Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Tammuz 5760 - July 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Heart to Heart Talks

Compiled and edited by Rabbi Moshe Finkelstein, assisted by A. Rappaport

Published by Artscroll, Mesorah Publications

Reviewed by Judith Weil

"Heart to Heart Talks" is a three-part book. It contains twenty-five of Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Sheinberg's regular monthly lectures to women, given over a period of about a quarter of a century to English speaking residents of Jerusalem's Kiryat Mattersdorf area. Many of the women who attended his shiurim are the wives of students of Yeshivas Torah Ohr, which Rabbi Sheinberg transferred in the '60s from the U.S. to the newly founded neighborhood of which he subsequently became the moreh hora'a.

Each talk is followed by questions posed by the women, and by Rabbi Sheinberg's replies.

The book is eminently readable, and deceptive in its simplicity. The talks, which are mostly related to a parsha or to a time of year, discuss topics of major practical interest to the modern religious Jewish wife and mother carrying out her timeless task under modern conditions. They address the Jewish woman whose role does not differ essentially from the role that was once her mother's, and her mother's mother's before that.

"The secular world often wonders what advantage there is to being Jewish," the first talk begins, and continues, "After all, they say that to be a happy, healthy, charitable and law abiding citizen one certainly does not have to be Jewish - nor religious at all..." Analyzing the answer to this frequently asked question takes up ten pages, which end anything but metaphysically. "When you merit the pleasure felt in appreciating the greatness of doing a chessed, you will benefit more than the individual receiving the chessed. And that is what it means to be Jewish and to live a life of Torah."

The second talk starts with an intriguing question: "What connection can we find between the blessings said under the wedding canopy - `Who fashioned the man' and `Who fashioned the man in His image' - and the bride and groom themselves? Many years have elapsed since they were born!" This talk discusses a woman's role as a helpmate, an ezer kenegdo, as "in opposition to."

"Chava's role was not to always agree with Adam." A woman should not blindly say `yes, yes' to everything her husband says, but should point out, "respectfully, of course," when she disagrees. "Chava - and all women after her - was created with the ideal spiritual quality to bring out the best in her husband."

One talk, which was widely circulated when it was first given, is entitled, Enjoy the Seder. It does not apply only to the second seder in the Diaspora, or to this coming year, when Yom Tov will start on Motzaei Shabbos and we will all have a chance to sleep in the afternoon. It applies to a regular, common or garden year in Eretz Yisroel, when women should enjoy the only seder of the year. The message is not the patronizing "dirt is not chometz" type of mussar that women often find annoying, but a systematic halachic directive for what is necessary and what is not, plus practical tips on how to achieve a pesachdik home with the minimum of effort. A must-read for all but the most efficient housewives.

Not everyone would agree with the description of this book as "three part". Questions and answers are usually regarded as a single category, with natural focus on the answer.

Here, however, the questions are more than a prelude to the replies. They themselves provide an interesting insight into the minds of the people who asked them. We see women struggling with everyday challenges and aspiring to achieve spiritual growth at the same time. They are practical questions and halachic questions, questions of hashkofa, sholom bayis, questions related to financial pressure with many on how to best bring up the children who will become the next generation and constitute the future of Klall Yisroel.

"To what extent should a woman sacrifice her family and her own needs to do chessed?"

"How can we comfort a person who is ill with a serious disease?"

"How can a woman stay calm if her children scream a lot?"

"We are having a hard time financially. Is it all right to let the children be aware of this problem... or might this create unhealthy fears for them?"

"I hate it when my husband gets drunk on Purim..."

"What are one's obligations towards non-religious parents coming for Pesach?" (This is a particularly difficult problem where the children observe only one day Yom Tov and the parents are obligated to observe two.)

"What is the chiyuv of women in tefilla?"

"What if you are not organized? Should you daven and let the children scream?"

It is not spelled out, but most of the questions come from English speakers in a Hebrew speaking environment who are far from their parents and far from the backing and advice that an extended family can provide. This is reflected in some of the problems the women face.

Those who attended the talks obviously have many advantages over those who merely read them. However, reading over two dozen talks and over two dozen sets of questions and answers within two or three days, as this writer did, has its own rewards. This way, one can detect a thread running through the messages which could be missed with a month elapsing between one talk and the next. The thread in childcare is `positive reinforcement'. It is mentioned again and again. One child misbehaves. Don't punish him/her. Relay the importance you ascribe to good behavior by rewarding the other child, the one who is behaving.


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