“Bitachon is a mitzvah too, and yet most of our children do not know the basic ‘laws of bitachon’”
Complimentary Feedback [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 940]
I read this week’s Voice in the Crowd from Yisroel Besser, and as always he was on point. The central point of the article highlighting the importance of a compliment really resonated with me.
Personally, and I suspect I’m not the only one, I feel somewhat cheesy when giving a compliment, and that it doesn’t do much good because it comes across as such. I’ve come to learn this is false. An honest, well-placed compliment can go a long way.
On this note, I would like to thank Yisroel Besser for this great article and all the great articles he writes on a regular basis. As a millennial growing up in a fast-paced, instant-gratification era, I’m ashamed to admit it is not in my nature to read magazine articles longer than a page long. However, whenever I start reading Voice in the Crowd, without fail, I am drawn in immediately by the brilliant blend of humor, light, non-condescending criticism, novel ideas, and just basic smooth writing.
Thank you, Reb Yisroel, for providing consistent and stimulating material.
From the Ashes [For the Record / Issue 940]
I have wanted for a while now to express my appreciation for the “For the Record column by Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier. It is consistently excellent, providing fascinating glimpses of Jewish history that are both informative and inspiring.
Their piece on Reb Yochanan of Stolin had a particularly strong impact on me. I merited to be a chassid of Reb Yochanan during my teenage years and beyond.
This column reminded me of the scene at a Friday night tish when one of the chassidim said to the Rebbe, “Rebbe, we want to remain here [America] because we have two days Yom Tov.”
The Rebbe, who was a very silent person, roared back, “Ein tug in Eretz Yisrael iz vert a toizent in chutz l’Aretz — one day of Yom Tov in Eretz Yisrael is worth a thousand in chutz l’Aretz.”
In Kislev 1955, I was learning in Ponevezh and someone unknown to me tapped me on the back. I looked up and saw a Yerushalmi-garbed young man who said to me, “Der Rebbe iz niftar. Kum. [The Rebbe passed away. Come.]”
Nothing more was necessary. I put on my jacket and coat and followed him to Yerushalayim to the Karlin-Stolin shul, where hundreds had gathered to mourn.
One final scene. For about two years our family lived in Migdal, just north of Teveria. My wife and I would go into the city to walk along the shore of the Kinneret. One night as we passed the cemetery, I heard people shouting. I told my wife, “You keep going. I want to check what those sounds are.”
It turned out to be a few hundred Karlin-Stolin chassidim who had come from Yerushalayim to the kever of Reb Yochanan. It was the 21st of Kislev. Of all who were there, I was the only one who had actually been in Reb Yochanan’s presence.
I was deeply moved when he visited us during the shivah for my wife Bayla. And when I went to him — what a scene. Thousands of chassidim. What an awesome example of Am Yisrael Chai: The Germans targeted the Stoliner dynasty for destruction, but they emerged from the depths of the Shoah to rebuild, thrive, grow and surpass the past despite all odds.
Rabbi Sholom Gold, Yerushalayim
Character Is Key [Guestlines / Issue 939]
I wanted to thank you so much for printing Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg’s powerful piece. I am sure that it took a lot of courage to write it and a lot of courage to print it. The article got me thinking about what kind of solutions we might be able to implement as a community to address the concerns about painful behavior between one person and the next.
I am grateful to my family for sending me to schools that appreciate the breadth of the mussar movement, and to my teachers who clarified these ideas with both direct instruction and personal example. Further, I learned after I got married that Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim regards mussar study as an integral part of Torah study, to the point where it is integrated into one’s learning and one’s heart.
If we work on our character, we have a much better chance of being successful interpersonally. We will be more aware of our flaws. We will have a system for improving who we are in the context of Torah thought and philosophy. Absent this, we are subject to the whims of the culture that surrounds us and its philosophy of interaction with people.
We Always Find a Reason [Guestlines / Issue 939]
Perhaps Rabbi Ginzberg’s article should have come with a warning marking it as Tishah B’Av reading. I personally read the article this Shabbos with tears streaming down my face, as I too am familiar with being uninvited to a simchah. The hurt, the shame, and the agmas nefesh still reside within me, but I am determined not to let it fester and not to harbor ill feelings in my heart.
You see, there is a somewhat simple explanation as to how we could have many chesed organizations and be there for each other when it feels good or when it suits us, when it speaks to our techunos hanefesh, and perhaps earns us a little bit of admiration.
I am not saying those who work for these organizations have it easy. Many devote their lives to helping others with barely a thank-you, and give up their family time and money to see that Klal Yisrael is taken care of. Hashem should continue to give them strength. Ahavas chinam is alive and well.
Unfortunately, so is its counterpart, sinas chinam. Many of us would not think of ourselves as the perpetrators of sinas chinam, as there are almost always reasons and justification for our negative behavior, so therefore it is not “chinam.” I’m sure that in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, the baal haseudah had a reason for his behavior as well. Perhaps Bar Kamtza didn’t fit the mold, perhaps he had wronged him in business at an earlier time, perhaps they had had a previous altercation — all seemingly good reasons for removing him from the guest list.
In my humble opinion, sinas chinam is alive and well due to the inability of people to work on themselves in the place where it is difficult, to forgive and move past the triggers that the other person presents, to allow old enemies to extend the hand of peace and to take that olive branch, and to allow ourselves to have friends that push us a bit past our comfort zone.
We live in a generation that cannot tolerate pain and discomfort. People are frequently told to distance themselves from people in their life if it doesn’t feel good for them. Perhaps if we could work through our difficult feelings and try to embrace those difficult people in our lives, and try to see things from a different perspective, we could truly merit the building of the Beis Hamikdash.
There Is a Remedy [Guestlines / Issue 939]
Firstly, thanks for a quality magazine. Writers like Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Zev Ginzberg enhance the publication. In his article on sinas chinam, he writes, “There is no remedy for machlokes.” May I respectfully disagree with that statement?
The sad thing is that while a remedy exists, most of this generation doesn’t know about it. A person who lives with emunah and bitachon and learns Chovos Halevavos knows clearly that one human being cannot affect another human being in any way.
We teach our children from a very young age all about mitzvos and Yiddishkeit. Shemiras Shabbos is taught to toddlers. (No! Don’t touch the light!) By the time our children get older, not turning off a light on Shabbos may be an inconvenience; however, it becomes second nature.
Bitachon is a mitzvah too, and yet most of our children do not know the basic “laws of bitachon.” Of course, they all believe in Hashem running the world, but that’s where it stops. How about we start ingraining in our kids concepts of bitachon when they are toddlers? It has to become an instinct not to feel that other people are insulting me, taking away things from me and the like, because everything comes from Hashem, our loving, caring Father.
Parents, let’s give our children a gift for life! If not taught, by the time they are adults and struggling with all kinds of sinas chinam, it’s too late. A big problem is that parents themselves are in the dark when it comes to basic bitachon concepts. There are lots of books and seforim available to teach yourself the basics of bitachon. The next step is to instill it in our kids so that they can easily live a life without sinas chinam and merit the long-awaited Geulah.
Don’t Ignore Their Pain [Guestlines / Issue 939]
Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg’s article last week conveyed a very important message regarding sinas chinam. As a side point, there was another message in his piece that reflects the general perception in our community regarding “older singles”: that it only affects the women.
Rabbi Ginzberg writes: “A Jewish girl suffered three years of incredible pain,” but there is no mention of any possible anguish the boy may have felt. Is there this belief that being unattached doesn’t bother men? It would seem so, as articles and stories focus only on the women, how they are bereft, what they are doing “wrong,” etc.
I considered why this should be. Is it because it is a “boys’ market,” so they are never left without suggestions? That since the phone is always ringing, there are no feelings of frustration?
As a former “older single,” I asked my husband what it was like for him. He and I were both in the dating field for over a decade, and neither of us were particularly enjoying ourselves.
He maintains that while his experience was not like mine, it can be demoralizing to repeatedly prepare for a date, ensure the car is clean, make the journey there and back, select the same item from the familiar menu — and have those hopes be repeatedly dashed. At some point, he began to say not “when I get married,” but “if.”
Well, some may say, women have to worry about their biological clock. While men don’t necessarily have that limitation, does anyone want to become a first-time father at 45?
For every single Jewish girl out there, “shedding countless tears,” there is her still unmet match out there, probably sharing nearly equal feelings of “what will be?”
Why Focus on the Negative? [Guestlines / Issue 939]
I am a chassid of a prominent chassidus, with our Rebbe being very well-known and sought after the world over. Whoever is even somewhat affiliated with our circles knows unequivocally that our Rebbe has accomplished what others would not dare touch.
Starting in the very early 2000s, the Rebbe was very vocal about computer usage at home, and introduced the very unpopular idea of keeping a computer out of the house. This was before Internet usage and its horrifying outcomes were brought to the fore in any Yiddishe communities.
In recent years, our Rebbe has led a movement that encouraged men and women to raise their levels of kedushah, succeeding in getting an overwhelming percentage of chassidim to sign and keep to kabbalos such as limiting smartphone usage, and explicit tzniyus guidelines for women.
We chassidim have had the privilege of our Rebbe directly addressing these issues many times; and we are the witnesses of the ripple effect of the words we have heard.
Our Rebbe has accomplished a tremendous amount, touching the very neshamah of every chassid.
Here is the differentiator, the mind-boggling clincher of it all: Our Rebbe never utters a negative word about another Yid. Not about his own chassidim, as in: “I am disappointed with what my followers are doing”; and not about others, as in: “I don’t want you looking like kach v’kach”; not even about the lowest of lowest.
The mantra that we all know is: Yidden zenen git, Yidden meinen git. And it behooves us to live up to just that claim.
Why this introduction?
With all due respect, I was deeply bothered by the way our nation was depicted in Rabbi Ginzberg’s article. Is it possible that the same effect, or even better result, could have been achieved when focusing on the positive side?
I found it so disconcerting that this was deemed the right way to serve this message to Klal Yisrael. Can we instead bring stories such as the one I encountered just last week, when a well-to-do woman walked into my apartment building and asked after the welfare of one of my elderly neighbors? Discreetly and with no airs, she explained to me that she’d been sending cash to said neighbor and her daughters, and she hadn’t been able to reach them in a while; could I help her and tell her how they’re doing? I was never able to imagine how this neighbor of mine pays her rent, her groceries, her basic needs. Now I know.
My husband passed a very quiet and out-of-the-area neighborhood recently and watched two heimish Hatzalah volunteers gently maneuvering a stretcher onto a waiting ambulance, taking such brotherly care of an ailing woman. There was no gaggle of kids watching the scene, no one to give any attention to what these selfless men were doing, and it was at the end of a workday.
Wouldn’t it be empowering to put ourselves on the high of encountering a sampling of such stories in your pages? Why put down an am kadosh?
The piece described a Yid who invited a large group of friends and turned down someone who hadn’t been invited. Does the fact that he doesn’t want to feed every person looking for good supper and entertainment make this story equivalent to Kamtza and Bar Kamtza? That feels rather harsh — it’s not a soup kitchen, it’s an event with invitees.
Does a Hatzalah member parked outside of a hall really deserve such flak for not realizing that his going in to say mazel tov would cause so much upheaval? Did all his credibility get lost in that one moment of not thinking for a second?
Is this the judgment that we would like to receive from Shamayim?
Yidden zenen git, Yidden meinen git. Let’s live up to it, together.
Major Disincentive [A Few Minutes with Eitan Regev / Issue 939]
Your interview with Eitan Regev about boosting chareidi employment covered some of the obstacles, but did not mention a biggie: Israel’s high taxation on earnings, particularly men’s earnings.
My husband and I have eight children under 18, but he only receives income tax credits for two of them, while I receive credits for all eight. A huge percentage of his income goes to tax, without regard for the cost of supporting a large family.
This is quite a disincentive to men working. And that’s aside from paying 17% VAT on almost all purchases we make.
Married to a chareidi man who works
Correlation Is Not Causation [Growing Together / Issue 939]
I’ve been following the explosion of reactions to the recent articles about attachment and people choosing to leave Yiddishkeit.
As a therapist, the correlation between highly sensitive people, poor attachment, and kids OTD seems a most intuitive connection. So does Rabbi Shimon Russell’s breakdown of contributing societal factors, which he shared in Issue 939. However, I would respectfully add that these correlations are not the same as causation.
Meaning: The fact that these elements often occur together doesn’t mean, for example, that faulty attachment or personality type is at fault, but rather could often co-occur with a teen leaving Yiddishkeit.
It seems to me that in order to really understand the exact relationship, one would have to do some extensive research, beyond the scope of Mrs. Josephs’s and Rabbi Russell’s personal experiences, which are biased by their own areas of practice, personality types, and interpretation.
There are many, many factors in each of their theories that beg for more clarification, such as: Are there any people who are HSP or who have poor attachment who don’t leave Yiddishkeit, and why? What is the role of resilience in this area? Do community size, quality of other family relationships, or co-occurring disorders make a difference? And many more.
While observation and theory are an important start, many tears have been shed and years have been wasted on therapies and interventions that have later been proven ineffective because there was information missing in the research stage. The fields of parenting, education, and medicine have all made the same mistake.
Before we get riled up and jump to sweeping conclusions, let’s be more informed, and hopefully more effective, in meeting our families’ needs.
Ariella Farkash, LCSW, Yerushalayim
Call for Action [Growing Together / Issue 939]
I wish to personally thank you for your courageousness and foresight in publishing the article about Rabbi Shimon Russell.
As someone involved in spiritual guidance for baalei teshuvah and suffering FFBs for over 30 years myself, Rabbi Russell’s insights and conclusions need no further supportive references. They are self-evident to anyone working in this field — assuming their main agenda has been to truly understand the nefesh of the suffering youth.
The “call for action” at the end of the article was clear — that we, as the parental generation, need now to rise to the call of our generational hashgachah and be willing to do what is hardest for us: to face our own fears and triggers, so that we can reach a place of integrity within ourselves that will allow us to initiate those long overdue, mature, and honest conversations with our children that they so yearn for. That opening for true and non-escaping conversation, I agree, is what holds promise to turn everything around.
Our children (I refer to those who entered a world with Internet, approximately age 25 and under) were unquestionably born with extra-heilige neshamos, if Hashem expects of them to navigate through such challenges as those we face today at the end of days. It is time that we — the parental generation — realize that we also must have been born with extra-heilige neshamos, if Hashem expects us to withstand such challenges as those we are being tested with through the present hashgachah of our children.
Rav Nachum Chaimowitz
Rosh Yeshivas Lev Yisrael
Mechaber Sefer Mishnah Berurah Hamevurar
How It Affects Me [Inbox / Issue 939]
I’m writing this as an 18-year-old girl who grew up and currently lives in Ramat Eshkol.
Baruch Hashem, I grew up in an amazing home, with two completely American parents who strived to integrate me and my siblings into the society here in Eretz Yisrael because they felt the kedushah was stronger here.
As I got older and started seeing the types of married American girls who were calling Ramat Eshkol their home, it became increasingly more of a battle for me, as I was being educated and brought up one way but being exposed to another way. Don’t get me wrong, I know and am very friendly with many of the young women living here, but the exposure takes a toll.
I hope to marry someone who will spend his first few years of married life in kollel, but I sometimes find myself asking why I can’t dress the same as all of these neighbors of mine who also have husbands sitting and learning and are dressed in ways that are below the standard I was brought up with. It’s a real struggle for me.
Regardless of personal struggles, which we can’t judge anyone for — as it is individual to their relationship with Hashem — is there a standard that needs to be respected, regardless of one’s individual struggle? Or is it “do what you want,” because I come from here or there, with complete disregard for current surroundings and standards?
I’m sure when some of these women go for interviews here to get their kids into cheder, they would never dress there as they do on Paran. So I question if there’s a line we all must at least live for, or is it anything goes?
By the way, my parents are the most accepting people I know, no matter what level someone may be holding, but it’s been difficult for them because it has been difficult for me.
Hopefully this story and all the talk about it can bring a little more understanding and sensitivity to our neighborhood.
Struggling in Ramat Eshkol
Captured Every Nuance [A Simple Story / Issue 939]
Once again Yisroel Besser manages to hit the proverbial nail on the head with both his article and his book on Reb Dovid Feinstein.
I was zocheh to attend Reb Dovid’s Chumash shiur, and it was always full of brilliant insights and self-deprecating humor. I was privileged to converse with him on a few occasions and I found that Reb Yisroel managed to capture his cadence and his vernacular.
Another important nekudah brought up in the book that can provide inspiration to all of us is as follows: As Reb Yisroel said in the preface and as someone who grew up in his generation, the consensus gadol hador of our childhood was Rav Moshe Feinstein. He was the example our parents and cheder rebbeim used as the person that one should aspire to emulate. Imagine growing up and coming of age with a father of that stature! Yet Reb Dovid was able to find a path and leave a mark; he was simultaneously a prime disciple of his father and his own, very different, person.
Eli Neuberger, Baltimore, MD
What the Mother Wants to Hear [Ask Rabbi Greenwald / Issue 938]
Just wanted to add my two cents to the back-and-forth about the parents supporting a young couple in Yerushalayim who are going out to eat and vacationing on a regular basis.
Most children (even the marrieds) want to make their parents happy. And when they live far away, and their parents cannot see in person how they are doing, they try even harder to only share the good parts of their life.
So if the daughter is reporting how well her husband treats her, it is because she thinks that will give her mother nachas. If she thought her mother wanted to hear about the amazing chaburah her husband gave, she would talk about it. If she thought her mother would be proud that her masmid husband learns on Friday afternoon while she does all the Shabbos prep singlehandedly — she would tell her that.
But if she grew up in a milieu where a good husband takes out his wife on a regular basis, does all the shopping, and puts up the cholent, then she will stress that part of her life in her daily calls.
My daughter has three young children and a husband learning full-time (not in Yerushalayim). She is proud to share with me how well she manages, even when it is difficult. Recently a friend called her to vent about how overwhelmed she is, and mentioned that she had asked her husband to come home early from seder to help her out. My daughter understands that this is sometimes necessary, but she would be ashamed to share it with her friends if she reached that point.
So maybe the mother needs to keep refocusing the conversation to what she wants to hear... and her daughter will have many stories to give her nachas.
A proud kollel wife who is proud of all my kollel children
Correction: In last week’s On Site piece [Issue 940], Shua was incorrectly identified as the wife of Yehudah. Shua was in fact the name of his father-in-law. We regret the error.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 941)
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