Category Archives: Archives 5765


Shevat 5765 – I’m Back Home…Part 2

2 Shevat, 5765
I’m Back Home…Part 2

Dear Chana,

As the years go by and the influence of my year in Israel slowly wanes, I find myself stumbling into the same issues that I had before. Namely, getting caught up in the illusion of a non existing relationship with a particular boy. Sometimes. it is someone that I am ‘read’ to, or someone that I have known for many years. Recently, it has been someone that I am informally introduced to. I know that it is silly to think so much about someone that I don’t actually know much about, but I don’t know how not to do it. If I had just come back from seminary, I would have looked at this guy and thought, “Cute, but not for me, especially since he’s not really ‘finished growing’ yet or whatever.” But now having lost some of the things I gained in Israel, I think “Cute, and so what if he does A, B, and C? Am I so good anymore? I also do A, B, and C too…” Even though I know that I shouldn’t.

So I have 2 questions:1] How do I get the illusions to go away? 2] Should I be judgemental about something that a guy does that I think is not ok for him to do, but I do the same [ for example – listening to certain music and watching certain movies].

Thank you!

Name and Seminary Withheld


Dear JemSem Reader,

I think that it is wonderful that you can pinpoint the issues that are at hand and that you want to do something about them. Living in illusion is obviously not a healthy thing, but I feel it is something that girls can get swept up in from time to time. Think back in highschool when you had a ‘crush’ on that boy, and one day he actually had a conversation with you for a whopping 2 minutes! You probably obsessed about that episode for at least the next month if not longer! So even though it happens, it is really very important that you get rooted back in reality. Perhaps you aren’t going out as often as you would like or aren’t getting ‘read’ the right kind of guys. Network. Speak to people and see if someone has a good idea for you. Ask your married friends to make their husbands think a little harder. Call other shadchanim. You never know who your shidduch is coming through, so get out there and make more of a hishtadlus. You need to do whatever it takes to create a dating environment that is truly fitting for you. The busier you are with the right and real things, the less time you will have to daydream and fantasize about those things that aren’t part of reality.

I will also add in that though being out of seminary is a challenge, it is not an excuse for losing key things that you gained there. You must continue to learn and surround yourself with the proper type of friends that are still growing. I know that living amongst secular socieity is quite difficult, but standing firm in your beliefs and actions is doable. So you must ask yourself “why is it that I now do A, B, and C? Why did I start, when I knew and made a decision that I did not want those things to be part of my life? Why is it ok for me now? Am I any less of a person? Am I any less of an Eved Hashem than I was? Doesn’t it matter just the same as then? I do know there is a better way!” We fall into mass justifications and rationalizations, but it isn’t fine. We must be michazeik ourselves, we owe it to our neshamas. After 120 years we certainly want something to show for the lives that we chose to live.

This leads me to your second question. The reason that you are judgemental with guys who are doing ‘whatever those things are’, is what’s called projection in pschology. You see the flaws in yourself and though you are doing those things, deep down you don’t feel quite right about it, so you project onto those guys – the negativity that you are truly feeling about yourself.

So my advice is to really have a frank talk with yourself about who you really want to be. What things are appropriate for you to be involved and what things aren’t. Fix and change yourself. Do a little sprucing up, you know spring cleaning, [I know it’s a bit early in the year for this, but it is still alright!] Then you can re- access what type of guy is really right for you, in terms of who you are and where you are headed in life.

Everything we go through in life is 100 % part of the process for our growth and is direct Hashgacha. We will choose to pass or fail, and how to go about it all. So if you can get yourself rooted again to that which is good and true, perhaps that will open the door for extra Siyata Dishmaya and you will be able to carry on with the next chapter of your life.

With Warm Wishes,


Teves 5765 – I’m Back Home & I’m Feeling Low…

3 Teves, 5765
I’m Back Home & I’m Feeling Low…

Dear Chana,

I have been home from seminary for four months, where I felt such a menuchas hanefesh and attained a level of ruchnius I never imagined! I know that just the kedusha of E”Y gives clarity and I knew it would be hard to come back to Chutz La’Aretz but I never imagined that I would feel so low. I’m busy, working in a school, doing chessed, busy with family and friends but the pritzus and messages which are everywhere seem to have gradually affected me.

I really can’t believe myself when I start questioning things, maybe we should just be having a laugh and doing whatever we want, that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. I know it’s definitely the Yetzer Hara but I can’t get these images out of my head and I start thinking about things. The more I try not to think about things the more I think about them. I would never dream of doing these things but I know it’s wrong to think about them and I can’t! Why can’t I regain that sensitivity I felt in Eretz Yisroel?! If I’m entering the world of shidduchim I really need clarity rather than all the shmutz that seems to coming at us in all directions. I don’t listen to radio, we don’t have a TV, I don’t read newspapers or magazines and I appear to be an innocent BY girl… but is it normal to be feeling this way? Is it normal to be thinking about these things and will it pass?
Please help!


Dear JemSem Reader,

I thought this question perfectly appropriate for the fact that we are at the end of Chanukah right now. A truth that we cannot turn away from is the fact that our Seviva affects us. Secular culture and values penetrate into our bones and are entirely pervasive. It is Greece and Rome, in its modern day, technological and jazzed up version. The war of the Chashmonaim was exactly for this reason. They were fighting it then as we are fighting it now. In the archives section on the JemSem website there are specifically 4 of my articles with deal with this very topic – please look them up, as they will give you much chizuk. They are 1 Nissan 5759, 1 Elul 5759, 1 Teves 5760, and 1 Elul 5763. The kochos of Chanuka give us a chance to get back to the basics. The foundational and fundamental basics, that is.

Rav Dessler asks the question: Why shouldn’t we have only 7 days of Chanuka, being that the Menorah would have burned for 1 day anyway, so why 8 days? He has a whole piece there dealing with Teva vs. Nes. The answer that he gives is that it is just as much a nes that it burned for 1 day as it is that it burned for the other 7. This is exactly what the ancient Greeks were trying to do – erradicate the concept of Hashem in the world. Hashem, His Shechina and His Hashgacha exist and permeate every single aspect of this world. It is up to us to learn how to live with that G-d Conscientiousness every single day.

Chanuka can help us to jump back into that outlook and frame of mind. If we can tap into this deep truth, then perhaps our thoughts and actions will be more in conjuction with what the Ratzon Hashem is. I am glad that you had such a successful seminary year in which growth and clarity about life seemed to have played a major role. B”H you have that to draw upon now. Reread your notes, get back into that mindset. This can be a time of rejuvination and rededication to that which you honestly want to live by. We can very much be in control of what we think. I am glad to hear that you don’t have a TV or read magazines etc. You are actively seeking ways to block out that which shouldn’t be part of you. Still, I know it is hard. Spiritually pernicious forces abound. Now more than ever, join with others who are in the same boat and fight this together. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are role models for you, people you can grow from. Have more get-togethers, more Shiurim, and a chavrusa learning time to delve into deep thought provoking Hashkafa.

You aren’t in this alone, there are of course many other girls who are grappling with exactly the same issues. Find ways [including all the tips in those previous columns] to wake yourself up to those same feeling that you experienced in seminary. Come back to Eretz Yisroel for a Chizuk Shot, it can work wonders! Even for a few weeks. You can take advantage of the many classes that are offered in Israel, plus going back and taking a few classes at your old seminary. If you once had the right outlook and thoughts – it is a ‘gem in your pocket’ to be able to draw upon it again. You need to find the right pipes that will reconnect you back to where you were. It is attainable. It’s just hard work, like anything truly worthwhile in this world. It is of course well worth the effort, as you know! May Hashem give all of you out there the koach to fight your inner battles and come out as successful as the Chashmonaim were.

With Warmest Wishes,


Kislev 5765 – Breaking the Pattern

2 Kislev 5765
Breaking the Pattern


Dear Chana,

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my question.
I have gained a lot from your insightful answers in the Dear Chana column -thank you!
I will start with some background information before I present my questions. I just returned from seminary and Baruch Hashem I had an incredible, life-changing year. Im Yirtzeh Hashem I am returning to Eretz Yisrael in a few weeks for a second year.

I come from a complicated family background. My high school principal would call my family “Leibedik”, but to me it often just seems confusing and frustrating. My parents, who are both Baalei Teshuvah, are in the midst of a messy divorce that has really messed up the whole family.

My special needs siblings are even more confused than the rest of us kids as to how to deal with being put in the middle of a seemingly unending war between two people who used to love each other and now go out of their way to make each others lives miserable. (We have all been through years of many types of therapies that have not been successful and have therefore been stopped.)

The current relationships that my parents are involved in complicate the matter more, as my parents do not have a settlement or legal divorce, though thankfully my mother now has a Get. Rabbonim do not know how to handle the situation although they have tried. My father is, in his words, “not interested in being as frum as he used to be.” Not surprisingly, my teenage brother spends most of his time on the street and is not interested in frumkeit at all. I wish he had someone to give him direction and show him the way.

From a young age, I realized that there was a lot missing in my family. As the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility and grew up playing more of a parental role than a sister one. I understood that the fighting and disharmony was not normal. The fancy vacations and presents did not make up for a father who was often not around and usually not emotionally
available. I wondered why our Shabbos table was different than some of my friends’ Shabbos tables, where the special feeling of Kedusha permeated the air. I vowed that IY”H one day when I had my own family, things would be very different. I read a lot of books about other children who had hard life situations and I gained inspiration from reading Jewish books about what marriage and a Jewish home was all about.

Throughout high school I grew a lot in my Yiddishkeit. I sought out mentors and Rebbeim from school and the community who guided me and helped me get through everything. It was because of a tremendous amount of Hashgacha Pratis and some hard work that I was able to remain on the derech and relatively emotionally stable. I hoped that my year in Eretz Yisrael would open new doors for me and help me find my specific path in life.

This past year in seminary was amazing! I became part of a family that really cared and went way beyond the call of duty for us students. I became close with teachers and mentors who were and continue to be living examples of what it means to be Torah-true Jews. I found that environment that I had longed for as a child, and people that wanted to show me how to set the foundation to building a similar life. Hashem gave me a new chance at life, and I realize that very few people my age are given that. I have been blessed with so much.

My seminary set me up with a therapist who has helped me immensely in dealing with issues from my past and rebuilding some of my broken relationships with family members. When I return to Israel, my therapist and I hope to move on to issues regarding my future-what type of home I want to build and how to go about doing that, starting with the dating process and so forth. I pretty much know what I want in a husband and have worked on my Emunah in the sense that I trust Hashem to bring me my zivug in the right time, in spite of the fact that my family situation is so complicated and that people are aware of my family dynamics. I know that I am a much stronger person because of what I have gone through.

My questions are as follows. Although I have seen tremendous people and know what it is that I want for my future, they never gave us a class in seminary called “How to Become One of the Incredible People You See Standing In Front of You Today”. I know that none of our educators started out the way they are now. In seminary they provided us with ideals and taught us Jewish Outlook, but left the job of using those tools up to us.

Can you offer some suggestions as to how I can break away from a past that is both consciously and subconsciously so much a part of me and move towards creating a spiritual environment similar to what I witnessed in Eretz Yisrael? (I know that in seminary they taught us many ways to create a good Jewish home, but I am looking for some of the secret insider tips that make a Torah home into a Torah home that is so powerful that it can inspire others to strive for more and persevere and want to learn to enjoy all that Yiddishkeit has to offer.)

I also am looking for any books, tapes etc. about how to move in a forward direction when coming from a broken home. I find that there are many books about what a Jewish marriage and home should be like, but not so many on creating that home specifically when coming from a broken home environment. Many books, like Rav Orlowek’s “Raising Roses Among the Thorns” and Rav Keleman’s “To Kindle a Soul” are incredible guides but seem to be more preventative measures than corrective measures.

Thank you so much for all of your inspiration and guidance.


Dear JemSem Reader,

Thank you for the open and frank description of your background. It sounds like you have been through alot in your short years. The home that you grew up in sounds like it was traumatic, difficult and strained. I strongly commend you for your taking ‘the bull by the horns’ approach and working to help yourself. There are many who would take the easy way out asking what could we expect from them – having grown up like this? They would walk around with chips on their shoulders angry at the world, making little effort to get themselves to a better place. It seems that you have done much to help yourself. Forming relationships with role models whom you can learn from, going to seminary, seeing a therapist, and going back for a second year!

You are totally on the right track! During a girls’ seminary year [s] if she can get a direction and hashkafa, understand what the important life goals are and get herself personally and privately worked out, well, I would consider that a success. You are in the middle of all that!

You are concerned about your future home and your ability to create a functional, warm, positive, and growing environment in light of your own personal background. One of the biggest things that a person can do with herself is to become aware of the life script that she is following. A life script is made up of the messages we received from significant others about ourselves as we were growing up. It is formed through the life that we lived and it effects how we see the world and how we feel about ourselves. It becomes our internal message tape as we grow. Many people actually hinder themselves because they clearly believe that they must live out their life script as it is. They ‘script’ themselves as a failure, they say to themselves that they came from such and such and therefore their future will be more of the same. Subconsciously they continue on the merry go round of
that script.

But, the good news is that YOU can break the pattern! You can write a new script, get out of the rut and change the dance! It is an empowering thought to realize that you can change your life script. The way to do this is to figure out your script and realize what taped messages are playing in your mind. Then you have to learn how to ‘reframe’ them. Reframing is the idea of taking something from the past and learning how to change it and see it in a positive light. Painful events can be transformed in your mind as experiences of specific growth or life lessons [many times in terms of what not to do or how not to behave.] A person can also train themselves to reframe the daily events of our lives that are irritating and upsetting. This is very easy to say in a few sentences, but it takes a tremendous amount of work and effort. But it is entirely possible. If you can learn from your past and analize your tendencies in certain areas and take charge to change them now – you will be well on your way to a worthwhile future. Take full advantage of your therapy time to help you with this. It is time well spent in investment of your future. By doing all that you are doing you are in fact being quite pro-active and taking responsibility for your life. A person must also focus on cultivating a positive attitude about life in general.

‘Adam Nifal K’fee Pi’ulosov’. You Will be influenced according to the new actions and modes of behavior that you will impliment into your life. You will be able to stop those old negative ‘dances’ and begin other ones with very new steps. This takes Emuna, courage, and maturity -but it is doable and worth the effort, as you already realize.

Keep focused on your seminary classes. Teachers not only impart to you the knowledge of the Torah, but sprinkled in between the lines are glimpses into their lives, the lessons they’ve learned about life and pointers for navigating in this world. Take note of it all. When you’re aware of this, you’ll be suprised at what you can pick up. Find healthy families to go to, to learn from, to be around. There’s bunches of lessons lurking there.

Armed with all of this, you’ll be able to go into your future with confidence that you can create a positive and meaningful home for you, your husband, and the neshamos that Hashem will entrust to you. And even then, sometimes you’ll make mistakes just like the rest of us. So when you stumble you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. My mother used to say that that was the reason that there were erasers on the end of pencils.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? But the main thing to remember is that you can be in control of your life script and you have the power to change it.

With Warmest Wishes,


Cheshvan 5765 – Dreams Come in Different Packaging!

5 MarCheshvan 5765
Dreams Come in
Different Packaging!

Dear Chana,

I have been out of seminary for quite a number of years, and dating gets harder and harder every year. Most of my friends and classmates are long married, and I am definitely feeling the strain. I can always use chizuk (as can all of us in this situation), but I have a more specific question.

All my life, since I was old enough to know what it meant, I wanted a husband involved in learning and chinuch and kiruv. I come from a chinuch household, my siblings are all in chinuch, and I have always wanted this for my own family. This wasn’t even something I gained in seminary, but goes back years earlier. I myself am involved in kiruv, and want a household that will be as well.

Now, however, most of the learning/chinuch guys are long married, and I do not know what to do. On one hand, I do go out with working guys, and I give all my shidduchim 3-4 dates, unless the date is awful, because I really believe in giving it a chance. It’s just not really what I want. It’s so hard for me to see my husband as someone who spends all day in the office. And though I am aware that a working guy can be just as good a Jew as a learning guy, it is still a different kind of household.

However, it is very difficult to find learning/chinuch guys anymore, and those I have gone out with were not for me. I feel very stuck. Am I supposed to give up this dream? It seems so strange that when I want this to be able to help Klal Yisrael and raise my children in the best way, Hashem doesn’t seem to want this for me. (It’s not like I am looking for someone who is wealthy, or good looking!)

I just don’t know what to do anymore, so I am hoping you can give me some advice and/or chizuk!

Thank you!
Name & Seminary Withheld


Dear JemSem Reader,

You sound like a very mature and grounded person. It seems that you have known what you were looking for in a spouse from a while ago. I do not think that you should give up on the type of person that you are looking for nor the type of home that you wish to create with him.

But you should know that there are so many types of guys out there. It is not always so black and white – learner or earner. Guys come in so many different types of packaging. There can be a guy who is learning full time, or learning and doing some kiruv or chinuch and really into it for the right reasons and motivations. Then there’s the guy who is learning full time, but his head isn’t totally in it – and he may not be making the total proper use of his time, but he is also classified as a full time learner. Then you have the guy who is working or in school – but his head is quite into his learning. He may have a chavrusa before davening or at night, a kavua shiur that he goes to or all of the above. So is he a ‘learner’ or an ‘earner’? Well, it’s hard to say! Aside from these, there are other shades and varieties of guys. So what I’m saying is that it is not so clear-cut.

I think the fact that you see each situation through for a few dates is terrific. You are smart enough to realize that the ‘outer’ aspect of who he seems to be isn’t all there is. It is the ‘inner’ him that may take time to figure out. Yes, he may have a job – but what are his priorities? What type of things are important to him? How does he live his life? Is he into some learning? Is he a growing Eved Hashem? Is he a Ba’al Middos? Are you getting a feel for what kind of tone he will set in the home? I feel that these are some of the important things to find out. On the flip side you may be excited that the boy that you are slated to go out with tomorrow is totally learning in yeshiva but yet when you go out you may clearly see that his head is quite elsewhere. So you can’t always know from the ‘outer’ stuff.

So as I started with, no, you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, just realize and be expansive in your mind that he might not come as the typical type that you had thought of. Hashem has a specific game plan for you, it is already mapped out.

Realize that He can send him at any second and that everything that you are going through is absolutely ‘l’tov’ for you.

May Hashem bring along your Bashert Z’man B’karov!!!

With Warmest Wishes,


Tishrei 5765 – Staying Focused While Dating

1 Tishrei 5765
Staying Focused while Dating

Dear Chana,

I am now beginning my second year home from seminary and I am 19 years old. I know I’m still young and I’m not nervous or anything, but almost all of my good friends are married and/or pregnant already. I have been going to shadchanim etc. but it is going a little slow for me. How can I make sure that I stay focused, don’t turn bitter, and still remember that this is obviously what is best for me?

Thanks for your help.


Dear Jemsem Reader,

This is certainly a predicament that many, many girls find themselves in, so I am glad that you asked this question because this issue definitely needs attention.

We each have a choice of how we view and respond to the situations that Hashem sends to our lives. We have a responsibility to ourselves to think, talk, and act in ways that nurture our self-image. A positive attitude is the ability to develop a mindset to manage our thoughts. It is empowering to realize that there are alternative ways to think about any given circumstance that comes up. Many times in life we cannot control the things that occur, but how I perceive it and deal with it can make all the difference in the world! Attitude really counts far more than most people think. So this is the very first thing to know.

I see a lot of pressure in the frum world to rush to get married. Marriage is more than a wonderful thing and of course it is a central aspect of Judaism, however, the statistics of young couples either breaking the engagement or, after the fact, getting a divorce is very much on the rise. For that matter there are many young couples that are in therapy or marriage counseling. We need to ask ourselves WHY to all of this? There are of course many different reasons for this. I think that some of the rationale behind this has to do with the fact that some are not quite ready yet for marriage — perhaps they need to mature more, learn communication skills, and continue to develop themselves. To make a mad dash for the marriage canopy is not always the right thing. Remember, when all of the glitz and glamour of dating/engagement/wedding wear off – you will IY”H be married to this person for the rest of your life. So each party has to be ready for that and think it out sooooooooo carefully while you date because it is a significantly enormous decision that will affect the rest of your life. This may not be the case with you at all, but it is the case for some. Do realize that what is the right time for someone else may not be the right time for you, and try to let that peer and community pressure slide off of you.

It is important to remember that Hashem sends us what is absolutely perfect for us – it fits like a glove and it is precisely what we need. No mistakes or coincidences. All this is of course true whether I choose to see it this way or not [again, it is my choice!] We must work on believing wholeheartedly that every problem we face is a challenge that Hashem knows we can meet. Life in fact is a continuing opportunity for spiritual growth. You can use this extra time to enhance your emunah and relationship with Hashem.

This reminds me of a true story. There was a lady who unfortunately married a guy who was abusive and their marriage was worse than awful. After her divorce she was distraught and depressed so she went to a Rebbitzen that she was close to and she suggested that the lady do the 40 day Kosel Segulah. All she wanted was to find a husband who she could build a meaningful life with and begin a family. Awhile after she completed the 40 days, she again met with the Rebbitzen. This time she was smiling, quite joyful and at peace. She had been dating but still had not found her bashert. She explained to the Rebbitzen that though she hadn’t met her match yet, she wouldn’t trade anything for the closeness she felt to Hashem now. By davening everyday in such a focused manner she came to profound realizations of Hashems’ Rachamim and Chesed and she felt that she had truly shifted spiritually. She deepened her Emunah so much so that she truly felt His Hashgacha in her life, and began to understand what Ahavas Hashem really. I am happy to report that several years – yes years! – later she found a wonderful husband and is raising a beautiful family. Of course the stories of our lives don’t always land up with happy endings, but this one did. The point of what she developed during her difficult time is well taken.

Read up on Emunas Hashem either from sefarim or english sefarim sources. Daven. It always helps. Always. When we are truly having a difficulty in our lives, the Tefillah seems to flow much easier, tap into that emotion and utilize it to help your relationship with Hashem. It’s a win – win situation.

Keep busy with good things. Give – in real and meaningful ways, it always makes one feel better. Continue those shiurim that you are going to, and keep up with a chavrusah or two [make sure you are learning things that you are enthused about and interested in]. Surround yourself with good friends. Broaden, enhance, and deepen yourself – use this time wisely – When Hashem decides it the right time, you’ll meet your bashert and then you’ll be very busy with your blossoming bayis ne’eman, so this current time that you’re in is also a precious gift. Lakol Z’man Va’ais.

May Hashem send your Zivug z’man b’karov – b’sha’a tova!

With Warmest Wishes,