Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Iyar 5766 - May 10, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Binat Halev — Builders of the Jewish Home Today

by Rabbi Yisroel Friedman

The Broken Heart

According to official statistics, forty percent of all Israeli children live in an unstable family framework, either in single parent homes or homes threatened by divorce. Unfortunately, even Torah-based homes are not immune from these trends. Broken marriages and divorce are becoming less uncommon, even in religious families.

Oftentimes, unstable marriages are socially and environmentally inherited. A child who grows and develops in a home filled with friction often builds a similar marriage. Parents pass on their lack of marital harmony to the next generation.

In the general, secular Israeli community there are organizations and institutions that are geared to counselling. However the religious sector lacks a similar professional system to cope effectively with this escalating problem.

Professionals estimate that of the 5,000 religious couples who marry every year, at least 20 percent will experience initial difficulties that require marital counselling. It is estimated that each year 6,000 children are added to the numbers of children living within destructive family systems.

This dismal situation is exacerbated by the fact that members of the religious community are hesitant and reluctant to seek counselling from experts in the field of psychology who are generally far removed from the values of a Torah-observant lifestyle and often do not really understand it.

On the other hand, Torah personalities who seek to resolve these difficulties often lack the requisite professional tools to accomplish this goal.

HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l proposed a solution to this dilemma: the establishment of a team of respected rabbis, educators, doctors, psychologists, and other professionals, who would work together in an integrated framework to improve family harmony.

HaRav Yitzchok Lorincz, the son of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, husband of the granddaughter of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and respected ram in Yeshivas Kol Torah, heeded the call of his venerated grandfather. Rav Lorincz was given responsibility for fostering marital harmony and unity within many religious families.

With Rav Shlomo Zalman as his guide, Rabbi Lorincz strove to resolve some of the most intricate, delicate issues in complex family situations. Rav Shlomo Zalman directed his course initially, illuminating the enigmas of the Jewish soul, and transmitting his skill in defining the situations when it is necessary to solicit professional aid.

In the years since the passing of his grandfather, Rabbi Lorincz has carried on the work that Rav Shlomo Zalman began. Recently, requests for aid and counselling have soared and family situations have deteriorated, until a difficult situation has developed among many young couples.

Leaders of our generation have urged Rabbi Lorincz to expand his efforts to strengthen Jewish homes. Rabbi Lorincz responded by working tirelessly to create Binat Halev in memory of HaGaon Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l, and Rebbetzin Martha Lorincz o"h, his mother.

"He made them homes" (Shemos 1:21): The Builders

As I sit with HaRav Yitzchok Lorincz following a staff meeting of Binat Halev — which he directs and which is now under the guidance of HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita — he quotes from the Gra's Even Shleimoh (1:1): "All of [our] serving Hashem is dependent on the improvement of [our] middos, which are like the garments of the mitzvos and of the principles of the Torah. All sins are rooted in middos." And (1:9): "All good and bad things in this world are mostly due to middos."

During the staff meeting, the room was full to capacity. Crucial questions were raised concerning the fate of families. This is characteristic of the rabbinical staff of Binat Halev, who had gathered around the large table of HaRav Shteinman.

They also regularly consult with Maran HaRav Y.S. Eliashiv, shlita, who spends much time with the staff to guide them on how to deal properly with the difficult issues that they face. As it says (Devorim 17:10) "According to everything that they will teach you." As they were taught, they will teach, guide, and advise others.

For several years, Binat HaLev has been serving as a center for counselling and guidance for Jewish domestic harmony. Serving on the presidium of Binat HaLev are the Novominsker Rebbe of New York; HaRav Yehuda Trager, rosh yeshiva of Antwerp; and HaRav Ezriel Auerbach. HaRav Yitzchok Lorincz, a rosh yeshiva at Yeshivas Kol Torah, directs its extensive activities.

As mentioned previously, the organization's directors are in constant contact with the foremost elder rabbinic leaders. The rabbinical team is comprised of experienced rabbis and educators who have already gained a reputation as architects of the Jewish home.

Working together with the rabbinical staff is the professional team consisting of highly qualified, experienced therapists under the direction of the well-known lecturer and author Professor Stanley Schneider. In this capacity, Professor Schneider serves as the Chairman of the Binat HaLev Professional Committee.

Deans of yeshivos, rabbis, seminary principals and community leaders, aware of the great intricacies required in dealing with this subject, make referrals to Binat HaLev in order to reinforce foundations of homes whose walls have shown signs of cracking.

Yated: Rabbi Lorincz, what brought you — a rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Kol Torah — to become involved in this?

Rav Lorincz: Many years ago the phone once rang on Erev Yom Kippur, right before the meal preceding the fast. I wondered who could be calling at that hour.

"This is Sabba Auerbach," said the familiar voice. "I'm sorry if I am disturbing you. However I have just been informed that one of our yeshiva's graduates is suffering from marital problems. Please see what you can do to straighten things out right away. This would be a great merit for you and your entire family on the Day of Judgment. Every day that passes is perilous and could leave a terrible scar on the souls of the children."

Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's voice became stifled by weeping.

This wasn't the first time that my eminent grandfather involved me in matters of education or domestic harmony. I had assisted him in those areas many times before. However, that Erev Yom Kippur's phone call will stay with me forever.

From that moment on, a voice inside of me has given me no rest. It cries out, "Do something!"

After that Erev Yom Kippur call, I felt an intense sense of duty with all my heart and soul. I realized that my way of life was about to change. From then on, all of my spare time, the time outside of my work as a rosh yeshiva in Kol Torah, would be completely dedicated to the great mitzvah of bringing and preserving the harmony of Jewish homes. Maran Reb Shlomo Zalman's trembling voice still echoes in my ears: "We dare not hesitate or ignore it; every passing day is fraught with peril to the pure and innocent souls of the children!"

Those words of Maran Reb Shlomo Zalman still reverberate in my ears, urging me to continue with the complex and weighty work of Binat HaLev.

This is not the place to review the extensive efforts of Binat HaLev, the only such organization that has gained the trust of the Torah sages, in a quiet, behind-the-scenes manner. Its staff, like skillful construction and civil engineers, work on the foundations, entranceways and rooms of these families — until their homes are sufficiently strong and suitable for the families to live in.

When the need arises, the staffs come to seek the guidance of the Gedolei Torah. Recently, they came to the home of HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, with whom they consult regularly. The topic for discussion was, "The Influence of Character Traits on the Jewish Home." Following are excerpts of that discussion (we have taken out only points that are relevant to the general public, and not to the staff of Binat Halev):


Question: Should Yeshiva students be given special classes in this subject in order to prevent problems and mishaps after they get married?

HaRav Shteinman: What does it have to just do with marriage? One must improve all of his character traits, and not just because of marriage. Everyone has to improve his middos, because it's easier for one who has good middos. All contemporary problems — for example depression — are rooted in middos. For instance, one who has been insulted and cannot tolerate it may become depressed. Everything boils down to middos!

Sometimes a person may be born as what is called clinically an idiot. It could be an illness, but usually what occurs afterwards is that one who has good middos will not have a crisis. Doctors may disagree, but I believe it's all due to middos; anyone whose middos are as they should be, will not get into such predicaments.

Question: What can we say to a young man, about to be married who is embarrassed and worried about what his friends will think of his future wife who has a controlled problem, even if he himself is quite comfortable with her?

HaRav Shteinman: In this regard, Reb Yisroel Salanter already said, "People don't die from hunger, they die from kovod." People often worry about "what will people say," but it is nonsense. Everyone thinks that everybody else is looking at him. Foolishness! Unfortunately, that's the way it is. It's all a matter of conceit and pride. Middos, middos. Indeed, it's not easy to reconcile oneself to it, since embarrassment is very hard to deal with. It's very difficult for a person to tolerate shame if he feels that it really is embarrassing to him because he thinks that everyone is looking at him. The truth is that no one is looking at him.

Who's interested in him?

I want to specify again that everything has to do with middos. Even if a person feels that due to a difficult childhood, he or she is unable to function adequately in the home — this is not a valid excuse. With the proper middos one can overcome all.

Question: If a young man has a severe inferiority complex which causes him problems, is that also due to middos?

HaRav Shteinman: Of course. A feeling of inferiority is caused by arrogance! An arrogant person believes that he should actually be recognized as such and such but that others don't realize it — and that's what bothers him the most. If he realized who he really is, it wouldn't bother him. It hurts him because he thinks he really is great and he doesn't accept what he should be accepting about himself. It's all middos!

A person would not become dejected even when humiliated or even if a great wrong was done to him. He would be able to overcome it, if he had good middos, and then nothing would bother him. But not everyone has such noble middos.

It would be best to study Chovos Halevovos seriously. Then you'll see that everything will turn out all right almost 99 percent of the time. There is the famous story in Chovos Halevovos about the chossid who said that the best day of his life was when he was on a boat and he was put to terrible shame. That was the happiest day of his life! Nothing that he will see as bad can happen to anyone who is on such a high level. One who learns to act that way is fortunate.

Question: Is there a limit to the efforts one must expend to bring about domestic harmony?

HaRav Shteinman: The problem is that we give up too easily. One must not despair. Although it is very hard work, since usually both sides are stubborn and do not want to give up any of their foolishnesses. Usually it is just that, pure silliness.

Let me tell you a story that Maran the Rav of Ponovezh zt"l related to me. As the rabbi in the town of Ponovezh, he performed only two divorces. He and his (first) wife always tried to bring peace between husband and wife.

Once, a simple coachman entered his house. Lying down on the floor he said: "Rabbi, if you won't grant me a divorce, I can't go on living."

The rabbi and his wife understood that there was no choice, and the get was given.

What happened afterwards?

Since the coachman had made his wife so miserable during their marriage, her suffering had made her very unattractive. After he divorced her however, she regained her former beauty. Several months later the coachman noticed her in the street and, seeing how nice she looked, he regretted having divorced her.

He approached the rabbi and complained, "Rabbi, you killed me. Why did you arrange a divorce for me?"

The Ponovezher Rav would say that during his tenure he had arranged only two divorces, and even those two caused him problems.


Many issues were addressed at the meeting. Following the discussions, the renowned psychologist and psychiatrist, Professor Stanley Schneider said that for him personally it was novel to hear that "it is all middos." However, upon considering many of the cases brought to his attention, he realizes that it is correct: the root of the problem was a lack of proper middos!

Rabbi Lorincz: There is a rule that if one cannot afford oil [or candles] for both Shabbos and Chanukah, the former takes priority over the latter, as it is known that Shabbos candles are for sholom bayis, domestic harmony.

Why do we light them? The poskim write that it is, "so that one not stumble over [an object of] wood or stone."

In truth, it is not written that candles must be lit only if one has a wife. Nevertheless, it is called the candle of sholom bayis. Why is it referred to in such a way? The answer is that one who is at peace with himself, is also at peace with others. Middos!

Question: Could you give an example of this, despite the fact that all of your work is held in the strictest confidence?

Rav Lorincz: In one of the cases referred to us, a certain home was found to be on very shaky foundations. The rabbinic staff received the referral via our hotline where a caller can maintain his anonymity. (This hotline was established to provide an immediate response to suffering individuals, without the need to disclose or give details about themselves.) And so, after trust had been built between our staff and the caller, the couple decided to reveal their identity.

Then, at the bottom of a turbulent sea, the hard truth behind the crisis was revealed: a wealthy man took a scholar as a son-in-law. He made various financial promises to his son-in- law, but below the surface there began to appear indications of financial problems. Before he went bankrupt, losing all his property to his creditors, he was able to transfer some money to his son. His son-in-law however, did not receive what was promised to him. Shortly thereafter, the man remained wallowing in his debts, a fugitive from his creditors, wretched and forlorn.

But the son-in-law, so it became clear, could not forgive. He gave vent to his pain and frustration at home. He couldn't explain why, even to himself, since there was no one to blame. He himself didn't even know what was causing his behavior. The results were disastrous! Middos!

Only in-depth treatment that plumbed to the depths and got to the root of the matter was able to uncover the unfortunate matter that was lying at the bottom of the son- in-law's subconscious, and that had not ceased poisoning and destroying his home. And here is where treatment by experienced rabbis is needed.


"After the rabbinical staff extend all efforts to restore sholom bayis and it is still not sufficient, the couple will be referred for professional counselling as HaRav Shteinman directed us when our staff met in his home," asserts Rabbi Lorincz.

These are the builders of the Jewish homes. The staff and directors of Binat HaLev work tirelessly on all fronts to bring lasting sholom bayis to Jewish homes.

It is an avodas perach in two senses: the arduous labor of building homes with bricks and mortar, and pe rach (a soft tongue) — the feeling and the understanding heart. That is the task of Binat HaLev.

Contact information for Binat Halev: POB 16191, 66 Hapisga Street, Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, Israel. Telephone: 972 2 644 9171. Hotline: 1-599-590-590. Fax: 972 2 643 6556. Email:


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