Category Archives: Opinion

How are you?

Simple enough question. Innocuous. But do we ever really answer it honestly? If we did, would people actually listen / hear us or just dismiss the answer because a “fine” is expected, and anything else is lost in the ether.

Would you take the time to listen to how someone really is, the worries over children, money, education, health etc? Do we really want to know how someone is, or is the question just a simple societal nicety that we’ve all bought into?

More “Beauty” Reflections

(This is just a train of thought, a stream of consciousness….follow along as I wend and weft my way)

When I get dressed up, made up, put on the fancy hair and the 4 inch heels – who do I do it for? Do I do it for my husband? Do I do it for myself? Do I do it for the baalei simcha (hosts) if I’m going to a wedding? Do I do it so that I don’t embarrass myself / my KoD / my children and therefore do not ruin my sons’ shidduch chances?

I would say each of those statements (other than the shidduch chances) plays a part. My husband loves me when I look drop dead gorgeous (just like I love to see him in a suit) and loves me after I have been throwing up all weekend long with the flu and look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards, twice. I don’t need to look my best for him to continue to love me. He doesn’t love me more when I put in more effort to my appearance. However, if I gave up trying to look good the minute that  wedding ring was firmly on my finger, what would that have said?

I love to dress up occasionally. Not every day. But when I spend the best part of a week in pajamas denim skirts and tees and bandannas (working from home is great), sometimes it is nice to clean up, and make an effort. When the make up goes on, the hair and the heels and the nice clothes – I feel better. I feel more confident. I feel more beautiful. I feel good. I look in the mirror and I am happy with what I see. (Mostly. I am female, after all, and I do tend to see imperfections all over the place).

I have a quirky sense of style. Most of you don’t know that. I have toned it down a lot, for various reasons. One of them was that I moved to a new place and I wanted to fit in. Ugh, just writing that makes me feel like I sold out. But it is all part of the puzzle. We all want to fit in, yet we all want to be unique.

G-d gave me this body, this face, this life. I am blessed – after four kids I still have a trim figure. Yes, a plastic surgeon could lift things and put them back to where they used to be, do some botox, a nip and a tuck here and there but this is who I am.

Make-up enhances that which we have been given. Nothing wrong with getting eyebrows shaped, hair straightened, teeth bleached, and learning how to apply make up properly. We all need the boost that we get from knowing that we are looking our best. Not society’s judgement of best, but OUR best.

Advocating for plastic surgery to fix that which G-d gave us – how dare we second guess Him? How dare we tell Him that our daughter would look better with a smaller nose, with her ears pinned back, with smaller / bigger breasts? G-d created us ALL in His image – when did He go for plastic surgery? Where in the Torah does it permit elective surgery?

In fact, it’s a discussion if one is halachically permitted to go for such procedures. If it’s a physical need, like a deviated septum, there’s no question. Emotionally, from what I remember (and I am no rabbi so don’t quote me) if the distress is large enough to impact a person’s life if they don’t have the nose job / ear pin / cosmetic procedure then it’s possibly permitted. But to just do it because the shadchan says?

Every time my kids have had to have surgery (and there have been three surgeries that I recall) for PHYSICAL necessity I discussed it back and forth with the doctors to make sure the risks of doing it were worth the outcome. But, how can you compare a necessary appendectomy with an elective nose job? You can – they are both surgery with risks associated with anesthesia. Neither should be entered into without careful consideration.

You know, it’s days after I read Ms Halberstam’s original article and I am still boiling mad. Girls are already made to feel that anything over a size 4 is not good enough, and if this kind of ridiculous pressure is increased on girls to be a certain way – there won’t be any mothers for our grandchildren, or wives for our sons. Anorexia is already a problem. How many girls are we going to lose under the knife?

My grandfather, may he rest in peace, used to complain to me about my size while I was growing up. In Hebrew he’d say “there’s nothing to hold on to”. No man would want me unless I had more meat on my bones. Oh how times have changed. It just makes me so sad.

I can only influence my four boys the right way – what about everyone else out there? Will my boys look for a slim woman because their mother is tall and slim? Or will they look for character and soul over physicality? I just pray they make the right choice for them.

Modesty in Teaching?

In many yeshivas, the boys call each other by their last names, to the point that sometimes they don’t even know their friends’ first names. There’s been many a time that I have answered the phone and been asked if the kid on the other end can talk to “ExLastName” – “which one? there are four?” -“The one in my class” 🙂

But that’s a boy thing, apparently. I recently heard the following. In a local boys’ school, for the higher grades, one of the secular studies teachers happens to be female. She has told the parents of the boys that she will NOT call their sons by the first names because it would be a breach of tzniut, modesty. Calling them by their last names only apparently adds a few degrees of separation – especially with 7th and 8th graders. Even when speaking with the parents she uses the last name for the boy.

When I go to a parent teacher evening, or speak to a teacher on the phone, if they referred to my kid by his last name only I would be offended. I cannot control what happens in the classroom, but when you are talking to ME about MY kid you had better know his given name.

Is this ridiculous? Or understandable? Your thoughts please.

 

Conversion is Private

I was taught that you never ever out a convert. Even if everyone knows that so-and-so converted, it is a sin to point it out to anyone.

I just received an invitation to a Tea (read: fundraising event for an educational establishment that already gets most of my money and then some) that is being held locally. Of course there is a guest speaker as there usually is.

The minute I saw GIYORES (translation: female convert) I saw red. That’s how you introduce someone? I did google the speaker and her bio is very open about her spiritual journey but yet I find it distasteful that it’s printed on this very pretty invitation.

So, heinous or harmless, folks?

Modesty in the Hospital

A few people have mentioned this topic to me, or asked me what my modesty plans were with my upcoming surgery.

Do I plan to keep my hair covered all the time in the hospital, will I be wearing a hospital gown with my posterior peeking through the back, do I even care about being modest in the hospital?

So here are my thoughts. Of course I will try to keep myself modest at all times. However, I honestly don’t believe that it needs to be my primary concern. I will try to make sure my hair is covered if I have visitors but honestly, if I am in too much pain to care about it, so be it. If I am in that much pain that I don’t care, I won’t want to see anyone anyway.

I know this is different than giving birth, but I remember the first birth. I made sure that my tichel was on my head every second of that 38 hour labour. It didn’t matter that below the waist was uncovered. I spent so much energy making sure it was covered and it was just ridiculous. No one was looking at my head! I soon learned that you leave modesty at the door when giving birth in a busy hospital. There is no way to give birth and keep everything covered at all times.

My health is my priority. Will I try to be modest? Absolutely. Will I allow it to drive me crazy? Absolutely not.

What are your thoughts?

Ethical Dilemma

Stolen shamelessly from a friend’s FB wall. When you have cleaning help and / or regular babysitting help that you pay for by the hour – if you go away, or cancel, because of a Jewish holiday, and do not need to avail yourself of the cleaning lady / babysitter’s services, do you have to pay her? In full? Half? None? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

WWYD – gift from ex spouse

I received this email from a reader.

Dear Mama H,

I hope you can help me out. I recently celebrated a significant birthday and my ex husband sent me a sizable gift card to an online store. We have been divorced for a number of years and I have since remarried. Our children live with me, and their father constantly gives me a hard time about his duty to provide child support. No matter that it has been years and that I have obviously moved on, he still feels emotionally tied to me.

I just want him to support my children, not send me gifts. My new husband said I should spend the money on stuff for the children, but another friend said that keeping it sends the message that it is appropriate. She says I should send it back.

WWYD – please help me do the right thing!

Rachel

Hi Rachel.

If we were talking about my own ex husband I am not sure what I would do. We have both moved on emotionally, remarried and are living our lives peaceably and are not fighting about anything. Our issues are dead and buried. Yet, still, on some level, such a gift from him would make me feel awkward. What is the message behind it?

I am not sure what I would do in your situation – I like the idea of spending it on the children BUT as your friend said, that doesn’t get the message across to your ex that this was inappropriate.

Let me open it up to my readership – WWYD in this situation, readers? Has this happened? How did it make you feel? What did you do?

Dear Young Putz

We just crossed paths at an office building not too far from me. My husband had some business to take care of, and I was waiting for him in the lobby. There was one chair there, occupied by your ridiculously young self. I leaned against the wall for 5 minutes, while you were sprawled all over the easy chair answering your email and BBMs. You looked up, saw me leaning against the wall. Did you offer me your seat? No. Did it even occur to you that it might be the chivalrous thing to do? No.

In fact, you finally got up to talk to the receptionist, and I immediately sat down in the seat you vacated. Within a few seconds you turned around and saw that I was sitting in “your” seat. I could see the frustration on your face that you had lost your seat. I busied myself with MY blackberry.

I know I am not an old woman by any means, but I have at least 15 years on you. I was brought up that if a lady is standing, then no men are sitting. My husband would have given up his seat for any woman – young or old, it is immaterial. But then he was brought up in a time where men were gentlemen and knew what chivalry was.

It’s a shame that it didn’t bother you to see me standing for minutes on end. It’s a shame that you were not brought up with the right values. Would I have taken the seat if you offered it? Maybe, maybe not. But it would have been the correct thing for you to do to offer.

I think I will stop before I start wagging my index finger at you and call you a young whippersnapper.

Signed

A very disgruntled HSM

Brachot

From the Mailbag (reworded).

We have brachot that we make at every moment in the day. We make brachot (blessings) on food that we enjoy eating, and on seeing a beautiful sight like a rainbow, on circumcising a baby and on celebrating a marriage, and even on exiting the bathroom. When we meet a king or queen there is an appropriate bracha to be made, when it thunders and lightnings – there’s one for that too. There seems to be a bracha for almost everything we do in our Jewish lives. So how come we don’t have a bracha for sex?

Good question. Anyone?

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Shul Membership Continued

To continue from yesterdays theme about letting a sex offender into one’s shul or not. When there is a risk to the children, the problem does need to be looked at in depth. But I was curious – how would you deal with a convicted felon? Who had served his time – perhaps for murder, manslaughter, or robbery? What about if they are out on bail and have yet to prove their guilt / innocence? What about if it was white collar crime and this person embezzled money or perpetrated a fraud on the government? How about someone who served time, but still maintains his innocence? What about someone who is a known Kofer / Apikores (heretic) and has been vocal about it? Should he be allowed into shul to daven (pray), when you know he doesn’t believe a word he is saying? Someone who entered the country illegally and plans to stay? Someone know for low morals?

Where on earth does one draw the line? Are we not all guilty of some sin to some extent? Have there been any teshuvot (answers) written on the subject?

(I remember when I was dating. I was talking on the phone to someone I had been set up with. Sixth sense made me ask him if he had ever been in prison. After he recovered from his absolute shock that I had thought to ask that, he told me that he had been incarcerated for 5 years, it was ONLY white collar crime, he took the fall for someone else, and that his community backed him up 100%. Needless to say I was not interested in dating a convicted felon especially one who obviously didn’t think he had done anything wrong. But that phrase stuck with me. “Only white collar crime”.)

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