Many Americans have become increasingly interested in – even slightly obsessed with – their health. We carefully watch what we eat and have become quite mindful of calorie consumption, avoiding artificial ingredients, and using natural herbal supplements. Corporations and manufacturers have followed this new trend by creating “all natural” products, labeling their products with calorie counts, boasting of “healthy” ingredients, and opening organic food stores. Physicians, too, have realized that an important part of medicine is keeping patients from getting sick, otherwise known as preventive care.
Dear Dr. Weisbord,
I am very overwhelmed. This happens to me every summer when the kids are out of school. I don’t come from a frum family, and grew up in a two-child, calm and organized home. It is very hard for me to deal with the chaos, noise, and mess of six children under the age of 11. I do okay during the year, but when the children are home all the time, it’s extremely difficult. I really, really need those few hours to myself, when they’re in school, but it’s not possible. We can’t afford to send the children to camp. Since most of the other children in the neighborhood are in camp, my kids spend the day around the house, getting bored and fighting with each other. I know I could go places and do creative projects with them, but I don’t have the energy. The house is a mess. It’s impossible to make order, and even when I do, it falls apart in a few minutes.
In this interview with Dr. Michael Bunzel, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at
Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak, Dr. Bunzel speaks about mental health in the frum community. He was instrumental in the founding of the hospital’s recently opened, state-of-the-art mental health hospital. Housed in a seven-floor, ultra-modern building, with every possible amenity and comfort, the Mental Health Center is designed to reduce the potentially unpleasant aspects of clients seeking mental health treatment. Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital is legendary for upholding the principles of Jewish law and the sanctity of human life in all its departments, and a halachic committee of gedolei Yisrael oversees all medical ethics issues. With this groundbreaking achievement, the hospital, doctors, and rabbanim hope to apply these invaluable principles to the crucial field of mental illness.
Last month, we began the story of our Totty, Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Siegel. We described his youth as a graduate of TA’s first high school class; his 10 years of learning in Ner Israel with his rebbe, the Rosh Yeshiva Harav Ruderman; his marriage; and his passion for the sugya of zmanim, about which he wrote three sefarim and was an internationally recognized expert. We continue the story of our father’s life.
Son-in-law and Ner Israel alumnus, Nosson Westreich, remembers when the Rosh Yeshiva asked him to deliver a message to our father. Rabbi Ruderman wanted Totty to come to the yeshiva because he wanted to confer upon him a Yadin Yadin semicha, the highest level semicha available. The earlier semicha conferred upon our father by the Rosh Yeshiva had been a Rav Moreh Umanhig, which the Rosh Yeshiva felt was not befitting our father’s kavod and his level of Talmudic mastery. According to Nosson, upon hearing Rabbi Ruderman’s message, Totty was reticent, even reluctant. Several weeks later, the Rosh Yeshiva called Nosson in again to follow up on his earlier request. He asked Nosson to deliver the message a second time. Nosson did so, and once again, Totty demurred. When Nosson asked him why he was not pursuing this offer, Totty said, “Hekdesh is not chal on a baal mum – a person with a defect cannot acquire holiness.” According to Nosson, when he went back to the Rosh Yeshiva to deliver this message, the Rosh Yeshiva responded, “He is not a baal mum; he is a tamim – He has no defect; he is pure and unblemished.” At Totty’s insistence, the matter was left closed.
If you are a young person, the title of this article probably does not make much of an impression. But if you have entered the “golden years,” your awareness of the meaning of the title is loud and clear. Am I right?
Uttered during the High Holidays, the tefila pleads with the Ribono Shel Olam (G-d): “Al tashlicheinu le’eis zikna. Kichlos kocheinu, al ta’azveinu – Do not cast us out in our old age. When our strength wanes, do not forsake us….”
So, let’s talk about old age. There are people who are 40 years young and act like zekeinim (oldsters), and there are zekeinim who are as youthful as ever. You may therefore wonder what establishes old age. The following are strategies to keep zikna at bay as long as possible:
Man in general, and bnai Yisrael in particular, have a difficult time waiting for things. Our Sages tell us that had Adam, in the Garden of Eden, held off and not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge until Shabbos, the seventh day, the ban on eating from the tree would have been rescinded, and Adam could have lived in Paradise forever.
Bnai Yisrael were supposed to wait until Moshe came down from Mount Sinai. They did wait, for 40 days according to their flawed count, but had they waited a few more hours, Moshe would have come down, and there would have been no Golden Calf.
And the great King Saul was to have waited in Gilgal for seven days, until Samuel came and brought offerings. But the Philistines were massing to fight against bnai Yisrael, so Saul brought the offering himself, only to have Samuel arrive a short time later and tell him that his kingdom would not endure because of this sin.
Waiting is an important part of managing our food intake. We have all been told that it takes 20 minutes for a person to feel full after he eats a meal. Yet there is this little (sometimes big) nudging voice that says, “I want more, and I want it now.” It is not driven by hunger but simply by a desire to eat. As readers of this series know, my biggest obstacle to keeping weight off and not gaining more is an insatiable desire to eat at night. I am getting somewhat better at refraining, but it is still very difficult. If I can hold out until the deadline (when I go to sleep), I am okay, and I can truthfully tell myself that I will be able to eat again when I awaken. So we’re not talking about waiting an eternity to eat, just a short time. Yet it is still very difficult.
Back in the 1980s, the tongue-in-cheek book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche: A Guidebook to All that is Truly Masculine, sold 1.6 million copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for 55 weeks! Written after a decade of feminist critique of traditional male roles and behaviors, it satirized stereotypical masculinity in an age when men were confused about how they ought to behave.
Has anything changed? While men may eat more quiche these days, it is clear that the confusion continues, as portrayals of masculinity in the media veer wildly between the extremes of brutal machismo and wimpy emoting. What is a man, and how should he behave? What does our Jewish tradition teach us about this subject?
Way back in the 1940s, when the founders of Bais Yaakov established the mission of the new school for girls – creating the Jewish “mothers of tomorrow” – they most likely didn’t envision one of its graduates doing her mothering in the heart of diplomatic Washington! But then again, maybe they did. Because being a Jewish woman and mother encompasses all the circumstances in which she might find one day herself. Rhoda Dermer (nee Pagano), wife of the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, and mother of five, is an outstanding example of such a woman, who represents the Bais Yaakov ideal among the leaders of the world.
Born and raised in the heart of our Baltimore community, Rhoda took a roundabout route to D.C. diplomatic circles. A Bais Yaakov graduate, she attended Stern College for Women and Columbia University in New York. Later, she graduated from Yale Law School. Although the trajectory of her life may not be exactly what she and her friends envisioned all those years ago, she is filling her current roles – mothering and more – with aplomb, all the while remaining loyal to the values her parents and teachers instilled in her.
Rhoda stays in contact with many of her BY and childhood friends. One of them, Aliza L, remains close to Rhoda to this day. “I’m actually not surprised about Rhoda’s position and her path in life,” says Aliza. “She is an extremely bright and accomplished woman. She’s a great friend, and I am glad we are still close and can share experiences and have our children grow up to know each other even if we live far apart.” And Naomi W, a more distant classmate, nevertheless remembers Rhoda as being a studious and diligent student who was very bright and a class leader: “She was very kind and refined, and people always gathered around her.”
Few people I’ve met were as enthusiastic as Chava Vodka about sharing her aliyah experience with Baltimore readers. Her response – that spreading the beauty of Eretz Yisrael is a tikun (rectification) for chet hameraglim (the sin of the spies) – revealed her deep love of Eretz Yisrael and passion for yishuv ha’Aretz. So, off I went to Bat Yam, where Chava resides with her family, to hear about her life and explore the seaside town.
Chava, the daughter of Dr. Gershon (George) and Leah (Lila) Lowell, had a happy childhood with her two brothers in their home on Western Run Drive. When she was twelve, her family moved to Israel for two years. The move was prompted by Dr. Lowell’s promise to the American army. Rather than being drafted immediately for the Vietnam War, he would join of his own volition after he completed medical school. Dr. Lowell indeed joined the army as a doctor and moved his family to Silver Spring to be near his assigned hospital in Washington. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Baltimore for schooling for the children.