Parenting, the BT and the TV

The Brisker Rav ZTL was once asked how and why his children developed into such exemplary Talmidie Chachamim. The Brisker Rav ZTL replied to the questionner by stating that Tefilah and Tehilim were two main bases as a starting point. I think that the issue of whether, if at all, a family should partake of popular culture and how to deal with the same within the four corners of their house is an issue that warrants discussion.

Obviously, if one has elected not to have a TV , that solves part of the problem. OTOH, that presents the issue of whether one should allow one’s children to visit friends from school who have a TV , etc. For many years, our kids had visitors from families who did not have a TV, despite the fact that we had a TV. However, the amount of time sent in front of the TV was minimal.

Gradually,as a family, we discovered that TV had deteriorated in terms of content, even during the so-called “family hour” and weaned oursleves away from the small amount of time in front of the TV. As R E Buchwald once pointed out, watching TV was the equivalent of bringing in the garbage that we had just taken out. Except for an occasional Yankee game or an old movie, there is really nothing really worth watching. As a child, we always watched the news. However, if one has a radio, the same can be obtained via any all news station at the beginning of the hour. As a NY Giant fan, I also discovered that the commercials were also objectionable as well.

We never darshaned in front of our kids that TV was evil, etc. We just realized that there were far better things to do with our time. FWIW, I think that if one does darshan on the evils of TV, your child will wonder what is so evil about it, especially if you or their friend has an internet connection.

I recently read a series of articles re parenting in a charedi magazine. Maybe I am wrong, but I think that communication with children, demonstrating by one’s own actions what is important and serving as a role model are ultimately far more productive means than insisting , for instance, that a child never watch TV or cannot be seen in shul without a white shirt, black hat , gartel or in tzniusdik attire that appears to be different than one’s neighbors.

We all have to realize that all teens in all cultures go thru experiementation, rebellion, etc that is healthy in some ways and problematic in others. It is important for parents ,especially for BTs to distinguish between these two very different trends and not to use Torah as a weapon in a way that will impact adversely on a child’s growth. I do believe that some Charedi parents who are worried that their child might become (Chas Ve Shalom-their language as documented in some Charedi media) a MO or Religious Zionist may in fact be losing sight of the forest in the trees..

I highly recommend R Wolbe ZTL’s Zeriah uBinyan Bchinuch , the Nesivos Shalom and R D A Twersky’s many works on these issues as well as a means of familiarizing oneself with these issues and for setting forth approaches to the issues.

Do BT Parents Risk Kids Off the Derech?

I knew I was in trouble when the reporter for a Jewish publication started off his interview with me as follows: “So, you wrote “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat in My Home?” because you became religious and your family is not, right? We had one orthodox relative, my mother’s brother, and he refused to come to my wedding even though I was marrying a Jewish girl. Ridiculous. My mother hasn’t spoken to him since.”

Well, now I understood where the reporter was coming from. Throughout the interview, his anger towards the BT/secular family tug of war oozed out in his questions. And then, he really nailed me with this one: “You see how much pain you caused your family when you became religious. Do you ever wonder how you’ll react if one of your children grows up to follow a different religious path than you want for them?”

Subtext of his question — “are you prepared for pay back time when one of your kids does to you what you’ve done to your parents?”


Of course I’m not prepared for this possibility — chas v’shalom! My husband and I have given up financial security, family vacations, the pleasure of a big suburban house and a yard, never mind all the relaxed get-togethers we could have had with our family, and the non kosher restaurants we no longer visit. If it were not for paying yeshiva tuition since preschool, we could retire at age sixty, with enough money to be comfortable. Now my husband figures he’ll be working till age 90, because there IS no retirement fund. These sacrifices we would make again in a heartbeat, because look at the rewards! Priceless! But after all this, what do you mean, they might choose another religious path?! Impossible!

I gave the reporter the answer he was looking for — “I would, of course, be devastated. I hope, if that event should ever transpire, that we would be able to communicate about it in such a way that we remained a close family.”

The interview came to a close, and I have been thinking about his question ever since. I read in frum publications like the Yeted, Jewish press and Mispacha all of the angst about frum kids off the derech. I reassure myself into magical thinking that our children have grown up with the kind of exposure to yiddishkeit we never had, and two parents who role model a committed frum life. They couldn’t possibly leave this behind. . . could they?

And then, I remember. It still shocks me. My children are FFB. They are as much at risk as any frum family doing everything right. Even when we’ve given every ounce of our resources towards pointing our children on a torah-observant path, there is no guarantee to BT parents that reads: “Given the financial and emotional investment you have made in your children, and the price you have paid in family upheaval, you are guaranteed frum grandchildren and plenty of nachas.”

Our children are shaped by us, but not in our control.

So, this is my honest answer to that reporter’s question.

I hope that I would NOT get bent out of shape if my second-born daughter married a real mensch who happens to wear a knit kippah and jeans instead of the black hat and white shirt her father wears, or if my first-born daughter falls in love with a Hassid who won’t eat my cooking unless I buy meat only from his butcher when they visited. I’d like to believe that if my exceptionally bright son announces to me when he’s all grown up that he wants to go directly to college after high school instead of the expected year or two of yeshiva in Israel, that we could find a “kosher” way for him to follow his professional dreams. Are my children still committed to the basics of Torah observance? Do they love being frum and do they look forward to raising children who will be? Do they love Hashem, and do they believe that Hashem loves them? These are the questions I hope I would ask. My job as their mom was to provide the foundation of a loving, Torah observant home, and a yeshiva education, from which they will carve their own journey.

If, G-d forbid, any one of my children chose to leave Torah observance all together, as that reporter insinuated could happen? My heart would be broken, just like I broke my parents’ heart when I left their secular derech. We would call in the professionals, pour our hearts out to Hashem, and never give up trying to bring that child back to the derech of Torah observance. I would not easily accept the notion of “as long as it makes you happy” — the romantic ideal of an unconditionally loving mother. I would storm the heavens with my prayers for their return to Torah. I daven every day for the nachas of watching our children grow up to build their own observant Jewish home, with Hashem’s blessings. Am I prepared for anything else? Absolutely not.

Azriela Jaffe is the author of “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat in My Home, A Guide to How Newly Observant Jews and their Lesser Observant Relatives Can Still Get Along”, which can be purchased at Barnes and Noble

Ba’alei Teshuva Parents – FFB Kids (Part II)

Last week (click here), we left off discussing the distinctions between a mitzvah, minhag, chumrah, and something that is none of those three categories, but rather a cultural practice.

We gave some examples:

* Putting on tefilin every day is a daily mitzvah (a mandated commandment) incumbent upon all Jewish males above the age of thirteen.
* Wearing long(er) peyos is a minhag (custom).
* Not using an eiruv that has been approved by the vast majority of your city’s rabbonim is a chumrah (stringency) that many accept upon themselves.
* Wearing a black fedora is a cultural practice prevalent in some communities.

It is of utmost importance that you fully understand the difference between these categories of Jewish practice – in your personal life and especially as you guide your children. It may be helpful to think of these categories as spiritual “needs and wants.” Mitzvos are mandatory practices. Chumros need not be observed, especially when one is first beginning Torah observance.

If any of you needed convincing that the lines between mitzvah, minhag, and chumrah often get blurred, kindly read the first post to the previous column (click here), where a reader took me to task for misrepresenting a mitzvah as a chumrah. (As with so many other issues, these are not “ba’al teshuva issues,” these are issues we all face – that are compounded by the fact that many ba’alei teshuva find them all the more challenging.)

As we noted last week, the complexity of these issues only underscores the need to find and maintain contact with a Rov who understands you well and can guide your family with wisdom. (Click here for an article about seeking rabbinic advice.)

Maintain Ties With Your Family

I think it is very important for the stability of your family life and your level of personal menuchas hanefesh (tranquility) to maintain ties with your non-observant parents and in-laws. I am well aware that there are those who advise ba’alei teshuvah parents to sever their ties with non-observant family members for fear of confusing your children with the non-observance of extended family members. However, I think that this thinking is fundamentally flawed in theory and practice.

In theory, what kind of message does it send when you walk away from your parents and siblings once you begin Torah observance? Shouldn’t the Torah teach you an enhanced level of respect for your family members?

In practice, as it relates to your children, I think that severing relationships with your family robs your children unnecessarily of the unconditional love that grandparents have to offer. It will be difficult enough for them to watch their FFB-family friends celebrate their simchos with large extended family members. Why compound the pain by having them feel that they are rootless?

I would like to mention a final point on this subject – one that may not be evident at first glance. When you exhibit tolerance for family members, you are making a profound statement – that family bonds run deep and they override any differences that you may have with each other. Over the years, this unspoken lesson will serve your children well and enhance the respect that they will have for you. For you never know how things will turn out with your children. What if one of them decides to take a different path in life than the one you charted for him or her? If you send clear and consistent messages over the years that ‘family matters,’ that child will, in all likelihood, remain close to your family members. However, if you decided that spiritual matters are grounds for severing ties with parents and siblings, how do you know that this logic will not be used against you in a different context one or two decades down the road?

To be sure, there are many challenges that you will face regarding kashrus (kosher food requirements), tzniyus (modesty), and other matters. But they are very manageable provided that an atmosphere of mutual respect is created and nurtured. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of lifecycle events of ba’alei teshuvah where their non-observant family members were active and respected participants.

Find a Community and Schools for Your Children that are Tolerant and Understanding

It is of utmost importance that you find a community that will accept you with welcoming arms. That means one where you will not cringe with what-will-the-neighbors-think when your non-observant brother comes to visit. If you do feel that way in your community, you may not be in the right one.

As far as selecting schools is concerned, there too, see to it that the school’s educational philosophy is in general sync with yours. Often, I get calls from parents who are put off by certain policies (dress codes, media exposure regulations, etc) that their children’s schools maintain or the culture of the institution (What will the rebbi say about Thanksgiving, and does it match what you feel regarding that subject). And equally often, these guidelines were in place when the parents enrolled their children in the first place. One cannot blame a school for enforcing their stated policies.

Generally speaking, I think that ba’alei teshuvah parents should not enroll their children in Yiddish-teaching yeshivos. I am aware of the cultural reasons that people are inclined to do so, but in the case of ba’a’lei teshuvah, I think that this is simply bad practice – unless you are fluent in Yiddish yourself. It will be difficult enough to do Judaic studies homework with your children as they grow older without compounding matters by adding language barriers that will virtually guarantee that you will not understand what your child is learning, let alone be in a position to help him or her.

To sum up, when raising your FFB children, as with all other areas of life, follow the timeless advice of Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) and stay on ‘the golden path’ of moderation.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Ba’alei Teshuva Parents – FFB Kids (Part I)

The following post is from Rabbi Horowitz’s Chicago Community Kollel Interactive Parenting Column. Rabbi Horowitz recently updated his website, which contains a wealth of material on parenting and other issues facing us.

Rabbi Horowitz,

What is your advice for ba’alei teshuva who are raising frum-from-birth children in terms of making sure that the children are well integrated, healthy and normal frum Jews? As ba’alei teshuva sometimes it is easy to be very strict because of insecurities from our own upbringing and lack of family minhagim. If you can give a few pointers that will obviously need to be explored with our own rabbeim to tailor make it to our own families, it would be helpful.

Thank you!

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Your excellent question practically answers itself, and leads me to believe that you already have a deep understanding of the opportunities – and challenges – that you face in raising your FFB children. You hit the nail on the head when you noted that you wanted to raise “well integrated, healthy and normal frum Jews.” For that balance is exactly what you ought to be striving to achieve.

If you are a regular reader of these lines, you may know where my suggestions will start – with you and your spouse. One of my mantras is that most of the issues that we face when raising our children are reflections of our own struggles. I maintain that in order to raise “well integrated, healthy and normal frum Jewish children,” you need to start with “well integrated, healthy and normal frum Jewish adult parents.” That means that you adhere to the timeless advice of Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) and remain on the ‘golden path’ of moderation. After all, if you don’t want your children to be raised in a “very strict [environment] because of [their parents’] insecurities,” the best way to achieve that goal is not to be “very strict [in your personal lives] due to your own insecurities.”

Here are some practical tips:

Grow Slowly

Many meforshim (commentaries) suggest that the dream of our patriarch Yaakov (see Bereshis 28:12) where he envisioned angels climbing up and down a ladder is a profound analogy to our spiritual pursuits. The Torah describes how the legs of the ladder were placed on the ground while its top reached the very heavens. I think that the correlation is an insightful one for everyone – but is all the more relevant for ba’alei teshuvah. We ought to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground – all the while reaching for profound spiritual heights.

I would like to suggest that the reason that the image of a ladder was used in the dream (as opposed to, say, a road leading to heaven) is that you simply cannot run up a ladder.

So, too, spiritual growth needs to be a sustained and steady process (Click here for a dvar Torah on this subject). Which leads me to …

Find a Rav Who Truly Understands Ba’alei Teshuvah Issues

Not all rabbanim have a deep understanding of the complex mix of halachic and social issues where ba’alei teshuva need individualized direction. Finding a Rav who understands them – and you – will provide your family with an invaluable resource. Similarly, it may be helpful for you to find a ba’al teshuvah couple ten years or so older than you who can mentor you as your family passes mileposts and lifecycle events, such as enrolling children in school, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, high school placements, shidduchim, etc.

Be Yourself

I strongly encourage you to read and re-read a terrific article by my dear chaver Rabbi Bentzion Kokis s’hlita (Click here). Rabbi Kokis is an outstanding talmid chacham and his advice is equally outstanding. If I may sum up his thoughts, it is to refrain from jettisoning your personality, hobbies, interests, education, career – and sense of humor – as you embrace Torah and mitzvos.

Ba’alei teshuva may be concerned that they are poor role models for their children since they are observing their less-than-perfect Torah and mitzvah observance. I think not. You are setting a wonderful example for your children by seeking to grow spiritually throughout your lives. (Click here for a stunning Torah thought by Rabbi Shimon Schwab on this subject.)

Distinguish Between Mitzvah, Minhag, Chumrah, and Culture

In your question, you noted that, “sometimes it is easy to be very strict because of insecurities from our own upbringing and lack of family minhagim.”

Well, in order to gain a better understanding of when to be firm and when to be flexible, you must distinguish between a mitzvah, minhag, chumrah, and something that is none of the three categories, but is rather a cultural practice.

  • Putting on tefilin every day is a daily mitzvah (a mandated commandment) incumbent upon all Jewish males above the age of thirteen.
  • Refraining from dipping matzoh in liquids on Pesach (commonly referred to as “gebrokts”) is a minhag (a custom – one only observed in some communities).
  • Not using an eiruv that has been approved by the vast majority of your city’s rabbonim is a chumrah (stringency) that many accept upon themselves.
  • Wearing a black fedora is a cultural practice prevalent in some communities.

It is of utmost importance that you fully understand the difference between these categories of Jewish practice – in your personal life and as you guide your children.

More on this – and other practical tips – next week.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Two notes to readers:

1) I strongly recommend the BEYOND BT website for ba’alei teshuva men and women. I serve as one of the rabbinic advisors of the website, and it has provided advice, camaraderie, and spiritual guidance for ba’alei teshuva around the world over the past twelve months.

2) In 2001, I wrote an article in The Jewish Observer on the subject of “Lifecycle Support for Ba’alei Teshuva Families” (Click here for link).

3) I also posted an article “Of Eagles and Turkey” on the Beyond BT website one year ago Click here for link) on the important subject of conformity to communal pressure.

I hope that you find these helpful.


Embarrassment and Truth

A few nights ago, I visited the local Whole Foods grocery store with my 9 year old son. The store is new in our neighborhood, it’s pretty, well organized, mostly oriented around organic products, a high percentage of which are kosher. The employees also make a point of being friendly. We browsed through the produce, amazed at the variety of fresh hot peppers and mushrooms. I’d love to say that we were picking out great organic produce, but actually we were there because I’d found they have the widest selection of soy ice cream (brands and flavors) and fruit pops I’d ever seen, most of which are kosher.

We’re passing by the well lit well layed out fish department and I’m pointing out to my son what the various creatures are. See, here’s this fish and that fish, and here’s shimp, treif, crab, treif, squid, treif and yuck, tentacles, scallops, treif. We stopped at the clams, oysters, mussles, and cockles, because they were open access and some of the clams were busy trying to crawl away (and I thought that would be really interesting for a 9 year old boy, and it was.) The friendly fish guy comes over and demonstrates how the clams will close if you touch them, picks out a dead one and opens it up so my son can see the inside, and is discussing his product.

So my son tells him, in a loud voice of course, “well, we don’t eat these because they’re not kosher, not because they don’t taste good, because my father ate them before he became religious and told us that some of them do, but because Hashem says we don’t in the Torah.” Well, I was so proud of him while I was simultaneously trying to crawl away inside myself. Hey, see this guy here with the beard, big black yamulka and long white strings, HE ATE CLAMS.

Proud, because a message that apparently only a BT can testify to had reached my children. They’d come home from yeshiva and were discussing the various kosher versus non-kosher sea creatures, discussing the signs of kosher. As they were discussing non-kosher commonly eaten sea creatures, they were busy saying yuck, disgusting, and so forth. I’d stopped them and said, “You know it says in the Gemora that we don’t eat non-kosher because Hashem said so, not because it doesn’t taste good. Because let me tell you, it does.” And I’d gone on to tell them that many of the non-kosher foods they were yucking were very tasty, some wonderful, and indeed some not-so-wonderful (at least to my taste). So if they go off believing that every non-kosher food is yuck and, G-d forbid, one day get a taste otherwise, they might believe that kosher doesn’t apply. So I told them, loud and clear, “We don’t eat non-kosher because G-d said so, not because it’s not healthy or not tasty, only because Hashem said it’s not kosher.”

My past, at least this one little facet of it, has become a positive message for my children. But OMG, how embarrassing!

The Magic Pill for At Risk Behavior

The Magic Pill for At Risk Behavior

By Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

I know how badly parents want to find a cure for their teenagers’ at-risk behavior and make their problems somehow go away. We live in a pill-oriented society where there are endless, over-the-counter brands of medicines for you name it, and we have begun to expect the same quick fix for all areas of our lives — including parenting.

Just last week, a parent came to talk to me about the trouble her daughter was having in school. This 15-year-old teenager was flunking in two key subjects, getting into trouble with her teachers and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Desperate for a solution, her mother wanted to know if I could give her a pill that would cure her daughter’s at-risk behavior. I told her that the “pill” she was looking for was to start working on her relationship with her daughter.

I call this novel yet remarkably simple idea “Relationship Theory,” which places priority on the power and impact that a good relationship can have upon children, both young and adolescent alike. According to Relationship Theory, the greater the relationship, the greater the ability parents have to connect to their teenager. Another way of stating this is I = QR where the impact (I) a parent can have is directly proportional to the quality of the relationship (QR) that a parent develops with the teenager.

After all, what better present can parents give than that of themselves? Nothing can beat the pleasure of a true and loving human relationship, a factor that is often overlooked in the increasingly complex and pressurized world in which we live.

There is also mounting evidence that building a quality relationship is the key to raising healthy teenagers and responding to at-risk behavior. A comprehensive research brief published by Child Trends, entitled Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions Far More Positive Than Not, showed a direct correlation between the quality of the parent-teen relationship and the impact the relationship has on a teenager’s life.

The research brief revealed that

* “Good relations between parents and adolescents lessen the likelihood that teens will exhibit problem behaviors.”
* “Better quality adult child-parent relationships have been associated with lower levels of psychological distress among both adult children and parents.”
* “Close relationships with parents during childhood and adolescence have been positively associated with adult children’s self-esteem, happiness, and life satisfaction.”

As the father of a large family, I know that spending quality time with each child is one of the keys to being a successful parent. Although it’s difficult, my wife and I try to schedule time alone together with each of our older children at least once a day. Recently, we even started making “dates” with them. Sometimes we go to a restaurant to eat or take a walk. Other times we just go for a soda at the local convenience store. It really doesn’t matter what you do or what you talk about during your private times together. What matters is to give your teenager a feeling that he or she is the most important person in the world.

A great rabbi once said that parents should spend at least twenty minutes a day thinking about their children’s education. Today we need to spend about twenty minutes thinking and twenty talking. And I’m even willing to bargain: If twenty minutes is too much, try ten – or even five.

If you want to break through to that teenager who is going “off the derech,” here’s my prescription:

20 minutes a day to think about your child’s special qualities
20 minutes a day to just talk with your child
1 minute to reflect on the fact that you did something great

The most important point about this “pill” is that you start taking it every day. And, unlike certain medicines that can’t guarantee results, I promise that this prescription will make a difference in your child’s life.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and author of a new book about parenting teenagers called At Risk – Never Beyond Reach: Three Principles Every Parent and Educator Should Know. He maintains a practice in family counseling and is a popular lecturer on parenting and relationships. You can visit Rabbi Schonbuch on the web at or e-mail questions to him at

My Take on Father’s Day

Most of my kid’s know this song:

Today is Father’s/Mother’s Day but it’s no special day ’cause I love you Daddy/Mommy all the time.

You are so dear to me, the best you’ll always be, I thank Hashem he made you mine.

Cute. But I’m a bit torn by the lyrics. On the one hand, it’s true that we don’t need an invented holiday to show our appreciation to our parents. On the other hand, how many of us take the time out to call our parents and say thanks? If you do, then you don’t need Father’s/Mother’s Day. If you don’t, pick up the phone and say thanks!

Personal Note: A little more than six years ago, I lost my Father. A friend of mine who had lost his father fairly young told me that Father’s Day would be tough. When Father’s Day rolled around, my wife went into labor and gave me the best Father’s Day present, my daughter Atara. This year, her Birthday falls out on Father’s Day again, Happy B-Day Attie!

Ask The Shadchan – Baalei Teshuva Parents

Gil Student points to this article by Rebbetzin Nomi Travis about Ba’alei Teshuvoh Parents in the Ask the Shadchun column from the Yated. Here is the question from the letter writer:

Dear Shadchanit,

I follow your columns and enjoy the fact that you raise issues that others ignore. I hope you will be able to handle another sensitive matter — call it a challenge . . .

My husband and I have been fully observant Torah Jews for over twenty years and we are now on the threshold of marrying off our children who are truly FFBs. The question of yichus comes up and we find ourselves at times very challenged (and hurt). We know that everyone has a right to their own priorities, yet I feel at times like echoing the words of my good friend, “Now, after all these years… l know what you really think of me…” I do not want to condemn others. I would like to be non-judgmental, I think that our community has come a long way, yet not far enough in opening itself up to “newcomers.”
Read more Ask The Shadchan – Baalei Teshuva Parents

Remembering Where You Came From And Where You Are Going

Several weeks ago, on Shabbos, my 6 year old son said, “Abba, I’m bored. What did you do for fun when you were my age on Shabbos”? I wasn’t sure what to say.

To answer my son truthfully, when I was 6 years old, I had no clue what Shabbos was. I wasn’t exposed to a true Shabbos until I attended an NCSY shabbaton in 8th grade. My son’s question made me think back to what it was like for me when I started my Teshuva journey. Like everyone, I had challenges and struggles along the way towards my current level of observance. I started keeping Shabbos right before I entered 11th grade. As the only frum teenager in my city, I kept Shabbos pretty much by myself until I graduated high school and went on to yeshiva.

My son’s question really got to me. If he associated Shabbos with being bored, then in some way, I felt it was a reflection on my own personal level of yiddishkeit. Had my life as a frum Jew become mundane? My wife and I have given our children what we hope is a nurturing home full of Torah and Mitzvos. We want our kids to have positive memories of growing up frum, not the opposite. This is one of those things that I, as a BT, feared…becoming like “everyone else” whose Mitzvah observance is on cruse control.
Read more Remembering Where You Came From And Where You Are Going

Hands On or Off ?

Rabbi Dovid Schwartz say this article in the NY Sun and thought the BeyondBT community would benefit from it. He emailed Sara Berman, the author, and we were given permission to post it. Thanks to Rabbi Schwartz and Mrs Berman.

May 2, 2006

If you have a few children – sometimes two is enough, and definitely by the time you have three – you probably have a difficult child in the mix.

Four children are playing in a room happily and then there is crying. You don’t even need to go into the room to know who is crying.

I have one such child. One day last week we were racing to get to school on time. My daughter was trying to put on her coat; my son was trying to fit a few things into his backpack. I was trying to carry someone’s special project. And then I noticed that this child was still not dressed.

“I’m not going to school today,” he said, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.

“You are part of a family,” I said slowly, with audible exasperation. “You are not the center of the universe, and we all need you to get dressed.”

As soon as I said the words, I felt guilty. But for what?
Read more Hands On or Off ?

Teaching Kedusha in the Home

Dear Rabbi Brody,

In case you don’t remember, my wife and I made Tshuva 5 years ago. Then, our daughter was 6. Now she’s 11, and despite our efforts, she isn’t careful about washing her hands in the morning or about saying Krias Shma at night. In your last letter to us, you told us to try and be stronger personal examples and do everything that we demand from her; we’ve implemented your advice, but it still isn’t easy. Could you devote some of your valuable time to strengthening a little girl in Kedusha? Could you please explain to our Debbie the importance of “negel vasser” and Krias shma at night? We’re sure that she’ll listen to you, and we’d be forever grateful.

S and J Ross,

Read more Teaching Kedusha in the Home

On Marrying Off a Daughter

Three weeks ago my wife and I reached a new milestone. Our eldest child was married. I had always pictured that I’d be like Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when this time arrived; nervous, sad about “losing” my daughter, and suspicious of this new person taking her away. In reality I felt none of these emotions. I truly feel like I’ve gained a son and not that I’ve lost a daughter.

While I didn’t have a lot of the “Father of the Bride” type emotions, I did feel a sense of relief and pride. As a BT raising a frum child I often worried if I was going to be able to get this “religion thing” passed on to future generations. As my children got older and I saw them developing strong, and unique, religious sensibilities of their own this concern of mine definitely waned. Still, seeing my daughter, at this stage of independence, covering her hair, studying and implementing the laws of taharat hamischpacha, and setting up a kosher home I felt a strong sense of accomplishment.
Read more On Marrying Off a Daughter

Educating Our Children – Where Did We Go Right?

Allen A. Kolber
Monsey, NY

After 15 years as a ba’al teshuva and seven years of marriage, the crisis finally came. It wasn’t over my non-frum family, which shul to daven in, whether to wear a velvet or knitted yarmulke (I had settled long ago on the black knitted compromise). No, the crisis finally came when we had to choose a school for our first born son.

Our first mistake was thinking that we would interview the schools. The reality is that the schools interview you. And, in any interview situation, the reality is that you are being judged, in a very short period of time, and relative to the other parents who are hoping to have their boy admitted in to the same yeshiva. I don’t envy any Rosh Yeshiva who has that responsibility.
Read more Educating Our Children – Where Did We Go Right?

Carrying My Children on My Shoulders

It’s not difficult to sympathize with the skeptics who questioned the ability of Avrohom Mordechai Altar, then still a teenager, to succeed his father as leader of the Gerrer Chassidim, possibly the most influential Torah community in Poland at the end of the 19th century. But the young scholar, who would grow up to become a great rebbe and author of the Imrei Emes, answered his critics with the following parable.
Read more Carrying My Children on My Shoulders