Category Archives: Archives 5760

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Elul 5760 – Is Kollel For Me?? Part 1

1 Elul 5760

Dear Chana,

It is now several months since I have been home from Eretz Yisroel. When I first came home, I would not hear of a boys name who would not be able to commit before a first date to learning in Israel for 2-3 years. My parents were supportive of this for a while, they realized that this was not simply a result of being ‘brainwashed’, but, this was a result of havng watched others throughout the year living this lifestyle and striving to have such a home established for myself.

Now, I must admit that I am not the frummest seminary product. This is why I was not able to find my Kollel man. For any boy who wants to learn for 2-3 years in Israel, is on a COMPLETELY different frumness level than I am, a level that I know I will never be able to commit myself to and actually be happy.

So now I have found myself going out with boys who don’t want to learn in Israel, but are learning part time and working. Well, you see, after a couple of dates with these kind of boys, I realized that I was in fact being silly and brainwashed in that first bit of time that I was home, and that a learning boy was not even something I wanted.

But, here is my problem. I finally found a boy that has been learning in Israel, and is home now to date. After he gets married, he wants to move back to Israel, learn for a few years there, and then eventually come back to the states and go to college. You don’t understand, this is THE EXACT mold that I had handed to my parents just a short time ago, to the very last detail! My only problem is that he is 2 months too late!

I actually find myself very close to turning him down for a date. After dating the other kind of a boy and seeing ambition and responsibility for a future, I am nervous to go out with a boy that has never embarked on his career, or even college. But, this all seems so hypocritical to what I was just preaching to my parents. It has been such a short time and I’m finding myself slowly wilting out of my Israel perspectives….. will this only continue? Do I just need more chizuk, or this it? I have decompressed from my seminary pesonality. Is this really who I am? Please, give me some advice!

Thank you!

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

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1 Elul 5760

Dear Chana,

I feel that I truly want a chasan who is learning and will continue to learn. This is the way I want to live. I am working now and plan to continue to work and be the one supporting my family. I feel guilty thinking this, however, sometimes I feel the burden will be completely on my shoulders. It would be much easier if there would be a second income. If he knows how to learn and does learn, then what is the big deal if he works half a day and learns the rest? I know all is from Hashem. Is it a lack of Bitachon?

Someone came to me with a shidduch, a terrific bachor, he is in college now and then on to law school. I explained why I wasn’t interested, but, then I started to think about it, and now I’m just not sure why not! I’m feeling very confused – please, can you shed some light on this very big issue!?

I would appreciate a response. Thank you so much.

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

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These are just a sampling of the many letters that I have received on this topic.So, here is the letter that so many of you have been waiting for! Through this months JemSem and the next, I hope to indeed ‘shed a little light’ on this very important and perplexing subject. It is something that affects every Seminary girl sometime after she gets back home.

The all important “IS KOLLEL FOR ME? ISSUE”

So, sit tight and we will try to get to the bottom of it and give you some hadracha. Please note that I am giving you my own perspective and I don’t pretend to be Da’as Torah.

Here are the 5 issues we will be discussing:

1) Where does the concept of Kollel come from?
2) What are the fallacies about Kollel?
3) Facts about Kollel and Learning.
4) Can I really be a Kollel wife?
5) Where does that leave me, and what does it mean if it’s not for me?

1) WHERE DOES THE CONCEPT OF KOLLEL COME FROM?

The post war Kollel system is a Hora’as Sha’a – FOR OUR TIME. The pre-war Gedolim never said that learning in Kollel was a L’chatchilla situation for the average man. We are living in a world where it is becoming increasingly harder and harder to be frum. The purpose of Kollel is to create Ba’alabatim who will continue to learn throughout their lives in a Kovai’a Ittim setting. The Kollel system for the Klal is our way of combating 60% intermarriage. While for the individual this system helps to insure that a man will become more knowledgeable in Torah learning, it will be a way of life to him, a magnificent habit, a part of his everyday existence, even over the age of 30. For as you know, the world survives only through Torah learning.

If you think back to ancient times, which Sh’vatim were really involved with Torah learning? Just Yissaschar. Levi was the priestly tribe and Shimon the teachers and scribes. Levi, Yissaschar, and Shimon. That’s it. What were all the other Sh’vatim doing? Being Good Ba’alabatim. Making their parnasa, following halacha, and learning at fixed times. So, the vast majority of Clal Yisroel were being good Jews. No full time learning or other clerical lifestyle for 9 of the Sh’vatim.

2) WHAT ARE THE FALLACIES ABOUT KOLLEL?

a) A person in Kollel stays in learning for years and years and years

Based on what we have written, it would be useful for our purposes to have the following perspective about Kollel: The idea of Kollel is really to create a “finishing school” for Ba’alabatim. The standard way is for someone to learn 1-2 or 3 years and then settle into some sort of a working and learning situation. Some do go into Chinuch or Kiruv, most work. You do have the select few that will stay in learning for a long while, but it is only a minority. These unique people become our modern day Levi, Yissaschar, and Shimon. They are the ones that will be supporting the world through learning Torah lishma, and from them will come our future Roshei Yeshivos and Gedolim.

b) Living a Kollel life means living in a povertry stricken way.

It is not so overwhelming if you think of it in terms of only a few years. The situation isn’t really as dire and dreadful as all that! If “You” the wife is working and perhaps there is some help from the families and a Kollel check – couples can manage just fine. Plus, before the kids come along, the bills are lower and in general, those first few years, financial issues are less complicated.

c) You might be saying to yourself – ” My mechanchim must have sat for years in kollel to become who they are – surely, my husband will have to do the same”

To gain perspective on the matter, I asked a Rabbi who taught at a prominent seminary to take an ad hoc survey of how many years the staff had learned in Kollel after marriage. The average ‘unadulterated’ Kollel time of many of the Rabbeim was 3 years! Of course, these Rabbeim continue to learn as they teach, but, looking back, they were only in full time Kollel for a few years.

3) FACTS ABOUT KOLLEL AND LEARNING:

a) A working and learning situation is much harder than anyone really thinks. It is quite easy to slip away from learning once someone is out there working. It takes a tremendous Avodah to keep up the Kovei’a Ittim. So if your husband has learned those few years and he is an advanced learner and is motivated and enjoys his learning, there is a much higher chance of him being Kovei’a Ittim. Go have a look in your local bais hamedresh [figuratively I mean!] and see how many balei batim over the age of thirty are learning every evening at an advanced level. And from those that are – ask yourself – how many years did they learn first to reach that level of commitment? Of course this takes a huge effort on your part as well! You, as the wife must create the right atmosphere and attitude toward his learning and help make the time available for him to do it.

b) It is important to understand that the level that the man has attained on the day that he steps out of Kollel will determine the level of how much he’ll continue to grow once he enters the working world. While a person is learning full time, he grows in his learning exponentially. If he is on an enriched level when he begins to divide his time, then there is a ‘foothold’ there for him to remain at an enhanced stature in his learning.

c) M’chanchim strongly recommend that if it is at all possible, a couple should try to work out that the husband should be in full time learning for a year or two at the beginning of the marriage. Spending the 1st year together in K’dusha can adorn and develop a relationship. The beginning of a marriage is very much a meshing and solidifying time. If the relationship is cemented within the realm of the Torah that is being learned and of it’s importance in the home…well, you’re off to a terrifically wonderful start!

Stay tuned for the continuation of this important topic. It will be featured in in the JemSem newsletter for Tishrei.

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Av 5760 – Down in the Dumps

Letter in Response to the Last Edition of “Dear Chana” Concerning ADHD:

To Rebetzin Chana Silver:

I came across your recent response regarding ADHD. I would like to complement you for a succinct and to my way of thinking appropriate answer. I might mention that ADHD is not a “disease”, as most would so define the term, but rather a “disorder” which involves certain brain chemical pathways.

Other good authors on this topic include: Larry Silver, MD and Barbara Ingersoll, MD. There are Jewish laymen societies for ADHD, including J.A.D.D. in Brooklyn, New York.

If you think I can be of any help in this regard, kindly contact me.

Kol tuv.

Leon Zacharowicz, MA, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology,
Division of Child Neurology
Nassau County Medical Center
2201 Hempstead Turnpike
East Meadow, N.Y. 11554
U.S.A.

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1 Av 5760

Dear Chana,

It seems that I am in the doldrums. I am feeling simply down and out. Work is the same, day in and day out – altogether not too exciting – plus there are some problems I am having with some of my coworkers. Dating is… dating – Hard and depressing at times. Even the friendships I have feel kind of strained right now, and there is a difficult situation that I am facing at home. I know that I am being vague and general, but, is there some bit of advice that you can give me that can help me get out of this rut? I don’t like this ‘place’ – and I want to move away from it, but I just can’t seem to snap out of it. I feel like I am a mess. You should know that I am functional, but inside everything is just driving me nuts. I really want to get back on track, even as I write these words to you – it just doesn’t sound like me at all, I’m usually not like this. This is just really rough.
Thanks for your time and help, I really appreciate it,

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

It does certainly seem that you are going through a rocky time. This can be very normal. Life is full of vicissitudes. There are highs and lows and everything in between. There are many things in life that we do appear to have little control over. But, the truth is, that isn’t true. We may not be able to control a certain event, outcome, or situation, but we can very much channel our ATTITUDE about it. As you know Attitude IS Everything.

You are being quite hazy about the 4 scenarios that you spoke about but, with JemSem having soooooooo many readers – It’s understandable that you don’t want to get too personal. So, I’ll give you some general thoughts on how to deal with some of this.

Work: Whatever it is that you are doing, you must find ways to pep yourself up. Make your job more meaningful by doing each thing 1000 % thoroughly, really putting your all into it. You’ll feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that you’re doing your best. Whenever we make a super effort in something, it can make us feel good about ourselves. [In a previous letter I spoke about this concept regarding Shifra and Puah – and the lesson of making everything we do a Ma’ase Gadol] [Rebbe Yerucham Levovitz]. As far as the coworkers go, see what you can do to change the situation. Whatever the issue, whatever patterns seem to be evolving – try to break the pattern. If you don’t get along with one of them and you have continual disagreements that seem to escalate often, rethink what is being said, change your reactions – and don’t react according to the same pattern that keeps developing. This can be done with friends and family members as well as with spouses. So many times we get caught up in the ‘roles’ that we play in relationships with others. They say this and we automatically say that. Rewrite the scene. Give yourself some different lines. Perhaps the ending will come out quite different than regular, much to your surprise! Even if the situation can’t be changed, how you look at it can make all the difference. If you tell yourself that you can’t handle it or can’t stand what they’re doing – well, then you probably won’t be able to handle it – but if you send some positive thoughts going through your brain cells and try and figure out how you can look at it in a positive way and perhaps how this nasty situation is helping you grow… well, then you HAVE changed the situation!

Dating: Keep making your Hishtadlus and HaKadosh Boruch Hu will work out the rest. View every date as a real possibility for marriage, and again, give it your all. So it’s hard and its rough, yeah, you’re very right – but don’t forget ‘Adam L’amal Yulad’. There is something to learn from every guy you go out with. Analyze it each time and find the lessons within. Each guy brings you one closer to your Zivug.

Friends: Ditto for some of what I said in the ‘work’ paragraph. If you have issues with friends, talk it out. Being honest, open and straightforward is usually the best way to go. Do different things together. Be adventurous. Have a conversation that you haven’t had before. Start a project or take up a new hobby with them. Learn to play a new instrument together. The point is that there are lots of ways to shake things up in a good way. Be creative!

Family: I obviously don’t have a clue as to what you mean by a difficult situation at home. That could mean a myriad of things. These questions that you can ask yourself may give your some direction. Can I help the situation at all? Is there anything in my power to do? Will changing something about me or what I do – help? If the situation is in fact unchangeable and not in your control…. So, how can I look at this differently? What do I need to put into my head to make this a livable situation? What can I tell myself? How can I turn this around in my mind to change how I feel and think about it? What am learning from all of this? How is this helping me grow and making me stronger? What middos can I hone through this difficulty? Again, there is much to be gained through everything we go through.

Lastly, find ways to give of yourself and focus on others. Sometimes, by helping another person, we can actually help ourselves. It can do wonders for us automatically, because it feels great to be outer-focused and to give of ourselves.

If this depression of sorts keeps up, you may want to find someone to talk to professionally, just to help you through some of this. Even just a few times can make world of difference.

Two books which are a must: ‘It’s All A Gift’ by Miriam Adahan, and ‘Gateway to Happiness’ by Rabbi Pliskin.

I wish you emotional Koach!

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Tammuz 5760 – ADHD and Bechirah

15 Tammuz 5760

Dear Chana,

When considering “diseases” such as alcoholism or ADHD… how does bechira fit into the picture? I am on medication for ADHD and although it helps me to think before I act and to sit still, do I really need it? Society uses these labels to excuse behavior which should be inexcusable… but it IS true that some people have a harder time with some things than others do, but is it just a cop-out?

[Name withheld upon request]
Ateres (IY”H) 5761

 

The first thing that I want to say to you is that ADHD is not a disease. It is something that you must face and deal with, but you can learn to compensate for it, handle it and be a very normal and high functioning person. We need to be careful about the labels that we ‘brand’ ourselves with, for that affects our vision of ourselves and our outlook and attitude.

This issue does affect your Bechirah. As a matter of fact – by taking the medication you are helping your Bechirah and yourself tremendously. We need to backtrack about a basic if not misunderstood premise of Nisyonos. A person doesn’t have to put themselves in a nisayon. We don’t have to make our lives more difficult. Hashem will make sure that we have the exact amount of what we need for our personal growth. Battling a given nisayon doesn’t necessarily mean to do it head on. From the Torah’s point of view avoiding a nisayon can also be beneficial. Fighting this nisayon of yours – is by taking the medicine. If, by taking it, you can think more clearly and focus, then you can work at an even higher level of being the best eved Hashem that you can be. Again, the concept is that you don’t need to make it harder on yourself. Taking the medication frees you up to help you be who you really can be.

Is it a cop out? Well, I think you can understand the answer from what I’ve just written. If a person really has trouble controlling certain areas of behavior, and one little pill can help in a significant way to better the whole situation and make it easier for a person to do what he needs to do, then it is a great thing for him to take it and not a cop out at all.

A book that I would recommend is “Driven To Distraction” by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. It may help you to understand the situation in a better light

I hope this helps you to see things more clearly and feel good about what you can do to help yourself.

Sincerely,
Chana

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Tammuz 5760 – Improving One’s Self Esteem

1 Tammuz 5760

Dear Chana,

Many people ask how they can improve their friends’ self-esteem, and the answers that I’ve heard are very good ones, and seem to work. I’ve also heard of the saying, “You may be what your parents made you but it’s your fault if you stay that way.” My question is, with all the talk of low self-esteem being the #1 problem of our society today, which I completely agree with, how can one improve one’s own self esteem?

Toda raba, v’tizku lemitzvos!

[Name withheld upon request]
Darchei Binah 5758-9

 

This question really is a very broad and enormous topic. I will try to touch upon a few points which can give direction and guidance in this area.

The Torah perspective on the greatness of each person can best be summed up by 2 phrases. “Beloved is man for he was created in Hashem’s image” [Pirke Avos 3:18], and “The world was created for me” [Sanhedrin 37a]. If a person can truly internalize these ideas and realize how much value he intrisically has as well as how everything in this world is for his personal benefit, then he would be well on his way to appreciating his self-worth.

So what makes it so difficult?

Lack of self-esteem usually comes from unjustified feelings of worthlessness, which are not based on the truth at all. It is like a hallucination, an illusion, if you will… it is in the realm of dimyon. These thoughts may have developed because perhaps there were fault-finding parents or teachers in your life from a young age, or maybe you went through a situation and felt that you had handled it completely wrong and either you or others were very down on you and this damaged you deeply.

What we tell ourselves has an absolutely huge impact of how we think and act. If a person repeats all of the negativity about herself to herself all the time, of course she will feel rotten about herself. Guaranteed. We have to work to change the “Script” of how we think about ourselves. Whatever the case was for your negative feelings may not be true anymore. Perhaps you weren’t a good student in younger years but, after much hard work, you have truly changed that aspect of yourself [learned how to study properly, take good notes, apply yourself more]. But the negative ‘script’ of who you see yourself as remains. So you must repeat in your head lots and lots of times a day how good a student you are and what you have accomplished in your classes. Change the Script, rewrite it. It doesn’t have to be what it once was. Give yourself positive messages about yourself. This can work wonders, because if you do it enough, you’ll actually start believing it! As we’ve said before, Attitude is everything!

Don’t be a quitter. If you make a mistake, so be it. We all do. In life we have to strive and that sometimes means we have to take risks. It’s much more safe not to, but we won’t get anywhere. My mother used to say that that is why there are erasers on the ends of pencils. If you make a mistake, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. Failure doesn’t mean that you are worthless, and most things aren’t so black and white to say that the outcome is a total failure or success. We don’t have to be the best at everything, but we do have to try and we must constantly be improving ourselves.

If a person would take an honest look at herself instead of the self-evalutation which is delusional, she would see that she probably isn’t such a bad or lowly person. If you’re not where you want to be, so help yourself. Write down very specifically the kind of person that you want to be in very specific areas and one by one work toward your goals. All the while let yourself in on those wonderful things that you’ve kept secret, so well hidden from yourself. Dwell on your past successes. Bring your strengths to the forefront. Each of us is just chockfull with wonderful abilities and assets, find them, focus on them and build them up. Get with the program and take life by the reins! Life is too short for wasting time and feeling negative.

Several books that I would recommend are: Lifes’ To Short [Rabbi Abraham Twerski] and the few books on self-esteem written by Nathaniel Branden.

Don’t hinder yourself. What you make out of yourself is indeed in your hands. Teach yourself to be optimistic about YOU!

Sincerely,
Chana

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Sivan 5760 – Lack of Support From Married Friends

15 Sivan 5760

Dear Chana,

I really enjoy your column on JemSem, it gives me great chizuk. I have a question I would like you to answer – I feel that at this stage in my life – a few years back from seminary, and very much in the midst of the dating process – that I need my friends more than ever before. I find dating very difficult, and the whole process very strenuous – to merely be set up with someone is a big process, mainly because there are so many more girls than boys, but for other reasons as well. I know that I am set up with more boys than are any of my single friends, which is a problem in and of itself because so few of them are appropriate, and each one is so difficult to set up. But I’m writing to you because I find that at this stage, a strong social backing is so important – and for some reason, all of my married friends have completely or nearly completely withdrawn from the lives of their single friends. (I’m writing this letter on behalf of a number of single friends.) I understand that they’re busy, but not even a phone call once a month, not indicating any interest in our lives and, most of all, being totally obvlivious to the hardships of shidduchim? B”H, they were able to find their zivugim. But what about the rest of us? They seem not to care, and even the ones who do just sit there and don’t even make efforts to set people up. How should we view this? Is there anything that can be done to make them aware of the trememdous chesed role they can play?

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

 

It sounds like you are really going through a rough time. Let me give you a couple of thoughts that might help. Everyone needs a support system. However, you [or anyone for that matter] cannot MAKE people care about you… If they do – wonderful – if not, there isn’t much to do about it. So what you can do is to hook up with families who are caring and warm and can surround you with the concern that you need. Find homes to go to for Shabbos, and really make a connection with new people who can possibly become a new ‘network’ for you. There is also the idea that ‘Tzoros Rabbim Chatzie Nechama’ – otherwise known as ‘misery loves company.’ The other single girls that you are friends with can become a tremendous source of comfort for you. You all can really feel each others pain as your own, and it may help to turn to each other more often.

To re-quote a famous idea, “Attitude is Everything”. Every situation is like a diamond. If you turn the diamond around in the light, you see so many different colors in the many facets. How we choose to look at any given situation is totally within our control. It is up to us to see it in a good or bad light. A helpful hint regarding attitude — Lower your Expectations involving others and what they should do for you. If you have almost no expectations, then when someone does call you or think of you, well, wow!!!! That is a super nice thing! Can you see the effect of what that could mean to you? It can make a world of difference!

What you are describing amongst your married friends is really a natural progresssion for them. It is a normal tendency once someone gets married to be more involved with the married life, and others that are in the same boat. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care a great deal about you, but they are busy with a very different set of life circumstances than you are at this point, and they may not always show or verbalize their feelings.

Again, let’s look at this situation like a diamond and turn it around a bit. How often do you call them just to say hi? Don’t necessarily wait for them to call you, but even during a quick conversation a word of warmth and care can pass between you. Do you open yourself up and make yourself available to come over to your friend’s home when it is convenient for both of you? Can you make it your habit to initiate some of these things instead of waiting for them to? Is it really fair of you to take their lack of getting in touch as a sign that they don’t care about you? These are some things to think about.

I will also take this as an opportunity to say a word to our married readers. Let this young woman’s letter be a wake up call for you regarding the single friends that we all have. Be involved with them. Even if you can’t come up with anyone for them to go out with right now, during your conversations, make mention that you are keeping your eyes out for them. Find ways to let them know that they are on your mind, and you are so aware of their circumstances. A little word of comfort and thoughtfulness goes a really super big long way. You really have no idea how much this can mean to someone.

Finally, [back to the writer of the letter], be choosy who you go out with. It sounds like you have been out a lot with guys that are not shayach for you. Have someone married and somewhat older really check out the person who is being suggested. This can really cut down on the anguish that you go through with each date. Make sure it is really in the ballpark for you.

It is certainly a difficult time for you, but as Dovid Hamelech’s ring said, ‘Gam Ze Ya’avor’. Continue to learn from each experience that you have, and iy”H when you are married and settled, remember all of this well, and make sure to be there for your single friends and help them through!

Sincerely,
Chana