“Addiction is G-d-given, just like any physical or mental illness. It is what we do with it and how we use it to grow that will impact our journeys”
Voicing Our Shared Struggle [Letters to My Addicted Self / Issue 930]
I want to thank you and thank you once again, all of you courageous writers out there, who have lately been bringing up this loaded topic of addiction. And thank you to Mishpacha and Family First for bravely providing this forum.
To be honest, I’ve been feeling kind of exposed with each article that I’ve been reading. Like, are you all out to pull off my mask? To blow the cover that I’ve put up so carefully?
Each read has been bringing up different emotions and self-awareness. Compassion for the protagonist, gratitude for my growth through my recovery journey, empathy for the many people out there who are suffering, insight into the world of uninformed friends and family members, etc.
I won’t deny that pain, hopelessness, and despair have made their appearance too (some features have triggered that more than others).
But all in all, there was a common thread — the validation and acknowledgment that have emanated from each one of them. That is something that I am sure has reached, and still is reaching, so many. People are opening up, asking questions, admitting their struggles, and beginning their road to recovery.
The message is clear: Addicts are regular people first, like you and me and everyone else. And yet, there is so much pain and suffering that is part of their lives, along with the lives of their family members. We may never know what our very close neighbor, friend, coworker, and even sister (Hi, sisters of mine! I mean you!) are dealing with — but that doesn’t make any of us more or less than anyone else. Addiction is G-d-given, just like any physical or mental illness. It is what we do with it and how we use it to grow that will impact our journeys.
To all of you who are gaining new information and feeling overwhelmed and scared — you are not alone! There is a huge community of fellow travelers who understand you, value you, accept you, and are here to share their beautiful, inspiring tales of happiness, joy, and freedom with you, no matter where you’re at.
Just hang in there…
A grateful reader who struggles with addiction
It Changed My Davening [Knowing and Growing / Issue 929]
This week’s piece by Rav Reuven Leuchter really spoke straight to the heart. As I read the article, I kept wondering, “Why didn’t anyone ever say it quite like this before?”
Rav Leuchter’s revelation about improving our tefillah was a game changer for my davening in shul this year. In previous years, I found the responsive parts of chazaras hashatz especially long and difficult. By suggesting to look into the mirror and giving us permission to “relax, stop critiquing ourselves, and open our eyes,” the Rav helped me focus on the beautiful words and piyutim, and appreciate the malchus of Hashem, instead of berating myself at how I got distracted by the new outfit that just floated by or how long my Shemoneh Esreh was.
Thank you so much for removing the pressure of davening… and now I look forward to finding myself in the mirror.
Unite for Our Values [Perspective / Issue 929]
While I agree with the Mishpacha editorial board’s Perspective regarding the New York Times’ “investigative report” regarding our yeshivah educational system, the Times editorial is only a sliver of expression of the intense culture war being waged against “traditional” core values of man as a being created in the image of G-d, of family structure, and of community that connects to the G-dly image within each other.
Yes, the illiberal liberals have been foisting their “progressive” values and agenda on all of us — Yidden and non-Jews — for quite some time. Telling us that they know better how we should raise our children, and what values we should teach them, is the apex of their tactics, striking at the heart of our identity by seeking to disconnect us at our most basic level — the connection between parents and children, promoting the breakup of the family unit.
As noted by the editorial board, “A mere four years ago, over 30 of New York City Council members signed a letter against the proposed educational regulations of the yeshivah system. Today there is not one person on the council who can be relied on as an advocate.” So, what has been laid bare for us over the last few years is “al tivtechu binedivim.” Politicians and institutions cannot, and should not, be relied on to wage this spiritual war; we need to do it ourselves by holding tight to our connection to our core selves and Torah values.
With regard to the political arena, this means voting for the candidates who most reflect our values. We should stop strategizing by trying to ascertain who will be victorious and then expect that the victor will be more favorable to us as a constituency that has helped elect the politician, nor should we vote for candidates we may believe will give us more funds. HaKadosh Baruch Hu expects us to stay connected to our values — so vote the values.
The war against the parent-child relationship provides an opportunity for all parents to unite against indoctrination of children in corrosive, destructive ideologies. Whereas under other circumstances, parents and others who are non-Jews may have been in agreement with the illiberal agenda targeting our yeshivah education, many parents have now been exposed up close to the indoctrination agenda of their children attending public schools. These parents have been grouping to vehemently oppose these tactics.
I suggest that we share our message of connection to values, of obligation to our self-development, of strengthening the family unit, and of teaching these core fundamental values to our children, with other parents to form a united front, from the ground up, to save our society.
Spared from Suffering [He Paved the Final Path / Issue 928]
Of the many interactions that I had with Yankie Meyer over the more than three decades I knew him, one in particular came to mind as I was standing at his levayah. It sent a chill up my spine.
About 20 years ago, a rav in Boro Park was niftar on a late Friday afternoon. The Bikur Cholim Chevra Kaddisha was tasked with the taharah, so we made plans to meet Sunday morning to perform it. Suddenly, Yankie, who knew the family, found out that the niftar had purchased a plot in Washington Cemetery on McDonald Avenue, right in the area. A decision was therefore made to conduct the taharah and levayah immediately.
We quickly drove out to the cemetery and were zocheh to bury the niftar 15 minutes before the zeman. Yanky put on his flashing lights and dropped us off at our homes a few minutes before Shabbos.
In shul that Friday night, I learned that if someone is zocheh to be buried on Friday after chatzos, he is saved from chibut hakever, a process whereby the malachim flog the niftar after his petirah. We had the zechus of performing this wonderful chesed for the niftar and sparing him this suffering. I was very emotional that Shabbos 20 years ago.
As I stood at Yankie’s levayah on Friday after chatzos, this story came to mind, evoking many of the same emotions. The Ribbono shel Olam is the ultimate Gomel Chesed. He knew that Yankie had suffered enough and didn’t need chibut hakever.
Yehi zichro baruch.
I Chose Not to Disclose [Split Loyalties / Double Take – Issue 921]
I know it’s long past the publication of this story, but I hope you will publish this letter. I’m writing regarding the Double Take story where the newlywed chose to confide in her kallah teacher without telling her mother about issues going on in her newly married life.
The scenario really resonated, as I have been through a tremendous challenge and chose not to disclose anything to my parents. Although I would love to have my parents’ shoulder to lean on, I made this decision with several factors in mind.
Firstly, although parents love their children-in-law, when faced with a challenge, a parent will often side with their biological child. Instead of this being supportive, unfortunately, it can cause a lot more harm than good as they stick up for their child and put down the spouse.
Secondly, very often challenges make couples stronger, closer, and more loving. Yet once others know something is wrong, the damage is done, and this can cause a strained relationship and grudge within the wider family for far longer.
If any newlywed has made this wrenching decision, know that you are a hero.
To all the caring kallah teachers out there who are devoting hours of time to strengthen their girls: Having someone who can provide unbiased advice and a listening ear can make a struggle bearable. (Especially when we are confident that what we share will remain confidential.) Thank you and keep going, your guidance and referrals for professional help are helping to build the next generation.
I am not oblivious to the helplessness and concern parents may be feeling. Please know that although we wish we could unburden ourselves to you, we have chosen the harder route in order to protect our marriages. When a parent is worried, channel your pain to Hashem because only He is in control, and daven that all of His children have a year filled only with simchah.
A wife who’s been there
A Quiet Revolution [Open Mic / Issue 919]
Almost every issue of Mishpacha has articles about the shidduch crisis, and there is a general consensus that shidduchim are not being facilitated well in our community.
Shadchanim are doing the best they can without being paid adequately and often without being appreciated. Women feel they are at a disadvantage in the system and are not being serviced adequately by the shadchanim. Men and their mothers are being sent loads of résumés by people who don’t even know the candidates they are sending.
Is there another way?
I’ve become privy to a quiet revolution that has been quite successful, and I want more people to become aware of it. It’s called the WhatsApp shidduch groups.
People post names of men and women looking for a shidduch, along with a description of who they are. Underneath that, there is a number to contact with suggestions. This takes out the middlemen, and allows people to look at the descriptions and decide for themselves if the candidate is suitable.
I’ve been perusing a WhatsApp called “2Devorashidduchim.” It was established by Devora’s friends in her memory. One day a young man was posted, and he seemed so right for my daughter. I contacted the contact person, sent her a profile, and six weeks later my daughter got engaged to this young man.
A week after this, a friend from shul called to invite me to her daughter’s vort. After offering all the good wishes, I asked her how they had met. She told me she had seen him on “Gitty’s shidduch WhatsApp group,” created in memory of Gitty’s mother. She thought this young man would be appropriate for her daughter, and now her daughter is engaged to him.
I told her that I’m telling as many people as I can about this system that circumvents the middleman, and that some people are skeptical that learning guys would be found on this medium. She answered that her daughter had gone out with seven learning guys found on the WhatsApp.
So, let more WhatsApp groups be created. Let the shadchan’s role be to facilitate the dates of people who have already expressed interest rather than thinking of the idea themselves. Let more Jewish homes be created and more people find their bashert. This is a quiet revolution that deserves to be given more publicity.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 931)
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