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Inbox Letters: Issue 849

"Please realize, I haven’t become a desperate older single in those four weeks since your wedding"



Let’s Stop Ripping Ourselves Apart [Outlook / Issue 848]

I love reading Family First and all the great articles, but every week Mishpacha magazine depresses me more and more. How many editorials do we need about the hatred of one Jew for the next? How many articles do we need about what every other Jew is doing wrong? Why this need to publicize the ripping apart of our nation?

This week it was about the Jews in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, last week it was the “non maskers.” How will our nation ever heal with these sentiments?

I have absolutely no connection with the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, but I’m wondering if you are aware of their “shalom challenge.” In the first video they sent out there was a line, “We know so little, yet we shout so loudly.” Those could not be truer words. After watching the first few videos they sent last week, I said, when Mashiach comes, it will be because of this organization.

I’m all for people practicing whatever precautions they feel necessary for their health and wellbeing, but causing machlokes will get us nowhere. Do we really think that a nation being torn apart with machlokes will survive so long as we paste a cloth over our mouth and nose? Do we really think a vaccine will save us when we rip each other apart? No scientific breakthrough will save us from the destruction we bring upon ourselves through hate and fights.

I daven that Hashem shows us His truth through rachamim and ends the suffering of this past year.

Name Withheld


A Different Takeaway [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 848]

To my fellow Canadian, Rabbi Sruli Besser, with my utmost respect: I share your sentiments about missing simchahs in our lives entirely. Who could imagine a year with no weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the other milestone celebrations we love to share with our friends and family? It’s sad, it’s lonely, and it’s certainly not geshmak that we can’t celebrate together.

Yet there’s a whole different perspective on what our takeaways from this corona era could be. You see, the general wedding scene you so aptly depict as “you stand in the lobby schmoozing while the wedding is swirling around you, passing you by,” is probably alluding to weddings of those outside our circle of close family or friends.

If you were at the wedding of a very close family member, chavrusa, or good friend, your wife wouldn’t bother asking you if you had danced with the baal simchah. It would be self-understood, since every person dancing at a smaller wedding really counts.

You write that you will answer the return cards. Imagine a world where you are only attending more intimate weddings, so the baal simchah would likely know you were coming. After all, your presence is meaningful. Do you need to call your brothers and sisters to find out if they are coming to a wedding?

When the video guy comes around to collect your very important words of wisdom, chances are you won’t shy away as quickly.

“You will genuinely feel happiness for the baal simchah” has many layers, but generally it’s easier to be truly b’simchah at a close friend’s wedding rather than a fellow you usually meet at the bungalow colony shul.

Many people who made small weddings during COVID will tell you that the stress that came along with government regulations was upsetting, but the wedding itself was a happy, dignified affair.

You write that “The Ribbono shel Olam should look down and see how hard we are trying.” Yes, we are trying — trying to minimize the financial strain and stress that comes along with making large weddings, trying to allow men go to learn a night seder and women to stay home to put their kids to bed, instead of running to “obligation” weddings every other night.

Please Hashem, give us another chance. Corona has taught us a thing or two. We are ready to be marbim b’simchah once again!

E.G., Toronto


Heed the Call [Guestlines / Issue 847]

I believe that “Both Sides of the Coin” by Rav Chaim Yehoshua Hoberman is of monumental importance, and I would like to commend Mishpacha for publishing it and to thank yedidi Rav Hoberman shlita for writing it.

As a rav in Chicago, I have watched with dismay as the behavior of so much of our community across the country and around the globe has taken a direction that is so contrary to everything that we believe in, whether it be concern about life and health, or the understanding that bitachon needs to be accompanied by responsible behavior, and not, as some people are suggesting, that responsible behavior is indicative of a lack of bitachon.

One cannot help but wonder: Is this who we really are? Is this what we have become? Is this the nation that is comprised of rachmanim bnei rachmanim? Is this the nation that aspires to be the am chacham v’navon?

Deep in my heart I believe that the silent majority does understand lo zu haderech, that we are better than this. They have been cowed into this silence by the much louder minority that preaches ignoring all reality and living as if there is no pandemic.

Perhaps Rav Hoberman’s article will be the gamechanger. A highly respected rosh yeshivah of one of the premier yeshivos in the United States has spoken. Let us listen to his call by demonstrating through our actions that we embrace both sides of the coin — that Torah and tefillah indeed define our essence, but that these must be accompanied by caring for each and every life, sensitivity to others, wisdom and intelligence, avoidance of chillul Hashem, a sense of achrayus, and behavior befitting the mamleches Kohanim v’goy kadosh.

Rabbi Reuven Gross, Congregation Sha’arei Tzedek Mishkan Yair


Privileged Connection [For This We Were Created / Issue 847]

Thank you for your tribute to Rav Yitzchak Scheiner. About 30 years ago I worked in the Kamenitzer Yeshivah office as an assistant secretary. Rav Scheiner ztz”l used to visit the office staff every day.

Even though the financial burden of the yeshivah was enormous, he always had a warm smile on his face. Whenever I was sent to deliver a message or a package to his house, he always greeted me with a hearty “thank you.” He was a gadol hador and yet he acted so normally.

I feel so privileged for having had a connection with him. May he be a meilitz yosher for all of Klal Yisrael.

Avraham Pechman, Jerusalem, Israel


The Rush to Medicate [Off the Couch / Lifelines/ Issue 847]

In the beautiful parshas Yisro edition of Mishpacha there were two particularly important articles concerning ADHD. As a psychologist who learned about this in RUSK Rehabilitation Center, we struggled mightily in the 1960s to get neurologists and other medical professionals convinced that we could do a psychological evaluation and see this serious diagnosis which needed some medication. However, 60 years later, we have the opposite struggle, where every child who acts out is immediately sent to a psychiatrist to receive medication.

Thank G-d, Dr. Freedman pointed out so clearly how wrong this can be and how we are medicating children for the wrong reasons, which can affect everything in their lives going forward.

In the article concerning a young woman who became addicted, the writer mentions that right after her parents found her drinking excessively at an incredibly young age, she was then treated with medication for ADHD. This led to a complete life of addiction which went on for many years. However, the article does not point out that the very medication she was given for ADHD may have led to all her other addictions. There are many cases like this, where young people are given medications without a proper diagnosis, leading them to a life of addiction.

Although I am only a psychologist and may have no right to criticize medical doctors, we know of hundreds of cases where people are treated with medication for ADHD that are totally unrelated to the real problem, which might be the home or many other causes.

American citizens have an ability to obtain complete psychological evaluations for free from boards of education across the country. This should be the first step before a proper consultation to consider any medication for ADHD. A second opinion is always recommended before medicating a child.

Dr. Joel S. Rosenheim, PhD, Founder of P’TACH, Former Director of NYC DOE for Evaluations


It’s Not Just About Substance Abuse [The End of Stigma / LifeLines — Issue 847]

Thank you so much for last week’s Lifelines. I am frequently asked about resources for families of addicts within our community, and it is heartening to learn about the support CCSA is providing. As more people accept that addiction is a disease, not a choice, more people in our community will hopefully get the help they so desperately need.

In my practice, I have seen frum women struggling with addictions of all kinds: food, exercise, shopping, reading, games, cleaning, relationships, media, and of course social media. I have seen girls as young as nine and women well into their eighties whose lives are unmanageable, whose pain is unimaginable. Behavioral addictions destroy peace of mind, ruin relationships, devastate finances, and break families apart.

To quote Gabor Mate, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma and addiction, in an interview with Psychotherapy Network (August 2017): “The difference between the substance addict and the so-called process or behavior addict is that the substance addict relies on an external substance to create that change in the state of their brain, and the process addict can do so just through the behavior.”

As pointed out in the article, “The current pandemic has only exacerbated the problem of addiction.” Some early statistics at the start of the pandemic revealed that cell phone use was up 40% in the US (with global averages up around 70%). It is unlikely that once the pandemic ends, this device-reliance will magically go away. Our willingness to discuss this phenomenon will be part of the solution.

Shoshana Schwartz, Addiction & Codependence Counselor, EFT Advanced Certified Practitioner


Supernatural Survival [Fuzzy Math / Issue 846]

Alexandra Fleksher’s article about the economic survival of large frum families echoes Mark Twain’s bewilderment when he asked about the Jews: “What is the secret of their immortality?” There is no answer without bringing G-d into the picture.

We are a nation whom Hashem took out of Egypt with great miracles. And the Ramban teaches us that although we live in a world run by the laws of nature, there will always be an element of the supernatural that defines our existence.

Hashem provides for each individual according to his lot. The way to achieve satisfaction in life is to reinforce the belief that no man can add or detract from what has been decreed by the Exalted Creator. The way one person receives their sustenance is irrelevant to how another person will receive theirs.

I recommend saying Bircas Hamazon with the English translation at least twice a week.

F. Berger


Down the Rabbi Hole [Fuzzy Math / Issue 846]

As an avid Mishpacha reader, aspiring financial analyst, and young adult living in a densely populated Jewish area, I found myself relating deeply to Alexandra Fleksher’s article “Fuzzy Math” about how frum families actually make it financially. The article reminded me of a time when I began playing the game to get ahead of others in this invisible, yet tangible, financial race.

When I was in seminary, I had a winter coat with a well-known designer label that in reality cost $200 on a knockoff website. I didn’t intend to hide the truth about my coat until I got so many compliments and passed so many “status checks” that I decided I couldn’t tell the truth.

After the coat incident, I found myself falling down a rabbit hole. My family was bringing me home from seminary for Pesach to go on a gorgeous Pesach program — where multiple family members, including myself, would be working over the chag. Yet I only shared the information that I was going away, and not that I was working. Again, digging myself deeper.

The final straw that led me to realize that there was a bigger problem was the brand-new apartment my family was building in the center of Yerushalayim — from yerushah money. But people didn’t know this last part.

So here I was in my year of discovering and working on myself — hiding my true self in fear of being rejected for not having enough money to reach the standards that are unattainable for so many of us.

Thank you, Alexandra Fleksher, for starting such an important conversation and allowing me to finally clean the slate of my financial seminary secrets.

L. G.

Shifting Standards [Fuzzy Math / Issue 846]

I read with interest both Ms. Fleksher’s piece on Orthonomics as well as the responses. As a resident of a certain community for almost 25 years, my husband and I moved here because of its low-key atmosphere, far away from the more materialistic people.

Somehow, it became “hot” to move to our community. I assume it was parents looking for cheaper housing for their kids. Lo and behold, the standard began to shift — and the attitudes of my children shifted too. My oldest child clamored for a pair of expensive boots, and when we finally gave in, she savored those boots her entire high school career. My younger set of girls thinks it should be a given to get a new set of these boots every year.

We don’t give in to every request. However, I cannot say we don’t ever give in. Peer pressure is a thing. Teenagers fitting in is a thing. Parents never giving in is not a thing.

So for example, if you didn’t buy your son a $500 suit for his bar mitzvah, perhaps you bought him an expensive hat — with the rationale “a hat lasts longer than a suit.” Or you got you sheitel redone special for the occasion. Or you rented an expensive dress from the “gemach.” I guarantee there was no avalanche of “no’s” for this child, or your family.

For a quick minute, my husband and I thought about leaving our “gentrified” community. But as we looked around, even out of state, we saw the same things happening all over. Middle-class frum communities across America were being invaded by young “jackpot winners” or Ph.D.’s (Papa Has Dough).

Oh, and if your community hasn’t gotten there yet, give it time. If it’s a halfway-decent Orthodox-Jewish community with a kosher pizza shop, it will. No place is immune to this craziness.

It has become somewhat amusing when I think back to my own childhood. I remember the stories we were told by our Holocaust-surviving teachers of bar mitzvahs and weddings made in the ghettoes and DP camps, without all the frills and fanfare. The stories seemed so out of touch.

But today we might as well sit on a rocking chair on the porch, on some summer night, knitting, spinning tales to the children nearby of our own “How-It-Used-to-Be.”

Granny Rocking on the Porch, USA


With the Tears Wiped Off [Text Messages / Issue 846]

As a frum doctor in our community, I want to thank Rabbi Kobre for voicing the message that I and so many of my frum colleagues around the world have been pleading with our community to hear.

Unfortunately, for many of us, these many months of self-sacrifice have felt like an endless battle, leaving us with feelings of frustration and sadness as we have watched the battle against coronavirus continue, while our own community has turned a blind eye to the medical recommendations that were put in place to protect us.

While the situation within many of our North American frum communities is nowhere near the deluge of last spring, there have been many coronavirus casualties since then. In addition, coronavirus is “killing” people in more ways than can be accounted for by the number of deaths. I have watched COVID-19 irrevocably change the lives of even those who survive it, patients who will never be the same physically or emotionally. As a doctor, I have seen many people avoiding medical care for fear of being infected, and as a result presenting with more advanced and less treatable disease and ultimately dying prematurely. I am seeing individuals with mental-health conditions being exacerbated by the loneliness and uncertainty, and elderly people with rapidly progressing dementia due to the isolation and fear of leaving their homes and being exposed.

There is such a focus on the numbers that we have lost sight of the casualties that go beyond these statistics. To quote an English epidemiologist of years past, Sir Austin Bradford Hill, “Health statistics represent people with the tears wiped off.” The numbers you hear on the news every morning are easy to discount, but each number represents a life lost — and even those who are not great gedolim or askanim may be somebody’s parent, sibling, child, or friend.

I have heard time and again that people have reached the end of their ropes, and how this lockdown is a source of parnassah challenges, shalom bayis breakdowns, and spiritual deterioration in our youth. I am fully aware of these challenges and I would never chas v’shalom minimize them, but I want to ask everyone to try and see another angle — with the cavalier attitude that many are taking, as a community we are actually deciding to prolong our own suffering.

If Hashem had decided that it was time for this pandemic to end and we had been universally performing our full hishtadlus, then maybe we would be closer to the time of being able to walk around unmasked and unburdened. Instead, the longer that we insist that we are “at the end of our ropes” with performing all these precautions, then the longer that COVID-19 will remain with us, and it still has plenty of rope to keep encircling our lives with.

As Purim approaches, I fervently hope that our mindset can shift from our need for a “regular Purim,” and that our rabbanim and community leaders will guide us in performing the mitzvos of Purim 5781 with the safety precautions we have available to protect us from this deadly virus that is still lurking, ready to murder and maim. Perhaps Hashem is just waiting for his children to care more about each other than themselves, and when we finally do, may He decide to remove His Mask, and end this mageifah as quickly as He began it, and spare us from any further suffering.

A concerned community doctor who cares

Respect and Accept [Text Messages / Issue 846]

Thank you for the quality reading you provide us with each week.

With great respect to Rabbi Kobre, I would like to comment on some of your recent articles criticizing those who are not careful to wear masks. I know you have some valid arguments, but I ask you to remember the following.

The essence of chassidus is having a rebbe, and being guided by those who see more and understand better. We are following clear guidance from our rebbeim, who obviously feel that life must continue despite the current circumstances.

How many people do you know directly or indirectly who have unfortunately lost their lives due to COVID? And how many have lost their livelihood due to lockdowns? And how many teens and preteens do you know who have been lost, or partially lost, spiritually due to school closures? Have you seen the horrifying pictures of Bnei Brak’s yeshivah bochurim fighting with police officers?

We are two very special factions of Am Yisrael that have some strong disagreements. All I ask is, let’s respect and accept each other. Please, don’t make the divide bigger.

I look forward to reading your future articles which I have always enjoyed, and hope and pray that we are zocheh to greet Mashiach as one united nation.

H. Nitzlich, Monsey, NY


Down Memory Lane [Heartbeat of the Bronx / Issue 846]

It was with great nostalgia and pleasure that I read Rabbi Schaye Schonbrun’s “Heartbeat of the Bronx.” Many years ago, Rabbi Schonbrun was my English literature teacher in Yeshiva of Central Queens, when it was located in Jamaica, Queens. He inspired the bunch of us mostly first-generation Americans and children of Holocaust survivors, with the likes of Shakespeare, Dickens, Melville, Whitman, T.S. Elliot, and so many other prolific authors and poets. Rabbi Schonbrun encouraged us to read and to write and to ponder the world, and he challenged us to put our thoughts into words of motion.

In” Heartbeat of the Bronx,” the rabbi takes us back to the East and West Bronx of the ‘40s and ‘50s. While many memories in the article predate me, I would like to cite some for “most honorable mention” on a very personal note. Rabbi Seymour Silbermintz was our outstanding YCQ choir director. Even more significantly, Rabbi Schonbrun mentions Rabbi Piekarski’s move to Rego Park, Queens, where he began a shul on Saunders Street. It was in that shul, so many years ago, that my beloved grandfather, Reb Jacob Schlissel a”h was a lifelong member and a maggid shiur.

Thank you, dear Rabbi Schonbrun, for the trip down memory lane. Ahh… those were the days.

Esther Epstein Cooper, LCSW

I Still Need Friends [Friends and Fault Lines / Double Take — Issue 846]

I was extremely moved by the realistic nature of the Double Take story.

I am baruch Hashem currently engaged at a young age, and I’ve been getting the sense in my single friends’ eyes, that my getting married equals them losing me as a friend.

I wish I could tell them how much they mean to me. The fact that I am engaged doesn’t take away from the years we had spent together. We will not always be at the same stage, and it’s true that we probably won’t be rehashing our lives together on 3 a.m. phone calls. But I know that the only reason I’m able to move on is because of your support and for being there when I need you.

Still your friend

Changed Expectations [Friends and Fault Lines / Double Take — Issue 846]

Thank you, Rochel Samet, for yet another fantastic Double Take. I’m a single girl with plenty of newly married friends and you just had me agreeing so much with Estie!

To all my Tehilla friends out there — I know you promise tearfully the night before your wedding that nothing needs to change and we can still be friends like before. I love you all the same and cannot negate all that we’ve shared before but the fact is, things do change.

I’m so happy to speak to you and hear about your first supper that you made — but if you’re going to drop the phone in a panic when your husband comes in, maybe let’s talk at a better time. I’m so happy for you that you’re married and I’m delighted to celebrate all your major milestones with you, but face it — we’re at different places now and things aren’t like before.

I love you all the same, but please realize that we probably don’t have the same interests and aren’t available at the same times. Oh — and please realize, I haven’t become a desperate older single in those four weeks since your wedding.

I am keeping myself busy and thankfully have a really fulfilling life.

I appreciate all your care immensely but please don’t try to set me up with all your husband’s dirah mates and then inquire deeply into why I’m saying no. I am still entitled to my privacy, just like before your wedding. Just like we didn’t have a third person’s input into conversations before you were married, that’s not necessary (or appreciated) now either.

I’m looking forward to joining you on your side and sharing the journey together but till then, let’s please change the expectations.

Love, a fellow Estie

Don’t Assume [Friends and Fault Lines / Double Take — Issue 846]

There are two sides to every coin. Please don’t assume that your newlywed friend is lost in a cloud of bliss or “Candyland,” as one reader put it. It is ever so possible that she is caught up in a whirlwind of issues that she has no way of sharing with you or almost anyone else in her life — be it struggles adjusting to marriage and its demands, financial commitments falling through post-wedding and the subsequent concerns, interfering parents or in-laws, or even early pregnancy overwhelming her.

Don’t equate a lack of communication with lack of interest. A simple text that casually inquires about your newlywed friend’s wellbeing can be enough to give her some much-needed chizuk, as well as to slowly reopen the lines of communication.

Hopefully from her end, she too will remain open-minded about her friends’ schedules and not be quick to dismiss them as being inflexible or self-centered.

Thank you Mishpacha for the quality reading material. We are thoroughly enjoying the fairly recent weekly printing of the magazine down in Australia!

A newlywed who struggled


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 849)

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