Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Teves 5762 - December 19, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
"Dear Mom"
by K.S.R.

Jews are a driven people, in so many senses of the word. They are the top percentile of achievers wherever they are. The question we must ask ourselves again and again: What are we driving for? Where are we headed? For what purpose shall we use our talents?

Dear Mom,

It was lovely having you here with us. Of course, your trips are never long enough for the kids or Yosef and me, but we appreciate every moment with you.

Surely you recall our conversation on your last day here when the children were playing on the floor in front of us, as we took a rare opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk, amidst the occasional interruption from your adorable grandchildren. Well, I've been mulling that conversation over in my head and thought maybe the words would make more sense as I form them on paper.

As a full professor in the social sciences, you find it hard to accept that your daughter has chosen a way that seems so different from what you had envisioned. It's not really that you don't accept it, because you are very good about allowing us to make our own decisions and you respect them. It seems to me that you have accepted it, but believe that I could have done so much more with my talents. You feel that I am not developing my mind, that I could achieve more. You know that I am happy this way, yet...

Please, Mom, allow me to explain why I am happy this way.

The early feminist movement brought hope and relief to the Western world, a world in which women were sometimes oppressed, often disrespected. Now the chance had come for women to break off the so-called shackles that entrapped them. Finally, we could be lawyers, engineers etc. I remember that book you bought for me when I was around three or four. I think it was called, I Can Be. I opened one page to see a cute little girl dressed up like a doctor with words at the top, "I can be a doctor." Turn the page. There she is dressed up as a basketball player. "I can be a basketball player." Maybe I don't have the occupations exactly right [I don't seem to think there are professional women's teams] but the point stayed with me. "You can do anything that boys can do."

While I agree that women can succeed in most professions that men traditionally occupy, one thing always bothered me about that book. I always felt that it was demanding me to be something that I wasn't. Even as a small child, I wanted to be a Mommy. Maybe also a teacher or nurse (that was after my ballerina phase), but trying to be a boy was not one of my aspirations.

Since my greater attachment to Judaism, I can't say I know everything going on in feminism these days. But from what I understand, today's feminists no longer say, "You can do anything that boys can do." Now they say, "You can be the best woman you can be, and that is just as good as a man being the best he can be." Well, this makes sense to me. In fact, Judaism has said this all along. The woman's role was always considered different from the man's role, but equally important.

So, Mom, this is what my life is about: Being the best Jewish woman that I can be. I agree that developing one's mind is important. But the mind is only a vessel for improving the person. I am trying to use my mind to help me refine my character. I want to use my mind to become a kinder, more gentle, loving, giving person, as well as more assertive when necessary. In caring for my husband, children, neighbors and community, I hope to become the best `me' that I can, as well as affect others to reach their full potential. To do so requires tremendous cerebral work, as well as emotional and spiritual efforts.

To me, nothing is more rewarding than seeing a slight improvement in myself. Wow! I kept my mouth closed when the saleswoman insulted me. Hey, look at that, I stayed patient but firm when Shmuely asked me 15 times to buy the latest in belt designs. Well, maybe one thing is more rewarding. When I heard Shmuely patiently answering his little brother who asked him the same question 15 times. Or when Miri, unprompted, apologized to Racheli for accidently hurting her feelings. I hear my voice in them. This is the product of my labor, with G-d's help, of course.

Don't worry, Mom. My mind is not turning to mush. Maybe my algebra is a litle rusty, but to achieve what I want to in life takes continuous learning [and I am learning!], thought, and analysis, which I try to do.

I hope that you have a slightly better insight into why I am so happy in my life. And Mom, you should know that my desire for achievement and progess, even if it seems unlike what you would have hoped for me, actually comes from you. My high sights, my determination, my drive are what you instilled in me, the example you set for me. And for that, dear Mom, and for so, so much more, I thank you.

With all my love,



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