Bayit Ne’eman: A Faithful Home #7

13 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

It is customary to wish a new couple that they merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael (a faithful home in Israel). What does a faithful home mean? It means implanting a foundation firmly in the ground so that the housedoesn’t fall over. It means creating an atmosphere of strength, commitment, and will. Emunah is expressed by being loyal to the inner laws of Torah and this is most readily expressed in the home.

In Parshat Bamidbar the Torah says, “How good are your tents Yaakov! They are like cedars on the streams of water.” A Jewish home should be like a tree planted by the water rooted firmly near its life source. A home reflects the inner life of the people who live there. It is not just a glorified hostel but a place where familial relationships are defined.

The Gemara writes that a man’s house is his wife. When the Jewish people went down to Egypt the verse states, “Ish u’baito,” each man and his house. A house becomes a home through a women’s faithfulness to her husband. This is one of the first praises in Eishet Chayil. “Batach bah lev baala.” Her husband’s heart trusts in her. He has no doubt that her greatest desire is to see that her home is complete. A faithful wife is called an akeret habayit. This comes from the root word ikar, which means primary, as opposed to tafel, secondary. She is the mainstay, the primary force that governs the home with honesty, faithfulness, and strength.

Part of faithfulness is maintaining stability in the home. Whether you’re tired or not, when your kids arrive from school you should greet them with a smile. When your husband comes home after a long day he should have a wife in full control of the situation waiting for him.

The opposite scenario is a home where the laws change every day and for every member. When there is no predictability, there isn’t really a home. Constancy in the home begins with acknowledging the laws of nature. There must be food, clean laundry, and defined times for beginning and ending the day.

It’s hard for parents to let go of their children when they marry. You can alleviate the pain by inviting your parents and including them in your life, but your first priority must be your spouse. A faithful home is where the strongest possible loyalty is observed between husband and wife. In the home, the deepest laws of nature that are internal and spiritual find their expression. This is the core of a person.

The Gemara says forty days before a child is formed a heavenly voice announces, “The daughter of this one belongs to that one.” The unity between a husband and wife is compared to the first match between man’s soul and body. The soul was originally created as both male and female. They are divided as they enter two different bodies. No soul is complete until the male and female aspects are once again united. A marriage that fails injures both the body and soul. Therefore, the word for divorce in Hebrew is called sefer kritut, a book of severance.

The word bayit also describes the place of the beit hamikdash. Avraham called it the mountain. Yitzchak called it the field. But Yaakov called it bayit. A home connotes the connection between Am Yisrael and Hashem.

Avigayil wished David, “Hashem will bless you with a faithful house because you fought Hashem‘s war.” We have to wage Hashem‘s battle both within and without. The inner battle is to conquer our bad middot. When we work to perfect ourselves, when we strain to uphold the honor of Hashem in our home, we will merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael.





Bringing Torah To Life: Making Pesach Meaningful

19 03 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The essence of Pesach is sipur yetziat miztrayim.

With younger children ages three to six, it’s easy to get distracted with the drama of the story, so it is important to emphasize three main ideas: Hashem is constantly watching over us, He has the ability to transcend nature, and in the end, justice prevails. The wicked ultimately pay for their actions.

The story of the exodus is rich and complex. Although younger children have surely learned all about the plagues in school, they don’t always get the whole picture.

I once overheard one of my grandchildren talking about Avraham Avinu and the tent with four doors.   “I know why it had so many doors. If guests came and you didn’t like them, you could make them leave right away from any room in the house.” Apparently the teacher got across about the four doors but she didn’t quite make the connection about hachnasat orchim (inviting guests).

Tell your children how Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt. Slowly they forgot that they were different from the Mitzriyim. Discuss how we are not like the non-Jews. We know about Hashem and we follow His will. The Mitzriyim forgot how much Yosef had done for them. You can elaborate how a tzaddik is careful to show gratitude while someone who isn’t righteous doesn’t care to remember too much.

The evil Mitzriyim made the Jews work for them. Pharaoh fooled them into thinking it was a mitzvah. Bring the concept of slavery down to your child’s level. “Imagine what life was like for a little boy your age. He would get up in the morning from his bed of straw on the floor. He’d put on his old ugly clothes. He didn’t go to school. He had to work hard and even when he got tired he had to keep on going and sometimes he would get beaten. He’d stop only at night when he’d go home to rest and eat a bit.”

The Mitzriyim enslaved us because they saw that the Jews had so many children and they were afraid that soon there would be only Jews and no Mitzriyim left. We’d be stronger than them. But the real reason they tormented us was because they were evil. You can be dramatic about the suffering, but save the horrific pictures in the Hagadah for older children. It may frighten the younger set.

Pharaoh got worse. He ordered the babies boys thrown into the sea. At this age, kids won’t always understand what death is. You want them to know that killing someone is cruel and that it’s sad for the family. But you can’t be too graphic. Hashem saw how cruel Pharaoh was to the Jews. He heard the Jews’ cries and he selected Moshe to lead them out of Egypt. Moshe was special. When he was born the whole room was full of light. His mother saw that he was righteous, so she attempted to save him.

Talk about some of the tzadikim and tzidkaniyot of the generation. Tell them about Miriam, Yocheved, and Batya. This teaches them that no matter what happens, a person’s innate greatness and nobility can still shine through. Batya didn’t just shrug her shoulders and turn away. She said, “The baby is crying. I must help him.” She stretched out her hand and Hashem enabled her to reach Moshe. Don’t talk about how it got really long. It’s confusing at this age to think that Batya did something good and ended up looking weird.

Discuss how tzadikim do the right thing even when it’s hard. Have them give them examples from their own lives such as sharing their toys with their cousins or offering some of their snack to a friend.





How do I balance giving my son rebuke and elevating his self-esteem?

20 02 2012

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Question:

My eight year old son often hurts his friends with words. I know he’s clearly acting out when he feels bad about himself. How do I balance giving rebuke and elevating his self-esteem?

 

Answer:

 

There are a few concrete things you can do.

 

Talk to him before or after he’s in the act, but not while he is acting out. Catch him when he’s available emotionally and tell him a thematic story. It could be about the animals in the barnyard who put down the weak horse or the new Russian boy in cheder who was excluded. You should convey the point that the good guy is the one who saves the persecuted ones.

 

Once he identifies with the good guy, then you can say, “I wish sometimes that I was like that.” Many times when I read about heroes in the Holocaust who saved hundreds of people I wish I could be like them, but of course we can only do what we can. At least we should never hurt anyone or call them stupid or clumsy. Then list all the words he says without him knowing that you are talking about him. It may not work right away, but it’s sure to enter his heart, even if he doesn’t give you any signs.

 

If you catch him stumbling again, you could tell him, “These are things we don’t say. They hurt people’s feelings.” He already knows from your stories that that’s what the bad guys do.   He may say, “Yes, but he really is stupid.” You could then respond, “That may be true, but how do your words make him feel? You’re supposed to try to make him feel good. This upsets him.”

 

If you’ve done the preliminary work, he’ll get the message.





How Can I Make Tefillah Meaningful For My Daughter?

17 01 2012

Rebbetzin’s Perspective I: Class#7

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective

Question:

My ten year old daughter finds davening boring. I can’t think of ways to inspire her except to tell her that Hashem is waiting to listen to her tefilot (prayers)and that she can ask for anything she wants, like new shoes or clothes. Can you help me with more ideas?

 

Answer:

If your daughter is not extraordinarily spiritual, like most ten year olds, she will not like davening. Accept this as appropriate for her stage of development.

 

Babies start out completely materialistic and as their spirits grow, they become more spiritually attuned. It’ll take a good two years for her to become more sensitized to prayer. All you can do during this time is make davening more appealing and inspiring by teaching her the tunes to some of the tefilot and helping her understand what the words mean. Sometimes communal davening with other people helps too.

 

Obviously she’ll need a lot of affirmation and appreciation, but ten year olds in general don’t daven with kavanah (intention), so don’t have unrealistic expectations.





What role does a close and supportive family play in Judaism?

14 12 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Achieving Balance: Class#2

Question:

What role does a close and supportive family play in Judaism? Is it in the spirit of Torah for a child to settle in Eretz Yisrael if the parents who stay behind will feel resentful and unappreciated?

 

 

Answer:

Family is unquestionably a Jewish value. The whole concept of Am Yisrael developing into a nation only began when there were families. When Yaakov and his children descended to Egypt, the Torah describes them as, “Ish u’veito,” man and his household. From that point on, the Jewish people were counted as families. There were no more individual censuses.

 

Rav Hirsch explains that different family roles are designed by Hashem to bring tikun (rectification) to each family member. A man gains more by being a father, husband, son, brother, and grandchild, than he would ever gain by just being an individual. Therefore, family is very important. Even people who cannot put this into words know this intuitively. The low assimilation rate in observant communities is the direct result of our emphasis on family. In other communities, the assimilation rate is high, because people develop a sense of wanting to belong somewhere in order to gain that feeling of connection that family should provide.

 

Family is a means for tikun, not a substitute. Therefore, if tikun can be achieved by moving away from family, that is what the person should do. Our tikun is defined by the Torah. While family closeness is more of a hashkafic value, settling in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah that outweighs it.   





Teaching Your Children Sensitivity

9 09 2011

Rebbetzin’s Perspective: Class #4

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective

Question:

My seven year old daughter thinks that she can insult and call people names without a care. She also acts rude to our guests.  I have explained numerous times that it isn’t nice but she doesn’t listen.

 

 

Answer:

The wisdom of seven years hasn’t taught your daughter the art of sensitivity. She probably doesn’t understand how people feel when she calls them names or treats them unkindly.  She can connect to herself, but not to others. Try to find several good children’s books in which the theme is getting beneath another person’s skin. It could be in the genre of “The Ugly Duckling,” where the one who was despised and in pain ultimately turns into the swan. Get her to identify with the hero and feels his pain. Then ask her, “If you would have been there with all the others, would you have made fun of the duckling? Had you been one of the kids in the class with Rabbi Akiva, learning aleph beit, would you have laughed at him?” 

 

Try to find as many opportunities as you can to tell her these stories, either at bedtime or on Shabbat. Fictional tales are good because it creates enough emotional distance so that she won’t be defensive.  It could take at least a month or so to open her heart a little. When you see visible signs that she’s starting to understand, you can talk to her more, not about mistreating guests, but how to make them feel good. Invite someone she likes and have her serve. Then move the conversation on to how one should treat a visitor.  Ask her, “Do you want our guests to feel bad? Of course not, even if you don’t like them, you’ll try your best to make them feel comfortable.” 

 

As time progresses, make her aware that nobody enjoys being called names.  It hurts people’s feelings. Teach her the right way to express herself. Encourage her to use positive, heartening words. With time and practice she’s bound to improve.





Rebbetzin’s Perspective I Class #2

3 07 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin Perspective

Question:

How do I balance listening to lashon hora with developing a deep and meaningful relationship with my teenage daughter?  Are there different rules when dealing with teenagers who need to be able to talk freely in order to understand themselves and their circle of friends?  

 

Answer:

 

If you care about someone, you want to give them what’s best for them. If you had a brilliant child who wanted to become a doctor, you’d do whatever you could to get him through medical school. If you had a special needs child who required extra intervention, you’d surmount all obstacles to help him progress. Your daughter desperately needs to learn how to differentiate between actual lashon hara and  lashon hara l’toelet, and how to developing a positive eye. As her mother, you are responsible to guide her.

 

Some people have the illusion that if they confide in their spouse they are drawing closer. In fact they are doing quite the opposite, notes the Chofetz Chaim, because their relationship is based on the common desire to tear people down. If you don’t set your daughter straight now and she continues analyzing and discussing people endlessly, the day may come when you’ll be the bull’s eye. She’ll be talking about you in a way she’s been talking with you all along about others.

 

The first step would be to gently get her to focus on what is unique, special, and precious, in every person. The next step would be to steer her to look for constructive solutions to her social problems. The final stage would be to have her come to these conclusions on her own. This will change your relationship with her in a very pivotal way. It will now be based on the common goal of finding resolutions and developing positivity rather than constantly putting others down.





Rebbetzin’s Perspective I Class #2

29 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin PerspectiveQuestion:

If a parent is angry and critical, sometimes to the point of cruelty, what would be the correct way to respond?

Answer:

It’s not so simple. What one person might call critical and destructive, another person might call involved and committed. What one person might call harsh and cruel, another person might call persistent and dedicated. Parents don’t think of themselves as evil. They think that they must not allow problems to develop or that they must act authoritively so that the structure necessary to maintain family life doesn’t disintegrate. They want to uphold their values but they don’t have the right tools to do so.

The voice of anger is really saying, “This is not how it should be. It must be the way I want it to be.” This is true for both justifiable anger and ridiculous anger. The parent may feel that if he does not respond with verbal anger, then he is affirming the situation. He needs to learn to move his problems to solutions and to maintain a sense of proportion. He must say, “What can I do to make this better? How important is this on a one to ten scale in my life?”  Anger won’t work. It will only create passive or active dissonance. Hashem is putting the parent through a nisayon. As Jews, we trust that we are here to serve our Creator.  The parent must honestly ask himself, “Does Hashem want me to love my children or treat them like the enemy?”

If you have a close relationship with the parent in question, empathize with his inner voice. Gently steer him to look for solutions and to view problems in perspective.  If you anticipate a difficult situation, talk to Hashem. Don’t go into the lion’s den without tefilah. Ask Him. “Azrani Hashem…Help me do this right.” With Hashem on your side, you’ll surely succeed.





Advice for a Mother of a Rebellious Daughter

10 03 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman,Part 3

Question:

I have a daughter who has a streak of rebellion in her.  She is a very intense, responsible, and caring girl. I know that if channeled properly, she can really use her talents.  However, the problem is that her personality often clashes with mine.  She likes to be in control and so do I. She also has a hard time speaking respectfully to me and will accuse and blame me for things.   How shall I manage this eleven year old who is going on fifteen?
Answer:

First, count yourself lucky. You have a daughter with leadership qualities who will make a great mother and be a wonderful asset to Klal Yisrael. You do however need to consider how to properly guide her. Give her responsibility. If you like her taste, have her choose the clothes for the children for the next day. This will give her something to do and take the chore off of your head. If your preferences clash, tell her, “I’m preparing the clothes for tomorrow. Would you like to get the shoes and book bags ready?” Be clear about the areas you would like her to take responsibility for and then don’t talk, unless something gets radically out of hand. You definitely should not tolerate any insolence. Listen to what she tells you and affirm her words by rephrasing what she said. Tell her she can suggest possibilities, but be very firm that the way you run the house is the way she will have to deal with it. When she wants to offer helpful advice she will need to say things differently. You can tell her, “Let’s not hear complaints, let’s hear positive ideas. If you want to have a constructive role in the house you need to learn how to talk to me.” Repeat this many times. Be very clear that she may not criticize or blame you. She may make suggestions or ask questions. You will listen and if she is right, you will consider her words seriously. Have your husband back you up on this. Be firm but friendly, keep her parameters defined, and hopefully things will work out.





Help! My Child Hates Reading!

23 02 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman,Part 3

Question:

My daughter is a wonderful girl, does fine in school, and helps a lot around the house.  The problem is that she hates reading. She’d rather sit on the couch and do nothing. She loves going shopping, which also concerns me. I try to explain that we only go shopping when there is something specific we need, but she isn’t satisfied. Is this a battle I that I should choose?

Answer:

Different people like different things. You need to learn to accept your daughter for who she is. If she is not a reader, that’s ok. She is doing well in school, which means she is responsible enough to read when she has to.

Let her be. Your role is not to figure out how to get her to enjoy reading, but rather to find out what speaks to her. Most non-readers enjoy doing rather than focusing on their inner life. Shopping involves interacting with people. There is a lot of movement and excitement.

Your daughter may be more of a people person rather than a book person. See how you can channel her drives in a healthy way. Anything with people will probably make her happy. Find out if there are drama or singing clubs in your area. Summer camp would be marvelous, if you can afford it. When she gets older, you can encourage her to run a day camp for younger kids. If her passion is clothes, see if you can find a designer course for girls her age.

If you don’t see more than shopping on the “I like list,” then go shopping. Once in a while take a trip into town and devote the afternoon to looking around for things with her.  Don’t view it as a waste of time but rather as spending quality time with your daughter. If she sees you making an effort to make her happy, it will make all the difference in fostering a continued positive relationship with her.