I skipped the last safety article so I can publish this Purim guide this week. Next week will be the last safety article. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Purim is around the corner, and once again I’m being inundated with the same questions I receive every year. Here are some of the more frequent questions and my updated answers.
Should we have a class “meetup” instead of going to individual friends?
I don’t think it’s a great idea for several reasons.
I answered this last year and received some horrible responses via email. Here was one of them (I’m not fixing the typos): “You are serisly deranged if you think you can destroy a minhag yisroel! Most rebbes don’t let the kids drink to much and it’s a part of the mitzvah. Stick to better topics like bedtime!”
Bedtime is certainly a safer topic, but I won’t ignore the question because drinking can be life-threatening. You need to have a serious conversation with any of your children who will be in this situation. Let them know that you don’t approve of their drinking out of the house without your supervision, and if they feel that they’re being pressured, they should call you.
It’s also a great idea to call the yeshiva and ask them what their policies are regarding students drinking. If their response is, “We let each rebbe make his own decision,” you might have a problem.
No one comes to my house on Purim and my son feels left out. What can I do?
This is something that his rebbe should be able to help with. Let the rebbe convince some of the boys to come to your house without making your son out to be a nebach. There are so many amazing rebbeim out there, and, baruch Hashem, they really know how to motivate the other boys to do the right thing.
Another idea is to let him pick boys in the class who would appreciate if he would come over. Frequently, boys who are left out want to give shalach manos to the popular boys. Try to convince him that it might be more enjoyable to go to real friends.
How important is it to visit my child’s rebbe or morah? He has no desire to go.
It’s very important. Furthermore, I’m sure you can make it more exciting for your child. Make a big deal out of it, and let your son know that it’s a huge mitzvah. Even if your child isn’t having an amazing year, you should still bring him. It also serves as a life lesson for your son — that it’s always important to do the right thing.
Have a freilichin Purim!
Last week, we discussed important safety information for your home. This week, we’re going to discuss safety out of the house. Many of the items we’ll discuss here are obvious; nonetheless, they bear repeating. As with last week’s article, please read carefully and take it seriously.
Baruch Hashem, this parenting blog has grown by leaps and bounds. We have been picked up by many fantastic newspapers, and the number of online subscribers we have is growing every day. I feel that it is time to share an important article with everyone, one that I’ve been working on for quite some time.
I remember hearing an amazing thought from Rabbi Yehoshua Kalish about 28 years ago. He told our class that when people are speeding while driving on a highway, they are always on the lookout for police officers. If while driving they pass a motorist who has been pulled over, they slow down instinctively. After a while, they pick up speed again — and that’s where the next officer is waiting.
The police department understands that you’ll be driving slowly once you pass the first officer, and they space the patrol cars accordingly. I pointed out that the smart move would be to speed up when someone else is pulled over. Rabbi Kalish chuckled. Obviously, I’m not condoning speeding. My point is that after an event has passed, we tend to become more complacent.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people were lining up to buy home generators. After a few months, however, the demand dropped. It doesn’t mean that everyone already installed one. On the contrary, many people who really needed them simply forgot how serious the need was.
When it comes to our children’s safety, we are always so careful. When a tragedy occurs, we make all these resolutions about how cautious we’re going to be. Then we procrastinate. Other things come up that are important. We don’t have the time or patience to deal with it. I’m here to remind you. I’m begging everyone to please read all parts of this article. The first part deals with safety at in your house. I suggest signing up at yidparenting.com for e-mails on other safety tips.
Part I: Your Home
(1) Every bedroom should have a functioning smoke detector. Building codes require that they be interconnected, but many older homes don’t have this. It’s not that expensive, and you can even have them connect wirelessly these days. Make sure that every floor and every bedroom has a working detector. They need to be installed properly, so please go online to verify where in the rooms they should be placed. Replace the batteries once every year. Lives depend on this. Bedrooms that are on a second or third floor should have an emergency ladder kept under a bed or in a closet. Anyone in the room should be taught how to use it.
(2) Your family should have an emergency plan and location. You should all understand that if there is a fire, chas v’shalom, you will meet up at the same point. You don’t want the firemen to rush into a burning house looking for someone who escaped and is in the backyard.
(3) You must make sure your home insurance is up to date and set up properly. In the afternoon, I work as a public adjuster, which means I help families deal with insurance after a fire, flood, or burglary. I have seen countless families suffer very serious financial hardships because they were underinsured or improperly insured. You can ask around if you’re not sure, or you can contact me for a list of brokers in your area.
(4) Every floor should have a carbon monoxide detector. It should be installed five feet from the ground, and near every sleeping area in the house. It doesn’t need to be in every bedroom. Carbon monoxide is very scary since it’s silent and has no smell. Typical symptoms of CO poisoning can include headaches, nausea, blurry vision, and more.
(5) All windows should have bars on them. A screen is useless if a child decides to go exploring. All windows should also have strong locks.
(6) You should have Hatzalah’s phone number on each phone (and saved in your cellphone). It’s also a good idea to have the number to your local fire department. Calling 911 works, but calling the department directly can save seconds.
(7) It’s a good idea to take a picture of all important documents and make sure they’re stored in the cloud (Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.). Documents can include birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, insurance cards, and the back of your credit cards in case you need to cancel them. Small fireproof and waterproof safes aren’t expensive and can save you a lot of aggravation if there is an incident, chas v’shalom.
(8) Make sure all medications are kept out of sight and out of reach. Never refer to medicine as candy and consider child-proofing the medicine cabinet. Finish all doses and dispose of any medications that are expired. Keep the number to poison control on a sticker in the cabinet.
(9) An alarm system is important and can get you a nice insurance discount also. There are many different types available, although you need to make sure that it won’t cause an issue on Shabbos. Installing security cameras has also become very cost-effective, and it’s an excellent deterrent.
(10) Make sure all doorways that require a mezuzah have one, and check them once a year.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.
I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, and my wife and I are very impressed. This question is not going to make you a lot of friends. After the Siyum HaShas last month, my 13-year-old daughter decided she wants to learn daf yomi. She has been feeling very left out over the past few years, as having three older brothers isn’t always easy. She is constantly telling us that boys have all the fun. We’re usually careful about making sure that she acts like a bas Torah, but our gut is telling us to tread carefully. What do you think? Shira.
Thanks for writing in. Your question really is a tough one, and you’re correct in assuming that people will not be happy with my response — no matter what I write. I wouldn’t have responded to this email if not for the fact that I’ve received similar questions over the past few weeks. I spoke with a few rabbanim about this and got varying responses. Some rabbanim thought it was a great idea and proved it with various sources. Other rabbanim were vehemently opposed to it and brought proofs of their own.
Last week I responded to a similar question, but about a boy. I received many responses via email, some upset that I thought it was OK for the boy to learn the daf, and others upset that I didn’t support it enough. Add in the halachic aspect to this particular question of a girl learning the daf, and the response is all but guaranteed to rock the proverbial boat.
So your daughter wants to learn the daf because why should only boys and men get to learn the daf? One of the many challenges we face these days is convincing our girls how important they are to our future. It’s easy to tell your daughter, “You’re wrong! Girls have a huge part in Yiddishkeit!” I don’t think you’re accomplishing anything except teaching her that you don’t understand her feelings. While that response might have worked 100 years ago, it won’t work now. If that was what you wanted to tell her, you probably shouldn’t even have the discussion with her.
As a general rule, dismissing the emotions of children is a surefire way to lose your connection with them. This applies even if their emotions are silly. If your seven-year-old son is crying and saying, “You don’t love me!” you can’t walk away and say, “You’re being ridiculous!” He might be acting ridiculous, but you still can’t discount his emotions. Give him a hug and tell him, “Even if you’re sad, you should know that I always will love you!” Or you can do what my father did. When I was eight years old and crying on my bed for some random reason, my father asked me, “Why are you crying?” I responded, “Because you don’t love me!” My father replied, “If I don’t love you, why am I up here talking with you?” “’Cuz you love me,” was my intelligent response.
Even if a child is wrong, you still need to validate him or her.
A few parents asked me why rabbanim don’t address this issue of women feeling “left out.” The answer is simple. This issue is one that needs to be resolved case by case. It’s not that rabbanim aren’t acknowledging the problem — it’s that each situation is unique. One girl I know wants to sing for a talent show (which might be listened to by men) while a different girl wants to be able to dance with a Torah on Simchas Torah (on the women’s side). Each situation needs to be dealt with properly, and there is no “one size fits all” response.
Getting back to your original question, what is her goal in learning the daf? I’ve come up with three possible options.
On the other hand, if she is doing this to brag to her friends, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Not only is it likely she will stop learning soon after, but she’ll probably want to do something else to show off to her friends. You might think that even though her intentions aren’t good (lo l’Shmah), it still might lead to the proper intentions, but that doesn’t apply in a case like this. Explain to her that while you understand that she wants to prove to her friends she can learn the daf, it’s not the proper thing to do.
Certainly, if she is learning the daf, you should review last week’s article. The same guidelines that apply to that young boy hold true for her. Her grades should stay consistent, and she should take the daf seriously.
Have a good Shabbos!
PS - Due to the nature of this week's column, I will not be allowing comments. Feel free to send me an e-mail with your thoughts using the contact page.
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.