Dec 28, 2016

Don't Mess with Blessings

True story as heard from the person it happened to:

Mesila here, the Baltimore based organization that coaches struggling families with the financial skills and encouragement to get them out of crisis, poverty and dependence, was available for consultation in a certain neighborhood.  This person went to speak to them.

He showed the rep his papers with information about his and his wife's income and their expenses and at a certain point the Mesila rep said: Stop right there.  "Blessing is found in that which is concealed from the eye," says the Gemara.  I do not understand how you are not in debt.  According to what you showed me thus far, it makes no sense.  So let us not delve any further.

I'm impressed! Here's an organization that is all about budgeting, making rational decisions, and not relying on miracles.  But when encountering someone whose financial situation does not make rational sense, i.e. considering his income and expenses it makes no sense that he is not in debt, the Mesila person was willing to bow out.  Sometimes, you need to leave things alone.

a previous post about Mesila here

Dec 27, 2016

Housekeeper Needed

A grateful husband wrote to Family First thanking them for his wife's recovery.  He says they have four children, the last three born one after another.  After the last one, his wife could not get back to herself for a long time and constantly had a feeling of drowning, everything was too much for her.  She spent a lot of time crying and it was hard for everyone.      (sorry, I can't fix the size of this paragraph)

Then his wife read the magazine's article on postpartum depression and found that it described her feelings and symptoms.  The article described Nitza, an organization that helps women with PPD and it was wonderful for her.  "Now, as my wife has finished her medication and is, baruch Hashem, completely back to herself," he wanted to thank the publication.

With four children, and three born one after another, it's no wonder that she felt that it was too much for her.  The husband doesn't tell us whether she was working too. 

My question is, what if she had full-time help, would she feel like she was drowning? What if she had part-time help? Whether the help was to clean and do laundry and food preparation, and/or help with the babies, would she then need medication? I think it's highly unlikely.  Why is there a psychiatric diagnosis and medical treatment for women who need physical help?

see previous post here and here

Another thought, more controversial -
When we're feeling down, we often look to the future and dread what may happen.  The woman who had three children, one after another, could very well have thought - and what if I have another child again soon? If I'm not managing now, yet another child will put me over the edge!

Perhaps this is why getting a medical diagnosis was helpful to her.  It enabled her to tell a rav that she is on medication and cannot have another child again soon.  Do women have to be desperate, spend a lot of time crying, and end up at a psychiatrist, in order to prove their inability to have another child?
I'm not saying that she was playacting or that her behavior was premeditated.  I think her feeling overwhelmed was normal and justified. But that third child's birth wasn't a surprise.  It took nine months for it to be born.  Was she thinking she'll just go back to work after three months (maternity leave in Israel) and life would go on as before with the addition of a newborn? Was she looking around her and seeing other women with even more children who work and thinking she should be able to manage just like them? The only way for her to "prove" that she is different than "everybody else," was to become "sick," get a diagnosis and medication. 

There has to be a better way.

Dec 23, 2016

Another Book Come to life!

What an interesting week this has been!

Two posts and three days ago, I wrote about meeting Yossi Wallis, the subject of the book I had just finished reading.

Yesterday, I met Ruth Lichtenstein, who is the heroine of the book I wrote about last month here.  Her husband was there too and I sat there and thought, wow, here are the people out of the book I read! I would have loved to have been able to tell her how special her daughter made her out to be, but did not think she would appreciate a mention of that book.  Especially when her identity is disguised in the book.  So I kept quiet.

Dec 21, 2016

You are Invited to the Internet

There is a full page ad from the Agudah, thanking the 2000 attendees of their convention and over 100,000 viewers.  The ad says, "Experience the Agudah Convention - videos, audios, pictures at"

I recently heard a lecture, online, by R' Frand, rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore, whose topic was the constant connection to our phones/Internet, in which he said he has a Smartphone. This is the very device that would supposedly prohibit him from entering R' Chaim Kanievsky's home and would pasul him (make him ineligible) from giving eidus (testimony) according to R' Shteinman and R' Wosner.  And yet, with this ad from the Agudah, we are thanked for watching sessions of the Convention online and are encouraged to go to their website! Sounds like very different "daas Torah" views ...


Dec 20, 2016


The eeriness continues.
I went to be menachem avel by the children of R' Pinchus Gross.  No sooner did I tell them what I wrote in my previous post, how I had been reading about their father in the book about Yossi Wallis and Arachim, and a few hours later, heard about his passing, then ... Yossi Wallis walked into the room, to be menachem avel! There was the subject of the book I had been reading over the past two weeks, in real life!
Here are some interesting points that I heard at the shiva house that relate to us all:
Wallis said that R' Pinchus always wanted to hear details about the people who attended the Arachim seminars.  To him, it wasn't about numbers, but about the individuals.  Some organizations have to prove themselves with numbers.  Their donors want to know how many people attended their events.  They want to know that their monetary support is worthwhile.  R' Pinchus wanted to know how people were affected by the seminars - who committed to shemiras Shabbos, kashrus etc. Wallis said this attitude has affected his staff.
From the book I gathered that R' Pinchus and Chaim Gross were wealthy people.  After all, they donated a million dollars a year to Arachim! I was surprised to hear that R' Pinchus went around to bungalow colonies, yeshivas and shul and made appeals for Arachim.  Someone said that in the Shomrei Shabbos shul, he made an appeal in minyan after minyan in this "minyan factory," and it was a different speech each time!
So in addition to their own money that they gave to Arachim, R' Pinchus fundraised for this cause that he believed in.  This was not a new interest to him since back in Europe he had started Beis Yaakov schools and worked to convince people to send their daughters there.
One last incident - R' Pinchus was in the mountains, staying with his daughter.  She noticed that his bekeshe in the closet needed to be cleaned so she brought it to the cleaners.  The next day, he asked where his bekeshe was and she told him - the cleaners.  Oy, he had put money that he had collected for Arachim into a pocket of the bekeshe.  The money was not retrieved and although he had no halachic obligation to replace it, he calculated the amount, about $900 and replaced it.

Dec 18, 2016


I just finished reading Incredible! by Nachman Seltzer.  Despite the ridiculous title (will his next book be called Wow! or Extraordinary!), it truly is an incredible story about Yossi Wallis, the CEO of Arachim.
I knew quite a few of the major stories of the book because they had been written up previously, about what sparked Wallis' return to Judaism, about his grandfather dying al Kiddush Hashem at the end of the war, about his father being moser nefesh for tefillin in Auschwitz, about his early Spanish roots, about the Nazi-Jew who saved his father and even the parrot story (previously printed in Einei Hashem). 
I had an odd hashgacha pratis happen yesterday.  Toward the end I read about his biggest donors, Pinchus and Chaim Gross.  I recognized the names as close relatives of a relative of mine.  Then last night, I was informed of the passing of Pinchus Gross, at the age of 104. That was eerie, hearing about his passing when I had just been talking about him a few hours earlier, a rare occurrence.

Dec 8, 2016

Annoyingly Wonderful

When it's before Yom Tov, especially a "3 day Yom Tov," and there is so much food prepared, so many bottles of drinks, so much challa, so many containers to store away, and it looks impossible to fit everything into the fridge and freezer, I've said - this is good! True, it's hard to arrange it all, but that's because there is so much food and that's good!

I read an article in which the author gives this type of scenario a good descriptive phrase.  Peshie Needleman calls it, "annoyingly wonderful." The examples she gives are of her toddler who is up way too late, just not falling asleep, and she is frustrated until she thinks about how he recently had a virus and was lethargic and napping a lot.  When he was better and full of energy too late in the evening, it was annoying but wonderful too.

She says "annoyingly wonderful" are those things that are annoying, frustrating but come from brachos like having children and a spouse and a house and an abundance of food, so they are wonderful.  "Blessing-based annoyances should not be taken too seriously," she says, and she's right.

Dec 4, 2016

Rebbe's Message Re-Packaged

I listened to Rabbi Yitzchak Sorotzkin's address at the Aguda Convention and it was quite astonishing.  His two main points were: 1) we cannot be satisfied with our personal growth, it needs to bother us that Yidden out there are not aware of Torah and mitzvos, we need to follow Avrohom Avinu and reach out, Avrohom was loved by Hashem because he increased kvod shomayim in the world, he did not just look out for himself, when we know how many children don't know what a Gemara is how can we be complacent? Did we do everything we could to get them to recognize there is a G-d and bring them closer to Him? and 2) the chilul Hashem in the world should bother us, we should be asking for the Geula wholeheartedly and if we did, it would come already.
If not for the Litvishe world's jargon and way of putting things, I would have thought he was a representative of Chabad, conveying the Lubavitcher Rebbe's message!