Questions Answered in Rebbetzin Heller’s Q & A Achieving Balance Class

24 09 2008

We are excited to announce that Rebbetzin Heller has now recorded four Question & Answer classes in our popular series Achieving Balance: G-d, Family and Work.  Three of those classes are already available for viewing at http://www.naaleh.com/search/class/59/ and the fourth class should be available at that link by the end of this week.  All questions answered were submitted by our very own Naaleh members, so Thank You to those who submitted questions.  Rebbetzin Heller will be taking a break from recording this class series until after the chagim, but will resume filming this series every few weeks thereafter.  Please continue to submit any questions you may have for her to contact@naaleh.com and she will address it if it has not already been addressed in the first four classes of this series.

The following is a list of the questions that have been answered in the first four classes:

1)  How does a woman who is striving to be a better person handle a situation when her husband is not supportive of the change (i.e. woman is working on shmiras halashon and husband constantly speaks about others, woman goes to shiurim and is committed to coming closer to Hashem, husband thinks it is exaggerated).

2)  In order to work on my devakus b’Hashem, I find that what works best for me is if I get up early in the morning to Daven, learn, and think.  As a mother of six children, expecting my seventh, this is difficult, as it forces me to go to sleep early or be tired the whole day, making me less available to my husband and my older children.  If I try to be more “down to earth” and sleep more, don’t daven or learn or think, I eventually feel down and depressed, like I’m living my life like a cow.  When I feel like this I fall spiritually, I’m not as good a mother, wife or eved of HaShem, and this makes me feel worse.  Getting someone to care for the children at certain times, so I have time for myself is not an option, as I don’t want to sacrifice my children’s welfare for my selfish spiritual needs.  Disassociating from what i am doing and thinking lofty thoughts as I care for my family won’t work, as they need me to focus on them.  And saying that I will do mundane tasks and rely on Hashem to reward me with spiritual fulfilment doesn’t satisfy me, as I want a relationship that I built with Him.  I am eager to hear some guidance on this issue.

3)  As a busy mother, there are times when opportunities for chessed outside the home come my way, and I don’t know if I should take them on or not.  I am afraid that I may take on too much and my family will suffer, but maybe it is just my yetzer hara rationalizing? Are there any guiding principles you can give to deal with such dillemmas?

4)  How do we learn to sincerely welcome in laws and other relatives of our husband’s into our lives when we don’t really feel a natural connection or affinity towards them?

5)  I like to put my family first, and rarely participate in communal events and simchot in the evenings.  My husband feels strange going to all of these places alone, even though they are all separate seating.  Am I wrong in staying home, and not allowing these events to take over my nights?

6)  My husband and I are recently married, in our 50’s.  As a single man, my husband didn’t need a lot of income and his salary was sufficient for his needs.  Now, as a married couple living in my mortgaged townhouse, his salary is only enough for about half the bills. To make ends meet, have the flexibility to manage my household duties plus help my elderly mother, I started my own home business. It takes a great deal of my energy and time but the monetary rewards are excellent.  Where should I put my priorities? Working at home has many advantages, yet building a business takes enormous effort.  Should I insist that my husband earn more money (something he is not prepared/able to do)?  Should I make drastic changes in our lifestyle and trim our budget down to the bone to try to manage on his salary alone?  Should I try to find any part time job I can get just to bring in something?  How do I balance our financial needs with taking care of my husband’s and my elderly mother’s needs?

7)  If you’re not growing you’re shrinking.  But you can’t grow constantly, because if you take on too much you crash.  How do I continue to grow when life can be challanging (eg moving house, renovation, new babies) and when I see myself on a downward spiral ?  How do I handle the downs of life well?

8)  How do you deal with hearing a psak halacha from a friend about what she heard a rav say in person but you were not the actual recipient?  Are you to take on this psak?

9)  When a married woman covers her hair, must her hair always be covered when she makes a brocha?  For example, if there are times when a women does not have her hair covered while in her own home, must she cover it to say a brocha before eating something?

10)  How do you advise a woman to improve in running and managing her home when she doesn’t like it, she’s not good at it and finds it boring, and even overwhelming  . . . there’s always another load of laundry to do, another set of dishes to wash etc.  Let’s throw into the picture that our family is on a budget that doesn’t allow for cleaning help.    How do you advise someone to improve in an area that’s an important responsibility for the wife and mother of the home and yet she’s not skilled at it and doesn’t enjoy it?

11)  Once in a while I need to leave the house in the morning to go to various appt’s like doctor’s appt’s or Well Baby Visits etc., and I usually don’t have the time to daven before I leave the house. It is very hard for me to daven Amidah in public.  I feel very subconscience and because of this have little if any concentration and also feel very rushed.  In these rare cases what is better for me to do?  Is it better to just say Morning Brachos and Shema and wait until I get home to daven Amidah “the way it is intended to be said,” or is it better to just quickly daven in a “bidieved” manner, the main thing being to daven on time?

12)  I have friends who dreamed of having a big learner as a husband and were disappointed when he later chose a different path.  They wonder what their role as an aishes chayil is now.  All we learn about is being an eizer kenegdo for someone devoting himself to learning.  What happens when roles are reversed and the woman is the deep thinker?  On one hand, our marriage provides for spiritual growth, as we prevent our husbands from being too materialistic and shallow, and they makes us be more down to earth… In general, though, what words of advice or encouragement would you give to a woman in this situation?

13)  Though we are not rich, we are B”H comfortable.  We give tzeddakah generously, but also spend money on luxuries that my husband likes.  We recently moved to a new house.  It’s very nice.  Much nicer than the kind of place I’d choose to live in.  It brings my husband much joy, but I can’t help secretly feeling… guilty. We are in galus, first of all, and so many people today struggle.  I appreciate what Hashem has given us, and try to focus on feeling thankful.  But I feel guilty too.  What should my attitude and thoughts be regarding material blessings in my life?

14)  Children need structure, but they also need to have parents who they can talk to.  My children only seem to want to talk to me about their daily adventures after bedtime.  Conversations such as these cannot be scheduled; their whole beauty is their spontaneity.  But my children must go to sleep on time.  I can’t let this become a way to manipulate me!  Any advice?

15)  As a single young woman seeking her bashert, I have come up against an issue concerning the role of the modern Jewish woman in marriage. I do not consider myself a staunch feminist, but I happen to gain much fulfillment from the work I do, and have always found little pleasure from doing domestic work.  I am very much looking forward to being a mother and wife and want to give all the love and care that my family will G-d willing need.  However, I find cleaning, cooking, etc boring and draining.  Is it wrong for me to seek out a man who is willing to participate significantly in the domestic chores?  I have found that people I have dated have been strongly opposed to a woman “neglecting her duties” by working outside the home and expecting a husband to share the household work.  I personally feel that I can only be the best me when I have time outside of the house for other pursuits and I think I’d feel resentful of a husband who expected that the vast majority of domestic work be completed by me.  I am in no way a corporate businesswoman seeking fame and fortune in the workplace.  However, I do find myself far more fulfilled when I am working (I counsel people) and am fearful of becoming trapped in a traditional role that I cannot be myself in and still be a happy person.  What do you suggest for someone in my situation?

16 )  You spoke about being  in an environment where you are not respected, and you have often spoken about using what a husband can provide.  When a man has no parnosa to give he is by nature very depressed and often wants to bring down the people around him.   This infects the younger children and they reflect his negativity.  As the sole breadwinner in the house (by the advice of a gadol), I find it very hard to come home to an environment of negativity, and to function and keep a positive environment in the house, despite my tiredness and the lack of physical needs.  I have been davening for Hashem to send him Parnasah for almost 10 years, and my husband tells me I just have to have bitachon.  Mentally I can accept this,  but physically I find myself collapsing and neglecting the house and children, not by choice, but by default, and constant illnesses that seem to result from the tension.

17)  My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, he from a very simple, Yerushalmi lifestyle and I from a modern American family.  What kind of equation is best for us to build the strong groundwork that will allow the Torah to succeed the most in our family?  We are approaching Bezras Hashem the time that our business will allow us to buy a spacious house and car, which some of my husbands siblings have not been able to do.  Should we really go for it and invest in a higher standard of living which seems to be betraying the classic Yerushalmi lifestyle, which stresses needing so little to keep happy?  There are parts of my former life, like using the Internet for Torah classes or having an excercise DVD, that I find helpful for myself on a daily basis.  I should also mention that we speak Yiddish at home and send our children to a classic Yerushalmi cheder.

18)  Being responsible for the cooking, cleaning, childcare along with pursuing a demanding career to support my husband’s learning at times leaves me sad and angry as I feel unable to succeed in any area.  I heard in a shiur that a wife only gets the schar from her husband’s learning if she is ALWAYS besimcha regarding it.  Is this true?  And if so, do you have suggestions for how I can approach the kollel life in order to be besimcha even when tired, frustrated and overwhelmed?

19)  I tend to be what’s called in Hebrew a tipus merachefet and also did not grow up with many siblings, and no matter how hard I try I never cease to get overwhelmed with raising my 6 kids.  I manage basically okay except for 2 times of the day: sending the kids to school in the morning and putting then to bed at night.  My husband on the other hand grew up one of the oldest of 12 bothers and sisters and is very grounded and capable of helping.  He can and does manage to send all the kids in the morning and also make baths and put them to bed.  Then I sort of trail behind afterwards picking up, cleaning up the kitchen, and starting laundry.  You might say it sounds like good team work especially since my husband has no complaints, but I have a guilty conscience about it-that I am not fulfilling my duties and maybe I am really not capable of being a responsible mother to these 6 kids.  I often also think that if I could really manage alone maybe then I could support my husband to learn more in the evening since he works all day long.  What is being asked of me in this situation? Thank you!

20)  Keeping a Torah lifestyle requires diligence, dedication and effort.  I try to make all the mitzvot I perform more meaningful by concentrating on feeling grateful to G-d and by being mindful to bring Hashem into my life with my heart.   But despite this, I usually feel that I am just going through the motions.  That feeling of really being close to Hashem happens once in a while, and I feel like I need to feel it more. I have a sister who is not observant, and who has for most of her life, followed many different paths of healing from the culture of the Far East.   She is able to  get her spiritual high without the obligation of keeping Torah and mitzvot.  One day she wanted to do a “healing treatment” on me.  All I can say is that it was an incredibly amazing experience.  I felt such incredible love and joy for Hashem and all of His creation afterwards.   Why is it that I can’t experience this same elation from davening and concentrating on brachot?  Is it halachically permissible to practice far East healing techniques for the good feeling it provides?  I know this is not a substitute for davening and mitzvot, but it certainly made me feel very close to Hashem.

21)  How can I become a more loving mother?  Of course I love my children very dearly, but I don’t feel it when I am taking care of them.  When I take care of them it ends up being routine without the love.  I am worried that I more like a teacher than a mother.  I do tell them that I love them, but it is not felt in the constant interaction.  Things that seem to come naturally to most people, don’t come easy to me.  For example-story time at bed time- is this vital?  I did not grow up with it, and don’t think it is so vital- but to others it is like saying Shema- is it because I am not loving?  When I deal with my youngest child-I do feel like I love him every minute- and then I wonder how can I feel like this to each one of my children.  Thank you so much for your pearls of wisdom.  May Hashem continue to give you strength to do all the wonderful things that you are part of.

22)  My husband is very into halacha lemaaseh, and he is very learned in it too.  He knows a lot of halacha at the tips of his fingers, and when he doesn’t he promptly looks it up (that’s what these sefarim are for, he says).  When he can’t find out the answer, though, he does ask a rabbi.  But he does not have a rav that he is close with to any extent.  He says making for oneself a rav means for hashkafa, and quoted Rav Elyashiv, shlita, for that.  The thing is, though, I’ve never seen him go to anyone with hashkafa questions.  I know that his personality makes this something that he would not easily do.  He is very very private and independent. He would find it very difficult to seek out someone and make himself vulnerable enough to ask for clarification in a personal dilemma.  I see that he does highly respect many rabbanim; it’s not that he thinks he knows everything.  Is anything wrong with this?  And if so, what can I do?  (I also want to mention that my husband has a lot of common sense.  And his character is very refined.  And whenever I hear him giving someone advice, I am impressed.  So he is not as clueless about life as some people might be.  But you see it is me who does the asking, not him.)

23)  In my community, and probably in others as well, being together and close with one’s family is almost a mitzvah in its own right.  While I would think that the concept of “family” is good, sometimes other things should probably take precedence. “Family” almost seems to be the meaning of Shabbat and chagim for people, and moving away is nearly seen as marrying out, chas veshalom. Years ago, when our great-grandparents first moved to the States, they didn’t hold on to much, but they were tight and only mingled with each other.  The low assimilation rate is attributed to this quality, and now this closeness and family orientedness are almost seen as more central than real mitzvot.  The Italians also value family, so it’s not necessarily a Jewish idea.  What is the purpose of a close and supporting family for a Torah Jew?  Also, for example in these instances, what if parents would feel unappreciated, forgotten, hurt, or resentful if a child moved away to Israel?  What about grandchildren hardly knowing their grandparents?

24)  Listening to Rebbetzin Heller’s class on midot in Elul, I can’t help thinking of my own attempts at working on myself. Every so often, I say, “Okay, I’ve got to work on myself.” And then I proceed to analyze strengths, weaknesses, where I am holding, how to approach it, and outline a whole program for self-improvement. Then several months pass, life changes, and my commitment to my regimen wanes. A little while later I say, “That’s it! I’ve got to work on myself.” And I go through it again, but my approach, and my list of short-term goals, and what to do concretely is different because now my life is different. The issues I’m grappling with are different because life is not static. And my ability to focus is different because we’re moving, or having a baby, etc. My ability to concentrate on self-improvement keeps changing. When I feel overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life, I just don’t know how to keep my lofty thoughts in my head. I probably also have an all-or-nothing attitude, and in times like those I feel that I’m not focusing on working on myself properly anyway, so what’s the point? It seems ineffectual to pick one thing out of the blue to work on and somehow check it off in my head every day. They say to take small steps, but even then I forget, and don’t get anywhere. I become pretty irritated with myself because I never follow through with my resolutions. How can I create a versatile but concrete program for growth that I’ll actually keep to, for instance even with a colicky baby that hardly lets me sleep, while taking care of the house and the rest of the family?

25)  I am a baalas teshuva of over 25 years (in fact I an one of your former students, Mrs. Heller!) Boruch Ha-Shem, I was zocheh to marry a ben Torah and together we have a large mishpacha, bli ayin hara. My husband and I have shared the belief that work is a means to an end. The main point is to support the family, pay schar limud, give tzedakah, etc, not to accumulate wealth or impress the neighbors with fancy job descriptions. (And of course, as with every endeavor, whatever we could do for fellow yidden and to make a kiddush HaShem while working, all the better!) We value the time that my husband spends learning, which bli ayin hara is considerable, and time with our children. Here comes my issue: We are now almost on the verge of shidduchim, and I am very troubled by the constant talk about support (which is a euphemistic way of saying “money”). Bli ayin hara, our oldest daughter is a wonderful Ba s Yisroel, and it seems that boys of her caliber will only say “yes” to a shidduch that comes with the promise of a substantial monthly check. My husband is sort of maxed out in his parnassa. I could work more hours but I think it will fall on the cheshbon of the younger children (they are all in school, but, as you so aptly described, the older ones need their mother just as much!), as I will certainly be less available, both physically and in terms of stamina. I don’t think it is right , but I don’t know if I will withstand the pressure of having good shidduchim turned down for our very dear daughter on the basis of money. (By the way, my daughter has more bitachon than I do, and is not demanding about any future financial commitment from us, but I’m worried that she’s being naive. Another important point: we already live very modestly, so I don’t think we could give her substantially more by cutting back.) I am looking for words of chizuk about this, and of course, if you have any additional suggestions, feel free.

26)  Several mothers are interested in starting a school for girls.  We have a few co-ed schools in my neighborhood, and one high school for girls in a nearby neighborhood, but no girls’  school for pre-school or elementary school girls anywhere nearby.  We would like to open a girls’ school in our neighborhood which will eventually be from pre-school through high school.  We want to provide the girls with a proper Jewish education so that each girl will be strong in her Jewish identity, values, and observance throughout her life.  We are all Torah observant Jews, but we do not belong to any particular group, and we do not have very specific hashkafos, but we all agree on one thing:  When people look at any one of our girls, no matter what, they can say, with great pride: “This is a Jew.” Rebbetzin Heller, how do we accomplish this?  We are all dedicated to providing our girls with all the love and knowledge they will need in order for each one of them to grow into just the Jewish woman G-d has intended her to be.  Can you please provide us with some instruction as to what we must do in order to give these girls what they need to thrive?  Thank you so much, for your advice on this topic, and for all of the Torah we have learned from you. Shanah Tova.

27)  Please can you discuss how a wife and mother with small children can hook into the spirituality of shabbos and yom tov when constantly being busy with physical care for one’s children, the home, and physical preparations for the chag. For many women, shabbos and yom tov do not feel like spiritual highs. Yom Tov is a time when a mother has less time to try to daven etc, b/c the kids are all home, the kids are out of schedule and routine.  My children need a lot of stimulation and often wind up restless and misbehave on shabbos and yom tovim even though we will go for a walk, to the park, visit friends, read books together – these days still wind up being long days of trying to keep my children occupied without a feeling of being uplifted in ruchnius.    I’m eager to hear your advice.

28)  What methods can one use to increase one’s kavana in tefilah- i need practical thoughts!! Thanks!

29)  I was a regular and intense Mincha davener for most of my lie until I got married, when now I can hardly handle cooking and cleaning and work.  I’ve basically given up davening Mincha for now, and didn’t consult any Rav about it.  Is that okay? Is that a decision that I can make on my own?

30)  What are some ways I can motivate my husband to grow and think about Elul and Rosh Hashana, without sounding like an annoying seminary girl?  He has a learning seder every day so I’m not worried about his learning, but whichever way I bring up the idea of change or growth, he gets annoyed.  Any ideas on approaching a man with this stuff?

31) When it comes to Emuna, what is the proper balance of trusting Hashem and being responsible?  If you read the 7 Habits, or if you’re interested in becoming an effective employee and individual, you realize that most things, in fact, are preventable and controllable, as long as you are smart, think ahead, and prepare for different situations.  There are very few things completely outside our domain (ie the car breaking down, tornado arriving, other people’s mistakes.)  If someone takes full responsibility for his or her life, how should one view trusting G-d?  This is something I could never understand.  I trust Him, but I have so much to work on when it comes to my own actions and responsibility so I can’t write off everything that happens as His decision.  I could have done better. Right?…

32)  What’s a better thing to do for a single friend? Daven or try to set them up?

33)  How do you know when to insist that your children take the next step of independence and responsibility?  It could be putting on their own shoes, getting dressed, making their bed, doing a chore around the home.   I find that I start out with star charts and small prizes to motivate one child in particular (age 5 1/2) to take on more responsibilites.  It goes well while the prizes and treats are still a novelty and then he eventually tires of the prizes and the desired behavior gets dropped.  How do we know when to put our foot down and insist that certain things be done by our children, who are perfectly capable of doing so, because achieving these steps through positive incentives doesn’t seem to last? I’m interested in your feedback on this question particularly and in generally hearing you speak about attitudes and approaches to encouraging children to be more independent and help in the home.

34)  I am a very socially active individual in my community and in general, always taking on new “projects”. I am also the mother of three beautiful children, k”h. Every time I think to myself that it is time I stopped taking on projects and started focusing solely on my young children (the oldest is three years old), I am presented with several different opportunities that seem to me like I should not turn down (even our Rav agreees that these are situations that would benefit from my assistance). Do you think these are Hashem’s subtle way of telling me that my tafkid lies outside of the home? Or is it just a test to see if my devotion to (what I think) the main task is substantial? Is there a proper  balance between helping others and helping my own, and if so, how do I figure out what it is?

35)  For where I am holding in life, I think, I have a pretty good level of bitachon. On the other hand, I am a workaholic, and tend to put in more hours than are necessary. How do I figure out the proper ratio of bitachon to hishtadlut?

36)  We women are supposed to dress “attractive but not attracting” meaning we should not attract attention to ourselves and our bodies. After a superficial glance at the women surrounding me, I have seen women fall into two ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Some will wear skin tight while others will wear clothing 2 sizes too big. My question stems from a genuine desire not to attract while simultaneously recognizing that I do have a women’s body and would like to dress attractive. Should we pretending that we don’t have a figure and wear tents? Is that the road to travel on? Should we never update our clothing like the chassidim and wear the same style forever? I don’t want to any men to look at me, but am I being naive in expecting a man not to notice a “women” even if her clothing is not tight? What does the Torah expect of us? I want to do what is right.

37)  What methods can one use to increase one’s kavana in tefilah- i need practical thoughts!! Thanks!

38)  I was a regular and intense Mincha davener for most of my life until I got married, when now I can hardly handle cooking and cleaning and work.  I’ve basically given up davening Mincha for now, and didn’t consult any Rav about it.  Is that okay? Is that a decision that I can make on my own?

38)  What are some ways I can motivate my husband to grow and think about Elul and Rosh Hashana, without sounding like an annoying seminary girl?  He has a learning seder every day so I’m not worried about his learning, but whichever way I bring up the idea of change or growth, he gets annoyed.  Any ideas on approaching a man with this stuff?

39)  When it comes to Emuna, what is the proper balance of trusting Hashem and being responsible?  If you read the 7 Habits, or if you’re interested in becoming an effective employee and individual, you realize that most things, in fact, are preventable and controllable, as long as you are smart, think ahead, and prepare for different situations.  There are very few things completely outside our domain (ie the car breaking down, tornado arriving, other people’s mistakes.)  If someone takes full responsibility for his or her life, how should one view trusting G-d?  This is something I could never understand.  I trust Him, but I have so much to work on when it comes to my own actions and responsibility so I can’t write off everything that happens as His decision.  I could have done better. Right?…

40) Oftentimes when i daven in the morning my 7 month-old gets cranky after being ignored for 30 minutes.  So while I’m davening Shmoneh Esreh I will turn around to smile at him periodically.  Is this okay?  It is better chinuch to ignore him while I focus on my davening or to continue to reassure him?  Is it better for me to skip psukei dezimra so my davening will be shorter so my son won’t be cranky by the time I get to shmoneh esreh?

41) I tend to get resentful of the kollel lifestyle as I get overwhelmed with the many responsibilities that fall on me.  Being responsible for the cooking, cleaning, childcare along with pursuing a demanding career to support my husband’s learning at times leaves me sad and angry as I feel unable to succeed in any area.  I heard in a shiur that a wife only gets the schar from her husband’s learning if she is ALWAYS besimcha regarding it.  Is this true?  And if so, do you have suggestions for how I can approach the kollel life in order to be besimcha even when tired, frustrated and overwhelmed?

42) Before I was married I used to LOVE learning Torah.  Learning uplifted me tremendously.  I thirsted just to hear words of Torah.  Now I would rather wash dishes than listen to a d’var Torah.  I sit down to learn only when my husband asks me to learn with him and I’m eager to finish.  I zone out when I hear speakers.  Is this normal?  Is it a yeridah?  Do you have any suggestions for how to move in the right direction?

43)  I have a problem with going to shul.  That is, now that my kids are older, I no longer have a problem getting there because of them.  I have a very physically demanding job as a nurse, which frequently involves working from 7-3:30 on Fridays (getting home around

44)  Needless to say, between getting ready for Shabbat on Wednesday and Thursday, getting up at 5AM on Friday to get to work, and racing around for my patients on Friday, I come home pretty beat, and a nap (in the summer) or at least a shower (in the winter) keep me from falling asleep at the table.  Saturday morning, besides the eytzot yetzer ha-ra, I am so happy not to have to get up at 5AM that sleeping in is incredibly attractive. The other thing is, I really LIKE davenning b’yichidut, and I am also very relieved to have some time in which I don’t have to be social with anyone but my family.  I’m basically introverted and need a certain amount of “down time” after using up a lot of my extroversion at work. I almost never miss work unless (G-d forbid) I am really sick, because our department is chronically understaffed, and pikuach nefesh is involved.  In short, I know my physical presence is NEEDED, which is not really the case at shul.  I am very good at being there when I am irreplaceable, but shul doesn’t seem so imperative, which is a big reason why it’s hard for me to do what seems “me’al u-me’ever”.  Are these compelling reasons not to go, and/or find me some compelling reasons  to shlep my tired aching feet out of bed on Shabbat?  Or am I tryng to do too much?

45)  Last time Rebetzin Heller briefly answered a question about the spiritual importance of covering ones hair while davening & learning.  I go to a ladies-only gym. What is the view of covering ones hair around women only? Can Rebetzin Heller explain further what she mentioned last time about the spiritual importance of covering ones hair even in situations when according to halacha its okay not to?

46)  There seems to be a pressure in the frum community to have large families.  How does a woman know when her plate is full or if she should push herself to have more?  How does one balance quantity vs. quality?  How does one know whether she is being influenced by Western culture or if she really is not up to having more?  This is assuming the woman is healthy and hasn’t had any health or pregnancy related issues and her children are all B”H healthy.

47)  I work in a career that uses very masculine energies (I am an attorney but currently home with my kids).  When I was working it was very hard to use one energy — the masculine forceful go-getter type- at work, and a more receptive, flexible energy at home.  This is not to say I try to be just like the men at work — certianly, I am more tapped into the feminine energies than my male colleagues — just probably not as much so as say a woman employed as a social worker or speech therapist.  A long range goal is to shift careers so that I can spend more of my day in a more feminine-focused manner, but in the meanwhile, what tools can you recommend so that I can make sure I can shift gears well and am relying on my nurturing side at home and not cross examining or negotiating with those in my household like I have to in the workplace?

48)  What does it mean that the man provides everything for the woman to build with – in a spiritual sense? Does that mean he gives divrei Torah, explains halacha, or that his very being radiates spiritual authority?

49)  As I reach my “quarter-life crisis,”  I am confronted more and more often by my desire to be “more Jewish” and observant.  I would love to go to Israel and study but quite frankly, don’t have the means right now.  I guess the main question is how can one coming from a Conservative background move forward in Judaism, establish herself in a career and think about her future as the head of a Jewish household (dating for marriage) all at the same time?  It all seems so overwhelming and while I am just 24, I feel like I’m running out of time.  Do you have any advice?

50) This will be the first year that I will not be able to attend shul for much of Rosh HaShana and possibly Yom Kippur.  There will be some (but probably very little) time for me to daven at home. Additionally, since Rosh Chodesh, I have not been able to focus as much on Elul and preparing myself for RH and YK — as I am very busy with a little baby and work, etc. BH.  What is concerning me is that I feel defenseless.  I feel as if these days of judgement are arriving, a time when the nature of my next year will be determined, and I have little to no time to plead for myself, nor the time for much self reflection and connection to G-d.  It sounds odd, but it concerns me and I am not sure how to handle this concern appropriately so that I can a) enjoy the Yomim Tovim and b) use this time to my advantage.

51)  I am 55 years old and feel like a failure.  My husband & I learned three years ago that our oldest daughter is no longer observant.  I tried to use this challenge to come closer to Hashem.  I learned more, davened more, go to shiurim, do more chesed, give more tzedakah,etc. But over the past year one of my sons has also chosen a secular life.  I am devastated and my heart is broken.  The guilt is more than I can bear, I am always questioning what I did wrong,and since I am only a wife and mother with nothing else to show for myself, I feel like my life has been completely unsuccessful.  What more can I do, and how can I understand what Hashem wants from me?

52)  How indeed does a person know, aside from halacha (din) which of the many lessons of our sages to adapt in his life. Should he push for the limit in- let’s say chesed, upon studying about its importance, and make plans to open ten gemachs. I find that while the quality of absorbing the values is strong and inspiring, I’m never sure how far to run with it.

53) What do you think about mothers who will not allow their daughters to participate in the school production because it will be taped and there will be dvds distributed?  The school has been making dvds of the play for years, and I wonder if my girls should be allowed to participate.  There is acting, singing, and dancing involved, and the wearing of men’s clothing, for the girls playing men.  Is it proper for them to perform live in front of the women in our community, knowing that the taped version may very well be seen by men, regardless of the of the message at the beginning of each dvd that the owner must be careful with what she does with it?  What’s a mother to do?  I also heard that there is some sort of mystical reason for Jews, male or female, never to perform on a stage, regardless of who will watch the performance or if it will be taped (well, they didn’t have video recorders then).  Is this right?  I just saw a chumash party on You Tube.  The children are young, of course, and many relatives who couldn’t make it to the school can now watch it on their computers, but do you think it should have been posted?  Is this really necessary or appropriate?  Am I just being incredibly old fashioned?

54) I have some questions about books, movies, and music.   I’m a big reader, I always have been.  So is my husband, so are my friends.  I grew up in a family of serious readers, as did my husband, so our extensive reading is fairly normal for us.  I usually read at least  3 to 5 books just during the weekend, as does my husband, and this reading takes place over Shabbos, which I think might not be right, and even though we don’t pick out anything particularly risque, even the tamest books out have at least something that is probably inappropriate on some level or another.  The movies we watch and the music we listen to aren’t all completely kosher, either, but we grew up with secular movies and music, and they have always been a big part of our lives.  We do not read or watch or listen to anything just to pass time or to be entertained.  We don’t believe in mind-numbing activities.   So my questions are: 1. Should we put the books down for Shabbos?  (I could do it, he probably will not, unless I can come up with a very persuasive argument.)  2.  Should we stop reading secular literature? a.  I don’t know how this would be possible.  b.  I don’t know if this is necessary.  Even the Bais Yaakov school system teaches English literature.  Is this something Bais Yaakov is forced to do in order to remain open, or is the reading of secular literature permitted?  (It seems strange to teach young girls what they should not learn if it is wrong.)   3.  What do we read instead?  I don’t mean to offend anyone, but honestly, I’ve picked up a few Jewish books, and I am sure the authors put in great effort, and I believe many people might enjoy these books, but I felt like I might as well have read signs that said “Be good.  Do good.”  I do enjoy reading biographies of great Jewish people, and I do enjoy reading Jewish history books, but I love good stories, and I would read good Jewish novels, but I haven’t found any.  (Are there any?)  4.  I have the same problem with movies as I have with books (minus the Shabbos viewing, of course).  Is it wrong to wish for more well-made kosher movies?  Do movies have to be written, directed, and produced by religious Jews in order to be considered acceptable?   5.  What about music?  I grew up listening to rock (among other genres), and I love it, and I can’t stand most of the Jewish music out there, though I have tried, but I know that I haven’t looked hard enough.  Jewish boys singing Jewish words to secular teeny bopper and boy band music will not do.   6.  Do I give up on books and movies and entertainment?  (I cannot read or watch or listen to what I don’t like.)  I don’t think that being deprived of books and movies and music will be good for me.  I know this, because I have tried.   7.  Do you think the lack of good Jewish books, movies, and music is because the school system and religious society tend to stifle the creative inclinations of the students, turning them to lifestyles and careers that do not include the creative arts, as if creativity in and of itself is somehow wrong or not conducive to Judaism?  I personally think that if this is the case it is a shame, since there are so many brilliant and creative religious men and women out there who are probably not using their gifts, leaving a lot of Jews to search for something that they will never find.

55) Last class you touched on the deeper meaning of covering one’s hair. I’m sorry to say that whenever I hear about covered hair being special for one’s husband, I feel pretty frustrated.  Now that my hair is covered, there’s not much beauty left in it at all! Does the deeper meaning of this mitzvah have anything to do with me?

56) I’m sorry to be harping on this question, but what do you mean to build on whatever elokut one’s husband has?  Does that mean that his good middot should be the cornerstone of one’s home?  Also, if a woman enjoys the shiurim of a certain rabbi, is this a bedi’eved situation, where she should ideally be getting all direction, knowledge, and inspiration mostly from her husband?

57) Naaleh does a great job at spreading Torah, via the web. The rabbanim have come out very strongly against the internet.  Is this a conflict?

58) I’ve heard you discuss a few times the responsibility of health and safety. You answered a question in a forum about it, that basically we need to exercise and not smoke. What about good nutrition, is this optional, is this praiseworthy? Along the same lines, it bothers me very much when people have a lackadaisical approach to supervising their children. I’ve seen toddlers cross the street and preschoolers wondering around the block for hours without their parents needing to know where they are. It seems that in Israel this is much more prevalent. I hope this is not disrespectful, but… you’ve told a story about your four-year-old son knocking on someone’s door a block away, it seems without your knowledge, and this was normal. I would greatly appreciate if you could explain all of this. Thank you.

59) What are the parameters of cooking a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal? In my circles the women cook lots and lots of different foods, each one a whole bunch of tedious steps on its own. Then everybody can’t help but overeat, because all this special food looks so delicious. I would love to know if there is a way the cook can remedy this trend of stuffing ourselves silly for these special meals.

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