| Inbox |

Inbox: Issue 911

When he felt there was a need for something, he didn’t just talk about it or complain, he did something about it.


From All Sides [With Perfect Faith / Issue 910]

As a native of Montreal, I want to tell you that the article about the Ani Maamin campaign spearheaded by Reb Shloimi Steinmetz brought tears to my eyes. Having spent many years davening in Mesivta Reishis Chochmah (under the leadership of Rav Unsdorfer), I am zocheh to be well acquainted with not only Reb Shloimi, but also with his father-in-law, Reb Icu (who served as gabbai for close to 30 years), and even his father, Reb Avraham Kornfeld, as well.

There is a special feeling of satisfaction one derived watching Dovi a”h sitting next to his great-grandfather in shul every Shabbos, davening side by side, watching the mesorah being passed down from generation to generation before my very eyes.

Reb Avraham was the quintessential heimishe Yid: a Yid who exuded emunah peshutah. He didn’t need much for himself; nothing made him happier than sitting in shul with a sefer in his hand, a smile on his face, and perhaps a small Danish to offer a friend from the yahrtzeit tikkun that morning.

Reb Icu is known throughout the Montreal community as a pillar of chesed. You may not see his name on the letterheads of any organizations, but it would be hard to name an organization or institution in town in which he played no part. Without any fanfare, numerous gemachim are run out of his giftware shop (where he worked alongside his father for close to 50 years) and his dedication to Hatzolah and Chesed shel Emes are legendary.

The Belgian community is zocheh to have the “Steinmetz Giants” in their midst while the Montreal community is zocheh to have the Kornfelds — giants in their own right, albeit a little shorter. Dovi a”h was zocheh to have the emunah “baked into his bones” from all sides. It is no wonder he was able to accomplish all that he did in the short time he spent in This World.

We wish Reb Shloimi and his wife, Feige, much hatzlachah in their Ani Maamin campaign, and may we all be zocheh to imbibe the messages of the Thirteen Ikarim until the day we see them come to fruition with the coming of Mashiach bimheirah v’yameinu.

Dovid Sattelmeier, Montreal

Are We Really the Minority? [Open Mic / Issue 910]

Thank you for your Open Mic piece about WhatsApp usage in our community.

A few points:

1) You make it sound like the majority of the frum world uses WhatsApp for non-business purposes. Is this true? Did you take a poll? Do you have an idea how many thousands of people are fighting this nisayon on a daily basis?

Articles like these, shared on an “open mic,” paint WhatsApp usage as the standard. By painting us who stay away from social media as the minority, you cause more people to succumb to this yetzer hara with the illusion that “everybody’s” doing it. Perhaps the minority is on your side?

2) Even if the majority of Klal Yisrael does use WhatsApp, does that make it right? Can you name one leading gadol who permits it for non-business use? The amounts of tzedakah given because of WhatsApp don’t outweigh any issurim committed through WhatsApp and smartphone use.

(Of course, any amount of restraint by users, such as the writer describes about himself, is truly amazing, especially in communities where it is commonly used, and I believe that was the point of the article. I’m not disagreeing with what the writer was trying to say, rather trying to clarify the perspective.)

3) You write that there are beautiful communities that avoid smartphone usage, as if we are some lofty group who took upon ourselves some random chumra, such as lighting candles ten minutes early, or washing for Melaveh Malkah. This is much more than “beautiful,” this is basic practice that is vital to our kedushah and what it means to be a yarei Shamayim. Living with kedushah isn’t optional, it’s our essence.

Thanks for a wonderful magazine.

Fighting the Daily Battle

Don’t Normalize the Nisayon [Open Mic / Issue 910]

There have been many valuable points and positions presented in the ongoing conversation about our Internet habits, yet I feel the result has been to totally normalize an online lifestyle, including social media. The overall attitude seems to be that Rav Chaim Kanievsky ztz”l didn’t need a telephone in his home, isn’t that wonderful — but now let’s talk about normal people like you and me.

But a computer with Internet access, and even more so, a smartphone, is not in the category of a telephone, and believe it or not, ordinary people like you and me are managing very happily without it.

Yes, it’s getting trickier by the day for parnassah purposes, and yes, we need gedarim and actions like those presented in the Open Mic piece for those who obviously can’t manage without these essential business tools.

But we also need more encouraging articles that are coming from our definitive daas Torah: purely social media is not acceptable, no matter how holy an influencer you’re following. Business equipment is left in the office, or on a separate phone. Friendships are real, not virtual. Relaxation is real, not fantasy. Ongoing bombardment of messages destroy the brain and leave us no time for introspection and quiet avodas Hashem — exactly the position the yetzer hara wants us to be in.

Fiction is a powerful tool, and real-life stories are inspirational, and your publication presents both beautifully. The “Follow Me” serial in Family First may have made people think a bit, but it was very subtle — never daring to suggest something so radical as leaving it all behind. More of those radical stories would do us all good, and you could help normalize what the rabbanim have been begging us to do: If you don’t need it, leave it behind — proudly. It’s never our lifestyle.


Your Neshamah Knows [All of Hashem’s Children / Issue 910]

Your tribute to Rabbi Wallerstein was written so beautifully.

I followed Rabbi Wallerstein on Torah Anytime, and what can I say? What an incredible person he was! The love that he had for each and everyone was just incredible.

For someone who was struggling, he didn’t look at their outward appearance; he saw their neshamah, their potential. When he felt there was a need for something, he didn’t just talk about it or complain, he did something about it.

The Ranch is one such example. It bothered him so much that a person who needs help in a facility should be eating treif — so he created a kosher alternative.

I could probably write pages and pages about this wonderful person; there is so much to learn from him and emulate. His love and closeness to Hashem, not spending so much time on the phone, being the best you can be...

One last point that made an impression on me: He said when you listen to a speech, how do you know if it’s true or not? You really don’t. However, he said, your neshamah does. So when you hear a speech and the speaker is emes and is speaking from the heart, your neshamah will know if it’s real and if it’s true.

So, Rabbi Wallerstein, thank you for all that you have taught me, I know that it was all true!

Klal Yisrael has lost a giant. Hashem should give a nechamah to his family and may we be zocheh to the coming of Mashiach very soon. He advocated for Klal Yisrael in his lifetime, so I have no doubt he will continue now in the Olam Ha’emes.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Miriam Berkowitz

Comfort at Last [All of Hashem’s Children / Issue 910]

Thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to Rabbi Wallerstein. Especially the letter from The Girl He Never Knew, because I could have been that girl. Rabbi Wallerstein changed my life in so many ways.

Now I felt like I lost my anchor and for the past two weeks, I’ve been going around feeling lost, looking for some sort of nechamah. After reading the article and that letter, I feel so validated and at peace. Now it’s my turn to give back to him and to keep changing for the good, because I know He can see me and be proud of me.


A Blessing on His Head [Second Thoughts / Issue 910]

I always enjoy reading Rabbi Feldman’s columns, which teach, through his use of entertaining anecdotes, how a ben Torah should relate to those he encounters in his day-to-day life. So I am happy to be able to repay the favor, in a response to his article in issue 910, in which he is ambivalent as to whether it was correct for him to give a blessing to a non-Jewish man who had done favors for him.

As I was jogging on the Tayelet this morning, I was listening to Rabbi Sholom Rosner’s Daf Yomi shiur on Yevamos 69 (which I had previously downloaded from All-Daf to my MP3 player). He quoted Sefer Chassidim 790, which states that if a non-Jew does good deeds for Jews, one can pray to Hashem to lighten his benefactor’s judgment in Heaven.

So I would like to tell Rabbi Feldman that he should have no fear that he may run into Mohammed again, for if he does, and Mohammed continues to act especially kindly toward him, he should have no compunction, but rather bless Mohammed wholeheartedly.

Sholom Rothman, Yerushalayim

Let the Feelings Come [Inbox / Issue 909]

Last week you printed two obviously different letters about Rochel Samet’s Calligraphy story, “Fish in the Sea.” I’m glad you printed both, because it’s about time everyone realized that everyone experiences nisyonos differently, with different feelings and different thoughts and different reactions.

To the “older” single: It’s great that you’re happy with your life. Nobody wants you to be miserable. But the tone of your writing suggests that no one should be unhappy while they’re single, and why is everyone so sad and depressed because they’re not married, since you feel otherwise? (It’s especially hard to feel otherwise, since marriage and motherhood are so emphasized in our Bais Yaakov educations, but there’s not much talk of “what if it doesn’t happen to me.” A discussion for another time.)

Please understand that everyone goes through singlehood — or any challenge — differently. Good for you that you’re so happy; others might not be. Whether or not they should work on themselves, their feelings, their bitachon, etc., is not up to anyone else to decide. We each have our own feelings, our own stories, and our own wants and needs, just like you. If frum society were to make space for singles (and really, everyone) to feel how they feel during a nisayon without passing judgment or criticism, it would be so freeing, so liberating, just as you suggest in your letter.

We can do it for ourselves too. I’m 23 and single, and every day is different. Some days I feel sad and lonely, and it’s okay. I’ll let myself feel this way, let it flow through me, and not try to fight it because it’s how I feel. Other days I feel great, life is really good, baruch Hashem. Let me relish this feeling and not feel guilty for being happy. Or if I do feel guilty — or anything else — that’s okay too.

The point is: We need to accept that we can feel however we feel in the moment, and just let it come. It’s healthy and normal, and bad feelings tend to pass when we don’t fight them. Let’s make space in the world for our own feelings and those of others, and take the pressure off singles — and everyone else.


Enduring Melody [Standing Ovation / Issue 909]

In issue #909, Ding attempted to determine which song is sung by children the most all over the world. Although the classic bentshing has been replaced by more catchy tunes, I would guess that the song that has endured in its purity is “Shabbos, Shabbos, Yom Menuchah.”

It seems as if it has always been around, yet few know that it was actually composed by my mother a”h, Mrs. Bertha (Werzberger) Rosenzweig in 1950. At that point she was a beloved kindergarten teacher in the fledgling Achiezer School in New York, where her chassan, Mordechai (Markus) Rosenzweig, who’d recently arrived from Shanghai with the Mirrer Yeshivah, taught as well.

In 1951, they married and moved to Montreal, where my mother taught kindergarten for close to 40 years in institutions such as Yeshiva Mercaz HaTorah and the Hebrew Academy. She wrote other songs, notably one explaining the Korban Omer.

As my mother’s 20th yahrtzeit approaches I feel it is only fair to finally give her credit for her timeless composition.

Chaya Taub, RBS-G, Israel

What Did You Expect? [Screenshot / Issue 909]

I have been a long-term subscriber to Mishpacha and reading it cover to cover continues to enhance our lives in many ways each week.

When I read Shoshana Friedman’s “Screenshot” this past week, my reaction to the “Apologize Right Now” article was: “When you started your website some time ago, what did you expect?”

The Internet, being public and essentially unregulated, attracts absolutely anyone, irrespective of morals and attitudes, including those who are vehemently against everything that your hard-copy readership holds dear.

It is highly distressing that the hardworking staff of Mishpacha is spending any time at all reviewing and weighing responses to those who do not hold the frum world’s values.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider the advantages versus disadvantages of maintaining a Mishpacha website. Eliminating it or reducing it to administrative functionality only (e.g., subscriptions, billing) is something that I would consider, given what you are seeing. This may reduce revenue in the short run, but spending more time on the hard-copy magazine will improve its already excellent content and attract more readership — and disable the attraction of those that are hostile to our values.

Whatever is done, best wishes for continued hatzlachah.

Aaron Katz

Inside and Outside [Screenshot / Issue 909]

I read the recent “Screenshot” column with interest. The piece did a great job outlining the balance involved in creating content for “insiders” while balancing the interests of “outsiders” (i.e., non-subscribers/readers). I can understand the frustration of having to deal with a barrage of emails, tweets, etc., every time a magazine makes an error in judgment. It sounds hard!

That being said, there are a few points that I wanted to share with you as someone who is both an insider (Mishpacha reader since 2004 and subscriber since 2020!) and an outsider (involved in the outside world and aware of some of the “apologize now” issues that you raise).

I don’t really understand the “gotcha” mentality and don’t really see how it fits with being a frum Jew. That being said, a lot of the issues that are being raised in digital forums are important ones to current readers as well. (A few of the recent issues I’ve seen include erasing women’s pictures, promoting unhealthy dieting, “empowered wife,” etc.). So as a reader, I may not always make the effort to email if something upsets me — but I still appreciate seeing that an issue has been addressed (with an apology, a more nuanced article, etc.).

Again, I think these issues can and should be raised in a respectful way, but it’s important to realize how many of us “insiders” struggle with the same issues even if we don’t always bring them up. For example, the women’s photo policy really bothers me personally, but I don’t email about it all the time, especially since I have seen that Mishpacha has been a little more sensitive with this (for example, I loved the article about the Alter of Slabodka and was heartened to see a picture of the Alter and his wife included).

In general, I can tell that Mishpacha magazine has a certain integrity (which is why I am a reader and subscriber). I expect certain standards when I read it. So many of us appreciate when the magazine is written in a way that is classy, not sensationalistic, and has obvious integrity in what is published — which is why we subscribe to Mishpacha specifically.

I like an interesting topic as much as the next person, but there is a way to write that is trashy and sensationalistic, and a way to write with class and tzniyus. I think we need to just assume that outsiders are going to see the magazine — for example, many people have friends and family (including those who are non-frum) who come to their homes and will see the magazine. Additionally, there are those who see digital versions of the content.

When a magazine is written with integrity, there are less chances of being embarrassed when its content ends up in the wrong hands. Mishpacha generally does a good job of this. I think continuing to put out a quality magazine with a certain level of integrity and standards and addressing outside “campaigns” when they are relevant to the insiders as well (which is often the case) is the best bet for maintaining the wonderful reputation Mishpacha has developed over the years.


Hidden Faith [Something to Hide / Issue 909]

Thank you for the informative article sharing the tragic story of the Nazi camp Theresienstadt.

In 2016, I had the privilege of traveling to Prague with my dear principal Rebbetzin Hindy Ullman of Havineini Seminary and my teacher (and Family First columnist) Mrs. Batya Weinberg. In three days we toured the city and explored the rich Jewish history that existed there.

The most moving part of the trip for me occurred in Theresienstadt, when we saw the secret shul the Jewish inmates built during the war behind a bakery. On the walls they painted various pesukim, most notably “ub’chol zos Shimcha lo shachachnu.”

How inspiring to see how these Jews never lost their faith, and stayed strong in their belief of Hashem. While many of them unfortunately did not survive, their message remains years later as our battle cry, with all the challenges we endure: Hashem, we have not forgotten You and remain strong in our commitment. Please don’t forget us.

Rivky Gartenhaus

More Miraculous than the Next [Cut from a Different Cloth / Issue 908]

I loved the article about Leo Epstein’s fabric shop. I was so inspired at how this Holocaust survivor, who was raised in a loving yet poverty-stricken home, was able to build such a successful business. Even more special is to read about how he and his family make a kiddush Hashem everyday by working side by side peacefully with other businesses run by non-Jews.

I always enjoy when Mishpacha shares stories of survivors, as each story is more miraculous than the next. I also enjoy learning about erliche frum Yidden who successfully balance a life of Torah and mitzvos with supporting their family and the community with their jobs and businesses. Please keep featuring these kinds of stories in Mishpacha.

Thank you for such a wonderful magazine. I look forward to it every week.

Liz Rothstein, Baltimore

Timeless Call [Builder of Leaders, Molder of Men /Issue 907]

A special yasher koach to Dovi Safier and Yehuda Geberer for their incredible article “Builder of Leaders, Molder of Men,” published in the Mishpacha Pesach edition. It was a pleasure to read such a thoroughly researched, informative, and gripping account of the Alter of Slabodka’s eternal impact on the Torah world.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky said that the Alter desired that after his lifetime, no one would know that such a person ever existed. He managed to always remain in the shadows, and many remain unaware that the vast array of yeshivos that we are blessed with today can trace its roots back to the same source, back to the Alter of Slabodka. Yasher koach for shining a light on the incredible impact that he had.

The article also beautifully portrays the core ideology of Slabodka mussar: “Gadlus Ha’adam…. became the conceptual cornerstone upon which the edifice of Slabodka was built. Every teaching of the Alter seemed to be a further exploration of the tzelem Elokim of each individual, and his firm belief that man contained a reservoir of potential waiting to be actualized…. The Gadlus Ha’adam approach induces change by emphasizing what a person can be, and how much he can accomplish. It holds up an image of nobility, or royalty, before the striving person, and relates to sin with the attitude of ‘you’re better than that.’”

The Alter’s mussar ideology is particularly important for our times. Wherever we turn, society bombards us with the message that man is nothing more than a two-legged animal. The low regard for human life, the breakdown of basic morals and decency, the enthusiastic and lifelong pursuit of material wealth and physical pleasure, all subtly send the message that man is no more than a baboon, albeit with a slightly higher level of intelligence. These messages enter our subconscious psyche, and our feelings of self-worth, and aspirations for spiritual growth suffer as a result.

The Alter taught that limud hamussar, with a particular focus on Gadlus Ha’adam, has the ability “to give life to those with crushed hearts, and to give life to those of lowly spirit.” Recognition of our inherent gadlus is the fundamental middah necessary to motivate our spiritual growth. He emphasized the incredible spiritual potential within us, the awesome power that man as a tzelem Elokim has to influence the world, how man towers infinitely above the rest of creation, and how every thought and action is significant. He taught that it is the task of mussar to eliminate the obstacles that keep man from realizing his full potential, and to instill within us the knowledge of our own inherent greatness and value, and our preciousness to our Creator. Through limud hamussar we will feel uplifted and empowered, be driven to achieve great spiritual heights, and be inspired to live a more elevated life.

Thank you for helping to spread the Alter’s timeless message of Gadlus Ha’adam, and inspiring us to heed his call to actualize the limitless greatness that lies within us.

Yosef Horowitz

Housing Solution that Works [Inbox / Issue 906]

There was some discussion before Pesach regarding the issue of apartment purchase for newlyweds. One writer wondered whether there was a solution. Possibly.

It has always been economically worthwhile to buy. Rentals and mortgage payments are approximately equal — with a purchase, at least you own your asset at the term’s end.

The current arrangement, with parents buying homes for their kids, is primarily a postwar phenomenon, particularly in Eretz Yisrael. Everybody was working (hard), families were relatively small, labor and materials were cheap, and in Eretz Yisrael, the government was giving away land to anyone willing to build on it.

About 40 years ago, circumstances began to change and are now unrecognizable. For the first ten years or so, it was still possible to go abroad collecting to meet the shortfall. This is no longer an option — the difference is too great and the needs too many. At the same time, some — primarily working couples — began to take the expense on themselves. This is the American model; until recently, bnei Torah salaries could still cover a mortgage. It was never an option for bnei Torah in Eretz Yisrael and not a solution for everyone even in the US; it now means moving way out to the peripheral areas.

An adaptation of this approach, and to my knowledge, the only working, sustainable solution currently in Eretz Yisrael, is run by one of the major chassidic groups. They build their own housing, sell it cost-price to their alumni, and lend them the full amount interest free, having first sat down with them to work out a realistic, manageable repayment schedule, including sourcing employment, to enable them to meet their commitments. A gemach on steroids. They do, of course, have big partners underwriting some of the costs, but when you come with a solid viable working model, big people take interest.

Not easy to replicate, but it does demonstrate what can be done, at least with a hefty dose of siyata d’Shmaya.

Shmuel Eliezer Kerr

300 Years and Counting [For the Record / Issue 906]

In the recent “For the Record” trivia contest, you included a short reference to the sefer Torah that arrived in North America and was later on returned to the Netherlands and given to the community of Amersfoort.

Let me give you a very short historic overview what happened in Amersfoort.

In 1661, Joseph Pereira and Emanuel de For Alto were the first Jews to receive the citizen membership in Amersfoort. In 1663, Isaac a Roijo, Abraham Nunes de Pas, and Abraham Rodrigues also received this membership. The Portuguese Jews probably organized shul services at Pereira’s home.

Somewhat later, Ashkenazim started to live in Amersfoort and held their own shul services, until the Portuguese and the Ashkenazi community came together early in the 18th century. Then they decided to build a shul that opened on 19 Shevat 5587.

This means two things. First, in less than five years we will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the shul in Amersfoort, which is still in use. Second, the sefer Torah was returned to Amersfoort before the existence of the shul. In our shul, we have ten Torah scrolls, of which three are kosher. We do not know the age of most of them.

As you can imagine, we were excited by the reference to the sefer Torah, especially since we are currently preparing for the celebration of our shul’s 300th anniversary. Any new information about our kehillah or the sefer Torah is most welcome, and can be forwarded to us via Mishpacha magazine.

On behalf of the board of the Jewish community of Amersfoort,

Jitschak Elzas

To Be Encouraged [Principle of the Matter/ Double Take Issue 904]

I’d like to respond to the article about not using technology to call the sick grandfather. In my humble opinion, the parents should be proud of, and encourage, the couple who is not using Zoom or other technology. I see most responses were making the son out to be a “chassid shoiteh,” which I think is terrible. All the asifahs and rabbanim declare the problems and pitfalls of technology. We should encourage people who are putting up strong boundaries that they will not cross under any circumstances!

I am a 50-plus-year-old woman and unfortunately have a smartphone. Filtered and no browser. It is not l’chatchilah under any circumstances. I have an adult who would not touch or look at my phone since she’s a young teen. I feel this needs to be encouraged and not vilified or condemned.

Name Withheld

False Hopes? [Lights Years Away Serial]

I love reading Ruti Kepler’s serial. She has an unbelievable koach as a writer and always manages to come up with unique angles and storylines.

Since I have a son with microtia, like one of the characters in her story, I just wanted to clarify some information.

As you can imagine, we have invested untold effort and thought into operating to open up the ear canal. We have been told by top doctors in the field that

a) this operation is not a cure — in our case and many others, the child will still need some type of hearing aid; the hearing aid will just be able to operate at a lower frequency.

b) Hashem has designed the skin in the ear canal to clean itself. Therefore anyone who chooses to proceed with surgery has to have a surgical cleaning out twice a year, and the operation typically needs to be repeated every ten years.

All the doctors we have spoken to over the year have told us the same conclusion: “If this were my child, I would not operate.”

I am reaching out as I know that other parents of children with microtia are reading the story and may have hope from hearing how the protagonist’s ear canal had been opened. Since dealing with any disability, even one as slight as this, is challenging and painful, I would assume that Mishpacha would not want to raise false hopes among those parents.

Finally, you mention in the story that Tovi covered her hearing aid with a headband. Due to the way this device works, it cannot be covered. I would assume that Tovi wears a headband with the device attached to it in some way.



(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 911)

Oops! We could not locate your form.