Here are Rav Itamar Schwartz's words in full (copied from the above link):
Droshos - Be Yourself
"The Geulah will come when we don't copy others,
but live from our own discovered truth."
Quote from here:
An Effective & Interesting Teshuvah Exercise with 4 Main Questions from Rebbetzin Tziporah (Heller) Gottleib
From the Na'aleh newsletter for Parshat Re'eh, Rebbetzin Tziporah (Heller) Gottleib provides down-to-earth insight and targeted questions to help us get where we need to go (subheadings my own addition for easier reading):
What Elul Gives Us That Other Months Don't
Just to sum up, here are the prime questions to ask as you examine your life:
And when she advises not to be judgmental when deciding which events were important in your life at that time, I think it means you need to be honest about what you truly found important, and not what others consider important.
For example, the twin sisters born to your family when you were 5 will be considered an important event by others, but maybe you experienced it as happening around you in a vague fog.
Instead, perhaps the new shoes you received around that time seem much more important to you; you still retain memories of the shoes' details and how they made you feel.
So don't judge the importance according to anyone's standards except your own.
Growing up as girl in the Eighties, the surrounding culture beat into our heads the idea that we could behave and dress however we wanted.
Any negative consequences were never considered the results of our behavior (though in private people understood otherwise).
Outside of learning self-defense techniques, martial arts, or carrying a gun, there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves — nor did we need to, we were told.
We had THE RIGHT.
Yes, The Right to do whatever we wanted & go wherever we wanted & behave however we wanted...regardless of consequences.
Not matter how much survival instinct and just plain common sense says otherwise, this was & continues to be the message to girls.
But no one ever applies this kind of recklessness to any other situation.
For example, driving with situational awareness through a safari during the day in a sturdy car is okay.
It still involves some risk, yet many people do it with no negative consequences.
But strolling through a safari on foot at night when predatory animals are awake and on the prowl?
Hello, good ol' common sense (with regard to 4-legged predators).
And good-bye, common sense (with regard to 2-legged predators).
(And yes, college campuses are rife with 2-legged predatory "animals" cruising the bars in search of drunk young females on their own. If you speak with those who answer the calls on college crises hotlines, you'll discover this is THE most common situation in which college females are violated.)
Your Right to Cross at the Crosswalk However & Whenever You Want?
Let’s look at another example:
The answer to all the above, of course, is YES.
However, if you say: “I have the RIGHT to cover myself head to toe in black and cross on a crosswalk at night WITHOUT making sure drivers can actually see me AND WITHOUT checking for oncoming cars will stop...because crossing a crosswalk dressed however I want and at whatever moment I want is my RIGHT as a pedestrian” — then such an attitude could easily cause injury or death to the crossing pedestrian.
First of all, cars can’t see you.
And most drivers WANT to see you. They don’t want to hit you.
Second of all, there are dysfunctional drivers.
There are drivers who are tired or stressed or distracted. There are reckless drivers who speed and don’t check for pedestrians at crosswalks.
There are people driving while drunk or high.
Regardless of your right as a pedestrian, common sense and the instinct for self-preservation tells you before crossing at a crosswalk, you must make sure that any oncoming cars are going to stop.
For normal drivers, making sure you’re seen is enough. The moment they see you, they slow down and stop.
But for dysfunctional drivers, you need more caution.
Because you don’t know the drivers of the vehicles, you need to size up the situation before crossing the street.
Is the car speeding? Is it driving erratically? Is it slowing? Does it seem like the driver can see you? Is the driver paying attention?
If you want to cross while wearing all black at night, you need to take even more precautions, like wearing or holding something reflective or making double-sure there are no oncoming cars.
And because drinking alcohol impairs you judgement, you need to pay extra attention (even ask for help) — even if you’re dressed in all-white and crossing in daylight.
Because the DRIVERS aren't reliable.
If you're really drunk, maybe you shouldn't cross the street at all.
Or maybe you should find a friend to walk or drive you home.
Things You'll Never Hear People Say...Except to Girls & Women to Deny Them the Basic Right to Self-Preservation
Regarding crossing streets, no one says stupid things like:
We all recognize that, while a drunk or reckless driver is COMPLETELY at fault, it is in the pedestrians best interest (and SELF-interest) to take all precautions necessary BECAUSE of the risk of drunk, reckless, distracted, or tired drivers.
Note: It should be acknowledged the above isn’t the perfect parallel because most drivers don’t mean to hit pedestrians, yet men who violate women generally mean to do it. But the mashal of how a person needs to protect herself — even when it’s her “right” to do as she pleases — still holds true.
For example, even in the case of predatory animals actively looking for prey, the same precautions apply to a woman who wants to walk through a safari at night or to a woman walking down a street roamed by wild dogs. She simply should not do it. And if she finds herself in such a situation, she certainly should not go there drunk!
Let's Encourage All Females to Conduct Themselves with the Same Self-Preserving Sensibility of Crossing a Street
Since its inception, feminism worked toward the dumbing-down of women and girls.
It’s true that women today are more intellectual and sophisticated than ever before.
But they aren’t as savvy.
(I'm serious. Talk to simple women from non-Western cultures where women had few rights. They're much savvier, possess much more common sense.)
Before the Seventies, women tended to handle situations with so much more common sense and wisdom.
And now, you can talk to a woman with, for example, a doctorate in calculus, and she can turn out to me one of the dumbest, most illogical people you have ever talked to.
(No, not always. And a lot of intellectual men are stupid twits, too. University professors in particular lack common sense. But this post focuses on the influence of the feminist movement on women, not men.)
And unfortunately, there will always be bad and/or drunk men until Mashiach comes.
And yes, it’s their fault if they hurt any female through their badness and drunkenness.
And yes, they should be punished.
But throwing young women into their path and brainwashing young woman against protecting themselves against such animals is outright cruel and heartless.
Here's a link to a short yet interesting interview with talented frum author Ben Ackerman of Open When You Are:
To read this blog's review of the book, please click this link, then scroll down:
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
A few months ago, we had what I thought was a mouse problem.
It wasn’t the first time, but it hadn’t happened for years.
Because they’re cute (along the lines of hamsters and gerbils), I’m not afraid of or disgusted by the mice themselves.
But I cannot tolerate their droppings or the idea of them running across clean towels, counters, and anything else ruining good hygiene.
Also, because the father mouse comes to check out a place before bringing his family, any signs of a mouse (or even worse, the actual mouse itself), means you’re not dealing with one mouse, but five or more (the father, his wife, and kids).
(And if you see two or three mice, you’re actually dealing with MANY more.)
Singing the Rodents' Songs
So upon being startled by the sight of a mouse leaping from a stack of towels to the windowsill in the laundry room (a particularly large & robust mouse, I noted), I realized we needed to tackle the problem immediately.
Sara Yoheved Rigler’s famous saga with a rat came to mind.
My Rat's Tale – https://aish.com/48909007/
SPOILER ALERT (IF YOU DIDN'T READ THE ARTICLE YET)!
Rav Scheinberger advised her to go according to the song of the rat in Perek Shirah (which indicates the need to increase gratitude):
חֻלְדָּה אוֹמֶרֶת. כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ. (תהילים קנ ו)
The Rat says: Every soul shall praise God — Hallelukah! (Tehillim 150:6)
Indeed, Rigler’s increase in gratitude led to the cessation of the rat.
So I looked up the song of the mouse:
עַכְבָּר אוֹמֵר. וְאַתָּה צַדִּיק עַל כׇּל־הַבָּא עָלַי כִּי־אֱמֶת עָשִׂיתָ וַאֲנִי הִרְשָֽׁעְתִּי׃ (נחמיה ט לג)
The Mouse says: And You are Just about everything that has come upon us because You have performed truth and we have been wicked.
Assuming it indicated the need to invest more deeply in cheshbon hanefesh, I started doing that—accompanied by practical hishtadlus too, like keeping doors and screens closed all the time.
And I waited expectantly for the nisayon to end.
A Particularly Crafty Intruder
Then the mouse entered via a hole in the screen where the dryer's lint funnel stuck out.
So I taped the hole around the funnel with silver duct tape.
But that night, I heard the funnel rustling, and discovered holes bitten into the papery funnel, which enable the mouse to bypass the taped-up hole in the screen.
So duct tape went on to those holes too.
But now we feared the mouse was trapped IN the house.
I continued to do what I could according to the Song of the Mouse.
An Urban Horror Comes to Life
The next morning I woke up to the voice of my husband saying, “Hey, there’s a mouse in the toilet!”
That's a phrase you never think you'll hear in real life.
It's also not something I want to hear first thing in the morning. Or anytime at all. Ever.
After a quick netilas yadayim, our then-six-year-old and I came to look.
There it was, with its cute hamster-like face, its black eyes bulging as it twitched to look at each of us in hopeful desperation.
I was surprised to see that, rather than ducking away from us in fear, he seemed to view us like the main character viewed potential mommies in the book Are You My Mother?
Are you my salvation? he seemed to ask as he looked at each of us in eager hope.
(In case you’re wondering, it seems he entered via the slightly open bathroom window, which stands near the mouse’s usual entry point next to the dryer funnel hose.)
At this point, you need to know my husband holds very strongly by the Arizal’s injunction against killing living creatures, no matter how pesky or repellent.
(Being not the epitome of an ishah kasherah/a kosher wife, I totally ignore my husband's injunction when dealing with cockroaches or spiders. And I've killed scorpions twice — one as big as my fist.)
So hubby did his usual thing where he spreads his arms out as if to block a stampede and proclaimed, “No one kill it!”
(As if either my young son or I had the wherewithal or the desire to kill a small mammal.)
When we all exited, my husband again issued his usual proclamation in these situations: “We will not kill it! The Arizal says not to kill." He paused for emphasis. "We will take it outside.”
(This is how these situations always go with him. I respect him for this position, BTW, even if I cannot always abide by it.)
Taking the mouse outside, of course, demanded the use of today’s much-envied “male privilege”—which includes the great “privilege” of dealing with rodents in toilet bowls before Shacharis AND breakfast. In pajamas and slippers.
After all, that’s certainly not a job for women! (Ha!)
But how on earth...?
We didn’t need to wonder long about how our Arizal-devotee intended to extract the mouse.
He asked for any ladle and a container I would never need again. Ever.
He found the container, I found a broken milchig pasta ladle, and we were all set for my husband to carry out his lofty male privilege.
I cringed in a corner of the hallway in case anything went wrong, but our son stood right next to his father to watch the proceedings (because this is a really awesome way to start the day if you're a 6-year-old boy...ever notice how events found stressful by adults tend to be experienced by children as supreme joy & excitement?)
As my husband bravely exited with the mouse in the container & holding the lid down with the tail flapping out, I noticed again how it looked much larger than a normal mouse.
Also, its tail looked longer and thicker than usual for a mouse.
But to paraphrase a famous saying: Cognitive dissonance is bliss.
For some reason, I was ready to deal with a mouse…but not a rat.
Anyway, my husband strode out of our apartment with great purpose and down the stairs to the back entrance of our building, which leads to the great outdoors, not far from open nature.
He deposited the rat a good distance from our building and we all hoped that was the end of it—especially since I was going by the Song of the Mouse.
Surely, the segulah would finally work!
Time to Change Direction – Both Spiritually & Practically
But not long after that, I saw the duct tape on the dryer funnel pushed aside to reveal the old holes and found more evidence of a rodent.
We need poison or traps as practical hishtadlut, I decided. We had traps left over from years ago.
Then the 6-year-old called out from the mamad (bomb shelter room), which also serves as a bedroom, “Here’s the mouse on the window!”
I rushed to see where he pointed and saw a large dark rodent stretched across the screen of an open bedroom window.
Cringing & squealing all the way (where is male privilege when you need it most?), I raced toward the window and slammed it shut, twisting the handle to lock it.
Together, my young son and I gazed at the shadowy figure through the frosted window.
Gosh, that really is such big mouse! I thought to myself.
Just then, our 22-year-old arrived home from yeshivah.
We showed him the shadowy figure still hanging on to the screen outside the frosted window.
"Look at the mouse!" we told him.
This son looked amused as he gazed at, then looked at me with a how-can-I-break-this-to-you smile and said, “That’s not a mouse.”
“Oh," I said. "I was afraid of that.”
“But it’s okay,” he reassured me. “I know how to take care of it.”
He likes to invent things and here was the opportunity to create a tzaar-baalei-chayim-free trap—a contraption to kill the rodent as painlessly & quickly as possible, promising to clean up the results himself (meaning, no squeamish clean-up for anyone lacking male privilege—because dealing with really gross clean-up is also part of male privilege).
While our older son worked away, the rat found a place to hide between the iron sliding door in the window frame (meant to protect inhabitants from flying shrapnel, but used by the rat as his own refuge) and the screen.
I felt grateful for the currently low risk of incoming missiles because I had no idea how we’d close the sliding iron door with a robust rat sitting in the way.
Finally, our son set up the trap on the ledge (protected by the window bars from falling to our neighbor’s yard below), included some luscious rat-bait, while the rat watched him from his hideout.
My son closed the window, I gave everyone stern instructions to keep the window closed no matter what, and then we waited.
I realized I'd functioned in Little-Red-Riding-Hood-mode, seeing all the signs of a wolf, but insisting that it was still Granny, just looking a little "off."
(Like, "Ooh, mouse! What a big tail you have! And what a large long body you have, mouse!")
It ended up being the catalyst I needed to put my heart into gratitude-mode.
During that time, I switched from confessing my sins to thanking Hashem for all sorts of things, both the good and the bad, as per the Song of the Rat.
Meanwhile, our older sons kept checking to see whether the rat was there.
We could see the shadow of the trap through the frosted glass. It remained intact with no sign of being tampered with.
After a couple of days, our older sons combed the area.
Bending his head out the window, a teenage son said, “Hey, there’s an air-conditioning unit sticking out here below the window.”
Rats are both smart and agile enough to leap on to a unit below, then make their way to the ground.
Was it even the same rat?
We felt sure it was.
After all, he received such a warm welcome (and rescue) in our home. Why not return to such a compassionate family?
Hoping the rat would not return, we went on with life and I kept an eye out for signs of a rat.
They weren’t long in coming.
The Happy End (for us, not the rat)
The door to our small back yard doesn’t close properly unless locked, so maybe he came in that way.
The folksy rat-repellents of infusing the area with coffee grounds, cinnamon, eucalyptus oil, etc., did not repel our determined rat.
Finally, I really intensified my expressions of gratitude to Hashem, including thanking Him for this ratty nisayon because it really gave me the kick I needed out of a stuck place, helping me appreciate what I had in life.
I also went out and bought green chunks of rat poison.
Placing the chunks in his favorite hiding places (behind the oven and behind the little kitchen table in the corner), plus another outside his favorite entry point (the opening of the dryer funnel), I continued to thank Hashem for the good & for what I perceived as bad.
That night, I heard scrambling outside the screen where the dryer funnel stuck out.
Peeking over to see, the green block had disappeared.
A teenage son checked the area below with a flashlight.
No sign of the little green chunk.
I pictured the rat arriving home with the little green chunk: “Hey, Doris! Kids! Look what Daddy’s brought home for dinner!”
Since then, no evidence of any rodents have appeared.
The little green blocks of poison behind the oven and the kitchen table remain untouched.
The newfound gratitude also opened up bracha in other areas, like a child on shidduchim got engaged not long after, and other issues that felt "stuck" until then.
Thanks yet again, Hashem!
One of the aspects that frustrates me in this generation is the plethora of false resources.
You have all these classes for marriage & chinuch, support organizations, chessed organizations, social workers, therapists, rabbinical advisors, rebbetzins, etc....but when you encounter a problem as even slightly outside-the-box, all these same resources promoting their assistance end up failing miserably, showing themselves useless or even harmful.
(And when I mention rabbis or rebbetzins in this context, I DON'T mean the Gadolei/Gadolot Hador. I mean the lower-tier ones, who can be diamonds, mediocre, or really bad, depending.)
It's like the false-front buildings of America's Old West.
In reality, these structures were short-ceiling cramped stores. But the owners constructed impressive false fronts to give the impression of being spacious 2- or 3-story buildings.
And I still burn with resentment toward all the people who meant to help, but either proved useless or even harmful.
Not friends or well-meaning neighbors who gave well-intended yet incorrect advice by mistake. We're all guilty of this. That's forgivable because usually the person decides on their own to turn to us, and we respond as best we can based on whatever knowledge we had at that time.
Those are honest mistakes by well-intentioned people who cannot know better — forgivable.
But people who chose to serve in a particular position for a specific purpose — and then, due to their lack of care or middot, failed to fulfill that purpose.
The Social Worker that Didn't Work
For example, out of desperation, I yielded to (what was for me) the mortifying option of calling a social worker because one of my children behaved so challengingly, and nothing we did worked at all.
I explained the primary problem at that time: skipping school when he was only in elementary school.
He rode the bus to school, then just got off without entering the school gate, going wherever he wanted (including coming home and refusing to go back to school).
There wasn't something wrong at the school to make him act that way.
He's just an extremely energetic, independent, adventurous personality (born like that) who wants to DO things in life and not sit and learn how to do things—but rather live life with gusto every moment.
The social worker responded in a sympathetic manner, then said, "You know, I have a kid like that and I take him to school every morning and wait there to make sure he goes through the entrance."
"Really?" I said. "How do you manage that? Do you have other children? What do you do with them?"
"I take them with me."
"Really?!" Wow. How did she manage doing that on the bus during rush-hour every single morning in the pouring rain? (It was rainy winter season at that time.)
"Yeah," she said. "I take all my kids to their various schools and daycare in the morning and personally make sure they get wherever they need to go."
I felt she was avoiding giving me the full story. And then it dawned on me.
"Do you have car?" I said.
"Well, yes," she answered reluctantly, then quickly added, "But that doesn't matter."
"It doesn't?" I said. "Of course it matters. A car makes doing what you do possible. I don't see how I can do what you do using the bus. I have small children, including one that needs a stroller. How am I supposed to drop everyone off in the morning in the rain riding packed buses?"
"I don't know," she said, sympathetically. "But you need to find a way."
"But he runs," I said. "I can't catch him. I can't run after him through the rain pushing a stroller and holding on to other small children. Every morning? Even on my own, I wouldn't be able to catch him. He's much faster than me."
(Also, it's not modest for a grown woman to go racing through the streets. Also, I didn't think it was healthy for my younger children to be running with me in the rain & cold like that—even though they'd probably enjoy it. They liked their older brother tons and thoroughly enjoyed all the stuff he did, which they found so interesting and entertaining.)
In fact, the logistics seemed impossible. Our younger children attended gans near our home; I brought them there on foot.
How was I supposed to get this child to school on time AND get the younger children to where they needed to be—especially when their respective destinations lay at opposite ends of town? I could not take the younger ones first because their gans were not open that early.
She made more syrupy sympathetic noises, then said, "I understand it's difficult. But you just have to find a way. That's your job as his mother."
Ooh...so it's my fault for not finding a solution that doesn't exist. Ouch. I must be a real failure as a mother then.
"You know," I said, sincerely, "I'm wracking my brains to think of any kind of alternative, but simply do not see one."
"Could your husband do it?"
No, of course not.
My husband davened in a minyan in the morning (of course), attended kollel full-time, then worked until he came home anywhere between midnight and 1 AM.
If he woke up earlier to catch an early minyan to be home in time to escort our son to school, when would my husband sleep? When would he eat breakfast?
Furthermore, while my husband has always been an extremely energetic and upbeat person (which is why he maintained and continues to maintain such a packed schedule) AND while my husband certainly possessed the ability to race off in pursuit of our fleeing son, it's still questionable whether hubby would be able to actually catch the boy.
And even if my husband managed to catch up with our son, how was he supposed to get him to school? By force? Drag the kid?
It's also super embarrassing to have to go running after your child in front of all the crowds of people out and about at that time.
And of course, the unspoken rule is my husband would be expected to do all this cheerfully and patiently. Almost first thing in the morning. Every day. In the rain and cold.
So I nicely explained to her why that wasn't feasible either.
"Do you have any suggestions?" I said. "Because I honestly cannot think of any way to accomplish what you recommend."
She didn't of course (because she was asking the impossible), and she just sympathetically repeated that we simply needed to do it because that's our responsibility as parents. (Nice guilt-trip there, too.)
Later, I confided this conversation to a friend who also admitted she experienced the same dynamic with the social worker.
For completely different reasons, this friend also mustered the courage to call the social worker for help. (Like me, she felt turning to social workers was only for really dysfunctional people, but also out of desperation for the good of her children, she felt she had no other choice.)
And it went the same way for her too: no realistic advice, no support (practical, financial, or emotional, nothing), nothing feasible at all, no understanding of her situation, nothing.
If You Can't Help, At Least Try Not to Hurt...Offer Good Words Instead!
I encountered this kind of thing repeatedly.
Not with everyone. There are real gems out there (like the rebbetzin who ultimately mentored me, as partly described here:www.myrtlerising.com/blog/allowing-others-their-own-lifes-journey).
What this social worker did was similar to the example given in the previous post about the legless men climbing a hill (www.myrtlerising.com/blog/the-ultimate-enemy-of-our-spiritual-success-in-this-world-and-how-to-ignore-its-voice).
It's as if the 2-legged man, the legless man on a horse, and the legless man in a helicopter all responded to requests for help from the legless man at the bottom of the hill by berating him, "WE made it over the hill! If WE can do it, then why can't you?"
"Well," the legless man replies, "I have no legs, horse, or helicopter—how can I make it up the hill?"
"You just need to find a way! If you really cared, you would do it! WE did it!"
"But you guys have resources that I don't...a helicopter, a horse, legs..."
"Doesn't matter! You need to find a solution!"
"I only have the use of my arms," the legless man replies. "And my arms aren't strong enough to pull my weight. Furthermore, dragging my body through the dirt and rocks would rip up my skin and clothes. Do you guys have any suggestions how I can get up the hill?"
Of course they don't. The only reason why they made it up the hill was due to their resources.
And that's exactly what the social worker did to me.
And while I remember this incident only occasionally, it burns me up every time.
She's a frum lady and I know I must give her the benefit of the doubt, but honestly? I profoundly despise her to this day.
Because I struggled so much to do right by this child and continually failed without knowing why.
(Eventually, learning the Enneagram & figuring out the mind of an Eight with a Seven-wing helped me tons.)
Everyone else's kids went to school (or so it seemed). Everyone else managed this task. Why couldn't I?
So when I finally decided to get professional help and call a social worker (though I dreaded taking this step for the reason described above), it was for the benefit of the child.
And I followed the rules. She's a social worker. Her job is to assist families with no resources who, despite their best efforts, find themselves in desperate straits.
She's paid to do this.
I called her during normal hours and spoke to her nicely and asked for some kind of help with exactly the kind of problem she is supposed to deal with.
And not only did I receive utter uselessness in return, but she couldn't even offer an encouraging word.
And guess what? She probably meant to help! She probably entered this profession with the intention of genuinely helping others. She probably believed her sympathetic attitude made up for her utter lack of competence.
(In retrospect, I find it puzzling why she did even recommend a child psychologist or chinuch expert to give me advice. Not that it would've helped, but it would at least show some effort on her part, rather than giving me the completely unrealistic & useless command she gave.)
Instead, I came away from the interaction not only with no solution, but also feeling like I'm this really bad, lazy, uncaring mother.
And (with some really fantastic exceptions) I ran into this kind of thing repeatedly, especially in the area of chinuch.
A lot of these people want you to feel bad while making themselves feel good.
That's their method.
Very self-indulgent...and mostly useless.
Note: It must be stated that some frum social workers, therapists, chinuch advisors, etc, are truly caring & intelligent people who are absolute diamonds in their field. The bad ones do not cancel out the diamonds. Social workers have literally saved lives! This one was deplorable at her job. But some are definitely lifesavers & should be acknowledged.
A Brief Postscript on That Kid
Oddly, I can't recall how this particular issue was resolved.
Later, in a yeshivah katanah (high school years) geared for these types of boys, my son still ran off to find adventure despite really liking the place, really liking and feeling liked by the staff, and finding popularity among his peers.
For example, he illegally entered a nature preserve, discovered some wild boar babies near a tree (whom he found extremely cute), and decided to play with them...not taking into consideration that their sharp-tusked protective mother must be nearby.
He quickly found out.
The mother boar charged my son, who just missed getting gored as he leapt out of the way and climbed a tree to safety.
Unfortunately, the baby boars all lay at the base of that tree and the mother boar kept charging at the tree, grunting and growling at my son up there, ripping at the tree, refusing to leave because she considered him a threat & wanted him out of the way.
He didn't mind, though. He found all her aggressive behavior entertaining. (And the babies were still cute to watch.)
Finally, he managed to get out of the tree and out of the nature preserve without getting caught.
When a couple of friends later asked him why he didn't try to maim or kill the wild boaress in self-defense, he said, "Nah...she was right to attack me. She just wanted to protect her babies."
Also, to be fair, I want to say he is a great person.
He's an adult now and he's hard-working, extremely responsible & reliable, funny, a loyal friend who will give you the shirt off his back if you need it, and a heart of gold under a gruff exterior.
He doesn't live at home right now (because while he loves Hashem doesn't reject Him, he doesn't want to be in the charedi world), but we still see him often enough. And he's very loveable.
I don't want to leave people with a false impression of our son, who is a wonderful person.
The False-Fronts of "Help"
Some people fail through lack of trying.
(Please see this post, which explains the difference between actually trying & feeling like you're trying: www.myrtlerising.com/blog/what-it-mean-to-try-why-people-confuse-suffering-with-hishtadlut-and-what-to-do-about-it)
But some people try very hard, even going totally against their nature, twisting themselves into a hopeless pretzel...only to crash & burn in the process.
And then when that mangled struggler cries out for assistance, a self-appointed assistant goes up to the crushed and burned person — and kicks that crushed person in the face with a steel-pointed boot.
(And just for knowing, this scenario occurs even WORSE—with some exceptions—in the secular/non-Jewish world. I personally witnessed or heard directly from the source dozens of terrible examples. The secular/non-Jewish world remains in complete denial about this, but I cannot forget what I saw and heard myself.)
And well-meaning people encourage all the time: "Ask for help if you need it! Don't be afraid to ask for help!"
And I'm like, "Ask for help? It'd me more effective & less painful to ram my head against a brick wall."
People like the above social worker conditioned me: NEVER ask for help.
I likely won't get it.
Or it'll come in a very ugly harmful way, which helps but also causes unnecessary pain too for no reason other than the ego-pleasures of the so-called "helper."
Or not only won't help be received, but the person promoted as "the helper" will stick in a knife and twist it.
At this point, I only ask a rav about halachah. I need to know the law, of course.
But advice? No way.
NOT always! Definitely not always. There are many wonderful people in all venues.
There can definitely exist the right shaliach for you (which might not be the right shaliach for someone else and vice-versa).
But I see it's increasingly harder to find them.
Steel-Toed Kick in the Face: Is It Necessary? Occasionally. It Depends.
Having said that, sometimes hearing the truth about yourself or your situation can also feel like a steel-toed kick in the face.
Occasionally, that's what's best, despite how much it hurts.
But usually, the painful truth does not help the person at all.
For example, a charedi-from-birth man, who only got married in his 30s, once confided how people told him he wasn't getting married because he was afraid of commitment.
In hindsight, he admits that was partly true.
But at the time, he simply did not know what to do with that information.
Informing him of his fear of committment did not help him at all; it only made him feel defective.
(P.S. He ended up very happily married to a wonderful woman and they raised an exceptionally good family.)
A lot of people, for example, married to an abusive spouse, suffering through a toxic relationship, dealing with an addict, etc., cannot hear the truth about their situation.
If you tell them (especially if you tell them angrily or condescendingly), it doesn't help at all. Sometimes, it even makes things worse.
But sometimes, it IS the right thing to do.
(BTW, you do have the right to protect your own nefesh. If it makes you feel ill, despondent, or crazy to constantly hear about how wonderful & fabulous their toxic spouse/friend/parent/child/mentor is & how much they looooove the insufferable jerk, you have a right to put some space between the two of you. If it's hurting you and not helping them, then why bother?)
Encouragement & Tikkun
The good result from these awful, unfair experiences is they taught me to encourage people rather than trash them or blame them.
Not that I always say the right thing. I don't.
But I really, really try.
Even when a person is to blame for a lot of their mess, it's usually not helpful to blame them.
Encourage them instead.
As discussed previously (www.myrtlerising.com/blog/what-it-mean-to-try-why-people-confuse-suffering-with-hishtadlut-and-what-to-do-about-it & Some Thoughts on Codependency, What Judaism Says about Dealing with Difficult People, and Some Recommended Torah Methods), some problems don't have solutions.
Or they don't have immediate solutions.
But most of the time, there's something you can do within yourself as your tikkun, whether it improves the situation or not.
And also don't be too afraid or discouraged to progress in baby-steps.
It's true there's a lot of pressure toward grand gestures and overwhelming acts of whatever, but whenever you cannot manage the grand gestures, baby-steps are a wonderful option.
A friend forwarded to me the Bitachon Magazine for Parshat Re'eh (thanks, NEJ!) and a message from Devorah Silberman's article jumped out; it really spoke to a major issue with which I struggle (partly from myself & partly due to the criticism from others); boldface & underline my own addition:
Rebbe Avraham Yaakov, the Sadigura Rebbe zy'a would often share that “a person can...complete their purpose in this olam hatikun (World of Fixing) as long as they don’t say two words: "ilu hayiti" ''which means "if only I was...”
You need to be strong within yourself to do this.
Unfortunately, a lot of people (including some you turn to for guidance) denigrate strugglers by saying, "Well, Everybody Else is able to do it. Why can't you?" Or, "What do you think Everyone Else is doing? How do you think Everyone Else is managing?" Or, "Of cooooourse...EVERYBODY knows THAT! Why didn't YOU?"
This mysterious entity named Everyone Else was ruining my life. No matter how hard I tried or have fast I "ran," I remained an utter failure compared to the oh-so perfect and much-lauded Everyone Else.
Sometimes, I really wanted to hunt down this mysterious entity name Everybody Else and strangle her.
She thwarted me every step of the way. I could never scrape myself out of failure as long as she was around.
She was always there, mashing me back down.
But gradually, I realized the difference in resources.
There is not comparison to Everybody Else.
For example, a one-legged man needs to climb a hill differently than a 2-legged man.
And a legless man needs to climb a hill using a different method than either.
Some people receive golf carts, mopeds, a horse, or even a helicopter to make it up the hill.
Even when looking at similar situations, the resources available still differ.
For example, can you compare the climb of a legless man who uses a horse or a helicopter to the climb of a legless man without any equipment?
The legless man in a helicopter doesn't even climb.
Should the two-legged man sneer at the legless man who needs a horse to make it over the hill?
Should the legless man wizzing about in the helicopter lord himself over the legless men below, boasting, "If I can make it over the hill, then anyone can!"
No. Each situation is so different, even the ones that superficially look the same.
So that's what it is.
And for the sake of repairing our souls, Hashem wants each of us to serve Him with our individual strengths & resources...but also with our individual flaws & lack of resources.
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I'm a middle-aged housewife and mother in Eretz Yisrael who likes to read and write a lot.
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