Jan 20, 2011

Attenuated Discipline Disorder (ADD)

I listened to a lecture by Dr. Pelcovitz (a frum psychologist) in which he tells of a call he got two or three years ago from a principal, asking him to come and give a series of lectures on raising kids to be a mentch.  The principal conveyed a sense of urgency and when asked what prompted the call he said, the preschool class was invited to a 5 year old's birthday party which took place at a Manhattan disco complete with DJ.  Parents called to complain so the principal called the birthday child's mother and said, how can you make a disco party for a 5 year old?! Her answer was, "But he asked ..."

As Dr. Pelcovitz said, children can't thrive if love isn't balanced with limits and there is an erosion in parents' ability to say no.

Well, that certainly confirms what I've been thinking about, off and on, for the past long while, that the malady of our generation is not that we're not esteeming ourselves enough but that we lack discipline. I've come up with a catchy way to remember this disorder. It's the initials ADD (Attenuated Discipline Disorder), not coincidentally, the same acronym for another popular disorder. 

When parents are finding it hard to say no to little children, is it any wonder that people are growing up and not saying "no more" when they've had enough to eat and "no" to behaviors unbecoming or worse for Torah Jews?

When how we feel about everything is given the utmost attention and respect and this is deemed more important than obedience/kabbolas ol to what parents, teachers and ultimately Hashem says, we are going to reach a point where all sorts of unacceptable behaviors are elevated to the category of "mental/emotional health disorders" and medication and various therapies are seen as the cure rather than improved middos.  I'm afraid we've reached that point.  It's unfortunate because disciplined living is best learned at very young ages when parents instill structure and values such as seder/routines.  It's hard to retrain ourselves but we must! Here's hoping that we will start hearing lectures and reading articles about discipline and self control.  It will be quite a refreshing and welcome change.

Jan 14, 2011

Which Mitzvos Do You Love to Do?

It's an interesting question to think about: Which mitzvos do you love to do? Which mitzvos do you look forward to doing?

I would hope that those who devote themselves to Torah study would say they love learning Torah!

I am sure that many, if not most, people would refer to some holiday or Shabbos as something they look forward to.

My answers are: keeping Shabbos, learning and teaching Torah, sitting in the succa, giving tzedaka to worthy causes ...

Jan 11, 2011

Why Don't You Live in Eretz Yisrael?

If you don't live in Eretz Yisrael, what would you answer a sincere non-Jew who asks you, "I've read in the Bible how G-d gave Israel to the Jews.  How come you don't live there?"

You can think about the question if you were asked on an individual basis and then you can think about the question if it was posed on a collective basis - how come most Jews don't live in Israel? Or, how come so many religious Jews don't live in Israel?

Answers about chinuch and parnassa seem inadequate.

Jan 9, 2011

From the Heart

Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin received a letter from a bachur in Monsey who wrote to him that he attends a yeshiva for boys who have difficulties learning.  The bachur said he thought of what he could give to help SM.  He doesn't have money to offer and as for chizuk, well, he gets that from SM! So instead, he and the other boys in this yeshiva pledged 10,000 daf Gemara in his merit and they learned 3000 already!

Rather extraordinary and made all the more so when the bachur explained how learning is difficult for them!

Jan 7, 2011

You Rabbonim Created this Generation

Rabbi Z. Wallerstein * had a high school shabbaton in his house and he was surprised to see that his mother-in-law didn't seem to be enjoying it.  She said to him – Why are you nice to them even though they're not doing what they're supposed to? I went through the Holocaust. I was 7 years old when I was sent from Poland to Siberia, put in an orphanage, a little Jewish chassidishe girl among goyim, let out only to attend my young father's funeral, he died of typhus, my grandfather died, my whole family died, I only had my little brother. I had such a rough life and nobody let me feel sorry for myself. Why are you letting these girls feel sorry for themselves? Why don't you tell them to lift their heads and live life! Stop letting them feel sorry for themselves!

R' Wallerstein was taken aback, though what she said was along his lines of thinking because, as he said, he does not reward bad behavior.

She said I understand they are going through hard times but you are killing them. By letting them feel sorry for themselves you're not letting them step up and live life.

R' Wallerstein said it's a new generation …
She said, you rabbonim, you teachers, you in chinuch, created this generation.
* R' Wallerstein has been in chinuch for 30 years.  Most recently his specialty is in-reach with his extremely popular class for girls/women Wed. night and a chabura for boys Tues. night.  He started a high school for girls who are not fitting in anywhere else.

Jan 4, 2011

Don't, It's Forbidden versus Do, It's Good for You

Someone proposed that instead of the signs in shul that say, "Assur l'daber ..." - it's forbidden to speak during the davening, the chazoras ha'shatz, kerias ha'Torah, the signs should say something like, "Praiseworthy is the one who refrains from talking ..."

Then today, someone shared a thought - all the restrictions of Shabbos, you can't do this and you can't do that, are that which enable you to experience the beauty of Shabbos.

I'm all in favor of beauty and being positive but I am wary when people propose emphasizing the positive exclusively.  If you don't state clearly that something is forbidden and you only say what wonderful things will occcur if you do things right, I think we will be getting only half the picture and half a picture is a distortion of the truth. 

It is claimed that today's generation can't be told things in negative terms, they reject that, they need to be explained why and see the beauty.  I'm not so sure.  But then again, maybe I'm not today's generation! If I am told that something is outright forbidden, I know where I stand.  It's clearly off-limits.  If I'm told about the brachos I'll get if I do the right thing, well, I want brachos, but it's just not as compelling to me as being told: danger! stay away! If I'm told I'll be praiseworthy if I do this, I may not be interested, so I won't be praiseworthy ... not a big deal.

 Would we write on a bottle of bleach or other dangerous product: If you ingest products other than this, such as actual food, you will be so much better off! Or do we write: Danger! Poison! If accidentally ingested, call Poison Control.

I understand that different times and different cultures require different approaches but certain things need to stay the same because they are Torah and Torah is Truth for all time.  I note that there are 248 Positive Mitzvos and 365 Prohibitions.  Oh my! So many more negative mitzvos than positive ones! Why is that so? I don't know.  Yet it tells me that G-d sees fit to couch most of His mitzvos in the form of "don't" rather than "do" (though some mitzvos are written in both the positive and the negative). 

What is the bigger motivator for you to keep halacha - knowing how it's good for you or knowing the negative consequences if you don't keep it?