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Inbox: Issue 998

Thank you, Rabbi Rosenblum, for opening this conversation about the serious Torah, halachah, and emunah emanating from the dati-leumi and Torani worlds. I hope Mishpacha chooses to continue the conversation.
A Gift, Not Dust [Destined for Dimona / Issue 997]

I was highly insulted by the cover of your magazine this past week.

The Meraglim-level lashon hara was offensive and derogatory. Calling Dimona a dusty town and then restating that degrading sentiment a number of times in the article! Do you know what Dimona is? Dimona is a gift. Every drop of dust in this Land is a gift from Hashem. A gift that was mocked in your magazine.

I am a therapist and tour guide. I can’t express to you the magic that the Land does. You can take an ADHD child, a person struggling with anxiety, a couple trying to connect to each other, or any person whom the world has just given up on. Give them a mountain, a compass, and a deep sense of Jewish history, and watch Eretz Yisrael do its magic.

I have witnessed miracles time and again. Hashem has given us the most therapeutic gift that exists — His home.

Please, in this painful time, be sensitive in your choice of words. That’s not dust that is flying around in the wind of Dimona; that’s Hashem’s gift, His love. Something we all so desperately need right now.

Yael Feit, MA

Beitar, Israel

Brought Us Comfort [As Long as I Love / Issue 997]

Yasher koach to Shmuel Botnick on his tribute to Rabbi Menachem Braun. It was very articulate and truly inspiring.

Growing up in Baltimore, my memories of Reb Menachem are quite fond. I remember watching him do shnayim mikra while still enveloped in his tallis and tefillin. Oy, Reb Menachem! How he used to have the right vort and words of chizuk for everyone — always with that smile!

An accurate statement about our feelings regarding Reb Menachem is described vividly in the pasuk, Eichah 1:16: “Al eileh ani bochiyah… ki rachak mimeni menachem meishiv nafshi — Over these things I weep; my eyes run with water because a comforter to revive my spirit is far from me.” This can be translated as: I weep over our Reb Menachem who was meishiv nafshi — who brought comfort and was mechazeik so many.

Proud to have known
Reb Menachem

Two Parts [Inbox / Issue 997]

I want to piggyback on last week’s letter about the confusing approach to stuttering that says to accept the stutter — because if you accept it, why would you work hard to change it?

When I read that, my first thought was: It’s the same with mental/emotional illness. I’ve been in therapy for several years now, so I guess on some level, I’ve accepted my illness, but the part about therapy that has been annoying me is that whenever I bring up a dream I have, something I actually want to do, a glimpse into how I see myself in my gadlus, the therapist always wipes that picture away and says, “First you feel good, then we’ll figure out what to do.”

This always felt like a catch-22 to me, because if my whole avodah right now is about accepting my handicap, extreme focus on self-care without giving (which is also what the therapists seem to feel is good for me), and basically turning myself into a needy baby who has nothing to give to others, without even being allowed to discuss the bigger picture — how will this help me become a contributing, self-respecting adult? How is this a balanced approach to life?

I finally decided that I’ll just sit in my room and try to understand the contradicting voices, and then I realized that yes, there are actually different parts of me that have different needs, and they are all true and valid! There is a part of me longing to accomplish and fulfill my potential, and a part of me that wants to feel small, vulnerable, and needy.

The exciting thing was my realization that, like two people on a team who have different ideas and roles, both these parts can learn to respect each other and work together.

I believe that this is a very important skill to have — being able to thank Hashem and ask for more and realizing that not only isn’t it a contradiction, it is the way to keep a human being going in life.

I wonder if the same principle can be applied to stuttering, and I personally wish that most therapists would use that principle instead of only preaching self-care. (I’m aware that this is my personal experience and that there must be therapists out there who believe in the potential of their clients!)

Name Withheld

Ready to Roll [Standing Ovation / Issue 997]

I always enjoy Ding’s “Standing Ovation” column, especially when the memories he writes about also happened to us so far away Down Under.

About 50 years ago, a young askan in Melbourne named Reb Shaul Spigler came up with the idea of bringing Jewish audiences together for a chassidic song festival. It followed the Israeli pattern of a contest for the best song. All the songs were performed in the first half of the show, and then the audience voted on best song. At the end of the show, the winner was announced and could sing his song again.

I had the honor of performing many of my songs at the festivals. We were also very privileged to have some of the big names in Jewish showbiz at the concerts, like MBD, Megama, Yoel Sharabi, Jo Amar, Aron Ben Shushan, and many school choirs.

What made the festival unique was that at the Thursday night rehearsal, the big recording truck was outside. Every performer ran through his song once with our special 20-piece orchestra under the baton of maestro Reb Dovid Honig. The second run-through was the recording of the song. Then, Reb Shaul and Reb Dovid stayed up the entire Thursday night and mixed the music to perfection. Here comes our punchline….

On the Motzaei Shabbos of the show, the recordings were available for the audience to buy; yes, you guessed it — on vinyl record 33⅓ rpm. Who would have thought records would now be back in fashion? And what a pleasure to listen to these original songs again.

While today’s studios use pro tools and special digital effects, in the good old days, we used the voice, a microphone, and an orchestra — all recorded on reel-to-reel.

Uncle Velvel

Entertainer, Sydney, Australia

Continue the Conversation [Enduring Gifts / Issue 996]

I was moved to tears when reading Yonoson Rosenblum’s column “Enduring Gifts,” describing the tremendous contribution and loss to the Jewish world of the many religious soldiers of the dati-leumi and Torani communities in Israel.

Since the war’s outbreak, Mishpacha has been highlighting the incredible thirst for religious connection among secular soldiers, and the embracing of nonreligious soldiers by the chareidi community. Yet other than in Family First’s “War Diaries,” there has been barely a mention of the incredible warriors who straddle both worlds, who build Torah-filled homes during times of peace, and defend the Jewish nation during times of war (while raising their children to see this as one religious objective, not two distinct paths).

As you wrote in your article, the halachic questions being asked of Torah giants like Rav Asher Weiss and Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon reflect so strongly on the caliber of our army, making one wonder. How proud Dovid Hamelech would have been to lead these soldiers as his own!

Rabbi Elisha Lowenstern Hy”d (who was a member of my shul) is one example of the many incredible yet absolutely normal men who took their personal Torah and halachic observance seriously, while feeling a religious connection and responsibility to the national identity of the Jewish People in their land. As his brother described at the levayah, Elisha was “mutzav artzah v’rosho magia haShamaimah,” his legs were firmly planted in this world, yet his religious aspirations extended upward to Heaven.

Like so many people in Israel, my husband has attended too many funerals over the past few months. Whether for alumni of his yeshivah or members of our community, he has returned from each levayah feeling as though Hashem has specifically chosen those of whom He can say b’krovai akadesh (with my closest I will be sanctified). Each levayah described an angel among men, yet those angels were real, halachically committed, nationally driven heroes.

I think it would be fascinating for Mishpacha to continue the conversation with more inspirational stories of emunah from these communities during this difficult time. For example, follow the community rabbis who were called up for reserve duty, and hear how they inspire their soldiers with words of bitachon as they stare the enemy in the face. Tell us about the organization Tzalash, which provides spiritual and emotional support for religious soldiers and their families as they battle the spiritual challenges of the army and the physical threats of the enemy. Share the words of emunah said by Rabbi Doron Perez of Mizrachi as he stood under his son’s chuppah, explaining the heartrending decision to celebrate one son’s wedding as another son’s whereabouts in Gaza remain unknown.

Describe some of the many creative ways in which communities are supporting their “single mothers,” whose husbands have been gone for months, and who bear the physical and emotional weight of carrying and uplifting their families alone, while agonizing over their husbands’ safety. Outline the unique, fascinating halachic sh’eilot being asked and the ways in which major poskim familiar with army protocol are analyzing the situations and sugyot.

Thank you, Rabbi Rosenblum, for opening this conversation about the serious Torah, halachah, and emunah emanating from the dati-leumi and Torani worlds. I hope Mishpacha chooses to continue the conversation.

Ayelet Tuchman, Harish

Chassidish Connection [The Missing Link / Issue 995]

Thank you for an exciting publication, and a very informative article on Rav Chaim Brisker’s family. It was very well put together, and I truly enjoyed it.

It’s worth noting that the Beis HaLevi (Rav Chaim’s father) was married to the daughter of a prominent Kobriner chassid, and the Beis HaLevi had contact with the Rebbe, Rav Moishe of Kobrin. My rosh yeshivah, Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, once told us, “In Brisk, alle meine chaveirim zenen gevehn chassidim. Der Tatte, alle zein chaverim zenen gevehn chassidim (uber di zeman nem ich nisht mer in yeshivah). [In Brisk, all my friends were chassidim, all my father’s friends were chassidim (but this zeman I will not be accepting them in the yeshivah)].”

And Rav Dovid also used to say, “Stam an ehrlicher Yid in Polin iz gevehn a chassidisher — the typical frum Jew in Poland was a chassid.”

Y. Wilner

He Watched History [For the Record / Issue 995]

In the For the Record column in Issue 995, Yehuda Gerber and Dovi Safier quote a very interesting letter from Rabbi Michel Chill about his experiences in the Six Day War.

In the letter he reports, “At 11:30, I went to Mandelbaum and saw the Yerushalmi Nazir go to the Kosel.”

After the War of Independence in 1948, when the Old City fell into Jordanian hands, the Nazir made a neder not to leave his house until the Kosel was in Israeli hands. Rabbi Chill saw the Nazir leave his house for the first time in 19 years!

N. Schnaidman

For Its Own Sake [Like a Mother’s Love / Issue 995]

I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to Mishpacha for providing readers with the opportunity to engage with such meaningful content, particularly in the recent issue featuring Rav Henoch Plotnik’s article, “Like a Mother’s Love.”

The article has proven to be both refreshing and a powerful reminder of the profound importance of understanding and appreciating the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and its deep significance.

For over a year now, a grassroots initiative has quietly been blossoming with the aim of creating more awareness on kedushas Eretz Yisrael from a Torah perspective, with the support of Rav Shnayor Burton shlita, a noted talmid chacham and scholar, who has recently published a sefer specifically dedicated to elucidating the fundamental opinions of the Rishonim on kedushas Eretz Yisrael.

As a former talmid and freshman of the illustrious Philadelphia Yeshivah, I vividly recall the unique bond shared between Rav Henoch as a talmid and our late rosh yeshivah, Rav Elya Svei ztz”l. Rav Henoch was fortunate to have the opportunity for a private learning session to learn Maseches Parah with the Rosh Hayeshivah on Shabbos afternoon. This memory remained etched in my mind, as this was considered a rare and cherished experience for any talmid of the yeshivah.

The article triggered memories of the poignant message consistently delivered by the Rosh Hayeshivah in his pre-Neilah Yom Kippur derashah. This enduring message emphasized fervent tefillos for the emergence and success of the leading gedolei Yisrael and a commitment to not forget to extend our prayers for the safety and prosperity of those residing in Eretz Yisrael.

The Rosh Hayeshivah skillfully conveyed the wisdom of the gedolei Yisrael who advocated awareness against those opposing Torah, while instilling in us the ability to differentiate between those in Eretz Yisrael who upheld Torah observance and kedushas Eretz Yisrael and those who opposed it.

Reflecting on history, Rav Meir Simcha ztz”l, the Rav of Dvinsk, highlighted the dire consequences when Germany claimed Berlin as the new Jerusalem before World War II. Similarly, the earthquakes that devastated Tzfas were attributed by many Kabbalists to the migration from Yerushalayim, emphasizing the impact of choices made even within Eretz Hakodesh.

Just as the Malbim restored confidence in bnei Torah to once again learn Navi after the Haskalah movement, perhaps now is the time for us to openly discuss and learn not just the mitzvos related to Eretz Yisrael but also to embrace kedushas Eretz Yisrael for its own sake without hesitation.

May we be deemed worthy to experience the return of the Shechinah and the Jewish nation to Eretz Yisrael, ushering in the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash this year.

Ariel Brenner

Brooklyn, NY

Let Me Do My Job [Open Mic / Issue 994]

I’d like to respond to “another caring morah,” who bemoans the lowering of academic standards in our schools. It seems to me that while her intentions are noble, she is forgetting one very important point.

It is not the sole responsibility of my children’s schools to raise them and prepare them for life. It is the job of the parents. This morah should not feel that the only way her students will succeed in life is by piling on schoolwork and reducing fun. She can rest assured that I take my job of preparing my children for life very seriously.

As a mother of a large family, kein ayin hara, I know that life is not always a bowl of cherries, and the only way I’m able to navigate life is because my parents did not spoil me. Still, I feel that schools take the “we have to prepare the child for life” mantra and use it as an excuse to add more work and more tests.

In the name of wanting to prepare a child for life and being a “high academic” school, students are being put to work like never before. November testing is one such example. How is it okay that a girl has two tests a day for two weeks straight while she’s expected to be at school the entire day? My daughter gets physically sick every year during this time. What is this preparing her for? Are they trying to teach her that when she is sick, as a mother, she will need to take care of her family anyway? I still haven’t figured that one out. Then, less than two months later, she has midterms and does the same thing all over again! Where is the consideration for her and her health?

Again, let me reiterate that I did my homework and excelled in school and I expect the same thing from my girls, but sometimes I feel like the only life’s lesson my children learn is that for the sake of being considered “a high academic school,” it’s okay to use the current students they have as korbanos. Hard work is okay, but the administration needs to understand that there is a home life, too.

And let me take it one step further and ask the schools to give some thought to what happens after my children come home. How am I supposed to spend time with my children if there is so much homework, and why is it okay for there to be a mandatory chesed program that needs to be done outside of the house? It’s as if the schools are afraid to let the parents have “free time” with their girls. Are they scared we might mess them up when we spend quality time with them or bake a cake together? My children help out at home, cook for Shabbos, and do other life-preparing chores, but only after schoolwork is completed.

I also feel that parents are nervous to complain for fear that they will be perceived as kvetches. If I dare speak up to a rebbi or morah, I’m immediately branded as “a mother who is spoiling her children.” I know very well that spoiling children is literally disabling them, and, while I appreciate the school’s input into this important task, it has to be with a balance and with the understanding that they, too, are human beings who are not robots.

So keep on doing the wonderful job you are doing, but please give me a chance to do mine.

A Concerned Mother


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 998)

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