Dear Dr. Yael,
I wanted to share with you a success story about my life. I am originally from Iran and left with my baby about 30 years ago. At that time Khomeini came to power and there was a danger that my husband would be conscripted into the army. We paid someone to take us out. We were a group of frum Jews who left with an Iranian Jewish driver and we made believe we were going on a family trip. He drove us to the border and we were left in a hole in the ground. We had powdered milk and water for our baby and diapers and clothes, but no food for ourselves.
Late that night, the smugglers came with five camels. We traveled through the night and into the morning. At one point, my husband, who was holding the baby, dropped the water bottles. The smugglers were angry that we had not drugged the baby, but baruch Hashem he slept through the night.
When we arrived in Pakistan they gave us bananas and clementines. I will never forget how delicious that fruit was. We stayed in a disgusting hotel for a month until they sent us on to Vienna. On Erev Pesach we moved into an apartment which we then had to clean for Pesach. We had no idea where we would be for the seder.
Baruch Hashem, today I have a large family with married children and grandchildren. We appreciate all the brachos Hashem gave us. Although Pesach is a lot of work for me, as it is for many women, I have a completely different attitude in regards to the Yomim Tovim. We know what it is to literally have nothing and go into Pesach not even knowing if we will have food to eat. I get upset when people complain about the work they have to do before Pesach or not finding the right outfits for their kids etc. Maybe my letter will inspire people to appreciate what they have.
Your letter inspired me as I am sure it will others.
As a therapist, I am privy to much of the fighting that goes on during Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim. It is sad that people do not appreciate the simcha they can have with family around. When you are brought up with everything coming so easily to you, it is hard to treasure the fact that we can easily buy the food that we need and sleep comfortably in our homes.
Research has shown that during holiday gatherings people often regress to childlike roles. No matter how mature your relatives may be in everyday life, when thrown together in an old, familiar situation, they regress and their “issues” take center stage. Why? Experience has taught them that this behavior succeeds in getting people to focus on them and their agendas, says Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.
While you can’t control the actions of your role-playing relatives, you can at least control your own reactions. Here, authorities on etiquette and family dynamics offer strategies for handling a table full of problem personalities.
The “Constructive” Criticizer
Often heard saying: “When I was in your situation, I knew exactly what I had to do.” The offense: Gives you unsolicited advice about everything from raising your kids to raising your hemline. Your course of action: “The criticizer relies on his ability to bait you,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies. Don’t take the bait: Thank him, point out facts he may have overlooked, and move on. If he keeps offering barbed comments disguised as advice, Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave, suggests cutting him off with a breezy, “Don’t worry about me – I’m fine!”
Often heard saying: “Yup, just a sec… I’ll be riiiight in.” The offense: Refuses to help with the cooking, cleaning, childcare, or anything. Your course of action: “Entertain the possibility that this person doesn’t realize anyone needs help, or perhaps he’s worried that if he were given a task to complete, he’d fail,” says Tiger. Give him precise instructions, something like, “David, it would be a great help if you went ahead and started rinsing the dishes. Let me get you an apron.”
Answering a negative with a positive is a great way to stop someone in his or her negative tracks.
Thank you for your letter and I hope that everyone will be inspired to appreciate Shabbos and Yom Tov.