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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yitro

Parshat Yitro

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Yitro                                                                                                Print Version
20th of Shevat, 5779 | January 26, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary 
Returning Home

כבד את אביך ואת אמך

Honor your father and your mother (Shemot 20:12)

It seemed to be just another Thursday afternoon for the Amtrak train traveling from New York to Baltimore. As one man walked down the aisle slowly and glanced from side to side, no seat seemed to be available. But then, all the way in the corner, he found what he was looking for. One seat was open. Maneuvering his way around and about, the man settled himself down. But then it hit him.

The man realized why in fact this had been the only seat available. The boy sitting in the adjacent seat had an intense worried look on his face and could not stop fidgeting. Something was clearly disturbing him. Wishing to be amiable and perhaps even helpful, the man gently said to the boy, “Is everything alright? Can I help you with something?” The boy stared back at the man. “You wouldn’t understand.” For the next few minutes, the two of them just sat there silently. But then the man spoke up again.

“Are you sure everything is alright? You look awfully unnerved. I’ve been looking at you for some time. Tell me, what is wrong?” But all the boy could do was reiterate himself. “I can tell you, but you will not get it.” “Try me,” the man said.

“I grew up in a small town outside of Baltimore. For the larger part of my youth, I had no friends and spent a lot of time by myself. One day, my parents approached me and said, ‘We have something for you.’ They handed me a wrapped box, which I excitingly opened and looked at with intrigue. It was a computer. I slowly began learning how to use it, and no sooner than later, gained great proficiency at understanding numbers and statistics. At the same time, my favorite baseball team was the Baltimore Orioles. I spent a large amount of time computing the team’s statistics for each game they played and kept it on record.

“This went on for some time, until my cousin one day approached me. ‘What’s going on with you?’ he asked. ‘Well, I got this computer and figured out a way of tracking all the baseball player’s statistics.’ ‘Really?’ he said. ‘People would love having this information at their disposal. You could make a whole business out of it.’ I wasn’t sure what my cousin meant, but he continued to explain. ‘Why don’t we start a website where these statistics can be posted and everyone can view?’ I had no idea how to organize this, but my cousin assured me that he would take care of it all. It sounded good to me.

“The next thing I knew, my cousin called me and said, ‘I have all the paperwork done and we are in business!’ Next week when I returned home, I noticed a check for fifty dollars addressed to my name. It was from someone who had subscribed to the website. I was quite surprised. But then I received another check for $100, then $500, $1,000 and $5,000. I was soon making a total of $20,000 a month as a tenth grader. All of a sudden, I became extremely popular and gained a handful of new friends.

“As my parents heard about my success, they told me, ‘If you keep it up, you can make this into a career.’ While, in truth, they were communicating sound advice, as a young teenager, I thought too much of myself. I was too self-centered and conceited that I disrespectfully dismissed this suggestion and just about any other advice they gave me. ‘I am making more money than they are,’ I thought to myself. I figured that I could take care of myself. And so, I began coming home late and acting out. Eventually, I told my parents, ‘I don’t need you! I can manage all alone! Goodbye!’ And with that, I headed to New York and bought a private, fully furnished loft which was quite expensive.

“I would regularly invite people over and extend invitations to all of my friends from Baltimore to come and visit me. I felt that I had made it big. Everything was going perfect. I was young and rich and no one could stop me.

“Until one day, when my cousin walked into my apartment and sat on the couch. I could tell something was wrong. ‘Do you have any other skills?’ he asked. ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘Well, I hate to tell you, but our whole genius idea is over. ESPN, one of the major sports reporting websites, now features all the statistics of every professional athletic team. And it’s all for free. Our business is about to spiral downward.’

“When I heard this, my heart sank. The money which had been coming my way faster than I could count now began to dwindle even quicker. And there was nothing I could do. I was forced to sell my couches, electronic appliances and finally, my apartment. I was pretty much both financially broke and emotionally broken. I tried getting a job at a local fast-food restaurant, but because I didn’t know how to accept orders from any higher authority, I was soon asked to leave. I then started playing music in the corner of a subway station, but that didn’t get me too far either. So, there I was, all alone with no money, no friends and no home. Gloomy and depressed, I wandered off by myself to a park and took a seat on a bench, staring down at the floor.

“And then I thought to myself. ‘What about my parents?’ Taking out a pen and paper, I wrote the following letter to my mother and father:

“Mom and dad, I know I caused you a lot of distress growing up and you probably never want to see me; but I am down and out and have nowhere to turn. I am going to get on the train leaving Amtrak next Thursday and make my way down to Baltimore. But let me just mention one thing. As you may know, right next to the train station, there is a large tree. If you want me home, put one white flag on the tree. If you don’t want me home, just leave the tree empty. I will then continue along on the train to Washington D.C. and see if I can start a new life there. Love, your son.”

“And with that, I got a hold of an envelope and sent off the letter to my parents.” “So, what did they do?” the man seated next to the boy telling this story asked. “I am on the train right now,” replied the boy. Now, it was the man who was fidgeting and nervous.

As the train neared closer and closer to the train station, the boy could not bear to keep his eyes open. “I can’t look,” he repeated again and again. But the man, who was now nearly as tense as the boy, reassured him. “Don’t worry; I’ll look for you.” Picking his head up over the boy, the man peered out the window and squinted as best as he could. And then he fell back into his seat.

After a moment of silence and with tears in his eyes, the man said, “There’s no white flag.” The boy, whose heart was by now racing, mustered the courage to look outside the window. And there he saw that the tree did not have one white flag. The entire tree was draped in white.

And then he saw two older people, who stood near the tree with tears streaming down their faces, anticipatingly awaiting someone. And that someone was none other than him, their beloved son.

While we may at times make mistakes in life, we can never forget that our Father in Heaven always awaits our return. Each and every day, he longs for us to recognize who we are and who we can become. For us, as His children, the tree is always draped in white. Hashem is always waiting, waiting and waiting our return home…

Dr. Jack Cohen 
Should I Get Engaged?

The most frequently asked question which arises in shidduchim comes at the crossroads of dating and engagement. After having gone out for a significant amount of time with a boy or girl and finding compatibility, the question becomes as to whether the next step of engagement and eventual marriage should follow. Understandably so, it is the biggest decision you will ever need to make, for it will impact every facet of your life. The choice of accepting a job, buying a house or anything else is less defining in your life than the marriage you have, and by extension, the family you create. How then can you feel assured and confident that you are making the correct decision?

The key is to realize that there is a certain science to this. The exact answers will differ in each scenario, for no two couples getting married are identically the same, but there are guiding principles and fundamentals that go into creating a happy and healthy relationship, and can be assessed within every type of relationship. Especially considering the nature of the shidduch system, gathering concrete information about the relationship is imperative before moving forward. Engagement should not be the product of thinking, “Well, we like each other, so it makes sense to get married…” There is more to think long and hard about than simply if you like one another, and it is vital to rehash these questions after multiple dates to ensure that they are in place.

Here are 15 outlined questions to thoroughly think about and respond before proceeding to engagement:

1) Does he/she meet at least 5 out of my 10 qualities I listed in what I need in a spouse? 
Creating a “Top 10 List” should be done before beginning to date, and is to act as your GPS and reference point along your journey through dating. A date was therefore “successful” if you found your date to be compatible with that which you listed as an important quality for your future spouse. If the answer is clearly that he/she does not meet the qualities you are looking for, then proceeding further is unnecessary. The exception to this is if you are still are unsure about whether he or she meets those qualities you listed; in which case, another, second date to gain clarity is in place. Noteworthy is that this list is solely focused on character and personality and not on any ancillary aspect (such as financial status), which is important, but less so at the core of a healthy marriage. (Before beginning, make sure to write at the top of your list, “Physical attraction.” Although attraction builds with time, it must be there by the time you wish to get engaged. Basic, elemental physical attraction is a self-understood, given requisite to a satisfying marriage, and without it, it will be very difficult to deepen and develop the relationship.)

2) If he/she would never change, would I still want to get married? 
This is an extremely important question, which cannot be stressed enough. True content in marriage will only result when you can love your spouse as is. If the expectation is to get married and work through various problems that you already have with your spouse, you will be sorely disappointed. If, however, you can honestly say that you wish to build a future and a home with the person you are dating now, even if nothing would ever positively change about him/her, then you are in good position to accept them for who they are and embrace all their faults every day of your marriage.

3) Do we have the same hashkafah (outlook) on life? 
The word hashkafah bears resemblance to the common Hebrew word mishkafayim, glasses. You and your spouse must see life and the world through the same lenses. If you have different perspectives, unquestionably, you will run into issues. This “perspective” refers to the more global, existential purpose and aim of your life. What do you want out of life? If one spouse finds the purpose of life to be completely centered around Judaism, yet the other finds it to be completely around work and money, then it doesn’t take much to realize that there is a significant difference between the two. As well, if one spouse wants no more than two children, but the other wants more, then it is wrong to assume that you will get married and change the spouse’s mind who only wants two.

4) Do we have common goals in life? 
As Mrs. Chana Levitan in I Only Want to Get Married Once (p. 23) sums up, the difference between interests, goals and values is as follows: “Values are the foundations upon which your goals and interests are built. Therefore, your values are more essential than your goals. Your goals, in turn, are more essential than your interests…” Sharing common goals therefore means that you both align in the value which upholds that goal. For example, you and your spouse may want to start a business, but your values may be at odds. For one, opening the business is solely about making money, whereas the other sees it as a way of charitably helping others and is not in it for the money whatsoever. If, in life overall, there is a common goal, yet it is not supported by a common value which supports that goal, then the shared goal will not be strong enough to hold the marriage together.

5) Do we have common values? 
Remember that values stand at the core of your relationship. Being on the same page religiously and spiritually falls under this. While there can be minimal degrees of difference between the two of you religiously, if there is too great a chasm, it is unwise to proceed further.

6) Do I know what is important to him/her? 
You should know very well before deciding to get engaged what is important to one another. This spans from broad issues to petty ones.

7) Do we share expectations in the way we will raise a family?
More than the size of the family you wish for, this references the texture and quality of family life you wish to have. What type of home environment do you wish to create? What type of parents are you both looking to become?

8) Do we have similar attitudes in life? 
If one of you loves to spontaneously leave the house and go out, while the other is much more comfortable being sedentary and staying home, this much be acknowledged and worked out if the relationship is to proceed. This is not an irreconcilable difference, so long as each of the spouse’s needs, time and space is respected. If not, the differences in life attitudes will drive a wedge between the two of you.

9) Do we complement each other intellectually? 
The boy and girl need not be identical in IQ. However, if there is too much of a gap in education and intellectual acuity, to the point that it causes an uneven balance, there is room to question if and how the more advanced spouse would relate to the less intelligent spouse (i.e. if one of the spouse’s greater intelligence will cause feelings of superiority and disdain to set in, the marriage can become disastrous).

10) Is he/she emotionally healthy? 
This is straightforward, but any information relating to a relatively recent or current condition of mental health which would impair the marriage must be divulged. Do not proceed to engagement until this has been investigated and ascertained.

11) Have I seen him/her display positive middot (character traits) and derech eretz (respect)? 
If this has not been openly seen, there is what to question. If you will have a kind and respectful spouse, it should be evident and you should know so before getting married.

12) Do I look forward to being with him/her? 
Do you look forward to the next date and think about them when they are away? This encompasses more than physical attraction; it is the deeper, emotional bond that provides marriage with its special, ever-exciting and refreshing quality.

13) Do I find the person’s appearance pleasing? 
This incorporates everything about their physical presentation. In this regard, it is important to look at the entire person and focus on what positive you see in them. You may not like something about their physical appearance, but it may not mean you cannot adjust to it and lead a happy married life. This also includes their style of dress (modesty and formal vs. causal). It is as well important to be comfortable with the way they walk out in public and not be embarrassed to be seen standing next to them.

14) Is he/she pleasant company? 
Is it enjoyable to be around them? Remember, you will be living the rest of your life with them, and in no way should they turn you off. If you find yourself pining to be away from them, even slightly, then that tells you that you should be away from them forever and not marry.

15) Does he/she bring out the best in me? 
This is arguably so, the most important. Even if your spouse has every quality you are looking for, if they fail to bring out the best in you (i.e. the best version of who you are and who you can be), then your marriage and your life will never reach its full potential. In order to accomplish your dreams and your overarching mission in life, you need a supportive, encouraging and uplifting spouse. It is a non-negotiable component that must be present in your relationship if it will ever succeed.

When Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, known for his sagacious and psychological advice, was once asked by a young woman how she would know who the right person is for her to marry, he replied, “Look for the man who inspires you to be a better person because he inspires himself to be a better person.” If the person you are dating is actively growing as a person and is always striving to become bigger and better, you can be sure that with him, you will do the same. He will inspire you, uplift you and excite you to embrace life with passion and purpose. The satisfaction and contentment which will come from this will carry you both for a lifetime, and always keep your marriage fresh and thriving. And that in turn will keep your love for each other ever-increasing and flourishing.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Akiva Tatz

As I was once walking to Shul with my little six-year-old son, there fell a moment of silence. It was just a couple minutes later, though, that he looked up at me and said, “You know, Abba, I am not sure if I am going to marry Debbie or Frieda.” “Okay,” I softly yet hesitantly muttered. “But you know, Abba, it’s bothering me that whichever one I marry, the other one is going to be so upset.” A few minutes later, we reached the top step near the Shul, whereupon my son said, “Abba, you know what I just realized? Whichever one I marry, all the other girls are going to be so upset!” Confident young man, right? For the first time in my son’s little life, he realized that you cannot have everything you would like. Educating our children of this very important life principle will serve them well not only as young children, but most certainly as bright maturing adults.

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