Category Archives: religion

Yom Kippur Memory

I bless my kids every Friday night before kiddush. It moves me every single time. Sometimes to the point of tears. It’s my reconnection with the boys after busy weeks of to-ing and fro-ing. No matter who is mad at who, who let who down, who’s grounded or had their phone taken away – Friday night bentsching is sacrosanct in our home.

There is a tradition that Erev Yom Kippur we bless our children too. For some, this is the only time of year they bless their children. For me, on this day, thanks to Rabbi Artscroll, I bless them with the long version of the blessing, found in the Yom Kippur machzor.

When I was 16 my father was very sick here in Monsey. He was at the Good Samaritan hospital for treatment and we had been told he was close to death. We flew in from the UK to be with him. It was this time of year. My parents had been divorced for a long time by then and I had little to no relationship with him.

We went to see him Erev Yom Kippur, and he wanted to bentsch us. My father, in my memory, had NEVER bentsched us, never taken the time to reconnect, and until that moment I had never felt that I missed out.

My brothers went forward one by one, and my father placed his hands on their heads and intoned from memory :

Image from aish.com

Then it was my turn. My father had no idea how to bless a daughter. We scrambled around for a siddur so that he could find the right words. But the damage had been done. I didn’t hear the blessing, I didn’t feel it – truth be told, I didn’t want it. My father, who had not been present for most of my life, just proved to me, in that moment (in my mind) how little he thought of me.

I was 16 and I was hurt. My father died 3 years later, and at the ripe old age of 19 I had just got to the point of wanting to know him and to know who he was. Maybe he felt just as bad at that moment – maybe he just didn’t know how to tell me. I will never know.

I remember my father every time I bensch my kids. At this point, I remember him without the anger and resentment I used to feel, but still with sadness at what might have been.

Abuse in the Yeshiva System

This story Surviving Bais Mikroh happened in a yeshiva in Monsey, where I live. I personally cannot vouch for the veracity of this story, but having heard many similar stories about this and other yeshivot – nothing in it surprised me. None of my children attend or have attended Bais Mikroh.

When my children were younger it was brought to my attention that one of the Kindergarden rebbeim was hitting the kids at the yeshiva my boys attended. One of my kids had made an offhand remark “Chaim Yankel didn’t sing the tune right so Rebbe hit him, and then he cried, and then the bell rang for recess….”

I stopped him, and asked if Rebbe often hit the kids. He told me yes, that’s what happens in big boy school. I was floored. I tried to explain to my 6 year old that NO REBBE has the right to hit a child – and he hit these kids across the face!!

I knew what I had to do, and I suffered for doing the right thing. I called the school social worker, letting him know what was going on, and telling him I was headed up to the school to take them to task. The social worker did not work for the school, but answered to a local agency. Getting them involved was paramount – if it had been just me, one parent, lodging a complaint at the school, the problem would have been swept under the rug.

Oh did I forget to tell you? NONE of the other parents in the class, including the parents of the boys that had been hit, were willing to stand with me. No one was willing to stand up for their kids. My kid had not been hit, and I was willing to stand up. I was disgusted. I had parents calling me, thanking me for doing this, because their kid had been hit too – but when I asked to put their name forward, for them to make a phonecall to the social worker, they refused.

I spoke with the principal and the social worker at length. I was not willing to be brushed off. Soon after I received threatening phonecalls, that I need to stop my personal vendetta (!!) against the rebbe and drop my complaint. He has mouths to feed, responsibilities – how dare I try to take that away from him?

How dare he hit our kids? How dare they blame ME for complaining?

“We’ll chase you out of town, your name will be mud here” – if it saves one kid, it would have been worth it. They were full of BS anyway – push came to shove they had to shut up because it was all TRUE.

Because it wasn’t MY kid that was hit, and none of the other parents came forward, there was little that I could push to be done. It was frustrating. They got the teacher into anger management classes, and upon my insistence, never left the rebbe alone with the kids. There was always another adult present. They never, not for one moment, denied that he hit the kids.

My kid was transferred to a parallel class, and my younger kid(s) were not assigned to his kindergarten class.

What horrified me the most were the parents. Your child was hit. Across the face. Some more than once. And you are willing to sit there and take it? And you are willing to allow him to continue to hit other children? Because you are afraid of making waves?

Our children are worth everything – if we do not protect them, who will?

He Who Believes Is Not Afraid

Latma have released the song below for Rosh Hashanah. This song really strikes a chord with me, especially the chorus “He who believes is not afraid”.

Isn’t that what faith is supposed to be? Complete belief in God that everything works out for the best. I wish, I really wish, I had such a deep faith that I would never be afraid. I wish I could embrace the idea completely that everything that happens is for the best – gam zu letovah.

That is one of the main things I will be working on in the next year – my faith. What will you be working on?

Ketivah veChatimah Tovah! May you be written in the Book of Life!

Heinous or Harmless?

Read: Fury at Hasidic dress codes.

Do you think store owners have the right to go above and beyond the standard “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”? Or is it totally their call – if they don’t want business from people wearing clothes that do not adhere to their own modesty standards, should that be their choice?

 

Concubine Anyone?

Quote from article :  Kosher Concubines

The Chief Judge of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, has ruled that in cases where a man has not fathered any children, and his wife cannot or does not want to bear children, the man may take a concubine.

Really? Suddenly it’s ok to have a mistress? And one that can bear babies legitimately? How many ways can this go wrong?

What are your thoughts?

The Tuition Crisis

Read this article about When Yeshiva Day School Is No Longer A Viable Option. Many people find themselves in a bind – they want to send their children to Jewish schools, but there is no money for the tuition. What are they then to do?

WWYD – Feelings vs Kashrut

A friend was recently visiting relatives who put out some yummies for kiddush Shabbat day. There were cheeses and chocolates, pastries and cakes – the table was groaning under the weight!

My friend happened to walk into the kitchen for a glass of water, and saw an empty package from one of the foods. She saw that the hechsher was Tablet K – a certification that she has been told is not trustworthy. (Full disclosure – in the HSM household we don’t hold by that hechsher).

She tried to call her husband into the kitchen, so that he should know that he should stop eating, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without drawing attention to the issue.

Everyone kind of gravitated toward the kitchen, having eaten their fill, and were clearing the table. She caught his eye, and surreptitiously showed him the package. It was one of those moments when everyone goes quiet at just the wrong moment. It was a very awkward silence.

What would you have done? Would you have just waited until later and spoken to your spouse in private, risking him eating something you don’t consider kosher? And then, how do  you go about dealing with the fact that now you are not sure that you can trust the kashrut in this house? What if you feel it’s just ignorance, and that this person does not know the hechsher isn’t widely accepted? Do you broach the subject?

What would you do?

From the Mailbag:

Dear HaDassah,

In one month and one week I will be turning 38. I’ve never been married and so far there are no prospects. I’m getting to the point where I have to accept the fact that meeting my soul mate might not be in the cards for me. Worse, I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I may never be a mother. I love my friends and family, but it’s getting harder and harder to see their facebook posts and tweets about their kids, or pregnancies. I love them and I love their kids. My nieces and nephew are like my own. But they’re not.

I’ve explored other options such as insemination by donor. My mother is very against it, and she said so using the strongest language, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to really do this completely on my own. I can’t explain the pain I feel. Every time I get my period I mourn for a potential child I have just lost. Yes, I know it’s my “biological clock,” but it’s more than that, I resent my friends and family who do have kids, I’m getting to the point where I try avoid social and family events.

In addition to the birth of my nephew, in the course of one week among my cousins there were 7 births. I should be happy, but all I am is sad. Sad because I probably will never experience pregnancy and the joy of childbirth and the “nachas” of my own children. It kills me that I feel this resentment towards others when they’ve done nothing wrong.

Being single, especially being of a more “advanced” age, I’m treated like a second-class citizen. I don’t know if people realize how much it hurts. And it isn’t just about not getting married. In fact, I can handle the fact that I might not ever get married, but that I may never be a mother, that’s just devastating.

“Chava”

This letter tugged at my heart. I feel Chava’s pain. What can we tell her to help soothe her soul? How can we make her feel included and not shunned? How can we help her with her pain? What options are available to a religious woman whose fertility is ticking away and is not yet married? Can we religiously endorse Donor Insemination and provide a support system for our sisters who decide to take this route?

I am so curious to know how you feel after reading this letter, and how you would counsel Chava, or even what you would do in her place.

Raising Kids the Right Way

I have been contemplating, of late, the lessons I want my sons to have learned at my knee. I think the most important lesson I want them to remember is that it’s what’s in a person’s heart and soul that counts – not what they look like on the outside.

To me religion and spirituality are about how a person connects with God, and how s/he explores that connection. Religion can mean different things to different people. There is no one right way. For my family, we follow Orthodox Judaism – with a yeshivish bent at times, with a modern bent at times. Does either bent make us wrong? Is it right for anyone to tell us that we are less than them because we don’t fit into their mold?

I recently had an experience with the educational system here in Monsey. A child of mine was seen wearing jeans outside of school hours. JEANS! For shame! A discussion was had. The child was asked to make changes.

He said to me, rightfully so, “why should I pretend to be something I am not?” He reminded me that I have taught him not to be fake, and that he should be true to himself in all walks of life. I tried to explain to him about being respectful – and he said that when he goes to school he does follow the dress code. He said that wearing jeans does not make him a different person, a lesser person. It makes him a person who is comfortable wearing jeans.

When did Orthodox Judaism get so fixated on how we look? When did we lose sight of the important part – our relationship with God? Does God care if my son wears jeans and a tee shirt? Or would He care more that my son is respectful to his rabbis and his parents?

I have long since given up caring what other people think. I dress the way I dress because I feel it’s right and appropriate. Am I am better person than someone who wears short sleeves? That shouldn’t be the yardstick at all.

What are we teaching our children? What do we want them to have learned? What are the values that we want to pass on to our grandchildren?

Shlissel Challah

Many Jewish people will be baking challah for Shabbat this week either in the shape of a key or with a key added inside the challah. This is supposed to bring parnassah to the household.

It’s an interesting custom – not something I ever did, but what’s the harm, eh? My beloved relative sent me this link to an Academic Paper on the Origin of Shlissel Challah. In this paper, which is well written and researched, the myth of the shlissel challah is disected. Is it based on ancient pagan practices? Does that make it bad juju (can I use that word?) to bake challah shaped like a key? Or is it just something that has no real effect but what harm can it do?

Please read the paper and discuss below.

(I am not baking it this week. I will bake my regular challah in the braided loaves and that will be it).