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Chabad Chinuch

"On Facebook, Sharing & Educating Children"


"On Facebook, Sharing & Educating Children"

Mordechai Zev Hecht ~ www.chabadchniuch.org

1 Billion users and counting - that's Facebook. The largest individual online platform ever. The norm that has become and is now Facebook is a force to be reckoned with one that speaks volumes about human psychology and social norms which are deeply embedded in our neurological hardwiring.

With all the talk in the news lately about Cambridge Analytica etc. and sharing data and the deep concerns for confidentiality and privacy of people's personal information one can only wonder if this is new or just a regurgitation and new-face if you like of an age old idea well known to humanity called - life itself.

In the world of action, a really neat technique with dealing with kids, I have found, is when a child doesn't want to share some of his toys with someone else, you tell the child in advance, "don't bring out, or don't take with you to your friend what you can't share". Sometimes children step and let go and share more than they originally felt at first, while others reserve that right and really don't bring it to the table, if their not ready to share.

Similarly in the world of speech, we all have secrets, we all have thoughts that we rather no one ever know, or as the age old saying goes: "better be quiet and let people think your smart, then to speak up and remove all doubts". It istha Talmud that has taught us 2,000 years ago, the value that silence is Golden - literally "A word for 1 selah ( a certain ancient coin denomination), silence for 2". Yet there are times where we really feel the need and urge to talk to someone. In fact the Torah teaches us as brought in the Talmud: "A worry in the heart of man shall spoken about with others". With this all being the case, we all know that we need to be careful what we do and what we say to others, especially in public, even to family and friends.

However, we also know and the Torah is very clear about social interaction, "love your fellow as yourself" etc. human beings need to have a healthy social life, friends and family with whom we talk and socialise without being judges and without being taken advantage of. So, the question how do we balance the two, 1) withholding and 2) sharing is a good one indeed.

Come with me my friends and get this. The Talmud in Tractate Yevomos p.63.2 brings from Ben Sira -Ecclesiasticus that one should:

"Prevent the "rabim" public from coming into your house, and do not bring "hakol"-everyone into your house, "rabim"- many should be those who inquire after your welfare, nevertheless reveal your secret to only 1 in 1000.'

One can easily ask the question, is this a prophecy of the Talmudic sages regarding Facebook and the like, that one could even possibly imagine having 1,000 acquaintances, only that you should only share your secrets with 1 ?!

In other words, could it be that the Torah is giving us a ratio 1/1000: for every time you think about posting something that's private think in the ratio amount of 1 in 1000. If so, I'll take it. It makes sense outside of Facebook. Before Facebook, ask yourself how much about your life did how many people actually know?! After answering that question, ask yourself: how can I create the model as a new norm for my online revelations. Sure we need a social life, sure online platforms can perhaps assist us in that direction, but at what cost? To what extent which is actually a healthy and productive, short term and long term?!

Perhaps we need ask ourselves furthermore, how much of what we post can actually be endangering us?! The Talmud is setting not only the Ratio but the idea in general, "don't bring the Rabim - the masses - those not close to you - into your home. People can always ask about your well fare, such as "how are you" and inquire into your well being even 1000 people. But does that have to be all in one day?! Maybe over a week or month or year or maybe even a life time. Or maybe the Talmud is using this term figuratively by saying: something simple like "hello", or "how are you is fine" - even 1,000 people may do so, but sharing all this "data" with "everyone", is it really necessary?! Says the sages of the Talmud the answer is a resounding: NO! not really such a great idea after all.

Rabbeinu Ibon Tabon in his magnum opus the Chovos Halevovos - Duties of the Heart expounds and enlightens us even further on this thread:

Man should have real friends, those who care about him and he cares about them, those who look out for your well being and genuinely care, 1000 acquaintances who do nothing to benefit a healthy relationship is a waste of time, as the verse so clearly states: "Oil and spices makes the heart joyful, and the sweet amongst friends is the advice and cure for the soul" (Mishlei 27)- (Chovas Halevovos, Shaar Chesbon Hanefesh: 56.2, p112)

We all know wine makes man happy, as wine is drunk and internalised, but oil and spices are external yet they too can benefit man in different ways and bring one happiness as well. Like friends, the right ones, like the right lotions and fragrances, can indeed truly benefit man.

Perhaps Facebook and platforms like it set children up for disaster. It can easily put a child's expectations high in the stratosphere, higher than it really should be :). Recent studies show people who were committed (addicted) to facebook and left, are soo much happier in life! Why do you think this is the case? The answer is Simple: Less let-downs! Less broken hearts! Less expectations! Sure there will always be those with lots of fanfare and fame, but it has little to do with Facebook, fame and fanfare (and fortune) is apart of life as we know it, some people truly have what to offer the masses, for better or for worse, Facebook is not it's birthplace or it's home, nor does Facebook own it, rather it is a platform for some to present their wares to a larger marketplace. In fact, for certain products and businesses many benefit from this kind of platform and marketplace, rightfully so in many instances - not necessarily so in others. After all it's a shuk - a market place of 100's of millions of potential customers, so to speak, but can one expect from this platform what is truly healthy for the 'average' human being and 'child'?

I'll let you be the judge.

Make a good choice. Be the best that you can be, happily and realistically and practically - here in the real world.

7 Critical Ideas to Foster a Healthy Marriage

 Lag B'Omer 5778

with Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht - (from everything life has ever taught me)

This article is not for the beginner. This article is not for someone who is not interested in making their relationship work. This article IS for partners who essentially love each other but are experiencing challenges. Perhaps, one of the seven ideas I share with you here can inspire you to make a move and a change in your marriage for the better.

Three married couples in the last month have contacted me to seek advice in their marriage. One of them was having a trust issue with her husband. Another was complaining that her husband always spends so much time with friends and not with her - and the third was feeling bored in his marriage.

We all know that obviously no two marriage are the same. But there are certain things that every married person needs to know. Consider, just consider perhaps one of the following 7 ideas in your relationship.

1)     Pursuing Different Hobbies and Passions

Everyone knows those couples that seem attached at the hip and seem to have perfectly overlapping interests. Perhaps they both love art and make it a priority to check out a new gallery exhibition every weekend. Perhaps they're outdoorsy types who go hiking or mountain biking at least once a month. Or perhaps the simple date night weekly or bi weekly – “just us– no kids”. However, just because you have vastly different interests than your partner doesn't mean your relationship won't work — in fact, pursuing different things might actually be good for your relationship. You definitely need to make time for your partner and find things that you can do together, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with both spending time doing certain activities that the other person just doesn't like to do — with one key caveat and that is, as long as your partner is supportive and doesn't make you feel bad about pursuing your own interests. Let us recall the wisdom of ours sages in almost unique circumstance like this, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto yourself” - Hillel the elder, Ethics

Which may include: Many people try to make it seem like you should only be hitting the town with your partner by your side, but truth be told — even if you're in a happy relationship, you still need to make time with your friends! Now, in certain situations, it makes sense to attend a social event with your partner — for example, a party for a mutual friend, a family get together or a holiday party etc. However, if you're invited to a party or an event that your partner doesn't really have any interest in attending, you definitely don't need to force your partner just because you're worried people will think there's trouble in paradise if you show up alone - as long as you-both are really ok with it.

Or you may want to consider: Unless you're going on a trip that's specifically gender appropriate, most people assume that you'll go on vacation with your partner. Sure, you may turn it into more of a group vacation by inviting a few friends along, but your partner will be there by your side, sharing the same hotel room with you every night. At least, that's what many people assume, which is why it's become a bit of a taboo to go on vacation solo. Truth be told, a little space after all, you had a life and went on vacations before you met him or her, so why ban yourself from enjoying solo travel ever again? The saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder exists for a reason. For millennia spouses (ok men) have traveled for long periods while one (the wife) stayed home. Even in modern times many people have to travel for work. It’s also, very common in NY state in the summer time. The main things is there should be a healthy dialogue and understanding between the two of you - exactly what the time and space separation may include. Perhaps the divide and conquer methods is applicable here. Each partnership needs to establish healthy, loving and sensitive ground rules and responsibilities for these times alone or apart from each other this way we foster trust, love and connection.

2)     Talking About Uncomfortable Subjects On The Regular

There are certain subjects that no one really loves talking about because they're just plain uncomfortable — and it can be easy to fall into the trap of just avoiding those subjects altogether because you don't want to spoil the bubble of your romance, or you just don’t know how to begin the conversation, or even worse your actually afraid to bring it up. In reality however, don't be afraid to approach those tricky subjects if you want a healthy, strong relationship. Conflict isn't always the most pleasant experience, you shouldn't have fear or reticence in bringing up something or someone in your relationship, and your partner shouldn't make you feel bad about doing so. You have a great opportunity to become closer when you realize anything can be on the table, and it's OK to put out there there is a freedom to that. Having a healthy conversation in a healthy dialogue can solves years of angst and anguish between partners. [Often a 3rd party can help you open or co-host these conversations so they are productive and not destructive]. I can’t think of a greater place to apply and own the teaching our sages: “A worry in “man’s” heart should be spoken of with others” – Proverbs 23.

3)     Being Super Open About Money And Everything To Do With Personal Finance

Building trust is the most important component to a healthy and productive marriage. Money becomes a huge issue in countless relationships because so many people grow up with it as a bit of a taboo subject. Sure, you know it's an important part of life, but it's not something you feel comfortable bringing up and discussing ad nauseum. So, you avoid it, because it's taboo — and that's the worst possible thing you could do.

Couples who have a clear knowledge and understanding of income, amicable spending practices, and spending according to each other’s agreement become closer, gain trust and are plain out happier. When one is in the know and the other has no idea - major challenges become a reality and major road block for a happy marriage.

After all, how are you going to plan your future and make big life decisions if you're not willing to approach the subject of money and deal with it responsibly and fairly? Don’t need to be be frugile, but spend wisely – within budget; a healthy balance is the greatest idea.

4)     Not Everything Needs To Be Shared

Okay, we're definitely not saying that you should be lying to your partner EVER, on the regular or keeping major secrets from them. That level of deception is not cool. Actually it’s strictly forbidden on every level. However, don't let yourself be shamed by the thought that your partner needs to know absolutely everything about you. There are many people who are total open books with their partner, and that's great. However, if there's a particular situation in your past or issue you have, that you're just not quite comfortable sharing with your partner (yet), that is absolutely okay. Perhaps you'll tell them one day, perhaps you never will, but the point is, at the end of the day it's your decision about what you want to share with the person you're sharing your life with. If this knowledge has no consequence to the marriage, it’s ok not to be shared.

5)     Your Physical Needs & Health:

When it comes to the bedroom or physical needs and the like, everyone is a little different. Some people are totally in command of their sensuality and have no qualms about telling their partner exactly what they need in explicit terms. However, the vast majority of people find the topic a bit uncomfortable to approach — even if you're doing the most intimate thing you possibly could with a person! No one is saying you need to be a drill sergeant or insult your partner in any way ever, but you should absolutely be open with your partner about sensuality — after all, physical intimacy is a huge part of your relationship, and staying silent about things that are bothering you in that arena is definitely not the way to build a strong relationship. It's not always easy, but it's important. The Holy Torah is all about health and appropriate intimacy. From Maimonides to Rebbe Moshe Isserles, there are many detailed laws and much philosophy about the physical component to marriage. Practically speaking - in many marriages it’s the key to the survival of the partnership itself. Many marriages end simply because there was no communication in the area, and it was left in the Taboo pile to ever discuss and never sorted out as needed.

Not talking about it is against our holy Torah. A competent sensitive and halachic Rabbi can always be consulted with any questions in this regard to decipher the appropriate behavior in this arena - according to law and tradition. Don’t be a statistic - be a loving and caring partner.

6)     Showing Your Emotions Freely In Front Of Your Partner

Your partner should be the person you can totally be yourself in front of, and be vulnerable in front of — but unfortunately, many people (guys in particular) still feel that they need to keep their emotions hidden to some extent. You can't have a strong relationship if you're afraid to open up to your partner, but that's exactly what being reluctant to share your emotions does! So, shake off that non sense and get comfortable.

Relationships in which one person closes themselves off to their partner result in break-ups far more often than relationships where both people are open and honest with one another.

Forget what society tells you about women always crying or men not being allowed to cry and just express yourself in front of your partner without worrying about all those taboos and societal restrictions.

7)     Learn Your love Language

Are you serious? Are you youthful? Are you one who needs to be told how special and beautiful you are? Are you one that just needs a hug or a kiss and you’re good to go? Are you one that needs respect and professionalism from your spouse? Are you one who needs to spend a lot of time with someone to feel the love or just smile at me and show me you got my back and I’m good?

We need to ask ourselves and our spouses - what powers your clock what powers your engine. We need to ask our spouses what they need to maintain a sense of joy and youthfulness in their life. Service them in what they need - not what you need always. After all the root word of Ahava – love is Hav – to give. Love is ultimately about sharing and giving to others – and in this case both physically and mentally, not just food or credit cards.

When spouses understand the underlying personality and character of their spouse they end up in much more successful relationships, a happier marriage, and end up as healthier people all around.

Review these ideas and consider which can perhaps serve you best. And talk about it with your partner – it may do you wonders.

Horseradish & Children

 horseradish3web.jpg

Horseradish & Children

with Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht

 

If you ask anyone that has ever been to a Passover Seder - what was the most memorable part they would very possibly tell you unequivocally - the Horseradish.

Growing up as a kid in Queens, I remember always going to visit my Bubby and Zaydie in East Flatbush (E. 53rd St. in the basement (where the cow was)) where Bubby would hand grind, in those good old metal-meat-grinders with the wooden hasher, her Passover Horseradish. You pretty much knew you were on the right block already because you smelled Pesach in the air – the Horseradish that is.

In New York everyone knows Horseradish, whether it Benz’s, Bubby’s recipe, or Golds – white (pure, without beets) or red, either way Horseradish can-not be mistaken.

Quite frankly it’s these bitter herbs we place on the Seder plate to remind us of the bitterness the Jews endured in Egypt and throughout history. Most of us use horseradish, yet some Rabbis write that we should and can use Romaine lettuce (or French endives). Horseradish has a tangy sharpness to it and it burns. It makes the eyes run (amongst other things). But, it really isn’t the worst type of bitterness. In fact it’s even a little exciting at first even a little zesty (especially for those who love sharp foods, like schug, and Jalapeños). The true bitterness is in romaine lettuce and endives. The flat, insipid, dull, zestless taste – that’s real bitterness.

Our mothers and Bubby’s can further tell you that in this weeks Torah portion of Vayakel we read of the Kiyor-Laver (Shemos, Vayakhel 38,8) that the priests would use to wash their hands and feet before entering the Holiest place on G-ds green earth, the holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was made of the copper mirrors which the women have donated freely. We are taught by our sages that originally Moshe did not want to accept the copper mirrors because they were used for such vanity as “women’s beauty.” But G-d told Moses, ‘No. It was only because of their wives loving, caring relationship that the lives of the men of Israel did not become hopeless and bitter’. As they used these exact mirrors to stay beautiful for their relationships, and even go on to have children, lots and lots of children - even in bondage.

Unfortunately there are people who live tasteless, insipid lives. They experience real bitterness. Instead of trying to cultivate a loving caring a productive relationship, which may end the bitterness, they take horseradish. They opt for “exciting thrills”. Zesty now - and blah later. Instead of a little bitter now and “ahhhh later”. Unfortunately all they have truly done is exchanged one form of bitterness for another. Perhaps this is why we think Horseradish is the worst kind of bitterness. It gives hope where there is no hope and ends inevitably in worse despair.

If we are to learn anything from this part of the Seder – this part of life, it is – the bitter herbs must be a means to an end and not an end itself (albeit a biblical mitzvah). Something we do - not because we like it - but rather because we have no choice, and can’t wait for it to end.

As with our spouses, similarly with our children. Education is supposed to be meaningful and memorable but not punishing and painful.  

Pesach is coming, prepare indeed, visit Bubby and Zaydie, Yess! Create everlasting and memorable traditions absolutely, but don’t kill yourself. Perhaps, enjoy the macaroons and the grape juice more than the bitter herbs and the horseradish, please.

Souls Don't Have Mates: Peace in the Home

Mordechai Z. Hecht

Souls don't have mates, oh how cliche, we, the cuties, the sweet and romantic among us love to use the term "soul-mates". [Keep reading].

People will often use the terms, "but we were meant for each other", "for sure he's my soul-mate", I don't just want to get married "I want to find my soul mate".

Historically the term has had many loops of meaning. In current usage,"soulmate" usually refers to a romantic partner, with the implication of an exclusive-life-long-bond. This is to say, the word is used with more rarity than other terms associated with 'romantic partner'. It is a very versatile term, being defined differently by different individuals, as it is related to the concept of love. It commonly holds the connotation of being the strongest bond with another person that one can achieve. 

Does it actually mean you will meet it, find it and keep it, forever indeed; I'm afraid not for all.

I, nor can anyone, not a neurosurgeon and not a nano-technician and no not even a "regular Rabbi", even a good and wise one, tell you who your "soul-mate" is, guaranteed.

What's even more disturbing is that, and I'm more than sorry to bust anyone's bubble, many marriages are wonderful and may never have even heard the word "soul-mate", and many a "soul-mate" ie. matches-made-in-heaven end in, yup you got it, failure, end, finish early, close up shop before the end of the day; disaster.

So in review, let us cap this one up now: there are no soul-mates.

However what there IS, what does exist, are souls and mates. [Keep reading] 

Souls, discussed much about in Kabalah and surprisingly also discussed much about even in Talmud and Jewish law is the conduit through which our identities as human beings gain actual continual life. Like the life in our blood, the oxygen in our bodies, like the gas and electric in our automobiles, 

Souls are vital life packs. Sources of Divine, never-ending energy. However, unlike smorgasbords they are not buffets, they require proper synchronization and cultivation.

But, if you have one, you may ask; a soul; and we are also one, why bother marrying one? A soul that is. What exactly are we looking for? What's the whole hoopla about souls and soul-mates?

DESTINY

I digress. In Yiddish there is a word Bashert (באַשערט‎) that means "destiny". It is often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or soul-mate, (there's that's word again) [who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male)]. "It can be used to express the seeming fate or destiny of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening." (nothing like Wikipedia (source still needed :)) The idea of basherte(r) comes from statements found in classical rabbinical literature but no findings of Soul Mate, rather "Bashert"- destiny and "Zivug"-connection.

There's also famous proverb that "marriages are made in heaven", which may be illustrated by a story brought in the Medrash which may in fact shed some some very much needed light in our conversation:

"A Roman matron, on being told by Rabbi Yosi Ben Chalafta, that God is Mizaveg Zivuggim - arranges all marriages, said that this was an easy matter and boasted that she could do as much herself. Thereupon she assembled her male and female slaves and paired them off in couples; but the next day, they all went to her with complaints. Then she admitted that divine intervention is necessary to make suitable marriages that work and last. Last, key word." (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4).

Then there's the famous Gemorah, Talmudic teaching: "Even G-d Himself finds it as difficult an undertaking as the dividing of the Red Sea". Every wonder why it's so difficult for G-d? Truth be told, it's not. What G-d found difficult was G-d getting us to believe in the sacrifice and commitment that is marriage. Oh don't get scared by that word "sacrifice" it's not that daunting, it just takes some guts, like at the splitting of the sea.

The Rebbe explains, that for G-d to split the sea indeed was no big deal at all, what was however difficult, was finding even one person who would take the jump and leap forward with faith that with no doubt G-d would help them (Nachshon Ben Aminadav). The sea and mother nature was fine, man was the challenge.

In fact, a tertiary Talmudic source lends it's awesome insight that might even come as a refutation to the previous Talmudic passage:

'Forty days before a child is born it's announced via heavenly voice that the daughter of Ploni-Anonymous will be connected to Ploni-Anonymous (Genesis Rabba lxviii. 3-4; also Tractates Soṭah 2a; Sanhedrin 22a). Nowhere does the Talmud use the term soul- mates, or that halves will be reunited, for even if this were the case based on other Talmudic passages, and yes Biblical verses, this passage is saying: all G-d does is make the connection, we need to make it happen and build the partnership. Like the gargantuan task of the splitting of sea, being dependant on man, here too, the "calls" are out, the connections and leads made, but the partnership still needs to be built, by man.

Take Adam & Eve, the first man and women ever, they were literally (2) parts (back to front, side by side) of the same body, and how did that work out ?! You cant really blame em' they were the prototypes, the Beta Version, but we?!

Like the earlier passage where G-d makes the matches - Mizaveg Zivugim, the word zivug doesn't only mean marriage-match but rather the general idea which is "match" ie. connections. Sure, G-d makes the connection, but then man has to make it work and make it last with G-dly assistance and blessing of course

So there you go, it's destiny. It's not who you are going to marry but rather, will "you", the "human being", take the leap-of-marriage , with that person, when the time come?! Will the leap be continual and steadfast, withstanding that changes of Mother Nature .

Now , let's revisit the souls and soul mate thing. If, one values one self and one values one another, then what remains is souls who are mates, comrades, those who get along. Those who are ready, willing and able to take the awesome leap into the awesome undertaking that is marriage. The rewards can be awesome. For after all, is a sister a sister if they don't talk and fight and despise each other. Sure, sure, they come from the same parents but what does that mean if in action it has no display and fails to show up in reality.

Marriage is beautiful, as beautiful as siblings getting along and then some.
Marriage is romantic, as romantic as two people who are kind, considerate and loving to each other.
Souls have mates, when the other soul, "part of" or "whole", respect honor and love the other soul. Otherwise what you have is nothing of value. Semantics and bottling gone wrong.

BUBBIES KNOW BEST

Maybe my Bubby said it best as my aunt reminds me, marriage is about "100%."

Sometimes it's 50% - 50%. Each spouse bring things to the table. Sometimes it's 70%-30% and some times 90%- 10%. How much can one be giving if they are sick or incapacitated. What of people's emotional needs and mental challenges. What of the external forces that get in the way of smooth sailing in life. Can each spouse be present all the time 70,90, or 100%. Surely spouses need to compensate and fill in, if you wish to accomplish the 100%.

The sooner we realize this, the better our marriages. The greater peace of mind and calmness of our hearts. Soul-mates are as much soul mates as we invest in it.

Investing in it is all worth it, the returns are special and rewarding, but the day we forget what the equation of variables really is, is the day are souls and mates disappear.

PARTNERSHIP

Marriage has no soulmates, there are no freebies, "shes my soul mate", there are no givens, marriage is not a smorgasbord! Marriage IS a Partnership - in the greatest venture called "life". When you truly "partner up", energies that you can not begin to imagine show up and display themselves in miraculous ways. Ways in which you can truly see the innate awesomeness in your "partner", to love and cherish till 120. 

 

BAR MITZVAH, Myths & Facts

 


BAR/BAT MITZVAH MYTHS AND FACTS

Many misconceptions are associated with Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Some of the more common one’s are explored here.

Myth: Wearing Tefillin is a custom of Orthodox Jews.

Fact:   Tefillin is something Jews have done since the time of Moses, far predating any division of Jews into “denominations”.  Tefillin that have been found in archeological digs are identical to those of today, even though they are about two thousand years old. Tefillin are making a strong comeback. Broad-band for G-dliness.

Myth: Tefillin only need to be worn on the day of Bar Mitzvah.

Fact: Tefillin are to be worn every day, excluding Shabbat and Jewish Holidays.

 

Myth: You have to go to synagogue to wear Tefillin.

Fact:  It's best to make yourself part of the community's prayers.  But if this isn't possible, Tefillin can be worn in the convenience of your home, office or even a phone booth, as long as it's daytime.

 

Myth: A person shouldn't put on Tefillin until he understands what it is all about.

Fact:  The best way to understand what Tefillin are all about is by putting them on.

 

Myth: How the scrolls are written doesn't really count.

Fact:   While it is true that Tefillin are worn as a Mitzvah and not as amulets, it is an accepted belief, explained in the Kabbalah, that the Tefillin a person wears has an effect on his life and his family's.  Finely-written scrolls inside Tefillin made with care are channels for blessing and all good things.

 

Myth: Tefillin are the same no matter what the price.

Fact:   Many Tefillin sold in gift shops are often no more than fair simulations. Tefillin must be purchased from a reliable source who can assure you that they have been checked by someone G-d fearing and competent in halacha. Based on this the final price varies.

 

Myth: Tefillin last many generations as long as they don't rot.

Fact:   The scrolls inside the Tefillin often decay with age, especially when stored without use for an extended period. They should be checked at least twice every seven years by a competent scribe.

 

Myth: A Bar/(Bat) Mitzvah is an event.

Fact: A Bar/(Bat) Mitzvah is a person.

 

Myth: Girls and boys both reach the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah at the same age, at 13.

Fact:  Because girls generally mature earlier, girls become Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12 rather than 13.  

Myth: To become Bar or Bat Mitzvah, one must be called to the Torah and make a big party.

Fact:   According to Jewish law, children are not obligated to keep the Mitzvos, the commandments. The time during the early years of a person's life is a strict training period, where they learn about the Mitzvos and how to keep them properly. A woman becomes obligated to keep the Mitzvos (Bat Mitzvah) at the age of 12. A man becomes obligated to keep the Mitzvos (Bar Mitzvah) at the age of 13. Why doesn’t the Torah Command us to make  Big party on his 13th Birthday?

Perhaps, because upon becoming adults, young people have the yoke of Torah placed upon their shoulders. While it is indeed a time when one might be a bit frightened by the burden he or she is starting to bear, one should nevertheless be overjoyed by the fact that now he or she has the opportunity to do Mitzvos and fulfill the command of Hashem. This happiness has to be natural: the

youth has to feel it on his own. An artificial happiness, brought on by an obligatory celebration of the fact, is not needed nor desired. The young man or woman at the time of the Bar (Bat) Mitzvah has to

realize how lucky he (she) is to now have received the Torah and to be thankful to Hashem for this gift. It is for this reason that the Torah contains no commandments to celebrate becoming a Bar (Bat) Mitzvah.

It’s a celebration for the parents because we just added one more person to help us carry the load of Mitzvos and bringing us one step closer to the ultimate goal and purpose of creation.

Myth: Bar Mitzvah training consists of at least one year learning how to read the Torah. Bat Mitzvah training consists of a similar training in a synagogue skill.

Fact:   Bar or Bat Mitzvah training consists of thirteen or twelve years of learning how to do mitzvahs and why.  And it continues on from there for the rest of their lives.

Myth: When I have my Bar Mitzvah celebration in the Synagouge I need to wear hair spray in my hair.

Fact: In most synagogues, it is customary for people to cover their heads as a sign of respect for God and acknowledgement that there is something "above" us in the universe. Head coverings, called kippot, are available in the back of the sanctuary.

 

Those who are over the age of 13 often wear a tallit (prayer shawl) which has special ritual fringes (called tzitzit) on the corners. The Torah commands Jews to wear fringes on the corners of their garments as a reminder of God's commandments. Wearing the tallit helps the worshiper concentrate better on prayer. Hair spray…is optional.

Myth: Synagogues and Bar Mitzvahs are not for Kids.

Fact: Children are more then welcome in the synagogue. They should not be expected to sit for hours throughout a long service. It is perfectly acceptable for them to walk out to stretch their legs now and then and talk with friends. I have found that books and quiet toys (puzzles, lego) are excellent for keeping young children amused and engaged in synagogue. Every now and then you will run into someone from the "children should be seen and not heard" school. If your child is behaving properly, don't let such people bother you.

Bar Mitzvah parties are especially made for young kids to be part of, in order for  the to have what to look forward to and someone to look up to as well

Myth: After I turn thirteen the torah says I am man, so now I can do what I want!? 

Fact: Upon becoming an adult, young people have the yoke of Torah placed upon their shoulder. While it is indeed a time when one might be a bit frightened by the burden he or she is starting to bear, one should nevertheless be overjoyed by the fact that now he or she has the wonderful opportunity to do Mitzvos and fulfill the command of Hashem. And when you do what Hashem asks that makes you a true man. And indeed

 

Obviously there is a lot more to be learned about Bar Mitzvah in particular and Judaism in general, but, this should give you a little head start in making your plans for your Bar Mitzvah.


 

Drugs in Our Community: Everyone's scope of practice


Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht, www.chabadchinuch.org

Warning: Explicit: not intended for all audiences.

I can share with you my experience from back in my Rabbinical college days when one of my colleagues would snort “coke” and then decide to beat me up. (I'm fine;)

Or, my colleague who would get drink and do the same.

Or my close relative who would get drunk, throw-up, and do it all over again.

Or, perhaps I can tell you of a fellow community member who lost their only daughter, a drug abuser – or “owned by her addiction”, in a very unfortunate way.

Or, I can tell you of various colleagues who destroyed their marriages because of Drug & Alcohol abuse.

Or, should I tell you the story of an acquaintance of mine - son n’ mother, who spent a $130,000.00 inheritance on drugs – in a year and a half.

Or, should I share with you all the stories from this past year alone of the deaths in our larger Jewish community due to drug abuse,never mind the "national crisis" going on in the USA.

Or, perhaps I might as well tell you what about the plight of the Jews in Egypt, or at the time of the destruction of the first temple, or maybe even the Spanish inquisition or even the Holocaust. For, as some would say, “you are crying over spilled milk”.

So! I won’t talk about that! Nor will I share with you the plethora of important books and online links you can find on this subject matter to fully fathom it's impact.

I’ll just talk about something that happened today.That I personally witnessed.

Today, I responded as an EMT to a Hatzolah call here in NY, a 16 year old child who’s parent was deeply concerned about the welfare of their child.

We arrived on scene and safely approached the child, after a brief conversation the child agreed, with the parent's consent, to come to the hospital for an evaluation.

There was only one problem, right after the child got their shoes on and opened the door, the child bolted-ran away.

With the added help of the NYPD the child was found safe and sound and was escorted in hand cuffs to the hospital.

Now Stop! How many Rabbis or community representatives get phone calls in the craziest hours of the day and week begging for assistance when a child is at risk or was arrested?! And why? Could it have been prevented? Here we were lucky. Not always. 

But how lucky? The child was in cuffs! Escorted inside and outside by police! Which parent wants to see their child like this?! What brought it to this stage? Instinctively we will begin with a slue of questions like, was the child being assessed psychologically, psychiatric-ally, or does the child have a therapist and is the child on meds? Are the meds even working? If there is drug abuse, why, when, where and HOW? These are all important questions we need to ask – that is the parents and the medical and psychological-medical professionals – each in their own “scope of practice”- experienced in their fields. Good, robust and healthy answers need to be had- and a healthy and robust team of wise and experienced people need to address the challenge at hand - and no one should attempt it alone.

But! Most importantly, and what concerns us, the non professionals, is: what are the family members, friends and community members doing about it? How in tuned are we to children who suffer from a psychological disorder, or who are at risk, or have an attention or love deficiency. What can I do to help and sympathize with another Jew – This is every one’s scope of practice. After all how many mitzvos in the Torah teach us this?! Every Jew, not just a Rabbi or a Dr.

If you know someone that needs a helping hand, or suspect such, or someone who is going through a life long challenge , REACH IN! Reach in to their hearts and minds, see the beauty in them, see the good in them, and take time to listen, be patient,loving, caring and kind to the person - and be empathetic, truly.

This child didn’t want to go the police or even on the ambulance at first, but the child agreed to come in to my car to talk. What does that tell you?! Children need to build trust and earn your respect and credibility. The child was running, bu then stopped, acquiesced, and we spoke about the good and the bad and the ugly of life, for over an hr. A beautiful Neshomah! Deeply challenged! We even got in a few smiles and even a few laughs.

There is always HOPE! Never give up and never give in – REACH IN! And ask the most important question and maybe really the only question you the ”regular person on the street” can ask: WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THIS PERSON, YOUNG OR OLD! And then, well then create a plan and do it. With wisdom and understanding, sympathy and empathy and love, lots of it.

Don’t wait till it’s too late! The challenge may not be yours and the illness not creeping through your body, the pain and anguish that many of these people have to bare, and their parents and loved one's - but - “every Jew is responsible for the other.” It’s our generation! It’s our children! Wake up. We may or may not be the cure, but we can sure be a remedy and part of the larger plan to help these people fully recover- with G-ds help.

www.QueensHatzolah.org ~ www.Amudim.org r}

(Names and location and further details of this story were kept private for all practical purposes. The gist of the story is critical for further prevention.)

7 Reasons Why Parents & Teachers Should Not Yell

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht – www.chabadchinuch.org

I’ll start right away by admitting yelling was never one of my character challenges, but I've learned a thing or two over the years. As a school teacher, a principal, as a camp counselor, head counselor and camp director for years, it's not that I wasn’t toobad—it’s that one) I imagined myself on camera, and two) I was always cognizant of the child's mind, heart and life-situation - which all too often is the reason for a child’s behavior.

As life progresses though? Ugh. Much more. I see the infinite struggle with technology and the average child level of selfishness and "self-expectancy". So I know the struggle a teacher or parent may face each day. I know a lot of us struggle even if you’re a great teacher, even if you’re a swell person most days, sometimes it all gets to be too much and you just snap.

I remember the teacher in the room next to me one year, a person I completely adored. This teacher had a perfectly fine relationship with our students, but once or twice a week…Hooo-WEE! I could hear it through the walls, often accompanied by the slam of the classroom door, and it turned my blood to ice. If my students and I happened to be doing something quiet, we would all kind of freeze up listening to it. It never lasted long, but I always felt bad for my colleague during those moments. I knew a switch had been tripped and it wasn’t this person’s normal way of dealing with students.

Similar to a neighbor I once had, his mom would lose it, all the time. It frightened us.

And if this person was anything like me, they probably felt pretty awful when it was all over. Once the moment has passed and they have had their little tantrum, they're ashamed of the spectacle they have made.

Losing control is not a proud moment for anyone. But we can get a lot better over years, time should train us.  I want to share what has worked for me, along with some research and ideas from other people that has worked and proven productive.

By way of introduction:

We, my brothers and I had a principal in Elementary, one of many great educators I had growing up, but this man was in a league of his own - Rabbi Goldstein OB"M. In the morning he would bring us to other classrooms to answer Amen to the other classes making brochos, teaching us the power of Amen with love and affection. But then he would patrol the hallways and common areas, and when a child misbehaved all he had to do was look at you - and you were ‘finished’. This is a talent very few great educators have. Possibly he yelled, I don’t actually recall, but if and when Rabbi Goldstein yelled it was like a Tzaddik cleansing your soul. He breathed Judaism and ethics and morals, when he yelled it was his heart pouring out to the child’s soul, to re-support the child to re-behave. A true educator has to create a demeanor beyond yelling out of anger and disdain and lack of personal self control.

1. UNDERSTAND WHY YOU NEED TO STOP YELLING

Kicking the yelling habit will be more likely if you have a good basic understanding of why it’s an ineffective way to solve classroom discipline problems or issues at home.

Each one of us may find different reasons that inspire us to be better self-controlled individuals.

2. It’s really poor Role-Modeling

Even if we accomplish nothing else in a day, the least we can do is demonstrate a respectable level of self-control. Part of our job in life is to show students and children how to handle anger, stress, and conflict in a healthy and productive way. We can’t just tell them to do that. We have to show them. And yelling is definitely not showing them healthy, productive stress management. We all remember how much we despised being yelled at when were younger.

3. It Trains Students to Ignore Your Regular Voice

It may seem strange but when your go-to strategy for handling negative situations is yelling, students and children ultimately tune out all of your other voice levels and your training your students to listen to you only when you raise your voice. In other words, they learn that unless you’re shouting, you must not really mean it. So yelling begets more yelling, which may in turn make them immune to even the garden-variety yelling, so you have to keep upping the volume and intensity to get their attention. That’s just a horrible, slippery slope you need to back away from.

4. It Disrupts Student Responsibility

Studies find that when students have teachers who use more coercive, aggressive behavior management techniques (like yelling), they report being less likely to act responsibly in that class.

This makes sense, because students are acting more out of compliance and fear than out of any kind of intrinsic desire to be responsible. Which what any educator should really be imparting.

So if you believe it’s part of your job to raise mature, conscientious humans, know that yelling at them will only slow that process down; sorry!

5. Students Are Less Likely to Respect You

When adolescents are raised by authoritarian parents—whose methods are punitive, coercive, and often include yelling—they are less likely to view their parents as legitimate authority figures than kids whose parents have different styles, according to multiple studies in the Journal of Adolescence (Trinkner, Cohn, Rebellon, & Van Gundy). Because parenting and teaching involve similar skill sets, it’s reasonable to assume students who have authoritarian teachers feel the same way about them. The obedience you might get from yelling might look like respect, but that behavior probably doesn’t match their true feelings for you. Long term, it may even create resentment and yes even trauma.

6. It May Contribute to Bullying

The way students and kids at home treat one another has become a major concern for educators in recent years and always a concern for moms n’ dads. We tend to look at programs that aim to change student behavior and attitudes, but our own conduct may be a contributing factor: classrooms where the teacher used an authoritarian style— and parents who are in not in control, using punishment and coercion to influence student behavior—created an environment where bullying behavior between students and siblings are likely to develop. Trust me I've grown up in a large family - “Bullying doesn’t occur in a vacuum.” A host of factors contribute to it’s existence, and one of them is how teachers manage their classrooms and parents their children and how they respond to inappropriate student and  children's behavior.

7. It Creates Anxiety for Everyone

I don’t think any research is needed to back this one up. When you yell in anger, it changes the feeling in the room; in your heart and mind and your "mood". Imagine what it does to the kid you’re yelling at, and for everyone within earshot (have mercy), that includes the teachers and students in nearby classrooms, siblings or neighbors.

Just a quick glance at your situation will tell you that the need for children's sense of healthy, safe, calm and grounded environment are vital. Students and children are much less able and likely to do quality academic work and show happy behavior when surrounded by anger.

Staying calm, cool and collected particularly in tough situations could be a vital gift to your students children and ultimately yourself.

[And always remember    כל הכועס כאילו עובד עבודה זרה lack of self-control is often due to lack of experience with personal character traits.מה הוא רחום וחנון אף אתה תהא רחום וחנון... דברי תלמידי חכמים נשמעים בנחת.]

Being stern and serious and even raising our voice with a child or a group IS often necessary, as need be, but this is not the same as "yelling with disdain".

One good way to tell the difference is: would you feel jolly if your video was on You Tube? Ask yourself why?! Remeber children are little adults, how would you feel if SOMEONE YELLED AT YOU AT WORK - regardless of your behavior - how productive would you be?! How much more so with innocent children, precious souls who need, love, affection and EDUCATION!

Contrary to what many of us may have been exposed to over the years, learning good and healthy techniques for communication in education, is a vital prerequisite and requirement in any and every educating scenario and situation. Listen so kids will speak, speak so kids will listen. Don’t yell, please.

 

Chanukah & Children

Chanukah & Children

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht – www.chabadchinuch.org

"It is a positive Rabbinic commandment to kindle a light each night of Chanukah."

(Maimonides Laws of Chanukah Ch.3,3)

The mitzvah is customarily enhanced by kindling one light the first night and adding one additional light each successive night until we reach a total of 8 candles

(Code of Jewish Law: 671,2)

The widely followed custom is that the head of the household kindles the lights and thereby exempts his wife from lighting, as well as other females of the household who should be present at the lighting.(ibid. Mishna Brurah,9. See Chasam Sofer, T. Shabbos 22b)

It has also become widespread custom that anyone who wishes to light may do so. One should always consult their own personal competent Rabbi.

Parents are obligated to educate their children, from the age of 5 or 6, or younger depending on the intelligence of the child, in the performance of this mitzvah.

It is customary for boys of this age to kindle their own lights. (S"A, Rema,675,3)

It is interesting to note that this mitzvah is the "lighting itself" and with a "blessing" and even though classically the mitzvah of "educating a child" begins at 9, we begin to train children in many practices as this one even at 5 or 6 six years of age. Even though it is only 'customary' to add an additional light each night, and we are not obligated to educate children in that which is customary, never the less it has become custom that a child lights Chanukah candles in the same manner adults do.(See Rema end sec.675, Mishna Brurah ibid 14)

 

CHILD FOR AN ADULT

Children have such an acceptable and respectable place in this mitzvah some codifiers even make the argument that a child of the age of education may even bless and light and fulfill the obligation on behalf of an adult. Which goes to show how important a child's mitzvah may be. (Code of Jewish law sec.671,3. See M"B ibid 6. see Orach Yisroel 27)

CHILD lighting for a SHUL

It is customary to light Chanukah candles in Shul and a child may do so. Customs may vary.

(Minchas Yitzchok,6,64)

We as a community always try to involve the household in all our holidays and practices. There is no more beautiful way to celebrate this holiday then by getting kids involved and making them feel special and important.

Let us not forget that it was the children who played dreidel when the Hellenist Greeks tried to stop us from learning Torah- historically the children have a major part of this holiday, let's empower 

Mezuzah & Children

 

Mezuzah & Children

With Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht - www.Chabadchinuch.org

 

Q. Are children obligated in Mezuzah?

 

The Tannaic sages of the Mishna state: ”Women, servants and children…are obligated in prayer, mezuzah and grace after meals”.  (Mishna, Berochos Ch. 3, Mishna 3.[See Sefer HaItur, Shar 1, Laws of Tefilin 61, Tur 3])

 

The code of Jewish Law codifies that: “…We educate the children to place a mezuzah on their doors”  (S”A Yoreh Deah, Tur 291.S”A, Yorah deah 291,63)

Maimonides rules as well, like the words of the mishna itself: “All are obligated in Mezuzah, even women and servants, and we educate the children to placemezuzahs on their doors in their homes.”  (Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah, Sefer Torah Ch.5,5)

 

The Commentary on Miamonides the Kesef Mishna explains, what does it mean ‘they are obligated’ - it means the parents are obligated to educate them in this mitzvah accordingly. (K”M T. Berochos 17b)

 

Does this mean they are obligated in the same way adults are obligated?Do they watch their parents place it on their doors, or even on the child’s door as well?

 

The Chinuch states (Mitzvah 423)”A mute, an imbocile and a child are not obligated in mitzvos”, rather we educate them in doing so, as we mentioned above.

 

Does this mean they should place the Mezuzah on their doors themselves?

This is a matter of great debate amongst the codifiers.  The Aruch Hashulchan adds, (S”A 286,63) “It appears to me that even a room designated only for children needs a mezuzah, because of the “mitzvah to educate them in this mitzvah”. Furthermore, children who don’t have parents, (or a child who inherited the space: See Shu”s Torah Lishmah 307) may place the mezuzah themselves, and when they become adults shall reaffix the mezuzah. Otherwise parents should do it. If a child did it for the parent/adult it should be reaffixed. If one did not, it’s fine, the main thing there is a mezuzah on the door, withstanding/regardless of how it got there.

With that said, various contemporary codifiers conclude based on the words of the Rambam, that the affixing is primary and as all mitzvahs must be done properly by an ‘adult only’ and this is the best way for it to be done. The Rambam states that the blessing on Mezuzah (like on Tzitzis) is not made on the writing of the mezuzah or the making of the Tzitzis but rather preceisley when it’s affixed, as this is the primary component of the biblical and or Rabbinical parts of these mitzvahs, hence concluding  that it’s vital that an adult does it – albeit the child be taught how it’s done properly. (Shevet Levi 2, 158. See Magen Avraham 19,1. See Eretz Tzvi 15)

 

In reality the child should do it with a blessing on their room alone, as this is the seeming understanding of the words of the Shulchan Aruch – code of  Jewish law mentioned above, 291. All other spaces should be done by an adult accordingly.(Tsitz Eliezer ,75. Yalkut Yosef, Sovah Semochos,Mezuzah, 14)

 

What about a room for a nanny who takes care of children, or may reside in the room with an infant?

 

From the words of the Aruch Hashluchan it seems even though a room may be desginated for them only, since it’s in the house of the adult Jew, the room should have a mezuzah as well, unlike when you rent your property to a non Jew and you don’t live yourself in that dwelling.

 

Parents: When a parents places a mezuzah on a child’s room door, they fulfill 2 mitzvahs, one the mitzvah of mezuzah and 2 the mitzvah of educating children.

An afterthought on this matter may be: that as we find in many other aspects of educating children includes many mitzvahs where the child themselves would make the blessing such in prayer, Shabbos candles or Tzitzis or grace after meals etc.. Thefore in the realm of education, it would seem quite proper that here too, the child make the blessing oneself upon the special itzvah of affixingthe mezuzah.

 

Rabbi Hecht can be reached at: rabbimzhecht@gmail.com

Chabad Chinuch

 

In honor of the 90 year celebration of Anshe Sholom Chabad JCC tenured Rabbi who now celebrates one decade at ASC JCC, Mordechai Z. Hecht will produce periodical videos and Chinuch-sheets for parents and educators on the values, structure, laws and customs on the Jewish education of Children.
 
Bio:
Rabbi Hecht, from a huge family and a generational line of rabbis patrilineally and matrilineally will share with you everything he has culled from the most creative teachers, rabbis and educators as well as codifiers, bringing you the bottom line on Jewish Education, to help bolster a more robust and comprehensive, happy and healthy next Jewish generation, forever.
 
Chabad Chinuch , since 1745
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