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Questions For Rabbi Shapiro

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#1 forever613



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Posted 10 November 2012 - 07:58 PM

I graduated from high school a few years ago and I'm in college now. Sometimes, I feel like for a boy, his role is so much more defined- to learn Torah. But for me, for as long as I am not married yet, I'm not sure what my role is- as a single, frum girl. What would be considered the best use of my time? What kind of environment should I be attempting to place myself in? (For instance, what would be the ideal way that Hashem would want me to spend my summer vacation or free time on Motze Shabbos? It's questions like this that make me feel unsure as to what I'm supposed to be pursuing.)

Also, do you have any good books to recommend about Torah's perspective on dating and marriage? I have not started dating yet. I feel like I am not sure with who I am and the type of person I want to marry. I think my main problem is that I don't have life goals, I don't have dreams. And it's hard to know who I am when I don't know what I'm running after in life. How does a person come to this awareness? Is there anything that you can recommend I do/read/listen to/involve myself in? Sometimes, my life just feels so confusing, and empty...and I want to know how to overcome that. What do you think makes someone ready for dating (for marriage) and how does a person get to that point?

Thank you so much.

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 06:17 PM

Good questions. Sometimes, the less you know the more you ask questions. Other times, the more you know the more you ask questions. 


It all depends on what it is you are questioning. If you see something that does not make sense, then the more you know, the more you will question what you see.


Your questions are of the second type. שאלת חכם חצי תשובה. It's a good thing that you don't feel "settled" in your current situation, If you would, then it would mean you do not understand your role. You are asking your question because you do understand your role.


The first thing is, don't ever change your attitude. As Rav Chaim Brisker used to say, "It's better to have a good question than a bad answer." And there are others in situations similar to yours who would rather be comfortable than correct and so they change their entire attitude (i.e. their Hashkafa) about their role as women, rather than remain with the questions you asked. 


So the first thing you should work on is not changing that Hashkafa. Many have, and it is a Nisayon. Rav Avigdor Miller used to say that girls should get married as soon as appropriate for them, at a young age, because the further away they get from their education in Bais Yaakov negatively affects their idealism. That idealism is a treasure and the Satan tries to steal it away from young women, and the best opportunity he has to do that is when they come back from seminary.



Your job now - and my job now as well, and all of our jobs all the time - is לעמוד בנסיון. When the Mesilas Yeshorim said this, he meant that there is no one role that we all play, and no one role that any one of us play all the time. Rather, each and every moment of our lives we are given circumstances, i.e. Nisyonos, and whatever those circumstances are at the time, responding to them in the proper way is our role. לעמוד בנסיון, whatever the Nisayon may be at any given time. 


So while it is true that the role of a boy is more consistent, meaning his Nisyonos change less than a girl's does during his lifetime, that is not because it is intrinsically so. Rather, it is because of our community conventions. Girls go to HS, then seminary, then come back, then start Shiduchim. But whereas going to HS or seminary is a full-time occupation, and seems to be a "tachlis" in and of itself, looking for a Shiduch is not. So because we've made girls' education into their full-time occupation, we have to live with the side-effect of our girls being in Tachlis-limbo between the time they finish their full-time education and the time they get married.


But although a boy's role is not less well-defined. Both for a boy and a girl, their job is to respond to whatever circumstances they find themselves. לעמוד בנסיון


What you therefore need to do is to identify the Nisyonos in your life now, and that will tell you what your role is at this time.


Your first Nisayon is to maintain and strengthen the idealism and the Hashkafos that you acquired in school. That is not easy. Many girls have their idealism chipped away by life in the workplace, and some hard knocks of life, and by friends whose idealism has been chipped away by the same.


Your tachlis is to grow - shiurim, books, עשה לך רב וקנה לך חבר and all that - to fulfill the MItzvos and develop your Midos. Your tachlis is to avoid loshon horah, sinas chinam, and to get along with people; to fulfill כיבוד אב ואם (you by the way will never have a better chance to do that than you do now), and חסד; to work on your appreciation of Torah learning and prepare for the monumental and glorious task of managing a Jewish home.


And a very, very important part of your tachlis now - your לעמוד בנסיון now - is to make sure you maintain the Hashkafos and idealism you worked so hard to acquire all your life.


As far as what to involve yourself in, that it not a question of your tachlis, but of how to spend your time. You should spend it doing whatever best prepares you for your future role. If getting an education and/or getting a job does that, then that is what you should be doing; if a seminary here in the US is what does that, then that's where you should spend your time.


Regarding your not having life goals and dreams, you don't need them for marriage. We all have basically the same goals and dreams - happiness, success in Ruchniyus and Gashmiyus, etc. It is the priority of those things and their definitions (what is success in Ruchniyus for example) that distinguish one person's goals from another's. In other words, it's not your dreams but your values that you are seeking. A person gets that through Torah Hashkafa. You need to clarify what your Hashkafos are, and you will know your values.


The other thing you need for marriage is to know yourself. I mentioned elsewhere on the site that in many years of dealing with couples’ Sholom Bayis issues, I can comfortably say that the greatest cause of incompatibility between two normal and functional members of a couple is that they grew apart. Although they were much more compatible when they were married, one or both of them developed in a different direction than that of their partner, and in X amount of years, they are no longer all that compatible.


So the thing you need most for marriage is to know yourself and decide whether you are ready to be who you are on a permanent basis (of course people grow even after they are married, but hopefully they grow in the same direction that they were pointed in when they were married. There is a difference between growing and changing).


As far as reading material, honestly, I don’t know of much out there on the topic of dating that I’d recommend. On marriage and having a Jewish home, Rav Avigdor Miller’s last chapter in Awake My Glory is a very good description of how to build a Torah home. (But be forewarned – he pulls no punches and makes no compromises. You should use his writing as a model of an ideal home, something to strive for, not a “must have” dealbreaker list for Shiduchim or a lifestyle.)

#3 living2learn



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 11:27 PM

Very good book - Shidduch Secrets by Leah Jacobs and Shaindy Marks (I believe that it may be listed - i.e. on Amazon - as only by the former).

About the Jewish Woman and building a Torah home - Guardian of Eden by R' Yisroel Miller (there's the original and the second version which has two parts - In Search of the Jewish Woman, and Letters to a Jewish Feminist)


And while I'm at it, for when you're engaged, in the right time - 

What Did You Say? by R' Simcha Cohen

Dear Kallah by Malka Kaganoff

There are a bunch of others (ok, tons, but others that I'd recommend specifically), but I remember those two being excellent

#4 forever613



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Posted 17 June 2014 - 10:52 PM

Rabbi Shapiro,


Thank you so so much for your detailed, thorough response to my questions and concerns.


I have a few more questions, if you don't mind:


1. How can an elderly women who is chronically ill and very weak fulfill her purpose on earth? What words of chizuk can I give her (my grandmother) despite her intense suffering? She spends most of her days sitting, watching television and I feel that I need to visit her more often- but honestly, I get depressed when I see her condition.


2. Also, if Hashem's Shechina is everywhere, why is it acceptable to wear bathing suits, even if men and women are separate? Is it ideal for women to still maintain high levels of tznius even in the pool area (i.e. where swimming dresses) or is that unnecessary?

#5 taon



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Posted 29 July 2014 - 02:24 PM

There is a Gemora that states that David Hamelech gave thanks for his milah. Even when he didin't have other mitzvos, he still had that. SO the question is, what kind of help is that? He isn't accomplishing anything. the Beis Halevi says, nce you get a bris, you get mitzvos just for having it. Obviously this doesn't directly apply, but the concept that you get zechus just for maintainign a state still applies. Is she talking bad about others all day? Even if she no longer has the urge, it was her own effort that got her to that state. Just living as a Jew has a tachlis and, i assume, helps the world. Perhaps her tachlis is..i dont know what. Maybe to endure this state. Maybe it's to give others chizuk and mitzvos from seeing this. I don't know. I don't know what you should say to her. Can you tell us more about her?


As for your second question, i think its a matter of degree. Though there was a woman who had multiple sons serve as Kohen Gadol, and attributed it to not even letting the walls see her hair uncovered.