Hold The Phone

Dear Editor,

As I read Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg’s remarkable article decrying the prevalence of cell phones in shul (“Tefillah in Crisis,” August 28), I recalled a Shacharis several months ago when I could not help but notice a man reading something on his phone. Finally the man looked up at me and scowled, as if to say, “What is your problem?”

Well, yes, my friend, this is my problem, and it is my business. A minyan is not merely an amalgam of people brought together by happenstance. A minyan is a sanctified entity unto itself, a sum far greater than its parts. The Sages tell us that public prayer is more powerful than private prayer. Therefore, when a minyan forms, every participant has a vested interest in what goes on in the minyan as a whole. This is even truer when tefillah takes place in a shul, where the Divine Presence abides.

We cannot presume to know the adverse effect that distractions can have upon the magnificent setting that a minyan provides. Distractions can, G‑d forbid, cause the Divine Presence to leave the shul. Unnecessary conversations, the reading of newspapers, and yes, the use of cell phones, are all included among these distractions.

Some may argue that there are mispallelim who are using an app with which to daven. I would respond that such apps are meant for circumstances where there are no Siddurim, such as in an airport lounge or a baseball stadium. But it is simply wrong to daven using a phone app when present in a shul, where Siddurim abound.

I believe that Rabbi Ginzberg, and his fellow shul rabbanim, hold the answer to the cell-phone plague in their hands. The rabbanim are the spiritual leaders of their synagogues, and they therefore have the final say regarding shul matters. It is high time that rabbanim take a stand and ban phones from the sanctuary.

Last week, I experienced an “aha” moment in shul. At Shacharis, I saw a teenager looking at his phone (hidden under his Siddur) after chazarasha’shatz. I went over to him and quietly asked, “Would you like me to hold your phone until davening is finished?” He answered, in almost a pleading tone, “Would you?” I did, and I returned the phone right after davening. One of his friends (who also had his phone in shul) told me, “It’s an addiction.” I realized that people know that it is improper to bring a phone into shul, and that the pull is so strong that some simply cannot withstand the temptation.

Regardless, unless one is a doctor [i.e., someone who may need to respond to life-threatening emergencies], there is absolutely no reason to bring a phone into shul. If someone does accidentally bring his or her phone inside, there should be a designated place where the phone can be deposited until after davening. (Some synagogues now provide storage locations for phones.) If a rav sees someone using a phone in shul, the rav should say something! Especially as the YamimNora’im approach, let us exercise particular care to protect the sanctity of our synagogues.

Avi Goldstein

Far Rockaway

And Connections

Dear Editor,

It is with great respect to Mrs. Baila Sebrow, author of the 5 Towns Dating Forum column, that I write this letter. I can only imagine how difficult shadchanus is, and the level of concern that she expresses for the singles she works with is admirable.

I would like to reiterate a point that I glossed over at first when reading the September 4 Dating Forum about the “older single” struggling to figure out if he should continue to date the woman he was seeing. The questioner (herself a shadchan) depicted the “older single” and his struggle in not feeling any “fireworks or euphoria” with this woman. Ms. Sebrow wholeheartedly agreed that this man is making a huge mistake because those feelings are not what truly makes a good marriage.

I imagine that what was meant in this forum was to strongly caution singles against falling in love with “fireworks and euphoria” but having nothing deeper to hold the relationship together. Being a therapist myself, and bringing in my own strong ideas and theories about what makes for a healthy marriage, I initially missed the part in which Mrs. Sebrow contrasted feelings of “fireworks and euphoria” with feelings of connection. I would like to continue the discussion of this important topic.

As stated, a marriage needs more than shared hashkafos and interests, and even attraction, to flourish. While all those things are important, marriage needs a connection on a deeper level to be sustainable. We can have interests and hashkafos that are similar with many other people’s, but a deeper connection that forms the basis of a marriage comes from understanding one another on a deeper level (even if there aren’t words to express it at this early stage) and a comfortableness and safety in the relationship.

As a couples therapist, I believe that couples that have a deep connection as the basis of their marriage have the ability to pull through all the struggles and challenges they will face. On the flip side, a couple that got married only because they were told that the feelings would come later have nothing to hold their marriage together when challenges arise.

It is important for an individual to feel comfortable with their choice in a spouse, not just marrying in the hope that they will eventually feel that way. An individual at this stage in their relationship, if told to continue dating despite not feeling anything yet (in the hopes that they will feel something in the future), may be left questioning his or her own feelings and needs. It is imperative to create this space (as a competent shadchan or therapist can do) to allow an individual to delve into and explore the need for connection, and begin to develop trust in one’s own feelings.

If any readers are struggling with making sense of their own feelings (as we all do) at any stage of life and relationships, I encourage them to reach out to a competent professional who can help them sort through it all. Lastly, I ask that everyone learn to develop trust in their own feelings and be guided by those feelings. After all, feelings never lie.

Shifra Schnair

Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist

Local Officials And The Iran Deal

Dear Editor,

August 25–Like many in our community, I am dismayed by the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Given Iran’s stated goals of “death to America” and “death to Israel,” the money Iran would receive from the relaxing of sanctions–at least $50 billion–would undoubtedly be used to fund terrorism in the region. Iran is quite clear in its desire to develop nuclear weapons, and this deal is a step towards achieving that objective.

Despite repeated assurances, the Obama administration was unable to secure “anywhere, anytime” inspections. With a 24-day inspection delay, how can we be sure Iran will not cheat? We can’t. Iran would reap extreme financial benefits from the deal–and will share the spoils with its terrorist proxies–while continuing to develop its nuclear program. And when the deal expires in ten years? Iran will be nuclear-armed, richer than ever, and a more potent threat to America, Israel, and the entire world.

I want to thank everyone who has voiced their opposition to this deal. Many local organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to hold our elected officials accountable to us, their constituents. I had the privilege to participate in the Orthodox Union Advocacy Group’s meeting with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, where we urged her to make an informed decision against party lines. Thankfully, Congresswoman Rice is receptive to the concerns of her constituents and considers this a top priority.

I am disappointed that some county elected officials remain silent while so many local individuals and organizations work hard to voice our opposition to the deal. Because of the influence intrinsic in elected office, our local officials are uniquely positioned to voice our concerns and opinions. We need county officials who will embrace the responsibilities and duties of elected office and relentlessly advocate for their constituents.

Tova Plaut


Note: Ms. Plaut is a candidate for the Nassau County Legislature, District Seven



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