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Inbox Letters: Issue 848   

"Of course her single friends are hurt. What are we? People with no feelings? Here when it’s convenient and to be ignored when it’s less so?"


Act of G-d [Inbox / Issue 847]

I have been following the Inbox letters regarding the Trump presidency spawned by the excellent piece by Shoshana Friedman. Personally, I felt very validated by Mrs. Friedman’s breakdown on the two types of readers — the diehard Trump fans who would support him at all costs, and those who could appreciate the nuanced view that while he may have been incredible in many ways, he was horrible in others. I belong to the latter group, but often felt that I was the only one.

Having voted for Trump and fully expecting him to win, I was sorely disappointed with the outcome of the election. Like many of my fellow Jews, I feel that America has never had a president who has been such an oheiv Yisrael and done so much good for Jews. Despite his own personal moral failings, he stood proudly with conservative values and did not hesitate to thank G-d in public. He clearly seemed to be the choice for those who value life and religious values. How ironic it is then, that perhaps the thing that turned the tide for him was an act of G-d — namely, the pandemic.

About a month before the pandemic hit the US, we heard from President Trump at his State of the Union address. At that historic speech, he highlighted the tremendous advancements his administration had made in the economy, in education, in foreign policy, and in almost every area that mattered. The feeling was that almost all Americans could say they were better off now than they were before Trump. Of course there is no way to know with certainty, but I feel that if the election had been held right then, he would have won in a landslide (nasty tweets and all).

Then, when the pandemic hit, every one of his accomplishments seemed to be wiped out. The US was in chaos, as was the rest of the world. His crowning achievement — a strong economy — was wiped out. Though he didn’t start any wars, Trump was blamed for the thousands of lives lost due to COVID, as he was for the devastating unemployment numbers. Furthermore, the unwieldy nature of the election itself (and with it the potential for crying fraud) was due to the pandemic.

And so I sit here and ponder the irony: The president who did not shy away from standing up for G-d, who publicly thanked G-d on many occasions, who fought for the lives of the unborn, and who made himself a friend of Klal Yisrael, seemed to have been spurned by G-d Himself in a twist of fate that was completely an act of G-d. It was almost as if Hashem handed the election to the Democrats on a silver platter.

Perhaps, as Mrs. Friedman so eloquently concluded, Hashem wanted us to learn that as much as we may have felt we had a friend in the White House, we were wrong to attribute too much power to him. There is only One Who has the power, only One Who can save us — and to Him we must always turn.

R. Neuhaus

Holding Firm [The Kichels / Issue 847]

Kudos to Mishpacha for printing this week’s Kichels showing the absurdity of a bas Yisrael sending her picture out to the shadchan, and how it quickly makes the rounds for public consumption.

As a mother of a girl in shidduchim, I have been told that this is the way it is today and that shadchanim cannot work with me if we don’t send a picture. Baruch Hashem, my daughter has held firm and we have not caved in to this trend. But seeing letters such as those published in Mishpacha’s Inbox, as well as hearing rabbanim such as Rabbi Goldberg decry this issue, gives us courage to continue to resist the pressure. The Kichels have once again managed to hold a mirror up and reflect our foibles in a humorous way, hopefully provoking a response.

Mishpacha has the ability to affect the trends in the chareidi community in many ways, and I hope you keep up the good fight. Let us return to those values that define us, and allow our precious daughters to retain their dignity.

R.D., Miami

Necessary and Justified [The Kichels / Issue 847]

Thank you, Mishpacha, for providing a well-written, informative, and entertaining frum publication. Though I am often tempted to respond to different arguments you raise, I never have gotten around to actually sitting down and writing something out. The issue of shidduch-résumé photos is different for two reasons.

First of all, this is an issue that directly affects me. Also, I am acutely aware that my demographic (yeshivah guys) is the least likely to respond to the Inbox section of Mishpacha magazine, and since no one else will respond for us, I feel the need to do it myself.

Anyone familiar with our community knows all about our “shidduch crisis.” If you know a girl in the parshah, or you simply are an avid Mishpacha reader, you also know what kind of pain many girls have to go through before they meet their bashert.

What is infrequently mentioned is the pain the boy has to go through. That is, the pain of being inundated with dozens and dozens of résumés, not knowing where to start, and the pain of doing research for dozens and dozens of girls. The excitement of meeting your potential wife dozens and dozens of times, followed by the major stresses of date planning (only magnified by COVID). Then come the hours upon hours of driving, followed by disappointment after disappointment. Draining is an understatement. However, the lack of mention in most frum publications is justified. I’d rather have it this way than the other way around.

There is something, however, that can minimize all the frustrations that I and many other guys go through: résumé pictures.

Some boys are pickier than others when it comes to looks. This can be due to many things — some unfortunately inappropriate, others inborn. To deny that the beginning stage of a marriage starts with physical attraction is simply being naive. Do these boys believe that that is all there is to a marriage? No! We are fully aware that it is only the beginning to what will hopefully develop into a genuine, meaningful relationship. However, it is a necessary first step.

Yes, we know that for some reason girls send out pictures of themselves that don’t do themselves justice. We also know that many times the opposite is true — they send pictures that look much better than their actual appearance. (Which happens to be equally counterproductive, as a boy who sees the picture and then meets her will be disappointed.) Yes, you can’t pick up a girl’s personality just from a photo, something that contributes to overall attraction. However, seeing an accurate picture of a girl, just to see if it’s shayach, can save all parties involved precious time and energy. Some mothers are very good at picking up on which girls their son will be attracted to; most, however, are not.

At the end of the day, résumé pictures save so much effort and energy. These pictures help out the girls too. Does it do them any good to go out on a one- (or two-) and-done? No, it doesn’t.

Can such a system be abused? Yes of course it can, and no one (I hope) will argue that it’s appropriate for a boy to have different pictures of girls saved on his phone. I personally look at the picture for a few seconds, decide if there is potential, and promptly erase it.

Is it a perfect system? No, it’s not ideal, but it is completely necessary. So to all of those do-gooders out there who want to abolish the shidduch picture, please keep in mind that your self-righteousness comes at the expense of another Yid.

May all singles find their bashert b’karov!

A bochur in shidduchim

How Friendship Works [Friends and Fault Lines / Double Take — Issue 846]

While your magazine is the highlight of my week, I take issue with the story of the newly married young woman rejected by her still-single friends.

While your article portrayed the single as nonflexible and very selfish and self-centered, I believe that for many young women in that situation, the opposite is true. Generally, when a girl gets engaged, her single friends do their best to really celebrate with her. And then, the engaged girl flies off to Candyland: shopping with her mother, spending Shabbos with her in-laws, and in general preparing for the big wedding day. Single friends reach out sometimes to hear how it’s going, complain about a bad date, or even to help. But the engaged girl just ignores the texts and calls. She is busy and has Mr. Glorious and needs no one else.

Three months after the wedding (sometimes even later), Mrs. Married says, “Hey, I need friends. I haven’t heard from anyone in some time,” and tries to reach out.

Of course her single friends are hurt. What are we? People with no feelings? Here when it’s convenient and to be ignored when it’s less so? That’s not the way friendship works. But we try to move on and forgive. Even when it hurts. So we answer the calls cautiously. And while Mrs. Married pretends all is glorious, we’re wary. We try to schedule a get-together, but Mrs. Married is only available between two and seven before Mr. Important comes home — forgetting that we singles work full time!

We’re not trying to be difficult. But we are hurt, and honestly, the timing is really off.

If there is one thing I could tell the newly marrieds it would be this: Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t drop us when it’s inconvenient, then expect us to rearrange our schedules when you demand it.

Name Withheld

Circumstantial Relationship [Friends and Fault Lines / Double Take — Issue 846]

I discussed the Double Take story “Friends and Fault Lines” with a few friends — married, engaged and single — and we all came to two conclusions.

One, this situation could have been entirely prevented by the newly married girl. She only reached out to her friends a while after her wedding. While marriage is a big adjustment at first, and the couple can be very busy, it’s inevitable that she will lose touch if she doesn’t reach out.

It is the newly married girl’s responsibility to make the first move to her single friends after she gets married. How are her friends supposed to know her husband’s schedule? When she reaches out in the beginning, she is conveying that yes, she has moved on and has more important commitments, but her relationships are still valuable.

Two, there is something very wrong with this picture. This so-called “chevreh” is a group of girls whose friendship is based only on their shared circumstances. During high school, seminary, and the parshah, they were always in the same boat. At the same page and stage in life. All doing the same thing. Then poof! A chevreh member joins the ranks of ring-wearers and she is dubbed irrelevant. Out of the picture.

Is that what their relationships were all about? Their shared circumstances? Can’t this chevreh find anything else to talk about besides for their dating lives? Now that their friend has moved on she can no longer join a conversation? This is a poor circumstance, to have relationships built solely around shared circumstance.

I can’t help but feel bad for this poor girl who unknowingly sent a false message of disinterest. If only she would have reached out at first, and kept the thread going.

On top of that, I pity her for being part of a chevreh with such circumstantial relationships. News flash! Chevreh, very soon one of you will join the ranks of ring-wearers. And then you too will be dubbed irrelevant.

C. F.

Mistaken Characterization [Second Thoughts / Issue 846]

In Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s January 27 article, entitled “What’s in a Name?” he characterizes Israel’s most Jewish prime minister, Menachem Begin, as having “nonobservant practices that were Jewishly damaging.”

For those readers who are too young to appreciate the kind of Jew Menachem Begin was, I would like to share the following:

When Begin was a teenager, he attended a public Polish high school and refused to take a Latin test scheduled on Shabbos. Even after the teacher threatened to fail him, Begin wouldn’t back down.

In 1940, during a prison stint, he refused to eat his soup on Yom Kippur. In 1967, when Levi Eshkol informed Begin that the Israeli Air Force had wiped out the Egyptian air force, Begin’s first response was “Baruch Hashem!” — an expression he used very often.

After he won the election in Israel, he put on a yarmulke and recited shehecheyanu and a pasuk from Sefer Yirmiyahu. When a reporter then asked him what kind of prime minister he was planning to be, his response was “Yehudi tov” (a good Jew).

This was not the first time that Menachem Begin pronounced a shehecheyanu in public. He also did so when the State of Israel was created.

On May 3, 1982, Menachem Begin addressed the Knesset and declared that the government had finally decided to halt all El Al flights on Shabbos and festivals. It was put to a vote that day and passed after Begin spoke at length about the importance of observing the Shabbos.

An intimate of Begin by the name of Hart Hasten once recalled being in the prime minister’s office as seven members of the chareidi political parties stormed in, angry about a certain matter. Begin sat silently as they yelled, and then, when they paused, he asked them in Yiddish: “Rabbosai, have you already davened Minchah?”

Stunned, they said that no, they had not davened yet. Begin, his chief of staff Yehiel Kadishai, and Hart Hasten formed a minyan with the seven chareidi party members, whose rage had dissipated.

In June 1981, during the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Iraq, Begin was pacing back and forth reciting Tehillim.

There is a reason that Menachem Begin was called Israel’s most Jewish prime minister!

Pearl Herzog, Lakewood, NJ

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman responds:

Thank you for your letter. Certainly there was no intention on my part to denigrate Menachem Begin. Of all Israel’s prime ministers, he was the one most respectful of our Jewish heritage, and his Jewish pride was inspiring to all.

I witnessed this firsthand when, at a private dinner in former president Jimmy Carter’s home in Plains, Georgia, Begin saw to it that the intimate little dinner should be kosher. He was my favorite Israeli prime minister, because he was an unapologetic Jew.

Please bear in mind, however, that what I wrote was only a fantasy column, and I was simply imagining that the chareidi residents of the mythical “Rechov Menachem Begin” would much rather have their street named after the Beis HaLevi than Begin, because while Jewish self-respect and reverence for our heritage are crucial, these alone are not enough to guarantee our future. Without full shemiras hamitzvos and Torah learning, we could disappear.

Begin was a great prime minister, a fierce defender of Yiddishkeit, and I agree that no other Israeli prime minister even comes close to him in this regard. It is unfortunate that my fantasy gave the wrong impression.

I thank the letter writer for making it possible to clarify this point.

Interconnected History [For the Record / Issue 845]

I want to thank Yehuda Geberer and Dovi Safier for yet another fine For the Record column. As a student of history, I never made the connection between the words emblazoned on the Liberty Bell and the Rayatz’s 50th birthday, nor did I know of the Philadelphia Yeshivah’s connection to Lubavitch by way of Rav Sholom Schneiderman.

Learning this in Mishpacha underlines a positive development of recent years. While there is something to be said about the hyper-partisanship of the broader political climate, there has been an opposite trend within the frum world. We’ve reached a point where many of us don’t feel the need to be defined by our intra-frum political divides and instead, for example, can point out that one of the most famous litvishe yeshivos in America exists in many ways thanks to a fiery Lubavitcher chassid.

Telling history as it was is important on many levels, but none more than illustrating precisely how interconnected Klal Yisrael really was, and remains. We don’t have to shy away from discussing matters of real dispute, but we should also study the very important chapters of our history that remind us, again and again, that in the most fundamental ways we are one People.

Many thanks and hatzlachah in this important work.

Dovid Margolin, Chabad.org. Brooklyn, NY

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 848)

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