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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

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April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

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April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

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Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 18, 2004 / 25 Adar, 5764

Person To Person

By Libby Lazewnik

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https://www.jewishworldreview.com | It was Dini who suggested that they play in the attic on that snowy afternoon, but it was Shmulie who found the letters.

They were at the bottom of an old chest of drawers, long forgotten in a dusty corner of the attic. He glanced at the addresses on the yellowed envelopes. One and all, they held his father's name.

"Someone wrote these to Daddy," Shmulie said.

"Check the return address," Dini suggested. Shmulie did, and announced, "All the letters were sent by Uncle Mordy!"

Uncle Mordy was not really the children's uncle, but a first cousin of their father's. A very close first cousin. With no brothers of his own, Daddy often remarked that his cousin Mordy was like a brother to him. "And always has been," he would add, smiling.

"Maybe Uncle Mordy wrote the letters from camp or something," Dini speculated. But Shmulie shook his head.

"No, the dates on the postmarks are winter dates. Some spring ones, too... and summer. Hey, they even go into the fall! There must be a whole year's worth of letters here."

"Hmm. They must have been really close, even that far back. I mean, writing letters and all. That's not usually the kind of thing boys do."

Shmulie bristled. "Whaddaya mean, 'boys do'?"

"Exactly that. Boys aren't such big letter-writers. Everyone knows that. How much stationery do they sell for boys?" Dini folded her arms, resting her case.

Shmulie carried the letters downstairs, not deigning to answer. Impatiently, he waited for his father to return home from work.

By tacit agreement, Dini let him be the one to show the letters to their father, after he'd brushed the snow off his coat and hung it up. After all, Shmulie had been the one to find them.

Daddy's eyes lit up when he saw the bundle in his son's hand. "Hey, where'd you find those? I haven't seen them in ages!"

"They were in the bottom drawer of an old chest in the attic," Shmulie told him.

"My old chest of drawers! Well, imagine coming across those letters, after all this time..." He flipped through the envelopes, pulling out a letter here, scanning a paragraph there.

"Why'd Uncle Mordy write you so many letters, Daddy?" Dini asked, making herself comfortable on a hassock at Daddy's feet. Shmulie perched on the arm of his father's chair. "It wasn't even from camp!"

Daddy smiled, remembering. "We started writing each other because of something my sister said — your Aunt Tzivia. She was absolutely convinced that boys were no letter-writers. She said that boys are simply not very good communicators..."

Dini shot her brother a triumphant look. "Well, that's true, isn't it?"

"That depends," her father replied. "Let me tell you about Uncle Mordy and me, and you can decide for your-selves...

"Parting is such sweet sorrow," Tzivia sighed. Her cousin, Shaindy, at twelve a year younger, heaved a sigh that was the twin of Tzivia's. "I know what you mean. It's so hard to leave."

"I don't want to leave either," Mordy declared. He and his cousin, Avi, both eleven, were playing a last game of marbles — or trying to. It's hard to concentrate when you've got about fifteen minutes left before having to say good-bye and climb into a car and travel hundreds of miles away. The fact that the cousins were going home didn't make it that much better.

"Well, at least we'll write," Tzivia said with gloomy satisfaction.

"I'm going to write my first letter to you tomorrow, Shaindy, on my brand-new stationery."

"I'll write you every week," Shaindy promised.

Tzivia glanced at her brother and other cousin. "How about you, boys? I'll bet you won't exchange a word until we see each other again."

"Sure we will!" Mordy said robustly. "What are phones for?"

Avi nodded vigorously. "Yeah! I'll call you every week, Mordy — person-to-person!" He wasn't sure what the term meant, exactly, but he'd heard his father use it once, and it sounded very businesslike.

"Big deal," Tzivia sniffed. "Calling someone up is not really communicating with them. You just say silly things, like, 'How are you?' and 'How's the family?', while the things you really want to say are all bottled up inside. Now, in a letter you can really share things."

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"That's right! I'll share my favorite peanut-butter-cookie recipe with you," Shaindy said loyally.

"That's not exactly what I meant," Tzivia said. "I'm talking about feelings — new experiences — dilemmas. Things like that. Things that you share if you really want to reach somebody. Things that are hard to fit into a casual phone call."

"I'll fit plenty into my calls," Avi declared.

"Me, too," added Mordy. They were not about to be out-done by their sisters.

"In fact," Tzivia warmed to her theme, "I'll bet the two of you couldn't write letters if you tried. Boys just aren't good communicators, that's all."

"Who says?" Mordy and Avi cried together.

"I do. And I'll prove it to you." Tzivia leaned back, enjoying the attention, and very sure of scoring her point. "I challenge you boys to write to each other while you're apart. Just once a month. And I'll even put a cap on it — six months. Just six letters. Bet you can't do it."

"Bet we can," the boys answered automatically.

"Okay, then." Tzivia smiled serenely. "Six months from now, I want to see six letters postmarked from Toronto, dated approximately one month apart. Mordy, you'll show Shaindy your six letters from Avi. Don't worry, we won't ask to read the letters themselves. Only the postmarks."

The boys exchanged a glance. The same thought had zinged through both their minds. Tzivia caught it neatly, like a ball on the rebound. "And no sending each other a blank piece of paper, or a few scrawled words. This has to be a real letter. You're on your honor. Do you agree?"

Neither boy had the slightest interest in committing himself to writing six whole letters over the course of the next half-year. In the pause that followed her question, Tzivia saw their hesitation. She pounced.

"Aha! I was right. Boys just don't know how to communicate. I mean really communicate."

"We'll do it!" her brother shouted. "I can communicate as good as you, any day!"

"As well," Tzivia murmured.

"What about you, Mordy?" Shaindy asked. "Are you game?"

"Sure! Anything you girls can do, we can do, too. You'll see!"

"Maybe," Tzivia said, "and maybe not. We'll talk in six months..."

The adults came in then, to announce that it was time to go. The minivan was already loaded up, and lunches had been prepared for the long drive. Now all that remained was a flurry of good-byes. Tzivia and Avi stood beside their parents and younger siblings in front of their house, regretfully watching their cousins drive away, and waving after them until their arms hurt.

Avi put off thinking about his letter-writing commitment for a whole week after the cousins had gone. After all, he'd just seen Mordy, hadn't he? It would be better to wait until something interesting happened, to give him something to write about.

As it turned out, however, it was Mordy who wrote the first letter. It arrived in the mail exactly twelve days after the cousins had driven away.

Dear Avi,

It feels weird writing to you, but I am so bored at the moment that anything's better than just sitting here. Here's the story: My neighbors, the Feldbaums, are very old, and Mr. Feldbaum fell and broke his hip, and Mrs. Feldbaum needed someone to sit with him for a while every day, while she does the shopping and other errands. And guess who my parents volunteered? That's right — me! So here I am, watching Mr. Feldbaum sleep, and writ-ing to you.

Actually, sitting here is not only boring... It's also a little scary. I look at Mr. Feldbaum, and I try to picture what he must have looked like when he was our age. He once ran around like us, and yelled and laughed, and fell down, and tore his pants, and got up again to do it some more. He had homework and tests, and a best friend, probably. And now, here he is — lying in bed, with wrinkles on his face and hair that's gone completely white. How does he feel, lying there?

When he's awake, he seems cheerful enough. He's got his wife with him, Baruch Hashem[Thank G-d], and their children come often to visit. But, still, sitting here alone with him is... scary. It's scary because... Well, I guess it's because I know that I'll be him, one day — and I don't know if I'll do everything I'm supposed to in my life by the time I get there. What if I'm as old as Mr. Feldbaum, and look back at my life and realize that I haven't done what I set out to do? What if I wish I could do it all over again and get it right, but it's too late? That's why being old is scary, I think. Because now you can't say, 'I'll do better tomor-row'. Tomorrow is already here.

Sorry for going on this way. It's just because of being all alone here. If Mr. Feldbaum wakes up soon it'll be better, because we'll play checkers, and he'll tell me a joke or two, or maybe a story from when he was a kid. Meanwhile, at least I got my first letter to you out of the way! Your turn next...

And he signed it, Sincerely, Mordy.

Avi read the letter with interest. He hadn't expected such a long letter, or such a confidential one. If he'd thought about it at all, he'd have expected his cousin's letter to tell him about school stuff, and playing ball, and maybe something cute that his baby sister had done that day. He found himself thinking about the things Mordy had written, long after he'd tucked the letter away in a drawer.

Maybe that was why, when he sat down to compose his first letter to Mordy, he found himself writing about a problem he was having with his rebbe [religious teacher] at school.

...It's not that he doesn't teach well — he does. And he doesn't particularly pick on me, either. Not in a mean way, anyway. But we just don't click, know what I mean?

My father calls it 'chemistry'. That means that two people understand each other without even trying, and it's no problem at all for them to get along great. He says that sometimes there's terrific chemistry between a rebbe and a student, and the student just soaks up his teacher's words like a sponge. With me and my rebbe, it's like there's a brick wall standing between us. I just don't follow his way of explaining things, and somehow he sees me in a bad light and thinks that I'm not paying attention when I am. I'm not sure how to deal with this. Daddy says he'll give it some thought, and maybe bring it up at the next parent-teacher conference, which is coming up soon. I'll keep you posted...

Dear Avi,

Thanks for your letter. I hope your problem with your rebbe works itself out. I once had a teacher like that, and some awful year that was! Let me know what happens.

I know it's not a whole month since my last letter, but a funny thing happened yesterday and I feel like writing about it. I don't mean ha-ha funny. I mean weird-funny. Here's what happened:

Yesterday, we were playing ball in the empty lot near my house, and this kid — I'll call him Yossi — kept striking out. Also, whenever he played outfield, he kept dropping the ball. The other kids made a little fun of him, you know how kids talk in the heat of a game. Anyway, on the way home, I stopped to tie my shoe and heard a strange sound coming from behind a bush. I investigated — and there was Yossi, crying!

He hadn't seen me. I could've slipped away, thinking, 'Boy, what a baby. Crying over a stupid ball game.' But, maybe because of hanging around at the Feldbaums, and thinking about getting my life right so I won't have regrets when I'm old, I did something different. I thought about how I would feel, if I were in his place. A loser... Not a great feeling, let me tell you. So I crouched down next to him — he wanted to run away, at first, but I tried to show him that he didn't have to be scared that I'd make fun of him, too — and whispered to him that it was okay, that he was a great guy even if ball wasn't his thing. His tears dried up so fast, it was like the sun coming out in his eyes!

We walked home together, and he gave me such a big smile when I left him at his door, I thought his face would split it two! It's a weird feeling, to know you have the power to make another person that happy...

I know it's just a week or so since I last wrote you, Mordy, but a lot has been going on, and writing to you is better than writing in a diary! Because someone actually gets to read it. (I've never had a diary, but my sister Tzivia has her nose buried in hers practically all the time.)

My father met with Rebbe last night, and told him how I'd been feeling. Rebbe was surprised. It seems he'd thought I just wasn't very interested, when the real problem is that he just goes too fast for me to really get the material. Anyway, they decided that I should give it another month, and if by the end of that time I'm still feeling the same way, I'm going to switch to the other class. Rebbe said if that happens, there'll be no hard feelings. In fact, he said he respects me for being so honest, and so anxious to do well in class. He just didn't know.

Write back soon...

Sincerely, Avi.

From time to time, Tzivia would catch sight of an envelope addressed to her brother, lying with the rest of the mail on the small table in the front hall. When she did, she'd be sure to make a comment to Avi about it. Though the comments were approving, after a while Avi asked his mother to please put his mail aside, out of his sister's sight, until he got home from yeshiva. He didn't want his sister to be involved in his letters to and from Mordy, even in a positive way. They had become too precious to him.

Sometimes they wrote every week; other times, a couple of weeks would pass between letters. Rarely did a full month go by. A month is a long time not to share your heart with someone you feel as close to as Avi and Mordy were beginning to feel to each other.

When they'd reluctantly agreed to meet Tzivia's challenge, they'd been good cousins and great pals. Now, they were real friends. There's a difference.

"So you proved her wrong, didn't you, Daddy?" Shmulie asked, from his perch on the arm of his father's seat. "You proved that boys can, so, be good communicators!"

"I proved that Mordy and I could be, anyway," Daddy chuckled. "Maybe sharing feelings comes more naturally to girls. But boys have feelings, too — lots of them. And finding someone to tell them to can be wonderful."

"Why did the letters last only that one year?" Shaindy asked curiously. "Why'd you stop?"

Daddy smiled. "For a very simple reason: Mordy's family moved to New York. Now they lived close to us, and Mordy and I even went to the same yeshiva. So there was no more need for writing letters." He sounded a little regretful.

"Did you stay close anyway?" Shaindy wanted to know. "Mostly, yes. We'd gotten into the habit of talking about real things, know what I mean? It would have been hard to go back to the old way, where we'd only talked about the games we were playing and things like that. But there had been something really special about putting things down in words." He glanced at the small bundle of letters in his hand. "I'm going to read through these tonight. Wonder if Mordy kept his, too?"

"What did Tzivia say when you showed her how many letters you'd actually written?" Shmulie asked, bouncing eagerly. "I'll bet she had to eat her words then!"

Daddy looked a little sheepish. "Not exactly. You see, I only showed her six postmarked envelopes — one for each month of our deal. Mordy did the same. We never let our sisters know that we'd written so many, or for so long. We were embarrassed."

"Why?" Shaindy asked in astonishment.

"Well, you know how it is. We just couldn't put into words what those letters had come to mean to us. After all," Daddy grinned broadly, "we boys are not very good communicators! Right, Shmulie?"

Shmulie grinned back, but his eyes were thoughtful. "Maybe I'll write something to Yitzi, the kid I made friends with in camp this past summer. We speak on the phone now and then, but it's not the same..."

"I'll lend you a piece of my nicest stationery, if you want," Shaindy offered.

Shmulie shuddered. "Thanks — but no thanks! This is going to be a boy letter."

He wasn't sure, exactly, what such a letter would look like, when he was done. But, for the first time, it occurred to him that it might be fun to find out.

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting and inspirational stories. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Libby Lazewnik, the highly acclaimed juvenile fiction author, writes weekly for Yated Ne'eman. Comment by clicking here.

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