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An Army of One
Where Everyone Matters (Issue 209)
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

  Rated by 23 users   |   Viewed 23700 times since 5/20/08   |   39 Comments
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5/20/08

With boundless gratitude to the Ribbono Shel Olam and hearts brimming with joy, we are pleased to inform you of the engagement of our son Baruch to Alanna Apfel of Los Angeles, California, daughter of Gary and Serena Apfel.

For those who may wish to extend mazel tov wishes to our son and his kallah, his email address is baruchhorowitz@gmail.com, and we can be reached at udi528@aol.com

May we always share besuros tovos with each other.

Yakov and Udi Horowitz

When my paternal grandfather, Reb Yakov Moshe Horowitz, z’l, emigrated from Europe in the 1930’s, he settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. My parents spent the first years of their married life there, and three of my aunts and uncles raised their families in Scranton. And since many Yomim Tovim during my formative years were spent in that ‘out-of-town’ community, whenever I have occasion to visit nowadays, part of me feels like I am returning home after a long absence.

Well, back home I was last week in Scranton addressing their Annual Bais Yakov Dinner, where my cousin Mrs. Gitty (Leiter) Horowitz was the Alumna of the Year Honoree.

It is always an adjustment of sorts to transition from city life to the rhythm of an out-of-town community. Life there seems to be more … well … real. People are friendlier and more accepting. No one cuts you off in traffic, and people hold the door open for each other at the convenience store. In the Jewish kehilah as well, things are more basic. You see, people aren’t grouped into categories in small towns. Scranton has one universally respected Rav, one hechsher, one day school, one mikveh, on and on. All the community members daven and learn together, celebrate joyous moments jointly and comfort each other in trying times.

To my knowledge, no statistical analysis has ever been conducted to calculate the dropout rate of ‘in-town’ children vs. ‘out-of-town’ kids, but it is my strong suspicion that the out-of-towners have a lower rate. Why do I say that? Because, in a small town everyone matters. Everyone. The day school celebrates the arrival of each new family, and every Jewish child is guaranteed a Torah education without any ‘wait-lists’ or admission hoops to jump through. And while raising children in a community with a small Jewish population presents formidable challenges, I would venture to say that the feeling of belonging and the non-judgmental acceptance of all children is more than enough to outweigh them.

In order to personalize my speech, I called Gitty’s husband, Reb Yakov, several days before the Dinner and asked him to share with me some of the attributes that contribute to his wife’s sterling reputation as a talented and caring educator. (Mrs. Horowitz serves as the Assistant Principal of the Bais Yakov Middle School in Baltimore.) Listening to him speak glowingly of his wife’s devotion to her students, one theme clearly emerged – how she treats the hundreds of girls in her care as the unique individuals they are. In fact, he described how she spends hundreds of hours each summer personalizing the schedules of each and every one of her students so that their learning and personality patterns are in sync with the teachers of the classes they will be attending.

In my remarks at the Dinner, I offered my own theory of what may have generated Mrs. Horowitz’s commitment to the individuality of each of the girls in her care. I noted that when she was a student in Scranton’s Bais Yakov a generation ago, due to the convergence of several factors, Gitty was the only student in her graduating class. A child who is made to feel important enough to have her own teacher and graduation ceremony, I said, will spend her life defending the individuality of each of her talmidos. A community that believes – and invests – in the future of a single child, will merit the zechus of watching with pride as that young lady develops into a star mechaneches who believes and invests in the neshamos entrusted to her care.

Most of the members of my generation were made to feel similarly valued by our holocaust-surviving parents. Sadly, many of the children in our communities and schools are not feeling treasured like those of my generation. Perhaps we have become so ‘spoiled’ by the incredible successes of our Yeshiva/Beis Yakov system over the past 30-40 years that we are finding it hard to telegraph the value of our children to them.

It might not be such a bad idea for all of us city slickers to spend some time in smaller Jewish communities, where we can recalibrate our hearts and minds to properly appreciate all of our children.

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger shlit”a, the dynamic Rav of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, tells a remarkable story that he personally heard from Rabbi Binyamin Lifton z’l, who served as a rebbi in the Yeshiva of Central Queens for decades.

When Reb Binyomin was in his late teens, his parents decided to send him to the famed Yeshiva in Grodno, headed by the legendary gaon, HaRav Shimon Shkop z’tl. As it was common practice for all applicants to recite a ‘shtikel Torah’ to Reb Shimon upon arrival, Binyomin’s parents hired a rebbi to properly prepare their son for his farher.

Binyomin endured many days of grueling travel to get to the Yeshiva. When he finally arrived late one evening, exhausted and famished, he was startled to be greeted by Reb Shimon. Binyomin introduced himself and said that he was prepared to recite his ‘shtikel Torah’ to the Rosh Yeshiva. Reb Shimon informed Binyomin that before he recited his Torah portion, he would like to ask Binyomin two questions.

Binyomin froze in fear, as he had only prepared himself to recite a portion of gemara, not to be subjected to a full-blown ‘farher! His fear dissipated when Rav Shkop asked him, “When was your last hot meal?” and “When was the last time that you slept in a bed?”

When Binyomin informed the Rosh Yeshiva that he had not properly eaten or slept since he began travelling, Reb Shimon took him home, personally cooked supper for him, and attended to his needs, until he was sleeping comfortably in Reb Shimon’s house.

Reb Binyomin told Rabbi Weinberger that he had forgotten a great deal of the Torah that he learned in Reb Shimon’s shiurim, but he never forgot the two questions that the Rosh Yeshiva asked him that night. He also told Rav Weinberger that throughout the terrible war years, it was the warm memory of Reb Shimon’s devotion to his needs that sustained his faith in Hashem and his will to remain alive.

© 2008 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved



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1. A mixed army - not homogeneous     5/21/08 - 2:01 AM
Ak-ey

Hi, R' Rosenblum in his aricle - it does not matter what the neighbours say echoes similar sentiments

'The biggest difference between mixed and homogenous communities is that the former force children to define themselves; their identity is not taken for granted. The more homogenous the community the greater the social pressure. “What will the neighbors say?” often seems to replace the question “What does the Torah say?” When children perceive their parents to be terrified of the judgment of their neighbors, they may come to view their parents’ actions as superficial and externally dictated. In the process, their parents’ status as role models in their children’s eyes is lessened.'

Smaller mixed communities allow parents to be more accepting and less conditional with their children and allow children to grow up not feeling compelled by the outside or by the inside ( the need to please parents and meet their expectations )rather than seeing themselves as self determined . Because you are different and an individual in your own right , there is less place for competition or your actions being dictated by what the neighbours say. As a person you become more authentic and genuine and kids themselves become more in touch with their own feelings and reflect more about who they are , than trying to fit in with others. When communities are more homogeneous there is a tendency to try use social pressure , extrinsic motivation and other tools of external control rather than inspiring people with chinuch. The smaller and mixed a community , the individual by his actions can help define the community , in a big community you are defined by the community. In a big community you are defined by your external actions , in a small community you define yourself , by being who you are. This does not mean that the accepting and cooperative structure of a small community is not relevant to big communities , it depends how inclusive your circle is.


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2.     5/21/08 - 8:05 AM
yoni

I definitely agree.

out of town communities have really alot to offer.

but if you move to one, don't expect to change it to be like NYC. enjoy it for what it is.

:)


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3. yasher koach     5/21/08 - 10:35 AM
Anonymous

Yes. Some years ago when we became baaleh teshuvah I thought we should move into the central frum area of our city. My children were unanimous in their opinion(and we all know just how rare that can be!)and request that we remain in the suburb with a smaller frum community within which we have resided for so long. I consulted with daas torah (not limited to our local rabbi) and was sure I would be advised to move. Surprise! I was told to stay where we are basically for many of the reasons you elucidate in your article. It is wonderful for children, and adults, to feel needed and an integral part of a community. The heterogenous nature of our community, not to mention our special Rabbi, does promote achdus. Kol tuv, Aviva


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4. Mazal tov!     5/21/08 - 10:37 AM
Aviva

I posted the previous post anonymously accidently. Mazal tov Rabbi Horowitz and family! May Hashem bless you with much nachas! Aviva


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5. kids     5/21/08 - 11:47 AM
Too long in galus

I appreciate reading this article and the comments; having moved around a lot I agree that there is more space to grow individually in smaller communities, albeit there are more opportunities (shiurim, choice of Rabbaim, shuls, etc.) in larger communities. My family is now considering finding a smaller community than the ever-growing kehilla we live in now, and the even larger one we lived in before.

But where does one start in trying to find a kehilla that is a good shidduch? Especially with regard to kids & yeshiva? Is the idyllic portrait of the school in Scranton really true for kids with glaring differences in the larger schools? How can smaller schools accommodate differences with less resources? Or is there simply more wealth and therefore the same or more access to resources? I have found in many schools that there are certain (popular?) diagnosed conditions in children that funds will be allocated to; but if your children are not either "conformed" or in the group of typically diagnosed, they will remain floundering in the outer circle. Do small-town schools really have the means for integrating diversity? Would love to hear some comments, and especially some advice from Rabbi Horowitz about how to go about starting a move like this?

Also, regarding neighborhoods, there is a very basic contrast in lifestyle when your block is all frum families, and when you are the only religious (and maybe only Jewish) person on your block. We have had the experience where our kids became interested in the play of the non-Jewish kids on our block as there was noone nearby from their own Jewish school!


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6. Come to Colorado Springs, Yes, it will be work!     5/21/08 - 12:54 PM
Country Jew - Colorado Springs, CO

There are pro and cons to all situations but it what we make from these situations is what defines us, thereby passing those definitions on to our children.

SMALL Communities MEAN work!! No way around it. It hard but at the end of day there is a sense of accomplishment.

You must build it, nothing comes easy. There are some economies of scale that make it easier but still smaller communities have that sense of family among us.

Yes, you are correct, it hard, very hard when you have evangelistic groups all around you, you live in “non Jewish neighborhoods”, to find a Jewish bookstore is a two hour drive one way, you give up all those things that are so easy to find in larger communities. These and others are potential excuses that are all they are.

The major thing is that not having it you can get involved, very involved, the opportunies to learn more, to do more are there. It allows for many who never realized the great talents they have to put them to work doing mitzvahs that they never imagined that they are capable of doing.

For any one, who wants a challenge, real challenge I invite you move to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Yes, we need more observant Jews here, it would really be great, who knows if we get enough I can open a kosher restaurant.

By the way, HaShem did a wonderful job on Pikes Peak, we look at each morning when we get up, and thank Him for it.


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7. Could agree more     5/21/08 - 1:37 PM
Anonymous

I could not agree more. It is for exactly these reasons that i am moving with my family to a very special out of town community in August I"yh. I spent 5 years in kollel "in town", and am moving out of town as i begin my career as a ben torah Baal Habos. I think it will be better for my Ruchniyus and a great place to bring up a family al derech Hatorah.


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8. small communities     5/21/08 - 1:39 PM
steve mcqueen

I am eternally grateful for the fact that I grew up in a small community, and feel sorrow for the fact that I will not be giving this to my children. But this is a double edged issue. Those that do well in small communities do very well and often become leaders when they move to larger communities in adult life. Thus those growing up in larger places may feel that the out of towners are all successful, because that is all they see. Yet the out of towners who do not make it, and there were many (percentage-wise, of course numerically few) where I grew up, are not even around to be counted.


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9. How to bring out of town in-town?     5/21/08 - 1:55 PM
Sarit

The real question is, how to cultivate some of the out of town qualities within the big city? Perhaps that's a contradiction - that we are pursuing homogeneity by moving to a larger city, which means we are giving up on diversity. If only we could set limits - that more (homogeneity) isn't always better, at some point we can't keep refining the standards to match each other so exactly.


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10. Not just community size.     5/21/08 - 2:21 PM
Tayere Baal Habos

Rabbi Horowitz bring up a great point. But I'd like to raise the following issue. Is it possible that just as extremely large communities can be seen as detrimental by causing children to lose their individuality and feel as though they're getting lost in the shuffle, might not the same be said for extremely large family size? Is it really so healthy for children to have nine siblings? Or perhaps better stated, can parents with ten or even eight children really expend the time & energy that each child needs and deserves?

I know this is a sensitive issue, but it's also important. I have yet to see this issue discussed in a public forum.


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11.     5/21/08 - 3:53 PM
Staten Islander

There are many parents of large families who have been able to give all of their children the attention they need. Unfortunately, not all people are capable of doing the same. Before you move too far out of town, consider Staten Island. We are old time black hatters, but we are very close with the modern orthodox in this community. We are a large community with small town hospitality and acceptance. You can practice Torah your way and you will be appreciated and accepted. We have Lubavitch,young yeshivish, fifty year old yeshivish, and mostly Israel-loving modern orthodox.I feel comfortable with everyone here.On Sunday morning I get to Boro Park in twenty minutes foshop.


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12. Mazal tov to the wonderful Horowitz family and...     5/21/08 - 4:06 PM
Yardena - EY

I can't tell you what a wonderful, warm feeling I have in my heart after reading these beautiful open invitations from fellow Jews to join their communities! You are so warm and sincere that if I wasn't already living in Eretz Yisrael, I'd be seriously tempted to join you!


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13. not true     5/21/08 - 10:36 PM
Shalom

tayare baal haboss its a shme for you ttttttto think that people with large famalies have a harder time raising their kids there are parents with very largs mishpachos that KA"H raised beautifull famalies on the other hand there is no gurantee that a smaller family can properly care for evrey child.There are plenty of at risk teens from small families.


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14. Inspiring!     5/22/08 - 8:10 AM
Anonymous

I'm from out-of-town, and from that "treasured" (as Rabbi Horowitz so accurately says) generation of children who grew up right after WW II. Everything you say rings so very true! Even in NYC, when we out-of-towners applied to go to high school, we were welcomed with open arms, celebrated as another victory for Am Yisroel's spiritual survival. Some schools, some rebbeim, some teachers still treat children this way. It's a wonderful derech, and has an effect on one's whole life. Mazel tov on your son's engagement! May he and his kallah build a bayis neeman b'Yisroel, and be a source of great nachas to you, to klal Yisroel, and to H"!


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15. family size     5/22/08 - 8:38 AM
steve mcqueen

tayare baal haboss, family size is not a problem per se. Those with good parenting skills can make every child feel special, wanted and loved even if they are blessed with many. Those without such skills create problem children even if they have few


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16. Could Agree More     5/22/08 - 10:22 AM
Eliezer - Toronto

#7,

Would you be willing to mention which community you are referring to?

I would be interested to hear about out-of-town communities (I don't mean a "midbar") where there may be less of the issues Rabbi Horowitz so accurately described.


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17. Family Size     5/22/08 - 10:53 AM
Taayere BaalHabos

Shalom & Steve Mcqeen,

While there may be some very gifted parents that can handle very large families, a person has only so much resources available. Would you suggest that teachers handle 40 children? Of course not. Parents have precious few hours as it is to spend with their children; those hours can only go so far. What I often see in large families is delegation, so the family functions well. But often it's the older children who manage the younger ones. Is that ideal? Everyone clamors about large size clasess. Exactly why is that worse than large size familes? It seems that the community is more concerned with the educational aspects of the children than their emotional well-being. I wonder if anyone has statistics on whether children from large size families are more or less prone to OTD or other emotional issues.


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18. Analogy     5/22/08 - 10:59 AM
Taayere BaalHabos

Steve Mcqeen,

You said "tayare baal haboss, family size is not a problem per se. Those with good..."

It's almost like saying "Income is not an issue per se. Thos with good financial skills and maturity will handle a lesser income. Those with poor skills will burn through a great Parnassah". But the bottom line is that most people fall somewhere in between. Raise the income and he'll manage better. It's the same with Parenting. Most people will fall in the average and I do not believe most people will be able to handle the supersize familes which seems to becoming the norm. This is true emotionally and financially. Just my opinion.


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19. Family Size     5/22/08 - 3:52 PM
Eliezer - Toronto

Taayre Balebos (#17),

I think you have a valid point which deserves to be addressed.

However, I think your analogy to large class sizes is not correct. In the case of a class of 40 kids, having two classes of 20 kids results in all the kids having more attention, which is clearly a good thing. On the other hand, in the case of a family, having 4 kids instead of 7 results in 4 kids having more attention (probably) and 3 kids not being brought into the world at all. That's a much different tradeoff, which needs to be weighed extremely carefully.


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20. Analogy     5/22/08 - 5:13 PM
Taayere BaalHabos

Eliezer, I admit the analogy is imperfect; analogies usually are. But the issue remains. If it is indeed true that there is a point at which many parents begin to be overwhelmed, the your concern about unborn children, in my opinion, seems to sentence children to emotional issues. It's like the Peter Principal. People get promoted till the point they're no longer competent. People keep on having more children till it breaks. Uch & vei. Who is benefitting from this situation?


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21. Family size     5/22/08 - 6:15 PM
Yardena - EY

I think this question is a lot more complicated than many of us realize, mostly because life situations aren't stagnant, i.e parents get sick, pregnancies develop complications, kids get sick, family crises happen, finances plunge, etc. People have different resources and natures, too.

My personal experience is that if I had only half the children I have now, I wouldn't be having the serious problems with one of the older ones that I do now. I was idealistic, sincere, EXTREMELY dedicated, and very in tuned with my kids, yet things still went very wrong because I had almost no resources: bad finances, apathetic husband, very little family help, and I crashed with no one to save me or my children. I lost my self-respect when seeing the mother I was becoming, a mother I did NOT want to be, but though I struggled, could not change until the situation changed. It took two years after I stopped having children to become functional again (and during that time I had such a negative reaction upon just seeing a pregnant woman that I would double over without even meaning to), and another year of major investment to see improvement in the kids themselves. Baruch Hashem, things are getting better all the time and my husband is now positively involved and I am so proud of him now. I still do not know if my kid with issues will remain frum, but I have hope because of our investments. In spite of my lack of resources, I honestly believe I could've handled half the kids I have now, and handled them very well and wouldn't be having problems now.

Fathers can also have issues. My husband is from a large family and his mother was always complaining and saying things like, "It's better to work in garbage than in childcare." Unfortunately, my husband wasn't able to divorce himself from this bad attitude and consequently was in a very bad mood the first year of each child's life. He is much happier now that I stopped having children.

I know women who started off absolutely loving babies, then became so traumatized that they stopped having kids and it took them 2 or 3 years before they could even touch a baby - I mean, a baby who belonged to someone else! Some of them can't be in the same room with a baby.

I see people with serious problems with their older children, but they have no time or energy to deal with them properly, and instead they just keep on having more kids, further depleting their time and energy and their older kids get worse.

I have a friend who had an even worse situation than mine and continued to have kids because that is what everyone in her family does. She has ten kids and 8 have diagnosed psychological problems (OCD, anorexia, depression, mental insanity, etc.), 3 serious enough to have required hospitalization at some point. Her life is hell, and her husband, a highly respected rav, couldn't give a whit.

Another woman with about 20 kids has great shalom bayis and a great attitude and tons of energy. But she has four kids off the derech. What happened? I'm not really sure. There were learning problems and a lack of resources to deal with them in spite of the parents' best efforts and I don't know if anything else. However, I do see that the parents really value every child, even the spiritually weak ones, and have no regrets.

Many families would do much better, not necessarily by limiting family size, but making 2-3 years between each child.

In Israel, you see very young children on the street unsupervised, sometimes for hours. At first I thought they must have horrible mothers, but then I got to know their mothers. Some of them actually started out very protective and loving and simply got overwhelmed into apathy.

Children are very precious and it is heartbreaking when they are treated like burdens.

There are some really beautiful supersize families and, as was mentioned, dysfunctional small ones. Those beautiful families would be beautiful no matter how many kids they have and the families dysfunctional with 2 kids would also be dysfunctional with 12. But I just know too many families that would've been really lovely with 2 or 3 kids and are a big mess because they had more.

The frum community is on one hand very nice about helping (when people can), but on the other hand it is hard to raise children because motherhood isn't valued beyond a superficial level and people think bad things about you if you don't work. Men aren't valued for being family types but only if they learn and perform community service or kiruv on the cheshbon of their families. Nearly every story of great men emphasizes his neglect of his wife and kids for the sake of Torah and community service/kiruv. Yonason Rosenblum's and Rabbi Twerski's biographies are the only exceptions. This is stupid because that attitude goes against halachah. My non-Jewish and non-frum relatives received a lot more social support than I did for being a stay-at-home mom. Also, frum women are so negative in a group situation. I don't go sit out at the park anymore because I can't stand all the kvetching. Frum women hate the chagim, child-rearing, etc. A lot of them are very unhappy, it seems. I want to enjoy the chagim and I really do appreciate my children, and I can't stand being with all the bad attitude, even though I understand them.

With regard to the 40 kids in a classroom mashal, well maybe it's fine IF the classroom is spacious, attractive, sunny, and the teacher is amazing, and there are three competent assistances. But it's usually not like that. A parents rarely have the resources they need to raise a large family in a beautiful manner.

If a couple has the resources and the personalities to raise lots of kids, they certainly should go for it. It's an amazing thing when it goes right. But they should be honest with themselves about their capabilities and they should re-evaluate their situation every so often.


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22. Bitachon     5/22/08 - 8:43 PM
Shalom

Yardena shame on you!!! its not up to society to decide `on ones family size its up to rabbanim and parents to discuss amongst themselves regarding this matter.If a couple decide to bring many children into the world ashrei chelkeihem, kol hakavod.Its not up to us to make cheshbonos There is a god who runs the world we daven evreyday Poseach et yadech umasbia etc...this talk is hindering on pure kefira.


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23. Shame on you?     5/22/08 - 9:17 PM
Tayere Baal Habos

>Yardena shame on you!!!

Shame on you.

>Its not up to us to make cheshbonos Says who? Please find me a Gemara precedent of a concept of having as many children as possible.

> There is a god who runs the world

Yes, and Hashem runs the world Bderech Hatevah. Just as one is obligated to teach his son an Oomnos, Why is that different?

>Poseach et yadech umasbia etc...this talk is hindering on pure kefira.

Why? Because you say so? Who made you the arbiter on Kefirah?


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24. Shalom, Yardena, Tayere Balebos     5/23/08 - 10:27 AM
Eliezer - Toronto

Shalom,

How dare you say "shame on you" to someone who has gone through so much? You can choose to disagree with her comments, but to attack her personally? I think you need to do some serious cheshbon hanefesh.

Yardena,

I greatly admire your courage in persevering in a very challenging situation. May Hashem give you the strength and wisdom to be matzliach with all your children in helping them achieve their potential.

Tayere Baal Habos,

I completely agree with you that people shouldn't assume they are supposed to keep having children indefinitely. We need to be honest with ourselves and be aware when we may be reaching the point of becoming overwhelmed.

My point was that it's something that needs to be evaluated very carefully on a case by case basis. It's not a no-brainer like smaller class sizes.


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25. Pls, Stop the attacks, comments yes, attacks no     5/23/08 - 12:43 PM
Anonymous - Colorado Springs, CO

First, Peace to all Israel is what we pray.

Second, this not directed toward anyone but everyone including myself.

Third, the Great Rabbis like the Chofetz Chaim teach us about public speach.

Talmud Bavli Sotah 10 (b) is another example.

Enough said!

Shabbat Shalom to all you.


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26. Reply     5/25/08 - 7:32 AM
Yardena - EY

Thank you very much to Tayere Baal Habos, Eliezer and Anonymous for your kind words.

Shalom #22: I actually kind of agree with you, although not about the part about me speaking kefira. It should be a matter for a couple and their rav, but there are 2 problems:

1) While many, many rabbanim are sensitive to the impact a pregnancy has on a family, many are not. Those that don't tend to pasken in a way that pushes parents far past their limits, which has happened to me personally. If you trust the perceived gadlus of your rav, you may not be able to see that he is wrong.

2) The spouses themselves may have clouded judgement. Several women I know who started spacing their children (or quit altogether) only after having had 9 or 10 children in quick succession told me "I never thought about a hafsakah. Everyone in my family has lots of kids. That's just what we do." Even when they saw their family in crisis, rather than taking a break to invest in the children they already had before increasing them, they just continued without thinking and without functioning. Then, some women are pressured by their husbands. I've been asked several times by the wives: "Why is he so keen on having them when he doesn't want to deal with them after they're born?" Sometimes it's the wife who insists and families have fallen apart because the husband wasn't able to handle it. There are marriages that have fallen apart because the strain of an extra child broke it.

Like any other mitzvah, this one should be done with kavanah, and not by rote. It IS a choice and one that should be evaluated from time to time. Children should be wanted and valued.

Also, I agree with TBH #23 that since the world is run Derech Hateva, we need to behave accordingly. Child-bearing is the only time I have seen such lacksidaisal emunah. You don't see such "emunah" when finding a shidduch, a school, or parnasa.

I still think that large families are amazing when done right, and halevei we should all be able to do so. But many of us can't.


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27. Yardena, I admire you     5/25/08 - 11:03 PM
tb

Yardena, I appreciate so much your way of articulating your thoughts. My grandmother would say that you are "fine." Clearly, you are a thoughtful, sincere, respectful, conscious Jew. Baruch Hashem for that. And you speak important truths here. Hopefully other women will consider them. Ir is we women who place the most pressure on ourselves. All the insensitive comments by ironically named "Shaloms" out there can't change that.


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28. To tb     5/26/08 - 5:23 AM
Yardena - EY

Your words mean a lot to me. I also gain tremendous chizuk whenever you post your parenting views. Your family-oriented hashkafahs come the closest to how I always understood authentic Yiddishkeit to be, something that very much attracted me to do teshuvah in the first place. The problem is, I don't see those hashkafahs espoused or practiced enough, and I appreciate your doing so.


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29. Thanks     5/26/08 - 4:40 PM
tb

Thank you so much. Especially coming from you. I wonder and perhaps I shouldn't do so here again, but I do wonder when this will end. When will frum women take back their families? And recognize how important hands-on parenting is? Today, I attended a Bar Mitzvah of a young man who is the oldest of 5, K"AH. The mother is a very understated person in dress, in speech, in action. She quietly stays home--working only a few hours a week--and cares for her children. She drives the carpools, does the art projects, etc. Although her husband is a professional, money is extremely tight and the kids attend a MO day school so that means an average of 10,000 plus a year in tuition per child so she bakes her own Challah, goes from store to store looking for bargains, drives an older car, doesn't spend a lot on her house... She isn't someone who is easily noticed. But I admire her so. I watched her quietly sit at that Bar Mitzvah and shep Nachas. And I know personally how much she has put into that child and her others. I know that there are those of us who can't be that hands-on and be that involved, but why don't more of us value it? And, family size is an important issue that women should address no matter how Chareidi. It shouldn't be swept under the rug. I would be stoned on here if I took up that cause, but it's part of the whole hands-on challenge. If Frum women ask themselves the right questions about the care of their children, they will be able to get the right answers. But, you have to be willing to ask yourself those questions first before you ask others including Rabanim. And many don't do that.


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30. Yardena     5/27/08 - 2:22 AM
AK-ey

Hi, Your words I am sure are helping many people connect to their feelings , who they are as real people , their aspirations and needs and make yiddishkeit not something they do because they feel compelled even from the inside , but because it is the source of their total well being , spiritually, emotionally, physically etc . In most cases a rav can only help one clarify the issues , but only we can make the decision for ourselves and thereby have a commitment and responsibility for that decision. If the decision causes one to shut down , either the decision is not a good fit for you or one needs a lot of emotional and other support to help one follow through. As Tb says , we have to ask questions and know we ourselves are the only ones responsible for making our lives meaningful and fulfilling , your Rav is not going to bail one out financially or spend hours with your challenging children , when things are not working , it is up to ourselves , we can't blame the Rov for the decision.


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31. To AK     5/27/08 - 7:58 AM
Yardena - EY

I found your explanations helpful and useful tools for future decision-making. But one thing is not clear to me, and I think this is where I and a lot parents stumble: Controlling child-bearing is always presented as a halachic issue, not an personal one. Chazal presents some very strong statements against hafsakot, even comparing it to bloodshed, if I'm not mistaken. If a rav paskens a certain way, at what point to decide that the "halachah" is too difficult to follow? Throughout the centuries, Jews have kept Pesach and followed all sorts of halachahs even though it was very difficult. This is kind of where I got caught in my thinking. Do you know what I mean?

#2: After hearing so many stories presented as fact about people who received an illogical-sounding or potentially harmful psak yet followed the psak to the letter and then received tremendous blessing, or if they went by logic instead of the strange psak, received a terrible conclusion - how to determine the best course, especially when consulting a major authority? Do you know what I mean by this also? I'm not just talking about old-time Chassidish stories, but present-day ones, too. I see that psakim and aitzes are not given with ruach hakodesh, even when asking a gadol, though very chashuv people have always insisted they are. I hope you don't think I'm childish in my thinking, but when the same person who explains to you why a seemingly innocuous act like wearing linen and wool together can have serious spiritual consequences, and you believe them, and the same person explains why it is so important to go to rabbonim and follow exactly what they say, well you believe them then, too. It's a philosophical dilemma that I've found very hard to work out, and I look forward to hearing some terutzim from you and anyone else who has some to offer.


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32. Ruach Hakodesh     5/27/08 - 10:01 AM
Benzion Twerski

This comment may sound radical. I feel that one must believe that our gedolim can have the ability to respond through ruach hakodesh. How? That would be another discussion, probably a long one. However, that does not establish that a particular response, whether an eitzah or psak emanates from this ruach hakodesh. This leaves us to our practical and gashmiyus-based position on seeking this guidance. We must present the entire question, with all its ramifications and details, and be sure that the response, regardless of whether we like it, has considered all of these fine points. I am not a disbeliever in ruach hakodesh, but I do not have the right to be convinced that it was the deciding factor in my dialogue with my rav.


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33. yardena -31     5/27/08 - 11:21 AM
anonymousfornow

Yardena, I know exactly what you mean. In the old stories (invariably involving a zeide or uncle of Dr. Twerski, I'm sure) when one asked a difficult shaila, there was the feeling that the rav would be there, keeping in touch, and helping to pick up the pieces if the psak was too difficult to live with. One doesn't have that feeling now. I guess in posing the shaila, especially if referred to a rav who is not local, and will not be involved on a regular basis, one should ask about the availability of the rav (or rebbetzin) for ongoing chizuk.


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34. Ruach HaKodesh - Two things to keep in mind     5/27/08 - 11:47 AM
Eliezer - Toronto

I think there are two things to keep in mind that may help make sure you get the best possible Psak/Eitzah for you.

The first is that the questioner needs to make sure to present the shaila properly. Sometimes, we don’t present the full picture, perhaps because we are worried what the Rov will think of us. For example, a woman could present the same shaila in one of the following two ways:

1)I feel like I need to take a break from having children. Does the Rov feel this permissible?

2)I love my children very much, but I am constantly exhausted from taking care of them. I have begun to yell at them and hit them, even though I know it’s wrong. I feel terrible about it and I see how they are suffering from it, but I just can’t help it. I feel that if I took a break from having children for a certain amount of time, it would help me regain my emotional footing. Does the Rov think this is permissible?

I think it’s fair to say that these two presentations might receive very different answers, even though they could be describing the same situation. Ideally, if a Rov gets a shaila like #1, he would ask more questions and help the questioner open up and explain the full spectrum of the shaila. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. The Rov may believe that the person needs encouragement on the schar of having children, which may have disastrous results in this situation.

Which brings me to my second point, and this may seem controversial, but I believe it’s very important. Not every Rov who is knowledgeable in Halacha is also blessed with the emotional sensitivity to understand the emotional aspect of the shaila. Such a Rov might be eminently qualified to Pasken in the halachos of Eiruv or Kashrus for example, but I think it would not be correct to rely on them in a shaila which is intertwined with personal emotional issues.

When you ask a Rov such a shaila, I think it’s absolutely crucial that you walk out feeling that the Rov understood your emotional situation and took that into account in his Psak/Eitzah. If you are not confident that this is the case, I think it would not be correct to say “It doesn’t make sense to me, so it must be Ruach HaKodesh.” In this situation, I believe you should find another Rov who will be more attuned to the emotional aspect of your shaila. Alternatively, you could consult with a therapist, who should be able to help you sort out your feelings and, if necessary, help you find another Rov and properly present the shaila.

I personally have been struggling with issues similar to these for many years, so I hope other people find my insights beneficial. I also hope someone can add more ideas from their own experience.


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35. Difficult questions     5/27/08 - 12:34 PM
AK-ey

Yardena, Often when we are machmir or follow a psak in one area , there is a tradeoff in another area - lots of children maybe be accompanied by lack of shalom bayis, emotional and physical collapse. Does the new baby bring parnasah with it ? Depends who you are , how much emunah and joy you are throwing into the world , that the world responds to our emunah and joy with the resources or coping tools to carry on. When we are not up to it , I pray that Hashem understands our frailties , our weaknesses , our doubts, that we cannot live on that level. Sometimes it is up to us to research these issues , look around , ask people so we look at issues with all their ramifications and impact on every aspect of our lives and of our families, and then come to a decision preferably with the help of a Rov who you trust , so you are fully committed to the decision. To feel compelled by a decision usually means that you are not able to contribute joy and emunah to the world , which in turn we throw back at you the resources and coping skills you need. ( the secret , the law of attraction , if you check the site iawaken.org - shiur bechukotei - the 3 gifts - these concepts are explored) Maybe this explains why some people see bracho in following psak and others don't , assuming that the psak was halachically authentic and well thought out and researched. I really feel totally out of my depth in this discussion , just sharing some thoughts and learning with you


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36. Just a thought     5/27/08 - 11:40 PM
Benzion Twerski

Just a thought. Perhaps the term “gadol” should refer to someone with the breadth of Torah knowledge to be capable of providing a spectrum of leadership services. Aside from issuing a psak halacha, this individual was also a gifted talmid chochom capable of saying a pilpul shiur, a baki in shas and poskim, and possessing enough people skills to be able to understand the emotional aspects of the issues brought before him. I am thinking back to those “gedolim” that I knew, including some of those I have been fortunate enough to know of today’s gedolim. Many of them possess the battery of traits listed above. I am not sure that my list is a qualified and reliable checklist, but it is the knee jerk reaction I have when I am asked to describe the midos of a “gadol”.

While I do not consider myself versed enough to comment on halacha or psak din, it is clear that there are emotional issues in many shailos that need to be considered. The emotional health of a mother is every bit as crucial as the medical health. Most poskim, who have increased sensitivity to this, have become more lenient about spacing children. Lenience is also considered in the presence of shalom bayis problems. So there is more awareness. It seems that some believe that there are poskim who seem not to understand these aspects of these issues. The suggestion has been made that Rabbonim should be provided with education and training so that they will have a better grasp of the emotional pieces of the questions. It is also recommended that every Rav have professionals in different capacities that can be approached to supplement the understanding of scientific information to facilitate accuracy in providing psak halacha. Medical doctors, mental health professionals, and others should be available to poskim for consultation.


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37. Thank you to everyone who responded     6/2/08 - 2:25 AM
Yardena - EY

I found the responses clear, intelligent, and truly helpful as points were made that I hadn't realized before, and I really want to thank all of you a lot. There has been no other way for me to discuss this topic except here. (And thanks to Tayere Baal Habos for bringing it up in the first place because I would not have.)

I think this is one of the points of Rabbi Horowitz's blog: having a community where you receive sympathy and support, yet at the same time, you get very real ideas on where you're going wrong in either your hashkafah or your methods and how to improve.

So thank you to Rabbi Horowitz, too.


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38. Cyber community -user names     6/3/08 - 10:29 AM
Ak-ey

Yardena , You write ,

'I think this is one of the points of Rabbi Horowitz's blog: having a community where you receive sympathy and support '

People like you who have a 'username ' , an cyber identity create community. I prefer ro respond to a ' cyber name ' , I think it is more polite when you create a name that people can respond to , instead of anonymous ,it enables me to connect , to care , to have you in my thoughts and prayers and of course it facilitates discussion knowing who is saying what. When using anonymous instead of a username , a message is given , keep away , I am nobody for you , I don't want an identity , I don't want caring or connection. Besides lacking derech eretz or commom courtesy as the goyim have said to me , wikipedia calls anonymous = anonymous coward , it so much easier to be aggressive or even rude when you are anonymous. The bloggers here who give this blog personality are the ones who use usernames and of course the high profile personalities in the community ,and I appreciate all of you. That does not mean that those who have used anonymous have not made a contribution , but using 'anonymous' imho is not in the spirit of yiddishkeit , the one army , where people show they want connection , they want to care and have the Yardena's , Ms, Yoni, Sheree, Tb, Tayere BHB, yoni, Asher Lipner , Bentzion Twerski , boruch Horowitz , etc etc etc And of course Rav Horowitz would appreciate people becoming members.


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39. edit     6/3/08 - 10:34 AM
Ak-ey

should read

they want to care and have in their thoughts and prayers the Yardena's , Ms, Yoni, Sheree, Tb, Tayere BHB, yoni, Asher Lipner , Bentzion Twerski , boruch Horowitz , etc etc etc

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