Category Archives: Dear Chana

Helpful Tips in the Process of Teshuva – New and Revised

Dear Chana

I know you are very good with real hands- on ideas / tips and tools in facilitating life/ Torah truths.

I have a question about teshuva. If a person is trying to do teshuva and gets caught and stuck on one of the stages of it [ ie: has stopped the sin – but can’t bring oneself to regret it enough or doesn’t feel that they can declare for the future that they won’t do it again, etc.] what are some practical ways to motivate oneself to continue in the teshuva. Also if one in fact accomplished teshuva, how can one really stay in it and stick to it?

Thanking you in advance for this important info that I have been grappling with. Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear JemSem Reader

Thank you for asking such vital questions! Teshuva is something that is one of the most special gifts that Hashem has given us in this world. To have messed up and be given the opportunity to erase the wrong or even to turn it into a zechus for ourselves – is almost beyond our imagination, it is such a gorgeous example of Hashems’ chesed and rachamim!

I want to quote from the Me’eri:

“From the time that one commits to repent, even if the actual realization of that commitment is a long and difficult process, his status immediately changes upon the commitment and he is already called a Chassid”

Doing teshuva is a privilege and one should be b’simcha when going through the process because one can get closer to Hashem!

It is also clear from the sefarim, that if a person did teshuva [honest and real teshuva] – but eventually ended up sinning again, their 1st teshuva is not ‘taken away’ – it still stands for them and is a zechus for them in some way, but, of course, they must start over and do teshuva again. They must go the the process fully and completely and work hard to really make it stick this time. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva tells us that teshuva helps for absolutely everything, anytime, not only during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippor, but at any point of the year. So a person should never feel disheartened that they have sunk so low as to never be able to accomplish it. They can do teshuva at any point in their life, and it will always help on a myriad of levels, no matter what they have done, to bring them back closer and connected to Hashem.

Here are some pointers for both trying to actualize and continue on with the process of teshuva and also how to stick with it and not repeat the sin:

• Learn about it. See the sin in black on white – of what the Torah says about the aveira. Not only Torah sources – but get English Judaica books on the subject, as well as download shiurim on the subject. The more you see and hear about it, the more of an impression it will make on you.

• Think!! Doing teshuva takes an intellectual honesty and an emotional maturity. Try to bring home to yourself the importance of life in this world, what we are doing here, the concept of sechar v’onesh, and following Hashem’s Will.

• Daven: Hashem wants us to turn to Him, right? We can’t ‘pull the wool over His eyes’ – He knows exactly where we are at. So ask Him for help in whatever stage you are up to. [to stop the sin, regret, or to not repeat the sin, etc] We actually can’t accomplish teshuva or anything for that matter without Hashem’s help. Formal – in shemona esria or Tehillim [ specifically 32, 39, 51, 90, 146] and informal tefillah – talk to Him.

• Make boundaries: You had a weakness in this area, so don’t tempt yourself. Build fences around it. This takes thought. You may want to reconsider who you hang out with, where you go, things that you are doing. Like with dieting, teshuva is not a quick fix, but it is a change in lifestyle. Things that help teshuva to be accepted:

1. Seek out ways to increase your acts of chesed and help others.

2. Become an even bigger seeker of truth, and to live your life in a straight and directional way.

3. Really go for mitzvos asai, accomplish them them with great simcha and kavana, work hard to stay away from mitzvos lo sa’asei.

4. Give Tzekaka. It saves a person on many levels.

5. Help motivate others to the ways of teshuva.

6. Say omein in kaddish and answering Yehai shmei Rabba – in a voice with kavanah, is a really big deal and creates many zechuyos for a person. Always.

7. Learn the specifics of hilchos Shabbos. Keep is meticulously. Become a person who is knowledgeable and careful in this.

8. Kol ha’ma’aveir al midosov, mochlin lo al kol p’sha’aav. Whoever was wronged and chooses to overlook it – and not be bothered by it, Hashem forgives them for all of their sins. [a biggy!]

This is a worthy topic indeed! Teshuva can be achieved at any point during the year it does not have to be only connected to the Yamim Noraim.

Hatzlacha Rabba!!



Iyar 5775 – Weighty Matters – Part I

Dear Chana,

I am a twenty years old and I was thinking of starting to date. I was appalled when numerous people informed me that I shouldn’t bother because I am somewhat overweight. I was told that guys have so many options in dating that they automatically discard anyone who is heavy. I find this quite disturbing. Is it true that all guys are so totally into a girls looks and weight? Should I really put off dating until I fit into the standards of society? [pun intended!]

Thanks in advance for the clarity that I know your answer will bring!

Name and seminary withheld upon request

Dear JemSem Reader,

Thank you for bringing this question to the forefront! This is a topic that is not usually discussed openly, and I am happy that you have asked it. The issue of weight is a delicate and sensitive one whether it has to do with dating or not.

I would like to first discuss weight as a health issue from a practical and hashkafa perspective. G-d willing I will discuss the ramification of shidduchim in next months [Tishrei} JemSem issue.

Our challenge is to find a healthy balance when it comes to taking care of our weight. On the one hand, a fixation with thinness can be not only unhealthy but
dangerous. Worshipping the gods of thinness can lead to anorexia and bulimia. These are serious diseases that if gone unchecked can be fatal.  On the other hand, eating obsessively leads to obesity and a host of health issues. The solution is obvious –  a person must find a healthy balance for herself. In practice this is not easy. The first steps we must take is to learn how to be healthy with balanced nutrition and excercise. This involves reading the right material [there is
so much information today on these topics!] and perhaps going to a nutritionist. The second step is to have the willpower to follow through with what we have learned. This means to follow the diet that fits our lifestyle and get to aerobic, kickboxing, step, taebo, strength training, body sculping, zumba, circuit training classes. Do what you enjoy, and learn to have fun with it, but the key idea is to get out there and move!

I would like to stress that this is a halachik issue and not just an issue of health and aesthetics. The Torah commands “V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem” [Devarim 4-15]. We are obligated to guard the amazing life and the wonderous body that Hashem has so graciously given us.

The Rambam in Hilchos Dei’os devotes a whole  perek to food, what to eat and what not to eat. He says that most types of illness are caused by eating either the wrong foods or eating too much in general. Furthermore, the Rambam also informs us in Hilchos Dei’os that we are obligated ” laida es Hashem” – to know Hashem in every way possible – even outside the realm of mitzvos. In other words, there is a way to connect to Hashem all of the time, no matter what we are doing. This is hashkafically intuitive. We  only live a limited amount of time on this earth and there must be a way to continuously be building a relationship with Hashem.

Hence the obligation to be healthy. Through getting the right amount of sleep, eating right and excercising – we will be able to serve Hashem all the time
to the best of our abilities. We will feel good, feel more fit, and be able to take care of the wonderful gift of our body that Hashem has loaned us. It will also add to our self esteem and happiness. It is really a terrifically special feeling to know that you are helping yourself to be as healthy as possible.

So being a couch potato and eating badly doesn’t help anyone physically or emotionally and is in a sense antithetical to Torah. Food for thought!

To be continued next month with this topic connected to shidduchim…………

With Warmest Wishes,


Adar I 5771 – Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In – What To Filter Out – Part 2

Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In  -  What To Filter Out - Part 2 Adar I 5771
Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In – What To Filter Out – Part 2
by Mrs. Chana Silver


Dear Chana

I have heard so many differing and confusing opinions about family issues / divorce / shalom bayis problems / psychological conditions / and physical illness concerning shidduchim. In your opinion how should one go about it all? It seems so daunting when there are issues! Can you break down some of the ideas and the how tos involved and give some advice about them? How important do you think these things are?

Jemsem is so full of great info! Thank you!
Midreshet Tehillah

Dear Jemsem Reader,

Last month we dealt with family issues which included divorce and shalom bayis, and now we will speak about psychological condition.

Psychological Conditions:

There are many different forms and degrees of psychological conditions – depression, bipolar, ADD, and ADHD, to name a few. What are the guidelines with some of these things?

You need to find out the following:

– Does the person have a therapist?

– Is he currently dealing with the problem?

– Is the psychological condition chronic or episodic?

– Was the person on medication in the past? Is he currently taking medication?

– Is the medication long- term? What are the side affects? Will this medication affect the future?

– Is this person willing for you to talk with his therapist?

– Where mild or severe is his case?

– How does it manifest and affect his life?

You may want to talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you understand the problem better, or perhaps, to research it yourself. Each case is individual and very different. Some situations may be quite serious and significant – and be a no go. Other situations may not be as big a deal and with the availability of medications and treatments, the person may be highly functional and very capable of carrying a meaningful, deep, and fulfilling relationship. It’s possible that because of his difficulties, he is an even deeper and more sensitive person, maybe even more emotionally aware than other might me.

As before, speak to a Rav about your finding, and get in touch with your own feelings regarding this.

Next month – we’ll deal with physical illness.

Continued thanks for bringing out these all important things!

With Warmest Wishes,


Adar II 5771 – Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In – What To Filter Out – Part 3

Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In  -  What To Filter Out - Part 3 Adar II 5771
Dating Life Issues: What To Factor In – What To Filter Out – Part 3
by Mrs. Chana Silver


Dear Chana

I have heard so many differing and confusing opinions about family issues / divorce / shalom bayis problems / psychological conditions / and physical illness concerning shidduchim. In your opinion how should one go about it all? It seems so daunting when there are issues! Can you break down some of the ideas and the how tos involved and give some advice about them? How important do you think these things are?

Jemsem is so full of great info! Thank you!
Midreshet Tehillah

Dear Jemsem Reader,

Ok we are up to our 3rd part in this important all encompassing question. We have covered some info on family issues and psychological conditions and now we will discuss physical illness.

The person you are looking into may have been ill earlier in life or is currently ill, or perhaps there is an illness in the family. What is the proper way to deal with this?

Similar to psychological issues, you have to do your research. What is the nature of the illness? How does it affect the quality of a life? Is it genetic? If it is from the past, is there a chance of re-occurrence or did they receive a clean bill of health? Does it affect the persons future? See if you can get permission to speak to the actual doctors of the person, concerning their specific case.

Tzipporah contracted a certain physical illness when she was in her early teens. She is under the care of specialists, and she is extremely careful to maintain her health aside from and including this condition. For several years she was having serious problems with shidduchim. As soon as boys would find out [either before they started dating or during the dating] they would say no. Many times there was no checking out of the condition, just a flat out no. It was difficult and depressing. Finally along came the boy who was destined to be her husband. The family checked everything out, spoke to her doctors and were ultimately fine with what they heard. Tzipporah is a real gem of girl, and her husband is one lucky guy. They are currently building a beautiful relationship and family.

As always, talk it over with a Rav, as well as consider your personal feelings about all this. All of these things [ family issues / psychological and physical conditions] take a lot of thought and contemplation. They are certainly not decisions that are quickly and easily made.

With all of the above situations, the information that you find out should remain top secret and confidential, only spoken over with the key people who are helping you with the shidduch. In most cases the shadchan does not need to know the information unless they are directly involved with helping you through it. Whenever you are in doubt about whom to tell or not ask a Rav.

To flippantly abandon and thrust aside a shidduch suggestion because he or she isn’t perfect is not wise. No one is really perfect, but he may be perfect for you, and this may be a situation that you will be able to handle. Also, it is important to remember that his person may be even more special than average because of the nisyonos that he has been through. Difficulties in life can truly enhance, humble and deepen a person.

Life is certainly about choices for all of us, so be open- eyed and open- minded, do your research, speak to a Rav and key people, and see where it takes you.

Thanks so much for your special question that turned into a 3 part very important series on dating issues!

With warmest wishes,


Iyar 5771 – A Wonderful Non Frum Father…And Shidduchim

A Wonderful Non Frum Father...And Shidduchim Iyar 5771
A Wonderful Non Frum Father…And Shidduchim
by Mrs. Chana Silver


Dear Chana

I’m writing you this question knowing that there are many girls in situations similar to mine, and hopefully you can give us some insight. The question is – how does one not resent the fact that where they come from affects the kind of shidduch they get?

You see, my situation isn’t so bad , but I feel resentment, and need help.

I am a baalas teshuva, daughter of two happily married parents. Most of the family became religious over 7 years ago , but my father chose to stay the same. Not to say that he’s not religious at all. He goes to shul almost every shabbos (but drives-its too long of a walk), and gives plenty of tzdakah to those in need. He also learns in his spare time because it’s interesting, not because of religious reasons. My mom covers her hair, keeps all the laws and accepts the fact that my dad is the way he is. But I feel perhaps he is ruining my shidduchim. He is an amazing father and showers me with love and everything I need. However, I feel in the shidduch world those things don’t matter. It’s about who you come from and what great Rabbi’s you’re related to. No one seems to care about the person they may be getting matched up with. It’s all about how the dishes are taken away from the table, or what kind of yarmukah does the father wear?? (none!) I love my father, but I feel that the society we’re in makes me resent him for not being as religious as I want him to be. I came a very long way, and love everything about being Orthodox – except this!

How do I accept it all? How can I appreciate all the good I have ,and not focus on the level my father is at?

Thank You

Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Dear JemSem Reader,

It sounds like you have worked very hard to be the type of person that you are today. To change your entire life is a magnificent accomplishment! I have the highest admiration for you! This also tells me that you are a very strong person and that you have overcome many hurdles in your life. So here’s yet another one, but I am confident that with some effort and thought put into this, you will weather this one as well.

First of all, let me point out a few positive aspects of your situation. Your parents are happily married and most of your family, aside from your father, is frum. There are not so many ba’alei teshuva that even have that. There are so many different and difficult situations out there that are part of peoples lives, really vast and varied, illness in the family, [or with the dating person themselves] crazy dysfunctional family situations, divorce, and money issues.

But, never no matter, the key to all of this is to remember that your chassan has already been hand picked by Hashem! There are certainly some things in the shidduch world of today that don’t appear to make so much sense or frankly, don’t even matter very much at all, [as per your example of the dishes!] and then there are the issues of family and lineage etc. and many people get all caught up in so much of this. A person can truly think that this or that thing will make such a difference in who they will eventually marry. It does seem this way. But, that is only when you look at the tevah side of things. We are leaving out one super important factor. Hashem is running the show. You have been placed in a gem of a situation to help you enhance your Emunah. Everything is all about choice and attitude. How you choose to see this episode in your life will make all the difference in how you feel about it. You can work through this and develop your relationship with Hashem in a more deep and meaningful way. You can use this as a special opportunity to daven with heightened kavanah and rely on Hashem.You can choose a positive attitude and outlook on things. Or, you can be upset and feel like you are in a no win situation and resent the dating process. It really is all up to you. Hashem has tailor made this situation specifically for your Neshama. So how are you going to handle it?

Every person gets the bashert that is really right for them, no matter how the circumstances appear. The person that Hashem has already chosen for you will not mind that your father is not frum.

A former student of mine came from a very strange and odd background. Her mother had been adopted by a Christian family, raised as a Christian, and married one. [this was my student’s father] This girl was going through her life as it was, until the mother found out that she was really Jewish. A whole long story unfolded after that, but the end of it was that my students parents are still married and this girl became really very frum. She is a wonderful emesdik young woman, and it did ‘seem’ that she would have major trouble getting a shidduch. But, Hashem had it all worked out and the terrific guy that she married was himself a ba’al teshuva, and he really didn’t care one bit about the interesting make up of her family. They have 2 kids now and are busily building a very beautiful Bayis Ne’eman.

It sounds like your father is a wonderful person and that you have a great relationship with him. This is certainly something to value and build on. So right now he isn’t really frum, but I often hear that things change after the grandchildren come along……… so you never know!

Also, don’t be afraid to open up and not be too narrow about the type of guys that you will date. Many ba’alei teshuva bring a depth and freshness to their marriages and homes.

So don’t get caught up in the tevah of what things ‘seem’ to be, but turn it all back to Hashem, daven, and intensify your Emunah and relationship with Him.

With Warmest Wishes,