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,


Elul 5771 – Being Engaged!!??

Being Engaged!!?? Elul 5771
Being Engaged!!??
by Mrs. Chana Silver


Dear Chana,

I am finally engaged! But it is quite a long engagement, altogether it will be 6 months.(we did try to make it shorter but it wasn’t possible) My choson and I are finding it difficult and stressful do you have any tips for us?

Plus is it normal to have doubts during engagement? (and like not be in ‘the clouds’ all the time)

Thank-you so much for your time.

p.s. I really like your chizuk, its great!

Dear JemSem Reader,

Mazal Tov!!! That is terrifically wonderful news that you are engaged!! All of our dating readership should be in that same boat bizman karov!!!

As wonderful as that is, as you are finding out first hand,the engagement time period can be a difficult one. The main reason for all the difficulty boils down to one thing, you are connected to each other in a certain way at this point, but you aren’t fully there yet. There are all the plans for the wedding and setting up what will be your shared life together, so many people and factors to keep in mind and deal with and emotions and thoughts that you have not had before. Put that all together and add a healthy dose of nerves as to how everything will come out, and you get a tremendous amount of stress!! [for all you still unattached girls out there – sounds great – doesn’t it!!] A long engagement certainly doesn’t make it any easier, but as you said, you tried to make it shorter and it just wasn’t in the cards.

Here are some pointers for weathering the engagement time:

1] You must get some advise from a Rav as to how to set gedarim. The time that you see each other should be limited, as well as how often and how long you speak on the phone. This is really very important. On the one hand, you can now mesh your relationship in a deeper way than you could while you were dating, because you have made the commitment of marriage and a few more of those “walls” can come down between the two of you, and you can get to know each other better. On the other hand, you are just as much of an ervah to your chossen as you were to him when you were dating. Engagement doesn’t change that status at all, and some say that the halachos of yichud are even more stringent one you are engaged, as you can well understand why. An engaged couple has to be careful not to say things that are intensely derech chibah to each other, and they do have to be cautious of how they act in each others company, because at the end of the day, the couple is not yet married. All this is fraught with spiritual dangers and you most definitely need hadracha in this area. It is important to remember that you want to start your new home in kedushah and taharah, your future and everything that that entails will be coming from this union.

2] Concerning all the plans for the wedding: Your job is to not be at odds with either your family or his. Even more than that, to forge a closer relationship with your family, and to start a healthy one with his. When things come up about the plans, really ask yourself how much this particular thing matters to you. You will discover that there are actually many things that don’t matter that much to you and you can let them slide. Of course, if something is vitally important to you, tactifully and respectfully let those that are involved know how important it is for you. There is so much hype about wedding plans today. Granted, it is a red letter day in a life, and it should be designed with some care and thought. But if one understands the reality that in five hours it will be over, This helps one gain the proper perspective for the attention of what the rest of life will need. This is an amazing opportunity to work on your skills of compromising – with your chosson, and your respective families. Rememer, now that you are a kallah, it doesn’t mean that your middos can go down the drain! If anything they can become more honed and refined.

If there are halachic issues about the wedding that come up between any of the parties, find a Rav that all agree to abide by and follow what he tells you.

3] Refering back to ‘the walls’ . Many of the walls come down between the two of you during the dating, some more after the commitment of marriage, but it is important to realize that the rest won’t come down until after you have been married awhile. This is the normal way of things and it cannot be forced. It is a process. So when it feels particularly frustrating and stressful between the two of you, understand that it is somewhat normal. You haven’t really started that shared life together yet. Living in the same house and really being that dynamic duo is yet to come. [Which has its vicissitudes as well, but that is for another time!]

4] Do read some books on marriage and shalom bayis. You will have to reread them once you are married and it is no longer in theory, but getting familiar with it all now will help you alot, and will allow you to go into all of this with the correct outlook.

5] A not so oft spoken of topic is that of getting on a great footing with your future mother in law when you are engaged. Ask her advise, invite her to come with you for gown fittings, go shopping with her for the many things that you need to set up your house, etc. You get the idea. Let her know that you aren’t taking her son away, but that she is gaining another child. This will go far in your future relationship.

6] Don’t forget about your single friends!!! Try to find the balance of bringing them into your life and your plans, but remembering and being sensitive to them that they haven’t yet found their bashert. They want to be included in your life and not forgotten about. I have unfortunately heard from many of them when this happens. It is sad and painful for them. Keep this in mind.

Concerning your question of having doubts while you are engaged. It is quite normal. I think that even those girls who seem ‘in the clouds’ and constantly squeal how everything is soooo perrrrrfect, also have some doubts from time to time. I have heard from many girls that the morning after the engagement they wake up with the thought of “what have I done!?”

The bottom line is that this is a huge decision, one that will shape the rest of your future. I believe that it is impossible to be 100% sure that this is the right person for you. That is why the dating process should be taken so seriously, a person should have one or two key people who are older and married that they are talking everything through with every step of the way, and the dating girl should be constantly thinking, working things through, and listening to herself and her feelings.

So doubts from time to time would be natural, given the magnitude of the situation. But if things really aren’t going well between the two of you on a regular basis, or you are constantly finding fault with him, or you are much of the time wondering if this is right, or you find yourself thinking that there are other young men out there that would be better for you – you should certainly speak to someone about it, and see what is really going on with you. Perhaps you should then speak to him and work things out directly, or go together to a Rav or therapist for pre-marital counseling, or rethink your decision altogether. There is a commitment here, but it is not etched in stone, and as embarrassing as you may feel it is to end it now, sometimes it is the right thing to do. On the flip side, maybe this is just a case of pre- wedding jitters, and by talking it through with someone, you will clarify things that were going on in your head, and it can be okay. Real life, isn’t ‘in the clouds’ – we get those ideas from fairy tales, movies and books. Remember that life is full of challenging opportunities and encounters that help us grow!

The most enthusiastic of Mazal Tovs to you!!!!!!

With Warmest Wishes,


Tishrei 5772 – Taking A Second Look At Ourselves

Taking A Second Look At Ourselves Tishrei 5772
Taking A Second Look At Ourselves
by Mrs. Chana Silver


It’s a serious time of introspection. When people start thinking about trying to work on themselves – they get very overwhelmed and depressed. It seems so huge and unreachable. They think “how in the world will I ever really be the person who I really truly want to be?”

But Hashem has laid out a way for us:

TESHUVA – to rectify the past and to forge into our future.

The Meiri says:

“From the time that one commits to repent,
even if the actual realization of that commitment
is a long and difficult process, ones status changes upon the commitment,
and one is already called a Chasid – a Pious person

Imagine. We haven’t even started teshuva yet – and Hashem already calls us pious! What will be when we actually accomplish teshuva!

Hashem love us soooooo much and is ALL giving ALL merciful ALL wanting us to be the best we can be. If we can only get the game going – just look where we can land up!

The medrish in Beraishis Rabbah 22 – 3 says that ” V’yetzei Kayin melifnei Hashem.” That Kayin came out of his judgment [for having killed Hevel] and he runs into Adam. Adam asked him what happened – and he replies that his sentence was reduced to 1/2! Because he did teshuva!!

Adam smacks himself on the forehead and immediately goes and writes Mizmor Shir L’yom Hashabbos – where is says Tov L’hodos L’shem – We are told not to read it L’hodos – but to read it ‘Tov L’hisvados L’shem – it is good to confess before Hashem.

The depth of the medrish is that Adam forgot the strength and power of teshuva!! How awesome it is indeed! The 1st murder of the world – gets reduced to 1/2 because Kayin did teshuva! How wonderous! What a gift! Teshuva doesn’t seem to make sense – but so it is! It is l’ma’ala min hatevah.

Hashem love us so very very much – we are soo very very dear to Him! Banim Atem L’shem. He accepts us fully with our imperfect natures and loves us unconditionally! No matter how far down we sink, He always leaves the door open and gently nudges us to the right direction.

We have to remember that a relationship is as strong as the one who wants it the least. Well, that’s us! Hashem wants total connection to us – but it is us that is holding things back.

This whole time period is not a time of depression! It is a time of favor, change, great simcha! It is time to make contact with Hashem in a different way than at other times of the year.

It is a time to clean and refocus our glasses….. and to take a serious second look at things.

We need to empower ourselves to do that!

How do I keep my halacha? Shabbos? Kashrus? Brachos? Tzniyus?
What are my dealings with my parents?
How are my interpersonal connections? Do I see the Tzelem Elokim in others and build it up?
Who am I really? Where am I really at?

There’s sooo much at stake now! Isn’t your Neshama worth the effort? To think? To grow?
Go For It!!!! You are a special one time event!
You have a living life to live!

Gmar Chasima Tova!
With Warmest Wishes,


Kislev 5772 – Issues In His Family, Can I Handle It???

Kislev 5772
Issues In His Family, Can I Handle It???
by Mrs. Chana Silver


Dear Chana

I have been dating a boy for a little while, and things are going nicely.. He is kind, thoughtful, respectful and treats me extremely well. He also has many other qualities that I have been looking for. The problem is that he has some family issues. His parents are divorced and he and his siblings don’t speak to their father. He was not a good father to them and none of them like or respect him. The father apparently has some pschological problems. Everyone else in his family is very close though. I think that this boy has certain qualities and strengths because of what he went through.

I am confused as to what I should do. I like him, but I’m scared that he may have undergone emotional issues that will surface in the future. My parents are also hesitant about the whole situation. Any advice would be great.

Thank You

[Name and school withheld upon request]

Dear Jemsem Reader,

Seldom does a person find a storybook situation to marry into. There is always something in one area or another. A skeleton here an issue there.

The things that you need to do are as follows:

1] Do more checking about the situation. Ask about it from all angles. The Rabbanim who have been involved with the family, the divorce, the father and his problems, and friends and people in the community who truly know them and what is going on. Check specifically with this boy’s Rabbaim that he is close to. Find out more emotional history about the boy and if they feel the boy is emotionally stable. Ask them if they see any manifestations of deeper issues going on with the boy.

2] Speak to a Rav that knows you well and get eitzah from him.

3] Speak this whole situation over with someone whom you trust that is older than you and married. Let them be a good sounding board for you and listen to what they have to say.

4] THINK!!!! You have to try and figure out if you feel you can handle a situation like this. Think into the future- Shabbosos, Yom Tov, not having married in laws, being able to be supportive for you husband concerning all this. For some, this would not be what they want, others could make peace with it. Perhaps you will be able to reframe that ‘fairy tale’ image of what you conjured up all these years, and decide that this will be fine for you, or perhaps you will feel that this is just not what you want to be part of. Be honest with yourself. This is your life.

Of course, one of the main important things is the boy himself and your relationship with him. If he is stable etc., and you and he have a great relationship and can communicate and you respect him and, yes, like you said, he may even be more special because of the nisyonos he has been through…. well all this can count alot in the positive direction. To find a gem of a boy with the qualities, middos, and hashkafa that you are looking for is truly a suberb thing, not to be taken lightly. Like I said, everybody has got something, no one is perfect, it is just a matter of figuring out which battles we want to fight, what we are capable of dealing with, or what we want to deal with.

With Warmest Wishes,