“As important as it is for teenagers to be protected in our sheltered world, they should be told of the nature of addiction”
Sometimes He Says “No” [When G-d Says No / Issue 934]
I was reading your magazine over Shabbat when I turned to the article “When G-d Says No.” It took me back to when I was about nine or ten, and I read a similar headline in the Jewish Press when the news broke of Nachshon Wachsman’s murder.
I remember my emotions back then so clearly because I look at it as one of the most transformative moments in my relationship with Hashem.
We had all been following the story and saying Tehillim in school for Nachshon’’s safe return. At the same time I was having a hard time accepting the fact that my older brother and sister were mentally retarded.
I don’t recall why only then it bothered me — it was all I had known since I was a baby — but for whatever reason, I was having a lot of questions why Hashem made them that way and why they couldn’t get better and be normal.
I would cry into my pillow almost every night, begging Hashem to make my brother and sister healthy and normal, making deals with Him that I would be perfect and behave well and do all the mitzvos. But every morning I would wake up and nothing had changed.
But then I saw that headline after Nachshon’s murder, “Sometimes G-d Says No,” and it made a huge impression on me. It told me that Hashem listens to and answers all my prayers, but sometimes the answer is no, not yes.
This really helped me to accept and come to peace with my family situation. As a young child, I was able to understand the message comparing Hashem to a parent, and that sometimes my parents said no to me, and that was okay. Sure, I would get upset, but deep down I always knew it was for my own good.
This message from long ago has stayed with me my whole life. It helped me deal with other painful situations that life has brought when G-d said no. Hashem doesn’t work for me, prayer is not a transaction between me and G-d, I have to trust and have faith that everything that happens is for my own good.
May Hashem give all of us strength for the times He says no and may the day come soon when He wipes away the tears from our faces.
Chana Berkovits, Bet Shemesh
If You Want It, Pay for It [Inbox / Issue 934]
While, as usual, I could see both points of view in the “Be My Guest” Double Take story, I was inclined to side with the rebbetzin. I was therefore surprised to read the letter that stated, “as I see it, there is only one vantage point here” and the writer felt it was that of the congregant.
The way I see it, a woman who is married to a community rav knows that her husband is a talmid chacham who is also good at relating to people, both on a one-to-one basis and in his derashos. Aware that being a rav is his tafkid in life, she accepts that her husband’s time is, to a great extent, not his own. I have found that rebbetzins as a whole not only accept this fact of life but they accept it graciously. They are also, invariably, cordial to every congregant.
In the communities I have been a member of, I believe this was basically the extent of the expectations that we have had of the rebbetzin. This is not to say that there aren’t some rebbetzins who do initiate and coordinate community projects. And when they do, it’s appreciated. But some don’t. I think it’s partially a matter of personality and partially of life circumstances.
I was therefore astounded at the following sentence in the letter: “This is a paid position and these are the rules.”
But that’s exactly the point. If a community feels the need to have a rebbetzin who is involved in the community to the extent of having to go to all community functions including every simchah of every congregant, then the community should be advertising for a couple, not just a rav. They should be clear as to the duties they expect the rebbetzin to carry out, and, yes, they should offer her a salary as well. You cannot, in all fairness, pay one salary for two people.
The Rebbetzin’s Real Role [Inbox / Issue 934]
As a rav’s wife, I read the Double Take article and the response in last week’s Mishpacha with interest. I think the original story did a good job describing some of the burdens placed on the rebbetzin, but missed out on describing her main role. This missing piece may have led last week’s letter writer to find her lacking in doing her duty.
My main job as the rav’s wife is supporting my husband in his community duties. (I like to call myself “the rav’s wife” and not a rebbetzin, since I truly do not feel worthy of this title. Rebbetzin brings up images of Rebbetzin Kanievsky or Rebbetzin Scheinberg).
When we decided for my husband to accept the position of becoming a rav and to share his tzidkus, expertise at dealing with both halachic and emotional sh’eilos and issues, and Torah shiurim with our wonderful community, we knew it would be a strain on our family. But we both decided that was what Hashem wanted from us, and it was the right decision.
The reality is that when your husband is the rav, many, many responsibilities fall on your shoulders. On Erev Pesach and Succos, he is completely unavailable. I burn our chometz while he is out selling everyone else’s chometz. I set the succah lights on the timer and make sure the succah is ready. Besides supporting him that way, I wait an average of two hours after lichtbentshen for him to come home for the seudah every Friday night and keep all the hungry children busy while playing games. Every Yom Tov and bein hazmanim is chaotic, with my husband answering sh’eilah after sh’eilah. We barely get to ask each other for mechilah on Erev Yom Kippur as he runs out the door for Kol Nidrei.
This letter is being written two hours after Shabbos is over and my husband is not yet home from shul for Havdalah (I have kids sitting on both sides of me waiting for Havdalah so they can go to sleep).
I am not complaining about our new way of life, but explaining that there is a wife behind the scenes allowing her husband to give to the klal the way he does. The wives deserve admiration and appreciation just for being the support that makes it all possible. If a rebbetzin is able to give shiurim and organize community events that is a “cherry on top,” but is not her main role.
And if I had to pick the absolute hardest part of being a rav’s wife, it would be that there are so many parts of my husband’s life he cannot share with me anymore. He will be gone for many hours meeting with people — and I don’t ask and he doesn’t tell me what he has heard or solutions he has to find. He can be terribly troubled and I cannot and should not intrude.
One day you share everything with each other and then when your husband becomes a rav, you have to step back and realize that reality is gone. He will know things you can’t know (I will have people come up to me and tell me they could not have managed without my husband’s help and I will have no idea what they are talking about). So not only is your husband away from you and the family more, but there is a distance that is created by having a partner who cannot share everything with you anymore. And that is another thing a rebbetzin should be appreciated for.
I do try to go to every community simchah and would definitely call if I couldn’t make it. But I learned early on that I could not make everyone happy. For some, I should be doing more for the community. For others, I should be giving shiurim. Some want me to be more down to earth and others would like me to be more ruchniyusdig.
I am who I am —the wife of a rav who tries her best to do the best I can. I am also so fortunate to live in an understanding community who constantly thank me for letting my husband do all that he does. They really “get it” that there is a wife who is holding up her home and husband — and I feel very appreciated.
That is what I think is the most important and hardest role of the wife of a rav: doing everything in her power to let her husband serve the community to the best of his ability.
A rav’s wife
He Added the Magic [When Rebbi Was Young / Issue 933]
We so enjoyed dancing down memory lane in your feature about Rabbi Shmuel Kunda, since our sons thrived in so many wonderful ways with the amazing Rabbi Kunda a”h in Camp Naarim. We looked forward each summer to Visiting Day, singing along with his timeless tunes, to that magical place in Waymart, Pennsylvania, where Rabbi Kunda made every kid (and his parents) feel so special.
Our favorite tape was “The Magic Yarmulke.” Back then, I had a little business hand-painting yarmulkes for cute yingelach. After producing the tape, Rabbi Kunda called me and said he was launching a promotion; for $9 he would send each child a magic yarmulke, and asked me to please paint them for him.
I was flattered to fill the order for such a prolific artist as Rabbi Kunda, but I was unsure how to inject the magic in them.
“Not to worry,” he said, “you just paint them and I’ll add the magic.”
Whether in camp, yeshivah, in his music, art, and in his ahavas Yisrael, Rabbi Kunda was indeed a truly magical Yid. His impact on tens of thousands of children was immeasurable.
Mrs. Surie Soroka, Brooklyn NY
Never a Solution [Inbox / Issue 933]
After I finished reading the response of J.L. to “Letters to My Addicted Self,” I was left shaking my head in astonishment. Yes, I agree that young girls should be shown the beauty of our insular life. But addiction can grip even the most sheltered of our girls.
I was not yet a teenager when addiction showed up in my life one night. I was too young to know it was even a “thing,” or that my bad habit had a name. Many long years passed while I painfully lived with the shadow of addiction beside me. It robbed me of my days, my nights, my peace of mind.
I was ashamed to admit it to an adult or reach out for help. The addiction kept breathing my air, feeding off my weaknesses... until I stumbled into Guard Your Eyes, all battle-worn and scarred. The chizuk and programs of GYE are unmatched. It is only now that I am finding my way to recovery.
J.L. writes that her teenage daughter “read it and came and asked me many questions. I was totally shocked...” I have the feeling that her daughter has been harboring those questions all along. This article only gave her the opening she needed to voice her questions out loud to her mother. I only hope that her mother addressed her questions in a clarifying albeit calculated manner.
The letter writer goes further to say, “I think this stuff has to stay out of such magazines.” I will agree that “this stuff” is truly terrible, and the problem of addiction needs to be solved and lives need to be saved. But sticking our heads in the sand is not the solution to solve this problem.
As important as it is for teenagers to be protected in our sheltered world, they should be told of the nature of addiction. Otherwise, they may end up waiting precious years to receive the help they need, like I painfully waited.
L.G., Monsey, NY
Don’t Turn Down a Gem [Playing with Matches / Issue 931]
The succah has long been packed away and so are the decorations. But there is a line from Mishpacha’s Succos issue that my mind won’t let me pack away.
This line was mentioned by Rabbi Meir Levi, in response to the question of what people consider the biggest flaw in shidduchim: Many people stay away from a girl or boy who comes from a broken home.
A few years ago, I was working on a book for teens who had lost a parent, and I spoke to countless girls and boys in that situation. Almost every time I hung up the phone, I turned to my children and said, “You must marry someone who lost a parent.”
I found these teenagers to be such worked-on people. They had to learn to accept what Hashem sent them. They had to learn about resilience, sensitivity, and working out situations that were so different from their friends. They worked on themselves so much.
And yet most people didn’t know of their internal work. It was only themselves and maybe a close friend or mentor who was privy to it. I had the zechus to see these changes and I was amazed.
Once the book was published, the clinical therapist who worked with me, Mishpacha Jr.’s advice columnist Tali Arief, said, “Now we must do one for children of divorce.”
And so I started speaking to children who are growing up with divorced parents — and once again I am left in awe. They were handed such a difficult situation, one that comes with judgmentalism and stigma, and they learn how to work through it. They learn communication skills and boundaries. They learn about speaking respectfully, even if it is to a parent who has dramatically different hashkafos, and they learn when to stand strong and when to give in. They learn never to judge others but to accept everyone. The list could go on and on.
Children of divorced parents cannot be put into a box. Among this population, are there prospective shidduchim that a parent should stay far away from? For sure. But check into the situation first. Do the research. You may be saying no to a diamond of a person. You may be saying no to a most polished gem while saying yes to someone who has it all on the outside but isn’t nearly as polished.
It’s not that a girl or boy who grew up in a great home can’t be great. But we all know that it is challenges that mold us.
May there be no more suffering in Klal Yisrael; only simchahs.
Broken Perceptions [Playing with Matches / Issue 931]
I’m writing in response to a small piece in the Succos edition that many likely just read and moved right on from... But for me, a single mother, Rabbi Meir Levi’s words resonated, and reverberated, and then echoed in my mind because they couldn’t be truer.
“Right or wrong,” he said, “many people stay away from a boy or a girl who comes from a broken home... Yes, it’s heartbreaking for the young man or woman, because it’s not their fault, but this is the reality.”
Under the direction and guidance of gedolei Torah, I took the steps that I was instructed to take and “broke my home.” I watched my children endure the pain of their parents’ divorce. Then I watched my resilient children pick their heads up higher, and accept with grace that which was sent their way.
My children grew up in a safe, stable, single-parent home. They are compassionate, deeply understanding, empathetic young adults who are equipped to withstand the waves that life will inevitably send their way. They’ve weathered a storm and come out stronger, better, more self-aware.
They’ve learned from their own life experiences how to communicate their needs, how to hear another opinion, how to empathize and validate, to compromise and to give in, to be nonjudgmental and accepting of others. They’ve learned how to navigate relationships of all kinds. They have the tools to be husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, who can build strong relationships and stable homes.
And yet, I see my beautiful, talented daughter, who grew up in a “broken home,” who graduated at the top of her class, who holds down a good job, volunteers and has tons of friends, and is deeply connected to Hashem. I see her as her friends get engaged and move on and yet, true to Rabbi Levi’s words, we hear no after no after no.
Thank you, Rabbi Levi, for shedding light on this topic. And now I turn to you, dear readers, to be the ones to create the change. Let us, all of Klal Yisrael, learn to see the person behind the labels, and maybe, just maybe, when we can open our hearts and minds, when we can stretch beyond our self-imposed judgment calls, we’ll be zocheh to see an end to the shidduch crisis and we will all be zocheh to see our precious children build beautiful homes of their own.
A mother with a broken heart but wholesome home
Unwelcome in Our Own Neighborhood [Growth Curve Serial]
Blimi Rabinowitz is extremely talented and does a marvelous job portraying people and societies. Yet although her new serial makes a great read, I cannot bring myself to look at it. It is too painful.
I have been living in this community for more than a dozen years, and I have watched it as it has filled with the type of people depicted in this serial. Yes, it is wonderful that they have chosen to come to Eretz Yisrael, and I know that it must require mesirus nefesh for them to leave family and friends in America to come spend a year or two in Israel. But it behooves them to realize that there are others who are also moser nefesh to live here and have been doing so for many years. We have deliberately chosen to leave the superficialities and materialism so we can raise pure children without exposing them to certain elements of American society that we have chosen to escape from.
We don’t want our kinderlach seeing parents busy with iPhones; we don’t want them observing Shabbos seudos that become parties and alcohol fests. We want neighbors who dress like bnei Torah, not who roam the streets in shorts and tank tops or promenade through the shopping strip in substandard tzniyus attire. Shouldn’t visitors, including those who choose to make their home here for a few years, try to adapt and acclimate instead of ignoring and provoking?
I mourn the days of old when the thrill of shanah rishonah was knowing our husbands were learning bein hasedorim, not sipping iced coffee on Paran. While Yerushalayim certainly invites everyone in her loving embrace, the new kids on the block are unfortunately making some of us feel unwelcome.
Unfair Targeting [Growth Curve Serial]
I’m an avid reader of Mishpacha and I enjoy it immensely; it truly does a magnificent job being relatable and fascinating. I am also impressed that a rabbinical board reviews the content before it goes to print, ensuring a kosher read.
However, I am deeply disturbed that the rabbinical board allows the Growth Curve serial to target a specific neighborhood and write negatively about it.
My married children live in Ramat Eshkol and are serious bnei Torah, living with true mesirus nefesh. We are offended by the portrayal of this neighborhood in our Ir Hakedoshah and how this serial is promoting these presumptions. What, pray tell, is the author hoping to accomplish?
If it’s to let the world know what they think is going on in Ramat Eshkol, what’s the heter? Even if the author lives in Ramat Eshkol or knows firsthand that all they write is 100 percent true and they have tremendous ahavas Yisrael and want to promote change, don’t you know this “in your face,” “holier than thou” tone is counterproductive?
Feel free to spread your message to the masses in a kosher, more anonymous way, but to make those living a beautiful life feel attacked and in the negative spotlight is wrong on every level.
I respectfully request the serial be discontinued as it’s a complete breach of shemiras halashon.
A mother in America who sheps endless nachas from her children in Ramat Eshkol
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 935)
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