Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review April 10, 2003 / 8 Nisan, 5763


Family picture imperfect; they 'don't get it' --- but I do!


By Wendy Belzberg


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: At a recent family gathering, one of my sisters asked her husband to take a picture of our family: my parents, siblings and all of the grandchildren. No spouses. My wife felt slighted and thought that everyone should have been included. Was this insensitive on our parts?

A: Perhaps it would have been more diplomatic had your sister started with a full group shot and then (allegedly on a whim) pared it down to your immediate family. I can certainly understand how your wife could have been hurt. Having said that, I have a message for her: grow up. Your parents and siblings predate her arrival--in fact, predate even your courtship of her. If your wife can't understand that the problem is entirely hers.

Q: I heard somewhere that a gift of salt and flour bring good fortune to a new home. Is this a Jewish tradition and is there a blessing that goes with it?

A: Flour is a new one to me, but there is a Jewish tradition of bringing salt to a new home. Bread and candles are also traditional. Salt is a reminder of the sacrifices that took place during the time of the Temple; bread is symbolic of an abundance of food; and candles represent light and joy. All are lovely symbols and gestures. For the record, wishes for a sweet and robust life accompanied by a box of Godiva milk chocolate caramels seems just as thoughtful-maybe more. Blessings associated with dedicating a new home are said when the Mezuzah is placed on the doorpost, the most important ceremony associated with moving.

Q: My mother-in-law claims that my 15-year-old brother-in-law was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was in 4th grade. There is no record of the evaluation. When I ask my brother-in-law what he experiences when he reads, he says that he just "doesn't get what he's reading." I know from working closely with him on his homework that, in fact, he can read; he is just extremely slow. I suspect he is functionally illiterate. He knows other people will do his reading for him and is too lazy to do the work himself. Because his mother is convinced that he is dyslexic, she does nothing to encourage any progress on his part and adamantly resists my wife's and my attempts to push him to work harder. What can we do?

A: Your zeal and obvious good intentions are points in your favor. But you stand as guilty as your mother-in-law. She may indeed be too willing to sacrifice her son to a learning disability that many accomplished individuals compensate for and to live with. You, on the other hand, are too willing to dismiss your brother-in-law's delays as laziness. Dyslexia is but one of many learning disabilities that can interfere with reading and comprehension. Even the experts can be baffled by how the human brain receives and processes information. And you are clearly no expert. Why don't you and your wife meet your mother-in-law on neutral territory: in the office of a professional educator and tester. While you and your mother-in-law engage in righteous debate, your 15 year-old brother-in-law is losing critical time. Let the experts decide what learning disabilities, if any, your brother-in-law suffers from and how he can best learn. Then you and your mother-in-law can present a united front and together locate tutors and the best learning environments in which he might thrive.


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04/03/03: One less Jewish doctor?; being prayed at
03/20/03: Lost connection; in search of a model; daughters-in-law are the root of all evil
02/27/03: Collective punishment: The readers weigh in --- against me
02/07/03: Collective punishments; too much for a mother-in-law?
01/23/03: Honor thy parents, buy them a fancy condo?; my kid caught me lying; kid's teacher gossips about him
12/26/02: The bride's Kosher crisis; in denial about daughter?
12/18/02: Am I a 'quitter'?; all-expenses-paid nightmare; alienating brainy son
12/12/02: Bread, milk and a rabbi?; 'special status child' cause of fraying friendship
11/21/02: Attire in the Divine's 'house'; marriage failed, who gets the gifts?; does the fruit fall far from the deformed tree?
11/14/02: Does father know best?; excuses, excuses
11/01/02: Should son be able to flee the nest to the college of choice?; elderly 'friend' is becoming different person
09/28/02: 'Good friends' who take but don't give; a wife's right to know; he wants to be rude about Jews
09/01/02: Family peace, but at what price?
08/28/02: Revealing sworn secret will impact many lives; misplaced friendship?
08/22/02: Seeking help for hubby's High Holy Days hi-jinks; perplexed by parents' request; take 'em or leave 'em?
08/16/02: Trial makes friendship trying; experiencing one loss, facing another; wives and brides
08/09/02: Wedding woes are a commercial for elopement; miss the bris (circumcision)?
07/25/02: A love for the ages?; learning the steps; off the wall
07/17/02: I don't mean to sound anti-Semitic but ; Doesn't etiquette dictate that a good host make his guests feel comfortable?
06/21/02: Doing business with an Arab; driving down the road of life with my mother-in-law tailgating me; sentimental gulf clubs
06/12/02: Anti-Semites everywhere!; no need for marriage
06/06/02: Sacrifice my happiness or my family's?; bad call on 'friend'
05/30/02: Attending my ex-mother-in-law's funeral; in search of forgiveness
05/21/02: Danger and duty; host of issues; desperately seeking surgery
03/20/02: Multiples for mom; partners and martyrs; I'm a gentile --- should I explore Judaism's spiritual side?
03/07/02: Disabled child taught family love, patience and compassion
02/15/02: Sisterhood on the line; Time to cross Ts on ex?
02/04/02: Clueless convert-in-training; loyal to a wife who walked out?
01/25/02: The new 'Jewish question'; unfaithful oldsters; gambling on our family's future
01/18/02: Should son invite mom to bar mitzvah - against dad's wishes?; pay-off time?; 'my son is blackmailing me'
01/10/02: Hard to move on; separation anxiety
01/04/02: Salvaging a sister; mother knows best?
12/27/01: Paying for somebody else's charity; Down(s) and out?
12/21/01: 'Brownie points' for the Creator; I love my husband, but not his family; open-door policy needs to be closed sometimes
12/05/01: 'I celebrate Chanukah you insensitive anti-Semite!'; idealism v. responsibility; stolen gifts
11/27/01: Doubts or reservations one may have about reaching out to friends and strangers alike who are in need: From the mail bag
11/16/01: Tripping out; tactics for tactlessness; Am I a hypocrite?
11/01/01: My co-religionists are proselytizing me; tragedy intruder?; meddling mama?
10/19/01: Outside world hits home; money and mommies
10/12/01: Vacation separation; Risk present for past?
09/20/01: Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!
09/07/01: Too much Torah?; Name-dropping rabbi turns off worshippers
08/30/01: Jewish 'godparents'?; summer homework
08/02/01: Have wife, won't travel; 'dis' --- as in 'distant'
07/26/01: Grandparents not invited to bar mitzvah; what to do about older sister's foul mouth; nuptial narcissism
07/19/01: Bad mannered, uncouth ethnics; lookin' for love
07/05/01: Faithless Rabbi; my wife won't let me retire; I'm in relationship limbo
06/21/01: New customs for assimilated Jews?; the business of friendship; aunty is a bad role model
06/13/01: Our friends have become political traitors; Is it love?
06/06/01: Teaching kids about the Creator, when parents aren't observant; 'wonderful woman' 'fesses up about her broken engagement; How do I find a matchmaker for my 'beautiful daughter?'
05/31/01: Couple he fixed-up is in a nasty breakup; overwrought over ring
05/16/01: The gift was counterfeit; settling for the daughter; the lush and the ostrich
05/02/01: 'Jew questions' and falsifying faith; magic marker mayhem; I want kids
04/25/01: Anti-Semites everywhere?; shilling for gifts; my kid is the 'weakest link'
04/05/01: Celebrating when Passover is inconvenient; What's wrong with the name 'Melvyn,'?; Difference dilemma: Husbands and wives and Passover observance levels
03/19/01: 7-4=insensitivity?; baby showers and tempting fate; Splitsville before or after marriage?
03/12/01: Passover party-pooper; slapped by a moral dilemma
02/14/01: Human 'mutts,' getting over it, same-sex kesubas
02/08/01: Bar/bat mitzvah blues, homework he-l, from potty to potty-mouth
01/24/01: Naughty neighbor, unprofessional colleague is dead, I'm a Jew, now what?
01/15/01: Rabbis who won't; when the rules of the 'game' change; ungracious grannies
01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
01/02/01: A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits
12/18/00: Babes in Chanukah Land; my husband the kvetch; bad hair marriage?
12/04/00: My niece is a no-goodnik, when lifecycle events become dangerous, Orthodox v. Reform education
11/28/00: My ex is ruining my kids' souls; the mouth that won't stop
11/21/00: Battling brothers; how to keep a nanny
11/08/00: OY VEY! my son wants to become Orthodox; kiddies should avoid family therapy
11/08/00: Rabbi v. therapist, grandparents bearing gifts, I want my son's teacher for a sister-in-law
10/24/00: Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'
10/10/00:Tipsy teens, protective spouses, kosher common-sense
10/03/00: I'm not Jewish --- not that there's anything wrong with it; mezuza machlokes; when granddad has cancer
09/25/00: I can't take Rosh Hashanah! Something for nothing? My husband needs a dinner mate
09/18/00: 'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice
09/11/00: Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'

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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg