Parenting News

Chesed Starts At Home

‍‍2013-12-05 10:59:21 - ז טבת תשעג lbridwell

rabinowitz_elishevaSome people find performing chesed, kindness, an easy task.

As Jews, we perform chesed for people in the following order: 1.people who are closest to us, 2. our neighbors and 3. the rest of the world.

We are blessed to live in a community that encourages chesed. I interviewed two rabbis, Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, of Tiferes Yisroel, and Rabbi Shmuel Silber, of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, both of whom had recently encouraged their congregants to increase the amount of chesed they were doing.

Rabbi Goldberger said chesed is the “central way of a Jew.” He said he looks forward to learning “Ahavas Chesed” (“Love of Kindness”) by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen (the Chofetz Chaim) with his congregants, and encouraging them to incorporate chesed into their homes, shul and community.

When I asked Rabbi Goldberger about the fact that some families feel overwhelmed and can’t seem to perform any extra chesed outside their home, he responded that in some cases, the family dynamics need to be addressed. For example, some families may only be able to focus on chesed within their family, whereas other families will have the ability to focus on chesed outside the family.

He said, “Performing chesed for someone else can liberating for one who is overwhelmed.”

Rabbi Goldberger suggested the entire family engage in chesed activities such as visiting the sick or elderly, making a meal for someone who just had a baby or making guests feel welcome.

Rabbi Silber discussed how in his Kol Nidrei drasha, he recommended that his constituents increase their level of chesed. He stated that performing chesed “refines us” and “makes us into better people.”

“Being a baal chesed [someone who performs acts of kindness] will make a husband more attentive to the needs of his wife. When you live life to benefit the other, it changes and enhances all of your life relationships,” he said.

Jewish law requires that a man be as concerned about his wife as he would be about himself. Happiness fills their lives when each spouse is concerned for the other (“Sifre”). Therefore, a necessary factor for building a marriage and a happy home is kindness. Marriage is an opportunity to shift the focus from oneself to one’s spouse and to be concerned about one’s spouse’s wellbeing.

I want to encourage readers to look for small opportunities to perform chesed in their homes, such as being more compassionate, speaking more gently and lovingly, smiling more frequently, making a favorite meal for one of your family members, calling a family member who you haven’t spoken to recently, writing an “I love you” note and placing it in a family member’s lunch, under his or her pillow or on his or her desk, taking out the garbage or doing laundry with an appreciation for the fact that you have food and clothes, giving your child an extra hug, preparing a drink for your spouse when he or she comes home or being loving to your family even when you are upset. Our increased level of chesed should bring blessing to the people of Israel.

A special thanks to Rabbi Goldberger and Rabbi Silber for their time.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or rabinowitzcounseling@verizon.net. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.

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Nurturing Spirituality

‍‍2013-12-05 10:55:36 - ז טבת תשעג lbridwell

We have just returned home after the wedding of our youngest. There is this rare sense of completion, seeing all our children launched on their spiritual paths along with their soul mates. In unimagined and wondrous ways, it actually got done. I want to savor this joy so the glow will linger.

But my new children’s book, “Let’s Stay Pure,” is coming out. Right in line with the theme of the just-completed Chanukah, it teaches children how to joyfully keep their souls pure in today’s world despite the negative influences that surround us.

I was asked to write an article about nurturing spirituality. I had an idea, I emailed my children and asked them what to write. One of my daughters-in-law responded right away.

“It’s all about what’s important to parents, what they talk about, care about and focus on,” she wrote.

A strikingly similar response came from one of my daughters: “Nurturing spirituality takes training and modeling from parents. If children don’t see it, they don’t know about it. As parents, we have to overtly show that there is spirituality in our lives.”

Soon, another answer:

“Talking about the soul helps the soul to be understood more clearly. … Children need to be reminded that they are spiritual beings because it’s not something they can see with their eyes.”

The last one to check in wrote this: “Our Shabbos table was the highlight of our week. We all loved sharing and it was such a happy place to be. Another highlight for us was saying Shema with you and adding our own personal prayer. It was such a special time to connect with our souls and with you.”

I wrote to one close family friend, as well. Here was her perspective:

“I will tell you that you can find many examples of how to nurture spirituality watching your children,” she said.

She noted how one child asks her children about needing food for fuel or whether they are trying to fill something that can only be filled spiritually. She talked about how another sits on the floor with her young children, helping each one to express not only what they would like for themselves, but also what they would ask for someone else.

And she reminded me of our Shabbat table; when the kids were growing up, each person got a turn to speak while everyone else was listening. They would each talk about a highlight of their week. Each child came to value present moments this way, and each was given a chance to speak for his or herself about what was important to him or her.

Wondrously, it got done, didn’t it?

The glow lingers.

Bracha Goetz is the author of 24 Jewish children’s books, which can be ordered through Amazon. Pages from her new book, “Let’s Stay Pure,” published by Torah Temimah Publications, can be read at judaicapress.com.

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Better To Give

‍‍2013-11-21 11:50:08 - ז טבת תשעג lbridwell

2013_insider_aaron_shillerA meshulach (Jewish charity collector) visited our home late one summer night. A window was open so he knocked at the screen. Heschel, our dog, sprang to his feet, jumped through the screen and chased the visitor all the way down the block. We reveled in this victory, and Heschel earned himself extra treats that night. I often tell this story around the Shabbat table, and it is a crowd-pleaser. My children are well aware of how proud I was of Heschel that day.

Despite our attitudes toward that meshulach, my wife and I have tried to raise our children to be community-minded with open, giving hearts.

Last year, our 11-year-old son, Matan, and his friend, Ethan, gathered their band of friends and sold snowballs hoping to pad their wallets to buy football cards and Super Soakers [water guns]. To make this project more meaningful, the parents of this group suggested that they give a portion of their proceeds to a charity. I anticipated some pushback and prepared myself with mottos such as “It’s better to give than receive” and “Be thankful for what you have.” But to our surprise, the kids responded by showing true compassion. They worked hard and raised $500 for the Jewish Caring Network. They beamed with genuine pride.

The following year, to prove that they were not just worked over by fast-talking adults, they stepped up their operation and pulled in $1,000. Remarkably, they did not keep any of the money for themselves. The satisfaction of giving back to the community was not lost on these youngsters.

Now dubbed “The Snowball Gang,” the children were truly an inspiration. But they did need a bit of guidance to put them on that righteous path. Left to their own devices, they might not have made the same choices. For example, recently the same Matan, who I thought had understood my “be thankful for what you have” speech, paid $15 of his birthday money to watch a classmate drink a whole cup of ketchup. He thought it was money well spent, and the two of them were giddy with excitement as they told me about the episode.

Just as kids don’t always make the right judgment calls, it occurred to me that perhaps I celebrated a bit too much about that poor meshulach who was chased down the block by Herschel. I don’t know that I can stop telling the story around the Shabbat table. It’s an essential piece of comedic material. But I did do something else. Whenever a meshulach comes to the door, I fight my visceral desire to shoo him away. Instead, I invite him in and let him sit down. I ask a few questions and offer a drink. The last time a meshulach came around I introduced him to my children. (Yes, they thought it was strange.) I only had a few dollars to give him, and I apologized for that. The meshulach told me not to apologize. He said it was the best stop of his day.

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Let Them Eat Cheerios

‍‍2013-11-21 11:32:39 - ז טבת תשעג lbridwell

2013_insider_laurie_legumThis Year marks my son’s third Thanksgiving and third Chanukah. It is also the first time the holidays have coincided since 1861. The fact that both festivals are celebrations of appreciation, for our country and the miracle of lights respectively, makes it almost impossible not to reflect on the importance of giving and of instilling the spirit of tzedakah in my son.

Though he may be too young to comprehend the concept of tzedakah, he does seem to grasp the idea of giving. While snacking on Cheerios, he graciously offers handfuls of his favorite
cereal. With lightning speed, his saliva-covered paws will shove the moist little oats into the unsuspecting mouths of his mommy or daddy, and he’ll smile with pride once his gifts have been received.

Sweetly, he offers me the morning paper, blows on my coffee to cool it down or kisses my boo-boo.

He also finds great fulfillment in providing his posse of stuffed teddies and puppies with generous swigs of milk from his sippy cup.

Recently, his toy truck has also taken a liking to milk, while his stuffed Elmo has become a big fan of pretzels.

My son’s generosity extends to his medication as well. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than watching his daddy pretend to consume the last drops of Infants’ Advil from the measuring spoon.

In class, he shares his passion for all things four-wheeled. Sometimes he’ll offer a toy vehicle to a perplexed female classmate who, much to his dismay, ignores his gift. When a classmate snatches a toy from his hands, rather than cry, he takes the insult in stride.

He’s always willing to lend a hand with the housework, whether it’s using a broom to ‘sweep up’ the box of crackers he’s just dumped on the floor or mopping up a glass of spilled milk.

Just this morning, when an open container of chicken stock fell from the refrigerator and drenched me from head to toe, he kindly offered a helping hand in the form of Elmo, who used his furry red hands to wipe off my boots. Unfortunately, now it’s not just my clothes that need a good wash.

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Date Night

‍‍2013-10-30 16:40:18 - ז טבת תשעג ebrown

rabinowitz_elishevaWhat is the key to marriage? The answer, according to John Mordecai Gottman, a professor emeritus in psychology who is known for his work on marital stability, is friendship. Therefore, you might ask yourself, “How can I keep, build and maintain friendship in my marriage?” One method is to make time for each other with date nights. Here are some things to consider when planning a date night, based on discussions I have had with couples I counsel.

How often should you go on a date?
Some couples may prefer frequent, short dates (about a half-hour) to reconnect instead of a longer date, which might be a few weeks away.

Discuss with your spouse how often you want to plan date night and make it an appointment on your calendar. I find that couples who establish date night as an appointment are more likely to keep the time set aside for themselves. I explain to couples: “Just like you don’t cancel a doctor’s appointment, you need to ensure you keep this appointment, too. Your relationship is just as important as any appointment.”

How can you ensure the date is productive to the relationship?
I recommend that couples turn off their cell phones because then they can focus on each other without interruption. If children or someone very important needs to reach you, I suggest setting up a code ahead of time to indicate that the call is urgent, such as texting “311.” (“I can’t find anything I like to eat in the house” is not urgent.)

Also, I recommend that you plan the date, so you can have fun and connect. When couples get in the car and start discussing where they want to go, this can lead to frustration. Stay away from: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.”

In addition, I suggest that you agree to leave the business issues at home and make your date a time to bond.

Some of the biggest challenges on a date are time and expense. Babysitters can cost an average of $10 per hour. When added to a $30 dinner, a date can be cost-prohibitive. Ideas?
To save money, find a friend that you trust. They can watch your kids twice a month, and you can watch their children in exchange.

Also, not all fun costs a lot of money. Go on a hike or take a long drive. The possibilities are many.

The bottom line is that you make your marriage a priority by taking time to nurture it.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or rabinowitzcounseling@verizon.net. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.

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