Category Archives: Archives 5766


Tammuz 5766 – Bringing Seminary Home

2 Tammuz 5766
Bringing Seminary Home

Dear Chana,

I am back in America after a very inspiring year in one of the seminaries of Yerushalayim. I was able to grow and change in ways that I never imagined possible while I was in Eretz Yisroel.

That was then. Now, I find it very challenging being back in America. Things are so different here, everyone said it, but it is different experiencing it for yourself. I have chosen to get my degree through a frum women’s college in the city that I live in. This seemed to be the right way for me to get my education. However, things aren’t turning out the way that I thought. I didn’t expect that the hashkafos would be the same like in seminary, but I thought that it would be similar. I find myself in classes, where the main discussions are about movie stars, movies, and singers. Sometimes, the discussions move on to other topics, which are inappropriate in the extreme!

I am not sure what to do. The classes that I am taking are required for my degree, and I can t not take them. I don t want to become desensitized from all that I learned in Eretz Yisroel, but, I feel like I am fighting against a lot.

Thanks for your time, it is really appreciated.

Name and sem withheld


Dear JemSem Reader,

The first thing that it is helpful to know is that there are many many girls who are going through the same thing as you are. Sometimes understanding this makes a person not feel so alone.

You seemed to have a wonderful year in seminary. There it is easier to grow, things appear to be clear, and to make sense. All those around you are working on themselves, making similar geddarim, and striving. Now you find yourself back in America where the host culture churns out depravity, superficiality, and falsehood. Life out there can be cheap, and you are wondering if you can survive. You have changed, but, exactly how much are those changes a real part of you? To add insult to injury, you have made a very good choice by deciding to go to a frum women’s college and yet you are faced with issues there that you did not think you would have to deal with.

The answer is already inside of you. You have the life experience to draw from right now. Maybe it is harder in America, but a person can truly be who they need to be anywhere that they are. It has to be this way. The level of the nissayon may vary, but it is all doable and passable. As a matter of fact, when we get really hard nissyonos, it shows how much Hashem loves us and how very special we really are. Hashem may not bother much with people who are doing just fair, but if you have made yourself into something special, then the yetzer harah really works hard to get you to crash, exactly because there is so much at stake. So the fact that you are struggling is a great sign, you are alive, and that is what to fight for!

So what can you do? As I said, draw from what you know. Being that the values of the world are not our values, strengthen in your own daled amos that which is ours. Do in a similar vein what you did in Eretz Yisroel.

1] Surround yourself with the right type of friends. Girls that want to continue growing and striving, girls that will be a good influence on you and you on them.

2] Do what is contributive to your spiritual health. Don’t make ruchniyus compromises. Obviously, stay away from things that are antithetical to Torah. Remember that first and foremost is being determined every single day to live as an eved Hashem. If you set your focus on this, it will help to make the right decisions as you go through your day. The wonderful question of /what does Hashem want from me right now?/ is superb for getting in touch with reality.

3] Make sure that you go to shiurim. Choose shiurim that you are excited about, that you like the subject and you like the teacher.

4] Make a chavrusa with someone. Again, choose something to learn that you are interested in and excited about.

5] Always be in the middle of some English Judaica book on whatever topic, it helps keep your mind in the right place. If you have a few minutes till friend picks you up you can read a few pages, etc.

6] Try to create inspiring Shabbosos, either at your home or somewhere else. Get to know families that can be role models for you and hang out there from time to time.

7] Find chessed to do. Either with an organization, or perhaps to help a family with a special child. Giving always helps a person continue to grow.

8] Listen to Torah tapes, in the car, on a power walk.

Do you get it? All of these ideas help recreate to some degree your environment in Eretz Yisroel. You have been given the tools, open your tool box and use them!!
You re not helpless!! It s time to be proactive and take the initiative!

A word about the classes. When those discussions come up, you can try to tune out for a bit, perhaps bring a sefer, or English Judaica. [ choose something small so it is less conspicuous ] Or you can take charge and change the topic, or try to actually bring it back to the subject of the class! Or you can utilize this time to take a bathroom break. Just keep in mind that this stuff is all peripheral to your real life, and let it take its appropriate place as back seat to what is important. If you take advantage of these guidelines, it ll be easier to see this as so.

And as always Daven! It keeps the lines of communication clear and open
And will help you be directional in your life.

Haba L Taheir M Sayin Oso, yes, even in America!!!!

With Warmest Wishes,


Sivan 5766 – Extending Our Boundaries in Dating, or Not?

13 Sivan 5766
Extending our Boundaries in Dating, or Not?
Things to Explore

Dear Chana,
This question might seem kind of odd, but I have started to date so now it is no longer theoretical, but a practical issue/question, that I thought I could bring up. I was wondering if you think that it is appropriate for a girl to dafka want a boy who does not have a “past.” I know that is a relative word, but I mean any serious things that one would then say he/she later “flipped out”,etc. I do not mean that I am chas v’shalom judging anyone who has had a “past”, or that I do not believe that today they could be tremendous yirai shamayim. My point is that if for most of my high school years, I held myself back from many things that friends around me were doing, and I know it is Hashem who gave me the strength and sense about things (earlier on than most people, I guess), is it ok for me to only want a boy who held himself to that high standard as well? I just know too many people who in high school had the mentality of, oh, I’ll party now, and get frum after yeshiva/sem., and there is something about that mentality, that does not sit right with me. I do not mean to say that I don’t truly believe that they could have come a long way, and if Hashem forgives us, than of course, who am I to judge them, but is it ok for me to not want a boy who did have a “past”?

Name & Seminary withheld upon request


Dear Jemsem Reader,

The question that you bring up is an interesting and important one. The answer is that it is a very private and personal matter and each individual person will come up with something different. It really depends on you and how you feel about it. There is no right or wrong answer here. Some girls may be highly sensitive about a boys’ past, and wondering what they did, or finding out about it, may bother them alot. Others, may be just fine with it. It hinges on several things. What your background is and how you feel about it, what your attitude is about such things, and if you can respect the person and see them as they are right now, moving on in your mind from what they were.

This is not only a question that comes up concerning people who ‘flipped out’ after their teenage years, but this is very much a question that involves dating ba’alei t’shuvah as well. I know girls who had somewhat sheltered backgrounds who were ok with all this, and others that it bothered greatly. I also know girls who had ‘pasts’ themselves, who were ok with all this, and others that it bothered greatly. So the answer is really dependent on you. You have to get in touch with how you really feel about it, and then you will know where you stand. Whatever you come up with is valid. It is your life and you have to be incredibly comfortable with the person you marry!!

Here are two true stories that might give you some sense of perspective.
[names have been changed]

Dassy was herself a ba’alas teshuvah. However, she was an extremely refined and sensitive person. She actually had quite a sheltered upbringing, and hadn’t gotten involved in any relationship things. In general she was on the naive side of things. The transition to Torah was not a difficult one for her, she just needed to find the emes. She was in the process of making herself into something quite special when she started dating Yonason. At the point in time that they were dating, he had been learning for five years, and from the progression of the yeshivos that he was in, it was quite clear that he certainly did have a ‘past’. It was even hard for her to imagine what he was before, because the person in front of her was a budding ben torah, a refined and middosdik young man, and a truly amazing person.. She had a dilemma on her hands, if she wanted to find out exactly what that ‘past’ was she could have, but she was such a sensitive soul she was afraid that she would no longer respect him. She asked Shaiylos, but at the end of the day, it was really her decision to make, and it wasn’t an easy one for her. She really grappled with it. In the end she decided not to ask about it at all. She fully respected him now and didn’t want to know who he was before this, in essence she just closed her mind off in this area. Today, they are happily married, raising a beautiful family, and her focus is continuing to build him into that Talmid Chacham that they both know he can be. This was certainly the right decision for her.

Chavi had become frum in her early highschool years and by-passed all the guy things that can happen in those years. She is a put together, worldly, with it, bright, cultered, and eclectic person. The typical frum yeshiva boy just didn’t seem to be fitting the bill. So she started to date ba’alei teshuvah. For her, this was a great idea, given some of the components of her personality and background. Her take on the matter was, that whatever they were and whatever they did is part of how they came to be the wonderfully frum people that they are now, and that they are thinking people who are searching for reality. She honestly admired them for this. If they were exposed to things that she wasn’t, so be it, she could accept it and move on, it truly didn’t bother her. Chavi in fact married a ba’al teshuvah that became frum in his 20’s and they are also doing great and building a gorgeous Bayis Ne’eman.

These two young women reached deep within themselves and came up with what was right for them. You need to do the same. Of course, as always, it may help to shmooze it over with someone who is older than you and may be able to help you clarify your thoughts and feelings about this topic. As we have seen, there are different ways of looking at this issue, and you have to find the way that is most comfortable for you.

With Warmest Wishes,


Dear Chana,

First of all, thank you for your insightful column, I really enjoy and appreciate it!

Lately I have been suggested to boys who are a bit older than me (between 5-6 years older) and I was wondering what is the ideal age difference that should exist between the boy and girl? Is it wrong to say no to a shidduch because I feel that a boy who is 27 may be too old for a 22 year old? Also, is there something to be said about a boy who is 27/28 and still not married?

Thank you for your advice!


Dear Jemsem Reader,

There is really no ideal age difference. It all depends on how you both feel about it. It is a very individual and specific thing. There are happy marriages that I know of where the couple are more that 10 years apart. This wouldn’t be for everyone, but if it doesn’t bother the both of you, so be it! I also know of quite of few marriages where the girl is 2-3 years older than the boy. The point is, if you are comfortable with it, it’s fine.

If you are a bit flexible with age, this can also open up other possibilites in terms of dating opportunities. An interesting thought, something to consider.

About a boy being older and not married, every situation is different and needs to be checked into case by case. Sometimes the boy didn’t start going out until he was older, or he just hasn’t found the right one yet, [because you weren’t finished growing up!] Other times there could be a serious reason for it. Don’t assume anything, but do check into it.

So, if a few years older doesn’t bother you, try it…… he could be the one you’ve been waiting for! I mean, you could be the one he’s been waiting for!! You get the idea!!

With Warmest Wishes,


Iyar 5766 – Mid 20’s & Single – HELP?!

5 Iyar 5766
Mid 20’s & Single- HELP?!

Dear Chana,
Thank you so much for your articles; they really give me chizuk.
I am 22 and have been dating for about 3.5 years now. I am beginning to feel so frustrated. All my close friends are married and all they tell me is “don’t worry you’re an amazing girl and you’re going to get a great guy real soon” But all this “chizuk” they try to give us or anyone tries to give singles really doesn’t help or make us feel better. I try not to think about being single and I just fill my time with busy things but on weekends and nights when my close friends are with their husbands it gets so lonely. I feel like I hide a lot of my loneliness and frustrations but it’s coming to a point that I just don’t know what to do. Baruch Hashem I come from a good frum home but even my parents don’t know where to turn anymore. Do you have any advice for what I should do? I feel like I networked so much already and there’s nothing left for me to do. Please help!

Still Single


Dear Jemsem Reader,

It seems like you have really been having a rough time. Dating for awhile can really be a drain on a person. I know that as happy as you are for your friends, it is hard for you to see them in this next stage, and as you said, at times it is lonely.

Firstly, I want you to appreciate the fact that you have friends that care about you, wish you well, and are probably davening for you. To have friends, and in your case, family as well, who are a support system for you is a real gift. One to cherish and not be taken lightly.

Secondly, let’s try to put things in perspective. Though you have dated for a few years, I wouldn’t throw in the towel just yet. This is a great chance to work on attitude together with Emunah. Let’s take a lesson from a wonderful conversation I had with a former student several years back. This student was about 26 at the time and had been dating for a long while. She called me one day and her opening line was,” I just had the most amazing thought! HASHEM CAN DO ANYTHING! ” Now this girl wasn’t a new Ba’alas T’shuva from that morning, she was a young woman who had been frum for a long time and I might add, a fantastically balanced person. So what did she mean? What she was saying was that she had come to a deeper recognition of Hashem and His abilities. What she went on to say was that right then she did not know of her bashert, but in 2 hours or the next day, perhaps someone would call with THE NAME, and within the next few days she would actually meet him!! The Yeshuos Hashem K’heref Ayin ideal! Through her difficulties, she had internalized this concept and felt a more profound and enhanced relationship with Hashem. And that IS the idea. Each day can be a new entity, laden with freshness and new posibilities, it is all how we look at it. It’s up to us how we see it. Hashem really can do anything- and things can shift right before our eyes. It wasn’t the next day that she got the call, I think it was about a year or so later, but now she is married, with her 3rd child expected to make its arrival within the next few weeks!

Thirdly, you mention that you are keeping busy and that is a terrific and important thing! To be busy with good and meaningful activities and chasadim, to be accomplishing and acheiving and living each day fully and appreciating the present, well, yes, single girls can do that, and very well, I might add!

Fourthly, though you say you have networked, keep it up. Be on the look out for yet another shadchan or someone who dapples in shidduchim. Perhaps at the next Simcha that you attend you’ll meet up with someone who has a great idea for you. You just never know through which shaliach your shidduch is coming.

Fifthly, DAVEN. Use this important time to work on your T’fillah. Really understand what you are saying. Deepen it. Cry out to Hashem, He’s listening, you know. Honest earnest words of prayer affect everything. Use this gift.

Nothing left for you to do!!! You just may not have enough time to really get rolling with all of this before he waltzes into your life!

With Warmest Wishes,

P.S. Speaking of T’fillah, The Legacy summer tour that Rabbi Nissel and I will be leading will afford you the amazing opportunity to daven at the kevoros of many holy Tzaddikim.
This is an excerpt of someones account to one of the many places we will be going.

“We arrived in the city of MIchalstadt famous primarily for the tzaddik who grew up famous there. Harav Yitzchok Aryeh Wormser, known as the Baal Shem of Michalstadt. The Baal Shem was born in 5528 [1768] and was a descendent of Harav Eliyahu Loantz, known as the Baal Shem of Wormser, The first Ashenazi Baal Shem.

We went to the cemetary to visit his grave, for he had an established reputation for bringing yeshuos and praying for Am Yisroel. Many heartfelt prayers were sent up to the Heavens with tears dripping onto our siddurim. We left the grave murmuring ‘ Ovinu Malkeinu, P’sach Shaarei Shomayim L’tifillosainu’. As we were still drying away the tears, I added quietly, ‘ Tehei Hasha’ah Hazos She’as Rachamim Ve’eis Rotzon Melifonecha’.”

For more info, contact:


Adar 5766 – Dating Decisions

3 Adar 5766
Dating Decisions

Dear Chana,

I was wondering how involved a person must allow their parents to get when it comes to shidduchim. For example, my parents are not into me dating someone in chinuch unless he has a back up plan (meaning a degree in something other than Rabbanus). I, however, am open to dating people in chinuch. Sometimes I feel that my parents are “controlling” me too much. When it comes down to it, I know I have the choice to go out with anyone that I want, but should I listen to my parents anyway? I respect them so much and I know I don’t want to hurt them. Also they are looking out for my good and some of their points are valid (ie: financial issues of marrying someone in chinuch that they don’t think I could necessarily deal well with). What do you think?

Thank you so much!

Name and Seminary Withheld


Dear Jemsem Reader,

It seems like you have a good relationship with your parents and you realize that they have your best interests in mind. Of course, the issues come up when you may be heading in a different direction than they are. It would be hard for me to answer you specifically, because each family situation and dynamic is very different from the next. I think it would be a good idea to have a real open discussion with your parents about their thoughts and feelings on the subject. Find out why they are saying what they are saying, and discuss your views and plans. This will give you a fuller picture of what is going on. the next thing that you need to do is to go to a Rav. If possible he should be someone that knows you and your family. He will be able to better assess, what you should do and how you should proceed.

I know of many girls who have worked out a situation similar to this by going out with boys that infact do have some sort a degree, but who are planning on learning or doing chinuch or kiruv. There are many yeshivas today that offer a BTL [Bachelors of Talmudic Law] and with that the boys can do some sort of a program to get a masters. There are guys who have taken a program in Chicago called JELLY [don’t know what it stands for] who are able to get a masters in educational administration. So there are options for boys who are still very involved in learning and may want to go the avodas hakodesh route. This may be the answer for you and your parents, where both sides will be reasonably happy. Even these types of degrees can open up larger pay scales in the chinuch world, and may make that more of a viable option.

I hope this gives you a bit of direction in this important area. Parents are the pivot of our lives, and we must be so careful in our dealings with them that things should be done properly and with much Kavod.

With Warmest Wishes,


Shevat 5766 – Help I Messed Up!

15 Shevat 5766
Help I Messed Up!

Dear Chana,
I went to an all girls highschool and never spoke to boys during 9th 10th and 11th grade. In 12th grade I started to talk to this boy and we ended up going out for four months. He was a really “bad” boy. Everyone knows him, and most people dont have nice things to say about him. Now I am 20 and soon going to embark onto the shiduch world and I feel as if I’ve ruined my life. I know people will judge me about my former connection to him, even though we have nothing to do with each other anymore. And through most of highschool I was a really good kid and still consider myself to be a good frum girl. People tell me, if a guy is really your bashert he won’t care, but I feel like any guy who wouldn’t care, I wouldn’t want! I want a really frum guy, and chances are a really frum guy would care. I don’t think any of the guys who I consider good will even give me a chance. HELP!! I have really messed things up for myself!
Thank you so much for any advice you can give me, I’m really stressed out about this.

Name and seminary withheld


Dear JemSem Reader,

1st of all, relax! It seems that you are continuing to beat yourself up over something that happened a few years ago. From your letter it sounds like you have very much moved past this episode, and you are not that same person now. These things are of course serious, and shouldn’t just be kicked away with ease. Whatever aveiros went into the relationship are in need of T’shuvah, which is a deep, internal, and real process. If you have gone through the steps of T’shuvah, so in the truest of senses, you are really not the person who did those things anymore. Your Neshama is ‘remodeled’. So that takes care of the spiritual side of things.
What a gift and Bracha from Hashem! It’s incredible to contemplate His chesed to us!
If you are currently living a life that has the components of what your seminary year taught you, this will go very far in the shidduch world. Ok, it is a mistake that you made, but you certainly haven’t ruined your life! There are high caliber guys out there, that would look at you as you are now and be thrilled with who you are. Believe me, there are many guys who also have ‘been there and done that’, and today they are budding talmidei chachamim. So there are lots of people in a similar boat, who are now traveling a straight and beautiful path. The guy that is going to marry you, will be able to accept your past. You are jumping to conclusions concerning the idea that ‘good’ guys wouldn’t give you a chance.

Baila* came from a background that included serious relationships with quite a few boys. She came to seminary and stayed on for shana bet, and even for shana gimel. She became a positively phenomenol young woman. She built herself up, enhanced and refined her entire personhood. She started to be fixed up with guys that were really on quality levels of life. She began to date Shmueli* who had been learning in Eretz Yisroel for 5 years. He was really a chashuv boy. Some general questions of her past came up, but he decided that the amazing person in front of him now was what really mattered to him, and whatever that past was, it had nothing to do with the Baila* of today. He was clearly looking at the track that she was on right now, and he wanted to be with her on that train.

Also, you are assuming that every guy that you will be set up with will have heard about this. That is definitely not the case. Lots of times, now every iota of a persons’ background is gone over with a fine tooth comb. Even if it does come to light, what probably also will be said, is that this is very much not who you are, and not how you define yourself at all. These concepts go far.
Haba L’taheir M’sayin Oso. If youv’e worked on making the right choices in your life since then, and changed yourself, you’ll be zocheh to exactly the person who is right for you. You do your part and Hashem will take care of His. Let Him work it out for you, worrying isn’t going to help much here, but T’fillah certainly will!

It should be in the sha’a tova!

With Warmest Wishes,