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Inbox: Issue 914

"Is all the Torah that’s being spread worth all the Torah that’s been lost due to social media usage?"


Another Option [Light Years Away]

I always appreciate Ruti Kepler’s work, both for the literary content and the human interest aspect. As a parent of a 16-year-old with microtia, I followed her latest serial with personal interest.

It has been eye-opening to observe how a different family — even if they are fictional — has been affected by this congenital anomaly, and the choices they make. I am hoping Tovi and family are ecstatic with the end results!

Since the prevailing sentiment seems to be to get the microtia ear “fixed” at the earliest opportunity, I would like to raise awareness of another completely non-invasive option: an ear prosthesis. Our son has been wearing a prosthesis since age five (replaced twice to match his growing ear). It is an absolute masterpiece, created by anaplastologist Robert Barron in Virginia. It entails no surgery and is done in two parts, only one of which requires an overnight stay.

Current surgical options are highly invasive, results are often far from perfect, and failure is a real possibility. However, methods are constantly evolving and improving. The ear prosthesis has given our son the confidence to take the wait-and-see approach. I am happy to share information. I can be contacted through Mishpacha.

Much thanks for a superb magazine.

R. L.


Group Support for Microtia [Light Years Away]

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the Light Years Away serial. It opened a dialogue among parents of kids with microtia. It is baruch Hashem a rare occurrence and therefore there is not enough awareness on this topic.

That being said, we have formed a support group via text. We also meet in person and exchange helpful ideas, and support.

If anyone in the Tristate area would like to join, please contact me through Mishpacha.

C. E. P.


Teachers, Don’t Get Trapped [Inbox / Issue 912]

The Inbox letter titled “Teachers, Take Stock” commented on Shaina Keren’s great column on teachers transitioning to another career. I’d like to add another point.

Teachers who’ve been working for more than a few years should take care not to get “trapped” in a vicious financial cycle. At a certain point, if a teacher has been teaching for five, maximum ten years, and has not received any raises at all — a common phenomenon in many girls’ schools — she may be setting herself up for a very bad financial future: The longer she stays in that school, the harder it will be for her to leave.

She often has no recourse but to request a well-deserved raise, and each year, the school puts her off, choosing to spend money in other areas, but not on teacher salaries. As a result, such a teacher may spend a huge number of years devoting her life to the school, and finds herself “trapped” because she is not in a position to train for another field after so many years in teaching, when a school continues to claim that it can’t give her a raise.

I echo the message of the “Teachers, Take Stock” letter: Teachers, take advantage of the many other opportunities out there while you can. Many of us have successfully done so. Your primary obligation is to your own children, and not to other people’s children. While you may be able to get by on a paltry salary for the first few years, if you are stuck in this salary for your entire working life, you are likely going to inflict damage on your family later on.

Unless your school is one that has demonstrated true devotion to teachers’ financial well-being, please consider the other viable options out there carefully. There is no other field where a professional is expected to take a salary that simply doesn’t reflect the work that goes into the job. No one would think of paying a shadchan, plumber, doctor, or lawyer a salary that doesn’t reflect their expertise.

At this point, the frum community can afford to pay teachers a livable salary by prioritizing teachers’ salaries in communal efforts, and should not be surprised when teachers choose to leave before becoming trapped in vicious salary plateaus.

Name Withheld


Conflicting Emotions [Inbox / Issue 912]

I wanted to weigh in on the discussion going on regarding “older singles” who are waiting to get married, and the emotion they may or may not feel during this time.

I think that people often forget the core concept of DBT (a famous therapy modality): It is possible and even healthy to feel two conflicting emotions at once, and for both of them to be completely true.

Therefore, it is entirely possible, and probably even likely, that many single girls can feel both energized and thankful for their current state, as well as feeling pangs of longing to start a family and to truly connect to another.

While I was an “older single” myself, this concept of holding both joy and pain in my hands at the same time kept me balanced and allowed me to validate myself while also moving forward. When I heard about yet another friend having her second or third child while I had not had a date in over a year, I was able to feel both the pain and longing of having a family of my own, while also feeling truly happy that I had an amazing network of friends, a career, and so much more. At the bris of that friend’s son, I was able to daven with a real longing to start my own family, while at the same time davening that my friend and her new baby should have a successful life ahead.

The feelings of loneliness and satisfaction are not exclusive to each other, nor are any two seemingly opposing feelings that singles (and probably everyone else, too!) may encounter. For a girl to be able to stay emotionally healthy, to be able to remain vulnerable and open to connect with others, she cannot “shut down” either side of the emotional range, and either pretend like she is always happy and satisfied (then why would she ever want to get married?), or sit and brood over the hard lot she was given in life (then who would want to marry her?).

By accepting that it does not have to be purely one way or the other, our single girls will b’ezras Hashem remain happily grounded in the present while also looking toward the future.

T. K.


Another Debt of Gratitude [The Humblest Mountain / Issue 912]

Thank you for the feature about Rabbi Nota Greenblat ztz”l. Similar to the son in the predawn get story, I too owe a debt of gratitude to Rav Nota.

My mother a”h had been married to a man with significant mental illness. He did not want to give my mother a get. Finally, after a year of cajoling, he agreed and they flew to Memphis, where the get was issued.

Baruch Hashem, my mother remarried a wonderful person and I am the one child from that marriage. Our family kept a kesher with Rabbi Greenblatt throughout the years.

Yehi zichro baruch.

A grateful person


They’re Forgetting the Truth [None of Your Business / Double Take — Issue 912]

It was very interesting to note the reaction of different age groups to the Double Take story about frum men working in a secular office.

As always, we discussed both sides at our Shabbos table. I was surprised to see how strongly my teenage sons felt that Yanky was 100 percent in the right. After reading it, it was clear to me that while Danny could have handled things in a more diplomatic way, he has the right idea.

As Yidden we are supposed to stay under the radar as much as possible. Living in America, it is very easy to forget these concepts. Later, I discussed that idea with my father. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, it was clear to him that of course Danny is right and he recalled that his father would not walk down the street in a tallis in order to avoid attracting attention.

I think it’s important to note that the younger generation seems to forget that we are in galus. Unfortunately they are further away from the Holocaust and have it relatively easy in America. It’s very easy to forget we are in galus, when there are so many government handouts coming to us and everybody is generally inclusive and flexible.

It’s important to remember where we are, and what our end goal is.

N. F.


How You Get There [None of Your Business / Double Take — Issue 912]

This week’s fictional Double Take story featured some recent hires at a non-Jewish company who became very “heimish,” making themselves at home and disregarding the low-key culture other frum employees worked hard to cultivate.

Personally, we have always tried to raise our children to act like we are in galus, maintain deep respect for other people — Jewish and non-Jewish — and comport ourselves in a way that we hope gives nachas to Hashem.

One of the items my kiddush Hashem gemach gives out is a hanging rearview mirror tag that reads “where I’m going is less important than how I drive to get there.” If I am driving to Amazing Savings, all I take with me after 120 is how I comported myself on the way to and from the store…. (And if I’m going to Har Hamenuchos, then “where I’m going” will hopefully dovetail with “how I drive to get there.”)

This is something we’ve been preaching to our children and finally had the opportunity to practice. I was flying with several young children and without my husband from Israel to New York, with a stopover in Rome. Because there was a strike in Israel, the flight to Rome landed there 90 minutes after my connecting New York–bound flight was supposed to take off.

I gave my children a speech that if we rushed, and the New York flight was delayed, there would be a chance we could make the flight. However, in our rush to disembark, we must take great care not to push any people.

We disembarked, leaving our space on the plane spotless, with me carrying out our bag of garbage the children produced. I can say that no other passengers were pushed or shoved even while we prepared to be stranded in Rome. (Baruch Hashem, we did make our connecting flight, with me nearly taking the bag of garbage through security.)

If you wish to receive any kiddush Hashem bumper magnets, reminder tags, or weekly emails, feel free to contact me through Mishpacha.

Mrs. Ilana Orange


Under the Microscope [None of Your Business / Double Take — Issue 912]

First things first. One of the most important jobs of a Yid is to be mekadesh Sheim Shamayim. In my opinion, the behavior of Yanky in the Double Take “None of Your Business” is veering dangerously close to doing the opposite, making a chillul Hashem, chas v’shalom. Yanky would be wise to comport himself in the way society commonly expects polite guests to behave.

Guests respect the property, culture, and space they’re given. They don’t request special accommodations which, even if they’re granted, may inconvenience and appear unfair to others. Even though Yanky’s motivations are pure, he is still behaving with a sense of entitlement and separateness that could cause others to cringe or feel resentful.

I can speak from my experience as an identifiably frum woman who has worked in secular workplaces for over 25 years. When you are in such a workplace, you need to accept that you are constantly under the scrutiny of everyone with whom you come in contact: Your CEO, your boss, your coworkers, the staff you oversee, the cleaning crew, and security guards. These individuals are watching our every move and thinking: Will the Jew be fine, upstanding, helpful, a nice person? Or will the Jew always be looking at me with distaste and elitism?

But here’s where it gets good: Rather than accept being under the microscope, embrace it. Your workplace offers tremendous opportunities to be mekadesh Sheim Shamayim among the non-Jews (not to mention the opportunity for kiruv rechokim among non-frum Jews). Wonderful benefits have come to Yidden over the generations due to erlichkeit of frum individuals which was observed by people who met them through secular interactions.

Here are some ideas for making a kiddush Hashem at the workplace: Don’t hide the fact that you daven Minchah, but do come in early or stay late, and take time off to catch a nearby Minchah minyan. Brown bag your kosher lunch from home while coworkers enjoy company-funded take-out. Offer to take on colleagues’ work during their holidays because after all, you are working and your kids aren’t off from school.

These kosher behaviors may engender curious questions and discussions, but will ultimately lead to respect for Yidden and kiddush Hashem. That’s why we’re all here, after all.

A working woman
Chicago, Illinois


True and False [From Property to Prosperity / Issue 911]

I read your article about the “Shemin method” with much interest. While some of the points hit “home,” there were some points that disturbed me.

As an investor in real estate myself, I concur with the article that if it’s a good deal, jump into it and think later. Many times I found a good deal and while I was going through the details, I lost the deal. Always sign first and ask questions later, as there is plenty of time to back out without penalty.

Additionally, go after the motivated sellers like foreclosures, estate sales, and “for sale by owner.” However, I would like to caution readers on a few points.

  1. Buying without seeing the property can be very dangerous. Quite often the pictures or even videos don’t tell the tale. This applies especially to new investors, and I would highly caution against buying sight unseen.
  2. The article makes it seem like you don’t need much money to have success. While this may be true in certain cases, most of the time “cash is king.” Quite often sellers won’t look at your offer unless you have “proof of funds,” and will waive mortgage contingencies. This is especially true in the last two years. Additionally no investor will help you with deposit money, and sometimes sellers ask for large deposits, which you have to come up with if you want the deal.

Recently I had a case where I bought a few houses at a time, and was going to use investors’ money. At the time of the loan application, the bank called me and said that since I was closing multiple houses in a short time, that for “liquidity reasons” I needed to have a huge sum of money in my account (which I didn’t have). I was forced to call a close relative to ask him to deposit that money in my account temporarily.

I share all this to point out that while you may not need a lot of your own money to succeed in this business, you definitely need someone with big money who will back you in a case of need. If you don’t have that big money backing you, this may not be the business for you.

  1. Most real estate investors tend to focus on what is called “fix ‘n flip,” meaning you buy a house, fix it up, and sell for a profit. However, the reality is that most flippers have gone out of business in the last few years. The reason is that the margins have gotten so tight, that some flippers will buy hoping just to make $5,000. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to compete with buyers who have their own crews and are able to do all renos at cost.
  2. Lastly, while going after motivated sellers is a good idea, just be aware that there are hundreds of people in almost every area who are doing the same, and the industry is highly competitive. I have had cases where I went after properties listed for a mere few hours, and they already had multiple cash offers on them. This is not an industry where you can make easy money consistently. Far from it.

I would like to conclude by saying that while there is money to be made, it is important to realize the stress and competitiveness of this industry. Those who say you can do this part-time are not telling the truth. To make money in this industry, you have to be disciplined, have financial backing, and be able to handle stress. Those who are fantasizing otherwise are simply lying.

Saying It Straight


Worth the Price? [Open Mic / Issue 910]

The two recent letters in response to the Open Mic piece were brilliant and on target. They both expressed what I had been thinking as I read the original piece and I found myself nodding along with all the points. I just wanted to add a few additional points to the discussion.

To start with, I live in the same community as the writer, and I don’t have a smartphone or WhatsApp or the like. I am not part of my family’s WhatApp chat or my shul’s or my block’s or my carpool’s or my children’s class chats... and I am proud of it.

Is it challenging? Yes. Do I sometimes feel like I’m missing out? Yes. But life is all about making the right choices, and never has it crossed my mind to compromise on my standards of kedushah. Because I am confident that this is what Hashem wants.

The writer spoke of the positive aspects of WhatsApp as a means to spread Torah and ruchniyus (shul reminders, hashavas aveidah, etc.), yet I wonder if this is what Hashem wants. Or is it just another ploy of the yetzer hara, using the voice of “look how much good can be done through WhatsApp”?

Is all the Torah that’s being spread worth all the Torah that’s been lost due to social media usage? What about all the money that’s been raised to build mosdos of Klal Yisrael? Is it worth all the precious neshamos that have strayed from the right path because of social media?

We live our lives according to the ratzon of Hashem. It behooves WhatsApp users to ask themselves the question: Is my usage of WhatsApp a nachas ruach to the Borei Olam?

Another point I would like to mention is that there is a category of people in our frum world who need to think once, twice, a hundred times, and of course, consult with daas Torah, before owning a smartphone and using WhatsApp. I’m referring to mechanchim and mechanchos. I have a very hard time understanding how a rebbi or morah can own a smartphone.

If you choose to work in chinuch, you are choosing to put yourself in a position where children will view you as their spiritual role model. Even if you have a valid reason to have a smartphone, your students don’t know that. How are they supposed to strive for loftier goals in kedushah and ruchniyus if their rebbi or morah owns a smartphone? (And yes, students know what phone you have, even if you never bring it to the classroom or out of your bag!)

It’s especially confusing in schools when there are technology awareness programs, speeches and classes on real relationships versus virtual relationships, and incentives for limiting social media usage. It’s taking the route of “do as I say and not as I do,” and it sends a very confusing message to your students.

Wishing all of us clarity as we navigate our ever evolving world.

Another reader who is fighting the daily battle


Necessary and Evil [Open Mic / Issue 910]

Yosef Wartelsky’s humorously thoughtful piece about WhatsApp has finally done what no other piece in this magazine has been able to do: It has gotten me to sit down and write an immediate letter in response. Because I, too, consider WhatsApp a necessary evil in my life.

Necessary, because of the number of carpool, block, and Tehillim chats I am on, all of whose participants communicate through this forum. Evil, because of the amount of unnecessary information that gets in the way of actual achievement.

Rabbi Wartelsky accurately describes the dissonance that so many of us experience with this app; the vacillation between “Mi k’amcha Yisrael” and “What’s wrong with this person?” that characterizes my reaction to many of the posts.

A relatively benign example of irritation-inducing circumstances is when people respond to a call for Tehillim with questions about what’s going on with the choleh, suggestions about what can be done to improve his or her condition, or general comments that don’t pertain to the group as a whole.

The same applies for mazel tov chats, or, Rachmana litzlan, shivah postings. If you want to convey your good wishes, or your sympathy, to the poster, why can’t you simply hold your finger down on the post and… wait for it… private message?

It’s not merely laziness that prevents us; that is only one issue. In my (admittedly jaundiced) view, we have become victims of the world in which we live, and have become influenced by the virtue-signaling that plagues our society. It’s not enough to express your wishes privately anymore. Everyone needs to appreciate your eloquence, and everyone needs to know that yes, indeed, you do stand with Mrs. X in her joy or bereavement, because don’t you know, it’s really personal when you hit “reply” with your expression of sentiment, and among the 250 mazel tovs that have now hit the chat (yes, I silenced notifications a long time ago), Mrs. X is sure to look for yours and wonder why it’s missing.

And let’s face it: Posting your wishes to a group chat doesn’t absolve you of the obligation of nichum aveilim, bikur cholim, or simchas chassan v’kallah. So why not go the old-fashioned route and deliver your heartfelt sentiments directly, either with a phone call (I think that’s still possible with a Smartphone, or Android), or perhaps even in person? There may not be crowds cheering you along the way, but in my view, you’ll have won anyway.

I wish I could sign my name to this letter — but I can’t, because it would be perceived as offensive as having “left the chat.”

Your friend and neighbor in “the group”


While People Are Burning [Open Mic / Issue 907]

Thank you for your refreshing topics week after week. I am writing in response to Nachi Gordon’s piece in your Pesach magazine about maintaining sensitivity within our media. It brings to mind an anecdote that someone shared with me, that occurred on a most memorable day in American history. In their own words...

“On 9/11, I was a freshie in a Brooklyn high school and I knew enough to realize that paper ashes and soot raining down from the sky was a moment that will go down in history. I ran to get my camera and began shooting the scene... when suddenly behind me I heard a yelp I will never forget. My mother, a usually very contained person let out such a painful cry: “Menschen brenen un du shtayst un chapst pictures?!” loosely translated as, “People are burning and you’re standing here and taking pictures?”

These words follow me wherever I go. When I open a news site and the latest post is sensationalizing a tragedy in our midst, I hear that yelp and shudder... “People are burning and you’re standing and filming?!” Clickbait on the account of lives that are charred forever?

Can we take that moment to stop and think? Whether it’s sharing private moments in our spouse or children’s lives or the lives of others, don’t relish a moment where someone’s heart might be burning.

Maybe we should create mantras for our youth that will reawaken their Jewish sensitivities traits: “Put away your cell and turn on your soul.”

Thank you, Nachi, for speaking up on a much needed topic.

R. B.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 914)

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