A Tough Question

A Tough Question

Being the only observant Jew in my immediate family, I get asked many questions about Orthodox Judaism. Some are very straightforward questions about keeping shabbat and kosher and other questions are more difficult to answer. The last time I visited my parents, my mom asked me why there are some observant Jews that are very strict about keeping shabbat and kosher but not so strict about keeping the laws of shomer negia.

My first reaction about hearing this question was “Do I really have to answer this?”, I don’t like being put into the position of spokesperson for Orthodox Judiasm, especially since I am very uncomfortable labeling how I practice Judaism.

After that initial thought, I decided to give it a shot. First I mentioned to my mom that people are putting off marriage for a variety of reasons, wanting to establish careers, live on their own before being married, etc. There is less of a stigma in society these days when it comes to premarital sex and living together before marriage, ie the popularity of “Sex and the City”.

When you get married young, you don’t have to struggle so much when it comes to shomer negia, although there are different struggles to be faced. In my neighborhood, I see people who are single well into their 30s and 40s and even though times have changed, the urges for physical contact have not changed. Everyone gets lonely, even in the city that never sleeps. It takes a herculean amount of self-discipline and self-confidence in order to remain shomer negia. When you live in a city with so many options at your door, it is a wonder that any adults are shomer negia today. I summed up the discussion by saying that some people are stronger at controlling these urges and are able to wait until they get married. Regardless, no one has the right to judge. We all have our own struggles to deal with and it is better to focus on yourself and how you can be a better person rather than tearing people down.

Has anyone ever had to answer these type of questions before? How would you have handled the situation?

While You Walk on the Way – Why Not Get an MP3 Player

Technology today, particularly mp3 players give us a wonderful opportunity to learn when we are on our way, wherever we are. I’ve been listening to Torah Tapes via walkman for a long time but the mp3 player is quite superior due to it’s small size, higher capacity and better fidelity.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of Cross-Currents fame, wrote an excellent article in a recent edition of the OU’s Jewish Action which covers many of the basics of mp3 usage. Here are some of the key points from the article with some of my comments.

Rabbi Adlerstein purchased a small capacity IRiver for around one hundred dollars which holds about twenty hours of material, and runs on a single AA battery. Although it doesn’t have the coolness factor of the IPod, I also highly recommend the IRiver line for those who favor price and function over form. And as Rabbi Adlerstein points out you can easily record live shiurim if you purchase a model with the voice recording option.
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Advice For a BT Returning From Israel

OK, here’s the situation. How would you advise?

A young man 24-25 just returned to the US from two years study in a BT yeshiva. He’s flying spiritually. But it’s time to get serious about the next stage in life. He wants to get married –- his yetzer hara won’t leave him alone — and raise a frum family.
However, he:

a) is going to law school and has at least three years of schooling ahead of him before even thinking about making a penny.

b) is going to be a psychologist (5 years schooling) or doctor (5+ years).

c) he isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do, but is bright and has good grades and a degree from a good school to prove it.

How do you advise in each case? Does he go out? If not, how does he deal with Mr. Yetzer? How much information about the realities of frum living – e.g. like those on the Financial Realities thread – do you tell him about?

How does your advice change, if at all, if his circumstances change – if he is 27-28? 30-32? 32+?

How does your advice change, if at all, if we replace “him” with “her,” i.e. it’s a young woman just returning from Israel?

Rabbi Dilbert

Perhaps it’s because Shema Yisroel is imprecisely translated as “Hear, O Israel” rather than “Listen, O Israel,” but we Jews have a lot of trouble listening. We didn’t listen to Moshe in the desert. We didn¹t listen to Shmuel when he warned us about the responsibilities of accepting a king. We didn’t listen to Yirmyahu during the last days of Jerusalem. We didn’t listen to Mordechai in Persia.

Today, however, the problem has acquired a new wrinkle. Our contemporary sages speak, and somehow the message fails to reach us at all, depriving us of even the opportunity to listen.

Our gedolim have issued proclamations concerning the excesses of multi-thousand dollar custom sheitels, but frum women continue to buy them. Our gedolim have spoken out against the message (prevalent in many high schools and seminaries) that a frum woman measures her success only by how many children she produces, but the attitude persists. Some gedolim have warned against (pardon me while I duck under my desk) the dangers of the internet, but rather than trying to understand their concerns many of us reflexively pass judgment that they are out of touch with the modern world. Fiscal irresponsibility, alcoholism, lack of business ethics, lack of decorum in shul, ad nauseum remain chronic problems despite the admonitions of our greatest sages, whose words seem to go unheard rather than unheeded.
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How Would You Handle this Situation -Should I Encourage Upgrading A Non Orthodox Conversion?

Charnie sent in the following question looking for insight from our readers.

What a great idea it is to pick everyone’s collective brain here! So here’s an issue weighing on my mind.

I have some cousins who live in upstate NY with whom I’m very close. The husband is very involved in his Reform synagogue and has, at times, said how he admires my husband and I and our commitment to Torah Jewry. His wife (my cousin by marriage) is an absolutely delightful woman of whom I’m very fond.

Here’s the problem – her mother isn’t Jewish, her father is, she had a Reform conversion. So technically, of course, neither she nor their 10 year old daughter are Jewish, although they absolutely consider themselves as such. The daughter attends the Hebrew Day School in their community, which has Jewish children running the gamut from Chabad to Reform as there aren’t enough Jews in their city to split them up by denominations, maybe something the rest of us could learn from in terms of Ahavas Yisrael. This woman is probably the most knowledgeable cousin I have on that side of the family in terms of Jewish observance, and is definitely the only one I’d trust in my kitchen because, although she doesn’t keep a kosher home, she does know about how it’s done.
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Looking for Suggestions to Breakdown Communication Barriers

Below is an email exchange with my sister. She is two years older than me and has called me “Ugs” since I was 5 years old and she thought I was cute. Lashon sagi nahor, I guess. I have always been very close with her but we don’t see each other often since she still lives in the NY area and I have relocated to Baltimore.

It bothers both of us that we are not able to share in each others lives more. The situation is complicated by the fact that my nephews have severe food allergies. For the last few years she has hosted various Thanksgiving dinners, and birthday parties that we have declined to attend. I wanted to convey (more) clearly to her why we decline. In the past she has said something like “What’s the problem? When my kids go to a birthday party, they know that they cannot eat whatever they want because it might have peanuts etc. So why can’t you just do the same thing with your kids? We’ll bring in some kosher food for you and some other food for everyone else.” Obviously, there are halachic ways to cook kosher in a non-kosher home.

I’d appreciate some feedback as to the emotional / communication element at work.

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