Friday, July 30, 2010

Grocery Spending Stress Disorder

By Mimi Hecht

Grocery Spending Stress Disorder

On my last visit to the grocery store, I witnessed a mother at the cashier in front of me react to her receipt in a way that depicts how I presume a lot of us feel after we spend hundreds of dollars on food shopping. As she scanned the items on the long scroll, she grimaced, shook her head, rolled her eyes and, finally, after breathing a long and audible sigh, banished the receipt to the depths of her purse. Life would go on. After all, it had to - there was a long line of other shoppers also arriving at the counter for their weekly handover of hundreds of dollars in exchange for their sustenance.

I now know that I am not alone in my GSSD: Grocery-Spending-Stress-Disorder.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Wife Needs a Vacation (

This is a wonderful response from marriage counselor Daniel Schonbuch to a husband whose wife wants to vacation but they have a limited budget!

Marriage Musings: My Mopping Mess

Marriage Musings
By Russi Wachtel

 "It was then that I came across the
fashionably looking, latex cleaning gloves."


If I could share with you what it was like the first time I attempted to mop my floors...

Days before my first mopping experience, my husband and I visited our local supermarket to buy the mopping supplies that we needed. We spent a good hour smelling various household solutions, and going through the different labels and cleaning equipment. It was then that I came across the fashionably looking, latex cleaning gloves. The kind that I’ve seen cleaning-ladies wear, but with a more elegant twist. They were calling my name.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Night Owl or Early Bird?

Happy Mom Tips 
By Rivka Caroline

Happy Mom Tip #8

Are you a Night Owl or An Early Bird?

Play to your strengths and do the bulk of your thinking work during the times where you get the most accomplished. Have your priorities outlined ahead of time. If you're a night owl, set a timer if you are worried that you will get carried away and work too late at night.

Becky's Bottom Line: Acculturation and Assimilation

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein 


While my kids are young and are still trying to listen to and explore their surroundings, it often makes me think about the times long ago when explorers were still discovering the world. These explorers docked their boats on foreign land to discover. They didn’t know what it was they were discovering, but they wanted to discover. Y’know, totally cool with me since I am no historian and doodled my way through history class. I am going to assume that they hopped off their boats and started learning new things to bring back to their own lands. I assume this from the fact that we all have popcorn thanks to the Native Americans and tea from Boston. Also from the phrase “when in Rome do as the Romans.” It had to come from somewhere.

Now that some of my kids have gotten a little older, watching the younger ones grow and adapt to their surroundings is quite entertaining. I’ll explain.

Drinking Red Wine while Pregnant

"Another study has shown that drinking red wine during pregnancy can also help in the development of the child. It has been observed that such children score better in vocabulary tests and also are able to identify shapes, letters, colors, numbers, etc. better than the other children, when they are 18 months old."

Read more:
Drinking Red Wine while Pregnant

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When Sensitivity Hurts

By Chana Gutnick-Herzog

Wallowing in my own pity, I refused to admit to myself that he liked the soup.
"You're just trying to make me feel good," I muttered under my breath.


There's a famous Chassidic story of a man who visited his Rebbe complaining that people were always offending him. He whined of constantly being verbally and emotionally attacked, and asked the Rebbe what he could have done to deserve such treatment. The Rebbe wisely responded, "Maybe if you stop spreading yourself all over the place, people will stop stepping on you!"


I confess. I was acting like a high-strung wife. My husband had innocently asked me if the onion soup was supposed to be a creamy color, as he thought onion soup was usually a dark brown. I blinked slowly and swallowed, trying to hold back the tears.

More Men See Marriage, Family as the 'Ultimate Male Status Symbol'

By Elissa Strauss

Well it looks like the emasculated husbands who appear in the bulk of beer and car ads aren’t too representative of the typical American male. Men, it turns out, actually like being married and having a family.

Continue reading:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Poll Results: People pay their bills!

The first thing I do with my paycheck is

Pay the bills
  17 (45%)
Indulge in something I want
  3 (8%)
Put some away in savings
  6 (16%)
Give 10% to charity
  11 (29%)

Votes so far: 37
Poll closed 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Overweight Shidduch Maidel

By Mimi Hecht

"Your destiny is not decided by your daintiness….
...and soul mates are not just for skinny people.”

Dear Mimi,
have been shidduch-dating for years now, and have yet to find my soul mate. People tell me that I am a great catch and that any guy would be lucky to have me. But why am I still single? Is it because I am overweight? I feel frustrated with the way matchmakers represent me and wish the shidduch-system would allow someone to first see me for who I am. The entire saga makes me feel depressed. I feel if I was a size two, I would get many more suggestions. Perhaps you can address this in your next column?
Thank you,
An Overweight Shidduch Maidel

Dear Overweight Shidduch Maidel,

While the use of intermediaries to find our mates is a successful method that goes a long way in protecting people’s feelings and narrowing in on the most fitting suitors, nothing is flawless. Your frustration puts a spotlight on one of the perils of the shidduch system, namely its inadequacy in representing and advocating for those that have everything to offer but may not be best represented by descriptions on a sheet of paper. Of all the complaints people have about dating,

Drowning looks different than you think

Think drowning involves screaming, gasping, and flailing? Think it’s easy to notice someone drowning? Well, you’re wrong.

What every parent must know about drowning:

Drowning looks different than you think - Parenting on Shine
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A Political Image

 A chic look into our levush
By Mor Binder

Gillard and the Milan Fall Collection

Clothes send a message- often by not sending the right one. They reflect our roles, positions and, yes, certain aspects of our religiosity...

Historic moments were created these past few weeks in the realm of Australian politics, when Julia Gillard, leader of the Australian Labour Party (ALP), became our first ever female prime minister. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe we down here in the land of surf and sun have a life beyond those picturesque barbeques and complementary cricket matches.
In fact, not only do we have a political system, we also have the next best thing: the Media, who were quick to jump on the bandwagon of reprimanding Gillard’s sense of dress and style within hours of her ascent to power.

Neshama & Nourishment: Super Caesar Salad

Neshama & Nourishment
By Liorah Abrams 


A Taste of Torah: As a salad dressing adds a new dimension to Hashem's pure creations - vegetables - so Chassidus adds a new dimension to Hashem's pure Torah.

Large salad bowl
Small mixing bowl


Money after Marriage

 Marraige Musings
By Russi Wachtel 


Money was never an issue for me. I either had it or I didn’t. Most of the time, I didn’t. Mostly because the money I made was the money I spent only moments later on something that I undoubtedly needed, like another dress to fit into my already crowded closet, or $30 underwear that made my tush feel like it was wrapped in pure silk. But, because I was single and living at home - the only bills being my cell-phone and gym - it was ok that I treated money like something I could play around with. Whether I had money or not didn’t really affect me; it just meant that I would have to wait one more week until I would get my next pay-check to buy whatever it is that I was eyeing at that moment. 

After getting married, money became a much bigger issue.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Mom Tip #7: Matching Sole-Mates

Happy Mom Tips
By Rivka Caroline 

Happy Mom Tip #7

Here's my advice for the week in two words : sock locks. If I could rewind my decades of laundry cycles and change one thing it would be the implementation of sock locks. I guesstimate I have wasted infinite time and dollars searching for the elusive "other sock." These nifty contraptions secure your sole-mates from laundry bin all the way through the dryer.  

They're a "must-have" for all those interested in ending sole searching!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: Fun or Destruction?

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein

 "Walls are just mass expanses of mural space."


Kids break things. Kids ruin things. Kids touch what they shouldn't. Kids use their imaginations and turn diaper changing table pads into stair sleds. They also create forts out of every single blanket that’s folded neatly in the linen closet. Panty liners are money. Toilet paper  is used for a new age Hansel and Gretel game. Books are for practicing scissor skills. Pencils are meant to be broken and then sharpened over and over again. Walls are just mass expanses of mural space.

As a parent, I get angry. These are the things that I have bought with my own money (that my husband worked so hard to make) and took the time to make nice. All my hard work and planning can get ruined in exactly three seconds. I want to make rule after rule after rule to get the kids to stop touching what they shoudn’t, but it would only make the planning that much greater. They want to discover. I want them to discover, but I also don’t want my things ruined.

It’s a tug of war I have in my head all the time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Marriage Musings: Moshiach and Marriage

Marriage Musings
By Russi Wachtel


Moshiach and marriage are two concepts that had always baffled me. Both ideas had my primitive belief that one day they would occur, but when and how were adverbs that played a big part in preventing my undeveloped trust from becoming a more genuine one.

One factor about marriage that fazed me was the idea of a soul mate. How was I to believe that one person, out of millions, was suppose to be “my one and only” and that, somehow, with the help of the divine, we would cosmically find each other, and like magnets, connect. Beyond how, I was confounded by the thought of when I would get married. At that time, I had no known prospects in sight and so the idea that at any moment I could meet my beshert amazed me!

I also had difficulties picturing myself married. I couldn’t imagine a life so different than the one I was living. For me, trying to imagine myself married was like trying to recall a dream. I could visualize bits and pieces but there was a block when trying to grasp the entire concept.

Similarly, with the idea of Moshiach - I believed with certainty in its ultimate revelation but when and how it would happen puzzled me. How could it be possible that at any minute Moshiach could come! Was I really supposed to accept that with a sound of a shofer my entire world would change?! The entire concept of having a world so different than the one we live in today confounded me! I couldn’t conceive of a time where my materialistic wants and needs would be replaced with only a sublime thirst to connect to Hashem.

My jumbled thoughts on Moshiach remained the same until I met my husband. My husband and I had it easy recognizing each other as each others soul mate. After dating for just two weeks, we made plans to get married. It all happened really quickly; with a snap of a finger, my entire life changed! As my feelings for my husband grew, so did my belief in Moshiach. With my husband at my side, I realized that beautiful things like finding ones soul mate and Moshiach could happen!  It dawned on me that Moshiach really could be right around the corner!  Just like my husband was!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Mom Tip #6: Manage Your Interruptions

Happy Mom Tips
By Rivka Caroline

 It's going to take more than pressing a button...

Happy Mom Tip # 6

When you finally get baby down and are ready to get some tasks done, here's a way to get more done: watch your interruptions. It takes a full ELEVEN minutes to get back to what you were focused on after answering a text or caving in to any other distraction.

So when you are focused on getting work done, maximize your time silencing your phone and turning off the internet. Set a timer. Your concentration and productivity will benefit tremendously!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: Stress

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein


Stress. Something That Really Extra Specially Sucks. Stress. I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders. At the end of a stressful day I feel like I'm lugging around packages of super sized heavy weights around my neck and shoulders. I wind up with a massive headache and a bunch of kids all wanting to be be cleaned and fed. Don’t they realize I am stressed?!

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only stressed out person there is (I know I’m not).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Neshama & Nourishment: Sizzlin' Spicy Stir-Fry With Quinoa

Neshama & Nourishment

By Liorah Abrams

Taste of Torah: Just as we add peppers to a dish to create diversity, so too we can find ways to spice up
our connection with Hashem through new, exciting methods of learning, sharing and doing
more mitzvos.

One small (2qt) pot
One large sauce pan with lid


One Favorite Thing

By Mimi Hecht 

One day in school when I was fourteen years old, I chose an alternative to doodling in class, opting instead for the more sophisticated task of transcribing a list of my favorite things. Ten years later, I unearthed the two page list, a revealing time capsule of my adolescent mind. Dated Monday May 24th, 2000, the list included the following highlights:

Finishing a good book
Taking a nap in the middle of the day
Getting mail
A perfect hair day

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marriage Musings: Chaos in the Kitchen

Marriage Musings
By Russi Wachtel

Come back every week for Russi's marriage musings as
she addresses every aspect of life as a newlywed!
Read more about Russi on the author page!

If I had a door to my kitchen, I would post a sign on it warning any innocent bystanders to keep away while I cook.  The sign would say something like, “I hope you have health insurance because if you enter and get hurt, I am not paying for the damages.”
Unfortunately, my kitchen does not have a door so there have been times when people have wandered in only to escape seconds later with

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

LadyMama Poll Results: What's your most despised house chore?

  13 (22%)
  4 (6%)
  14 (23%)
  8 (13%)
Anything having to do with the bathroom
  16 (27%)
None - I have a maid that does it all. I never lift a finger!
  4 (6%)

Votes so far: 59
Poll closed

Home Decor: Master Bedroom

Check out these awesome ideas or decorating your master bedroom.

Imagine doing this stuff to two beds!

Master Bedroom Decor

The "To Don't" list

Happy Mom Tips
By Rivka Caroline

Happy Mom Tip #5
The "To Don't" List

What's on your "To Don't" list? 
With all the focus on writing your "To Do" list, don't forget to write all the things not to do! Why? To remind yourself that it's not about doing it all - it's about doing it most. Think through the day's priorities and give up some of your non-essential commitments. This way, you'll free up more time and energy for the essential items.

Becky's Bottom Line: Mistakes Happen

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein


After having a C-section with my first daughter I was unable to drive for at least six weeks. The fridge, freezer, and pantry suffered dearly through my recovery. They were running on empty. I needed a restock on all food related things. My first stop would be the Kosher store in Scranton, which had the majority of the things I needed. The drive is about a 25 minutes on the highway.The thrill of finally getting behind the wheel with my baby in the back seat was exhilarating. After putting together a baby bag with a million things I would probably never need, I went out to the car to deal with her car seat. I buckled in the base and snapped in her car seat, like I had seen so many others do. I then checked to make sure everything was secure with the car seat and that the level tool ball was in the right spot. Then I closed the door. I drove very cautiously with my precious cargo. When I finally pulled into the parking lot of the kosher store and got out to get my baby, I saw that I had never strapped her in! Her base was buckled in tight. Her car seat was snapped in, in the upright perfect position. But she was not buckled! I thought the police were for sure going to come screeching in and take me away.

That was only the beginning. Once, on a long trip, I gave my first daughter (yep, her again) a pushka (charity box) to play with in the car. She was crying and fidgeting so much that I had thoughtlessly handed her anything to keep her quiet. Pushkas are actually really dangerous for little baby fingers. She put her teeny tiny, unmarked, perfectly plump and pink finger right into the penny slot. She cut her finger right open. She probably would have needed a stitch (my doctor told me) if I didn't quickly squeeze her finger and apply a butterfly band aid. I had a whole pack of them in my first aid kit that I kept in my diaper bag. So much for useless junk. I still carry one for just that reason.

When we had justtwo little kids, the living room in our apartment was decked out with a couch and a coffee table. Now, the living room in our home is decked out with just a couch. I now see the coffee table as a big object with sharp corners waiting to poke a hole in some unsuspecting child's head. In that same living room I had a cart that stored all the diapers. I didn't want them upstairs because then I had to go up there for all the diaper changes. I had no shelving space or drawers downstairs to stick them in. I didn't want a bag of diapers just floating around the house. I wanted them to look neat and tidy stacked in a three-tiered cart that could roll around for my convenience. The top shelf was for diaper cream and wipes and the bottom two shelves were for the diapers. The diapers never stayed on the shelf. My daughter thought it was the most hysterical thing to dump the entire thing out. When I made a game out of cleaning them all up, the diapers wound up looking like a stack of the used variety. It wasn't neat anymore. And it definitly didn't look nice.

Fast forward a few years with some bumps, bruises, and scrapes. My kids moved on to cabinets and cabinet contents. No more are my feminine hygiene products safe. After giving birth to my fourth daughter, my oldest daughter introduced "store" to her siblings. In an attempt to use money in the "store" they searched the entire house for a currency to meet their standards. They found panty liners. I didn't realize until I noticed half the box was gone. I didn't know where they kept them. That is, until one day a friend came over to visit. I had just finished nursing the baby upstairs and put her to bed. I went to answer the knock at the door. It was then that I saw my three daughters with purses full of panty liners, lining a walkway from the front door to the dining room. They were ripping off the backing and sticking the liners onto the laminate floor with such precision that I almost didn't want to interrupt them because of the workmanship. But someone was at the door, right behind the panty liner pathway. I answered it and hoped that they would smile, wave, and leave. No such luck. She wanted to come in and see the baby. She had to step over panty liners to get into my house. She was so nice about it. She pretended to not even notice.

Now that my kids are out of the infancy stage I have other problems. I am a huge diet Dr. Pepper fan. I open a can and then go about my day. That's not the problem. The problem is by the time I get back to it, the can is almost empty. I have yet to be brave enough to swallow the last few gulps of little kid backwash. Last week, I left my brand new, texting-enabled cell phone on my nightstand. The next thing I knew it was being carried out of the toilet on life support. It did not survive it's waterlogged coma and I had to get a new one. My grocery lists don't survive if I leave them on the table within reach. Especially if there is a pen on the notepad waiting to be used. We have to lock our pantry so we don't have random children grabbing cereal bags and emptying the contents. (I think every single one of the kids had done this before we got the lock.) It took the need to move my bedroom furniture for Pesach cleaning to find my glasses that went missing a half a year before.

Bottom line is: Mistakes happen. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we can't think clearly. Sleep deprivation and loss of brain cells don't really help at all either. But as mothers, we have the stamina to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, take note of the incident, and try our darndest to never let it happen again. Okay, so my kids also seem to be huge diet Dr. Pepper fans. They also like to make lists on my designated notepad. I don't have to brush myself off for those minor offenses, but at least I have learned where to keep the candy stash and where I need hide to finish the tub of ice cream.

Monday, July 5, 2010

VivaLeVouChic: Chanel, the Anti-Semite

 A chic look into our levush
By Mor Binder

Come to LadyMama every week for Mor's take on all things modish...and modest!
Read more about Mor on the author page!

Second to finding out the tooth fairy was a figment of my parent’s imagination, the greatest disappointment I have ever experienced was the realisation that Coco Chanel was a devout anti-semite and nazi collaborator. Mind you, it was not from the numerous documentaries and films replicating her life that I came across this fact, but rather in the fine print of biographies that record the French “legend.” After recovering from the initial shock that saw me wishing I owned a Chanel item just so I could throw it out, I scouted around for a console on how this slight detail, of a very large epic, could perhaps be false.

Despite being comforted by numerous retorts(the most common amongst them being “well you never know maybe she didn’t have a choice”), nothing could stop Rabbi Winner’s words resonating in my mind. In response to girls’ complaints regarding false accusations, his answer would always be “well they don’t say these things about Mushky Cohen*” - an extremely quiet yet well behaved girl, whose head was more often in the books than out for fresh air. History supports the claim, “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” In this case, many sources detailed Coco Chanel’s affair with Nazi officer Hans Gunther Von Dicklage and her subsequent move into Paris’s Ritz Hotel, the German headquarters during their invasion of france in WWII. To settle all qualms that this was possibly an act of misguided romance, Chanel also acted as an ambassador to the German intelligence, taking part in a secret peace mission involving Winston Churchill. Following France’s liberation, Chanel was charged with war crimes, but was dismissed under mysterious circumstances, most likely Churchill’s intervention.

Chanel's "Tznius" Influence on Fashion

You see, it wasn’t just Chanel’s immense impact on the greater fashion world that led to my admiration of her. I had always held her in high esteem for her positive influence on fashion through tznius lenses. She was the driving force behind the shift from bust hugging corsets and figure constraining seams to comfortable everyday fabrics and cuts, encouraging women to dress for their own comfort rather than for the fancy of men’s prowling eyes. Her signature classic cut suits, most often seen in tweed patterns during the early years, are still wardrobe staples, dressing many of our Rebbetzins, mothers and bubbies. To this day, the house of Chanel carries a sophisticated, elegant style significantly differentiating it from the more modern promiscuous up-and-coming labels.

Chanel: Jewish Owned?

So what do we learn from someone who vehemently disliked Jews yet benefitted their cause? This story goes in line with the blueprint plot of the majority of our Yomim Tovim: “They wanted to kill us, we fought, we won, let’s eat!” For from its early beginning and up until this day, the house of Chanel is a privately owned Jewish family business raking in an estimated $2 billion net worth of profit per year.

How you might you ask? Not short of a Yiddishe Kop, successful businessman Pierre Wertheimer sensed the rising success of Coco Chanel, and in 1922 funded the first venture of branding a perfume with a designers name, creating Chanel No. 5. Chanel owned a 10% share of the company, which Wertheimer bought out in 1924 after her attempts to gain a greater share. Despite giving up the rights to her name, Chanel still received a 2% royalty from all Chanel products, making her a significantly wealthy woman. Wertheimer muted her claims that she was being exploited of her talents by reminding her that without his endowment (which he did not ask her to repay) her business would never have had the chance it did to succeed. Anti Semitic sentiments, particularly towards the Wertheimer family, were refuelled during the Second World War when she attempted to use the law banning Jews from owning businesses to seize control of the company. Once again, Wertheimer was a step ahead, having arranged an Aryan proxy to run affairs while the family fled to America. At the war’s conclusion Wertheimer successfully regained full control of the business.

Chanel left the world childless, without any heiresses needed to inherit a name that did not belong to her. There is no denying the legacy she left to the fashion world. However, despite her wishes, the brand rests control in Pierre Wertheimer’s grandsons Alain and Gerrard who are said to have a combined net worth of $8 billion. The press-shy and discreet brothers seem to be swayed to good old family values, maintaining Chanel as one of the only privately-owned, family-run businesses in the cosmetics and apparel industry. Topping the pie with a cherry on top, the brands creative director Karl Lagerfeld (hired by the Wertheimers in 1983) is said to have Jewish ancestry, with some sources listing him as entirely of Jewish descent.

So, to wear or not wear? 
The question still remains. With due respect, one must take note of the many holocaust survivors who felt driving Golfs and Mercedes was an abomination of our ideals. No clear horaahs from the Rebbe could be found on this matter, leading me to believe that this is perhaps a decision based more on emotional sentiments rather than rationale. Personally that double C logo will never resemble the same luxurious image in my mental wardrobe again. But until such time that Hashem showers me with the blessings to afford to make such decisions, browsing the glamorous looks created by the Jewish-owned - perhaps Jewish-run -house never hurt a girl’s imagination.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Chanel Resort collection, 2011
Lagerfeld pulled off yet another refreshing and quintessentially picturesque ensemble at this year’s Chanel resort collection. Perfectly situated in the sun soaked city of St Tropez, the show saw models journey in on A-class motorboats ready to casually strut their pins down the street style runway, presenting a collection that saw the 70’s, grunge rock and bohemian styles meet, greet, shake hands and celebrate humanities effervescent craving to holiday. Caftans in frenzied pastals, long crocheted dresses and white lapelled ruffle dresses pinned against a sea of buttoned, tanned and patched accessories, offer just a few of the many looks from this up-beat celebratory show that can be adapted into the tznius wardrobe.

[All runway images courtesy of]




Diane von furstenburg

Kimchi blue tassel purse 
 Urban Outfitters
ASOS Mega Pack of Wooden and Enamel Bangles

Haute Hippie
Mixed Fringe Necklace

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tichel Uncovered

Tichel Uncovered
A reader asks, "A Lubavitcher wearing a headscarf out of the house?"
By Mimi Hecht

Dear Mrs. Hecht,

Your columns in the Algemeiner Journal English section are a pleasure to read! It's great to see this addition to the paper, with your engaging writing and the fascinating subjects you choose to write about. 

In your column a couple of weeks back, "Wrong Way on the Subway," you mentioned, "With my modest attire and headscarf and my husband's beard and Tzitzis, we are so obviously Jewish."  This made me want to ask you a question which I've wanted to ask many times since I moved to Crown Heights, but I've not had the opportunity to ask it. I hope you will forgive me when you see what the question is. I'm assuming you are a Lubavitcher; the question is moot if you're not. Why did you wear a headscarf on the subway (or anywhere else out of the house), rather than a sheitel? When I was in kallah classes, I was told the custom of Lubavitch women to wear a full sheitel whenever outside the house. But so often I see beautiful younger frum married ladies in Crown Heights who choose to wear a tichel or scarf. Look, the bottom line is that it's none of my business.  Please forgive me for asking what may very well leave you feeling offended, even though it is truly not my intent.  I wish you much success with your writing.  You have so much talent, and I will surely continue to enjoy your column.

 Mrs. YB
Crown Heights

Dear Mrs. YB,

Thank you for writing and choosing me to ask your question which has been on your mind for some time. The issue you are asking me to address requires I make myself quite vulnerable.As a member of the Chabad community, I have encountered many women and read many articles expanding on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s view on wearing headscarves in public. By responding to your query, I might be the first scarf-wearing Lubavitcher (yes, I am a Lubavitcher!) to publicize personal feelings about the issue. Nevertheless, I’m choosing to answer you publicly, for I trust that my thoughts also reflect those of a large and growing contingency within Chabad. I imagine you won’t find this a satisfactory “answer” per se, but perhaps it can shed light on how many young Chabad women today relate to the wig-or-scarf question.

Believe it or not, I actually looked forward to wearing a Sheitel (don't ask me why, since I loved my thick auburn curly hair that no wig can replicate). It only took a few tears during the weak of Sheva Brachos for me to realize that this mitzvah was going to be harder than I thought. A year and a half later, and I still feel uncomfortable and unattractive beneath the overpriced European strands we call a wig. I do wear it, and even recently decided to wear it more often. I feel proud that I cover my hair always, even taking on stringencies in my own way. However, quite simply, Chabad’s emphasis on “sheitels-only” is something I personally find impossible to comply with. To always wear a wig when venturing out of the house?  I’ll probably take on a million other resolutions before I commit to this strictly-Chabad custom that is, for me, somewhat unbearable. Unfortunately, I don't have what it takes to endure the "wig only" burden simply because it's a Lubavitch ideal. There, I said it. No matter how true the Rebbe's endorsement - yes, even with the Rebbe's enlightenment on the beauty and modesty of a sheitel – I can’t seem to forfeit the scarf and don a wig every time I appear in public.
I say this knowing that what makes the Lubavitch community so great in many ways is our living up to the Rebbe’s seemingly impossible standards. My hat goes off (metaphorically, of course) to all Lubavitch women who proudly follow the Rebbe's directives to wear a sheitel in public. Surely, they too may find it cumbersome, but they have the commendable self-sacrifice that the Rebbe elaborated on when he spoke about giving up wearing a scarf. I wonder if, someday, I will have this kind of self-sacrifice.

I am not unlike many other Lubavitchers - and indeed anyone who identifies with a strong community - in that I struggle to maintain an adherence to community customs when just the bare-minimum is, for me, hard enough. Add the fact that we don’t have the Rebbe’s physical voice paving the way; the struggle is intensified. You might look at me and make a quick assumption to the opposite, but the truth is that, not too deep beneath my headscarf, I intensely want to connect and adhere to the Rebbe's wisdom. I may enjoy flaunting my individuality and I certainly struggle with gray areas, but if I have any leader - any beacon of truth guiding my growing existence - it is the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  I often wonder what I would be like if I were privileged to have known the Rebbe, to have heard his voice myself. Perhaps I differ strongly from many other Lubavitchers when I say that, though the Rebbe guides me in many ways, I don’t feel his presence so strongly  in my everyday life. I am speechless when someone criticizes another for not being a “good enough” Lubavitcher. Who are we kidding? In my opinion, when you consider the situation today, Lubavitch women who strictly wear wigs deserve all the praise in the world, whereas women who don’t are so easily understood!

But while I may be an awful representation, I do believe that the Rebbe’s wisdom will always be unscathed. He always pointed out the unnerving truth in every matter. About wearing tichels, the Rebbe writes, “a woman is constantly put to the test, whether to cover all her hair, or just part of it.” How did the Rebbe know me so well? How true this is! When I wear my comfortable flower-printed scarves, I tie the knot and push the material back. Indeed, I would look and feel ridiculously old-fashioned were I to use this material to cover my hair in its entirety! Unlike with a wig, when I wear a headscarf I am immediately “put to the test” as to how much I will cover (a trial I probably fail all-too-often). I guess this is just one more thing for me to assess and improve on my journey as a Jewess.   

Thank you for writing. You have not offended me with your personal inquiry. Rather, you have given me a lot to think about, as well as two very important reminders: Firstly, no matter the method I choose to cover my hair, it must be exactly that: covered. Secondly, the importance of learning and going to the source in order to make stronger decisions as a Jewish woman. As with all things - both community customs and the strict law - I will fail then succeed then fail again. But as long as we can learn, grow and engage in these discussions without judgments, I am in for the ride. May we always have the compassion, wisdom and respect to understand each other in our individual choices and struggles.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Marriage Musings: Getting Rid of the Jiggle


Marriage Musings
By Russi Wachtel

Come back every week for Russi's marriage musings as 
she addresses every aspect of life as a newlywed! 
Read more about Russi on the author page!


A jiggle here and a jiggle there and I realized that my affair with food was not kosher.  I picked up on this after trying to fit into my spring clothing, and after trying on numerous skirts and none of them fitting, it hit me! There I was, one year into my marriage ,with an added fifteen pounds around my waist!

If only my love for food was like an elementary school crush that ends the second some extra pounds and a few pimples appear. Sadly though, it isn’t. Foods, all kinds of food, occupy my thoughts and fill me with longing and desire, which means that my relationship with food is much more than just a fleeting romance.

Before getting married, I was able to sublimate my cravings for food by cooking with healthy ingredients while reserving the extra calories for the desserts. That way, I was able to feed my hunger while also giving into my cravings. At night I would work off the cake by doing some tushy squats and sit-ups and - viola! - I was able to maintain a pretty svelte figure.

After getting married, my eating habits began to change to match that of my husbands. My husband’s diet is a little different than mine in that it includes every single fattening ingredient possible. He is able to turn a healthy dinner, such as grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, into an oil-fest by making slight improvisations on the dinner menu.The hard part is that every single thing he cooks tastes like a piece of heaven. He puts such spirit and energy into the preparations of the food that it is difficult to say no when just the smell of it makes my tummy growl with anticipation.

As it turned out, not only did my healthy eating habits wither away but with time so did my exercise routine.  The result: added weight and an extra wiggle in my walk. My husband’s insistent compliments that the additional weight only made for more loving didn’t exactly help either. Eleven months and fifteen pounds later, I found myself sucking in my stomach in order to squeeze into a skirt that fit me just a few months earlier. It was a pretty tough situation to be in.  Not only was I struggling with the zipper but I also had to face reality that my body did not appreciate the way I was treating it for the last few months.

It was then that I realized that if I didn’t make a quick change to my lifestyle then the weight would just continue to pile on until I would feel extremely dissatisfied with myself and my body.  It took imagining myself as a sumo wrestler to really get me going.

With vigor I began to workout and eat better, which helped me lose six pounds. My husband has joined me on my quest and is also losing some weight.  With a bit of compromising and little give and take, we have been able to workout meal plans that keep us both happy.  

As a newlywed, I had difficulty dealing with the lifestyle change that came with getting married. I didn’t know how to combine the habits of single life with married life. Now, a year later and six pounds lighter, I realize the importance of integrating my old ways into my new life. Adjusting to the lifestyle change that comes with marriage has its complications. However, with some time and creativity, a couple can find the midline between what worked for them when they were single and what works for them as a husband and wife.