I’m going to take a parenting break and share a story this week. I actually had an article ready to go, but the father got cold feet and asked me not to print his e-mail. In any case enjoy this story.
On May 14th, my 9-year-old cousin passed away. Many of you watched the video of Refoel Goldberg asking us to pray for him, but his special soul was brought back.
I decided to drive to Montreal for the funeral and offered to take anyone that wanted to join me. Three of my siblings took me up on my offer, so at around midnight we headed north in my wife’s minivan. It was a rainy and chilly night and I was a bit tired, so I wasn’t driving too fast. One of my sisters stayed awake in the passenger seat to keep me company.
A few hours in, I noticed a car tailgating me, so I switched to the right lane. I mentioned to my sister that someone was driving awfully fast in the rain, when suddenly, lights began flashing. Officer Ward pulled me over. He insisted that I was going 91 M.P.H. which would have been suicidal. My siblings all knew that I wasn’t, but I had nothing to gain by arguing.
I was handed a citation that said I was going 74 which I promptly put in the door pocket and continued the trek up. We arrived early in the morning and went to the funeral. As soon as it was over, we got back in the car and headed back. We arrived back in New York at around 7:00 PM, which meant I had been up for 36 hours straight and been driving for almost 14 of them.
I showed my wife the citation and left it on the kitchen counter. I promptly went upstairs to take a quick nap before heading back to work. During this time, my two-year-old decided to practice her art skills on the above-mentioned citation. When she finished her work, the remnants were left proudly on the floor of her room. Upon awakening, I walked into her room and looked with a mixture of horror and pride at her masterpiece. I took the tattered and scribbled pieces and decided to deal with it later.
Procrastination is a very dangerous game. A few weeks passed and I remembered that I had never repaired and dealt with it. First, I contacted James Medows who’s a traffic attorney. He’s the best according to everyone I spoke to, and he doesn’t try to make money off people if they can do the work themselves. Mr. Medows told me to first mail the ticket in and take it from there. I attempted to tape it back together, but my art skills are equivalent to that of a salted slug. Thank goodness my wife saved the day, and using some Harry Potter wizardry, repaired (I think the proper spell is “Repario”) my citation (Exhibits A and B).
I mailed it in with a note apologizing for my tardiness and an explanation for the scribbles and mended work, along with a photo of the pepertrator (Exhibit C). Apparently, Linda G. McMahon from the Lake George Town Court does not have a two-year-old climbing around her office, since I got her response 3 days later.
The first thing I noticed was that she reprinted the citation (Exhibit D), and also sent me back the original so we could keep the “Artwork for framing” (Exhibit E). She also included some other notes which showed the supporting deposition. Not only that, but she downloaded and included my driving abstract free of charge (See the post-it notes on Exhibit E) to save me time along with clear instructions (Exhibit F).
The end result of my citation, was that they downgraded it to a parking ticket. I had to pay $100, which is exactly why Mr. Medows recommended I do it myself instead of hiring an attorney. In any case, there are a few important items that can be learned from this story.
First of all, if you leave important documents lying around, your kids will find them and mutilate them. Especially if you leave them on the kitchen counter. Second of all, if you do get pulled over by the police, even if you’re 100% right, take a deep breath. If you argue or get upset, you won’t win, and it only makes things worse. Lastly, Linda G. McMahon is a thoughtful and understanding court clerk. She went above and beyond, and I’m very grateful for her assistance. If you do get pulled over, try to make sure it's in Lake George and make sure the County Clerk is involved in some capacity. If anyone knows how to reach her, you can let her know that I’m very grateful.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,
I began writing these parenting columns/answers many years ago. I quickly learned that no matter the topic, people will always disagree. I had a mother email me recently after I mentioned that it’s healthy to tell children “no” sometimes. She wrote “These days, telling a child no is tantamount to child abuse. Kids need to be smothered with love and affection and your concepts of parenting are archaic!” I mention this because my short response to the question below will likely cost me many subscribers. I’m ok with that.
The person asking the question below is a Talmid from 21 years ago. I replied to him that night but waited until this week to post. Although I’m turning off public commenting, feel free to reply to this email with any thoughts.
Hi Rebbe, I hope all is well. I’m not sure if you know this, but I’ve been going to Uman with friends for the past few years. This year my wife said she really wants me home with her and the kids (Redacted is four and redacted is two). I tried explaining to her that going gives me a spiritual boost that lasts me the entire year, but she’s not listening. We agreed to let you make the final decision. Thank you! Redacted.
Many Yiddin travel to Uman for Rosh Hashana. Actually, according to Wikipedia, in 2018 over 30,000 Yidden made the trip. One friend of mine told me that the reason he goes, is because Rebbe Nachman promised to help his Tefilos go up to Hashem even if he did a lot of Aveiros. It’s unfair of me to really give an in-depth response to your question since I haven’t personally made the trip. Nonetheless I am a huge fan of being inspired by others, and Davening at a Kever is so special. Below are a few points that I would like to share.
Certain types of Chassidus have a very unique method of dealing with family. These Chassidim leave their families for extended periods of time to spend time with their Rebbes or Daven at Kevorim during the year. Many of these Chassidim also Daven slowly and carefully and are very Makpid in many areas of Yiddishkeit. It seems a bit odd to me that people pick and choose which parts of Chassidus they want to embrace. If you really love the warmth of Chassidus, you could start going to the Mikvah every morning. If that’s not an option, maybe start coming to Davening on time every day. In other words, there are other ways to connect to Hashem if going to Uman won’t work out.
I don’t think it’s ok to leave your wife and children unless they are 100% on board with it. I know of many families having the same discussion that you and your wife are having. It seems incredibly selfish to leave your family so you can have a “spiritual awakening”. Spending a Yom Tov with family is so incredible! At houses all over the world, kids are excitedly dipping apples in honey while singing about it, they’re trying new fruits, children going to Shul with their father to hear the Shofar, and so much more. In your house your wife will be quietly wondering why she is alone with the kids. It just doesn’t seem right to me.
I’m utterly baffled by those who leave Eretz Yisrael to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Are you kidding me? You’re leaving the holiest land to go to a Kever in Uman? I’m not sure how this works, but I would ask your Rav before making a decision of that magnitude.
There are also some reports of Yidden drinking and doing other activities that should make one wonder if this is the correct venue for Bnai Torah. One very good friend of mine was very clear that he only goes for the social aspect. Whereas I’m sure you are going to build on your Yiddishkeit, nevertheless the Torah warns us against putting ourselves in positions that can cause us to sin. You need to be very careful.
There is also an issue regarding the massive Chillul Hashem that takes place. I personally spoke to a flight attendant who told me that the general behavior on the flights she works on is horrible. “Many of these people are rude, obnoxious, and leave a huge mess behind!” I know she is generalizing, but I can’t help but wonder if the holy Rav Nachman would really be ok with this. If you’re making the trek, please make sure that you and those around you are making a Kiddush Hashem.
The last thing I would point out, is the cost involved. I have a funny feeling that if instead of spending the money on the trip you bought your wife some jewelry, it would enhance Yom Tov for BOTH of you. One person that goes every year mentioned to me that he’s going through a very hard time financially. Some local organizations are helping out as he tries to supplement his income with side jobs. Do these organizations know that he spends money flying to Uman every year? Would they still help him out?
In case I wasn’t clear enough, I agree with your wife. Stay home. Buy your wife something nice for Yom Tov and bring Rav Nachman into your home. You can still be excited about davening, and who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire others! Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.