Posts tagged " privacy "

I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

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Exposed

May 16th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Even as I wrote it, I was disturbed by my last week’s Musing. The Musing’s premise was that we shouldn’t be surprised by hypocrisy in our politicians. I think, sadly, that this is true.  When many citizens demand that elected officials sanctimoniously parrot standardized phrases and then vote on the basis of those politically correct formulations we shouldn’t be surprised that the words of those running for office don’t match their personal actions.

This is not confined to politicians, of course. Our society keeps on pushing people to say one thing and think, believe and do another. For example, for many years now students taking a variety of exams, have been forced to choose between marking what they know to be the officially correct answer or responding with the truth according to their beliefs and, often, according to science. Recently, the MCATs, taken by aspiring doctors, added ideological questions that compel religious Christians and Jews to make exactly that deeply disturbing choice.

However writing about Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as New York’s Attorney General after allegations of disturbing personal conduct were made, troubled me. This resignation follows a pattern in a continuing series of stories that fling private matters into the public realm.

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Telling All on Facebook

November 16th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

Question:

I have a son-in-law who feels a need to confide in Facebook as if this is a close personal friend.  What would motivate a person to spill their guts on social media?

Susan T.

Answer: 

Dear Susan,

Society often swings from one extreme to another. I think that most of us laugh when we read memoirs from earlier centuries that speak of close family members not acknowledging a pregnancy until the baby arrived, but surely we have gone overboard in our ‘spill all the beans all the time,’ culture.

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My friend is a snoop!

June 3rd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

While I was asleep, a friend of mine had the nerve to look at all the texts on my phone. Now, that friend is confronting me about some of what he read, stuff that he would not even know if he had not invaded my privacy by looking at the text messages. I am quite upset and don’t feel I owe him any explanation about what is, frankly, none of his business.
 
Please advise me of your wise opinion on this matter.
 
Please respond as soon as possible!

∼ Leah S.

Answer:

Dear Leah,

Our tagline is ‘ancient wisdom for modern problems,’ so we’d like to give you an answer that dates back about 1,000 years. At that time, a leader of the generation in Germany, Rabbi Gershom (960-1040), decreed that reading other people’s mail was illegal.

How can this be? Are we to understand that up until his time people routinely read one another’s mail?  Considering that ancient Jewish wisdom on Numbers 24:5 explains that the enemy, Balaam praised the Jewish people for taking care to respect each other’s privacy while in the desert, was prohibiting the reading of other people’s mail truly a necessary step forward?

The answer is that this was not an advanced, breakthrough ruling. Rather, it was an acknowledgment that the Jews in Germany were losing a sensitivity that their ancestors had possessed. Having to put such an idea into law meant that what was always understood as proper behavior was being ignored.

Privacy in our day has almost disappeared. Even the most circumspect of us, willingly or not, share personal details with the government, retailers and random strangers. Many people choose to broadcast the most awful parts of their lives in popular entertainment and public forums.

Your friend was entirely in the wrong. The question is not whether you owe him an explanation, it is whether your  friendship can survive. He cannot forget what he saw although he was wrong to look. You may need to recognize that by talking about certain things on What’sApp or by text,  you also did not assign proper respect and confidentiality to your own life. Either of these facts may destroy the relationship. Both together probably will at the very least change your relationship.

If you both want it to survive, you will need to have a frank discussion of what values you see as belonging in a friendship. You may also want to read some of our previous Ask the Rabbi questions on friendships between men and women.

Wishing you privacy,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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