Category Archives: Archives 5761

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Nissan 5761 – Finding a Rav

15 Nissan 5761

Dear Chana,

In your last letter you suggested to the baalat tshuva that she consult her Rav on the issue of what type of person she should marry. Although I think that this is wonderful advice, it raised an issue that I and many other women my age feel. I’ve discussed this with others and the general concensus is that it is very hard for women to find a Rav. Yes, we have a Rav to ask halachic questions and call for a quick sheilah but we lack a Rav as a confidant, someone we can tell our problems to and seek guidance from. As a student in Stern, I find that although I am around many respected Rabbaim it is difficult and awkward for me to seek out a relationship with them. I am not shy but I dont want to impose myself on anyone. In Israel it was easier to build a kesher, how can I do that in America? What can we do to address this problem?

Thank you,

Name withheld upon request
Midreshet Moriah 5759

You have zeroed in on a very important question. We are always saying to consult with your Rabbi about this and that. For many out there like yourself – it certainly can be a difficult thing to find someone.

There are two angles from which to approach it.

The first is to look high and low – ask many people if they know anyone who you can make a kesher with. You’ll have to put in some effort, really look around and search – but it will be well worth your while. You need to think about what type of Rabbi you would feel more comfortable with. Perhaps an older Rabbi – you know the Hadras Panim type who is very aidel and has a long grey beard. Or maybe you’ll be able to relate better to a Rabbi who is 30 something – yet has a lot of very good aitzos.

The concept that we are talking about is not just for your average garden variety sheilah – rather you’d be asking him more about life issues – getting real aitza. Don’t worry about imposing yourself on him – that’s what they’re there for. The concept of getting Da’as Torah has been around for a very long time – and is not only a nice idea – but is strongly recommended. Many people who have worked hard delving into the depths of Torah – at the same time develop the ability to see into situations with an uncanny clarity. they can hone in on the crux of an issue and give insightful advice

You’re right that in seminary it is easier to find Rabbis – because all the people who are teaching you are there to help and guide you. It is harder in the chutz la’aretz – but doable.

The second angle is to of course have your halacha sheilah Rabbi – but for your aitza person or people you’ll use a couple or family that you’re close to or perhaps a female teacher or role model of yours. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘Rabbi’ that you turn to for this. But, it should be someone older than you whose opinion you respect and value. If you’ll expand this idea a bit and be creative, perhaps you’ll be able to come up with several people who fit the bill and who you’ll feel comfortable talking to.

Every situation is workable on some level – sometimes you have to think of things in a bit more of an unconventional way – and of course approach it in with a positive attitude.

Happy Searching!!

Sincerely,
Chana

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Adar 5761 – What Baalei Teshuva Should Seek in a Marriage Partner

1 Adar 5761

Dear Chana,

I would consider myself a practicing Orthodox Jew, but I have come from a totally non-religious background. I admire people who have been religious all of their lives and have not had to know what I have known. I am not ready to get married but when I am, should I look for a partner who is a baal teshuva like myself or should I look for a partner who has been religious all of their lives? What kind of difficulties should I expect in a partnership with someone who has been religious all of their lives? And can this kind of partnership work? If you could enlighten me in these issues I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

Mazal Tov to you for making a life change!! I continue to be inspired by people such as yourself! You have asked a very important question, one that does not have a specific answer. Each Ba’al or Ba’alas T’shuva depending on their history, personality, emotional makeup etc. will feel comfortable with different types of people.

For some, marrying someone who has had a similar background will be very agreeable to them because even though they have left that world behind – there are certain things that would be shared experiences [somewhat] which would help them to be able to relate to each other. They would as well be grappling in the same areas – and the mutual support would be there.

For others, the comfort level might be with someone who came from some kind of a more modern background and became more religious along the way. The mix of worlds is still there on a certain level, but the focus and lifegoals are clear-cut and directional.

And for others still, They may well feel right at home with someone who is a genuine FFB. The dichotomy of their backgrounds won’t matter a bit to either one.

I know of many marriages that are versions of each one of these combinations. One that sticks out in my mind is the very happy and wholesome marriage of a girl who was from a really frum family – schooled in all top super frum places, who is married to a guy who at the time of their dating, had only been frum for several months. It is something that is very personal and individual. It really depends on who you are. Things can bother you in either direction. If the guy just couldn’t relate to certain issues at all because he hadn’t “been there and done that” OR on the flip side, he had “been there and done that” as you had, and you wished that wasn’t so because the life that you are creating is vastly different from all that.

Perhaps it would be a great idea if you would go and discuss it with your Rav. If he knows you well, he can perhaps steer you in the right direction. The other bit of advice that I can give you is to try out all the different shades and varieties. As you are going out, analyze your feelings and see where you stand. Be very honest with yourself and don’t fake yourself out. These issues are very real and marriage is a big and serious situation.

May Hashem send you the right guy with the right background at the right time!

Sincerely,
Chana

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Teves 5761 – Surviving The SHidduch System

15 Teves 5761

Dear Chana,

My question is related to the infamous topic of shidduchim. I’d like your input and advice on my attitudes, and how I can improve them.

One of my problems is that I have a huge aversion to “the system”. Although I highly value the concept of shidduchim, I am not particularly fond of some of the priorities that seem to have become prevalent in the frum dating world. It is very frustrating to constantly hear about a wonderful boy and then to find out that he [or his parents!] is looking for money, physical beauty, and/or yichus. Although I understand that there is a level of importance to each of the above, I find it hard to reconcile placing them as top priority with all that I have learned. Another factor is that each of those three things apparently is not changeable. They are chalakim that are set aside for us by HaShem. Shouldn’t we be judged on how we use the gifts HaShem gives us, rather than what those gifts are?

I see many of my friends, who have worked on themselves and earned my complete respect as inspiring Ovdei HaShem, who aren’t being represented accordingly in “the system” because of the above “failings”. I understand that HaShem has a plan for all of them, and that their hard work will not go unrewarded. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I don’t have the above “qualities” myself – it’s hard for me to know if I’m confusing my emotions with my logical view of the system!

Either way, these issues bother me to the extent that I get upset whenever they come up! So, the idea of travelling to New York [a near necessity for an “out-of-towner”], only to be told by shadchanim who have known me for all of 20 minutes, that they don’t know any boys who would be interested in what I have to offer, is very discouraging, needless to say. It seems like an experience that would just serve to lower my self-confidence even more! But, maybe this is a form of hishtadlus that must be pursued? How much tircha should hishtadlus in shidduchim involve? [I realize that there is no absolute answer to the question of how much hishtadlus is necessary – it’s subjective for each individual. But perhaps there are some general guidelines at the extremes of what is or is not necessary].

If you have any suggestions or ideas on how I can improve my attitude, or how I can move through the system while avoiding these seemingly confused priorities, I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you,

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

Yes, this is certainly a real and difficult issue, and I know it must be very, very painful and discouraging. I really feel for all those lovely people out there who are subjected to this sort of stuff. Uncomfortable and depressing. But, you have to work hard to not let it get you down, (more on this in a bit).

Look, you went to seminary where you received a wonderful and Emesdik chinuch. The important things in life are to work on your Avdus Hashem, Middos, and dedication to Torah, (just to name a few of the main categories). You have worked on these things and you have honed and refined yourself to a high degree. These ARE the things that really DO count.

The shidduch system is not perfect. There are Gedolim and Mechanchim who are grappling with how to change certain focuses and outlooks that are prevalent within it. But, the system by and large does work exceptionally well. You don’t need to beat or fight the system, your goal is do make it work for you and find your husband! What you need to do is to keep making contacts and search out those shadchanim who value those terrific things that you have made of yourself. They do exist! I would even ask the shadchanim if somewhere in their files they might have someone who is special enough to look beyond these things.

Aside from making your hishtadlus that way – you never know how or from where Hashem will work it out for you. It could be someone that you ‘by chance’ meet while you are at a home for Shabbos – who may just know the perfect boy. I have heard many and varied stories of how things came about – which only goes to show that “wow, there is in fact a G-d in the world!”

Continue to develop yourself and your awareness of what the Borei Olam does for each and every one of us. Even without any of the things that you mentioned, you are a special and lofty person. He certainly has someone in store for you who is the absolute perfect one – who will compliment who you are. Believe in yourself and present a confident, upbeat, and optimistic aura about yourself. It is important to surround yourself and your thoughts with a super positive attitude.

Perhaps a small session with yourself each day from some Hebrew or English sefer on Emunah and Bitachon would be beneficial. A constant focus on this goes a long way in helping us put things into perspective. A book that I would highly recommend for the dating public is “The Inner Circle – Seven Gates to Marriage” by Shaya Ostrov, CSW.

And of course – Daven! It works wonders!

May HaKadosh Boruch Hu send you your zivug soon!!!

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Kislev 5761 – Friends Who Stray From Torah

1 Kislev 5761

Dear Chana,

I have some very good friends who grew a lot in seminary – and really seemed to have changed. But, now since we have been back from Israel, I have noticed that they have started doing certain things – which aren’t really acceptable. They were “strong” for a while – but now things seem to be sliding. I don’t want to give up my friendship with them – [for a lot of reasons], but I also don’t want to be influenced by them. You see, there are really two issues here – 1] it really upsets me that they are hurting themselves spiritually. They know better, and they are really making some wrong decisions, and 2] I’m not sure in terms of myself; what should I do about my friendship with them?

Thank you,

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

Well, this certainly can be an issue! It is both sad and frustrating on many levels when you see this sort of thing with friends that you care so much about.

Issue # 1 – Them. As I see it there are two possibilities. You can speak to them and try to point out that whatever it is that they are doing is really beneath them. Try to get them to see it through their “seminary eyes” – remind them of the direction that they had been in after seminary. All of this should come from a loving and deep spot within you and not from a judgmental, “Holier-Than-Thou”, or self-righteous place.

The second thing that you can do is to find a Rabbi or mentor of sorts that your friends can relate to – and try to “make the shidduch” and connect him or her with them. Perhaps an outsider who will see things in a straightforward and objective manner will be able to be very helpful. Maybe they will be able to hear it from him. [You can even try to arrange the whole thing in what appears to be some “natural” way – and they need not know that you were involved].

I know that it is very upsetting to you but, what you can do is to try very sincerely to help – and don’t forget to Daven for them! As you know, everyone gets to make their own decisions – that is what Bechirah is all about. By making sure that they do see both options in front of them [and not letting them totally sweep the good option under the carpet], you are doing a very good thing.

Issue #2 – You. Hashpa’as Hasaviva is quite a big deal. You must be very careful to strengthen yourself in all the right areas. It sounds like this friendship that you have with them runs very deep indeed. But you have to make sure that the things that you do with them YOU are totally comfortable with and you’re not COMPROMISING YOUR STANDARDS! Check and double check yourself to make sure that you are where you need to be – and are continuously heading in the direction that you have set for yourself. Also try to cultivate other friendships with girls that are more on par with your goals. Attend Shiurim, and make sure you have set up geddarim. Be sure to be in contact with your Rav, so he can guide you through all the vicissitudes in your life.

Hatzlacha!!

Sincerely,
Chana

Cheshvan 5761 – Dating People with Depression

1 MarCheshvan 5761

Dear Chana,

I have been dating a guy for several weeks and things are getting serious. On our last date he shared some information with me that I am feeling very confused about. He told me that he had a bout of depression about 2 years ago, that was brought on by a specific event, and he had been [at that time] on medication. This scares me. Should I drop the whole shidduch? Isn’t this a crazy risk to be taking with him? Help! I really do like him and I see so much potential in the relationship. I really don’t know what to do.

I hope you can help me!

Thank you!

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

Wait! Don’t drop him so fast! I am so glad that you have brought this topic up. I would like to tear apart a stigma that is prevalent in the shidduch world. On the one hand, depression and other similar psychological conditions need to be investigated, but such a situation need not automatically cancel out a potential shidduch.

Here are some guidelines, questions to ask, and general advice:

1) Is the depression a chronic and continual thing or is it episodic?
2) Is the person with the depression willing to deal with it? Is he doing something about it? Is he in contact with a therapist?
3) Is the person with the depression willing to set up a meeting with you and him together with the therapist? You have many questions regarding what all of this is about and how it manifests specifically in that person. Is he comfortable for you to speak [with him present] to his therapist?
4) You may want to meet with a therapist in general [without the guy] and discuss these issues to help you understand more about it.
5) You would want to research at the library or on the internet about the specific problem.

Each case is different and very individual. Some situations may be serious and quite difficult and would signal a no-go. Other cases may not be a big deal and with the availability of medications etc, the person may be very functional and really terrific. There are many different forms and degrees of psychological conditions and it is quite possible that a person with something of this nature may be very capable of carrying a meaningful, deep and fulfilling relationship. Perhaps because of his difficulties and handicaps – he is an even deeper and sensitive person, maybe even more emotionally aware than others might be.

The fact that the guy that you are dating did go for help and was in treatment, signals a good thing.

So the bottom line with either psychological or physical conditions is to check up and do research about it. Just to discard the prospect because he isn’t ‘perfect’ may be silly. No one is really ‘perfect’ – but he may just be ‘perfect’ for you, and this may just be a situation that you WILL be able to handle. Everyone has a right to a beautiful relationship and in the shidduch world too many people are too quick to reject and abandon a potential shidduch offer because of circumstances such as these.

So, be open minded, but go in with your eyes wide open, do your research and see where it takes you.

I would like to thank Dr. J. Epstein for his professional advice regarding this matter.

Sincerely,
Chana