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Inbox: Issue 999

“I am a ‘Frankel’ through and through. It’s actually my husband’s family — but my husband is no Akiva”


This Is My Life [Trust Fund Serial]

Thank you for the well-crafted and thoughtful serial, Trust Fund, by Ariella Schiller. For the entire time it was running, it was the source of heated conversations among my neighbors. But whenever the topic came up, I stayed quiet and prayed that nobody would look in my direction. And it was never discussed at the (many, many) family gatherings I participated in during this time.

You see, I am a “Frankel” through and through. It’s actually my husband’s family — but my husband is no Akiva. He embraces the lifestyle fully and enjoys every social and material perk that comes along with it. In his case, his family came into tremendous wealth when he was in his teens, and for him, a major point of pride is being able to raise his children with the silver spoon from the cradle.

I won’t deny it, I, too, enjoyed all of this for many years, but the timing of this story strangely coincided with some circumstances in our personal life, and the underlying messages of the story really hit home.

Two of my children started experiencing issues that need a lot of outside intervention, and inevitably there have been conflicts between our obligation as parents and our “obligations” to the endless family and social engagements at “The Frankel Firm” (as I’ve privately come to refer to my in-laws’ family).

I have never felt so torn in my life, as I struggle to navigate the actual crises with the additional stress of making sure that no one knows (image is everything, after all) and that none of the many appointments that have cropped up on my calendar interfere with our family’s ability to show up at every event (there are many) looking and acting perfect, no matter how we are feeling or how many hours we slept last night.

While my husband is super supportive in our children’s care, stopping at nothing to make sure that we are taking the right steps and getting to the best sources of help, he will not accept any circumstance that compromises our ability to show up on the family scene picture perfect.

I don’t have any plans (or guts) to rock the boat, and, in any case, my husband clearly has no interest in doing so. But I’ve also started to realize that there might come a point where I have no other choice, as my children’s needs continue to take up bigger chunks of time and headspace, and it’s entirely possible that an important appointment or treatment will come up exactly during the third extended winter retreat of the season, or the grand Pesach getaway, or some other random engagement that will crop up at the last minute.

For that reason, I have clipped and saved every chapter of Trust Fund, to read for moral support — who knows, maybe I’ll even get my husband to read it.

A “Frankel” by a different name


To His Own Drum [Trust Fund Serial]

Ariella Schiller provided us with a very gripping story about parents controlling the lives of their children. In this case, it happened to be fabulous wealth that formed the cage. But really, the theme resonates with many other families who don’t do “Succos in Cancun.”

Parents can exert pressure on their children in many ways. A long-term kollel learner can feel that his son going to college is inappropriate. A psychologist doesn’t want her daughter to train as a life coach. And stifled children can grow up to be resentful adults. Akiva was advised by his rav to find his own path because there is only so much control a parent should have of adult children.

But aren’t there times when children should honor parental preferences and expectations? Akiva’s father genuinely felt that playing drums was degrading. He obviously didn’t realize how important it was to his son, as he didn’t have the same musical inclination. Ideally, an open and honest conversation would be had about this divergence in opinions.

That conversation never did happen, and we watch Akiva decide that it’s actually appropriate to play drums in public, against his father’s express wishes, because he so strongly wants to.

We have heard from experts how important it is to honor one’s inner creativity and not stifle it in the name of Yiddishkeit. But doesn’t kibbud av v’eim also have a say in how we express it? Did Akiva have to let loose his drumming talent in a public setting, in front of all his father’s business associates?

The story ends on a triumphant note, with his grandfather encouraging him to continue drumming on stage with a big celebrity. But let’s not forget the process before this ending. In the name of freedom and self-expression, Akiva insulted his father. Independence and self-sufficiency are important values, but what lesson will Akiva’s children take from this?

Menachem Gross

Lakewood, NJ


They Struck the Balance [Trust Fund Serial]

Reading the final chapter of Trust Fund was a bittersweet experience. I was sad to say goodbye to this weekly read, full of real human emotion, growth, and Ariella Schiller’s signature wit and insight. But I was gratified to see how much Akiva and Libby have grown, both individually and as a couple.

It’s hard to wave my new favorite couple off into the sunset without knowing just what path the rest of their journey will take (dare I hope for a cameo in a future story?), but I think readers can rest assured that they’re headed to a healthy and happy future.

I was particularly impressed by the nuance that categorized their newfound growth and independence. Their initial family relationship was undoubtedly unhealthy, and it would have been so easy for Libby and Akiva to decide that they needed to stick to their guns, remain independent, and stay scornful of Akiva’s family, with all its enmeshment and manipulation. Instead, the two of them were able to strike the balance: gaining the independence they needed, even at great personal cost, while remaining cognizant of their family’s needs and emotions, and doing what they could to fill them.

Now that’s what I call character growth!

Mindy Baum


The Real Hero [Trust Fund Serial]

Am I the only person who thought the real hero of this serial is Mrs. Frankel, Akiva’s mother?

Maybe it’s because of my age and stage, but I feel that there’s a tendency in frum literature to paint parents, certainly parents of married couples, as inflexible, insensitive, and out of touch — if not outright hurtful to their children.

This tendency is rampant not only in frum literature, but also in frum mentalities. Talk to a group of young marrieds, and you will hear lots of comments about parents who “pressure them” or “don’t get their kids’ needs” or “want to keep them in the box.”

So it was very refreshing to watch Mrs. Frankel bend and flex to be a really good mother, despite the curveballs she kept getting from her sons and their wives. I have no doubt that despite her ample household help, frequent vacations, and beautiful clothing, she has a very tough life. “Wife of veteran gvir” is not an easy job description, especially when you’re also trying to mother kids with baggage, like Menashe, and kids who think the best way to “find themselves” is by publicly shaming their parents, like Akiva.

It was inspiring to see Mrs. Frankel rise to these occasions with grace, maturity, and discretion. I hope her children learn from her example. Maybe when their own married kids give them gray hairs, they will realize how fortunate they were to have such a generous, forgiving, and flexible mother.

Hope my kids are reading this


Practical, Not Sly [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 998]

Yisroel Besser makes a fair point about whether it’s appropriate for kosher restaurants to advertise food specials for a football game. However, it was unfair to accuse them of using “sly ways of advertising.”

Anyone who reads ad circulars for supermarkets or chain stores knows that euphemisms like “the Big Game” are not limited to frum publications. There is a simple reason for this: The phrase “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark of the NFL, which charges hefty fees for the rights to use the term in advertisements. Shkoyach to Reb Yisroel for always looking for zechuyos for Klal Yisrael.

S. E.


The Nazir Did Leave His House [Inbox / Issue 998]

I want to correct an error published in your last issue regarding the Nazir, Rabbi David Cohen. A letter writer stated that the Nazir made a neder not to leave his house until the Kosel was in Israeli hands. The letter writer falsely claims that the Nazir did not leave his house for 19 years, from 1948 till 1967.

My father, the late writer Rabbi Tovia Preschel, interviewed the Nazir in September 1967. (The interview will appear in the forthcoming eighth volume of Maamarei Tovia to be published by Mossad HaRav Kook.) I would like to quote the following lines from my father’s article, which was published on September 27, 1967:

Rabbi David Cohen, who is known as the “Nazir,” has observed a vow for over five decades not to cut his beard and hair and to abstain from the partaking of wine, strong drinks, and food derived from animals. He fasts often, seldom leaving his home, which is also his study and place of prayer. He almost never leaves Jerusalem, the last time having been seven years ago to attend the “Brith” of the youngest child of his son-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the brilliant and brave Chief Chaplain of the Israel Defense Force. On Sabbaths, holidays and throughout the whole month of Elul, the Nazir envelopes himself in silence.

On being called to the newly liberated “wall” Rabbi Cohen asked three men to absolve him from his self-imposed prohibition, and after having been pronounced free to do so, climbed into a waiting jeep.

In addition to writing about Rabbi David Cohen’s background — the Nazir learned in Radin under the Chofetz Chaim and at the yeshivos of Volozhin and Slabodka — my father quotes what Rabbi David Cohen told him regarding his first trip to the Kosel. The Nazir stated:

“When you stand at the ‘Wall’, you do not think, you do not reflect, you do not ponder, you just feel!” he said slowly. “You feel that you are attached to holiness. You feel that G-d, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are one.”

My father ends his article with the following:

I attended one of his classes at his home. After the students left. I remained to talk with him in private. When I rose to take leave, he said:

“By the law of the Torah, we are not allowed to relinquish the territories we have liberated. The land has been promised to us by G-d, and we dare not forsake it. Tell American Jews not to wait and not to delay, but to come now to settle en masse and fill our country.”

Pearl Herzog

Lakewood, NJ


Mother to Daughter to Daughter [Leaning into a Miracle / Issue 997]

My heart is full after reading the magnificent account of the life of Rivka Gittel bas Reb Pesach — not only because of the incredibly inspirational and positive person she was, but because I grew up alongside her mother Chaya in Manchester.

Living across the road from each other, in essence we grew up together. How true that Chaya’s mother Mrs. Wittler a”h was a holy lady who, with her gentle smile, always had a “Bless you” on her lips. She made you feel special in her presence, and she was universally loved.

But her ayin tovah didn’t just pass from grandmother to granddaughter, but from mother to daughter to daughter. Chaya is an “Ayin Tovah Lady” in her very own right. Throughout her own nisyonos in life she has earned that moniker, too. She is an inspiration to all who know and love her.

May Chaya and her family be blessed with only joy, and may her family be reunited with the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu.

L. Schanowitz, nee Klyne

Chicago IL


Not in the Quicksand [Knowing and Growing / Issue 996]

I was recently in a car full of women getting a ride to a simchah. One woman started talking about a close family friend’s child who was Rachmana litzlan in a terrible medical situation due to a car accident. She shared how her children were struggling with the proper way to react, beyond saying Tehillim and davening for this child.

The conversation turned to how people are internalizing the current war on a day-to-day basis and the little acts they have brought into their lives. One woman mentioned that she feels she isn’t doing enough and was trying to come up with suggestions of comforts she can remove from her life, to which other women responded, “I don’t think you have to do that.”

I left the car disturbed by that thought process — and at the same time feeling guilty that I’m not doing more.

I immediately thought of the extensive exchange in your magazine right after the initial October 7 coverage, and felt like confirming for myself that the main focus has got to be more and more sensitivity (even if it hurts). And then I read Rav Leuchter’s column on the topic of being nosei b’ol. This line jumped out at me: “When someone is sinking into quicksand, only someone standing on firm ground can help him.”

This insight really helped me clarify my internal tension. The sensitivity lies in thinking about all the nuances of the way a struggle is affecting someone, whether in the case of a difficult medical situation or the war in Israel.

Falling into despair by being nosei b’ol is not productive. Thinking about a person’s situation so much that you can imagine what they are experiencing is.

Thank you for printing this fundamental column so that we could understand the topic properly.

Adina Hirsch

Brooklyn, NY


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 999)

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