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
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
"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
"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.