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Shlomo Hamelech for a Day
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

  Rated by 55 users   |   Viewed 35154 times since 2/12/09   |   135 Comments
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2/12/09

An issue that comes across my desk from time to time is parents who seek my input regarding the challenge of setting up appropriate custody and visitation arrangements with divorced parents, when one is not observant.

And while we often think of this in terms of one spouse becoming a ba’al or ba’alas teshuva, it is often the reverse that happens -- when an FFB parent becomes non-observant. We all know how contentious things can get in custody hearings; so just imagine how things can turn south with this complicating factor.

Until now, I have been giving this type of hadracha under the radar screen -- with 2 governing principles:

1) Children are best served when both their parents are involved in their lives – and when they set aside their differences and focus on what is best for their child(ren).

2) Children – especially teenagers – should be told the truth (obviously in an age-appropriate manner) about things that impact their lives (For example, I've come across horror stories over the years, when kids were not told that they were adopted by their parents, until someone blurted it out to them in the street, when they were adolescents.)

A few weeks ago; I was contacted by two attorneys representing divorced parents, where one of them was no longer observant. The observant parent, who has full custody, is concerned about giving significant visitation privileges to the non-observant parent, due to the concern that their children will become confused and perhaps encouraged to leave Yiddishkeit. Things were at a standstill until the non-observant parent offered to submit his request to arbitration, provided that I will be the one who is selected by the court to serve as the arbitrator. (The non-observant spouse said that having read my columns, there is a comfort level that I will treat both of them fairly.) And, although I am not exactly looking for new commitments at this time, I feel a sense of responsibility to serve in that capacity, if it can help make shalom and help the children of these parents.

So I ask my readers; what say you?

I would be very interested in feedback from our readers – especially those of you that may be familiar with arrangements made in similar circumstances.

Respectfully,

Yakov



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1.     2/12/09 - 12:42 PM
Anonymous

The situation while obviously not optimal, doesn’t SOUND from your writing as Azoi Geferlach. This is because:

1] The no religious spouse admits that he/she is not religious.

If they are willing to accept that fact, it is unlikely they will try to convince the children that they are acting in an observant manner. As long as he/she commits to feed the child according to the strict Orthodox foods he is used to, and go to entertainment venues within the comfort level of the child’s primary parental upbringing, things can work out. It is worse with two "frum" people who cut corners but claim they are doing what Judaism expects of them. This makes kids more mixed up than your above story.

2] The parent sounds like a mench.

At the fact that he/she has the “rights” to fight tooth and nail for custody, but chose to be a mench and attend arbitration is promising. It is therefore unlikely for him/her to davka stick it to the spouse and try to taint the childs religious identity.

If the parent is abusive in any way, the above would obviously not apply. The childs quality of life is the primary concern. Hatzlachah!


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2. Some passing thoughts     2/12/09 - 1:17 PM
Benzion Twerski

I am happy that you accepted the position as arbitrator – both because you have the qualifications and because it insures that they will not turn to me to solve this dilemma.

I do not have a specific word of advice which way to turn, but I can highlight some of the thoughts that passed through my mind while reading the account of the issue.

Couples divorce for many reasons, but almost universal is that they no longer have any affection for each other, and this can move down the continuum all the way to blatant hatred. Divorced couples tend not to have much trust in the ex-spouse, and the fear that the ex will try to drag the children toward their own belief and value system is generally perceived as a formidable threat. Although an agreement can be specific in terms of behaviors that are permitted or prohibited, it is harder to legislate or arbitrate feelings and attitudes. The formerly but currently non-observant spouse has developed feelings that are negative toward shmiras Torah umitzvos, guiding their own choice to abandon ship. How one would succeed in hiding this from the kids is beyond the range of my imagination.

With this entire issue shelved for the moment, it is important for a child to know his/her parents, and to allow complete alienation from either one is not okay.

Another matter that spent a few moments in my brain was the issue of compromise. One would expect that a deal about visitation should involve some give and take by each of the parties. As I see it, there was already a compromise prior to the seeking of arbitration. The formerly observant spouse already confronted a conflict, a milchemes hayetzer, to choose a life of non-observance over the Torah mandate. He already compromised. To capitulate further would be to sanction his earlier compromise as a legitimate choice, one that sets a new anchor from which one can legitimately bargain. I find no comfort in this perspective.

Lastly, we have a difficult time maintaining our children in a Torah observant lifestyle, against the odds and pressures inflicted by the outside world. How far is it safe to go when these same values and attitudes we challenge on the outside become inside exposure to the children?


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3. They could be much better friends now.     2/12/09 - 1:58 PM
Yitzchok - Brooklyn, N.Y.

since both parents seem reasonable, + the fact that they have not hidden behind pitbull attorneys, the assumption (to me) is that the 'religion' issue is part of an overall 'incompatability' with their former spouse. Still, they stuck it out long enough to have kids which are now the issue. The combination of being lonely even in your own home + the unhappiness with the 'system', appears to be the lethal combo that led to this situation. The irreligious one may have felt this to be the only way out of this lonely trap, halfway using religion as an excuse to leave. If my assumptions are correct, I would try to allay the fears of the observant spouse who feels that the children will be influenced by this 'shaigetz', because now that the marriage is no longer, healing and reason can dissipate the anger and frustrating loneliness with which the irreligious partner has dealt with for so long. Apply wisdom. There will be alot more of these.


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4.     2/12/09 - 2:09 PM
yoni

i honestly don't know what to say. my father became not-frum when I was about 5 or 6, and things went down hill from there.

but I will say that there is little or nothing in the non-jewish world that is worth having that isn't kosher anyway. I'm familar with much of it and all of it is either poisonous and or worthless.

and I will say that it is EXTREMELY important that any and all lies about the secular world be owned up to, immediately. Before said child has even a fraction of a second exposure to the non-frum child. That people are so afraid of the velt is shear idiocy, for it has NOTHING of value. If you tell the child exagerated lies, these will be detected, and call in to question the credibility of everything else you teach them. To take this road is to gurantee that you loose a preportion of your kids to secular influences.

and delusions that secular people are inherently bad MUST be owned up to, immediately. One of the first things the parent should do is introduce them to ramban, rav yitzchak of akko, rav sadia goan, and many other of the gedolei harishonim that held that the world was very old, and should be introduced to these statements inside. This will go miles towards innnoculating the child against any sort of poisonous influence that could be made by the non-frum spouse.


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5.     2/12/09 - 2:10 PM
mom - ny

This is a very difficult situation indeed. I not qualified to give any suggestion, but I think

a) that the 'warm memories' of most normal people's childhoods lean towards the mother's influences. Even non-frum people get misty eyed when talking of their mother's special cooking for the yomim tovim, not as much as when they recall their father's kiddush.

b) presence of, or indication of, a potential new wife or new husband for either party is a big influence, if such is the situation

if the mother remains committed to Yiddishkeit, and does not blaspheme her ex in front of her children, it may be more likely that although they may be confused for now, the children will eventually respect 'deracheha darchei noam' of Torah, despite seeing contrary messages during visitation.

If it is the father who remains committed to Yiddishkeit, it may be more difficult road uphill to gain the trust of the children.

If there is a potential step-mother in the picture, but there is no potential new husband (by the ex-wife) there may be alot of rejection of Yiddishkeit due to a)hatred of the new wife as an interloper b)'why couldn't they just get along and we'd be happy' thinking c)lastly- to a child- kach he Torah, kach he Sechora? - thinking that if this is what religious life is --ie:hurting my mother - who needs it?

may all have an adverse affect.

Hatzlocha Rabba with this difficult decision, may you have Siyata Dishmaya to do the correct thing!


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6. Revisiting the past     2/12/09 - 2:12 PM
Anonymous - Far Rockaway, NY - rabbidw@cs.com

My wife left me when my son was 5 months old and we fought over visitation until he got married. I almost refused to attend his wedding. Now, we are on very good terms and I enjoy my grandchildren, but the ease of a normal father son relationship is still missing. My ex and myself have always been Orthodox and still had conflicts all the time. Based on my experience, here are some guidelines. Shabat and Kashrut are non-negotiable. Shul attendance can be finessed. the world will not come to an end if a vacation keeps the kids away from shabat attendance on occasion. I found the main bone of contention was trying to control everything. The father, when he has visitation, is the parent and his judgment should be respected. Whether he wants to take his child to a ball game that may end late at night, or a movie that the mother does not approve of, the father's judgment is presumed to be valid and will expose the child to a wider world. To do otherwise will involve too much second guessing, and will, in effect, castrate the father. I remember too fights over movies, which ended up in court. One was Good Morning Vietnam, the other was Witness. The judge ended up saying these were both very worthwhile movies and wondered what all the fuss was about. but because no judge would hive the father custody in those days, I ended up giving up the fight. Remember kibbud Av is also a Torah value.


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7. addendum     2/12/09 - 2:38 PM
yoni

* my father said that after he converted the only food that he really missed was bacon, but in light of his heart attack he confessed that it probably hadn't been such a good idea to go back to eating it.

(ie poison)

(he did add that the quality of the food he was eating went up many times, mostly because most of the short cuts that they take with non-kosher food aren't kosher anyway.)

and one other thing, if this person keeps cholov yisroel, then they should probably negotiate with tatti that OU-D is ok when they are with tatti.

Why? because that makes kasherut MUCH easier, and rav moshe (a towering figure, i'll take him over most of those who dissagree with him where halacha is concerned) stated that it basicaly was cholov yisroel for all intensive purposes.

The non-frum parent would be placed in a very difficult possition if they intend to feed the child non-kosher food. Pork is easy to see why they would dissagree, but hershy's bars not so much. The kid would question why the parent insisted on davka getting them a non-kosher food when all the other brands of (enter favorite candy) are kosher.

(allmost all icecream is kosher, all chocolate, most candies (and skittles, the only major one i'm aware of, are available with an OU if you know where to look) and a good bit of snack materials bear an OU-D. it indeed would look bizzare to the child if tatti insisted on getting something that was not OU-D)

and you may also want to argue for letting the kids keep 3 hours between meat and milk. It is a perfectly valid opinion, despite what some ignoramai say about it (I regret having switched) and again, puts tatti in a parilous position vis a vis feeding the child milk and meat at the same time. Supper can be served as 6 and a child of reasonable age can STILL have ice cream before they go to bed, if they're going to bed at like 9:15.

My suggestion is don't compromise on fundementals, but really much of the missery frum people have is self inflicted. there are legitimate opinions which make life barable enough that the child will wonder why on earth tatti insists on feeding them non-kosher stuff when there is plenty of stuff that wont make mommy angry.

and agian, its best if all this is heard from the frum parent directly, or better yet from a posek. and if the child chooses to keep these standards when they get married, much much worse things can, do, and for your kids, possibly will happen without these comrpomises.


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8.     2/12/09 - 2:55 PM
yoni

another point, don't force the boys to go to davening. Insist that they put on tefilin, every day, insist that they say brachot and shema, and possibly shemonei esrei, but do not make them go to davening.

However, I do think that you should spend time making sure that your children understand the pirush hamilos of davening, and possibly more inner demensions as well.

Led the kid go to shul or daven because they want to. They at this point certainly have enough needs that it will push them to daven.

Also see rabbi horowitz's articles about reaching out to children of divorced parents. If tatti isn't frum, then make sure that someone ALWAYS comes to ask (ask!) the kid if they want to go to davening with him. preferably someone they really like, zaidy is an especialy good choice (particularly if they have a good relationship with him).

the kids will want to go to davening, I promise you, as long as you do not push. Davening that is a burden will simply push the child away, it is one of the things that helped push my brothers away. the more of davening they understand, the better off you are.

Oh, and be careful to explain to your child why tatti isn't a rasha. that would be very important. The halacha about minim with regards to writing tefilin would probably be a good inside source to show them. there it mentions the issue of b'maizid vs. taivot, and you can tell them honestly why tatti was so turned off to yiddishkeit and that this made him what to get away from it becaue it was making him unhappy, and this is sinning because of passion, and since he doesn't do EVERY avaira out of passion (he's not going to steal for instance, or murder) then he's not a rasha. This is slightly stretching the truth, but I think it will make a very important point that will help the child realize that tatti isn't a bad person, which will upset the child greatly.

Please, the frum parent should never, ever ever disparage the nonfrum parent. EVER! Be very, very careful never to do so in any fashion that the children could ever find out about. Speak to your spouse amicably, and even if screamed at, yelled at and hollered at without provocation, do not respond in kind, no matter how badly it hurts. no matter. I second what was said above that the child shouild see that the frum parent is the rational one, and that they're being pleasant and that yiddishkeit is a joy.

and also see rabbi horowitz's articles about shabbos meals. shabbos meals and shabbos in general needs to be extremely kid censored. your children probably need you, whether you're frum or not, because the non-frum parent will automaticaly be judged at fault, because the non-frum parent is differing from how the kids are raised. Shabbos can end up being misserable or it can be very rewarding, and it is very important that acrimony be avoided on shabbos, and it may well be that your kids will skip davening in order to sit with you since you have time on shabbos. Instead of getting worked up about this, daven with them as a family, and then either curl up with them till lunchtime, or eat and then curl up with the kids.

They will need you, since you kept things the same. the frum parent, who still keeps shabbos will have an air of familiarity and legitimacy, and they will likely crave you. give of yourself to them freely, and always always be even handed, gentle and loving to your kids, and when they ask about tatti, be as dan l'kaf zechut for him as possible. say that its hard, and tatti couldn't do it anymore. say alot of things, but don't say that he's bad or anything. this is so important. they will likely want to talk about tatti and what happened and be reassured that you're ok, tatti will be ok, and more than anything else, that they didn't break up their parent's marriage.


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9. Points to consider     2/12/09 - 2:57 PM
Kenneth Auman - Brooklyn, NY - kjauman@verizon.net

Dear Rabbi Horowitz,

First of all, yasher koach to you for undertaking a very difficult task. I read your columns from time to time, and am a great admirer of yours. Your sechel hayashar, your openness, your sincerity are all very refreshing. I wuld go on, but miktzas shevach is sufficient here.

I would never presume to offer you advice, but since you are requesting it, let me present a few points that you might wish to consider in addtion to the many fine points that have been given so far.

1. In NY State, and I suppose in many others as well, arbitrated custotdy arrangements will not be automatically enforced by the secular courts. Notwithstanding a signed arbitration agreement, the court reserves the right to alter custody and visitation agreemnts if if feels that it has good reason to do so. So you must realize that you have limited authority here. Your decision must be one that both parties feel at the very least that they can live with. Otherwise one (especially the nonobservant one) might challenge it in court, and reopen the entire issue which will then be decided by a secular judge.

2. The age of the children is an important factor.

3. As worried as we are about the frumkeit of the children, one must first be concerned that they are healthy - both in body and mind. If having a positive relationship with both parents helps foster that mental health, it cannot be overlooked.

4. If the children are currently in a religious environment and community, they may be embarrassed to be seen with a parent who is visibly nonobservant. This too should be considered in setting up appropriate standards of behavior for the nonobservant parent's visitation.

5. I am aware of quite a few similar situations (i.e. One nonobservant parent) and although the children have had access to both parents, they have remained observant.

Kol tuv, hatzlacha rabbah.

(Rabbi) Kenneth Auman


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10. huh     2/12/09 - 3:11 PM
Anonymous

why are you asking this to us? is this another poll question? How about asking Rav Leveine from chicago, or Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky?! I think your whole method is suspect, and maybethats why the non observants are so comfy with you.


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11.     2/12/09 - 3:20 PM
yoni

firstly, rabbi horowitz is a gadol in and of his own right. (at least per your definition.)

Secondly the concept of da'at torah is essentialy heresy as defined today (sorry to be rude, but its true. Asking your rabbi for medical advice is simply shtuyot. torah requires that you ask a doctor, then it gives you certain relms (subject in most cases to the doctors veto right) that the advice can be fulfilled in, which may require a rabbis imput. (in consultation with the doctor)).

Thirdly, he may well be looking for ideas for him to consider in advising this couple.

as rabbi twersky said, rabbi horowitz IS qualified to do this sort of thing, and if he is putting this information out there, he may be looking for fresh ideas to evaluate, or may simply want our ideas preserved for posterity.


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12. This is so complicated.     2/12/09 - 3:40 PM
Yardena - Israel

First of all, to Rabbi Horowitz: I think it's great that you're taking this on. If both spouses trust you, then who better? Also, you have a lot of sechel and lev tov and ahavas Yisrael.

Reading all the comments here only drives home exactly how complex the situation is. My best wishes go out to this family and Rabbi Horowitz's success.

Many, many important points have been made here.

I just wonder about a couple of things:

1) I know spouses who went off the derech because the other spouse was so difficult, or used religion abusively. In such a case, the non-frum parent could actually be the healthier one. (Although we don't know if this is the case here, obviously.)

2) I think the children's school makes a big difference. Someone made the point of a child being embarrassed to be seen with a secular parent. The situation obviously demands sensitivity. Teachers can make a big difference, for better or for worse. Some schools have very divisive hashkafahs, others don't.

To mom-ny #5: You offered some excellent advice and very wise observations, however I would caution about over-emphasizing a mother's importance. You're right that many people fondly remember their mother's role, but a father willing to invest the thought and effort can have a wonderfully powerful effect on the children. Personally, I remember my father's kiddush quite meaningfully, much more than my mother's food. (I grew up non-frum.) Probably because he put his heart into kiddush (actually, he put his heart into everything) and meant to make it beautiful. My mother made a very nice home and also passed on important values, but my father made our Yiddishkeit and there are values I learned from him that I carry until this day and have passed on to my children.

I know of single fathers who were able to raise their children well in spite of a non-frum or even a mentally ill ex-wife. This is even when they did not have full custody (although in these situations, the children chose later to live with the father full-time because he was the better parent).


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13. Comment No. 10     2/12/09 - 4:05 PM
Anonymous

I tend to agree with Comment No. 10.

Rabbi Horowitz was asked for expert advice. If he believes he needs higher-level guidance, he definitely will not get it here. Rabbis Kaminetzky and Levine are highly qualified to offer it.

Most importantly, I hope Rabbi Horowitz asked the both sides for permission to have a public forum on this. Even though he does not mention their names, they may be embarrassed by publicity of their private matters. It is unprofessional for Rabbis, Doctors, Psychologists, etc. to publicize private discussions.


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14. Be your child's parent     2/12/09 - 4:48 PM
AR - abbish@gmail.com

I have heard from my rebbe, R' Noach Orlowek, that the most important thing is being a parent for your kid and making sure they know it. This was said in reference to a similar situation, where the non-frum parent would spoil the child during visitation with toys, trips (to Las Vegas!) and treats. The frum parent asked how he can compete with that. My rebbe answered, "You are your child's Tatti. He doesn't have another Tatti. Be the best Tatti possible and nothing can replace that." It's about making your home a place where your child wants to be and feels comfortable. It's not about knocking the other parent or their lifestyle. If the child asks, you can be prepared with a non-condemning answer. Knocking someone they love / want to love will not win you points.


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15. Revisting the past part two.     2/12/09 - 5:11 PM
Anonymous

I want to reiterate that religion must not be used as a means of control between the parents. Common sense is required of all concern. In this age of Labriut and other prepackaged kosher meals, issues of Kashrut should not be a religious problem, merely common sense and courtesy. It is one thing to go take Children to see The Lion King or Mary Poppins, another to take them to see Chicago or a Las Vegas style show. Basically, had the couple remained married, they still may have had differences on what is proper for children. These differences will still exist post divorce. The children will not become frei if they see a Disney Film. Defiance, or Doubt are both wonderful thought provoking films if the children are old enough to appreciate them. IOW my advice is halacha must apply but where there are grounds for heter, or where the issue is hashkafic, not halachic, the father is entitled to his way during his visits. He is the father.


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16. Kiddush Hashem     2/12/09 - 5:45 PM
Shades of Grey

"The non-observant spouse said that having read my columns, there is a comfort level that I will treat both of them fairly"

I think that this is a kiddush Hashem.

I hope RYH succeeds in making shalom, and finding an appropriate solution.


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17.     2/12/09 - 7:07 PM
Anonymous

i'm no Shlomo Hamelech, but just a few observations:

1. There are shtark homes blessed with shalom bayis where Yiddishkeit is practiced with great enthusiasm and the highest level of commitment, and yet, despite it all, a child goes off the derech. There are also homes barren of Torah and shmiras hamitzvos where children grow up into adults who choose to take upon themselves Ol Torah, and go on to build their own homes upon the soundest foundations of hashkafah and halachic practice.

What does this tell us? That we as parents are responsible to do our optimal hishtadlus in perpetuating Torah-commited generations, BUT, that the results are not in our hands. Children have their own bechira, and Hashem has His own plan. SO: Especially in the situation Rabbi Horowitz described, the koach of tefilah cannot be underestimated; it is clearly the only potent recourse.

2. It is tempting to try to limit the children’s relationship with the non-observant parent, but I have witnessed how this decision creates its own set of problems which can ultimately undermine the very goal we want to achieve: the raising of a Torah-committed Jew. However the observant parent would like to parse and present the situation, the absence of a parent in a child’s life can be experienced as a form of rejection. Additionally, the child may sometime down the line resent the observant parent for robbing him/her of a relationship with the other parent. Feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger rarely serve as an inspiration for closeness to Hashem. It is also difficult to contend with a perspective that one’s “normal,” happy childhood was marred in the name of religion; this feeling in itself is enough to thwart the growth of enthusiastic spirituality.

3. The Steipler, ZTL, asserted that the key to successful chinuch lies in tefillah and in shalom bayis (don’t know in which order the Steipler presented it). Although he most certainly valued Torah above all else and I am sure that he would not have precluded its practice as the essence of chinuch, when questioned, the Steipler did not include mitzvah observance in describing the magic formula. I hope it is not presumptuous to conclude my own limud from this insight:

My feeling is that the role of Shalom bayis lies in creating an environment of normalacy which is a prerequisite for normal human development. It also lays the foundation for respectful, positive feelings toward authority figures—including the Ultimate Authority, Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That said, it follows that creating the best chinuch environment within this complex context requires an emphasis upon developing the most healthy, normal parent-child bonds possible and on the parent’s commitment to uphold and respect one another’s authority.

This is difficult to achieve even in a successful marriage, but it is not impossible even in a broken marriage. When both parents put their egos aside for the sake of raising healthy children, refrain from badmouthing one another, and strive to normalize the situation to the greatest extent possible, they maximize the possibility for the children to emerge healthy, and, in turn, maximize the possibility for the children to remain frum. I believe Rabbi Auman put it so welL: “ As worried as we are about the frumkeit of the children, one must first be concerned that they are healthy - both in body and mind. If having a positive relationship with both parents helps foster that mental health, it cannot be overlooked …”

4. It falls upon the observant parent to “package” frumkeit in the most attractive, joyous way possible and to demonstrate the superiority of a Torah-illuminated life to one devoid of mitzvos.

5. As mentioned in previous posts, the scenario breeds a host of related difficulties (for example, the embarrassment experienced by children in the presence of the non-observant parent) which often call for professional support to help the child cope in an optimally healthy way. It is wise to offer these children consistent professional counseling from the outset rather than wait for the urgency of the extenuating circumstances which would inevitably present at some point.


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18. To the unobservant spouse     2/12/09 - 7:52 PM
anonymousfornow

Dear Unobservant Spouse, Hi. I assume you're reading this as you mention reading R. Horowitz's columns. I hope that you find peace and direction in your life, and find the strength to do what you can for your children's best interests. From what I've observed, when the kids feel their best interests are at the core they will grow up whole and healthy even with divorced parents.

You may hear from me again. I have to run but had to take a minute to salute your courage in being willing to deal with this form of arbitration even though something, or many somethings, led you to disillusionment with this way of life. Hatzlacha!


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19.     2/12/09 - 8:00 PM
yoni

1. There are shtark homes blessed with shalom bayis where Yiddishkeit is practiced with great enthusiasm and the highest level of commitment, and yet, despite it all, a child goes off the derech. There are also homes barren of Torah and shmiras hamitzvos where children grow up into adults who choose to take upon themselves Ol Torah, and go on to build their own homes upon the soundest foundations of hashkafah and halachic practice. depends on what you mean by shtark. . . there are many "best homes" where the parents are incompetant, infexible, or more likely, both. (since they tend to go together.)

The homes labled "best homes" are usualy the homes MOST likely to produce off the derech or not very inspired children, because these are 99.999 percent of the time the homes that care more about what the cohens think than what is good for their kids. If they didn't think that way then they'd be doing stuff that would disqualify them from what most people mean when they say "best home".


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20.     2/12/09 - 8:03 PM
yoni

Just to be clear, the complaint that children have bechira and that at risk status is a nisyon from hashem amounts to basicaly abandoning these kids as bad apples, rotten influeces, and a refusal to face the grim and ugly facts that are creating at risk children in the first place...

and its offensive, for the sake of the dear yiddishe kinderlach who are swollowed by this idiocy, it is essentialy the epitomy of denying responsibility for their actions and dare I add crimes.


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21. Nachas-gram and a commet     2/12/09 - 8:20 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey/NY

Dear All:

I think that this website is blessed with a thoughtful, talented -- and diverse -- group of readers.

I would like to thank all of you for your comments and thoughts. they are very much appreciated.

A short comment on custody: When the kids of divorced parents are small, they rarely understand what really goes on between the parents. But when they mature; they are so appreciative of the parents that keep their best interests in mind and so deeply resentful of those who don't.

At the end of the day; that is what matters -- are things being done with the kids in mind or not.

Yakov


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22.     2/12/09 - 8:46 PM
yoni

yes (i'm commenting a bit much on this thread... personal negius at work probably.)

but i think it bears mentioning that young children are increadibly good at discerning the truth behind peoples emotions. actualy, you can hand them a peice of handwriting and they can usualy tell you alot about the people who wrote it.

once they become teenagers they loose this capacity. Why? because A ego centrism, and B they start to intellectualy analyze things instead of intuitively. This causes them to be much less intouch with peoples emotions.

Your kids know the truth, even if you don't. there is no hiding it from them. They know, and they will always know.


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23. To Yoni from #17     2/12/09 - 10:16 PM
Anonymous

This is how you described what i said: "the complaint that children have bechira and that at risk status is a nisyon from hashem amounts to basicaly abandoning these kids... it is essentialy the epitomy of denying responsibility for their actions"

Yet this is what I actually wrote: "we as parents are responsible to do our optimal hishtadlus in perpetuating Torah-commited generations, BUT, the... results are not in our hands."

Not sure how you read an abdication of responsibility into my lines.


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24. Empathize and go for fair, principled win-win     2/13/09 - 1:42 AM
Anonymous

The best solutions stem from a win-win mindset, and from open, honest attempts to meet the needs and fair-rights of both parties.

It seems that a parent has a right to see their child. There is a risk one takes in having a child together with someone else - you are partners forever in that child. The religious parent should be forthright in demonstrating understanding, compassion and empathy with the ex's position and emotional needs. Then that parent is in better position to relate his/her position - that the child was conceived with an implicit understanding that he/she would be raised completely religious, and even if the other parent made new personal decisions it is right/fair/appropriate that this parent cooperate to maintain the ramifications of that implicit understanding (presumably it would be fair to expect the same if the child was born non-religious and one parent decided to become religious).

Expressions of trust (that they won't undermine this), delineating specific expectations and maintaining an open, accepting, honest, congenial relationship can go far to realizing this (particularly if the other is not rabidly anti-religious or spiteful).


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25. The Father's Perspective     2/13/09 - 3:42 AM
Tormented Dad

Dear commentors:

It is I who recently asked Rabbi Horowitz to undertake this difficult task, and I greatly appreciate his consideration and thoughtfulness, as well as his candor in addressing this issue. I regret that I didn’t check this article earlier, in order to clarify some things – without going into specifics about all the factors in this case – ahead of other commentors. I am commenting simply because the purpose of this post was to gather ideas; I therefore think it helpful for readers to understand some important factors.

a) Kashrus. My children were born and raised in the ultra-Chasidish community. The standard of kashrus with which they were raised was very high. Pursuant to that, I have always been committed not only to fully observe all laws of kashrus within my home (as regards meat and milk dishes and utensils, only kosher products for non-disposable kitchenware, etc.) – whether my children are present or not – but also to observe it at the level that is expected of them in their community. While I’m fully aware of legitimate leniencies, such as OU-D, 3 hours after meat, etc., I have always maintained that I have no interest in cutting corners anywhere my children are concerned. My belief is that my children are best served with a single religious hashkafah, and I have no intention of interfering or compromising the coherence and purity of their religious worldview.

b) Davening; brachos; kriyas shma; etc. I have made clear to all parties that when my children are with me I adhere to all religious observances to which they are accustomed, and have acted in this manner without compromise. That includes taking them to shul on shabbos and overseeing their davening (which I do alongside them, of course), preparing shabbos seudos, singing zemiros, making sure they wash for bread, say brachos, bentch, say kriyas shma before bedtime, etc.

c) Movies, sporting events, exposure to popular culture: While my ex-spouse and I had allowed our children to watch carefully selected movies in the past, she has grown more sensitive to the issue since we split, and as a result forbids them to play computer games, watch movies, and even view Judaica-themed audio/visual presentations commonly sold in Judaica stores. In response, I made it clear to my children that their mother sets the tone for their level of religious observance, and we will therefore abide by her rules.

d) Personal appearance. While I am sensitive to the fact that children may be embarrassed with a parent’s outwardly non-conformist appearance, I don’t believe a parent should allow their children’s preferences to dictate their personal choices as long as those choices are not in conflict with halacha. Having said that, I have always maintained utmost sensitivity to the children’s potential embarrassment, and refrain from appearing at their place of residence in, say, jeans and a t-shirt.

The above are just a few examples of my general approach vis-à-vis my children and their religious observance. Obviously, there are other issues in which these issues are manifest, but I generally stick to the same guidelines. And in all areas I’ve always been open to listening to the concerns of my ex-spouse and the children. While I may not always agree that a specific issue is of paramount importance, I have always been willing to consider all concerns with the guiding principle of what is best for the children.

My interest in maintaining contact with my children is based on the belief that it is in their best interest that I do so. While a split with my ex-spouse was inevitable for many reasons (and commentor # 3 – Yitzchok from Brooklyn – wisely alluded to religion being only one of a host of complex factors), there is no doubt in my mind that my ex-spouse’s attempt to alienate my children from me will ultimately cause them very great harm, such harm that has already begun – over this very short period – to appear in very obvious ways.

To those who’ve responded with wisdom and sensitivity, I thank you and commend you for seeing past ideological myopia, and for showing ultimately that Judaism can and does contain the wisdom of properly dealing with these thorny situations. I welcome any further comments.

Hatzlocha to all.


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26. Privacy and posting this     2/13/09 - 4:25 AM
Yakov Horowitz; Monsey NY

commenter #13 took me to task for posting this info on a public forum. i think his point is fair, though i obviously disagree

for the record; i sent the post to the dad before it ran here. in the past, he has responded to my emails instantly so i expected him to do the same. i probably should have waited to post it; but i was in mddle of a busy school day and just gave my assistant the green light to post it.

as far as privacy is concerned; there are so very many cases like this that there is no concern of identification. i even wrote it w/o gender even though some words were clumsy (i slipped and wrote 'his' once.)

i also wanted our readers to see the complexity of these situations. many in our community see yiddishkeit like a light switch -- it is either on or off -- when it is far more like a dimmer, with so many shades of gray.

Yakov


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27.     2/13/09 - 5:39 AM
yoni

tormented dad:

Kol hakovod! :) :) :)


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28.     2/13/09 - 6:04 AM
yoni

and TD, I hope that you know that my comments were more meant to address the general situation (which unfortunately may even be usual) of the parent trying to undermine the religious one (is simply being irrevenent), since in your situation there (does not seem to be) (is not) much to do other than explain the facts of life to the religious parent.


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29. To Yoni     2/13/09 - 6:55 AM
Tormented Dad

Thanks!

And yes, I understand your comments are valid in many such cases. Every situation is different, and there are obviously such that lack the maturity and wisdom to act in the best interests of the children. In such cases, one would hope that at least one parent -- be it the frum or the non-frum one -- that holds the moral high ground by committing to doing the right thing.

Even a religious parent should be able to set aside ideology for the foremost issue of importance: the physical and mental health of the children. And I have yet to hear a parenting expert say that it is ever beneficial to a child to have them sever ties with one parent -- unless, obviously, there's some form of abuse.


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30. Introducing you to "Tortured dad"     2/13/09 - 6:59 AM
Yakov Horowitz; Monsey NY

One of my reasons for posting this was to introduce “Tortured Dad” to you; although he did a far better job that I did.

The commonly accepted notion is that many or most formerly frum adults who go off the derech are all drug addicts, losers, religion-bashers and (this drives me nuts) “only doing it [leaving frumkeit] so they can indulge themselves in promiscuous behavior.” This is simply false and silly.

People leave yiddishkeit for many reasons.And while some do fit the description(s) above, I have found many formerly frum people who have come to me for guidance (especially with this issue – how to stay involved in the lives of their children) to be soft-spoken, thoughtful people with a healthy moral compass albeit not a religious one. They are often creative, right-brain people – which is why so many of them are writers (and started blogs) who found today’s frum society too rigid. (I firmly believe that some or many of them would still be frum if they grew up in my parents’ more tolerant generation or in today’s day and age in out-of-town communities.)

Parenthetically; it always boggles my mind that many people in our community rally around and protect monsters who ravage and abuse our kids while shutting out and demonizing decent people who abandon yiddishkeit.

So; I thought it would be a positive step to have this virtual discussion – so you, my readers, can see what I have seen for many years now.

“Tortured Dad” is not a stick figure. He is a real person with frum brothers, sisters, parents – and children – all of whom are undergoing stress or even trauma as a result of his abandonment of yiddishkeit. And, as you can see from his post … so is he.

So; why doesn’t he just stay frum? I’ll respond in our tradition by answering a question with a question. Why do people divorce knowing that it will cause trauma? Because sometimes they just can’t live where they are. So, too, many “Tortured Dads” leave yiddishkeit because they have lost faith and cannot live a lie. (Please read my Mishpacha column All Dressed up With Nowhere to Go

http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=915&ThisGroup_ID=346&Type=Article

for my take on this)

I am most certainly not glorifying “Tortured Dad” and/or his many friends – just introducing them to you so you can understand them better and understand the difficulty they and their families face.

Just like we expect the families of ba’alei teshuva to deal with the fact that their children/siblings/parents became frum, it is a sad but real fact of life that we, too, will need to understand this phenomenon better in order to help their families adjust.

Perhaps because I grew up without a father (he died before my fourth birthday) I find it horrific to think of excluding a parent from the life of his/her children – what I think of as man-made-yesomim. And remember that when frum parents vilify their non-frum ex to their kids they ought to keep in mind that they are causing them further trauma by doing so.

Obviously; common-sense guidelines need to be followed by formerly frum people when spending time with their kids so that they won’t be confused and disoriented. I guess that’s where I come in – at least with this family.

That’s why I titled this “Shlomo Hamelech for a Day.” :)

I strongly feel, however, that if the childrens’ best interest is the governing principle, this can be easily accomplished.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Gut Shabbos

Yakov


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31. reliving the past, part 3     2/13/09 - 7:17 AM
Anonymous

So, I really do not see what the wife has to complain about. I have not heard her side of the story, but TD seems to have gone further on than might be expected to concede matters that the courts would not require. At what stage is religious observance being used as a weapon for control? And to TD: Isn't it your role as a father to expose your children to the wider world? Are you conceding too much? Mothers generally hold their babis facing in, fathers hold their children facing out. I do not believe that ignorance is ever a virtue. Their are values in the secular world, values that you have discovered and subscribe to.You are entitled to introduce these values to your children, at the proper time. Good luck.


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32. To Anon # 31:     2/13/09 - 7:45 AM
Tormented Dad

Re your two points:

a) While it may be unfair for me to speak for my ex-spouse, her argument at least seems to be one of trust; the outrage she feels at my "straying," and the inevitable resentment that followed, blinds her to the fact that I am genuinely committed to keeping to the status quo WRT my kids. Also, she seems to be getting very bad advice from people around her; people who care nothing for the well-being of these young innocent neshomes, only for furthering agendas and ideological vendettas against one they perceive as an evil individual.

b) Re my obligation to expanding the minds of my children: it's a valid point, one that well-meaning friends argue all the time; but you have to pick your battles. At the present time, the first and foremost task that I see for myself is to create an environment for my children that is free -- or contains only a minimum -- of conflict. While I'd cherish the opportunity to help broaden the minds of my children to differing worldviews, I do not have the luxury of fighting for that at this time if it comes at the cost of intensifying conflict between their parents.


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33.     2/13/09 - 8:56 AM
Anonymous

My interest in maintaining contact with my children is based on the belief that it is in their best interest that I do so.

Not because you love them and can't bear the thought of life without them (shocked face emoticon)?


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34. To Anon # 33:     2/13/09 - 9:04 AM
Tormented Dad

"Not because you love them and can't bear the thought of life without them (shocked face emoticon)? "

No. While those things are true (indeed I love them more than anything and can't bear the thought of life without them), if I thought it was in their best interest that I not be involved in their lives (as the opposing party argues to be the case), I would withdraw from their lives despite the personal pain.


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35. Chazal     2/13/09 - 9:09 AM
Anonymous

“only doing it [leaving frumkeit] so they can indulge themselves in promiscuous behavior.” This is simply false and silly.

Chazal say that the reason the Jewish people worshiped avoda zara was only so they could engage in promiscuous behavior.

I don't think the only reason people stop being religious is to engage in promiscuous behavior, but it's definitely a reason.


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36. best interest     2/13/09 - 9:12 AM
Anonymous

Don't you think it's in their best interest if you remain fully observant and married to their mother? It sounds like you're willing to do a great deal to accommodate their needs. What about the need for an intact, frum family?


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37.     2/13/09 - 9:20 AM
yoni

I don't think the only reason people stop being religious is to engage in promiscuous behavior, but it's definitely a reason.

I know of only one person who actualy clearly did this. . . and she isn't ashamed of it.

she is also a famous blogger.

if you want promiscuity, check craigs list. unfortunately its not that hard to find in the frum world. . . most many frum people seem to have a regretable lack of self control.


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38. TD     2/13/09 - 9:25 AM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey

Just to verify what TD said in #34 -- when i was asked to get involved; TD's attorney said that TD was willing to forgo all visitation if I (YH) said that it would hurt his kids.

#35; of course some people do leave for that reason. but i have heard many, many people simply dismiss all people who leave yiddishkeit as doing so because of lust. That is flat out wrong.


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39. Can you elaborate?     2/13/09 - 9:40 AM
Tayerreh Baal Habos

Yoni, >I know of only one person who actualy clearly did this. . . and she isn't ashamed of it.

Can you clarify? Do you mean to say that she actually believes Hashem doesn't want her to be promiscuous, yet she is OTD because she can't resist her Taivos?


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40.     2/13/09 - 9:58 AM
Anonymous

Some of these posts make it sound so neat and simple--as if there exists a perfectly packaged answer to the question of why pple abandon Yiddishkeit. The answers are so, so complex and vary in both content and proportion from person to person. Even an OTD individual, i would guess, may have a hard time pinning down the causes within a single, easy-to-understand sentence. The human psyche is so very complicated, experiences build upon one another, so many sources of influences converge and leave their inprint, and religious psychological structures are quite nuanced and challenging to understand.


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41. TD staying out of their lives?     2/13/09 - 10:15 AM
anonynmousfornow

I can't imagine why this would be in their best interests. I could hear not having shared custody, etc., but not to be part of their lives? The Pandora's box has been opened - previously these kids were allowed to see (carefully screened, Kosher)videos, they know that the potential to go OTD does exist...I can't see how uberisolation for want of a better way will work for these kids. One of them will start to question or revolt, and there has to be more than just a bubble of "This is the way it's done."

Dr. Twerski, your input would be invaluable. I'm several generation, out of town yeshivish so I'm sure I don't have the same clarity. But how realistic is it to do a 180 of intensed, reinforced insulation? Especially at the expense of cutting off, not just reducing, contact with a parent.

I wonder about the people advising and influencing the mother. It would be interesting to go to the top - whoever the Rebbe is, and get his input. Somehow my gut is telling me that there would be very positive outcomes from his involvement.


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42. reliving the past part 4     2/13/09 - 10:20 AM
Anonymous

You are a better man than I am Gunga Din. I couldn't bear to be out of my son's life, but my ex finally beat me down, as I could not afford to go to court constantly to enforce visitation, and getting a court date too 4-6 weeks, so I finally moved out of the Northeast with the idea of 1 or two longer visits a year would be better for all concerned than constant fighting. That too did not work. However, since my son got married, he realizes what I went through and we are on very good terms. In my case, the issue was not religious, as we were both more or less on the same page. The issue was control and parenting style. I took him to see a Disney Movie, "The Black Hole" her reaction? He was too young. So too, she would constantly find fault with whatever I did and interrogate my son till she found out every little detail of our visits. I remember taking trips with an igloo full of frozen foods and a small barbecue grill. There are many places where I have seen black hats and black coats. Some suggestions: Niagra Falls, Pennsylvania Dutch, Gettysburg, Williamsburg Virginia , Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Mystic, CT. Places to go that are kosher, but outside of the normal. Good luck.


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43. thank you     2/13/09 - 11:07 AM
Anonymous

thank you for helping us better understand the good feelings we should have for all those who go off the derech! its so sweet of you. i remember when you posted rabbi hauers piece that helped us have a warm cozy feeling twards the gay commuity as well. you are such a thoughtful good hearted selfless person.


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44. To #43     2/13/09 - 12:22 PM
Anonymous

All Rabbi Horowitz is saying is that when YOUR child acts out OPENLY off the derech undrstand the root of the problem, and don't just say the kid is a bum. In your situation you just have to look in the mirror to see what caused them to give it up.

Laugh all you want at Rabi Horowitz NOW, you will have such charata soon it won't be funny. Worst of all you will act like the "rabbis" and won't apologize. Enjoy your lot in life.

Be smug now, you'll pay the price soon enough.


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45. I could have ended up like Tortured Dad     2/13/09 - 12:36 PM
Anonymous

#36:

Your comment that:

"Don't you think it's in their best interest if you remain fully observant and married to their mother? It sounds like you're willing to do a great deal to accommodate their needs. What about the need for an intact, frum family?"

shows that you truly have no idea what kind of emotional trauma some people go through before they get to the point of leaving Yiddishkeit.

I went through serious issues with Yiddishkeit as a result of various factors that built up over a period of 20 years. Baruch Hashem, I found a professional that was able to help me find my way back to Yiddishkeit emotionally (I never deviated practically). By the way, you would never in a million years have identified me as "at risk". I was and, baruch hashem, still am, a Ben Torah.

Having experienced being that close to the brink, I can tell you that sometimes the emotional issues are just too powerful to simply "fake it" for the family's sake.

I hope that you are able to take away from this discussion a certain humility and lack of judgementalness. While we are not condoning the acts in and of themselves, we need to understand that there is a tremendous amount that can go on beneath the surface which brings a person to that point.

I think this is also a response to #43.


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46.     2/13/09 - 1:37 PM
yoni

and sometimes, even when they go off the derech because of what you might declare licientiousness its not that at all.

alot of people may just be dealing with alot of stresses and need physical comfort (in the form of hugs) and get yanked of the derec (especialy younger people) because A of the reaction of others, B personal guilt, C because once they get their they don't have a clue what to do with themselves and aren't self aware enough to understand that what they want is NOT to do stuff with them and that they'll only end up hating themselves if they do...

thats another problem that drives at least some people off the derech, treating every boy girl issue as if they're looking to do as much and with as many people as they can C"V.


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47. 41     2/13/09 - 2:51 PM
Anonymous

"It would be interesting to go to the top - whoever the Rebbe is, and get his input. Somehow my gut is telling me that there would be very positive outcomes from his involvement."

You don't even know who this person is other than he is a Rebbe, and you are certain his input will yield positive outcomes. Why?


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48.     2/13/09 - 3:35 PM
Almost Tormented

I'm watching this case closely as I might find myself in the same predicament down the road. But I don't want to talk about this case specifically, rather about the kind of “help” an OTD parent might find in the community.

There is the classical approach “he is just a sheigets”. The OTD parent will be forewarned by the authority in turn that “we will make sure you never get to see your little ones”. Some buy the damnation. Some even give up the will to fight.

Then there are those who might think of themselves as open-minded, confusing being well versed with a mental switch that is needed to see beyond the prism of prejudicialness. Those well intentioned people, usually titled Rabbi, have one ultimate goal: to keep the children frum. Many of the well meaning commenters here have that ultimate goal in mind too.

To the latter the best approach to “saving the kids souls” is embracing father or mother that left while ensuring that the kids see the best of Judaism. At this point the bias really flows out openly where the exact level of Jewish beauty is on par with the level of the statement maker. If he is a Williamsburg figure it will be a different version than his Lakewood, not to mention his Teaneck, counterpart. That bias aside the result is the same.

Which is why I was wholly unimpressed with Rabbi Twersky's comment. Claiming that leaving the Torah life is a compromise is one sided and unhelpful. He further writes “To capitulate further would be to sanction his earlier compromise as a legitimate choice, one that sets a new anchor from which one can legitimately bargain” A person who thinks like that can not act as an impartial arbitrator. That the esteems rabbi thinks that if not Rabbi Horowitz this case would be his does not make you look good Rabbi Horowitz.

Having said that, you do come across as someone who would put the interest of the child over the religious interest. I'm not sure how compatible this is with classical Judaism, the Chasam Sofer's “ ???? ????? ???? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?????". The question remains, if we could foresee the outcome of our actions and we know that this child will lead a happy and healthy life as a frei Jew or as a frum Jew but an angry unhappy one, what would you choose? If these different outcomes are a result of the OTD parent being in the picture, or not, would you help the child grow up healthy and happy?

It might be an unfair question, but I don't see any other way of judging impartially.

A Git Shabbes Ya'll.


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49. re 47 and 43     2/13/09 - 3:40 PM
anonymousfornow

47, you're right. It's erev Shabbos and I should have thought it through. My point is, that the hamon am is not always where the gadol is. It's worth a try, I would hope. And I know, I'm very naive, people please don't spend the time trying to educate me on that as it is bound to veer into dangerous tangential territory. Point is, I hope that there is someone whom the mother will respect who will have clarity and an open mind and heart.

43, I have to track down that article. Seriously, for me. This is an issue that is not in the news as much now, B"H, but I think we need a vocabulary and a mehalech to approach it. Our visceral reaction can and should be negative to the concept, as this is what the Torah mandates, but that is not enough to be sure that the next generation will have a proper and clear handle on the subject.


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50.     2/13/09 - 3:58 PM
yoni

48, I would actualy encourage something of the reverse if a parent became a BT late in life. . . Don't push torah on the kids, let them come to it if they will.

I am often fond of saying that we don't need poorly adjusted jews floating around. we have enough of them to deal with as it is.

I want the kids to be happy. That often means not changing how they grew up.

However, I will say that the behavior of the mother as told disturbs me. . . I am not sure that i would prefer that the children remain with said mother.

I am not sure what i would do in this case. I would almost say that they would be better off with the father, but at the same time the rude shock that their change in lifestyle might hurt them severely... But if it is true that TD is the more emotionaly balanced of the two, I would trust his judgment in dealing with this. Its his call.

Personaly my sympathies lie with the more stable of the two parents... whether that parent is religious or not.

although I will not deny the fact that the stable children of that divorce might then find their way back to judaism is comforting.


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51. To Anon 4 Now     2/13/09 - 5:11 PM
Anonymous

In THIS SPECIFIC case where the father is a baal middos TOVOS, a mench who happens to be terribly burnt,the children will benefit from the fathers involvement.

In ABUSIVE relationships most REAL rabbis agree the abusive parent and child sh0ould sever ties. This is pashut in halachah. So yes parent/child termination of relations IS done some times.


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52. ideas     2/14/09 - 4:56 PM
RG

I think that you are both amazing and have been through so much. Nobody knows why some marriages are just so difficult nowadays, everyone is trying their best, and it just ain't working. I wish it were easier. There is so much pain and trauma. And one can't forget what the children of a difficult marriage have been through. A lot of pain. It's so easy to say that "Sholom Bayis is the most important thing". Honestly, it's effort that counts.

Tormented Dad, remember that all these negociations are not the end of the story. Life will continue, with many growth and changes, stressors and forgivenesses. Maintaining family contact is an important part of helping people resolve difficulties, and find solutions that work. Please allow your kids to have sensitive counselling, so that they can unload. And obviously, yourself too, for all the trauma of your marriage etc. At the very least, have friends in whom you can tell stuff, because people need to vent, in order to find solutions (IMO). YOu and your ex are no longer married, but you will remain parents of the same kids, and so if you can get some sort of ongoing moderation between the two of you, it will only benefit the kids.

Whatever Rabbi Horoowitz arbitrates, please tell your lawyer to take that clause out of the decision - that you intend to give up visitation rights if he says it is not good for your kids. NEVER give up your rights to have a relationship with your kids (except perhaps temporarily if you are mentally ill and unsafe or scary). I guess this might be unnecessary because Rabbi H obviously respects you a lot, but you get my point.

Since you are open minded, you can probably agree with me, that a religious life is not necessarily a restrictive life, although if the details are not properly worked out, that can make it feel that way. Thus perhaps if you will feel in the future that your ex is throtling the kids, you need a solution for that, now. Perhaps you can build an arbitration agreement and communication so that you can also be involved in how their religious decisions are made in the future (don't just say "It's your mothers's domain). They are your kids too. What if she wants to send them to a high school where there is abuse? Will you even have a voice? You need to find a way to develop a respectful medium of communication so that your differences don't get in the the way of everything. Probably that includes being appreciative of the good things she does for your kids too.

The other benefit of finding a way towards communication is that you won't feel you need to make your kids "open minded" to the benefits of an irreligious mindset - if instead you have the ability to help them to be safe and happy within a religious framework. That should make your ex happy!

However, movies is going to be a very contentious subject, and the reason for that is that a) they are very influential, even Disney ones, the attitude of the producers go sraight to the kid's brain, and is often extrememly negative, anti-respect, pro-trauma, etc; while b) some parents short on time and ideas like to use movies as a quick fix to give their kids a good time without having to exert too much effort. So I would separate movies from religion when arguing their merits.


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53. The Chasam Sofer Quote     2/14/09 - 8:50 PM
Almost Tormented

???? ????? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?????.

It didn't show up on the post, I hope this time it appears.

Point is, if this is the way the arbitrator thinks than an OTD parent should head straight to the courts. I really hope that Rabbi Horowitz is not one of those and that he disagrees with Rabbi Twersky (asking too much?).


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54. In English this time     2/14/09 - 8:51 PM
Almost Tormented

Mutav sheyiyeh shoiteh kol yomuv, ve'al yiyeh rosho sho'oh achas lifnie hamokoim.


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55. 2 Dr. Twerski     2/14/09 - 10:57 PM
Anonymous

"The formerly but currently non-observant spouse has developed feelings that are negative toward shmiras Torah umitzvos, guiding their own choice to abandon ship. How one would succeed in hiding this from the kids is beyond the range of my imagination."

Do you imply here that the the truth about the non-observant parent remain hidden from the children? Forgive me, please, if this sounds disrespectful, but the approach makes as much sense as shielding children from the knowedge that a parent is gravely ill...Isn't mental health about the ability to cope adaptively with reality as it is?


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56. parental rights after divorce     2/14/09 - 11:55 PM
Anonymous

I am a mother of a divorced son who has three children. Unfortunately, my son is going off the derech and does not keep shabbos or kashrus as he is supposed to, yet he wants the children to come to him for shabbos!! What is the right thing to do?? I would rather they come to my house and he should come too and spend time with them, but He wants them in his house!! how do I make him understand that he cannot do this to young children who go to frum yeshivas and schools and know the difference, even if they are yound?? HELP!!!


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57. Yossele Shumachar     2/15/09 - 12:50 AM
RG

I don't know if you read the Mishpacha article about Yoseele SHumacher, apparently the parents were in friendly negociations with the grandfather and it all might have worked out, except that some fanatics refused to give the parents the child back, and wouldn't give th grandfateher updated info about where he was. As a result Yossele has been NOT frum all his life. He describes how despite all this, the grandfather was financially supported by the gparents and they were on good terms afterwards. Which just shows what good arbitration and good will could have done. and it also shows what happens when dramatization occurs, and when the whole world finds out. Little issues become big issues. WHile if it is kept quiet and and friendly, even big issues can be solved.

Tortured grandmother, when you gave birth to your son, you gave him his freedom to have children and his freedom to choose his religion. Sure, I hope that his "off the derech" is just a step in the direction of coming back ON the derech. Have confidence that the Derech Hashem is happy and fulfilling, and that Hashem and us are easily able to forgive and move on.

Nobody is Not Frum as a shittoh. It just means that they haven't yet found a religious way that also enables them to feel sane. Honour and respect and love can help make life feel better for everyone.

These views are my own, and do not represent anyone I'm related to or affiliated with. There is always hope. Lots of what we fear does not come true. Love is very powerful. Hope represents reality more than fear does. Most situations work out well in the end.


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58. a few points...     2/15/09 - 7:15 AM
Yardena

To all Tormented Dads:

Like several other posters, I can only emphasize the importance of maintaining regular, face-to-face contact with your children. (And like previous posters, I exclude abusive fathers from this.)In my teens, I had several friends (non-Jewish/non-religious Jewish) whose fathers either left the state (for a better parnasah)or were chased out of the child's life by the mother manipulating the courts. The results were tragic. One only tried to contact her father after he'd already died an early death. Several of the others were molested by their step-fathers (and one was routinely beaten by her mother), an occurance that could've been prevented or halted if the father had maintained constant, face-to-face contact with the child. (Kids won't usually confide such things over the telephone, especially with mom right there, and they may not know how to dial long distance, depending on their age or their fear of being caught. And behavioral changes are not discernable over the phone.)

In a positive situation, I knew of a frum father who remained in the same neighborhood as his frum ex-wife and children when the courts granted full custody to the mother, who was unstable. Because the father was local, the kids kept running away to his house, so the courts ended up transfering custody to him. His dedication likely saved his children from a very trying childhood.

Yes, I am describing extreme situations, and that even if the ex-wife is the best mother and remarries the greatest guy to be the step-father, it is still important for the biological father to be in the child's life for no other reason than that Hashem made him their father.

To #56: I wish I had something helpful to advise you, but I honestly don't know. It sounds painful, and my heart and best wishes go out to you.

P.S. Regarding Yossele:

What I've read about Yossele Shumacher indicated the situation was a lot more complicated and harmful than standard. His parents kept dropping him off with the frum grandparents for extended periods time so that they were basically raising him, and then they wanted to take him Russia, which as we know ended up being a large prison. It's hard to know the truth of his situation because everyone who writes about him seems to present his story from their own bias. (Although I agree 120% with RG's basic premise of quality arbitration.)


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59. To Tormented Dad     2/15/09 - 8:42 AM
Been Through It

If I could have seen the outcome before we started the exact same battle 10 years ago against a father who left religion, I would have handled it alot different.

we consulted with S Mostowsky Esq, a leading Frum Family lawyer, at the time just for direction even though our case was in another state and he told us 2 principles.

1. the only antidote to the fathers obvious lack of stability in his life, is for the mother to enhance her stability and parenting skills. 2.whether the children will be Frum at the end has nothing to do w/the custody/visitation schedule. many complex factors will be involved. I wish I would have realized how true this advice was.

If you really want to have happy , emotionally healthy children ( the odds are already stacked against them!) its not only Rabbi Horowitz that needs the wisdom of Solomon !!! In Dr Spocks updated issue of his classic work, he added that after many yrs of watching children grow up, he came to the realization that a strong, stable belief system is essential to emotional health. If you work your hardest to reduce the divorce trauma and the added religious trauma, both to the children a nd your ex, their chances will be much better.

And don't forget about another child that needs emotional strengthening,the child in you!!!! You are an unusually good person if you offered to sacrifice your desire to see your children if Rabbi H reccommends so. I don't think he will, but if you maximize your personal growth. This will be the greatest gift you can give your children.

P.S. Don't go through this on your own, ask Rabbi H for the right person to make sure you grow from this whole process or I am available by phone if you want someone to talk over religious or life issues.

May Hashem help our whole mixed up generation!


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60. RG in #52 says:     2/15/09 - 9:11 AM
Anonymous

It's so easy to say that "Sholom Bayis is the most important thing". Honestly, it's effort that counts.

Do you really think that kids care about effort? Little children don't even know what effort parents put into their shalom bayis. What they know is whether there actually IS shalom bayis!

We like to say that it's the effort not the results that count, but often in life, it's the results that matter.


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61. to judgmental #45     2/15/09 - 9:18 AM
Anonymous

Having experienced being that close to the brink, I can tell you that sometimes the emotional issues are just too powerful to simply "fake it" for the family's sake.

And who suggested that anybody fake anything?

You yourself saw a professional who helped you. That's wonderful. I think the questions in comment 36 are valid, your emotional accusations notwithstanding.

This discussion is about what is best for the children.

There is no question that a frum, intact family is what is best for the children. Anything else is not just second best but a tragedy. No matter how peaceful and accommodating the custody arrangements, the children remain "lebedige yesomim" (living orphans).

This is not to say it is easy to stay frum and married. But maybe, after bringing children into the world, this is what has to be done. It's a mitzva to marry one's grusha (divorcee) if she hasn't remarried in the interim, and people have done this. Maybe, instead of suggesting ways to make the best of a bad situation, the goal should be to reunite the family.


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62. RG #57     2/15/09 - 10:00 AM
Anonymous

You mention the story of Yossele, and wax poetic about what arbitration could do. You imagine that the reason why no agreement was able to be finalized was because of "overdramatization".

Yossele was a classic case of spiritual abuse, using religion as a cause celibre to destroy a persons life. People chose with warped frumkeit that the way to enhance Yossele's life was to "kidnap" the little boy. Failing to realize that "kidnap" is on the same level of Shabbos, both are one of the 10 Commandments. In situations of ABUSE, NO ARBITRATION can help. The children's wellbeing is paramount, and the parents/grandparents happiness are frankly unimportant. In situations of abuse what you describe as "overdramatization" is the appropriate response. Lo Saamod Al Dam Re'echa shouting from the mountain tops against against abuse, is more important than a pretty outcome benefitting the abuser. No abuser likes publicity, BUT the whole world must find out.

Their is always hope in situations of going off the drech etc., but no possible positive outcomes are possible in situations of abuse. In cases of child/parent estrangement as a result of abuse, the child has made the determination that life is too painful and dangerous with the parent. In the child's mind it is safer to chart their own path in life, ALONE, than to follow the already treaded path of the family. In these situations it is to the parents/family advantage to allow the child to chart their own course. As you mentioned every person has the freedom to choose what is best for them in life.

Since these situations involve severe abuse, and trauma to the child parents are afraid of the child becoming free, and exposing family secrets. The abusers don't understand the childs shame and embarrassment, and their need for privacy make their child LESS likely to expose their darkest secrets. The families misassess the situation and become desperate to maintain control of the kid. The kid stays quiet and doesn't "overdramatize", UNTIL the family does something so outlandish that Ba'u Mayim Ad Nafesh.

In summation, in cases of ABUSE most of the victims fears do come true. As a result as powerful as hope is, realistic preparations for battle is more powerful. Yaakov knew this when he tried to arbitrate with an abuser like Aisav. Abuse is harmful to the wellbeing of the victim, especially when it's a parent, a prime caregiver in the child's life.

By The Way, the disclaimer "These views are my own, and do not represent anyone I'm related to or affiliated with" was very cute.


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63.     2/15/09 - 10:20 AM
Anonymous

Here is one possible explanation why marriages fail.

It's because the marriage was a mistake to begin with. The couple gets engaged not knowing certain secrets about their future spouse and family prior to engagement. Once they get engaged, and the family and spouse let their hair down, they notice or hear things they know could lead to marital disaster.

Yet, out of fear of becoming a NASI statistic choose to go forward DESPITE this knowledge.

Parents, if something is wrong break the engagement, break the engagement, break the engagement. Don't let your child or yourselves become divorce statistics. Divorces are infinitely more problematic than broken engagements


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64. small point     2/15/09 - 10:23 AM
RG

when I said that dramatization caused a lot of problems, I did not mean the media dramatization , I meant the people who whisked him away, believing thy had done a Mitzvoh. According to the Mishpacha, the Rabonim at the time did NOT approve, nor were they consulted. True, most people did not know then whether it was right or wrong, but now, with hindsight, we can see that spiriting a child away, to keep him Frum, was not very likely to be successful.

Similarly, if families today try to have friendly negociations with the non-frum parties, accepting the reality of the person's beliefs as they are now; there are more likely to find healthy solutions that keep everyone safe and healthy and on the best road towards discovering the truth about religion.


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65. Comment No. 63     2/15/09 - 11:38 AM
Anonymous

According to CHAZAL (our Talmudic Sages), breaking an engagement is worse than a divorce! Could someone more knowledgable please explain. Thank you.


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66. 65 Broken engagement     2/15/09 - 11:46 AM
Anonymous

Chazal's statement refers to tnaim, which, at least in the litvish olam, is not done till right before the chupah--for the very reason that it is considered a severe agreement to break. Most engagements as we know them today in the non-chassidish olam do not have the same halachic status to which chazal refer. In any case, Rabbonim generally advise the writing of a shtar mechila to absolve the parties of guilt for a broken engagement.


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67. unhappy marriages     2/15/09 - 3:18 PM
Hoezen- T - Brooklyn/ NY

63, Here is another possible explanation why marriages fail, and why so many people are miserable in the Chasidishe world.

When I was 18 years old, I bought my own pair of shoes. I chose what I eat for breakfast, the friends I hung out with, the clothing I wore, who to vote for in elections, and so on. I was an adult, and in most aspects, treated as one. But in one area, I had no choice. No one asked me who I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. It was my parent's decision. They chose for me. And they *knew* that it was what I would have chosen had I done the choosing. Of course. My mother and mother in law, wore the same headgear. We all spoke with the same havore. Our grandparents, all of them, hailed from the same region in Hungary. What else can one pray for? What a perfect shidduch, what compatibility.......

My husband is a wonderful person. He has many friends. If the two of us were classmates, I never would have chosen to be his chavruse. Today, I am his wife.


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68. Arranged marriages     2/15/09 - 3:34 PM
Anonymous

The list of causes for failed marriages is sad and long. In the words of Leo Tolstoy as he begins Anna Karenina: "All happy families are happy in the same way. All miserable families are miserable in their own way..."

How sad for you, 67, to feel that the right to choose the most important decision of your life was snatched out of your hands--and messed up. I'm just wondering if any hard statistics exist correlating unhappy unions with the practice of arranged marriages. The custom exists worldwide (India is an example that comes to mind)--surely someone, somewhere has examined the phenomenon through a scientific lens. Those of you in the mental health field--any relevant,legitimate study come to mind?


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69. adult     2/15/09 - 4:12 PM
Anonymous

When I was 18 years old, I bought my own pair of shoes. I chose what I eat for breakfast, the friends I hung out with, the clothing I wore, who to vote for in elections, and so on. I was an adult, and in most aspects, treated as one. But in one area, I had no choice. No one asked me who I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. It was my parent's decision. They chose for me. And they *knew* that it was what I would have chosen had I done the choosing.

I'm sorry to hear you are not happily married but I wonder: 1) when you met him, what did you think? If you did not want to marry him, why didn't you say so?

2) you can console yourself with the thought that the divorce rate among people who choose their own spouse is rather high in America, so apparently, choosing one's own spouse is no guarantee of happiness. Even knowing them for months and years, even living with them(!) by no means guarantees a happy marriage.

By the way, the examples you gave of what made you an adult are not too impressive. So you chose what to eat for breakfast etc. So what? If you said that you supported yourself and/or your family, that you were involved in activities that demonstrated that you were a mature and responsible individual, fine. But picking a pair of shoes that you wear for a while and then throw out is not a sign of an adult.

And why are we discussing this anyway? What does this have to do with R' Horowitz's question?


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70. Only as miserable as many     2/15/09 - 4:32 PM
Hoezen T

69: when you met him, what did you think? If you did not want to marry him, why didn't you say so?

You mean when I met him for an hour before we got engaged? When the tables were already set for the lechaim? I had no *real* reason to say no. He didn't stutter, doesn't have a long nose, and being a stable, normal individual, didn't say anything exceptionally stupid either.

You can console yourself with the thought that the divorce rate among people who choose their own spouse is rather high in America,

And what exactly does the divorce rate have to do with happiness? Are you saying that most frum unhappy couples get divorced?

And why are we discussing this anyway? What does this have to do with R' Horowitz's question?

Did you read # 3 and TD's acknowledgment of the comment?

since both parents seem reasonable, + the fact that they have not hidden behind pitbull attorneys, the assumption (to me) is that the 'religion' issue is part of an overall 'incompatability' with their former spouse. Still, they stuck it out long enough to have kids which are now the issue. The combination of being lonely even in your own home + the unhappiness with the 'system', appears to be the lethal combo that led to this situation. The irreligious one may have felt this to be the only way out of this lonely trap, halfway using religion as an excuse to leave.

While a split with my ex-spouse was inevitable for many reasons (and commentor # 3 – Yitzchok from Brooklyn – wisely alluded to religion being only one of a host of complex factors),


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71. Shidduch system - pro or con     2/15/09 - 4:36 PM
Benzion Twerski

What little energy that I have devoted to research, I have not directed any of it toward studies about pre-arranged marriages versus non-pre-arranged. However, I can share some anecdotal reports with some opinions.

My great grandfather had a brother, Boruch Dovid, who was a child prodigy. His pre-arranged shidduch resulted in his becoming a choson at about the age of 11 or 12. He was his mother’s youngest son, and she had many versions of favoritism with regards to her “baby”. The kallah was the daughter of Horav Shloime Zalmina of Rashkov. There were only meetings involving representatives, and the two children never met. At some point, there were chassidim who traveled on business to Rashkov, and returned with the report of having met the new mechutan. They approached the rebbetzin and informed her that they also saw the kallah, and that she was not very pretty. She was quite angered by this, and wanting the best for her “baby”, she approached her husband, the Zaide Reb Mottele, suggesting that the shidduch be broken. He reacted by sending a letter to the mechutan in Rashkov inviting him to visit and to bring the kallah along. This occurred, and the Zaide took Boruch Dovid into the room with kallah, and gave him as much time as he wanted to either accept the shidduch or reject it. After a few brief minutes, he emerged, and stated that if his father states that this is good, he fully accepts it. They had a wonderful and long marriage, with wonderful children.

If parents research the issues that matter, not the trivia, they can do much to guiding their children to shidduchim that will have good futures. The compatibilities of headgear, havora, etc. are the trivial matters. If parents raise their children to learn to tolerate those that are different, “ubilvad she’yechaven es liboh”, we can train them with the midos that go the farthest in marriage.

I am among those who get calls about shidduchim for my children, and I get stuck when the questions turn to whether my son will wear knickers-white socks or my daughter will wear something on top of her shaitel. I believe the issue to be so trivial, that I never entertained the issue with my sons regarding their choice of socks, nor did I ask mydaughters-in-law whether they wanted to wear some shaitel covering. Neither of these comprises the midos that reflect on marriage nor on the kedusha that needs to reign in the bayis ne’emon beyisroel. I actually funded my sons’ shopping trips for their malbushim without inquiring about the details of their pants and socks. And I still don’t care. Whether they are nice to their wives and bring Torah into their homes matters.

So while I do not place the fault for failed marriages on the shidduch system, I am aware that there could be much misleading and poor focus on the real issues. This can also occur with non-shidduch marriages, and the goyishe world that has a greater that 50% failure rate for marriage suggests that there is not much to benefit from doing things that way.


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72.     2/15/09 - 4:46 PM
Anonymous

You mean when I met him for an hour before we got engaged? When the tables were already set for the lechaim?

Sorry to hear that's how it was for you. My Chassidishe friend recently married off her daughter. The couple met three times and my friend told her daughter that she is welcome to meet him again, though her daughter wasn't interested in another meeting, she was ready to marry him. But as R' Twerski wrote, the number of meetings is not what guarantees happiness in marriage.

And what exactly does the divorce rate have to do with happiness? Are you saying that most frum unhappy couples get divorced?

I don't understand your questions.

As I wrote, and R' Twerski seconded, "out in the world" where they meet numerous times, the divorce rate is sky-high, so how long you know someone is no guarantee for marital bliss.


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73.     2/15/09 - 4:54 PM
Anonymous

My great grandfather had a brother, Boruch Dovid, who was a child prodigy. His pre-arranged shidduch resulted in his becoming a choson at about the age of 11 or 12.

And on what basis was the shidduch made - on a 11-12 year old's middos? Or, as I think more likely, on his yichus and brains? Are yichus and brains a good way to make a shidduch, do you think?

I think, despite #67's bitterness, that the fact that the mother and m-i-l wore the same headgear, they all speak the same way and the family comes from the same area, are not trivial matters. It is a very helpful and secure basis for a marriage when the backgrounds are the same.

And #67 says her husband is a wonderful person! So rather than denigrate the parents for how they made the match, it sounds to me that they picked well. It takes maturity and real responsibility (not just being able to pick Cheerios over Rice Crispies) to make a good marriage.


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74. As unhappy as many     2/15/09 - 5:16 PM
Hozen T

Rabbi Twersky, with all due respect to your illistrus great grandfather, what exactly is your point? Perhaps non of us should ever get divorced because if der aibishter was mezavig your zivig, then we must all fully accept it...

"If parents raise their children to learn to tolerate those that are different, “ubilvad she’yechaven es liboh”, we can train them with the midos that go the farthest in marriage".

Of course good middos are perhaps the most important factor in a good marriage, but they are by far not the only thing that matters.

When you were in Yeshiva, where you close friends with Shmerel? Why not? Shmerel was one of the top boys in your class. He had great middos and was a gevaldige masmid. But the two of you were not friends. You just didn't have that chemistry with him the way you did with Getzel.

Go explain that to the shaddchen....

"This can also occur with non-shidduch marriages, and the goyishe world that has a greater that 50% failure rate for marriage suggests that there is not much to benefit from doing things that way".

Again, the divorce rate hardly tells us anything.

Do the 50% failures have 5-6 children by the time they turn 30?

Are the vast majority of those women housewife's with no financial independence?

Is the divorce stigma by them as potent as it is by us?

I dare say Rabbi Twersky, that hardly any Chasidish women as unhappy as I am, would even consider divorce. I will even go as far as saying that many many men and women out there, most of them with "wonderful homes and wonderful children" are unhappy and lonely in marriage. They don't come to you for counseling, because they have managed to keep their lives, their marriages, and their homes, intact.

That's not to say that they have not been cheated and robbed by a system which has denied them the basic right to chose their own mate. Beavers and foxes are given more autonomy than we have.


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75.     2/15/09 - 8:21 PM
yoni

According to CHAZAL (our Talmudic Sages), breaking an engagement is worse than a divorce! Could someone more knowledgable please explain. Thank you.

Chazal's statement refers to tnaim, which, at least in the litvish olam, is not done till right before the chupah--for the very reason that it is considered a severe agreement to break.

someone needs to go back and learn hilchos kiddushin again.

Firstly, tenayim did not even exist in talmudic times. Instead the woman was mekadesh immediately, and then they waited for a year or so before performuing nisuyin. Betrothed is usualy used for this status. it is fundementaly different from "engagement" being that the "engagement" of the gemorah required an actual get to get out of.

This may be the reason for "broken divorce is worse than a divorce."

so... um, yeah, Please go back and learn mesechet kiddushin again and the rosh and everything else associated with it.


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76.     2/15/09 - 8:35 PM
yoni

i find much of this discussion fairly confusing. a man isn't allowed to marry a woman without her consent. Hozen T did a sin by not objecting if he didn't suit her. . . not to mention michsholed him into a sin. (actualy probably a couple thousand of them.)

when you do a sin like that you expect your marriage to go well?

if they complain point out to them that neither talmud nor halacha requires you to listen to them and not only that it explicitly states there is no mitzvah of kibud av vaim in this area...

so your bitterness is astounding. Unless, of course, they lied to you about this little nuance in halacha. that would be most regretable.

I mean, the aggadot can get extremely romantic actualy. with all the "it is the derech of a man to go in search of a woman" and not only that, assuring a marriage without shidduch, the proport of which is not our shidduchim, but rather the bochur's meaningful engagement of the girl in question to ascertain whether or not she is partial to the match. (as is clear from the rishonic mefarshim, pischei teshuva not withstanding.)

i mean, you deny torah and you get what you asked for honestly. i'm sorry its so cold. . .

i mean, there is a reason why the bais shmuel describes that kind of system as a "heter" and not as a good thing. . .


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77. Arranged Marriages     2/15/09 - 8:39 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey NY

Over the years, and lately with increasing frequency, I have unfortunately been counseling many heimishe people, usually husbands, who are achingly miserable in their marriages. Obviously, one cannot use that as a measuring tool of the community as a whole because no one has ever cold-called me like these people do just to tell me what a fulfilling life they have with their spouse. But we kid ourselves if we write this phenomenon off as simply a few malcontents who will never be happy with anyone. ….

The profile/pattern I have found to be the highest risk for this misery is when one spouse (usually the husband, due to the fact that he is usually the one who goes to work. Often, in kollel couples it is the reverse when the woman enters the workforce displays these symptoms. I am not that familiar with this as I do not ever meet with women in person due to personal boundaries I’ve established.) begins to leave the sheltered community he was raised in and starts to straddle both worlds. That is not to say that his commitment to Torah values diminished – only that his life is different. He now reads the paper, listens to a Yankee game, on and on. To be perfectly honest; he is now very much like the average fellow who attended yeshivish schools.

Now; if he is wise enough to take his wife along for the ride (and she is willing and able to do so) – the marriage has a very good chance of surviving and even thriving. But if not; the chasm between the spouses often grows to the point that the more worldly spouse feels stifled (or living a double life) while the more sheltered spouse perpetually worries about the eroding spirituality and external trappings of the other one.

It really boils down to “Spaceships and Spacesuits”

(Read this http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=1102&ThisGroup_ID=255&Type=Article for context)

Those who were raised in spaceships (very sheltered communities) often do not fare well spiritually when they leave the spaceship. That, compounded with a growing gap between the spouses is not a recipe for a happy marriage – or a healthy relationship with Hashem.

So; I have found that the 'arranged marriage' in "Spaceship" communities works far better when both spouses remain in the spaceship. When one leaves, however, .....


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78.     2/15/09 - 8:59 PM
The Hedyot

> Hozen T did a sin by not objecting if he didn't suit her. . . when you do a sin like that you expect your marriage to go well?

The audacity of this comment is staggering to me! You're actually blaming a person for going along with what her parents and society is telling her to do, telling her that this is the heilige, torah thing to do, telling her how this decision is going to be so good for her, and that she should just trust them that they know what's best for her. And you expect her to stand up to them, all the authority figures in her life, all the people who say they know what's best and what's right? She, a young, naive girl, who's barely spoken two words to a male outside her family, should somehow have rejected their advice about this prospective man who they are all vouching for and placing all their hopes on, and simply stand up to their pressure and guilt!

And you're saying that the sin is HER fault!!!??


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79. Arranged Marriages     2/15/09 - 9:33 PM
yakov horowitz - monsey NY

For the record, when I noted the words Arranged Marriages I was discussing a shidduch where the meeting of the boy and girl is done when things are almost a done deal as described by the woman above -- not 'shidduch dates' overall where there is a dating and courting process that takes time.

Again; this is not to say that Arranged Marriages don't work. I personally know many very happily married couples who had Arranged Marriages

only; that in situations as I described above, where one spouse undergoes significant change, there is an enhanced risk of real problems.

YH


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80. A list of basics     2/15/09 - 9:41 PM
Benzion Twerski

Many books about shalom bayis have been written, and I will not attempt to review or rate any of them. Most are good and useful. Rabbi Horowitz’s last comment (#77) is well targeted. I don’t know how to tell you what makes marriages go wrong. I am focused on the elements that I believe make them work. I will try to summarize them. I hope that I do not omit anything, and that I present this list in a manner that conveys exactly my thoughts. Some of the items on this list may overlap. I also pray that I am correct.

1) Fundamentally good midos, especially in the areas of interpersonal and social skills. It is beyond rare that a marriage will never encounter speed bumps along the way. One needs to navigate these with use of appropriate skills. Then these bumps become learning experiences, not the foundation of discord.

2) Ability to compromise, and to surrender and then tolerate when things go differently than one’s preference.

3) Good and strong values. These values may be stated verbally, but need to be part of one’s lifestyle and more than just words.

4) Clearly stated goals in life. These may change somewhat over time, but these issues need to be discussed openly and honestly.

5) Unwavering commitment based on emotional ties that may begin as superficial but with the intent to intensify as the bonds solidify.

6) HKB”H must be one of the partners in the marriage. This brings along a detailed set of requirements that other books dwell on far more eloquently that can be done here. There is something to insuring that Hashem having a presence in the home that makes it hum. That does not excuse the man from davening with a minyan, and the presence can be generated in many other ways.

7) Honesty must be complete and total. That means that 99.44% pure is not really pure. Any corners cut on honesty jeopardize the entire picture.

8) There are no secrets. No hidden finances or bank accounts, no friendships or relationships, no outside activities.

9) Respective extended families need to place the new couple in the proper perspective. They are not there to interfere, possess them as their own, control their lives, etc. There should also be open and honest relationships between mechutanim from the outset, which should not change as the years go by.

10) Advice on any matter should be sought from outsiders when needed, but only from someone qualified to advise. This is not a statement about professionals versus Rabbonim. It is about not going to family or friends who completely lack competence. Their friendships are not qualifications to guide the sensitive issues in marriage. Psst: Bnei Kollel lack the experience to guide others.

11) Mutual commitment to continuous work on the marriage. No couple should ever assume their marriage is absolutely perfect. This includes the tefiloh that was referenced in an earlier comment (quoting from the Steipler ZT”L).

12) I repeat this way too often, but the foundation of transmitting values to children is adequate modeling. That is true chinuch. When parents are together in this holy mission, there is a strong bonding factor that connects all three partners and serves as a powerful preventive against discord.

I welcome comments, especially those referring to omissions. It is late at night, and after many hours at work. I have been more alert in the past, so I suspect that corrections are deserved.


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81. 80 Dr. Twerski: question     2/15/09 - 10:25 PM
Anonymous

Some years back, I heard a discussion quoted in the name of Dr. Benzion Sorotkin (I think!) on the subject of the legendary bas-kol which announces a person's destined zivug in the earliest stages of life. The discussion centered around the question: Of what use is a bas-kol which no one is privy to hear?

Dr. Sorotzkin offered his insight that this bas-kol is, in fact, the internal voice which draws a person to a potential mate--the voice in his/her heart which whispers, "I like this person; this person feels right for me." He added that in order to be able to hear this bas-kol, a person needs to be in touch with himself and attuned to his unique personality and needs.

With this vort in mind, I wonder what the place is for considering a person's unique personality make-up when formulating decisions about marriage. From a psychological perspective, do you not observe that certain composites of personality traits--not character traits-- yield greater compatibility? Hoezen T referred to the lack of that elusive quality we call "chemistry." Beyond middos, life goals, values, commitment to the relationship, and making Hashem a part of a marriage, aren't we missing something when we don't consider the role of individual personalities within this chemical equation?

The question appears so basic, and yet receives so little discussion. It doesn't even make your list of elements critical to a successful marriage. Just wondering about your take on it...


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82.     2/15/09 - 10:34 PM
JN - NJ

>Parents, if something is wrong break the engagement, break the engagement, break the engagement. Don't let your child or yourselves become divorce statistics. Divorces are infinitely more problematic than broken engagements<

I once went out with a girl from Europe who found out that her choson had severe mental issues that were being hidden from her. Her family asked Rabbi Kreisworth for advice and he stated that theyhad to go ahead with the wedding and then get divorced immediately afterwards. I shutter everytime I think of the story and thank my lucky stars my ancestors left their beliefs behind at some point.

In fact, so many of the problems out there seemed to be caused by all the layers of chumros we have added over the years. In my opinion, we have become a fossilized relic of a dynamic religion and a laughingstock by many of those who take a closer look.

Also: I have met many Chassidic men over the years and the majority (most?) struck me as extremely sarcastic, joyless individuals in everyday life. Personally, I think it's all the pressures heaped upon them and which really multiply as their children reach marriagable age.


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83. We need relevant solutions, not boilerplate ones     2/15/09 - 10:46 PM
Tormented Dad

Dr. Twerski -- I think your comment is more of a description of a good marriage rather than a formula for creating one or resolving a problematic one. As the previous commentor noted, there may be issues of compatibility that none of your points above address. These guidelines are not at all helpful when a marriage is faced not with problems of behavioral conflict but more fundamental issues, like lack of attraction, differing worldviews, intellectual/emotional/temperamental incompatibilities, etc.

I think the discussion here on arranged marriages implies that the marriages in question are of the latter kind. And creative solutions are in dire need.


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84.     2/15/09 - 10:58 PM
yoni

The audacity of this comment is staggering to me! You're actually blaming a person for going along with what her parents and society is telling her to do, telling her that this is the heilige, torah thing to do, telling her how this decision is going to be so good for her, and that she should just trust them that they know what's best for her. And you expect her to stand up to them, all the authority figures in her life, all the people who say they know what's best and what's right? She, a young, naive girl, who's barely spoken two words to a male outside her family, should somehow have rejected their advice about this prospective man who they are all vouching for and placing all their hopes on, and simply stand up to their pressure and guilt!

And you're saying that the sin is HER fault!!!??

hedyot, I'm not even sure anymore. all I see anymore are (usualy) idiot people calling themselves "rabbis" who flout basic ikkarim in the talmud on a daily basis.

its a real problem. We've handed the reigns of leadership from greats like rav moshe, rav soloveitchic and the lubavitcher rebbe to people who do not seem aquainted with even the basic ruduments of our religion. . .

its seriously like watching someone gather up all the boys in the neighbor hood and violate your best friend who sustained you when you were being beaten daily. . .

its extremely depressing to be honest. we have idiots for rabbis who are more preoccupied with whether someone is wearing denim (a tznius fabric by any sane account) or whether or not people are attending concerts, praising and activiely creating idiocy like the above annecdote about the woman told to marry (he's an am haaretz if ever there was one. I'm not sure why any sane person ever gave an idiot like that semicha), or worrying about tznius wig stores on a corner fairly far from their beis medrish.

hashem have mercy on his creations, we need moshiach now.

these days even if you restored people to torah, the dynamic and living torah of not so distant times, it would seem to us like a "torah chadashah" and would fulfil the prophesy made by chazal, so far have we fallen. hashem have mercy on his creatures which have turned astray and turned after the joys which their eyes have seen and hearts desired, that they have replaced you torah with vanity and folly, and have chased after other g-ds after which they go astray. . .

weep for us. weep for us all. Moshiach is comming, and chazal said that they wished for that era, but did not wish to live to see it come, for the horrors that would be layed upon us. we are seeing them, completely self inflicted, now.

we're more intent on sticking it to each other than doing what hashem wants us to. and once we laern to love each other a little bit, we might be just a little bit better off.

talmudei chachamim marbin shalom b'olam. i'm seeing precious little of that now. weep for us. are we not sad?


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85. an unhappy frum kollel wife writes her feelings     2/15/09 - 11:53 PM
The Hedyot

Read this blog for an example of a newly married Lakewood wife who has all the right "requirements" for a happy marriage, and yet is sadly unfulfilled. http://livingintwolanguages.blogspot.com


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86. Reply to #81 & # 83     2/16/09 - 7:15 AM
Benzion Twerski

I appreciate comments #81 & #83. They prompt me to explain myself a bit better, having gotten a few hours of shuteye.

#81. The quote from Dr. (Rav) Benzion Sorotzkin is great. I heard that from him some time ago. You called attention to “personality traits” in contrast to “character traits”. I have not made the distinction. To me, there are some midos that are basic to one’s personality, though these can still be overcome. The outgoing person can choose to become more quiet, the inquisitive one can reign in curiosity. You get the gist. The distinction is still noteworthy, since there are some traits that are seen as so endemic that the tendency is to assume that one just has to accept them as fact, not modify them. I will reference the Medrash that describes the King of Kush (commonly translated as Ethiopia) who heard about the greatness of Moshe Rabbenu, and sent his portrait artists to paint his portrait which he would submit for evaluation to his advisors who could judge personality from facial appearance. The result of this evaluation was that Moshe was a horrible, mean, and gruesome bully. The King of Kush decided that this was so impossible that he needed to meet Moshe Rabbenu himself. He found their portryal visually accurate, and asked Moshe about this contradiction. Moshe told him that these traits are his basic nature, but that he overcame them through avodah on his personality. While there are basic natures, anything can be subjected to will power to change.

With this said, there is nothing wrong with increasing compatibility during marriage. However, why would one enter a situation of incompatibility only to put this additional burden on the children? Perhaps in the days when marriages were typical when the children were much younger, the maturation process could have involved development in this aspect.

#83. You are correct, that my description is one of a good marriage. However, even the best marriages involve people with differences. The couple come from two different families that share little if any history. Temperaments are not the same. Most of the skills described are those which create unity, not which pre-plan it. Removing the control from the potential couple and placing it in the hands of the parents can introduce many other elements to the equation, and these can involve the types of incompatibility that were mentioned. Likewise, there are parents who can push for a particular shidduch for totally selfish reasons, such as money, kavod, yichus, etc. with disregard to the needs of the children. A pressuring shadchan can also be a culprit in bringing about a shidduch with these additional areas of potential conflict. Looking around, I see most couples having a limited volume of such incompatibility issues, and that explains why most couples succeed. Yet, I am too keenly aware of those that don’t, and there were almost always additional factors that either remained secret, had not yet emerged, or forms of interference that disrupted a young and underdeveloped relationship that lacked the elements to overcome such pressures.

While I am one of those totally beholden to the “shidduch system”, I recognize the shortcomings.

I do not recall whether this was listed in my earlier comment, but I must add or emphasize that I believe that many of our children who succeed in marriage are doing so despite being poorly prepared. Choson and kallah classes tend to focus on the halachos that are essential to intimacy, but there is little to no focus on how to maintain a relationship. I have counseled many couples who entered a relationship with no knowledge or guidance on personal interaction. I could recite hundreds of stories that would raise the hairs of a bald man. I am informed that there are some more modern orthodox circles where the choson preparations involve plenty more than halachos, and include presentations and discussions by various professionals that address these crucial issues.

I also have had many couples who sought the guidance of a choson or a kallah teacher when there were problems, and the destruction of potentially good relationships was almost complete. These individuals have a vital task, and should perform it with a far greater sensitivity and range of subject material than was common a generation ago. There should also be followup after the wedding to insure that the development of the relationship continues in a proper pattern, when issues of difficulty can be addressed before they reach catastrophic proportions.

I thank you for the comments.


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87.     2/16/09 - 7:33 AM
yoni

the reason why they didn't need to go into that a generation ago is because boys and girls often interacted durring their teenage years and thus, even if they were never friends with them, they knew the basic rudiments of socialy interacting with them.

I am still a strong advocate of making sure that bochurim and girls past the age of 16 always be placed at the same shabbos table, in moderate groups (such as five of each) with suitable supervision and feedback, to enable them to build those communication skills that may indeed make them more capable at evaluating a shidduch, as well as more capable of communicating with their future spouse when they find them.

(obviously the kids would not always visit the same home, rather effort would be exerted to ensure that the boys and girls only rarely saw each other more than once or twice, and even then not in the same year, if possible.)

i mean, where could you find a more heavily supervised situation than the shabbos table?!


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88.     2/16/09 - 7:43 AM
yoni

oh, and if you see a boy and girl with strong signs of chemistry, don't be upset.

write the name down. they should know by then that they wont be seeing each other again, and even if they do, it will be a LONG time.

But write it down, and when time comes for a shidduch for these kids, suggest the name as one that worked before, it might work now too.

and who knows, we might make alot of shidduchim that way, but if we don't, its ok, because they gained important insight and social skills.

how to relate to a wo/man


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89. More on personality compatibility     2/16/09 - 9:30 AM
Anonymous

Thank you for the clarification, Dr.Twerski.

I'm still feeling that beyond character traits, which we strive throughout life to perfect, we ought to devote greater attention to determining elements of compatibiity based upon the innate traits of the couple involved. In dealing with young adults in the shidduch parsha, I am often struck by how out of touch they are with whom they are as individuals. They will pursue all the generic qualities included in the list on post 80 which are basic to the success of any Jewish marriage, but remain unable to articulate what works for them on a personal, individual basis.

Middos can preserve the basic functioning and civility in a relationship--which is valuable in itself--but it can't save a brilliant, philosophical girl from a certain level of loneliness in a marriage to a boy of very average intelligence. It can't usually create the missing catalyst to spark vitality into a union between an emotional, sensitive, spiritual person with a spouse who just can't relate to any of these traits--despite being a kind, good person. You get the idea.

The failure to consider individual preferences and traits lies at the heart of Hoezen T's resentment of the system which, she feels, bound her to a man with whom she feels incompatible. Knowing few details, we can speculate about the validity of her particular perspective, but I am nearly certain that we have a chiyuv to respect individual inclinations and needs which lie outside the realm of middos and religious commitment. This is critical whether we arrange marriages for our children or negotiate the system independenty--whatever our peferred route to the chupah matters less than the guideposts upon which we rely to get there.


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90.     2/16/09 - 10:12 AM
Another chasidishe woman

You know, I always find it tragicomic when apologetics of our system mention the divorce rate in the secular world in comparison to ours. Many secular couples who chose to split, do so because they have *fallen out of love*. In the Chasidishe world, hardly anyone would leave for that reason. We can't fall *out of love,* if we never fell *in love*


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91.     2/16/09 - 12:58 PM
Anonymous

I fail to understand those who don't understand why the secular divorce rate is mentioned. The point being made is that in a world where couples date for years and know each other intimately (in all senses of the term), the divorce rate is STILL high.

So what do those who are bitter about arranged marriages want done differently - they want a say in who they marry, they want to get to know the person. This is seen as the proper way to marry and the way that will ensure happiness. But is this borne out by the facts? Apparently not, when the secular world is divorcing in huge numbers.

As for the issue of he/she is a nice, kind person but not for me - when I was dating and had seen many prospective shidduchim, my father made a comment that irked me. He said - you can marry anyone and have a happy life. I thought he was wrong. I've grown up and now I understand what he means. Yes, if you are committed to building a Jewish home, and the two of you are decent people, you can have a happy marriage.

There are ways for more intellectual/spiritual people to find satisfaction other than their spouse if their spouse does not provide satisfaction in those areas.

That being said, I think that parents and their children should seek a level of comfort and compatibility when looking for a shidduch.


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92.     2/16/09 - 1:04 PM
Anonymous

There is no societal barrier to divorce in the secular world. This should be taken into account when comparing divorce rates.


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93.     2/16/09 - 1:25 PM
chasidish

So what do those who are bitter about arranged marriages want done differently?

They want to have the same option as you had when "you were dating and had seen many prospective shidduchim."

Is that too much to ask for?

" - they want a say in who they marry, they want to get to know the person. This is seen as the proper way to marry and the way that will ensure happiness. But is this borne out by the facts? Apparently not, when the secular world is divorcing in huge numbers".

Are you saying now that the divorce rate in the Litfish/Yeshivishe world is higher than that in the Chasidishe world?


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94.     2/16/09 - 1:25 PM
yoni

anon, that would not be a particularly jewish view of marriage.

a goyische one taken straight from the muslims and midieval christians, but we have always been much smarter than that B"H.

we follow a middle way. The situation mentioned is on one pole, the secular way is the other.

We believe in knowing something about your spouse, and wanting to marry them (both parties, the marriage is sinful otherwise) but at the same time a level of moderation and perspective.

is it any suprise when people start abandoning this happy mean that the divorce rate rises?


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95. 91     2/16/09 - 1:26 PM
Anonymous

It's not a matter of ensuring happiness.Thre are never any guarantees. But when a major decision does not work out, there is an added layer of frustration in the perception that one's power of choice was stolen away. You may personally disagree with this perception, but you can't 'mach avek' someone else's emotional experience.


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96.     2/16/09 - 1:32 PM
yoni

I start to get the idea that if the reform started keeping shabbos in all of its pratim, the charedim would either declare it kefira, deny all sources to the contrary, or change it to sunday!


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97. Post # 3....     2/16/09 - 2:58 PM
Yitzchok - Brooklyn, N.Y.

Was my first, after a long hiatus. I havn't kept up with this site because the issues make me sick. My entire being writhes in pain when I see what's happening to good decent men and woman whos'e only crime is the need for a connection in the one life we have. I admire TD for the courage he has to start a new life at his age. TD , despite his chassidishe background, is very smart, reasonable, articulate, and no doubt NEEDS a connection with someone whose thoughts do not exclusively revolve around #1- diets. #2- goytes. #3- sheitlech. #4-gossip. #5- pregnancy.

The woman posting here also seem to have 'had it' with men who were shoved down their throat. A fact that so many of you here don't seem to get. There are no answers, I can only say that the G-D I worship can't be this cruel.


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98. the kettle is a sign of peace     2/16/09 - 3:21 PM
ron - ronny.coder@gmail.com

I remember reading a story where a religious man arbitrated between two groups. At the end, after having made peace between them he asked for his fee, and one of the members of the groups half jokingly asked why they should pay him. After all, what is the big deal?

So the man replied that the gemmara states that to see a kettle in one's dreams is a sign of peace. Why? Because the kettle arbitrates between the freezing cold of water and the burning heat of fire. He went on to say that he was burned by this group and frozen by the other, and so he deserves a fee.

It is noble to arbitrate and G-d bless you if you do this great thing and bring peace to the lives of Jews! But remember that if you take this on, you will be the kettle!

-ron


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99. Rabbi Horowitz Don't be so soft on TD.     2/16/09 - 7:07 PM
Simche - Flatbush

TD is trying to make off with one of our Kinderlach, and your excesive need to be "reasonable" is sending our little yarmulke off a cliff. Don't be "understanding". Don't be a wuss, softy, girlie-man. Grab hold of the kids and don't f.....g let go! Listen to every word of wisdom, the great Rabbi Benzion Twerskey has to say, and you, and our community as a whole, will come out of this crisis in one piece.


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100. Both Sides Are Crazy     2/16/09 - 9:47 PM
JN - NJ

For those wondering why the divorce rate is both high in today's chareidei world and also in today's secular society, the reason, as I see it, is simple: Both ideologies are concerned more about what their neighbors' opinions are than trying to live, wholesome and G-d-fearing lives.

What I mean to say is that both lifestyles are extremes and not what G-d had in mind for us. Otherwise, he wouldn't have given us the Torah -- the same Torah which makes no mention of the importance of white knickerbockers, furry hats (both beaver and rabbit), shamelessly living off the hard work of others (by encouraging able-bodied people taking advantage of govt. programs), etc.


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101. R Twerski # 86     2/16/09 - 9:52 PM
Anonymous

Where is this Medrash? I think the source is a Tiferes Yisrael. BTW, the Mabit in Bais Elokim says that a person who has naturally bad tendencies and does not sin is a Tzaddik of the highest caliber.


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102. To Dad     2/16/09 - 11:39 PM
Anonymous

In this case where the dad has an interest in visitation, not custody the situation is clear for the court to decide. There is no compelling reason or rationale to be used, why the child is in danger while visiting dad. In fact Dad, keep a record of Comment #99, as Exhibit A to explain to the judge why the child is in far greater danger being around your wife and her supporters. Hang in there Dad, divorce is your right, and so is your visitation.

Dad, you made a wise choice picking Yanky as an arbitrator. He understands the abusED, and works to protect their interest. Dr. Bentzion understands the abusER and helps fight for them.


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103. Regarding arranged marriages, plus a question     2/17/09 - 1:51 AM
Yardena - EY

To add to #95's comment, unhappy spouses from non-Jewish cultures who marry by pre-arrangement have explained that when you don't have a say in who you marry, it's hard to take responsibility for the decision and its outcomes because it wasn't your decision. There's also an added layer of resentment because of the lack of choice.

Comparing divorce rates between the frum community and the secular community isn't the point. Many frum people stay in unhappy marriages and many secular people break up a relatively pleasant marriage simply because they haven "fallen out of love", as #90 wrote. The point is, as mentioned in #91, that divorce is simply an obvious sign of marital dissatisfaction (which doesn't imply that staying in a marriage implies marital satisfaction - we all know it doesn't), and that over half of all secular spouses are obviously dissatisfied with their marriages in spite of their freedom to choose their partner.

Yoni #95: Excellent point about how we allow the secular world to hijack authentic Jewish comments. Rabbi Beryl Wein talks about this, too. The knee-jerk reaction you described has bothered me a lot, too.

My question: I come from a small, secular/traditional family and I guess that's why I don't understand a certain point mentioned often here: Problems due to not having been exposed to the opposite gender. In spite of the frum community's strong separation between genders regarding non-family members, I would think that it would be balanced out by the large number of children in a family. In many Charedi families, a girl could easily have between 3-10 brothers and a boy 3-10 sisters. Why is it that they reach marriagable age and suddenly have no idea how to talk to the opposite gender and are totally clueless about gender-based idiosyncrasies and communication styles? What's more, the spouse usually comes from the same kind of community, so s/he dresses like, talks like, and has many similiarities to one's siblings.

I am not trying to be naive or stupid or critical. There's some point I'm missing that everyone else here seems to get. I would like to understand.


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104.     2/17/09 - 5:19 AM
yoni

i would guess that A yeshiva boys are kept out of home from early in the morning till 10 oclock at night. (and sometimes not allowed to be at home even for shabbos meals, and kept out of home friday too.)

B banter between you and your sister is different than talking to someone who isn't related to you...

it just is. Those are my guesses anyway.


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105. To #102     2/17/09 - 8:36 AM
Benzion Twerski

A note to #102. I will agree that the choice of Rabbi Horowitz as the arbitrator was a better one. I do not think I possess the skills required for this process. Additionally, I have opinions on this case that go both directions (as in my first comment), and would have a problem helping someone reach or agree to a decision when I have trouble with the same.

That said, there was a remark that you made that left me wondering. You stated that Yanky would fight for the abusED, and that I would fight for the abusER. This sounds as if I place the rights of the perpetrator over those of the victim. Chas veshalom. Much more of my time and effort is invested in pursuing justice, removing perpetrators and suspects from positions of risk, and making efforts to investigate complaints. I have shared my feelings about abusers here many times. I have little to no mercy for someone who commits emotional and spiritual murder. I have no interest in whether this criminal has done teshuvah, and I have very little faith that therapy can approach anything that sounds like cure. The only comments I have ever made that can be misconstrued into what you stated in your comment is that I will not pronounce someone guilty based on a complaint prior to an investigation that will find merit. The problem that our community faces in this area is that involvement of police and authorities seems to prosecute the accused in the court of the press and public opinion without regard to evidence or accuracy. This victimizes someone unfairly, and I cannot participate in the process that criminalizes someone before there is a basis for proof. If that happens, it must be without my input. That has been my resistance to the activists in this issue who hear a trace of complaint and jump to destroy an individual before any effort is made to verify the veracity of the claim. That is as cruel as abuse itself. Creating a mechanism that will investigate the matter without kowtowing to the political forces in the community and allowing abuse to thrive is the challenge. That has no easy answer, and that is the lag time that is involved in the project that Dov Hikind has launched. That delay frustrates the activist groups, quite understandably. My take – if you create a system, it cannot be flawed. I would rather take longer to develop it and have a mechanism that will work in accordance with halacha, secular law, etc. I am not the individual that will let abusers get away with their crimes, and I am also not the one that will close down yeshivos with wild and unsubstantiated claims.

I will not be the one fighting for the abusers.

There is another, nearly unrelated issue of domestic violence, in which there are many instances of false reports. I am acquainted with too many of these. When I try to advocate for these individuals, some see me trying to undermine personal safety. Again, chas veshalom. However, I will also not stand idly by while men are abused by a system that criminalizes them for actions they never committed. This is a separate discussion, and I will not continue it in this forum.


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106. Parental Alienation Syndrome - PAS     2/17/09 - 11:18 AM
Zalman Lachman - Spring Valley, NY - zalman@lachman.net

I have created a short-term program called Parenting Separately, in which I meet alternately with each separated or divorced parent and with the children, with and without each parent. The most important goal of the program is to help parents realize that divorce is extremely traumatic for children as it destroys their secure base. This is true even if they tell you they want you to get divorced, even if there is abuse. The hallmark of trauma is helplessness, and children have no choice where the decision to divorce is concerned---nor should they. The children who come through divorce best have parents who, in spite of their dislike or even hatred for each other, make the well-being of their children their primary consideration. In my opinion, the decision to prevent children from having a close relationship with the other parent should almost always be predicated on safety and little else. If the non-religious spouse is respectful, as this Dad seems to be, more damage will likely be done to the children, both emotionally AND to their future feelings about frumkeit by keeping them away. I have seen very frum parent drive their kids right over the edge by trying to keep them away from a parent who is still frum but less observant. Don't get me wrong--I'm a chareidi fanatic :) -- I'm just talking about what works!


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107. 2 additional points     2/17/09 - 11:50 AM
Zalman Lachman, LCSW - Spring Valley, NY - zalman@lachman.net

I have a one page flier called "BILL of RIGHTS for CHILDREN whose PARENTS are SEPARATED or DIVORCED," that is available free to anyone who would like it. Please request by email to zalman[a-t]lachman[d-o-t]net

I realize that I did not make it clear in my comment that I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have been working with families in various capacities for 10 years, and Rabbi Horowitz gave me my start in the field by hiring me at Project YES where I worked until last year. While I was with Project YES, we worked with nearly 4,000 different families representing about 20,000 Jewish children.


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108. Comment for R. Twerski re #71     2/17/09 - 2:43 PM
Yitzchok - Brooklyn, N.Y.

You state: " What little energy that I have devoted to research, I have not directed any of it toward studies about pre-arranged marriages versus non-pre-arranged." end quote.

I respectfully suggest that rather then pontificating on this subject, perhaps your time would be better spent doing some research. Like R. Horowitz said... "The commonly accepted notion is that many or most formerly frum adults who go off the derech are all drug addicts, losers, religion-bashers and (this drives me nuts) “only doing it [leaving frumkeit] so they can indulge themselves in promiscuous behavior.” This is simply false and silly.

People leave yiddishkeit for many reasons.And while some do fit the description(s) above, I have found many formerly frum people who have come to me for guidance (especially with this issue – how to stay involved in the lives of their children) to be soft-spoken, thoughtful people with a healthy moral compass albeit not a religious one. They are often creative, right-brain people – which is why so many of them are writers (and started blogs) who found today’s frum society too rigid. (I firmly believe that some or many of them would still be frum if they grew up in my parents’ more tolerant generation or in today’s day and age in out-of-town communities.)" end quote.

While the anecdote involving a great rebbe was quite amusing, it irks me that you use this, in speaking to the chassidishe community at large.

I know that Simcha from Flatbush would probably disagree....

"TD is trying to make off with one of our Kinderlach, and your excesive need to be "reasonable" is sending our little yarmulke off a cliff. Don't be "understanding". Don't be a wuss, softy, girlie-man. Grab hold of the kids and don't f.....g let go! Listen to every word of wisdom, the great Rabbi Benzion Twerskey has to say". end quote.

You can't make this stuff up.


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109. Reb Zalman Lachman     2/17/09 - 2:43 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey NY

I would like to warmly endorse Zalman and the work he does.

He did a magnificent job in Project YES developing our teen/parent mentoring programs and works very well with the counseling of parents and their children.

YH


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110. I was a kid in the middle - please hear me out.     2/17/09 - 4:31 PM
I have what to say

I f I could I would give more details, but I do not want to hurt my parents. Trust me that I am a respected mechanech in klal yisroel.

A very long time ago, I was in a similar situation as your kids are now in. It's been decades since then. It took me a long time to understand one of my parents. Once I did, it took a long time to understand the other.

I beg of Rabbi Horowitz, please make sure you allow the children to see and know their father.

I beg of the mother to actually encourage seeing their father. It is confusing and painful enough for them that he no longer lives at home. They have suffered the loss, as you have, of a family. Even if you have been separated for a long time, the pain never goes away - I am holding back my tears as I write this decades later. Please don't create yet another loss.

It is true that even with the kindest, most noble of parents, they will become exposed to things that you wish they wouldn't, your "gain" at keeping them far away, will cause your children more anguish than you can imagine.

**To the few kano'im who said otherwise, I will not share the choice words I thought of saying. You think you know better. Trust me, you don't. To kano'im there is only the frumkeit first! mental health?... what's that?

To Tormented Dad, I wish your kids were old enough now that you could explain things to them. But my hunch is that right now, even if they were, you're not finished understanding who you are yourself - to be able to explain to your children. My father wasn't when I became old enough. It was only many years later, when I reached out to him, that he began soul searching. (and without revealing too much, my father's story has a happy ending).

I respect you, and wish you a healthy return - for your sake and your kids sake. Who knows? Perhaps the separation from a bad situation will be part of your healing. I'm sure this is much deeper than just that.

To Mom, Don't assume that your negative feelings about your ex-husband are good for your kids. Don't use religion as a weapon. In my case my mother actually fought with my father to be more available for us. (And we also overheard some other fights that were really BAD for us to hear.) Do you think your children won't one day hate you for not allowing you to have a father in their life. Demonizing him will perhaps have you win some battles and possibly lose the war. It doesn't have to be this way.

Also Mom, kids from divorced homes are vulnerable to do all sorts of bad things. Do you think your kids wil be immune from hanging out with the wrong crowd because you kept them away from all "evil"? One day when they are teens, their "trief" father, may be the stabilizing factor in their lives and the reason they don't engage in drugs or other bad behavior. Please, please think about that.

Nothing is black and white. It's a hard situation for everyone involved. I know. I was right in the middle of this. But please try to remember that there are humans involved, not lulavim!

I could go on forever, but I think I've made my point.


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111.     2/17/09 - 4:32 PM
Anonymous

re comment #97 - I think it should be removed.

On a frum site, people who leave Yiddishkeit and their families should not be admired.

And the disgusting lashon hara remarks about chasidic women do not belong here.


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112. chutzpah     2/17/09 - 8:22 PM
Ger

There are ways of speaking occuring in these comments that are profoundly disturbing to me made by seemingly religious people about the world at large. I come mamash from this world you 'describe', I am a Ger. In the same breath you talk of not telling lies to children because then they will discover the truth. Perhaps your dilletante (look it up) dabblings in the world as a teen or something convinced you that your few years 'abroad' covered the depth and breadth of what was even potentially worthy 'out there' (truth be told, religious jews are the VAST minority, you might have noticed). I don't care if you are a BT and even finished law school or something; people tell themselves all kinds of silliness when the become charedi. Truth be told, there are people HERE who were born, raised and left that world because there was MORE truth to be had in Torah, not because 'all else is sheker' or something. That is the biggest lie and you speak it about God's world!! Your astounding ignorance and indignant dismissal of vast realms of human experience as worthless and meaningless is just the kind of tripe (look it up), that motivates people WHO COME (BACK) TO TORAH TO LEAVE IT.


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113.     2/17/09 - 8:23 PM
Ger

I apologize about grammar and spelling as english is not my first language.


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114. To Yitzchok #108     2/18/09 - 7:56 AM
Benzion Twerski

To Yitzchok #108. I am unable to find anything I said that should irritate you the way it seems it did. Typical to my style, I look for a middle road on issues, and I examine both sides of the coin. In this specific case, I did just that, and expressed gratitude that I am not in the action aspect as I neither have that skill, nor do I have an opinion which way to go. And I have no problem saying what most people find almost impossible, “I don’t know.”

As for my lack of research, I have training about how to conduct research that allows for inference and the establishment of a reasonably certain conclusion. We have a population that does not lend itself well to accurate reporting, and a topic that is notoriously difficult to study. This research can be probably done, though an effort to study the happiness in marriage by another organization via their website created quite a bit of furor and tumult. All said, I am not a researcher, and that is why I share opinions based on my observations, not facts. I am sorry that I cannot meet your expectations.

As for the story, it is simply an interesting instance that shows that the system can work well. I am well acquainted with plenty of instances where the system failed miserably. I stated that much earlier in this forum, and I have not changed my mind. No system is perfect.


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115. Online Research     2/18/09 - 10:23 AM
Shades of Grey

"This research can be probably done, though an effort to study the happiness in marriage by another organization via their website created quite a bit of furor and tumult."

I don't know if Dr. Twerski is referring to the OU/Alienu study, but I'm wondering, in general, to what extent web studies can be accurate(Faranak Margolese also has a web study).

For example, I just wanted to see all of the questions on both of these studies, and I randomly answered them without giving thought, with the assumption that the data would not be recorded until the final "submit" at the end. I hope I was corrrect about this point, and I didn't cause a skewing of the data. However, this shows that web studies may be skewed.

I've seen in an old Jewish Observer a survey of attitudes of yeshivah students to various political/hashkafa issues, and AJOP published a study of questions Beis Yaakov girls had. Ronny Greenwald explained on the radio that he had a way to get yeshivos of all stripes to agree to this.

I personally would be interested to see such a study done for the population of bnei Torah--I dare AJOP to do that and publish it :)


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116. Dear Ger,     2/18/09 - 6:53 PM
Efraim

I love you very much Ger. But you are dead wrong in regards to the secular world having anything worthwhile going on.

"Your astounding ignorance and indignant dismissal of vast realms of human experience as worthless and meaningless is"

Vast realms of human experience are indeed utterly vacuous. It would be wonderful if you would take the time to point to some realms of human experience that are remotely interesting.

That you think that the secular world has something to say at all, tells me that the Torah you are doing is Bentzion Twerskie's version.


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117. For Tormented Mom     2/18/09 - 9:48 PM
Laura

I'm writing this to the mother of the children of Tormented Dad. I'm not sure she's following this post, as she hasn't commented in this discussion, but perhaps my words will influence Rabbi Horowitz, who will hopefully relay these thoughts to her.

Mom, I want you to know that I feel your pain and understand the anger you must feel at the unfair blow life has dealt you. You got married, had children, tried to raise a family in the manner you were taught. You did nothing wrong. Yet now you find yourself divorced, in the midst of a custody battle with a man, no longer religious, the father of your children. You now have to deal with issues in your general life and in the raising of your children that you'd never--in all your growing up years--imagined you'd have to deal with. Indeed, this is a difficult pill to swallow.

But please realize that this is the past. This is what has already happened. Despite your tears, despite your anger, despite your efforts, this cannot be undone. What you *do* have some control over is the future. It is up to you to seriously think about what is truly best for your children's future and by extension, your own.

There's one thing that has been proven time and time again. Children need their parents. Both parents. Preferably married and together, of course, but if that is not the case, kids need them apart. If you try to alienate your kids from their father, you will almost certainly regret it later. Your children will eventually want to have a relationship with their father anyway. And if you've discouraged them all along, they will find ways to rebel against you in order to see him. For your sake and for your children's sake, do not badmouth and alienate your children's father. Ultimately, you and your children will lose.

If this were not a public forum, I'd give you a list of names, people I know personally, who have all played out the scenario I described above. In every single case, the mother admitted that she'd handled things badly because of her hurt and anger. In every single case, the mother wished she could turn the clock back and do things right.

This is your chance. Do it right. Encourage a healthy relationship between the children and their father. Regardless of his lack of religious observance, your children are still better off talking to him (perhaps even lashing out in anger at him when they're older) than living in confusion and simmering resentment for years. Because no matter what, you cannot erase a child's natural love and yearning for his father.


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118. To Efraim #116     2/18/09 - 10:59 PM
Benzion Twerski

To Efraim #116:

I would like to get some clarification about what you meant when referring to Torah – Bentzion Twerski’s version. You may post it here or you may place this in the forum on this website that bears my name in a private communication. It sounds vaguely like an accusation, but I would like you to explain before I respond.


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119. To Efraim #116     2/19/09 - 1:00 PM
Eliezer - Toronto

Efraim,

I think I speak in the name of the regular contributors to this website when I say that your comment regarding Dr. Twerski is a prime example of the kind of attitude that we seek to uproot from our community.

What we would like to see is people disagree in matters of hashkafa without resorting to personal attacks. Apparently, Dr. Twerski's approach to the secular world is too open for your liking. That's fine - you have every right to disagree.

However, given the fact that Dr. Twerski is clearly an individual whose motivation is l'shem shamayim, as should be evident from his many comments on this website (not to mention his typically humble response to your comments), you should be addressing him respectfully despite your disagreement with his views.

Too often, people in our community seem to feel justified in personally denigrating someone whose views don't coincide with their own. I ask you, Efraim, to please take a moment to honestly consider whether this is in accord with what the Ribbono shel Olam wants.

Again, this doesn't mean that we all have to agree - we can simply agree to disagree.


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120. Invitation to Efraim     2/19/09 - 3:39 PM
Benzion Twerski

Inasmuch as Efraim’s comments seem to be personal, I will repeat my invitation to dialogue with him on what he believes the real issues are. I have no interest in continuing a discussion about neither my personality nor his. An easy way to email me privately is through the forum on this site which bears my name.


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121. Secular Pursuits.     2/20/09 - 9:58 AM
Taayere Baal Habos

To Efraim,

>Vast realms of human experience are indeed utterly vacuous. It would be wonderful if you would take the time to point to some realms of human experience that are remotely interesting.That you think that the secular world has something to say at all,

You disparage secular pursuits. Have you ever about the Theory of Relativity? Have you ever read a book by Dostoevsky? Have you ever listened to a symphony? Have you ever marvelled at architecture? Have you ever played chess? Have you ever solved Rubik's cube? It would seem the answers to all of the above is no. What a pity.


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122. "what a pity"     2/20/09 - 10:10 AM
Anonymous

How do any of those activities further one's avodas Hashem?


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123. #122     2/20/09 - 10:16 AM
Anonymous

The baalei mussar say "eating food can be a great mitzvah, if you think how the food can give you energy for learning". So every "secular pursuit" could be made holy with the right intentions. Just as every halacha when misapplied can defile Torah, and avodas Hashem.

No explanation neccesary!!!


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124. Secular Pursuits.     2/20/09 - 10:42 AM
Taayere Baal Habos

In addition to comment #123, life consists of Assur, Mutar and Reshus. To the extent that the Reshus does not detract from Avodas Hashem, it can not be derdided as being utterly vacuous. While Kaddeish Atzmicha applies to each avery one of us, to assert that all Reshus is to be eliminated from life for the Hamon Am, is a recipe for disaster. See Rabbi Horowitz next post on Classic Chareidi.


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125. 122 mutar, assur, reshus     2/20/09 - 2:59 PM
Anonymous

I reall hearing a vort from a Rov in Eretz Yisroel, stated in the name of the Meshech Chochmah. The focus was on Hashem's issur to Adam and Chava regarding achila from the etz hadaas. Interetingly, close examination of the psukim reveals that this prohibition was far from the totality of Hashem's message to man.

Prior to forbidding achila from the Tree of Knowledge, Hashem told Adam and Chava, "achol tochel--" a double lashon which the Meshch Chochma understands not as a heter, but rather as a chiuv, a mitzva. A mitzva! A mitzva to partake and enjoy Hashem's world. A mitzva which preceeds prohibition and restiction.

A most insightful bit of hashkofah, I think... Gut Shabbos!


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126. The Torah: A most boring document.     2/23/09 - 10:08 AM
Efraim

Having read Post #121 I changed my mind about the Torah. I have no idea how it happened that I got caught up in stories about yetzeeas mitzraim, as the secular world marvels at architecture and solves Rubik's cube. While the vast majority of humanity is studying the theory of relativity, and listening to Bach, we are busy with petty stories about floods, with locusts, and with sibling rivalry etc.

I am resolved to leave this way of life as soon as I can. I'm getting divorced. I will get a cute girlfriend, and I will move to Manhattan, and will start studying the theory of relativity, and I will read Dostoevsky, and listen to great music, and I will solve Rubik's cube.

I have had it with all kinds of idiotic, vacuous, purposeless ritual.


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127. Purim Month     2/23/09 - 12:04 PM
A. Letz

Our host, the self-proclaimed "Shlomo HaMelech for a Day," has now been "serving" in that position eleven plus days and counting...


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128. a day?     2/23/09 - 2:49 PM
Anonymous

the man thinks he is the only smart man in the world! he is so full of himself, its amazing


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129.     2/24/09 - 2:50 PM
Anonymous

The baalei mussar say "eating food can be a great mitzvah, if you think how the food can give you energy for learning". So every "secular pursuit" could be made holy with the right intentions.

What do you mean by "intentions?" If I mouth the words, "this is giving me energy to serve G-d" as I enjoy eggplant parmesan, ice cream and hot chocolate, voila it becomes a mitzva? I just need to run the thought through my mind? Cool! Bring on the fried chicken and mashed potatoes with fried onions and especially the chocolate cake!

Or is that ridiculous? Mouthing words or mentally reviewing a thought is not synonymous with actually having that as your intention. This isn't a game and nobody is being fooled (except maybe ourselves). The "right intentions" is more difficult than you make it out to be. What genuine "right intentions" would someone have to have while studying the Theory of Relativity,reading a book by Dostoevsky, listening to a symphony, marveling at architecture, playing chess and working to solve Rubik's cube, to make the activity holy?

Same for this: Prior to forbidding achila from the Tree of Knowledge, Hashem told Adam and Chava, "achol tochel--" a double lashon which the Meshch Chochma understands not as a heter, but rather as a chiuv, a mitzva. A mitzva! A mitzva to partake and enjoy Hashem's world.

If the partaking is not REALLY in the service of G-d, it's in the service of oneself and there is no mitzva to serve oneself, on the contrary ...


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130. You are not alone.     3/4/09 - 10:09 AM
Anonymous

About 10 years ago,I found out that my husband went off the derech. I had no idea until the day he said he was not" In love me with anymore" he will always love me but he has been keeping a secret from me for a while. He said that he has not been putting on tifilin and davening anymore. He did not believe in the whole frum thing. I was shocked and started to panick not knowing what to do. We started marriage therapy but that did not go well at all. That was when I found out that he had another life. he was with other women and the most hurtful part was that my best friends new about it and never said anything.. When I asked why did you not tell me this was going on they said be happy that it wasn't with one women.. Like that was suppose to make me feel better. We seperated for two years trying to work things out. But, it takes two people to make a marriage work. He wanted out he did not want to be accountable anymore. He wanted to be not frum and live his own life. Due to the fact that he was not frum he took an apartment someplace in Brighten Beach but the kids could not go there for Shabbos so he took them to his friends. They hated that since it was always going to people they had nothing to do with. Then he got an apartment closer to the kids but, the same thing it never felt like shabbos for them. So he moved once agian and at the same time he was living in the city. The kids knew that it was just a Shabbos aprtment. I was so afraid of what to tell my kids but, they found things out on thier own. One day my daughter bought home pictures of her father out in some clubs with his girlfriends and she was not really dressed. I told my husband that he can not have pictures of him and his girl friends around his apartment because kids are searching to find answers. So they search his apartment just so they can find out about what thier father is up too. That did not help. We finally got divorced and my kids were heart broken. I tried very hard to protect them from the fact that thier father was not frum anymore. But thats a hard thing to do when you as a mother are not with them all the time. So I fought in court for full custody. I won fully physical custody which means they only go on sunday's but they are not allowed to sleep by him at all.

As the kids got older it is very hard to hide things from them. They see and hear things and kids are kids. My kids were the ones to tell me they think daddy is on drugs. My kids are very worldly so they know whats going on.

One thing is forsure. I have the greatest support system. My family and friends never left my side. My father takes my son to shul every shabbos for the past 9 years. My son who was just Bar Mitzvahed wheres a hat and goes to a good yeshiva. I could not have done this on my own. B"H for my parents. Don't get me wrong I have been through Hell and back with my girls trying to keep them frum. They were 10, 8 and my son was 4 when this whole story began. But, I guess I never knew how strong I was until now. It has been 10 years since this story began. I really can write a book about the life I went through being divorced. It is still not over. My ex pays no child support and fights me with money all day long and I go back and forth to court just to fight for child support for me kids. But, one thing I have learned from this nightmare is that. You have to fight for your family no matter what. B"H my oldest daughter got married in January. A boy that she knew for 4 years. They went to Israel together and learned in good yeshivas and grew stronger every day. Today they are both very frum and moved to Israel so they can start a family the right way. I am so thankful to Hashem everyday for watching out on my children. Being a divorced mother is no easy task. I do not recomend it for anyone. But, with the help of my parents I was able to get the nachas I so badly was waiting for. I say this because I see families go through divorce and the grandparents just give up. It is so so important that grandparents help out. For the kids and the mothers sake.

So, what I want to say is that any parent that has the other parent who is not frum. Don't give up and fight for what is right. You might have to give up alot like I did but at the end it is all worth it.


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131. Rabbi Schachter     3/22/09 - 2:38 PM
Brad - nyc

as Rabbi Schachter has constantly explained. First, you need to be human, than you need to be normal, then you can be Jewish and After that you can be frum. So if it's a choice between a crazy but religious/frum parent, and a psychologically stable but not yet/no longer religous parent--he feels it's a davar pashut that you send the child to the normal parent.Bc if you send them to the crazy parent--they are quiet likely going to end up crazy, but if you send them to the normal parent...so well work on getting them into NCSY or whatever and trying to help them get frum, but first you need to be normal


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132. The sad truth     5/20/13 - 8:28 PM
Mordechai

When a frum girl marries and has a child with a frum man, it comes with commitments.If a man would say prior to the chupa 'by the way if I ever leave you and become frei I expect to have visitation,NO religous girl would ever go ahead. It is also understood that their entire life woud revolve around Torah Umitzvos. As a secular man once told me, "If you beleive in G-D then He should be the only thing in your life that everything revolves around, and if you don't it should be nothing". In short being frum comes with the belief that it's not OK to be frei just that it's better to be frum, but rather that as Jews it is morally and ethically wrong to walk away from our beloved Torah.

Obviously a Tinuk shenishbah is different, one can even be a tinuk shenishbah having been raised in a frum home and sent to frum schools if the person hasn't beeen exposed to the warmth, wisdom, truth and love in the Torah or it's ways (that is likely the case with this father).

As the father you seem to be a nice person that wants to do what's right. If so, for the child's sake be truthful to your prior commitment and walk away. It is by far the right thing to do. Your child will be far better off. One day when you will be much wiser and your child much older and capable of being firm in his ways and yet still loving you, you will have a meaningful relationsip. In the meantime send small gifts to him and financially, support his education and lifestyle so that he knows you truly care.

Many children are missing out on a normal healthy quality of life due to their single mothers' lack of funds, while their Dads think they are helping them by taking them on trips or out to eat once a week. At this point you are not helping but hurting him, as well as being dishonest and unfair about your prior commitment.

An alternate path may be for you to keep your lack of faith a secret until he is much older when obviously he should be told.


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133. Twerski     5/21/13 - 11:36 PM
Leah

I just read all the comments and R Twerski seems to try to swing both ways and placate everyone. Not impressed and I wonder if he would sing the same tune if he heard stories from women who truly were the victims. He typically sides with the men, particularly those who 'are played by the court'


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134. Arranging an arranged marriage     10/4/13 - 3:58 AM
Satmar Woman

It's been a while since this topic was discussed, but I only found the discussion today and couldn't resist adding my thoughts. When choosing one's life partner there is no fool-proof system; they all have their pitfalls. The shidduch system poses the risk of possibly setting up 2 incompatible people, as well as the risk of irresponsible parents abusing the system. The secular system runs the risk of young people making choices based upon superficial characteristics while ignoring the most important ones. True, initial attraction is in some cases an indicater of a potential good match, but in other instances they prove what the mishnah tells us, that a love which is dependant on an object will not withstand. Shlomo Hamelech wisely said that love is a cover-up for all faults. When evaluating a potential partner, first love might blind us, keeping us from seeing the faults which might not affect us momentarily, but will eventually when you share your home, children and finances with this person. Secular marriage counselors (at least the morally conservatives) advise not to get married before your late 20s, so that you're more mature when making your decision, and to leave intimacy for after marriage, to avoid shifting your viewpoint from objective to subjective. sounds like good advice, but obviously a small percentage follow through. Small wonder. How can you expect people to give up intimate relations in their prime years? So there you go - unhappy marriages and divorce are just very sad parts of life in all circles. So, which pitfalls are greater? I wish I knew. The divorce rate is a strong indicator, but it is true that people married in the shidduch system will be less inclined to divorce, due to our values and culture. And I think this is the good part about our married lifestlye: while one might argue that there are much more unhappy marriages than we see in divorce, the success rate is probably not lower than that of the secular system - perhaps higher; and in the cases where our system fails, we at least work really hard to keep intact homes for our children (unless, of course, if there is abuse going on). I, for one, found many conflicting natures between myself and my husband in the first years of our marriage. But like every chareidi woman, I was determined to make it work for my kids. All I can say now is that while I'm not sure I would have married my husband if I would choose on my own, I sure am extremely glad we did. With a lot of hard work and persistence we were able to merge our different personalities to a happy, healthy blend. We view our differences as a blessing to our children and home,as we allow them to complement each others to create a full, beautiful picture. My advice to my fellow chassidishe and chareidi women out there is to try hard to do the same, regardless of how the relationship is at the start, seeking counseling help if needed. Life couldn't be more wonderful!

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