Category Archives: Archives 5759

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Elul 5759 – Relating to Others After Returning From Seminary

15 Elul 5759

Dear Chana,

Upon coming home from my year in Israel, I recently heard from a friend that the rumor circulating about me is tha I have ‘flipped out.’ One huge lesson that I’ve learned [and shared with this person] this year is that I am not the boss of my life. There is something greater that is in control of me. I don’t know how to deal with ‘friends’ thinking this is something to laugh at. I spent a year in Eretz Yisroel immersed in a beautiful lifestyle full of learning and kedushah. I truly believe, and from the bottom of my heart, love everything that I do and everything that Judaism is about. I feel like I have seen and lived truth and my life has an intensely greater purpose now. This statement that I have ‘flipped out’ hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It takes my whole year, all the emotions and feelings and trivializes it.

I really am very careful not to impress my feelings on anyone else. but it’s so hard not to share them. I hate the fact that society has this need to label everyon as ‘Religious’, ‘Orthodox’, ‘Modern-Oorthodox’, and so on. For example, if a boy is wearing a white shirt and black pants, he is ‘frum’ and if he is wearing a T-shirt and jeans he is ‘Modern-Orthodox’. It’s as if feelings and each individual’s personal relationship with Hashem have been taken out of the picture. How can you label something that comes from the heart? I do know that however much I would like to deny the existence of these labels, they exist and I’m not sure of how to handle them. ………..I feel like an outcast to all of these groups.

I also don’t know how to deal with American Jewry in general [maybe it just exists in NY, or maybe I’m very over-sensitive] I feel as if the most holy things about Judaism are brought down. There is so much competition here about stupidity, such as who has a bigger house and a nicer car. Many people don’t take a minute of their time to enjoy nature and all the beautiful things that Hashem has given us. It kills me that I’m being so judgemental, that is probably half of my problem, but I can’t stand it. I would love to make Aliyah and live a life of Am Yisroel, Toras Yisroel B’Eretz Yisroel in my near future, but right now I’m in NY. The truth is, every day I am growing and learning and trying to become a better person. But, it’s just not the same as in Eretz Yisroel.

I would love some advice on how to deal with ………..well, all of this. Thanks so much, I really truly appreciate it!

[Name and seminary withheld to protect privacy]

It is always so wonderful to hear from a girl who has truly utilized her year in Eretz Yisroel, has struggled and grown, and continues to grow!!!! Good for you! Of course – life offers us continuous Nisyonos, and we are invited to share in the turning of our potentials into actuality, an awesome gift, though sometimes quite difficult. It seems like you have run into some challenges that you now must face and deal with. See it as more opportunities for enhancement.

It is so good that you are acknowledging your feelings of hurt and pain that you are experiencing because of what others think of you. To sort things out in your head and deal with your emotions is a very terrific thing.

A few things to realize as you are meeting up again with the people in your community:
You’ve changed so much. The growth has come in small increments over time, and has been gradual, as you have thought things through, and incorporated them into your life. But these people are seeing you after some time, they see the differences in you, and assume as you say, that you have ‘flipped out’ – as if it was all instantaneous. Which of course is not the case at all.

Also, The possibility of jealousy exists. When people see a young woman with her head on straight, with the right priorities in her life, it should give them pause to think about themselves and their families and contemplate where they are headed. But, unfortunately, it can lead a person to inaction, jealousy, and the need to ‘put down’ that very individual.

I am just trying to give you an idea of ‘their’ perspective, and help you see where these things might be coming from.

Can you see that it is precisely these comments and rumors that can perhaps get you to absolutely crystalize and clarify where you truly stand? This situation can help you to even more appreciate that you know the direction you want to go in life and that you have found true purpose and meaning in your existence. Which leads us into the labeling that you mentioned. Right or wrong – as you said, they exist. Outer clothing is not the total person, of course – but these symbols have become somewhat of a yardstick. When a person wants to align themselves with a certain hashkafa, they need to conform in certain ways – so that their true essence can shine through. The mistake that people make is when there is so much polarization and dislike for whoever is not ‘like me.’ You say you feel like an outcast from all of the groups – but that can’t be true! Wherever it was that you went to seminary, they must have given you hashkafa and hadracha as to how to proceed in your life, and from what you write, you definitely feel that you have experienced the Emes. So, you most certainly fit in somewhere, — think about it.

Yes, the world isn’t as it should be. Lifegoals and ideals on the grand scale are truly twisted. But, as I’ve mentioned before, you can be who you need to be, anywhere in the world. Hashem has given you all the keilim that you need to make the most out of yourself, and you can, as you said, continue to grow and be the best YOU possible. The things that you really feel are wrong or sheker, in the daled amos of your life, work to change them, on whatever scale you can. As you heighten yourself and become a role model for others, more of the Emes can be uncovered. If we only realized how much each of us can change the world by working on ourselves………. kind of like moving that proverbial mountain! Each of us really can change worlds!

Best of everything to you as you go forward to meet your goals.

Sincerely,
Chana

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Elul 5759 – Maintaining Your Growth From Seminary

15 Menachem Av 5759

Dear Chana,

I’ve just arrived home from a year in Sem. During that year I broke many bad habits and formed a much healthier attitude. Now I am back in my home, full of old memories, feeling the way I behaved in the past and the attitudes that went with it. I am very worried about slipping back into those bad habits. I really want to retain my healthier happier attitude about Jewish Life and Hashem. I’m especially worried about meeting up with people from the past. I’m finding it hard to stick to my guns and not get back into my old social patterns. Would you be able to help me? I want to be strong in myself without feeling like I am stepping on toes.

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Chayil 5759

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I came back from Seminary about a year ago and I still can’t get over how inspiring it was to go to class each day. During my last year in high school I finally began to appreciate learning and how much my teachers had to offer. Better late than never, I guess. When I came to seminary, I was determined to get the most out of every minute I spent in the classroom. Fortunately, that didn’t take too much effort because I truly loved every single teacher and class. I couldn’t get enough of it and I was even considering returning for another year, but I was unable to.

Now that I am back in America and college, I can no longer take advantage of the learning that was offered to me on a daily basis. I alone must make the effort to learn without anyone else handing it to me on a silver platter. The problem is that in a classroom I feel I can learn much more by being part of a discussion, participating, and asking questions when something is unclear. Now all I have are Shiurim which, to be honest, I don’t enjoy very much. It’s much harder to pay attention to a speech, especially when it’s usually addressing a topic that I’ve heard many times before. I go to Shiurim when there is a special guest speaker that I find especially inspiring. How can one continue to learn and find inspiration once one leaves the classroom?

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Torah Institute 5758

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Dear All,

I’m a big believer in lists. Make a list of all the things that you gained and took on while you were in Israel. Think of all the opinions that you formed, the thoughts that you had as your world widened. Remember with each thing what you felt when you learned it, when you made it part of your life. Look at this list every day – keep to it. Surround yourself with growing friends, share your thoughts and triumphs with them as well as your setbacks, be M’chazik each other. Seek out teachers or married couples who can be role models for you, so you can continue to learn from others. Tell yourself that you know who you really are and where you really want to be going. Keep alive that firm resolve that you felt when you left Eretz Yisroel, and keep away from things and environments that keep you away from your goals.

A person can be who they really need to be anywhere in the world. Yes, Eretz Yisroel was a gift [on that silver platter] and a gem of an opportunity. Continue to make it part of you and let all those things LIVE through you. You CAN do it!

About continuing learning and classes that are available to you now: Well, you said it, in your own words, You, and You alone must make the effort now. DO go to Shiurim that you find particularly interesting – this is terrific! My father used to say that if you can come away from a lecture with one clear thought to hold close to you, than going and listening was completely worthwhile. So when you go to classes be fine tuned and on the look out for at least one thing to come away with – perhaps write it down [another list!] and keep a page of just such insights. Seek out other, perhaps, smaller classes or learning groups that you CAN participate in. There is so much available everywhere today, that you should be able to find something. Get a chavrusa once or twice a week and learn something together that really excites you. Always be choosing and reading an English Judaica book, just for a few minutes each day. There is so much out now and such fascinating things. One to try: ‘Seasons of Life’ – it’ll give you an amazing glimpse into nature and how it all completely relates to Torah! You also may want to see my column from 1 Nissan – entitled ‘Maintaining spirituality in Chutz L’aretz after Sem’.

Don’t sink into complacency – keep striving and yearning. Make your Hishtadlus today!

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Av 5759 – How to Know When to Begin Dating

15 Menachem Av 5759

Dear Chana,

I recently came back from seminary and am now in college. Personally I decided that I wasn’t ready to start dating right away even though it seems that the rest of my classmates are dropping like flies! There are a few reasons why I didn’t start:

1] I didn’t want to date just because everyone else was, even though I felt the pressure a little bit, because I knew I wasn’t ready for such a big step.

2] I have an older sister who is not yet married. That’s where the problem comes in. My older sister has been dating for a while but she’s still young [only 22]. I don’t want to get married before her so I decided to wait. We discussed the possibility that I might start dating and she told me that she didn’t mind and that I shouldn’t wait for her. I decided that if something came up that sounded good, I would consider it. Now that I started dating, I see that it hurts her a lot, even though she doesn’t say so. I don’t really want to wait, but I also don’t want to hurt her. What should I do?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. It’s really comforting to know that there is someone out there that is there to listen. I really appreciate it. [Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Torah Institute 5758

I have a question dealing with dating. I just got back from seminary this past year, and people keep asking me if I am ready to date. I tell them that I don’t know yet.

Then, there are issues with college and marriage. My 3 brothers are married, and I am the only one left. I don’t know what to think or say. I would like to go out and see how it is, but I don’t know if I want a guy who will work or also learn.

I had to go to alot of highschools because I have a small learning disability, and different places didn’t work out for different reasons. Will that be a problem for me in dating?

Thanks for your time.
[Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Chayil 5759

My father recently asked friends to recommend a shadchanit for me, and I am not sure how ready I am to go on a shidduch. I was told to at least try it out first to see for myself, but isn’t that toying with a serious thing? I’m not exactly sure of what I should know before dating. For example – do I want a full time learner in kollel or someone who both works and learns? I have so many fundamental questions. I don’t think that I am ready yet! How confusing!

I always felt like I was ready to date, but when my father told me he found me a shadchanit, I became scared. I can’t believe that I am at an age and stage to even seriously consider it. Could you help me? [Name withheld to protect privacy]
Bnot Chayil 5759

Dear All,

Dating is certainly the call of the hour! This time period of life can be quite confusing, as there is much to consider and comtemplate.

How does one know that she is ready to date? These might be some indicators – ask yourself these questions: Do I know who I am? Do I see my positive Middos, and the ones that are not so positive, in a clear light, and am I working on both? The pre-dating stage should be a time to learn about yourself and enhance. Also, understanding yourself better and knowing what you are made of can help you see with a clarity more of who you need to be looking for – in terms of being mashlim YOU in certain areas.

Do I know where I am headed? Have I thought about life goals, and what is really important to live for? If you don’t know which direction you’re headed, this could be a big problem. People can’t build a life together unless they share a clear sense of the life they want to build. Shared life goals and shared values and priorities create a structure which unites 2 people and helps them make a life together.

So hashkafically:

Am I ready to really GIVE? Again, the pre-dating stage is one of discovery of oneself, going to classes and learning – applying it all to one’s life. It is more of a self-focused time. Am I ready to move from this stage? Marriage is very much other-focused. As we know, giving is truly what will bring the deeper, real love. Marriage really means [among other things] stepping outside of oneself and really trying to figure out what the other needs, lacks, and wants, this offers the opportunity to explore new ways of seeing, feeling, and behaving.

You also may want to take a look at my column from 1 Shevat – entitled ‘Yeshivish’ which gives some good pointers about priorities.

Getting the answers to these questions can give you a good idea where you stand with this topic.

Marriage is a mega-serious decision, which takes a lot of thought.

It is also a recommended idea to have a person who is older than yourself and married, whom you admire and respect, to talk to after the dates, and use as a sounding board. This really helps you clarify what you are thinking and feeling.

As far as [letter #1] your older sister, it seems to me that if you did discuss it with her and she agreed that you could date, it should be ok. If you are feeling very uneasy about it, perhaps you would want to talk with her again, but this time make sure that you voice your feelings about wanting to date now, and the two of you should talk it out honestly. Of course, if you do decide to continue dating, you must be very aware of what your sister might be feeling and treat the situations that come up with sensitivity and gentleness. Maybe you could get her to glance at my column from 1 Kislev – entitled “Dating and Sisters”. Hatzlacha to all of you, and may you find your Basherts at the ‘Sha’a Tova’!!!!!

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Av 5759 – Relating to Engaged Friends

1 Menachem Av 5759

Dear Chana,

My question is one that many girls at this stage in life ask. How are we to deal with our newly engaged friends? Now, I know that there isn’t one general answer, because every friendship is different, and every kallah behaves differently.

My closest friend is newly engaged. As her friend I feel such a mix of emotions that get really confusing at times. On the one hand, I am so, so happy for her, and I am thrilled to share in her simcha, but, on the other hand, I can’t help but feel sad over the fact that our friendship will never be the same. All the things that she once shared with me are now being shared with her chosson. I am left with a deep void. I understand that it is important for a chosson and kallah to share their innermost thoughts and feelings in order to develop a deep connection. But, how should I be dealing with the loss that I feel. Suddenly, I find myself hesitating before picking up the phone to call my “best” friend, for fear that the voice on the other end will sound dissappointed that it is “only” me calling. I find myself holding back all that I’d love to share with her, because it just doesn’t seem important to her anymore. I can’t help but feel hurt that I miss her so much, and she doesn’t seem to miss me at all. I also find myself feeling guilty, that I am not 1000% happy for her.

From talking to other girls, this scenario seems to be the “norm” to some degree, but each individual situation is different. It seems that the closer the friendship, the more painful it is. Everyone has their own way of dealing with this, and I know that “this too shall pass”, and there will be a time that the “tables will turn”. What is your advice on dealing with kallahs while still remaining a true and giving friend? Is there a place for a friend, during engagement and in the years to follow?

[Name & seminary withheld to protect privacy]

The 1st thing that I would like to do is to commend you for being honest with yourself and recognizing that you are feeling these kind of emotions! The feelings of loss and hurt are very real and very normal. By acknowledging them on some level and not pushing them away – you are in fact helping yourself to deal with them.

So what advice can I give you about this? A lot of the solution comes through exactly what YOU said. To be a true and giving friend. In life there is much give and take one to another. A big part of the concept of friendship is giving, as we are well aware from Michtav M’Eliyahu. What you are feeling right now is the fact that she is pulling back from giving to you right now because of her engagement and all that that involves – but what you must realize is that this most probably does not mean that she wants less of a friendship with you. You are still very important to her. Just because someone gets engaged and married doesn’t mean that they dump their friends and that their chassan/husband is the only one in the world! It only SEEMS that way because it is a very exciting time and there are a flurry of emotions. The truth is even though the Kallah has found a mate and they will be starting a new life together, she still very much needs her friends to go through it all with her. In our Simcha times as well as our Sad times, we really do need others to join in with us. With others celebrating with us in our Simcha times, it so very much enhances our joy [as in all the guests and well-wishers, the notes and phone calls with a Bris, Kiddush, or Wedding]. And for those sad times having people around you who care about you can really help a person cope.

So, it is Bein Adom L’chavero time in a big way! Here is your big chance to really work on it! Be there for her, be enthusiastic, offer to go shopping with her for the myriad of things that she needs. Be there to share in her joy. Be happy for her like you would like her to be happy for you. Help with pre-wedding things. Run errands. Dance with her at the wedding with great happiness and emotion. Become part of her Simcha, it DOES enhance it for her. That is what truly caring for another means, even if some of this hurts.

Remember Dovid and Yonason? Well, they were both married, and the Navi shows us what a beautiful and true friendship they had. When things die down, and life gets into a routine, even though she will be married, you can still have a wonderful and deep friendship with her. The fact is girls still need their girlfriends and guys still need their guy friends – that really doesn’t change.

So if you focus on really giving in a lot of ways during this time in her life, not only are you enhancing yourself by working on this Middah, but you are also deepening her joy. After all the dust settles, and she can appreciate how much you were really there for her, you should be able to enjoy a long and enduring friendship! So the answer to your final question is MOST CERTAINLY, ABSOLUTELY, there is a place for a friend during the engagement and in the years to follow! The topics of conversation may change and shift some, [throughout the years] but the sharing in each others lives can continue to bring you closer and closer.

Persevere!

Sincerely,
Chana

Archives

Tammuz 5759 – Parents and Dating

15 Tammuz 5759

Dear Chana,

Generally speaking, if a girl’s parent’s aren’t frum and she is extremely frum and wants to start dating, but she is only 19, and is very ready to get married, and her parents would never let the idea into their heads that their daughter can get engaged at 19 or 20, would you suggest that the girl should push off her dating career because of her parents, or should she just go ahead with the process?

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
5759

There can be no real, clear-cut, simplified answers with out knowing more details about you and your family and your relationship with your parents. Ideally, you should speak to someone [your Rav] who can deal with your specific case personally.

But I am happy to give you a few pointers.

If your parents are good, decent, rational people, you must work with them. Help them to understand where you are coming from, and try to give them a glimpse into the frum world of dating and marriage. The secular concepts of these issues differ greatly from our sphere. Your parents probably don’t have a clue as to what it is all about. Many times, once a parent [or anyone ] is shown about aspects of Torah, and that the system [in whichever area] works, they will come to see the wisdom in why we go about it the way we do.

Perhaps your parents think that your becoming frum is just a passing stage and that it won’t stick. Right now may not be a time to escape into marriage. Firstly, you need to win your parents over to your choice of lifestyle, and help them to understand more about it, and why it is that you chose it. Many parents, once they see that their child is thinking rationally, that this doesn’t appear to be a passing stage, and that the child infact is living a quality life, will acquiesce, choosing their child’s happiness over difference of outlook on life and religion. You need to build your parents trust in you, and allow them to view your world. You probably need to be doing alot of the talking – but perhaps it would also help to have your Rav or a person that you respect very much speak with them as well. [If they are open to this.]

You should try very hard to make sure issues like these do not create big gaps in your relationship with your parents. And when it is time to start dating, make sure that among the list of things that you are looking for in a guy, you put high on the list a guy that your parents can identify with. You should certainly be able to find an Emesdik Ben Torah who can relate well to a family situation in which the parents are modern. Communicate, let your parents into your life, and let them feel a part of things! Help them to understand that it isn’t that they have ‘lost’ a daughter – but that there is an enhanced YOU in their lives and now at this point they stand to gain a refined and magnificent son in law as well! [Not to mention adorable grandchildren!]

All the best to you!
Sincerely,
Chana