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Take a Child to Shul...Please "A"
Emulating the Ways of Hashem
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

  Rated by 27 users   |   Viewed 12953 times since 4/9/08   |   31 Comments
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4/9/08



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A terribly sad version of the expression, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” often comes to my mind whenever I am approached by single parents, usually mothers, asking me to assist them in finding a caring, responsible adult to take their child(ren), usually their son(s), to shul on Shabbos and/or Yom Tov.
I am very well aware that many of our decent, caring readers may be incredulous that people in our vibrant, bustling communities are struggling with this dilemma. Trust me, though, when I inform you that this is a very real challenge for many of the brave and frightened single parents in our kehilos. I’ve lost track of the times in the eleven years since Project Y.E.S. was founded that I was approached by single mothers who requested that I help make arrangements for someone to take their son(s) to shul. Countless others have asked me for an eitzah regarding the appropriate response to their son who categorically refuses to go to shul alone.
I am fully aware that the data may be skewed upward in my particular instance due to my family background. You see, my father passed away shortly before my fourth birthday and my amazing, resilient mother raised my two siblings and me as a single parent for two years before she remarried. And since I have mentioned this fact in my lectures and writings, I assume that many single parents may feel more comfortable discussing these issues with me as they assume I will be more sensitive to their reality. But even factoring in that information, there are still far, far too many children in our communities who fall into the subset for whom Shabbasos and especially Yomim Tovim are very challenging times.
From my vantage point, there are a number of societal factors that contribute to this growing phenomenon. Our communities have b’eh expanded, as has the size of our families. The divorce rate is rising and there at least seems to be a spike in the number of people who are r’l passing away and leaving younger children behind. Another significant sociological factor is that a far greater percentage of frum people nowadays – especially younger couples – are abandoning smaller communities and deciding to live in metropolitan areas with large Jewish populations. Lost in the anonymity of big-city life, many individuals in our community who need a personal, nurturing touch are finding that it is an elusive quest in the bustling setting that is big-city life.
There is much that you can do to be of help to single parents and their children:
• Invite a single parent and his/her children for a Shabbos/Yom Tov meal or two.
• Offer to take the boys (and perhaps girls) to shul and have them sit with you once there
• Before or during Yom Tov, please consider offering to assist with child care for a single parent so that she (he) can unwind, go for a walk, or just have some precious quiet time. With school out, single parents are on call quite literally 24/7.
• Please afford single parents and their children their privacy and dignity by doing your best to avoid asking them uncomfortable questions. My father passed away b’shem tov and all I ever heard during my formative years was people telling me what a wonderful person he was. Nevertheless, all these years later, I still remember my discomfort and the feeling of what-in-the-world-am-I-supposed-to-say listening to all sorts of comments made by well-intentioned people. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to be a child whose parents are in middle of a messy divorce.
Our rich and timeless tradition mandates that we begin the seder by inviting guests to join us at our Seder table. I suggest that we broaden that concept this year and as we approach the child-centered holiday of Peasch, we look around our neighborhoods and see what we can do to see that all our children experience true simchas Yom Tov in the welcoming embrace of our communities.
A recurring theme in the stirring words of our nevi’im (Yeshaya 1, Yirmiyahu 9), is that the Jews of those times were concentrating far too much on spiritual trappings (bringing korbanos) and not enough on the essence of Hashem’s Torah (honesty, integrity, and kindness).

It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring karbonos to the Beis Hamikdash. But, as the Navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the Navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the yasom/almonah (Yeshaya 1:16-17). For supporting those among us who are weak and are finding it challenging to conduct their lives with simchas hachayim is the very essence of Hashem’s Torah.

In these troubling times, we ought to strive fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu, “Become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness …” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).

In the zechus of our efforts to comfort Hashem’s children, may He comfort us with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash where we can participate in the korbon Pesach in all its glory.

© 2008, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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1. I never would have thought!     4/9/08 - 5:52 PM
josh - brooklyn

My wife and i sometimes eat on shabbos by a leibitik woman who often has single parents eating as guests. I never would have thought to inquire if any of them needed such help. Now i can discretely ask the hostess if she knows anyone who needs help taking heir boys to Shul. Thanks for pointing out this (regrettably) common chessed opportunity.


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2.     4/9/08 - 6:54 PM
yoni

I'd love to take some boys to shul... but I live in a small enough community that there isn't much oppertunity for such. Only one divorced woman and she moved out. I liked baby sitting her son though, although he was a major handfull.

it makes me almost sad that I live where I do and to not be able to help so much

but I'm not sure how appropriate it would be given that I'm single. :(


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3. thanks for this     4/9/08 - 9:43 PM
tb

Wonderful advice. My aunt always mentions the one relative who occasionally thought to take her son to Shul or to learn with him after his father died. And, while she appreciated it greatly, she says she wishes it could have been a regular thing.


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4. it is a really appreciated chesed     4/9/08 - 10:30 PM
TZ - Brooklyn

There is a divorced lady on my block with two children. My husband used to take the boy to Avos Uvanim and she really appreciated it. I always inquire when she will have the kids on Yom Tov (first days or second days)because she so wants her kids to see a normal family with happily married parents. That is something to consider as well!


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5. Chesed - It's everywhere     4/10/08 - 8:21 AM
Benzion Twerski

“Mi ke’amcho Yisrael”, how fortunate we are that we have a legacy from our avos to do chesed. We are all too familiar with the common forms of chesed, giving tzedokoh to the poor, donating to various charitable organizations that provide financial support, etc. I appeal to everyone to examine their worlds more carefully, and there is much to discover about forms of chesed that are not so obvious. These are just as precious to us and to HKB”H as the more apparent ones.

There are many children that need someone to take them to shul. Those in single parent families, especially if there are younger children that cannot go, keeping the one parent at home. There are also those children where a parent is chas veshalom not well. Even the instance where a parent has a simple, time limited illness (colds, sore throats, etc.) where an escort to shul would be a great chesed. The divorce situation is often more complicated, as the visitation schedules can involve a single parent being alone for a Shabbos or Yom Tov. These may not require escorts, but someone to visit or an invitation for a Shabbos meal.

This week, I was exposed to another variant that I had simply never given thought. The single parent may often be too busy serving in the roles of both parents to adequately prepare for Pesach. One of the organizations that addresses single parents is sponsoring most of the cost to send this overworked mother and her children to a hotel for Pesach. I view this form of chesed as much beyond the dollars from the sponsor, but the care and concern that someone who needs should have.

It bears repetition. Examine your surroundings and community. There are untold forms of chesed around you that are like diamonds simply waiting for someone to gather. Share your discoveries with others. In the zechus of chesed, may we be zocheh to the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh where we can partake of the korbon Pesach.


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6. The Best ever.     4/10/08 - 11:03 AM
Taayere BaalHabos

Rabbi Horowitz, Ashrecha. Your empathy & real concern for the Klal should serve as an example for all of us.


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7. It seems so simple...     4/10/08 - 11:18 AM
Anonymous

This makes so much sense but I never thought of this before. Thank you so much for bringing this incredible chessed opportunity to our attention!


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8. Another solution     4/10/08 - 2:42 PM
Tammy Berliner

There is a little known organization in Israel which assists fatherless children and their mothers, known as Em Habanim Semecha. One of their activities is paying "big brothers" to learn and "chill" with these kids, and also take them to shul. Also, they take these families to hotels for yomim-tovim. Maybe Americans should learn from them and start a branch in the US.


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9. Yasher Koach     4/10/08 - 2:43 PM
Daniel Geretz - Highland Park, NJ - danny@geretz.org

Beautiful idea, beautifully written and presented. I engage in this behavior myself, although I am ashamed to admit that I do not do so as frequently as I might.

One caution is that parents, single and otherwise, need to be careful who is watching their children. The types of children you mention are "at risk kids," unfortunately, there are those members of our society who have ulterior motives have an easier time preying on "at risk kids."

To a single parent, making an accurate assessment of the motives of an individual making a kind offer is difficult. Do you have suggestions on how we, as a community, can make this aspect of the problem easier for them?


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10. At risk - what does that mean?     4/10/08 - 6:49 PM
Benzion Twerski

I should caution that there are various terms used to describe “at-risk kids”, and even this expression has multiple meanings. The popular reference is to those that are already exhibiting various behaviors that are rebellious and deviate from the community norms. These children are actually no longer at risk, but are beyond that point. The true at risk child is one who is conforming but has issues that predispose him/her to deteriorating into the category of deviant and rebellious behavior. It is commonly believed that children from single parent families are all at-risk (in the latter sense). Indeed, the populations of rebellious teens seem to have many that are from single parent families. That observation is not supported by any empirical evidence that I have heard, but the observation is nevertheless shared often.

The reality is that statistics need to be given their deserved value, but not more. I rarely pay mind to major league baseball anymore, but will occasionally allow the radio to play a little to hear an inning. I marvel at the sportscasters reciting these mathematical calculations, wondering what they really mean. “This is the third time that this batter has struck out in the fourth inning on a Tuesday night game in a game being played at home when the pitcher was left handed and had a last name that started with the letter O.” Such data may be accurate but is totally useless. The young people out there with difficulties may come from completely intact families, with parents who are involved with klal work, sensitized to the mental health or chinuch fields, and might have zero learning disorders. They may also have any combination of opposite traits and histories. Whatever the numbers are, they do not imply any causal relationships, and they do not tell us that someone does not have a problem just because they are on the minority side of our favorite statistic. There are no rules for this, and with the focus on a youngster, the research becomes nearly meaningless.

The reality is that children who lack a father need someone to fill that role, one of which is taking him/her to shul. The idea is precious, and whatever any of us can do to help those who need us, we need to be doing.


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11. inviting families     4/11/08 - 8:40 AM
Anonymous

Rav Horowitz, Please advise on what to do: We have invited a family who lost their wife/mother many times, they seem to only wish to go to a few select families. Do we keep trying to invite them? Please advise. Have a great Shabbos!


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12. Inviting families     4/11/08 - 10:13 AM
Sherree

Sometimes families are not comfortable accepting invitations from people they don't know well. Sometimes it could be a matter of Kashrus or mehudar on kashrus issues such as certain shecita for meats or cholov yisroel, etc..

Sometimes there are issues with the kids and the parent is wary of too much exposure. They might be afraid that the children will act up in someone's home, or break something.

Sometimes, people just feel that someone is reaching out politely but they don't really mean it. So if you don't know a person well, it might be advisable to make an effort at friendship first at minyan, etc. Do you have anything in common? Are the kids the same ages?

Another approach might be to speak to the RAV or the families that they do go to and let them know that your offer is sincere and that you would also like to participate in the mitzvah of Hachnosos Orchim, and get to know this family.

Of course the option is still theirs whether they accept or not. But that is really all you can do. Once you have made the offer don't be offended if they are shy to accept since you do not know what they are going through or what their personal needs are. Talk to your RAV and tell him that you are very willing to host single families for a shabbos meal. He can then advise you of any other family in the neighborhood who can benefit from an invitation.


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13. Choked up!     4/11/08 - 10:45 AM
A single Mom

Rabbi Horowitz,

I cannot thank you enough for bringing up this topic. As I sat here reading this I felt the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat.

Its so true, people dont realize it, I'm sure people just are not aware, the amount of Shabbosos I spend at home ( making Shabbos I can barely afford ) because I am too embarrassed to ask people if I can go to them with my son.

Just one point about finding a male figure for young boys: Nowadays its frightening with all the sexual abuse.....


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14. Help the Boy get a Permanent Escort to Shul     4/11/08 - 12:57 PM
LH

My mom, the mother of three children, was a very young widow who never remarried because no one ever tried to set her up.She raised three fantastic children so I guess she was not so undesirable. Too bad some frum man can't enjoy the enormous outstanding devoted empire (children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren) that she created. Guys--- talk some sense into the single fifty-five year old men who are looking for thirty year old women because they want a family.There are families with teenage children that are almost all "baked." All these kids need is a male figure "to ice the cake" and they will have children who will care for them in their old age or when they are ill or infirmed which is coming sooner than they think.Most of the child rearing has already been done.Tell them to take advantage of the best investment out there.


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15.     4/12/08 - 9:41 PM
yoni

as someone who did grow up without being able to sit with my father in shul (I did so only a handfull of times when I was fairly small) I think that rabbi horowitz really is right here. Not only is it nice to be able to have someone who always wants you to sit with him/her at shul, its also nice to have a warm happy shabbos table that will always take you even without notice... the kind of people who complain when you don't show up or worry about you.

the kind of place mommy can go with the younger kids and just sit with the balubusta with her kids as well and not have to sit alone on shabbos...

It really does make a big difference to have somewhere safe to go and stay for shabbos, with a warm atmosphere.

this really is a very, very touching piece. thinking about it makes me feel like crying.


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16. Bathroom     4/17/08 - 11:39 AM
D.R. - New York

Another big issue for single parents is taking small children (of the opposite sex) to the bathroom (public bathrooms). When you have a daughter who is too old to go to the Men's room with her father, but too young to go to a Woman's bathroom alone, it can be very problematic!


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17. Alone in shul, on Shabbos and Yom Tov: Divorced Jewish Women     4/17/08 - 11:30 PM
Anonymous

Frum Jewish women who are divorced are ignored by the shuls and Jewish communities. Why not campaign for these woman who don't want to sit alone in shul and frequently spend Shabbos and Yom Tov alone?


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18. please take my sons to shul!     10/13/08 - 11:53 AM
R - brooklyn

Rabbi Horowitz could not have been more on the mark by describing the struggle that single mothers face when having nobody to take their sons to shul. I live this every week. Even just today my son complained that 'it's so boring to learn by myself' as he has homework over sukkos which entails 10 minutes of learning each day. My heart goes out to him. If there is ANYONE able to assist, I would be so greatly appreciative!! Have a beautiful sukkos...


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19.     10/13/08 - 12:37 PM
yoni

one suggestion I have born out by personal experience, if you see bochurim who don't have anyone to go to during birchas kohanim, then please bring them under your talis. if you know that their parents are divorced, then definitely do it, and make a habit of it.

it feels very lonely to see all of the other unmarrieds under their fathers taleisim and realize that I don't have one to go under, unless i get one myself to go under together with my brother.

:(


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20.     10/13/08 - 2:09 PM
Anonymous

A wonderful, sensitive idea, but i do have one caveat. It's really important that pple on the receiving end feel that your invitations and friendship stem from genuine concen about their feelings and well-being. Very often well-intentioned pple do all sorts of nice things but can't conceal the sense that it is about themselves-about their desire to feel good about themselves, be a baal-chesed, be a good example for heir children, etc. This is not a crime in itself and hopefully misoch shelo lishma ba lishma, but it does leave the perceptive beneficiary feeling like a "case," which may be the reason behind rejected invitations. Hint: If you met this person all the time but never said hello or returned his smile, don't suddenly start inviting him every Shabbos when his life gets rough.


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21.     4/7/09 - 9:17 AM
Anonymous

Removed by admin


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22. Comment No. 21     4/7/09 - 9:48 AM
Conclusive Proof

Comment No. 21 by "**** ****" is conclusive proof that this blog needs moderation; i.e., all comments must be reviewed and edited before publication.

Why must those of us who come here seeking parenting advice -- why must we be subjected to such foul, detestable language?


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23.     4/7/09 - 10:26 AM
Anonymous


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24. moderaters?     4/7/09 - 10:40 AM
anonymousfornow

Apologies, no time to sign in to report post, but how does stuff like the previous one get through?


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25.     4/7/09 - 10:47 AM
Analyst

The above removed comments and #22 appear to be an act of sabotage. This person appears afraid that more information will become known abbout certain sensitive topics. So, by forcing moderation they hope to keep information hidden.

Rabbi Horowitz, don't fall for the pathetic attempt. You are never supposed to back down to terrorist's demands.


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26. Report a Post     4/7/09 - 11:14 AM
Anonymous

The signing in to report a post is somewhat technically unpredictabe. Count this in as a protest against the vulgarlanguage of 21; 23.


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27. Re. Comment No. 25     4/7/09 - 12:20 PM
Anonymous

I am as offended as you and everyone else by the terrorist-saboteur. But what's wrong with moderation to prevent vulgarity and other Halachically forbidden speech?

Most major Web sites are moderated. Why not this Torah-oriented one? Don't you trust Rabbi Horowitz and/or his selected moderator to censor vulgarity and other Halachically forbidden speech only?

Rabbi Horowitz: Which authoritative Posek has permitted you to run a public unmoderated blog, subjecting fellow Jews to such filth?


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28. Dear Rabbi Horowitz and His Administrator     4/7/09 - 12:28 PM
Patient

Why is the vulgar language / four-letter wording of Comment No. 23 still here, more than two hours!!! after posting???


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29. Why?     4/7/09 - 2:04 PM
Very Disappointed

Why is the vulgar language (four-letter words) of Comment No. 23 still here and on the Home Page four hours after posting?


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30. thanks for the validation     4/7/09 - 4:12 PM
Anonymous - miami

I have a 15 year old daughter and have divorced 14 years. Shabbosim and yom tovs are always sensitive. do we spend an exhorbitant amt of $$ for a hotel only to sit at a strangers seders' table? or take a cruise and sit again iwth people we necessarily dont' have much in common with. Even shabbos is a challange and i usually opt to let my daughter go stay with friends which leaves me alone. But pesach is especially hard as i don't have the family support either. It is a difficult situation but g-d willing my beshert will stand before me this year. wishing everyone a kosher and happy pesach. Shifra


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31. Shifra, make your own shabbos     5/6/09 - 6:52 AM
S. Maimon - Brooklyn

Shifra, you are not a child! You are perfectly capable of making your own Shabbos, that your daughter, and guests would have loved! I am single and have done so for years. Be proactive, grow some confidence and stop waiting for someone else to save you.

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This site is managed by The Center for Jewish Family Life, Inc., 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952
Project Y.E.S. was founded by Agudath Israel of America
The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES - 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952 (845) 352-7100 ext. 114 Fax: (845) 352-9593
email: email@kosherjewishparenting.com


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