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Inbox: Issue 910

"Riding to the rescue of someone who doesn’t bother to do anything to rescue himself, we’re teaching our children every wrong lesson"


It’s a Good Life [Inbox / Issue 909]

To the “older” single who’s happy with her life, thank you for your letter. It was so refreshing and validating to finally see someone admit this truth!

To be frank, I am so tired of people pitying me, tired of people talking down to me like I am uneducated, of people walking up to me and telling me they sympathize with me for my depression. (Of course this complete stranger is depressed — she’s single!)

I don’t know why, and I probably never will, but frum society seems to badly want singles to be sad and suffer from low self-esteem and shame. Why does everybody refuse to believe that we don’t hate ourselves? We refuse to admit that getting married before understanding what marriage is isn’t best for everyone — as Hashem clearly noticed.

It doesn’t help that frum publications are constantly feeding into this stereotype. I imagine because that makes for an interesting read on Shabbos afternoon, and provides lively conversation at the Shabbos table. Who wants to discuss the possibility that people without a husband may actually be mentally stable?

I can never say this out loud since I will be ridiculed, but I am very happy with my life. I know you will get angry at me for saying this — but it is a good life! Not because it is a more convenient life, but because I have almost everything I need, I am stable and take good care of myself in all areas of my life, and I am overall satisfied.

To A.M.Y., who says, “yes, we do feel that way,” I am sorry you feel this way. It is devastating that there are people who value themselves by their marital status and not by the value of being Hashem’s creation. I believe (maybe mistakenly) that these feelings were caused by the society we are surrounded by, who seem to have a sense of joy looking down at the pitiful single. That may be for a variety of reasons, which may be worth looking into, but until and if that issue is resolved, I hope that you, and others like you, find joy and satisfaction in being you — a person Hashem created because the world needs you as you are.

Single and Happy


Time for a Reframe [Inbox / Issue 909]

It’s time for us to reframe how we view and portray the period of time that a girl is single. It is not a time to figuratively sit in a morose, lonely waiting room. It is a time of opportunity. While it is true that the ultimate goal of a bas Yisrael is to raise a Torahdig family, there is much that can be accomplished — not despite but due to the opportunities that are available only to one who is single.

Sara Schenirer, whom Rav Yechezkel Sarna called the most influential person, man or woman, in Klal Yisrael in the last century (Carry Me in Your Heart, introduction), accomplished all that she did as a single, childless divorcee, for most of her adult life. Indeed, it would have been virtually impossible for her to tirelessly visit Bais Yaakov after Bais Yaakov across Europe, giving chizuk, writing, teaching, and shaping an entire generation of bnos Yisrael while scarcely leaving herself any time for sleep, had she been encumbered with the responsibility of a husband and family.

Sara Schenirer could have focused on her pain and loneliness, or on her childhood friends who had husbands and large families of children and even grandchildren. Instead, she used her circumstances as an opportunity to accomplish. She taught. She laughed. She wrote plays and inspiring essays. She hiked, and showed others the beauty of Hashem’s world. She singlehandedly shaped an entire generation. Her tafkid was not to raise one family, but to raise an entire generation of bnos Yisrael. And she rose to the occasion and accomplished her life’s mission.

We have so many gifted, talented, accomplished single girls — actually, let’s not call them girls; they are talented, accomplished women. And there is so much that Klal Yisrael needs. Whether it is teaching, chesed, building organizations, advocacy, chizuk, or inspiring others, each has a unique talent and ability that can be used to accomplish for the klal.

Women who are busy raising their children or supporting their husbands are fulfilling their tafkid, but they don’t have the time, energy, or resources to accomplish what those who find themselves single can. The latter can create and accomplish in a way that is every bit as meaningful and significant as their married counterparts.

Let us teach our girls to view the time that they are single as potentially one of the most accomplishing, fulfilling, and meaningful periods of their lives.

E. J.


Craft a Life of Meaning [Inbox / Issue 909]

I find myself often expressing incredulity when friends tell me they don’t read Mishpacha magazine, and the two letters to the editor last week are a great example why. I find that reading Mishpacha allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of our society, since it represents a great cross section of people; in this case the two letters to the editor last week addressing Rochel Samet’s Calligraphy story with two opposing views.

The truth is, as an objectively young person at 24 years old, and single myself, I also felt uncomfortable with the way myself and my peers were described by the story. It’s true, at times I’m incredibly lonely, and at others, I am frustrated with the system.

But last week’s letter writer who finds so much satisfaction in her life probably has had something the second letter writer has not yet had the time to do: Her life experience has allowed her to create the life she finds meaningful. That may be being happily married with kids for some, or finding satisfaction in their job for others, but in any case, creating happiness in your own lot in life is a life skill learned over time.

In my life, the incredibly deep loneliness is probably not something a husband can fill. And although I cradle my sister’s kids with a lot of love and a little sadness wishing for my own, it doesn’t mean that having that particular achievement would make me a happier person. For me, seeing a therapist is the best way for me to set myself up for success, both in my current single life for however long that may last, and in my future married years.

It’s true, my friends get married, and I get lonely, people around me start to worry about my marriageable prospects because I’m old (??), but I am exactly where I need to be. The general oilem’s judgements about older singles are quite unnecessary.

In His Hands


For One Pair of Socks? [The Kichels / Issue 908]

The Kichels strip featuring the bochur who asked his mom to take care of his errands at the last minute before he traveled to Eretz Yisrael was hysterical, but inaccurate. Why in the world would it take him 20 minutes to pack, when all he brings is an extra pair of socks anyway?

Thanks for a great magazine — just please make sure to do your research better next time.

An Anonymous Bochur


Enable Much? [The Kichels / Issue 908]

The Kichels of Issue 908... wow.

I wish, I wish, that Nachi’s parents had let him get on the plane to Israel with no dirah set up, and (horrors) no new socks or shirts. I wish.

What are we teaching our kids when we let them procrastinate and be irresponsible, because they’re secure in the knowledge that we, their mothers (and I’m guilty of this too) will willingly turn ourselves into shmattehs at the 11th hour rather than give our children the invaluable gift of suffering the consequences of their actions?

When we act like the cavalry riding to the rescue of someone who doesn’t bother to do anything to rescue himself, we’re teaching our children every wrong lesson. We do them a huge disservice. We cause them actual harm under the guise of helping.

I’m not signing my name to this. But that’s not because I’m unwilling to own up to my faults. I’m just not willing — now that I’ve lambasted them — to embarrass my own “Nachis.”

A mother who hovers


Eternal Gift [Inbox / Issue 908]

I read with great interest the letter from WellTab Baltimore Volunteer responding to the earlier question of the value of “digital/virtual bikur cholim.” You see, our family was on the recipient side of the WellTab “miracle.”

In the surreal early weeks of Covid, my son, Saadya a”h, contracted the virus. It was the early stages of the pandemic, and intubation was done very quickly. We were not allowed to go into the hospital, and no one was permitted to be with him. At that time, even packages were suspected of transferring the virus. A kind nurse took a phone to him in an isolation unit, but he was too weak to even hold the phone.

I received an email from a social worker we knew who had heard about a group of chassidim who set up tablet communication for Covid patients and their families. It was midnight when I called the number. Within an hour, I received a callback, asking only for our names, with no mention of financial remuneration nor our religious affiliation. This unknown gentleman offered to meet me at the hospital within the hour to set up the tablets.

Indeed, a “malach” arrived early the next morning and within minutes, set up a tablet in our house. He inquired how I would give the second tablet to my son. I responded that the hospital would not allow packages. Taking the other tablet, he asked what hospital he was in and left with it. Within a short time, he called to ask for the room number. Within 20 minutes, the tablet screen on my desk crackled, and suddenly, there was my son Saadya. We were seeing him for the first time in four long weeks. He could not speak but responded with a thumbs-up, and even managed to smile despite the tubes when he saw us!

For the next four hours, we were able to tell him that we loved him and missed him and that we would see him as soon as we were allowed. We took the tablet to our front door, and neighbors and lifelong friends came and stood in the rain to “visit” with him (it was Covid, so no one came in). His sister took the tablet up to his room so he could see that everything was waiting for him. I dialed his counselor at his Makor apartment. Holding my phone to the tablet, his counselor took his phone, showed Saadya his room, and all his apartment-mates greeted him and told him they were anxiously awaiting his return. Exhausted, we then said “good night.”

We were able to “visit” Saadya again briefly the next day. He was to undergo a procedure before being moved to a rehab facility. I was assured by the doctor that all went well and I asked her to turn on the tablet so I could say hello to him. I waited, but the tablet did not open. Wondering why the delay, I saw the doctor’s number on my phone.

She said words no one ever wants to hear: “I’m sorry, but your son went into cardiac arrest. We made several attempts but were unable to resuscitate him.”

WellTab gave us an eternal gift. I can’t begin to imagine if we had never been able to see his smile or were able to tell him how much we missed him for the last time before his neshamah returned to his Maker.

I am certain that the incomparable chesed and effort of those individuals who initiated and continue to facilitate this mitzvah of virtual bikur cholim will be so richly rewarded by the One Above.

Tizku l’mitzvos.

Ahava Ehrenpreis


More Like Guests Than Family [Boot Camp / Calligraphy fiction supplement]

Everything Ariella Schiller writes is well done, and so was her story “Boot Camp” in Pesach’s Calligraphy fiction supplement. She touches on a very important issue that isn’t exclusive to yeshivos like ATC.

Boys or young men who live in dorms have no familial responsibilities, and when they go home for a monthly Shabbos visit, it’s just that — a visit — and often their families treat them more like guests than family members. Spending Shabbos with a rebbi doesn’t really help matters because they’re just guests at the table, and they aren’t part of the family they’re observing, even if they do help clear the table. Presumably, they can observe their own parents when they go home for their monthly off-Shabbos.

“Boot Camp” assumes bochurim are invited to Shabbos meals at a rebbi’s house; many bochurim in the US don’t eat Shabbos meals at a rebbi’s home. They spend Shabbos in the dorm, in a setting that doesn’t include a family structure, which just reinforces responsibility-free dorm life. (I can’t help but wonder if that is really how Shabbos was meant to be, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

So it’s no surprise that when many young men get married, they’re unfamiliar with what it means to be part of a family.

There is really no satisfactory solution. Our yeshivos do a wonderful job educating our boys and young men, and this is the way they’re set up, but dorm life extracts a heavy price. Maybe we should consider a mandatory period of time young men spend at home acclimating to family life before they begin dating.

Name Withheld


Same Home, Different Childhoods [For Posterity / Calligraphy fiction supplement]

Rachael Lavon’s excellent piece “For Posterity” in the Pesach fiction supplement is yet another testament to her superlative writing and uncanny ability to unearth communal issues we’d prefer to keep six feet under. Her story invites so many layers of discourse on subjects we only discuss behind closed doors (untreated mental illness, verbal and physical abuse of children); however, I was struck by another subtext.

Families are ever-evolving phenomena, and frequently different children emerge from the same home with vastly differing personal experiences. Sometimes that’s a function of fluctuating economic realities that a family endures over the years, external stressors that evolve and eventually resolve, aging parents or, as we saw in Lavon’s story, a parent’s mental illness that some children contended with while another was lucky enough to avoid.

What struck me was the compassion the younger “healthy” sister had for her older siblings, her understanding when they had to maintain their distance and concentrate on healing their childhood scars.

Frequently we see one sibling in a large family assuming a disproportionate share of the burden for the parents’ care, and immediately assume that he is simply the more compassionate, duty-bound child. Sometimes even the child himself believes his outstanding character led him to assume this role.

Perhaps a lesson gleaned from Lavon’s piece is that families are complex systems with every child impacted in different ways from the collective family history.

Elana Moskowitz, Yerushalayim


Rules Sans Relationship [Inbox / Issue 905]

To the letter writer who wrote that children are no longer being provided with necessary boundaries, I am so sorry to hear that some missing information about the Nurtured Heart Approach gave you the impression that it is all about positivity without boundaries.

In fact, a major part of NHA is consequences. These consequences are provided calmly when a rule is clearly broken. But the foundation and emphasis of NHA provides:

  1. unconditional positive regard
  2. energy or excitement only in response to positive behavior, rather than strong reactions when rules are broken (that doesn’t mean there is no consequence, just that there is no strong response to the action).

Rabbi Feuerman a”h was once asked for advice by a school that was struggling; kids were being outwardly rebellious and were in a downward trend. He presented a powerful equation in response to this school: Rules – Relationship = Rebellion (rules without relationship will lead to rebellion).

I think the importance of NHA is that it restores a relationship into the equation, when many have gotten thrown off with an emphasis on rules and boundaries. So by all means, provide that Needs Boundaries Approach (NBA). However, remember that for a child to feel that trust, for a child to understand that rules and consequences are there for his benefit, come out of love, and to teach him, there needs to be a relationship first. (L’havdil, Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon shlita, in his book With Hearts Full of Love, talks about the need for a feeling of love when providing punishment.)

For further understanding of the Nurtured Heart approach, please consider reading Transforming the Difficult Child — the Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser, which explains each level of the approach at length.

A parent and educator


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 910)

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