success.
Another Concerned Parent of a Shidduch-Aged Child
Out of Touch [About-Face / Issue 902]
I was quite shocked when I read the article written by the shadchan who set up “Shira” and “Shlomo.”
While the chesed she does to set up batei Yisrael is unfathomable (what could be greater than building future doros?), I felt the way she described what Shira was looking for in a zivug as “about 15 years outdated” to be quite closed-minded and out of touch with reality. And to go on to say that “as far as [she] knew, our society no longer produced such a breed” really hit me the wrong way and totally dismissed the reality of many young men in today’s day and age.
I am married to a yeshivish man who was simultaneously in college and yeshivah while in shidduchim, as were many of his friends. Nowadays, there is actually much more infrastructure set up for yeshivish boys to earn a degree while still learning two full sedorim. Has this shadchan really never heard of programs such as Landers, Ner Israel, and other online programs such as TTI and Touro Online? I am sure I am missing several more…
Please do not spread the fallacy that anyone who is not looking for a boy who is learning exclusively is “out of the box” and is looking for something that doesn’t exist, because that is terribly misleading to bnos Yisrael who are already so vulnerable in the current shidduch reality.
Give the Boundaries They Crave [New School of Thought / Issue 901]
As an upper elementary teacher, I was electrified by the headline of the feature “A New School of Thought” that would address the challenges we face in contemporary classrooms.
Teaching isn’t for the faint of heart, and the big B, behavior, is a biggie: What to do to rein in classroom behavior? Anticipating key answers to a very pertinent problem, I read on with interest. I was so very disappointed.
The NHA, or Nurtured Heart Approach, may be today’s knockoff of yemin mekareves, but has every educator forgotten about the smol docheh?
You see it in principal’s offices: “I’m sure you didn’t mean that, you can do so much better; go right back into your classroom and make me proud, mammeleh.” It’s the topic of every workshop: “The Three P’s: Positive, Positive, Positive!” And it just makes me wonder: Have we lost the route of NBA — Need Boundaries Approach?
Behavioral issues did not surface in 2022, and no amount of motivational fluff that deviates the focus of the actual content being taught will serve to eliminate these issues from our classrooms.
Contrary to what was cited in your feature as an ineffective item, “frontal teaching... with a teacher standing in front of a class giving over information” does exist, and is a fairly successful means of teaching — at least in my classroom.
Are we competing with the screens when our classrooms follow their fast-paced colorful model? A gemara will never grow hands and feet to dance and motivate. We need to teach our children to learn new concepts, to thrill in the black and white text of Rashi. There’s no need for us to adapt to new ways to teach our children.
Behavior issues need boundaries like water needs a container, like a pot its cover to prevent overflow. Let’s not coddle our students with a nauseating overflow of sugar-coated chinuch; neither in discipline, nor in their lessons.
Our students are begging to join the NBA; can we as teachers teach them the sweetness of it?
M.M.R., Brooklyn NY
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 905)
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