Big, frum families are a glory.
Here you have a mother pushing two babies in a carriage, with six older children holding on. It’s the most beautiful sight one can imagine.
Now, this woman is a plain woman to the outside world.
She’s dressed simply, she’s looks harried – of course she does; she has her children on her mind. She’s worried about them. She’s thinking about supper, and bedtime, and cleaning the house, and this child’s problem, and that child. She’s running a big operation, a big company, and has a lot on her shoulders.
So to the outside world, this woman is not the personification of the beautiful woman, of the perfect woman.
But to us, those who see the world through the eyes of Hashem, there is nothing more beautiful and more perfect than the mothers of our people.
That’s the genuine beauty!
Here's a gem from Rav Avigdor Miller's dvar Torah for Parshat Vayetzei:
One of my favorite mussar rabbis, Rav Avigdor Miller, held the roles of mothers and wives in very high esteem.
While he spoke compellingly about the woman's role in the home, he also understood that most women need to invest in non-domestic activities too.
(And rather than going on about nishtaneh hateva, he seemed to feel that was a natural expression of any human being, and not just the result of being a modern woman. If you have the time and energy to do, say, chessed or visiting the sick, then why not? Same thing with other activities -- though he clearly felt that both men and women should only be involved in meaningful extraneous activities.)
So in a post called Rav Avigdor on Seeking Role Models, he focuses first on women:
A woman should seek another woman, and say to herself, “What woman is there that I can emulate, a woman who uses her spare time for great achievement?”
First, he describes non-domestic activities that Jewish women have always done:
There’s a woman over here, not too far from here, who is busy helping the poor. I know her, and she’s always sending parcels to the needy.
Then he mentions options for the modern educated Jewish woman.
Now some other women would like to use the model of someone else, someone who looks into seforim, who meditates on Hashem’s kindliness, who reads Torah works.
Note that he doesn't consider such activities as b'dieved, or second-rate, as in, "Nebbuch, women aren't satisfied with washing dishes and mopping floors all day, so they need other stuff to do."
No! As discussed in previous posts (The True History of Women's Work & Discover the Ancient Danger of "New!"), Jewish women with the time, skills, and resources always invested in activities outside the domestic sphere.
(Not to mention, if she could possibly hire someone else to launder, clean, cook, or take the children for a walk -- she did. She supervised everything and involved herself with everything and she CARED about her children and the running of her home. But if she could possibly afford it, she always had someone else do the physical work.)
Instead, Rav Avigdor Miller offers different options based on a woman's individuality. And he says that women who write Torah stories for children "enrich our literature."
With regard to women who write Torah stories for children, inspiring stories of secular Jews who became frum, and books that show the glory of living Torah lives: Rav Avigdor Miller calls these stories and books "a big job."
And regarding these women writers, he notes: "There are not enough of them."
Anyone who knows about Rav Avigdor Miller knows he's far from politically correct. And he doesn't say things he doesn't truly mean. He's the product of an old-fashioned European yeshivish education that doesn't compromise.
He preaches to the choir (frum Jews) and speaks according to mussar (which most people struggle to understand & accept).
Becasue of that, it's important to focus on what he actually said.
He spoke of literature that enriches and inspires.
And as a writer myself, I think that's good guidance.
But what if you're not a writer?
So according to Rav Avigdor Miller's advice above, you need to ask yourself:
Back to Part I
I want to start off by reiterating that the Pele Yoetz was a very holy and knowledgeable Jew who chose to die of plague in order to spare his community of suffering that same plague. He strove for honesty and yosher in every aspect of life.
And as much as he felt the pain of his fellow Jews in whatever difficult interpersonal situation they found themselves, the Pele Yoetz maintained equal awareness that Olam Haba is a very real place, and that rising to the occasion by overcoming your bad middot earns you a goodly portion in Olam Haba while giving in to your lower instincts and emotions can land you in a lot of trouble with Heavenly Judgement.
With this in mind, much of the his advice flies in the face of what our secular-influenced culture tells us now. Yet you’ll see that the Pele Yoetz’s advice follows the actual halacha.
In other words:
And this final point:
The Pele Yoetz focuses on your present and future behavior.
He barely focuses on external causes because despite your upbringing and many other factors, you still have the capacity to behave with good middot or you wouldn't be commanded to do so.
Needless to say, I struggle with the above as much as anyone else. Sometimes, I do my best to maintain my middot and succeed, but sometimes I fail. That's how it goes. I publish the Pele Yoetz's advice for myself as much as anyone else.
Secular modern psychology is atheistic, even if many psychologists aren’t actual atheists. So psychology focuses on the surface-level emotional well-being of the client rather than on the client’s soul and future well-being once the soul leaves the body.
Also, no therapist is going to be as mosser nefesh for you as the Pele Yoetz.
Your therapist will never take your Heavenly Punishment upon his- or herself like the Pele Yoetz did for his errant brethren.
So it's best to listen to him as much as we can.
Being "Real" -- for Real
Rav Avrohom Ehrman’s book Journey to Virtue notes that part of fulfilling the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha (love your neighbor as yourself) includes (but is not limited to):
The above is admittedly VERY HARD to do with people who treat you badly.
Modern society accuses people of being "fake" or "in denial" or "Pollyanna" or "a stooge" when they do things like only speak positively of others or camouflage other people's deficiencies.
Yet that's only true when your INTENTION is to cover up for a bad guy who uses your cover to keep hurting others. It's true when prefer to disassociate and actually pretend nothing in wrong and continue neglecting yourself or others, or if you're trying to be a goody-two-shoes.
In Judaism, you don't pretend that bad is good. (That's chanifah -- totally forbidden.)
You simply emphasize the good.
However, when your intention is to remain well-aware, but commit to HASHEM'S value system and follow the above strictures with integrity, then that's being more REAL than anything else.
Remember, as elucidated in a past post, Judaism considers the whole truth told only when the positive is included.
Modern society is the exact opposite. Truth is only when the negative is included.
When Separation is Good
And of course, there are the little known halachot of keeping away from people who repeatedly sin, display bad middot, etc., so as not to be influenced or harmed by them.
The Pele Yoetz himself urges family members who cannot get along (i.e., adult children & their parents, children-in-law & parents-in-law) to refrain from spending much time together and even from sitting together at gatherings, if necessary.
This separation from impossibly difficult situations includes helping a very abused wife get divorced if she so desires, calling this divorce assistance “a very great mitzvah” -- meaning, you'll increase your reward in Olam Haba by helping her.
On the other hand, the Pele Yoetz emphasizes that such relationships are from Hashem. So therefore: Rising to the occasion accrues generous reward (though he doesn’t promise you’ll see that reward in this lifetime).
This was a very complex post to put together because the Pele Yoetz acknowledges both the awful reality of some people’s behavior together with the unknowable Divine Plan behind putting you together with such people.
And he discusses both the spiritual reasons along with the here-and-now reasons as motivation to rise to the occasion when dealing with difficult people.
But his MAIN FOCUS is on CORRECT BEHAVIOR. He openly acknowledges that correct behavior may not influence the difficult person to behave better. He says that it can, but it doesn't necessarily.
This approach is very different than the approach even many frum advisors use today, so it can take time to internalize the Pele Yoetz's message because it initially feels like sandpaper-rubbing rather than a loving caress.
So it’s all together and that makes it difficult to sum things up (especially on a computer screen where the eye naturally skims the information rather than reading it carefully—mine too).
The Pele Yoetz doesn’t mince words when describing people (“lowly and disgusting” “depraved” “bad character” “bad and difficult”) nor does he make excuses for the miserable behavior.
You don’t hear about anyone’s unfortunate upbringing or background or environment. Instead, he mostly attributes people’s flaws to the generation or to general factors (like old age), rather than to specific circumstances.
HOWEVER, he also very strongly encourages people to push themselves spiritually to be the best they can be—despite the weakness of the generation and the rampant ignorance in society, or any other factors (like old age, stressful situations, etc).
His Balkan Jewish society was interesting because while there weren’t secular Jews per se, there were very ignorant Jews. Some didn’t know how to read or know how to read Hebrew.
For example, he advises a man who doesn’t know Hebrew to go to a Sage before Yom Kippur to have the Hebrew Vidui (Confession) translated into the vernacular.
(We don't need to do that nowadays because we have Artscroll and Metzudah and the like. But the point is to understand each word of Vidui.)
At the same time, Sarajevo was the Torah center where the Pele Yoetz learned too, and Sarajevo produced many talmidei chachamim and tzaddikim. And then you had everyone in between those 2 extremes.
No More Blame Game
The Pele Yoetz speaks strongly about the need to overcome your lesser middot and behave in an exemplary manner while at the same time acknowledging how hard that can be. Sometimes, his expectations seem too high—yet he addresses this too by saying that if the Torah commanded it, then it cannot be impossible.
“The Sages spoke only of one whom the controversy pursues him. And he flees from it and the peace flees from him and he runs after it [i.e the peace]—THAT is called a ‘rodef shalom—a pursuer of peace’ and his deeds will be praised at the gates.”
Several times, the Pele Yoetz makes the point that being a rodef shalom—a pursuer of peace—implies behaving peacefully with truly difficult people. Else why do you need to pursue peace? If a person is lovely, then peace exists on its own—no need to go running after it.
So he definitely understands that some people are difficult and that maintaining your middot with them is very difficult.
How does that all connect with lashon hara?
Our most difficult and painful relationships are exactly what trip us up, spiritually speaking.
There is opportunity for great loss—or great gain, depending on our response.
Lashon hara for no halachically permissible reason entails spiritual loss.
Problems among family ties can trip off the most lashon hara.
So among our more intricate family relationships, the Pele Yoetz has a lot to say.
Below, you’ll see some of the advice he offers both spouses and in-laws.
Note: Coming from secular Western society, it’s quite a pop in the face. So be prepared…
General Advice for Relatives
The Pele Yoetz insists on exemplary behavior on the part of spouses and in-laws even toward a spouse or child/parent-in-law who is awful.
First, he reminds both husbands and wives:
Love of the soul is the most important love of all, so the spiritual goals for you & your spouse need to be foremost at all times.
He actually repeats this idea for husbands, wives, and parents throughout the book.
Ladies First: Advice for Wives
The Pele Yoetz says to wives:
It is difficult to offer general advice because not all people think alike.
Note: I wish EVERY person involved in ANY shalom bayis counseling would commit the above to memory and engrave it on their heart!
It IS difficult to offer general advice because NOT ALL PEOPLE THINK ALIKE. The Pele Yoetz encourages women to conduct themselves according to the nature of HER husband and HIS character—NOT according to whatever stereotypes your advisor has of men or according to your rebbetzin’s husband’s nature.
He stated this nearly 2 centuries ago, but who is listening?
Anyway the Pele Yoetz also advises wives:
Many give this advice despite the fact that pleasing and appeasing behavior never changes abusive people. Also, because most people with personality disorders FEAR intimacy, giving them more love not only doesn’t help but can even trigger MORE abusive behavior, depending.
But the Pele Yoetz doesn’t advise respectful behavior to improve shalom bayit (although he says that explaining to the person using soft words can help, which he bases on a verse from Mishlei--but no promises).
As indicated above, he clearly states that the reason for good treatment, whether for husbands or wives, is for Hashem’s Sake and for the sake of your Olam Haba.
Because, as the Pele Yoetz states, the whole point of relationships is to facilitate spiritual goals.
Even with marriage, the Pele Yoetz encourages a wife to look behind the curtain of her husband (“whether praiseworthy or dishonorable”) because that marriage (like EVERYTHING else in life) is a decree from the King of the Universe.
You honor your husband because doing so honors HASHEM and his decree.
This is just like the idea propagated throughout Judaism (including the Pele Yoetz) that you should be among the insulted who do not return a hurt with a hurt, which is an ideal Judaism also upholds outside of marriage.
Because the unpleasant incident or situation is from Hashem. Therefore, there is some benefit to it, like an atonement or middah-building exercise, or whatever.
Unlike modern-day shalom bayis advisers, the Pele Yoetz doesn’t focus on pleasing the husband nor does he start engage in exaggerated generalizations about men in an effort to blindside the wife into submission.
(Secular/non-Jewish therapist often do the same, including using their diagnosis of the husband suffering from a personality disorder or Aspergers or just needing unconditional love or whatever in order to manipulate the wife into co-dependence or submission.)
In fact, he doesn’t mince words. He acknowledges that some husbands are “dishonorable” and that a husband can be “harsh in character and opinions, a lowly and disgusting man who shares no good--ish kasheh b’middotav u’v’de’otav, nivzeh v’chadal ishim, chasar kol tov.”
(Nor does he quantify such behavior with allusions to an unfortunate background or dysfunctional upbringing of the aforesaid “lowly and disgusting man.”)
He wants a wife to rise above her natural inclinations in the face of such behavior—just as he encourages EVERY person (including the husbands of dysfunctional wives) to respond to ALL insulting or dishonorable behavior with dignity.
(Meaning, his mussar isn’t just for wives or even just for marriage, but a general principle applicable to all interpersonal dealings.)
At the same time, the Pele Yoetz encourages a wife to wait for a more relaxed moment and then “rebuke” her husband in a soft, sweet way by saying things like:
“Why did you do this-and-such? What is my sin and what is my transgression that you got worked up against me and got angry at me when I’ve done nothing to harm you? Is this good in the Eyes of Hashem?—and other good things.”
(Note: The language suggested by the Pele Yoetz was originally for early 19th-Century Sefardi Bulgarians and may need to be adjusted for modern English-speakers. They are just suggestions, after all.)
He also recommends pleading sweetly with an abusive husband in a more conducive moment, but he’s clear that these are only recommendations. He makes no guarantees that such words will reap the desired effect if the behind-the-scenes Heavenly decrees indicate otherwise.
Finally, he insists that:
(Again, the Pele Yoetz obviously understands how challenging this is, else why would he advise utilizing such strength in the face of such a nisayon?)
At the same time, the Pele Yoetz obviously heard from suffering wives he’s clearly aware of abusive behavior.
For example, in the case of physical abuse and insensitive behavior in the bedroom, the Pele Yoetz extols as a very big mitzvah to help such a wife, whether by Jewish officials beating the husband into submission or by assisting her in obtaining a divorce if she wants. (Interestingly, he offers neither option to husbands suffering from difficult or evil wives.)
How does this connect to lashon hara?
The Pele Yoetz shows heavy insistence against bad-mouthing your husband in any way, yet if it’s l’toelet (like she needs outside official help to protect her from an especially abusive husband), then obviously she can say something. Otherwise, how would the Pele Yoetz have known what was going on in her home or that a woman needed such help?
But whether the husband’s behavior is severe or just annoying, it’s clear that a lot of what passes for acceptable conversation nowadays is actually completely forbidden.
In actuality, no joking or kvetching about your husband is permissible, even when his behavior seems to justify complaint.
Finally, the Pele Yoetz advises an abused wife:
Again, this doesn't rule out divorce from such a person or asking for intervention.
As the Pele Yoetz agitates against husbands who "may their name be obliterated" are "biliya'al (depraved)" and "treat Jewish women like maidservants (shifchot)":
"It is fitting for anyone who has the ability to chastise them [the abusive husbands] when possible. And if they have the ability to extract their wives from their hand when it's the desire of the wife--because a woman cannot dwell in the same place as a snake--it's a great mitzvah to save the oppressed from his oppressor."
Advice for Husbands
Likewise, the Pele Yoetz insists that husbands behave with exemplary middot toward even a difficult and wicked wife, all the more so toward a regular wife.
And again, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of doing so for Hashem’s Sake.
And he holds the husband of a dysfunctional wife to much higher standards than he holds the wife of a dysfunctional husband.
The Pele Yoetz insists that in general, there’s an obligation of “mighty love--ahavah azah” between a husband and wife, repeating what’s written in Yevamot 62b, that a husband is obliged to love his wife as himself and to honor her more than himself.
The obligation to be sensitive is cast upon you more than her as Baba Metzia 59a says: "A husband must always be cautious in regards to hurting his wife because since her tears are near, so is her pain.”
I know, I know.
This is in direct contrast to what’s taught in shalom bayis shiurim, which teach that the obligation of sensitivity is upon the wife.
The husband gets a free pass because "he’s a man" and "men aren't smart enough" and "can’t understand these things"—or so they claim.
This is why it is so important to turn to classic sources written by real tzaddikim and leave behind all the secular-influenced or Christian-influenced blather.
People who offer such advice come from despair; they’ve despaired of getting men to fulfill their halachic responsibilities—just like feminists have despaired of men.
So instead, they dump everything onto the wife. And looking at marriage and children today, it obviously isn’t helping. But their despair doesn’t let them think with an expanded mind.
Thank God we have our Sages to open our minds to the truth!
Anyway, the Pele Yoetz insists even if a wife:
--nonetheless, a husband should never:
Furthermore, the Pele Yoetz insists that a husband:
A husband must bear the yoke and be among the insulted who do not insult and accept upon yourself the Judgment of Heaven with joy "because a woman is sent to man from God."
Again, the Pele Yoetz avoids being superficial about things.
He clearly realizes that some people are just plain bad apples, yet because these people are challenges sent by Hashem, we are supposed to rise to the occasion.
He cautions husbands several times that hating a bad or difficult wife can lead to producing a ben sorer u’moreh—the son of a hated wife, as mentioned in the Torah.
To my mind, this a very high demand in light of the terrible middot mentioned above.
How can a man love the kind of sinful, vindictive wife mentioned above?
Again, the Pele Yoetz bases his advice on achieving the best Afterlife possible. The awful spouse is merely the conduit to achieve a blissful eternity:
Though sympathetic to the challenges of a dysfunctional spouse (and even supports divorce for an abused woman), the Pele Yoetz reassures both suffering wives and suffering husbands that if they can maintain their own good middot (including refraining from lashon hara), then their Heavenly Reward will be tremendous.
Note: He provides a more advice & obligations for both husbands and wives than listed here.
Advice for Children-in-Law
The Pele Yoetz insists that a daughter-in-law should:
Please note that the Pele Yoetz doesn’t say “even if she THINKS they are bothersome and have bad character,” but that they ARE bothersome and DO have bad character. Once again, he acknowledges that some people are indeed bad apples and doesn't dismiss the daughter-in-law's perception as mere tension common in that relationship.
Again, the Pele Yoetz doesn’t get all sentimental about it all.
The reason for the above is because the merit of the parents aids the children. Meaning that performing the above actually helps the daughter-in-law. In a sense, she’s doing it for herself and her own children.
He reassures both children and children-in-law that in regard to honoring parents and parents-in-law, “one who honors others will be respected and his reward will be greatly increased and l’fum tzaara agrah”—one’s reward comes according to one’s exertion.
Interestingly, the Pele Yoetz states that:
Regarding adult children and their own parents, the Pele Yoetz recommends:
He advises that in situations in which parents-in-law and children-in-law cannot behave peacefully and properly with each other, then:
Advice for Parents Still Raising Children
Finally, the Pele Yoetz also speaks against discussing your children negatively with others.
The Ben Ish Chai in Laws for Women goes as far as saying that a mother who complains to the father about the children is actually endangering them because if justified, her complaints against them can cause them to be punished from Shamayim.
He doesn’t condemn a beneficial discussion of how best to handle Junior’s difficult behavior, but he’s referring to the litany of teinos some parents pour forth toward their spouse.
Why "Getting It Off Your Chest" Ultimately Doesn't Help
Much of the above advice is anathema to Western mores. With the modern emphasis on standing up for yourself and your rights, being “honest” and “real” about everything, “being yourself,” and much more, the Pele Yoetz’s advice seems backwards and constraining.
Yet over the years, I cannot deny that all the people who publicize the faults of their spouses or in-laws (children or parents) receive no good from this and don’t even experience real relief.
It’s hard for me to say this, but this includes those who really suffer (as the Pele Yoetz acknowledged above) and whose complaints leak out due to their immense pain.
I’m really sympathetic to those whose pain leaks out because living with a horrible spouse infects your very being and every aspect of life.
Particularly for women, who are likened to the Moon which receives light from the Sun (i.e. her husband), a woman whose husband maltreats or neglects her genuinely feels like a cold dead rock suspended in a dark airless Universe.
A woman in such a situation will find it very difficult to keep it all in and only pour out her heart to Hashem (as the Pele Yoetz encourages her to do) but not to other people (unless there’s a toelet, like to get divorced, as the Pele Yoetz notes).
One woman I knew married to an emotionally abusive man even became suicidal at one point—despite frequently leaking out her pain and resentment to others, despite therapy and despite consultation with rabbis. All the outpourings and/or comments never helped.
Whether it’s via humorous jabs or sad comments or even tearful admissions, I’ve seen that it really doesn’t help and any relief is only temporary. (Though relief isn’t guaranteed because sometimes the listener responds in a way the speaker finds hurtful.)
Like I've said before, my initial heart's reaction is to listen and empathize with the other. But I can't help seeing that all the intended support and empathy doesn't seem to offer more than temporary relief. However, when there has been something practical that I could do, then things ended up better.
So there's a difference between pouring your heart out when it can't help you (but maybe it feels like it helps you) and pouring your heart out when it can.
I'm not demonizing anyone for doing it -- believe me, I understand what emotional pain is like -- I'm just saying there is a way to do it that's beneficial and a way that is not.
Well, not me saying it, but the Pele Yoetz.
I'll be following up this last bit in another post.
So to sum up:
Back to Part I
May this post be considered a kaparah for my own falls into lashon hara and may we all be protected from any sins of the tongue.
As explained in a previous post, one of the most powerful tools of the Yetzer Hara is "New!"
Some of the most harmful ideologies have used this.
Nazism promoted itself as a new solution to old problems. Combining nationalism with socialism was presented as the best way to achieve equality in society -- at least for those deemed Aryan, anyway.
New cars! New vacation opportunities! New laws for factory works!
In reality, Nazism derived much of its ideology from pagan occult traditions. Even its infamous swastika is just the old Buddhist symbol for death and decline.
And its hatred of Jews was nothing new either.
Communism also touted itself as a new solution to old problems. But it turned totalitarian fairly quickly. "Rob from the rich and give to the poor" is not a new concept, nor is the idea that the government owns your stuff and can parcel it out according to whim.
Old Tyranny with a New Twist
The problem comes when new gets mixed with old.
For example, in the above example of Nazism, the VW bugs produced in Germany were indeed a new kind of car. (Cars in general were newer to the scene.) And the idea of parceling out cars to citizens was technically a new idea.
But the foundation for Nazi ideology was pretty old. And the idea of catering to a chosen populace over another populace is also pretty old and overdone.
Thus, the means for carrying out these ideologies and methods were new, but the ideologies and methods themselves were not new.
The Old-New "Liberated" Woman
Likewise, feminism presented itself as "New!"
They peppered their propaganda with persuasive words related to "new": "Remarkable! Revolutionary! Discover! The New Woman!"
("Self-discovery" was and still is a big hit with them.)
Yet much of what they presented as new wasn't actually so new. It was old with a new twist.
Women & Housework
For example, the idea of "freeing" women from domestic chores? Women who could afford it have been doing that since time immemorial.
The modern twist was that rather than being born or marrying into such financial capability, feminists wanted women themselves to earn it.
Women & Paid Work
Likewise, there have always been working women. There have even been women were the main breadwinners, either because they were widows or for some Jewish women of yore, because they wanted their husbands to learn Torah full-time.
The modern twist was that feminists wanted this for all women.
Women & Respected Professions
Throughout the ages, you can find women who fulfilled professional jobs of authority. There were ruling queens, doctors, lawyers, sailors, soldiers, storekeepers, printers, teachers, and more.
Massachusetts midwife Martha Ballard would be called a "healer" in today's lingo, but back then, her ability to also treat disease was simply part of what a midwife did -- and something she did quite successfully. According to what she writes in her diary during the years 1785-1812, she was clearly considered a respected medical professional & colleague by the male doctors who knew her.
And the modern twist?
Feminists wanted access for all women to any profession they desired -- and this included access to the education necessary for the desired profession.
This coincided with increased opportunities for males, BTW. Unless they hailed from the "right" class, many males throughout the ages never managed to achieve professions, education, prestige, or other opportunities outside their limited station.
So the expansion of opportunities for women actually coincided with expanding opportunities for men, and wasn't just a feminist thing nor just a feminist accomplishment.
Women & Childcare
And since time immemorial, women who could afford to hired others to care for their children. Yes, the mothers and caretakers and children remained on the same property, often in the same building together. But wet-nurses, nursemaids, nannies, and governesses often fulfilled the roles that mothers otherwise fill. Even today, many women who can afford it do hire a nanny or two.
In Dov B. Lederman's remarkable book, These Children are Mine: A Story of Survival and Rescue, Lederman remembers his childhood governess and their walks to the park. He also remembers kindergarten as a "newfangled invention," recalling that children generally started school at the age of 7.
In fact, Lederman recalls overhearing his mother speaking to someone about "the horror of taking a child away from his parents and sending him to kindergarten at a tender age."
(But please note that even as Lederman's mother opposed kindergarten, the responsibility for her child did not rest on her alone 24/7; she hired a governess to lighten that responsibility.)
And that's the modern twist.
Many working women couldn't (and still can't) afford to hire a nanny to their home. So they searched outside the home for babysitting and daycares and preschools (which didn't exist in the quantities and quality they do now). Nowadays, these are popular options in modern society. But having your child physically far away from you -- even an hour's traveling time between mother and child -- is the norm. No longer under the same roof, the child is part of a group and hopefully receives the necessary care and attention as one of several.
So What is the Real "New" for Women's Roles?
So none of the above is "new" as in "Never before seen!" or "Unprecedented!" or "Revolutionary!" or "Breakthrough!"-- which is how the above is presented to society.
What's new is the following:
Therefore, certain attitudes and methods common today are different, but the actual ideas (women investing time and energy in something other than domestic responsibilities or hiring another person to carry out specific maternal responsibilities) aren't new at all.
The Old Danger of "New!"
The problem for frum Jews in all this is that when something is presented as completely new, it appears that there isn't any precedence for it.
Therefore, it gives the impression of not being covered by Chazal or halacha or mussar.
And if it appears to not be addressed by Torah sources, then where does the frum Yid feel he or she should look to for guidance?
To psychologists. Consultants. Researchers. Teachers.
Secular professionals, in other words. (Or frum professionals taught secular theories.)
This is a problem, though it doesn't look like one at first.
The more something is "new," the less likely it is to be found in Torah sources...because it's new, right? It wasn't around during the composition of the Shulchan Aruch. It's not there, so we just have to come up with stuff on our own!
But as stated in a previous post, Chazal do discuss working mothers and this idea is even mentioned in Mishlei/Proverbs.
It's very important to hold out against the flood of "New!"
It's not good (or even true) when we think we're outside or above Torah.
Bubby vs the Fire-Truck Feminists
I heard of a chassidish family in the Sixties who lived in an area in which feminists demanded the right to become firemen. The chassidish teens watched in fascination as these feminists raced around town in shiny red fire trucks.
The news outlets raved about it and it all seemed very exciting.
So the kids ran home and enthused about it to their old chassidish grandmother, who'd lived through 2 world wars and survived a death camp before finding refuge in America.
She'd seen all the "modern" movements come and go and she knew just how to handle them. (She also knew first-hand how extremely destructive these things tend to be.)
So Bubby said, "Well, I don't know about female fire fighters. So let's go look it up in the Shulchan Aruch."
That immediately set things into an interesting perspective. What could the Shulchan Aruch have to say about female fire fighters? After all, this was new!
At the same time, that immediately took some air out of the feminist sails. Maybe it wasn't actually so new?
Let's go see!
So Bubby opened the book and read the appropriate passages, then said, "You know, all I see here is that if there's a fire, then anyone who can needs to help put it out. It doesn't matter if you're male or female. If there's a fire and you can extinguish it, then you're obligated to do so."
Well then...it's just another halachic obligation.
Put into that perspective, then the modern twist is NOT the idea of a female fire fighter, but the idea of a fire-fighting force at all. In fact, the trucks and sirens themselves are suddenly "new"! (They weren't around in the time of the Shulchan Aruch either.)
Except that they aren't so new because the kids had been born into the existence of a fire department and indeed, horse-drawn fire engines had preceded trucks by decades.
Then Bubby commented that she didn't see the point of racing around town in fire trucks with the sirens blaring if you're anyway obligated to put out a fire if you can.
And maybe there was concern whether these women had the physical strength to deal with the high-pressure fire hose, climb the ladder wearing cumbersome equipment, drag heavy people or more than one person at a time to safety.
There was possibly even concern about the danger to life and property if a fire emergency occurred while the trucks were already occupied with these feministy non-fire-emergency purposes (which also makes the trucks low on gas, etc.).
And that just took the wind of out the sails completely.
It's not new, it's not that big a deal, so...who cares? What's all the hype?
So instead of seeing them as remarkable or glorious, the chassidish kids were able to see these fire-truck feminists for what they actually were: useless show-offs wasting time and vital community resources.
So when something is promoted as "New!" (or any synonym thereof), it's a good idea to look behind the hype and discover whether it's merely the same old Yetzer Hara trussed up in a new disguise.
After everyone came from Morocco to Eretz Yisrael, my mother-in-law's widowed mother resided in an apartment in Afula to be near her son and his family.
My mother-in-law, her brother and his wife all took turns caring for the pious elderly lady.
For example, she was strict not to utter one word before netilat yadayim in the morning. Even when she had something urgent to say, she held back until her hands were washed.
Once, she woke up agitated and gestured for my mother-in-law (whose turn it was to care for her in the Afula apartment) to quickly prepare the netilat yadayim because she had something urgent to say.
My mother-in-law washed her hands, then her elderly mother said, "Your mother-in-law just passed away."
My husband's paternal grandmother had been living with my mother-in-law and father-in-law since their marriage (because the paternal grandmother's own husband had passed away a few months before their marriage -- actually, they'd been living with her; it the home of the paternal grandparents home that my mother-in-law moved into after the wedding).
"What?" said my mother-in-law. "How do you know?"
"I was just told in a dream," her elderly mother answered.
And my mother-in-law soon discovered that it was true. My husband's paternal grandmother had passed away early that morning.
Family lore has it that my mother-in-law's parents had been so wealthy that her mother never wore the same dress twice. I don't know if that is literally true. (It could be that she was in robes much of the time and only wore an actual dress for going out. Because otherwise, how you could you have hundreds of dresses you only wear once?)
But after wearing a dress once, she gave it away to the other women in the area. In this way, even the poorest woman from the most struggling family was always beautifully dressed.
But after a profound trauma caused by the Yishmaelites that killed her husband, the double-trauma of sudden widowhood preceded by the initial trauma thrust her into a deep depression. Amid the chaos and confusion, the the family lost all their money. My mother-in-law was only 6 and pulled out of school, never to return and receive an education. Her older brothers were sent to family in Algeria.
But back to the apartment in Afula...
One day, my mother-in-law noticed her mother staring out the widow and frowning. Then her mother called to her and asked my mother-in-law to quickly prepare 6 tomato-and-margarine sandwiches.
(That was all they had back then in Israel's immigrant neighborhoods in the early 1970s. My husband took such sandwiches to school every day. Butter and even the current staple of spreadable white cheese on bread was too expensive for the average immigrant in those times.)
"Now take the sandwiches down to that Arab sweeping the streets," her elderly mother said.
Perplexed yet dutiful, my mother-in-law did so. The Arab streetsweeper responded with joyful surprise and heartfelt thanks, then my mother-in-law went back upstairs to her mother.
When my mother-in-law asked her mother why she needed to do that, her mother answered, "Don't you know that I always keep a lookout for signs of hunger in any living creature? And if I see they're hungry, I feed them. And when I give them food, I always pray that Hashem should behave with my descendants in the same way: Just as I show compassion and feed all who are hungry, so too should the Creator make sure that my descendants are never hungry."
In Morocco, if she passed by even a donkey that looked hungry, she would feed it.
I must admit that sometimes I entertain myself by trying to imagine this extremely refined beautifully dressed pious Jewish lady standing on a dusty road in Tafilalet and putting food in the mouth of a snappish, grumpy donkey. (Don't they bite? Aren't they kind of bad-tempered?)
Anyway, this is clearly the ideal grandmother. Talk about looking out for your offspring!
Moreover, her method seems to have worked.
Looking at our own family and the offspring of her other sons and my mother-in-law, even if people aren't rich, they also don't suffer any serious lack. In fact, one of my husband's sisters married someone whose family had won the lottery and there are other grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are doing quite well financially.
Her natural Jewish concern for others, whether it was making sure the women in her area felt good about themselves by providing them with beautiful clothing, an act which prevented envy and ensured that even the poorest & most nebbuchy woman still looked beautiful for her husband or actively seeking out signs of hunger in all Hashem's creations in order to nourish them, this woman embodied a good Jewish heart.
(Also, I must commend her that in sharing her own clothing with everyone, it meant that she never stood out as the best-dressed because everyone was dressed like her, which shows an admirable resistence to showing-off.)
My mother-in-law's mother was tried with both the nisayon of wealth and the nisayon of financial struggle, and she dealt with both admirably by holding on to her empathy and compassion no matter what.
May we all succeed in all our nisayonot -- and may we all succeed in doing teshuvah without nisayonot!
One of the many unique aspects of Torah is the increasingly deeper level of meaning inherent in even the most seemingly mundane verse.
For example, the story of Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu isn't only about the actions and interactions of our first Jews. It also represents the actions and interactions of the Sefirot in a completely different dimension. In addition, there are many more layers of meaning to every word of their story inscribed in the Torah.
In other words, the Torah is not only true, but it's truer in more profound ways than we could ever imagine.
For example, the Kav Hayashar Chapter 42. He refers to a well-known section of the Chumash that seems to "only" discuss an aspect of Jewish Law. Yet the Kav Hayashar gleans from the Zohar an underlying lesson for which the halachic description is pure metaphor:
וּבַת כֹּהֵן כִּי תִהְיֶה אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה וְזֶרַע אֵין לָהּ, וְשָׁבָה אֶל בֵּית אָבִיהָ כִּנְעוּרֶיהָ, בִּתְרוּמַת הַקֳּדָשִׁים לֹא תֹאכֵל וְכוּ
מִקְרָא זֶה נִדְרָשׁ בַּזֹּהַר, דִּמְרַמֵּז עַל הַנְּשָׁמָה, שֶׁנִּבְרֵאת לֵילֵךְ לְהַגּוּף לְתַקְּנָהּ וּלְקַשְּׁטָהּ בְּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים; וּכְשֶׁהָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה עֲבֵרָה וּפוֹגֵם אֶת נִשְׁמָתוֹ — אָז הַנְּשָׁמָה צוֹעֶקֶת אֶל ה' וְאוֹמֶרֶת: נְתָנַנִי ה' בִּידֵי לֹא אוּכַל קוּם! וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שׁוֹמֵעַ צַעֲקָתָהּ וְאוֹמֵר לָהּ: נְשָׁמָה, בִּתִּי הַחֲבִיבָה, מְגֻדֶּלֶת אַתְּ הָיִית בְּאוֹר הַכָּבוֹד תַּחַת כִּסֵּא כְּבוֹדִי וְנִקְרֵאת "בַּת חֲבִיבָה", וְהוֹרַדְתִּיךְ אֲנִי לְגוּף הָאָדָם, וְהָיִיתִי סוֹבֵר לְהַעֲלוֹתֵךְ לְמַעֲלוֹת מַעְלָה מַעְלָה בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הָאָדָם הַטּוֹב; וְעַכְשָׁו שֶׁחָטָא הָאָדָם, הִיא יְרִידָה לְךָ, שֶׁיָּרַדְתָּ מֵאִגְרָא רָמָא לְבִירָא עֲמִיקְתָּא, לְגוּף הָאָדָם, וְנִקְרָא הַנְּשָׁמָה עַכְשָׁו 'גְּרוּשָׁה', כִּי הַנְּשָׁמָה נִתְגָּרְשָׁה מִמְּקוֹמָהּ בְּעַל כָּרְחָהּ. וַה' יִתְבָּרַךְ שׁוֹמֵעַ צַעֲקָתָהּ וְנוֹטֵל הַנְּשָׁמָה מֵהַגּוּף וּמְצָרְפָהּ עַל יְדֵי דִּינִים. וְאַחַר כְּלוֹת הַצֵּרוּף וְהַדִּינִים הִיא מִתְעַנֶּגֶת וְאוֹכֶלֶת מֵעֹנֶג אָבִיהָ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם
It is written-- “And when the daughter of a Kohein shall be widowed or divorced, having no offspring, and she returns to her father’s house as in her youth…” (Vayikra 22:13) [and in the previous verse it is written,] “…she shall not eat of an offering of the holy things.”
So yes, this scenario as written in the Torah provides us with guiding laws and insights.
But there is also the whole other hidden meaning described above, which seems unrelated to the straightfoward meaning, yet has everything to do with it.
And this still isn't even the whole meaning behind these verses. There's much more, but this is enough to make the point.
The above is just one of many reasons why rationalist arguments regarding the Torah fall short. The Torah and all it encompasses is far, far more than the 3 dimensions we perceive.
In the frum world, people like to romanticize the Yiddishe mama who enjoyed nothing more than tending to her mikdash me'at, her home and family.
And this was true about some women, but for others it was a mix of ups and downs with regard to how they felt.
Since time immemorial, women based their identity on their roles as mothers and wives. (Case in point: In the not-so-distant past, American wives registered themselves as Mrs. Wayne Johnson, and so on.)
Marriage and parenthood were important goals in both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds for both men and women.
In the Jewish world, unmarried women and childless women were pitied (as were unmarried men and childless men, for that matter) and they themselves experienced deep anguish from their lack of spouse or lack of children. Anything that interfered with an upcoming wedding (such as a missing dowry, etc) caused a crisis. Jews invested copious prayers and blessings from tzaddikim to change an unmarried or childless state.
Yet things changed in the last couple of generations.
And no matter how hard they've tried, many frum Jewish women end up feeling frustrated at not being able to recapture and fulfill the romanticized image erected on the pedestal of pa'am (the olden golden days of yore).
When frum women turn for guidance, they're often told "things have changed" and "today's women just can't be satisfied being housewives."
And with that, women are encouraged toward careers and all sorts of pastimes (there's a chug for every inclination!), all the while being reminded to "put family first."
Yet this never made sense to me.
If a women's innate nature has always found joy and satisfaction in being elbow-deep in scrubbing soiled cloth diapers against a washboard or cooking over coals or dealing with all her family in a home of just one or two rooms and finding fulfillment in dealing with toddlers all day, then why can't we recapture that?
After all, it's innate NATURE.
Could it be that innate nature changed so much?
But after talking to people who actually lived in such times, reading memoirs and autobiographical anecdotes, and looking into Chazal, I realized that nature hasn't changed.
Focus has changed. Values have changed.
But maternal nature actually hasn't.
Whenever given the choice and the financial capability, women almost always chose to delegate their responsibilities to hired help.
True, sometimes a woman performed a chore herself IF she felt the hired help wouldn't do it properly. But barring that, women delegated their responsibilities to others.
Wealthy women even delegated feeding to wet nurses.
So if the above are true (and they are), then what of the airbrushed picture of the frum Jewish housewife living in poverty, her heart brimming with joy in her duties?
What Changed, Exactly?
First of all, if you grew up as 1 of 8 kids in a hut in 19th-Century Poland, then that was normal life for you. In fact, your initial years of marriage (with just you, hubby, and the first couple of babies) may even have felt like a break after having grown up crammed with so many other people in such a small space and all the work that entailed.
You may have sometimes dreamed of a nicer home with servants, but that wasn't so realistic, so you just made do with what you had -- which is exactly what you were used to anyway AND exactly how everyone around you lived.
So you did what you were raised to do and what everyone around you did, and you tried to do it with a good attitude.
Although not everyone managed to keep a smile on their face.
In her autobiography, Gutta: Memoirs of a Vanished World, Gutta recalls sympathetically the impoverished Jewish woman who lived in cramped airless conditions with little light and extracted little with which to nurture their children.
In fact, a major part of Gutta's work as a Beis Yaakov teacher was to provide her more impoverished students with the nurturing, affection, and attention they lacked at home.
Another autobiography hinted at how a constant state of hunger challenged the middot of an otherwise loving mother, noting that when the family's economic standing improved, the mother was much calmer and more pleasant.
But either way, this is radically different than today's world.
In Western society today, people don't necessarily grow up with children around them. Four children is already considered a big family by many people today. Some girls babysit, but a lot don't.
I didn't say that people don't grow up with babies or small children at all, but it's certainly not how it used to be.
Today, you don't spend your life with there always being a baby or toddler around. And even if your immediate family didn't have a baby or toddler around, your extended family members and your older married siblings did.
Particularly coming from the secular world, many new mothers need to be taught numerous tasks that you see preteen girls performing for their younger siblings in the frum world.
Another difference is attitude.
Many women feel that the chores, the cooking, and the demands of their children are demeaning somehow.
Yes, women of yore also felt exhausted and frustrated by it all. They may have wished they could afford a cook, a nanny, and a housekeeper. But they didn't feel like they should be doing something "better." Particularly for frum women, what was better or more important than your home and family?
If you've grown up with just one or two siblings (and each of you in your own room, naturally), and everyone occupied in various ways with toys and gadgets and videos, and without any cultural emphasis or appreciation of housework and child care, then entering into marriage and motherhood presents quite a challenge.
It's nothing you're used to.
Adding to that is that American society is not a child-oriented society. For all its safety regulations for children and promotion of the health and happiness of children, it's really not child-oriented. I only noticed this once I'd entered the frum community in America and then when I came to Israel, which is a very child-oriented society. After seeing this difference, I realized that America really isn't into children and doesn't really know how to relate to them or to mothers. Of course, there are some exceptions, but in general, America is not child-oriented. (Also in contrast to American society, I think Russians are child-oriented, culturally speaking. Maybe in a different way than Israelis are child-oriented, but Russians still have more of a child-orientation than most Americans.)
Anyway, I'm not even sure "child-oriented" is the exact term to describe what I mean, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.
Of particular concern are today's teens who spend so much time on their phones in their rooms. Studies show that today's teens are less likely to go out to even traditional fun events for teens, like shopping, getting a drivers license, partying, and more. Because of diminished physical interaction, homicide is down among teens -- but suicide is up.
After spending a good chunk of your life on your phone in virtual relationships, how will it feel to get up at night for a child or to read books together or deal with potty-training and spoon-feeding or driving to pick up groceries, buy baby clothes, or take a child to the park? How will it feel to have to coordinate life with a spouse?
Because of this drastic change in cultural norms, many women find housework and motherhood overwhelming.
They simply aren't used to it.
It doesn't feel right.
On the contrary, it may even feel all wrong.
Cracking the Myth of the Never-Working Woman
Surprising truth: There have always been working women, including working mothers.
No, not in droves as they do today. And not with the variety of employment opportunities women enjoy today. (Men, for that matter, also enjoy a far wider variety of employment opportunities than ever before.)
But there have ALWAYS been women who earned money and engaged in work outside their family responsibilities.
In Caddie Woodlawn, Caddie's mother raised turkeys to sell every November, usually making a nice profit from that.
Almanzo Wilder's mother turned a nice profit by selling her butter.
As a married woman herself, Laura Ingalls Wilder attempted to supplement the family income by selling her own butter and eggs. Later, she wrote articles for a local farm publication and then her bestselling books.
Women worked as nurses, midwives, seamstresses, laundresses, helped their husband run the family store, taught school (as long as they weren't married), babysat, helped their husband with his business (sometimes as a full and very successful partner, including successfully taking over the business if the husband died or was incapacitated), and more.
In addition, working women are mentioned in Chazal.
The Working Woman of Valor
In the famous section of Mishlei, Eishet Chayil (A Woman of Valor), Shlomo Hamelech describes a woman who makes a sheet and sells it in Mishlei 31:29.
Metzudat David explains it to mean a woman who makes sheets for her own needs, then sells the surplus.
Ralbag describes a woman who made sheet, which she then passes on to a merchant to sell on her behalf in order for her to acquire capital buy "all that her soul desires."
Malbim explains that she wove both a sheet and a belt, which she then sold to a merchant. Then she distributed her earnings to the poor, creating for herself spiritual garments to don when she eventually leaves her physical garments, enabling her to indeed be "clothed in oz and hadar and laugh on her last day." (Nice peirush, eh?)
The Ben Ish Chai also recommends that women who earn their own money use it to ease the financial burden of her husband (by buying her own cosmetics and personal needs) and distribute money to the poor.
Prior to that verse, 31:16 describes a woman who examines a field and purchases it. Metzudat David, Ibn Ezra, Ralbag, and Malbim all explain this to mean an intelligent business woman, and interpret the following verses as proof of her financial acumen and success (i.e., the yield of the field is good, and which enables her to acquire a vineyard, etc.), which allows her to ease things for her husband and provide for the poor of her community.
Both the Malbim in 31:18 explains that she works for her actual needs, without making a career out of it. Malbim says: "Gam lo tiyached mischara rak b'avor ha'arev v'hamo'eel l'tzorech atzmah" -- She won't make the business something special and stand-out (tiyached is like meyuchad), just what is pleasant and useful for her specific needs.
Metzudat David 31:19 explains that even as she puts her mind to business, mikol makom lo zazah mimalechet nashim -- nonetheless, she doesn't move on from women's work; she still tends to her domestic duties.
Interestingly, the Sages advise/assume that a married woman's earnings go toward her own needs (so that she can ease her husband's burden) and toward tzedakah & gemilut chasedim.
This apparently is their ideal for the working wife & mother of valor.
Real Stories of Domestic Struggles
In Colonial America, Massachusetts midwife Martha Ballard kept a diary during the years 1785-1812.
Martha only started midwifery after her own childbearing years were long past and she could rely on her young adult daughters to run the home while she was at a delivery. After those daughters married, Martha relied on hired help, which was not nearly as reliable as her daughters.
Based on what she describes in her diary, Martha prefers gardening and delivering babies to housework.
This is clearly not an influence from the feminist movement or modern mores, but an innate personal preference.
In fact, many modern women can relate to her description upon returning home in 1796 from her 612th delivery:
“I returned home and find my house up in arms. How long will G-d preserve my strength to perform as I have done of late, He only knows. May I trust in Him at all times and do good...May He give me strength...”
"Up in arms" paints an image of a house weaponized against its owner. One pictures Martha arriving at home only to encounter unfolded laundry aiming a shot gun or dust bunnies armed with tomahawks.
Two years later, she again wrote of coming home at 10 a.m.:
“...find my house alone and in arms. Did not find time to sit down until 2 p.m.”
Yet another time, she was called for a delivery in the middle of butchering a calf. She came back a day later to find the kitchen still a bloody mess with the calf head lying where she left it. Neither her husband nor her 2 sons still living at home had tended to things in her working absence.
Due to the strenuous journeys Martha sometimes needed to make to arrive at a delivery on time, she noted that she arrived at work "almost fatigued to death."
The above are probably familiar sentiments for some working wives or mothers.
Yet while Martha found domestic duties a burden, she still felt they were important.
One of my relatives, born in the South at the beginning of America's Civil War, wrote a long poem in 1934 about her struggle to face the daily question of "What's for dinner?"
Here are 3 excerpts from that poem (the original contains a stanza for each day of the week):
The Dinner Question
She preceded feminism and even WWII's Rosie the Riveter. So she wasn't affected by feminist thought or attitudes. Like a lot of us, she finds dinner a challenge, made even more challenging by the more labor-intensive preparation necessary before modern appliances became common.
However, she didn't find it demeaning or unfair. She just didn't feel up to all the time, especially as she aged -- and especially on days packed with other labor-intensive demands, like laundry day.
So the modern working woman who doesn't feel like putting together dinner after a hard day's work isn't so different than this old-time Southern woman who also didn't feel like putting together dinner after a hard day's work.
Don't Give Up!
What's the point of reading all this?
Well, I feel like women today can end up feeling second-rate.
Not because of the new and worse value system or emphasis or focus.
Focus and values CAN be changed. It takes some work, depending on your personality and background influences, but they can be changed.
But many frum women feel second-rate because of their actual feelings.
There's a fairy tale that women performed all their domestic duties with a song in their heart and a dance in their step, with Jewish women practically swooning from the uplifting holiness of working in their mikdash me'at.
Yes, women experienced fulfillment.
Yes, there were aspects they enjoyed.
And yes, their domestic responsibilities were important to them.
But again, that doesn't mean that they never felt overwhelmed, exhausted, fed up, or frustrated similar to how you feel sometimes.
And whenever possible, they usually hired someone else to fulfill these duties.
(Although it's important to note that even when a mother hired a nanny or a wet-nurse, the mother was around. She was able to oversee both her child and her child's caretaker. Passing one's very young child into another's care - especially into a group situation - AND being far from them is a modern construct.)
You're not second-rate or "not good enough" because you struggle to feel the holiness of mopping your floors or because you're desperate to hire someone else to clean the bathrooms or because you send your 2-year-old out to gan.
You're not second-rate or "not good enough" because you prefer reading a book to making dinner.
You're not second-rate or "not good enough" because you feel the need for a paying job in addition to your domestic responsibilities. ("Zamama sadeh v'tikachehu..." 31:18)
Like I said, FEELINGS haven't changed much over time.
I think that because women are taught that their feelings make them second-rate, it's part of why it is so hard for some women to invest in their families and homes.
They think that "things have changed" and are impossible to resolve.
So why even bother trying?
Therefore, this post is here to VALIDATE your feelings.
You're actually not so different than the women of yore.
Nor are you hopeless.
Then vs Now: The Conclusion
So to sum up:
Finally, there is a world of difference between feeling like you want servants or nannies because you're tired, overwhelmed, and don't enjoy the work...and feeling like you want servants or nannies because the job just "isn't for you" or it's beneath you and you should be doing something "better" and "more important."
Do you see the difference?
Modern feminism inserted the "more important" bug into women's brains.
THAT'S the attitude that's changed.
Have you ever noticed how Jewish women never try to take on the mitzvah of a beard?
Despite the powerful segulot of an untrimmed in beard described in Torah literature, women do nothing to try to grow a beard. They do nothing to even sport a fake beard.
In fact, many women invest money and time in efforts to eradicate any facial hair!
Furthermore, when perusing literature that glorifies a Jewish beard, you never hear a peep from women, like the following:
In fact, I don't see that women focus on the beard issue at all or wrangle with it in any way.
What woman discusses her struggles to accept her beardless self the way it is or to internalize that a smooth-skinned face is a desirable part of sheh asani k'rtzono - that her lack of hairy jaw is simply Hashem's Will in His creation of women?
I've never a seen a woman give a class on how covering her hair or raising children or getting ready for Shabbat is on par with growing a beard.
Women don't seem to dwell on the whole beard issue at all; they just go on with their lives and their avodah.
Other Mitzvot Ignored by Women
It's also interesting to note that women don't fight for the right to have payos (a Torah commandment). In fact, when some married women try to make arguments for not covering their hair, they never bring up the issue of displaying payos. Everyone just seems to accept the fact that the mitzvah of payos is for men.
Nor is there any feminist movement for brit milah, despite the incredible benefits (both medical and spiritual) Jewish men received from this mitzvah.
(And don't say it's because women lack the necessary appendage; both the Yishmaelite and African cultures found a way around that obstacle, horrifically enough.)
I'm not trying to make fun of women who struggle with certain attitudes within in Torah Judaism. I struggled with several myself.
And BTW: If you do happen to struggle with your biological inability to grow a beard or fulfill brit milah, then you need to deal with that head-on just as any of us need to deal with any issue that Torah attitudes and Laws bring up within us.
I just thought that the beard attitude might shed some perspective on where women are coming from when a particular halacha or tradition makes them feel excluded or diminished.
It's often worthwhile pondering why you feel one way about one issue, but a totally different way regarding a similar issue.
In my penchant for finding proofs to support my belief that American culture is cult-like and that the mainstream media is backed by evil people and bad agendas that cannot be relied upon, I decided to look up the actual numbers, statistics, and percentages of a popular race issues to see what they reveal.
This post starts off by describing and summarizing issues, then delves into listing the actual numbers. (If you just want the hard-core numbers, then feel free to scroll down to "A Look at the Real Numbers.")
And just for knowing, LOCD stands for "leading cause of death."
Note to Europeans: This blog uses "Asian" in the American way, which refers to people from the Pacific and the Far East (like Japan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc). I never refer to Indians, Pakistanis, or Nepalis as "Asian."
Okay, here we go...
So let's just look at one subject of lies and distortions propounded in America, and that's the claim that America is a racist society where women and minorities are being limited by discrimination and oppression, and that white males are "privileged."
Just to be clear: I'm not arguing whether racism exists; it does exist, unfortunately.
My problem is that it doesn't seem to be as a big a problem or as debilitating an obstacle as the mainstream media likes to promote.
So if you imbibe the mainstream media, you might start to think that white cops are one of the most prominent threats to non-white communities, especially to black communities.
You might think that racism in general and the "microaggressions" of white people are debilitating obstacles for the non-white communities.
However, as even the mainstream media admits (although it tries not to discuss it), the top killer for black males between the ages of 15-34 is another black male of the same age group.
This means that despite the Left's mantra of racism in America, a black male would actually be safest if you put him in an all-white neighborhood.
In fact, this statistic implies that if you would put every young black male in a solely white neighborhood, you would immediately halve the death rate of young black males.
And despite the attention spotlighting Black Lives Matter, an organization screaming against the racism (of which there is very little) of white police officers, the actual numbers are as follows:
Hm. 1 versus around 60.
Oh yeah, I would definitely focus on the 1 killer, not the other 60.
Especially since the cop was mostly likely defending himself or someone else, and not killing for revenge or anger or while drunk or high, I would definitely focus on that 1 cop.
Yeah, sure. That totally makes sense.
I can tell that the BLM adherents really care about black lives because they focus on the 1 black life ended by a cop as opposed to the other 60 black lives ended by non-cops.
Yeah, I totally believe that BLM cares about black lives. This totally proves it.
A lesser known but more alarming statistic is that homicide is the second leading cause of death for black children aged 1-4 (representing 15% of male deaths and 12% of female deaths) after unintentional injuries, which is the leading cause of death for this age group.
In contrast, the homicide rate for white children in that age group is half that for black children, while the homicide rate for Asian children aged 1-4 ranks as the sixth LOCD for males (2.7% of all deaths) and the fifth LOCD for Asian females (4.1%).
We all might want to analyze the Asian community to see how they manage to protect their little ones from homicide so much better than every one else.
Oh, wait, no. Instead, let's just keep analyzing why they're so good in math! Yeah, that's so much more important than preventing the murder of small children!
Interestingly, if a black male can make it to the age of 45, he's highly unlikely (or not likely at all) to be murdered or to kill himself. In fact, suicide doesn't rank at all for black men over age 45.
Yet that isn't true for other groups.
For example, there is a suicide rate (albeit a low one) for white males aged 45-64 and for Native American & Hispanic males aged 45-54 and for white woman aged 35-64, and for Native American women & Hispanic women aged 35-54.
In contrast, neither homicide nor suicide ranks at all for black females above the age of 45.
So if white males are so privileged, why are they killing themselves more than black males or black females?
Why are they so unhappy and so despairing despite the "privileged" color of their skin and their "privileged" gender?
And did you know that the second leading cause of death for male Native Americans aged 10-34 is suicide. Age 10?! Do you think that might be preventable? Maybe someone should create an organization to deal with that.
I also think that someone should take a look at the high percentage of death by homicide against Native American girls aged 1-4 (15% of all deaths, as high as for black males in that age group). Combine that with suicide as the #1 leading cause of death for teenage Native American girls (almost 40% of all their deaths result from suicide!!!).
But no, let's just fuss about how to refer to Native Americans (by their individual tribe? American-Indians? Native Americans? First Nations? Not Redskins, for sure!). Proper nouns are for sure more important the murdered babies or suicidal girls...
Right, mainstream media?
Let's look at Hispanics:
WHO exactly is killing and depressing all these Hispanic males?
And are you wondering about the statistics for the much accused privileged white males?
Who is murdering or depressing these young men? White cops?
It's shocking that homicide and suicide rank above cancer, heart disease, and most illnesses. We hear so much about cancer-prevention and helping children suffering from diseases or disabilities, but the statistics show we should be equally concerned about children of all races and ethnicities either being murdered or murdering themselves.
It seems that America is a nation of misplaced priorities, and it's those misplaced priorities are being set by Leftists and civil rights groups under the guise of being oh-so passionately compassionate and concerned.
In contrast, the second leading cause of death (after unintentional injuries) for white females aged 15-24 is suicide. Homicide comes in far after white males, with it being the 4th leading cause of death for white females aged 1-9 and 15-24, while it's the 5th leading cause of death for white females aged 10-14.
For black females aged 1-34, the leading cause of death is again, "unintentional injuries." (For black females above the age of 35, it's either cancer or heart disease.)
Disturbingly, homicide is the second leading cause of death among black females aged 1-4 and aged 14-24, a more common cause of death than disease, birth defects, or suicide.
As stated above, for Native American females, suicide is the #1 leading cause of death between the ages of 10-19.
Meaning, Native American teenage girls are more likely to die by their own hand than by disease, accidents, or anything else.
Does that bother you at all?
It bothers me.
Yet when do you hear people talking about this?
Then suicide decreases to the 2nd leading cause of death (16%, after unintentional injuries) for Native American females aged 20-24 and then ties for 2nd place with chronic liver disease for Native American females aged 25-34 with 8.7% of deaths resulting from either one. (The ranking of chronic liver disease is unique to Native Americans compared with all the other groups.)
In contrast to the other groups, cancer makes an appearance as a leading cause of death for Hispanic females, which it doesn't for other races or genders. Hispanic females aged 10-14 or 35-44 are most likely to die of cancer, and not than unintentional injuries or anything else. Suicide becomes the second leading cause of death for Hispanic females aged 15-24 and the 3rd leading cause for the ages 10-14 and 25-34.
What does that mean? I don't know.
Furthermore, despite the hype about white privileged males, the above statistics show that young white males are killing themselves as much as or even more than reputedly disadvantaged groups of the same age, like black or Hispanic females.
Why is that? What's going on? And why is no one talking about that either?
The White Guy
It's been said several times on this blog that American culture is basically a cult nowadays. If you just rely on mainstream media, you will think that black males are in urgent danger of being killed by white cops.
And yes, you may also hear that the leading cause of death for a young black male is murder by another young black male. At least they get that priority right.
You will also hear lots of stuff on racism and worry about the self-esteem of teenage girls, their body image, general self-image, depression, rights, and eating disorders.
You will also be under the impression that white males are "privileged" as if they live on Easy Street and can be dismissed or ignored. Even more, media propaganda gives the impression that white males need to make way for less advantaged groups -- like females and all non-white groups (in other words, literally everyone else in the country).
In other words, we don't need to worry about white guys.
But do you ever hear that the second leading cause of death in young white males is themselves?
A Look at the Real Numbers
There is a lot of propaganda going on and a lot of distraction to keep us from looking at real problems.
So for example, if I wanted to look at the lives of American teenagers and how to help them, I would start by looking at the 4 LOCD (leading causes of death) within genders and racial/ethnic groups.
The following is based on a much more extensive breakdown along genders, ages, races & ethnicities, which you can see at this link:
And the initial breakdown looks like this:
So just looking at the ranking, I'm concerned that suicide is one of the top 3 leading causes of death in all groups, and even the top 2 or the leading cause of death in the case of Native American females.
Why on earth are young people in one of the best places to live killing themselves?
And because the 2nd and 3rd leading cause of death among white males is suicide and homicide (the same ranking, though not the same percentage, as for the truly underprivileged male Native Americans), I would immediately remove the classification of "privileged."
Unless, of course, you think it is a privilege to hate and despair of yourself and your future so much that you end your own life or you think it's a privilege to be murdered.
I'm also wondering what "unintentional injuries" are?
It's the leading cause or 2nd leading cause of death in all groups.
Does it mean that teenagers are clumsy? Living with irresponsible people? Driving badly or living in areas where people drive badly? Are they swimming irresponsibly? Engaging in daredevil activities? Sports? Eating spoiled food? Accidentally drinking bleach that someone stored in a water bottle?
Let's see what "unintentional injuries" kill teenagers in the USA...
You can read the full article on this subject and see all the graphs here:
Unintentional Killer #1: Vehicles
It was a bit difficult to get details on exactly what kind and how much of "unintentional injuries" kill teenagers, but motor vehicle accidents are the leading death by "unintentional injuries" in this age group. Now, motor vehicle deaths have gone down quite a lot for children and teenagers (perhaps due to safety features and improved medical treatment), but this still remains the highest cause of death for this age group.
Unintentional Killer #2: Poisoning
"Poisoning." It's not what you might think.
The 2012 statistic shows that 85% of "unintentional injury" of teens through "poisoning" is from drug overdose or alcohol poisoning (which I'm assuming means that the alcohol didn't poison them like drinking a bit of hemlock would, but that they drank too much alcohol at one time).
Now, you might think that drug or alcohol overdose is suicide (after all, it's self-inflicted and easily controllable), but it's only considered suicide if the person meant to commit suicide. If he or she only meant to get high or drunk, then the resulting death is an "unintentional injury."
Death by "poisoning" has actually increased in teenagers.
Because so much of it has to do with alcohol or drugs, it's a wholly preventable death.
And since there is no need to drink or take drugs (while there is a need to use motor vehicles), one wonders why teens are engaging in such self-destructive behavior.
I would also look at this "unintentional injury" in conjunction with the suicide rate and wonder why American teenagers are feeling so unhappy and so hopeless.
Unintentional Killer #3: Drowning
Knowing American teens as I do, I can't help wondering how many of these unintentional drowning deaths are alcohol-related.
Unintentional Killer #4: Other
What does this comprise? I'm not sure. Yet it ranks out above unintentional death by fire, suffocation, and other transportation (planes, trains, etc).
Cancer & Disease
I'm also concerned about the ranking of cancer in teenagers. While no one is sure about the exact causes of cancer, there are interesting theories.
Many studies show a correlation between cancer and lifestyle & diet.
Yet newer and more probing theories suggest a correlation between cancer and one's inner world. People who eat themselves up with envy, resentment, bitterness, and hatred (of themselves or others) can find the cancer eating up their own body.
Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least 2 people I knew who died of cancer that seemed to come from rage and helplessness. One repressed her negative feelings, but one admitted not long before she died that she "knew" her illness came from an maddening situation that seemed to have no end or resolution in sight.
Even seemingly cheerful or serene people can repress such emotions while these negative traits eat them up inside without them realizing the existence of these feelings.
And heart disease in such young people? What's going on?
I'm also concerned about death from pregnancy complications.
The percentage of teenage deaths resulting from pregnancy complications are as follows:
I'm assuming most of these girls aren't married and that these are irresponsibly conceived pregnancies.
And I'd look to Asian teens to see what they're doing, to learn why they don't die of pregnancy complications. Maybe discovering that can help the girls in other groups.
What percentage of teen deaths result from murder?:
This means that half the time you're looking at a dead teenage black boy, you're looking at a murder.
With Hispanic males and black females, around one out of every 5 or 6 teen deaths is a murder.
Who is killing these kids?
We know that young black men are the prime killers of other young black men, but who is killing all these black females and Native American males?
Do anyone really believe it's white cops or President Trump's rhetoric?
Also, while the percentage of male Native American deaths via murder is high, the percentage for female Native Americans is lowest. But why? Is the reason reassuring or disturbing? For example, is it because Native American teenage girls are killing themselves before anyone else can?
It's all extremely disturbing and I don't understand why it's not being discussed more widely and frequently.
Also, please note that a larger percentage of white male death results from murder than Hispanic, Asian, White, and Native American females and Asian males.
Also, a white teenage male is twice as likely to be killed by a cop than an Asian teenage male.
What a tremendous privilege!
(Question: If white cops are racist, then why are they more likely to kill a white guy than, say, a Chinese guy?)
What percentage of teen deaths result from suicide?:
This is so bizarre and disturbing.
This also leaves a lot of questions.
For example, is the percentage of black male suicide the lowest because black teenage boys are happier and more hopeful than everyone else or because other black youth kill them before they can kill themselves?
It also looks like, despite their "privileged" skin color and gender, white males are more deeply unhappy and despairing of themselves than white females, Asian females, Hispanics, and blacks -- some of the very groups generally considered underprivileged and disadvantaged.
Why is that? Why isn't their much-lauded white male privilege working for them?
It's all very disturbing with a lot of unknowns. (Unknown to me, at least. Likely, someone else knows.)
A Look at The Real Problems
After reviewing all this, it's impossible not to be extremely concerned about Native American teenage girls.
As shown above, nearly 40% of Native American teen female deaths result from suicide. (And don't forget that the following cause of death is "unintentional injury," which includes a lot of self-inflicted drug and alcohol overdose.) The suicide rate for preteen Native American females is also whoppingly high at 30% and the homicide ranking for Native American females aged 1-4 is one of the highest (around 15%, the same as for black males aged 1-4).
Yet we don't see anyone blaring: "Native American Girl Lives Matter!" even though I really think that someone needs to tell Native American girls that their lives actually matter a lot because they don't seem to be realizing this on their own.
The Asian male suicide rate is also alarming, especially taking into account that the next Asian male age group of 20-24 ranks suicide as the #1 leading cause of death, making up 34.6% of the deaths in that age group, which is not so different than Native American female teens.
Why is that?
Perhaps we need to approach Asian males on college campuses and hand them a "Your Life Matters" sticker.
Anyway, someone might want to look into that.
But I think none of this information will gain any mileage because it doesn't fit the agenda of the people disseminating the propaganda.
I don't think they care about anyone's lives.
Where's the Rest of the Story?
Okay, you know how Mark Twain said, "There are...lies, damn lies, and statistics"?
All the above represent percentage of deaths, but another important indicator is percentage of population. And that's missing from all the above.
For example, if black male teen death was super low, then the fact that half result from murder means something different than if black male teen death in general is very high.
Also, within that abstract and varied category of "unintentional injuries," it matters a lot what percentage of the fatal injuries resulted from motor vehicle accidents caused by the other driver and also what percentage were drug- and alcohol-related.
So the above numbers tell a lot and are very disturbing, but they are far from being the whole story. A lot of information is still missing.
Also, there is a lot of background information missing.
The Influence of Culture
Cultural background plays a huge part in the above statistics.
For example, Native Americans endure an exceptional status in America and many live on reservation where they are given the impression of self-governance, yet are really at the mercy of non-Native American bureaucrats. Many reservations endure dismal conditions and offer dismal futures.
Because they're nations living within a nation, they experience differences in lifestyle, identity, and status compared to other American minorities. For example, many tribes attempt some form of self-governance on their reservation. (The strength and success of this attempt varies from place to place.) And there are hundreds of treaties made by the American government with different tribes, which are still considered in force today (even though they've all been violated at least once, usually by the American government).
As another example, the Kickapoo tribe was able to travel back and forth over the Mexican-US border using their official tribal enrollment card instead of an American passport like every other American citizen. In 2011, Pascua Yaqui & Kootenai tribes issued Enhanced Travel Cards that can be used between the Mexican-US border and on US domestic flights. In fact, the Iroquis/Haudenosaunee tribe has their own passport (but this is not honored globally). Many feel like they possess dual citizenship with their tribal nation and the USA and lack trust toward the American government (even as many are reliant of US government programs).
Finally, different tribes don't necessarily like each other, so it's difficult to create "the" best plan for Native Americans as a whole. Just like Native Americans have a history of war and broken treaties with the US government, they also have a history of wars and atrocities between different tribes. To this day, for example, there is animosity between the Lakota Sioux tribe and the Crow tribe.
Other background factors are that some Asian cultures view suicide as the acceptable or even honorable option in certain situations, so that may impact the high suicide rate among Asians.
Those are just 2 examples.
I can think of a lot more questions and possible contraindications and contradictions by looking at the above, but this post is long & convoluted enough as is.
But anyway, it seems to me that people fed by the media will continue to badly misunderstand and misprioritize the real problems in America and will assume that the problems can be solved by shouting slogans, wearing nonsensical symbols, ignoring facts, focusing on their own group while ignoring the hardships of other groups who may be suffering a lot more, protesting against Ben Shapiro speeches, and heaping blame on President Trump & white cops.
Getting Back to Bible Basics
Anyway, we see that the issues of concern in society are complex and take a lot of research, and are horribly misrepresented or underrepresented in the media.
But it's clear that white cops are not a major problem in these issues.
Neither are President Trump's tweets or Ben Shapiro's presence on college campuses.
And black people are not the only people deserving of our care and attention.
So why all the distraction from real problems and their roots?
Also, it seems that racism is not the core of today's worst problems, but self-hatred is, along with a lack of hope or meaning in life, a lack of respect & appreciation for oneself and for others.
It seems that this is a result of an increasingly Godless society, where values such as realizing that everyone (including yourself) is made in God's Image, and that Godly values like compassion, forbearance, humility, perseverance, and emuna are considered naive, superstitious, or inapplicable.
Why No One Needs BLM; We Just Need God
Another major lesson learned from the Pele Yoetz is to avoid pressuring people to bite off more than they can chew.
And many times, we don't know the limits or the capabilities of others.
Sometimes we have a good idea of another's limits or capabilities.
But other times, we just project ourselves onto the other person -- a form of arrogance for us and a discouragement to the other person.
So yeah, sometimes, we pressure others from from our own ego.
Other times, we're so enthused about a certain mitzvah and the way it's working for us, that we forget that the other person may not have the capability to do that mitzvah in the special way that we do.
(And if you find yourself faced with a high-octane enthusiast, I think it's usually best to just go along with them, tell them how great they're doing -- because you get reward for encouraging others & making them feel good about their mitzvot, mezakeh harabim, etc. -- and leave your own personal failings out of it. Just be happy for them as much as you can. Speaking from personal experience on both sides of this scenario... ;)
Anyway, we learn from the Pele Yoetz the importance of encouraging people that even the tiniest act counts for a lot.
For example, regarding Torah study, the Pele Yoetz repeatedly states the following throughout his book:
And they said (Tanna D'vei Eliyahu Zuta, Perek 20) that even if one learns all day the verse "...v'achot Lotan Timna - And sister of Lotan is Timna" -- his reward comes as if he's occupied with Negaim and Ohalot. [Two of the most complex tractates -- MR]
The Pele Yoetz does not mean that you shouldn't learn more than that verse if you're able -- on the contrary, he exhorts men to learn as much as they can, including Zohar!
But when a guy finds himself with even the smallest amount of free time ("even the short time it takes for a swallow of saliva"), he should say "v'achot Lotan Timna" (Beresheit 36:22) and earn overwhelming reward.
(That's pretty positive and encouraging, isn't it?)
The Pele Yoetz also stresses this regarding men who aren't learned or who barely know how to read; he encourages them with the above.
(And just for knowing, the Pele Yoetz also felt very strongly about the need teach women and girls how to both read and write: "And how good it would be if women were to learn the skill of writing, for then they could easily learn everything!" He also exhorts the women of his time to go to the women's section of a synagogue in order to hear the Torah lectures given there, quoting Shir Hashirim 2:9 as proof.)
So this is very important:
Encourage people by reassuring them that even the smallest & briefest mitzvah they carry out can reap unimaginable reward and make a significant difference -- as long as they mean to do it for Hashem.
Start out small -- start out miniscule and weak, if that's where you're holding -- then keep on going throughout your failures and successes, sure in the fact that even the tiniest briefest mitzvah reaps great reward and holds mind-boggling significance.
This is straight from Rav Eliezer Papo, a tremendous self-sacrificing tzaddik.
Help a frum family get their children back!:
I'm a middle-aged housewife and mother in Eretz Yisrael who likes to read and write a lot.
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