Category Archives: Dear Chana

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,
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!!

Warmly,

Chana

dearchana

Gratitudes of Friendship

Gratitudes of Friendship Chanukah 5773
Gratitudes of Friendship
by Mrs. Chana Silver

 

Dear Chana

I have been friends with a certain girl for a long time. We have really been there for each other through thick and thin and we really connect in a deep and meaningful way. But there is one area that I feel on her part is just lacking. She doesn’t really acknowledge much of what I have done for her – from the smallest things to the very big and life kinds of things. Obviously a major part of any friendship – is the concept of giving – which, as I understand, ultimately connects people. So we both do give in varied forms to each other – but what bothers me is the fact that she hardly ever acknowledges the things I have done for her. In the past, I have thanked her many times for what she has done for me etc – and when I do this, I mean it in a heartfelt way – even the tiniest of things! But she doesn’t seem to reciprocate in this. It seems to me that she feels she has just done so much for me – and whatever I have done for her – just isn’t even worth mentioning. It is like she is so haughty! [in this area] This is unfair and untrue – and I have certainly done a lot for her in so many ways. I do resent this a lot – while at the same time – I care so much for her – and as I said, we are very close friends.

I’m not ‘counting’ who does what for who – but it would be nice to have the acknowledgment.

What should I do? Is gratitude sooo important? Please help me to gain some insight into this and how I should be looking at it.

Thank you!

Michlalah 2010

 

Dear Jemsem Reader

You bring up a very pertinent and important issue! Hakaras Hatov is really a big deal in the realm of Bein Adam L’chaveiro.

It is also a very connected topic to Chanukah – as that is the Hallel and thanksgiving that we praise Hashem with for saving us in the dire situation of the events during the Bayis Sheini and Yavan.

If we learn to appreciate the things that people do for us – so that is a stepping stone to having gratitude to Hashem for every single minuscule thing that He does for us in our lives.

Why is it so difficult for us to thank someone who has done something for us? Because it means we were needy in some way. We weren’t self sufficient. It takes a humility. Not everyone has that in them. Acknowledging that you were deficient in some way and that you are indebted to someone else can be very hard for some people. It is probably rooted in a lack of self esteem, and not haughtiness, as you mentioned.

Hashkafically speaking, from the giving end of things, you should know that [as Rabbi Pliskin says in Gateway to Happiness] that the less gratitude you receive for doing a kind act, the greater the value of the act. True kindness is when we do not receive anything in return for what we do. Instead of feeling resentment and hurt toward the person who is ungrateful, focus on how your kindness towards that person is more altruistic. Your extending toward that person – no matter on a small or large scale, then becomes a great opportunity to do a true act of kindness, and Rav Yechatzkal Levenstein says in Kovetz Inyamin, that the merit of good deeds done without acknowledgment is far greater than good deeds done when you receive honor for them. So, it is important to keep this mindset open when your friend doesn’t seem to thank you for the things that you have done for her.

And also to know, that every single small and minuscule thing that you do for someone – no matter how utterly tiny it may seem to you – counts infinitely in shamayim! Even a small greeting to someone or things worded carefully to give a bit more kavod to a person help gain eternity for you in the grand scheme. All things count and matter before the Ribono Shel Olam even when they don’t get acknowledged by others. This is so important to keep in mind, especially when others don’t come through in the ways that we want them to.

As far as a persons obligation of gratitude to those who have helped them in one way or another – well, it is a very big deal. Don’t be remiss! Express your gratitude in words and deeds. It shouldn’t be just lip service, but a deep inner feeling of how this person has helped you. You should be grateful to those who have helped you in the biggest of ways – to those who have only helped you slightly – and everything in between. Train yourself to meaningfully express it. Build this middah up with in yourself. You will only be a bigger person for it!

I want to share a personal story:

Many years ago [like in the 70’s] My parents [who were ba’alei teshuva from the South] had someone over who was in college at the time and very secular who didn’t know anything about his Jewish roots. My parents home was an open, warm, Southern, and at this point, frum home. This young man had a wonderful and meaningful time in my parents home. Because of this, he eventually went on to Yeshiva, became wonderfully frum, and is raising a beautiful family of Bnei Torah today.

. Starting from the very next year [He first came over on Pesach] Erev Pesach, he called my parents to thank them for opening his eyes to Judaism and his new life. He did the same with a Dvar Torah on Erev Pesach the year after that, and every single year since then. Every time it was a heartfelt, sincere thank you, with a new Dvar Torah of Hakoras Hatov. Well, My Father died 20 years ago, but he continued each year to call my mother with a deep feeling of appreciation. My Mother died 15 years ago. 14 years ago, I got a call from him on Erev Pesach! [We speak in between as well – and I am close with his family] But this is his official Hakaras Hatov phone call. He continues to call me Erev Pesach every single year to this day – and the story 1st happened in the 70’s!!!! Don’t think that his words are stale and old – They are fresh, heartfelt, and meaningful. He continues, even after all these years, to deeply acknowledge what my parents did for him. He is an absolutely enormous individual! I have the utmost respect for him.

Lifnim Mishuras Hadin? Perhaps. I certainly don’t know too many people like that. But here is a person who understands just how important gratitude is, and he takes it to heart [ as well as all other things in his life, as you can imagine!]

So, my advice to you is to become a role model for your friend and others in the area of gratitude, try not to choose a mindset of resentment to her for what she hasn’t expressed. By you, coming through and showing your feelings of Hakaras Hatov, you’ll not only be fulfilling the mitzvah of bein adam l’chaveiro by praising her and giving her kavod [as the Rambam brings in Hilchos Da’os], but you will also be building yourself in the finest of ways.

A challenge to all of you:

Think of someone who helped you in some way even if it was years ago, that you never thanked, or perhaps they didn’t know how much something they said or did had such a big impact on you, and contact them in some way – by phone, text, email, snail mail – and thank them! Will you feel a bit silly, maybe, but get over it – because YOU WILL MAKE THEIR DAY, OR THEIR WEEK OR PERHAPS THEIR MONTH! We all want our actions to be meaningful to others, so just imagine how this will make them feel, especially, if the incident happened a while ago………

YOU CAN MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE! ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT OTHERS DO FOR YOU, AND DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED!

Wishing the Jemsem Readership a Lichtig Chanukah!

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

Kislev 5771 – Attraction & Affection

Attraction & Affection Kislev 5771
Attraction & Affection
by Mrs. Chana Silver

 

Dear Chana,

I feel so confused! I have heard so many different opinions about attraction in dating – and I just don’t know what to think! Can you please shed some light on this issue? Is it important? [There are those that say not.] If it’s not there – how should one go about it? Can it develop?

Thank you! And thanks for this incredible site!
Name and Seminary withheld upon request

Dear JemSem Reader,

Thanks for bringing up an important and much talked about issue. I hope I can give a bit of clarity to it. Of course, it is an important concept in dating. The problem is that everyone has conjured up in their imagination who their prince charming is going to be and what he is going to look like. And in walks your date and this doesn’t seem to fit in with what is going on in your head. What to do?

The truth is, you may have noticed that at school or work, when you meet people you may not think that they are so attractive, but as you get to know them they get nicer looking to you. This can happen in the dating world as well; it just may take a bit of time. Often attraction and affection grow through emotional connection, so the more you get to know each other, the better you look to each other.

So how does one navigate this? Emotion, attraction, excitement don’t usually increase by leaps and bounds. What you are looking for are small increments of change. If your feelings are even in a ‘baby step’ fashion heading in a positive direction, it’s worthwhile, to keep going out and see what happens. You may be utterly surprised to find your feeling of attraction and fondness for the person have changed [for the better!] as you begin to connect with and see the depth of the person you are dating.

If after three or four dates it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – either there’s no change whatsoever or there are some things you are feeling negative about – then it’s time to end it. But you do want to feel that in each case you truly gave it the effort it deserves.

The general rule about many issues in dating when you are uncertain about things, is to go out a bit more, and it will usually bring some form of clarity. Either you will see that your gut instincts were right and now you feel more sure that whatever it is – is in fact an issue, or you will see that there is much more that meets the eye and you want to continue and pursue it and see what will develop.

I feel that in today’s frum dating world people discard others in a flippant and hasty fashion. We live in such an instant, impatient, and disposable world that often people just don’t give a relationship the proper time to unfold.

If, on the other hand, you are very attracted from the get go – so your work is to, as best as you can, put that on the back burner.You need to truly see who this person is on the emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels and build a real and dynamic relationship and not let the attraction overshadow everything. For as important as it is, there are so many other really important things that go into the creation of a deep relationship. One has to find the balance.

I hope this helps you in your journey in finding your bashert!
With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

dearchana

Teves 5771 – Dating Queries

Dating Queries Teves 5771
Dating Queries
by Mrs. Chana Silver

 

Dear Chana,

Can you please give your opinion about several dating issues? I have been having debates with my friends about these important things – and we really need to get some clarity about it – because they come up all the time.

Is a second date a must – every time? What is considered normal as far as spacing the dates? How do you advise people about phone conversations during dating? What is your take about texting while dating?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thank you so much for Jemsem – it is such a valuable site!
Michlalah 5770

Dear JemSem Reader,

Thanks for bringing up these important issues! They certainly are part and parcel of dating situations – and do need clarity. What I write – is obviously my personal opinion based on my experience, you may hear other answers to these questions, as how to go about these things is not absolutely etched in stone.

A Second Date??
Here’s the basic outlook on this all important question: Do I go out with him again? If the first date was good, obviously you’ll go out again! If the 1st date was pareve, just okay, no great shakes, it wouldn’t bother you never to see him again, go out anyway!

If the 1st date didn’t go well, you need to analyze why. If it was because of something your date said that doesn’t jive with you, or an attitude, hashkafah, behavior, or language that was used, you need to speak to the shadchan and find out if that really reflects who the person is. If it does, don’t go out again. Otherwise, give it a second chance.

Many times people aren’t themselves on 1st dates. Let’s face it: a first date is a blind date. You’re strangers to each other. In most circumstances it takes people time to warm up and open up. Many make the mistake of feeling that they totally ‘know’ the person after the 1st date and that they are sure this person is not for them. As a matter of fact, most people tell me that they are shy when first meeting people and they when they feel more comfortable, they become more outgoing. So be careful not to nip a viable situation too quickly in the bud.

Spacing the Dates
Don’t let a lot of time elapse between your 1st and 2nd date; you don’t know the person yet and there isn’t all that much to consider. A day or two perhaps. After that, the usual is about twice a week or so.

There is a concept of momentum. Once the process starts to take off, you want to keep it rolling. Too much of a break could make it feel like you are starting over each time. On the other hand, you must have time to think in between the dates, this is also very important.

Ilana* and Chaim* had a whirlwind dating adventure that was very exciting and thrilling, and everything seemed great. They went out often, and when they weren’t together, they spent a lot of time of on the phone with each other.[more on this in the next section] The day soon came when Chaim popped the big question, and, of course, Ilana said yes. They had a l’chaim and a vort, set the date for the wedding, and began making life plans. It was then that Ilana started to notice certain things about Chaim that bothered her. Things he said and ways he acted that didn’t sit well with her. After some soul searching on her part and some meaningful talks with key people in her life, she broke the engagement.

Ilana openly tells people now that had she done all this in a more serious fashion when she was dating – speaking to key people and having time to think in-between dates – she would have seen these red flags more consciously and would not have gotten engaged. These things were in fact tugging on her somewhat, but she kept putting them on the back burner because things seemed so good. It was all happening so fast, and Chaim was always there, either in person or on the phone.

This is a decision that will have an impact on the rest of your life. So make sure to have the time you need to think things through and talk it over with that significant person who is helping you, while still keeping it at a good pace.

On the Phone
Stay away from long phone conversations. The phone should be used as a pleasant bridge between dates to keep the relationship running. The conversations should be on the shorter end; deep and important issues should be discussed in person. The reason for this is that a couple can develop a ‘phone relationship’ – and hide behind the phone or a computer for that matter, and this is quite different from relating to the person directly – face to face.

Texting
Though texting is ok for quick hellos or short messages, and it is quite convenient, too much texting daily is not emotionally healthy. It is short, choppy, and shallow. People today feel that they are building deep connections through texting and computers etc., but they are not. Perhaps several texts a day back and forth could be appropriate, more than this, is just silly, a waste of time, and foolish. There is nothing at all that can take the place of being with the person and getting to know them for real.

Thanks again for being the conduit for me bringing out these important and ubiquitous dating issue!

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana