Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Sivan 5766 - June 21, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family


They phoned to tell us of the engagement of their eleventh, and last, child. My daughter of twenty, who had not yet met her bashert, said wistfully, "How is it that their shidduchim go so easily?" I laughed and answered that we were invited to the engagements; we were not told of the trials and tribulations which preceded the happy event. We only heard of the successes, not of the ones which did not get off the ground.

People accuse the pharmaceutical industries of overpricing their products and of taking advantage of the public. They do not take into account the years of painstaking experiments and research, which are followed by scrupulous clinical trials on humans. A few failures, like, for example, Thalidomide, which caused babies to be born with malformed limbs or even without limbs altogether, obviously became public knowledge throughout the world. But on the whole, either the drug never makes it to the shelves, or it is quietly withdrawn, never to appear on the market.

Nowadays, marriage guidance counselors and parenting classes abound. Young mothers come to me with a particular problem, frequently with several problems, and I try to help them to the best of my ability. I do not usually tell them of the many mistakes I made in my youth (and am still making), nor do I mention the numerous failures in my life. Yet, on the rare occasion when such an admission escapes my lips, the mother is charmed and more open to suggestion. Instead of putting me on an unjustified pedestal, she realizes that I, too, am human, and understand her problems.

How many of us are caught by persuasive telemarketing, or enticing advertisements, and swayed by their allure. FREE, screams the advert; you only have to pay for postage and packing. So we pay a considerable sum of money, far more than the usual price of postage, for an unwanted item, which breaks down or does not work in the first place. There are laws to protect the consumer in many countries, but we do not like to admit that we have been stupid and gullible.

A newly married young woman went to her parents for Shabbos, and shamefacedly confessed to her parents, and to her young husband, how she had been caught. "You forgot," said her father, wagging his finger at her playfully, "that nothing comes for nothing except smacks." They all laughed together and the hurt was eased, because she had admitted her failure.

A classmate, a colleague, a friend or just an acquaintance, seems to succeed in whatever s/he does. Life runs so smoothly for them, and everything they attempt goes right. Things are not always what they seem. A parent whose son was not doing at all well, gazed enviously at his friend's beaming face at a parent teacher meeting. He did not see him fifteen minutes later, after he heard about the exploits of his younger son. All humans have problems at some time or other, but as mentioned, most of us do not air these problems to all and sundry. We might boast about our gifted daughter, yet hardly speak about the difficult teenager who has just been asked to leave his third Yeshiva.

A Talmid Chochom in his fifties gave a hesped recently, about his maggid shiur in Yeshiva over thirty years ago. He remembered how the maggid shiur had tried to get a point across to the boys, and felt that they had not grasped the essence of the message. He tried again, and was still not successful. Thereupon, he left the room and called on his colleague to try to explain the subject to the students, and afterwards simply continued on.

This effortless humility made a great impression on the boys, and as the man said, years later, when he, himself, was in a similar position, giving shiurim, he admired this great man even more, when he thought of this incident.

It is a pity that we tend to conceal our failures because of mistaken feelings of shame. We enjoy the applause and admiration for our achievements and accomplishments. The discomfiture we feel at our failings prevents us from getting advice and support from people who have been in the same position. When one of the so called successful people admits to having suffered the same ignominious failure, we feel less inferior and more a regular member of the human race.

However, someone teaching a weight watcher's class cannot be overweight. S/he can admit to having undergone the same vicissitudes as the would-be dieters, but s/he has to show the final achievement. On the other hand, someone writing an advice column on the same subject, can be as large as a house, but would not want readers to be aware of this fact.

Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book on child rearing has sold millions of copies since a half a century ago, did not tell his readers of the problems he had in his own family. His advice was excellent, but he himself did not manage to live by his maxims. If readers had known of this fact, would they have reached for the book as a panacea, the minute a baby cried?

When reading an advice column, or hearing a speaker whose children are all models of perfection, take into account that nobody is one hundred percent perfect, and that you yourself, who have come for advice and knowledge, also have the potential for more success than failure, once you have acquired more experience in the field.


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