“Struggling teens don’t get a bad message about substance abuse from an article about addiction. If anything, it would encourage them to get help before they spiral too far down a dangerous path”
An Important Piece [Inbox / Issue 933]
I was surprised to read the letter “How could you?” in last week’s Inbox, questioning the decision to feature the article, “Letters to My Addicted Self.”
The article was articulate and powerful — probably one of the best-written pieces I have read on the subject — and really relayed to the lay-reader without inside knowledge of addiction how destructive and relentless the forces of addiction can be.
In my opinion, this was an important piece that can help people become more aware and avoid falling into the trap of addiction in the first place. Thank you for featuring it.
Mrs R. Atkins, London, UK
Crucial Information [Inbox / Issue 933]
I’m the wife of an addict. I was very perturbed by the letter from a reader complaining about the feature, “Letters to My Addicted Self.” Thank you for publishing it so I can address these concerns.
This is going to sound cliched, but it’s true: When my husband’s addictive behavior first came to light, I immediately felt and knew that this was compulsive behavior. This was in large part because of things I had read in Mishpacha — personal accounts, information, even fictional stories. My husband was saying, “I’m garbage, I’m such a rasha…” and I responded, “No. You are a good person. You are an addict.” This awareness led both of us to seek out the support we needed.
Many Mishpacha-reading families don’t have much in the way of secular literature in their homes. Let’s not even get started about Internet access. If we don’t get information about real-life issues from kosher media outlets such as Mishpacha, where else are we to come across it?
I’m not saying our weekly Shabbos reading needs to be a catalog of all possible tzaros and challenges we may encounter (thank you, Mishpacha, for striking a balance). But to close our eyes to reality so that our children won’t have questions about real issues affecting real people in our community… I think that is short-sighted and wrong. Do we shy away from discussing death, the Holocaust, cancer, anti-Semitism, and other difficult topics that are part of our pre-Mashiach world?
By the way, struggling teens don’t get a bad message about substance abuse from an article about addiction. If anything, it would encourage them to get help before they spiral too far down a dangerous path. Learning about addiction and its proper treatment can literally be hatzalas nefashos, as it was in my case.
If you are fortunate enough to believe that addiction is something that happens to other people in other communities… I sincerely bentsh you that the only exposure your teenagers should have to the world of addiction and recovery should be in the pages of a frum magazine.
Are All Those Rules Really Necessary? [Ask Rabbi Greenwald / Issue 933]
I enjoyed reading Rabbi Greenwald’s answer to this week’s question. This is a topic that has been bothering me for a long time. But there seems to be one aspect missing from the answer entirely, and I think this may be the crux of the issue.
Many of today’s schools burden their students with growing lists of unnecessary rules. Furthermore, the school itself would have a hard time explaining some of the rules to its own students. Or there may be good sensible rules that simply don’t jibe with today’s reality or with the school’s student and parent body. If schools continue to insist on making rules that cannot or will not be kept, they are cheapening the whole system and teaching our kids that everything is a joke. Please, let’s stop this ridiculous competition for the biggest rule book to equal the frummest school. Let’s strive to implement sensible rules that we can explain to our kids to help them be able to believe in the rules and stick to them.
Of course, we do need to have understandable rules. Administrators and principals are also human and there needs to be some sort of checks and balances when it comes to making rules. We cannot make rules blindly, or by borrowing the rule book of the “top” schools in the neighborhood and then spending precious school time enforcing nonsensical rules and jeopardizing valuable relationships. Rules must be made sparingly and sensitively, always with the knowledge that if you make this rule, you will be stuck implementing it.
With utmost respect for Rabbi Greenwald, it also seems contradictory to say that it is “imperative to teach the values the rules represent with depth and understanding,” while saying in the next paragraph that “we cannot run schools where students are only expected to comply with rules after they understand them.” The most important thing is to make rules that are understandable. Why would there ever have to be a school rule that cannot be explained logically or halachically?
Yes, Hashem has put some commandments in the Torah that we cannot understand. But none of us are G-d, and our kids, especially in today’s world, do need to understand the reasoning behind the rule.
The winds of permissiveness are certainly strong, but by and large our kids are good, and they want to remain within the confines of Torah and halachah. What’s blurring the lines are all those extra rules that are distracting our focus from what is real and important.
Don’t Forget the Metzuyanim [Ask Rabbi Greenwald / Issue 933]
Do you think it’s only the weak who suffer emotionally when yeshivos can’t address them properly? Are we addressing the metzuyanim properly?
Are they being seen for who they are and know that they’re loved unconditionally, regardless of their kishronos?
Up on a pedestal is a very dangerous and lonely place to be, especially as a vulnerable teen in a confusing world during Ikvesa D’Meshicha.
There are boys coming out of the best yeshivos, top shiurim, and they’re crashing and burning. Sometimes it’s a year and sometimes a decade, but their pain is bubbling right beneath the surface.
The baal kishron who never got to be “regular” might want that chance at a later point in life. The illui who only felt valuable because of his brains, might start looking for other means of validation.
Let’s open our eyes to all our children, top to bottom, and see to it that they feel seen, heard, and understood. Let’s make sure they each know that they will always be valued and loved unconditionally.
Look, He Came to Study Torah! [Legacy Leader / Issue 933]
Thank you for your article on President Isaac Herzog. It brought back a memorable personal event.
On Purim of 1956 I ate the seudah at the home of Rav Y.I. Herzog. Some sixty people were in attendance who represented the rabbinic and lay leadership of the Jewish world. The Rav seated me, then a twenty-year-old student in Ponevezh, next to him at the head of the table.
In the middle of the seudah an impressive-looking army officer entered the room and sat down in the middle of the room. We all knew that he was Chaim Herzog, the military commander of Jerusalem. It was at the time of the fedayeen invasion.
A short while later, Rav Herzog motioned to Chaim to get his attention and said, “Come here, Chaim’l.” Chaim had to walk all around the long table. Rav Herzog said to him, “Chaim, you see this young man [that’s me]? He has come all the way from America to study Torah in Eretz Yisrael. Can you imagine that? All the way from America! Chaim, say Shalom Aleichem to him.” Chaim proceeded immediately to extend his hand to me and I to him. And we shook hands. I think I too was shaking.
The brief scene was so clearly full of much emotion. You can use your imagination as to the message that was sent. I had in fact crashed the seudah with a friend from Ponevezh who lived in the area and whose family was close to the Rav. His name was Zalman Druk, later rav of Rechaviah.
The son’s reverence and deep feeling for his father was palpable. I felt like an intruder into a family saga.
A few months later I received semichah from Rav Herzog (after being tested first by an up-and-coming talmid chacham by the name of Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv). That semichah is one of my prized possessions.
Rabbi Sholom Gold, Yerushalayim
At His Side [When Rebbi was Young / Issue 933]
A minor correction to last week’s article about Rabbi Shmuel Kunda: The elementary school Rabbi Kunda first taught in was Yeshiva Tiferes Torah, not Tiferes Tzvi. (I know because my father Reb Avrohom Karmel a”h was instrumental in starting that school and hiring its staff.)
A favorite anecdote of mine was when I introduced Rabbi Kunda to my then three-year-old son, who was a big fan of his tapes. My son looked at Reb Shmuel incredulously and asked: “But how does he fit into the tape recorder?”
Reb Shmuel laughed uproariously and said, “I gotta use that line some time!”
I also wanted to point out that not only was he a unique rebbi, but his wife, Naomi Kunda, was the most memorable teacher I ever had. She had a gift for nurturing creative talents even if a student was not academically inclined.
That talent made her the perfect helpmate for her gifted husband. I have no doubt that he could not have achieved all that he did without her support and encouragement. Her devotion to her husband even while she herself was ailing was an inspiration to us all. I can still envision her beautiful smile, kind words and soft-spoken praise 50 years later.
The Kunda children can be very proud of the legacy left by both their parents.
Linking Frumkeit with Fun [When Rebbi was Young / Issue 933]
I read your article about Rabbi Shmuel Kunda with great interest. I was once a very young camper in Camp Naarim and got to experience first-hand the talents and genius of Rabbi Kunda.
At the time, I was a quiet kid with reserved tendencies who was rarely the center of attention of the bunk or the camp. So Rabbi Kunda, even though he was one of the camp directors, helped me, this very young camper, shed these understated tendencies, using his legendary sense of humor and his endless artistic talents. He was determined to make sure that every child would have a great summer. And in the process, he helped us associate frumkeit with fun.
Over time, as his recordings brought him fame beyond the borders of Camp Naarim, my not-so-secret admiration of this talented rabbi was now shared by many others. Yet, years later, when I visited Rabbi Kunda in his Boro Park home, I found him living in a simple, modest home. On the one hand, it was quite clear that his focus had not changed: He was still bringing Yiddishkeit-through-joy to others. On the other hand, he personally did not seek nor need materialism in order to find that same joy.
Throughout his life, he consistently maintained his all-consuming passion to teach kids, utilizing his unique talents to reach children (and even some adults) where others could not. His goal was simple while also ambitious: to make sure that the future of Klal Yisrael would always burn bright. And Rabbi Kunda succeeded time and again.
Jonathan Rosenstock, Suffern, NY
Rebbetzin, Do Your Job [Be My Guest / Double Take — Issue 933]
I usually read the Double Take stories with a mixture of admiration and awe for the writer’s skill, as you provide two equally compelling sides of the same coin. But this week’s story simply required me to speak up.
You see, I am the unfortunate congregant of a “reluctant rebbetzin.” And as I see it, there is only one vantage point here.
From my understanding, this is a proper shul that has infrastructure, a board, even a Neshei. (So we’re not speaking about some hapless individual who decided to open a shul in his basement while his wife finds herself thrust into an unwanted role babysitting other people’s children while their mothers sleep late Shabbos morning.) When a wife encourages, or at the very least, allows her husband to assume the role of shul rabbi, she is in effect accepting her role as well. His becoming the rav compels her to be the rebbetzin, to the extent that it behooves board members to interview a rav and a rebbetzin as a unit, and ensure that they are both equally up to the task — and that they are both willing and able to accept the myriad obligations that accompany this role.
Now I’m neither heartless nor unaware of the demands of the role. It might be necessary for the rav to meet with his board members and request additional compensation to cover extra cleaning help, babysitters, tutoring for his children, or even the funds to purchase prepared food for Yom Tov so that his wife is more available to do her job. But make no mistake about it, it is her job. This is a paid position and these are the rules.
A proper rebbetzin is savvy enough to know where she is needed and where she will not be missed. At the very least, the woman whose bar mitzvah she failed to attend deserved a phone call the next morning with a sincere apology. Just an explanation that she had been on her way but there was an emergency at home and the kids needed her would have been enough to mollify her. But to pretend that nothing was amiss and to casually apologize at the kiddush which was a few days later was simply not okay.
Listen up, aspiring shul rabbanim: If your wife is not up the task, do us all a favor and find another position as a kli kodesh, one that does not require an eizer k’negdo at your side. And there are many! But to subjugate an entire congregation to a rebbetzin that can’t or won’t do her job is simply unfair. We deserve better. And most often, we are paying you to be there for us.
Now, we’re a wonderful bunch, hardworking and reasonable. If we just felt a little connection and a little love, we would forgive you your humanity. But excuses and missed opportunities are not what we need you for.
Still Waiting for the Rebbetzin
Strong Winds [Healing from Within / Counterpoint — Issue 933]
When the Haskalah and other foreign ideologies were raging across Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many frum families lost their children to these movements. A rosh yeshivah whose son had unfortunately left Yiddishkeit was asked, “If it said that an apple does not fall far from the tree, how could it be that your child is on such a different derech from yours?”
He replied, “Because an apple does not usually fall far from the tree unless there are winds, and now the winds are very strong.”
This is also very true now. Although the winds are no longer ideologies, now the strong culture of avoiding hard work and spending endless time mindlessly on the Internet is a very strong attraction.
Chazal say that Bnei Yisrael worshipped avodah zarah because it permitted them to indulge in acts that the Torah considered immoral. Now, too, many people are tempted by the outside culture that says whatever you do is okay, instead of maintaining the self-discipline required to live a life of Torah and tefillah.
Of course, if a person puts in the effort to live his life according to the Torah, he will have a much more beautiful and meaningful life. But it is sometimes tempting to take the easy way out and fall for the allure of easily accessible tinsel instead of making the effort to mine for gold.
We certainly need to make all children feel loved and appreciated, even if they struggle with the academic aspects of learning. But we also need to instill in our children that Yiddishkeit is worth the effort and spending time on the Internet will draw us further and further away from accomplishing this.
Blaming Makes No Sense [Healing from Within / Counterpoint — Issue 933]
In Allison Josephs’ article and the follow-up discussion, many excellent points were made about the effect of trauma and attachment issues on an individual’s Jewish observance.
One of the letter writers felt that linking an unavailable mother and a child’s abandonment of Judaism places blame squarely on the mother. It seems to say: Since she did not provide sufficient nurturing, it’s her fault the child has attachment issues.
Unfortunately, some people do seek to lay blame. (After all, it’s a surefire method of clearing themselves of all responsibility.) But if we can rid ourselves of the need to engage in finger-pointing, there is value in identifying even partial causality. Because if we can pinpoint a problem, we can shift our focus to finding solutions.
Why would a mother not provide sufficient nurturing? Either because she’s not naturally wired that way (nature) or it was not provided to her (nurture). Since she chose neither her upbringing nor her genes, this lack is not any more her “fault” than her eye color or a predisposition toward diabetes. These are the givens — tailor-made by Hashem.
If there were a way for a mother to know she has attachment issues before she becomes a mother, if she knew that she’d benefit from outside help to develop healthy attachment, my guess is she’d do it. Who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, these difficulties usually become apparent only after one’s children start repeating the same patterns; if there were prior struggles, they are often ascribed to typical teenage difficulties or other maturational issues.
Obviously, we are not stuck with our nature or nurture, and we don’t want to use our own past to excuse lazy parenting. But most often, that’s not the case. Most well-meaning parents make every attempt to do the best they can: parenting classes, mussar, working on themselves day after day and year after year.
Blaming the parent makes no sense. Trying to understand how we, as a community, can try to marshal our resources to help this generation sounds like it’s worth our attention.
Addiction & Codependency Specialist
EFT Advanced Practitioner
Equine Assisted Therapist
Dedicated Builder [Top Priority / Issue 932]
Without diminishing Rabbi Shaya Cohen’s achievements, it was actually Rabbi Yochanan Stepen a”h who was in Los Angeles first and who brought Rabbi Cohen to the area.
Rabbi Stepen built the day school, Emek Hebrew Academy, from a handful of talmidim and talmidos to many hundreds of students. He had a great influence on the people of the Valley and helped inspire a tremendous number of people there to become frum and spend time learning.
Rabbi Stepen and his eizer k’negdo, Chana, spent over 30 years (until their retirement to Israel in 2003) totally dedicated to establishing and maintaining the LA Valley frum community, which thanks to them has become a powerhouse of Yiddishkeit on the West Coast.
Allan Kandel, Los Angeles, CA
The Day the Nazis Ran Away [For the Record / Issue 932]
In last week’s edition of “For the Record,” I was pleasantly surprised to see our shul, Shomrei Emunah, mentioned as one of the first shuls in Boro Park. I guess anybody, even an anti-Semitic hate group, can google “famous synagogues in Boro Park” and Shomrei Emunah will come up. Thirteen years ago a particular hate group did just that and decided to visit our shul on Shabbos morning and stage a rally.
We received a recorded call from our shul on Erev Shabbos that we weren’t to leave the shul in the middle of davening and should just ignore them. I live across the avenue from the shul and had to walk by to get to my father who was in the hospital. What I saw that morning made me smile.
There were crowds of people (news travels) and policemen in the street and policemen on rooftops waiting for this group to arrive. I waited a bit to see what would happen and then I saw the haters arrive in their battered van. They saw our people and our policemen and sped away like frightened little mice.
When I got to the hospital, I told my father, Mr. Yosef Ash a”h, longtime Shomrei Emunah member, Holocaust survivor and Bielsky partisan, “Ta, today the Nazis ran away from us.”
My father was in a coma and was niftar two days later, but I know he heard me.
Thanks for publishing such an informative article about Boro Park. We all enjoyed it.
Zeldy Ash Kurz
Williamsburg Came First [For the Record / Issue 932]
One of my favorite columns in the weekly Mishpacha is “For the Record” because I really enjoy reading about Jewish history in America.
In your article “Mama Rochel Cries for Boro Park,” you wrote that Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan opened her high school branch in Boro Park in 1958. Actually, the first Bais Yaakov high school in the country was in Williamsburg and it opened in 1944, and the first class graduated in 1947. Also, the first full day Bais Yaakov elementary school began in Williamsburg in the ’30s.
The Pop-Up Minyan Trend [Time to Return / Issue 931]
I read Rabbi Lopiansky’s piece about backyard minyanim and identified with much of it.
I started a tent minyan on my dead-end street in Flatbush shortly after the onset of Covid and closed it after Parshas Parah.
For nearly a year we had a minyan kavua three times a day, with a professional baal korei. When the Yamim Noraim came, we had well-known chazzanim. Over 120 people davened in a socially-distanced tent which I was able to warm to about 60 degrees in the winter, despite the wind and other elements. Every Shabbos had a Seudah Shlishis with divrei Torah.
On the Shabbos before Purim I saw a large group of non-regular mispallelim come for the kriah of Parshas Zachor, which is a d’Oraisa obligation. They came late and left early. After Mussaf concluded, I announced that the next Shabbos davening would be the last for our tent minyan, and on Sunday we’d “gezeigent zoch” from the tent.
Baruch Hashem we have no more tents in Flatbush, to the best of my knowledge. But we have a far more serious problem: pop-up minyanim. Some function only on Shabbos; others have more options.
The problem is that they serve the same purpose that tent minyanim served; a means for people to avoid going to a regular shul with a real rav. These shuls offer myriad justifications: We start later or earlier; there’s no talking, no mishebeirachs. We bring in a name-brand rav to say a devar Torah. We hold an over-the-top kiddush and whatever other whimsical justification.
But the bottom line is that these mispallelim have no real rav to ask sh’eilos to, no one to consult when it comes to issues like shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, healthcare, etc. The fact that there’s someone at the minyan with semichah or who “really knows how to learn” isn’t shimush — assuming that people even do ask.
The common denominator is that none of these pop-up minyan goers want anyone telling them what to do.
I’m not sure if this trend can be solved, but it surely needs to be highlighted.
Keep Shidduchim Safe [Inbox / Issue 931]
I am writing in response to the letter in the Succos edition about the amazing opportunities that WhatsApp shidduch groups can provide.
A frum single friend of mine recently received a phone call from a man claiming to be from a reputable shidduch organization to which she had submitted her profile. He proceeded to ask her a series of legitimate questions and it soon devolved into inappropriate and degrading questions.
This story should not be surprising. It’s not an unlikely scenario that people will abuse the shidduch system, when so much personal information is shared publicly on several forums, often without the single’s consent or any vetting of the group members, and especially when the people whose information is being shared are in the vulnerable position of wanting badly to get married.
The recent trend toward getting the whole community on board with trying to set up anyone and everyone is admirable, and clearly produces results, but it has to be handled with care. It does not give you a free pass to share people’s information indiscriminately, call up random people without introducing yourself properly or block your number. Aside from this behavior being impolite, it creates an opportunity for dangerous people to step in.
Simply introducing themselves with a frum-sounding name or calling themselves a shadchan may be enough to get the single to share personal details or even agree to go out with someone they suggest, who may not be safe.
We as a community have to take the necessary steps to put the safety of our singles first, even in our desperation to solve the shidduch crisis.
Correction: The article “When Rebbi Was Young’’ [Issue 933] recounted that Mrs. Chaya Rivky Leiser used her protekziya as Mrs. Pitkin to score her son, Avrohom Dovid, the role of Heshy Himmelstein. In fact, Avrohom Dovid was chosen first to play Heshy. Mrs. Leiser was brought on to play the part of Mrs. Pitkin only after her son was already part of the Himmelstein family.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 934)
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