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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Not the Brady Bunch

The Ask Shifra mailbag has become a bit moldy from disuse - let me slip on these rubber gloves and air filtration mask and see what I can find...

Ah here's one:

Dear Shifra,

OK OK I finally decided that anonymity should cover me and my secret alter
ego identity. This is my question.
I am remarried to a basically very nice person, she’s fun to hang out with,
yak, great cook, a true yiras shomyim* (woman of faith) , good looking, very capable etc etc
I have kids from my first marriage and she’s got kids from hers, both sets
live with us full time. The problem is that she gets offended at my kids for
something that she'd overlook at hers.
I’ll give you an example, a kid walks around at night and talks loud,
possibly waking the baby (ours), she’ll shush mine but her kids have got to
rock the house before she notices.
My kid left his coat on the floor my spouse mentioned to me “that kid is
careless”, her son left his shabbos shoes in the dining room and it was
still there on Tuesday, but she didn’t say anything about it.
So my question is HELP what, if anything, can do about it. I’ve tried
talking about it, she says its not true. And when I point out a clear case,
she says that I treat mine better so why am I making a fuss. I will admit
that my kids are more difficult, more post divorce baggage.
I would be grateful for any advice.

Not Mr. Brady

* Note: In the interest of my non-Hebrew/Yiddish speaking readers I have decided to add in more english translations (even to the letters I recieve.)
I advise you all to keep your sense of humor close at hand and not send me all kinds of letter about how I've translated things inaccurately - Thanks

Dear Not Brady,

First off congrats to you on finding love the second time around! I'm sure that adding children to the equasion makes things much more difficult.

I know even in regular (non-blended) families different things are expected from different children depending on their age, maturity, abilities and unfortunately sometimes favoritism.
The best safeguard against that in my opinion is deciding what the rules and consequences are, together with your wife, and sticking to them.

It's very natural to want to advocate for the child you share the closest bond with but I hope with time all of you will grow into one big family rather than having everything as "mine and yours."

My advice? Be patient. Be good to your wife and your children old and new.
Try to establish limits for all your kids and show them that you and your wife are a united front and don't let them try and play you against each other. Hatzlocha (good luck) and Bracha (blessings) and keep us updated!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Taking a Stand for Orthodox Women

You know, I've been a little busy lately... but I'm never too busy to speak out for the rights of Jewish women.
Unfortunately, it seems that once again God fearing Jewish women are facing one of their greatest opponents- namely, themselves.

I recently recieved a link to this post, by Dina Mensch, much of which you can read below. While I'm certain it was written with only the best of intentions this sort of rhetoric really gets under my skin - it's the sort of grating feeling that is only comparable to that which my knuckles experience while making potato latkes the old fashioned way.

The article begins with an introduction about how difficult it is for a secular woman to embrace a frum lifestyle and that this feat is only possible because women are so "spiritual."
I'd get into that but frankly the whole explanation of women as spiritual creatures who need fewer mitzvos is so amorphous and undiscernable to me that I don't even know what she is talking about. Have at in the comments if you wish.

OK let's get to the meat and potatoes:
First Dina talks about the new roles an independant modern woman must accept:

When these assertive, accomplished women arrive at a Torah class or yeshiva/seminary, it is nearly impossible at first for them to wrap their minds around the notions of “making your husband your king,” “men’s role is public, women’s role is private,” and the importance of dressing with tznius (modesty) so that (among other reasons) men’s minds are not distracted. They often have little if any understanding or appreciation of the fundamental differences between men and women, of their differing wants, needs and basic personalities, and they certainly don’t appreciate the different goals for each as outlined in the Torah. As my rebbitzen used to say in response to accusations by parents of brainwashing, “these girls need their brains washed a little!”

Hello! That was disturbing.
"Make your husband your king." I think that's the second thing any person interested in kiruv should say to a woman- the first of course being "Want some kugel?" (kidding, kidding)
Come on now, I'm all for husbands and wives respecting each other but I'm not going in for any of this subserviant wife business. Yes, men and women are different does that mean that women are INFERIOR? I think not.
And while we're on the subject of differences:
Yes it's truly amazing that with all the studies of the human psychology, relationships, sexuality, gender role etc... only Orthodox Judaism has uncovered the great truth that men and women are not the same! (gasp)

Oh and yay for brainwashing... That rebbitzen of yours SURE is a clever one.

OK let's hear some more from Dina:

The second major challenge comes upon marriage. A woman by that point has likely changed both her first and last names. She is likely wearing a wig or scarf, and a skirt down to her ankles. She looks…different. If she is fortunate enough to become pregnant right away, she is probably experiencing weakness, nausea and emotional rollercoaster rides.

Rabbenu shel ailum! (as my father would say)
Holy Crap! (as my brother would say)

Is this woman talking about orthodoxy or some kind of freaky cult?
A woman who was just interested in a little Godliness or spirituality has suddenly become a complete stranger to herself!
Dressed up, married off, knocked up, and re-identified. Sounds like some kind of scary movie starring Sharon Stone with what's sure to be a very unsatisfying ending. Being frum doesn't mean being a CLONE. There is room in the frum world for all kinds of people. Nothing breaks my heart more than when a clever, intelligent, articulate, fun, woman forfits her very essence in the name of becoming frum. DON'T DO IT!
Serve Hashem and be yourself, it can be done. I promise you.
If you have a sense of humor stay funny- if you are smart don't try to hide it. The Jewish world needs strong, smart, women with personalities not a bunch of Stepford Wives in matching sheitels.

[I have not even addressed the challenges for women who are single or not being able to conceive, while living a frum life.]

Yeah well thank God for that.
Who knows how bad you'd make these poor pitful unmarried, unpregnant women feel.
Don't worry girls! You can oppress yourself while you look for a man to rule over you!

The answer is not simple, but I believe it lies in women needing to learn a long time to internalize Torah hashkafa and to understand the realities of her future and to strengthen herself internally for it. It is no small task to raise a family in the Jewish way, yet frequently women are just not prepared for it emotionally, especially if they still carry feminist impulses and resentments. Those who have learned the longest, especially in Eretz Yisroel, in a seminary or series of classes which discusses these issues head-on, make the smoothest and happiest transitions.

OK so here I agree with Dina (a little, maybe.)
What I WANT her to mean here is that women should take plenty of time to learn and study so that they can have a broader and deeper understanding of Torah before they go jumping in head first. It's more likely however, that she feels that more brainwashing is needed to rid a modern woman of her evil feminist impulses so that by the time she marries she is a limp rag ready for molding by her lord and master (her husband, not god- although they may be difficult to distinguish by that point.)

The Great Job Hunt Continues

Hi guys,

Thanks for all the supportive comments.
PsychoToddler reads my blog? Who knew!?

Today was my second day at the "new" (hopefully temporary) job.
Hours and hours of data entry :(
I am pleased to report however that the people in the endless data-entry department have all been pretty nice to me and I'm working hard to win over the grumpy ones.

I can't blog (or read much) at work anymore... so that's a downer but understandible I guess. I have been enjoying my lunch hour though. In the past I've always eaten quickly at my desk in order to get home faster- a practice which is not allowed at this job. Since I'm stuck at work until 6PM and I get a full hour for lunch I figure I might as well get nice walk in every day - I find it cheers me up.

At night I've been writing cover letters and hunting for jobs. There seem to be a great many of them out there and one must be right for me. Perhaps I'll start posting some of the funnier job ads I see and ask if anyone can make heads or tails of it.

To sum up:
Limited blogging, and emailing from work.
Grateful for your support.
Stay tuned for comming attractions just at an (even) slower pace than usual.


PS I hope you enjoy the posting by NotShifra in my absence... I thought he/she did a great job!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Wait and See


Thanks to everyone who emailed me to see how I'm doing- you guys are really the best. I've recieved all kinds of great advice over the last two weeks from "revise your resume" to "have a few drinks," both of which I have done.

I'm sorry to report that I've taken this whole losing my job thing awfully hard. Even though I've been lucky and found a decent paying temp job to hold me over in the meantime I'm finding myself very depressed and filled with anxiety over what the future will hold for me and my family.

My current job ends on Tuesday (which I'm taking off - HA!) and the new one starts on Wednesday. I anticpate that the worst part will be being away from my kids hours longer each day... oh and the mind sucking monkey work I'll be parking my butt in front of all day (but really that's a far second.)

I'm worried I won't find something better.
I'm worried that if I do I'll still be away from my kids too long...
And what about Shabbos?? I hate having to explain that and hope that whatever I've been offered won't be quickly retracted.

Clearly I'm getting way ahead of myself.


With all the additional work I'll be taking on (under more watchful supervision) and all the time I have been/will be spending looking for another job from home I'm not really sure I can keep up this blog.
I want to - I mean where else can I spill my guts to friends and strangers and let them do the same to me in return?
I like it here.
It's like a second home to me - only flat- and with no furniture.
But I digress.
I guess for me it's all about putting in my best efforts and hoping for the best: for my family, for myself, and even for my blog. I guess that's all I can tell you for now.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

But Enough About Me....

OK this blog is getting WAAAAY to whiney.
Let me get back to business.

Here's an amusing question I should have gotten to last week but I was too busy weeping at my desk.... I mean working.


Walking around my office today I noticed several of my co-workers are acknowledging Ash Wednesday by sporting a liberal dose of ashes in the middle of their foreheads. In two of the cases, the ashes form a design that look suspiciously like the prophet Muhammed. Moreover, one of these individuals had a danish for breakfast this morning! Should I be concerned about collateral damage from spontaneous rioting?

-- Concerned for my Safety

Ah Ash Wednesday the day it's OK to come in late just as long as you remember not to wash your face first! For me Ash Wednesday is a constant battle with my inner mom to keep me from grabbing a wash cloth and removing the smudge from people's forheads. Must...respect... the...culture...of others...

Concerned you sound like another paranoid victim of the media.
The building I worked in (WAAAH... ahem) had a fire drill not so long ago. As I was walking VERY slowly down the crowded stairwell one of my officemates yelled out "NOBODY PANIC!!"
Fortunately for all of us everyone was talking and gossiping so no one paid him any mind, but these days when the media tells us to panic we panic.

As for your fears of rioting, don't worry- I don't think many millitant Muslims attend mass.
If I were you I'd take the box of danishes from the break room back to my desk for safe keeping (just in case.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Axe Shifra

Yesterday I was informed, in the worst way possible, that the division I work for is closing and that I will no longer have a job. Since I don't like my job anyway you'd think this was great news. However I do enjoy living indoors and eating so having no job doesn't seem like a good option for me or my family.

At the moment I am unaware of how many days I have left here and I am setting up interview with other departments who might be interested in my services- nothing like pitching yourself to a company you've already been working for for years!

Deep breaths... Deep breaths...