Parents worry how they can help their son grow to be a healthy Jewish man with the proper perspective on matters of k’dushah. There was a huge need for a book that would guide parents and educators on how to help their boys navigate the challenging issues of growing up today with a healthy well-rounded understanding of the Torah way in k’dushah, while the world is saturated with all types of problematic information and information sources.
Dr. Shloimie Zimmerman is a clinical psychologist and the founder/director of a multidisciplinary group practice serving children and adults, with offices in Queens, Borough Park, and Flatbush, and is the host of a new podcast called Podcast Therapy with Dr. Z. He also volunteers as the Chair of the Clinical Advisory Board for Magen New York, a safety and prevention organization, and he chairs Amudim’s Advisory Board. Dr. Zimmerman has written a valuable book titled From Boys to Men: Guiding Our Sons and Students in the Ways of Kedushah. It’s a hands-on practical guide for parents and educators, and it is a book that every family and m’chaneich needs to own!
The book has haskamos from many g’dolim and famous frum psychologists and psychiatrists. The foreword, written by HaRav Aharon Feldman shlita, shares the need for this book in klal Yisrael so our boys can grow into healthy men with strong self-esteem and the proper Torah perspective on marriage and the marital act.
Rav Feldman begins the foreword by stating that the intent of this book is to present to parents and educators of boys reaching puberty a guide to the Torah perspective on the intimacy drive. Rav Feldman points out that, in earlier times, the mores of a Torah society were enough to prevent violations of intimacy prohibitions. He writes that in our time this is very challenging. There is so much access to inappropriate material and so many sources of stimuli all around and from the Internet. He laments that compounding all of this, society values gratification as a goal and a way to achieve happiness. This counters our Torah values. We also know that submitting to the drive and engaging in forbidden intimacy brings only depression and unhappiness. He goes on to list ways to help youngsters to control their intimacy drive. He lists and elaborates on the following: dispelling fantasy, holiness of the organ of the bris, and dealing with the intimacy drive.
Dr. Zimmerman states, “Those of us in the trenches, providing mental health services to the Jewish community, are inundated by the scope and magnitude of the intimacy struggles and dysfunctions with which we are presented on a regular basis.”
He wrote this book because he realized the tremendous need to prevent the pain, trauma, and abuse that frum boys are dealing with.
The book is very positive and relates a beautiful message of hope. Dr. Zimmerman states that if we as parents and educators provide the necessary education to our boys and give them ongoing support, then, im yirtzeh Hashem, we will see them become healthy, happy, and thriving adults.
The members of Guard Your Eyes shared their idea to develop a comprehensive educational guide, and this inspired Dr. Zimmerman to take on this project. He shared the idea with several rabbanim and g’dolim who strongly encouraged and also guided him in this project.
Dr. Zimmerman shared that “this book aims to synthesize the Torah’s hashkafah, scientific research, and clinical experience to create an integrated, Torah-based, comprehensive, and developmentally informed guide for klal Yisrael.” He quotes sources across the spectrum from Chumash to present-day g’dolim and sources from Litvish to chasidish.
“The Torah provides clear guidance on how to approach these sensitive topics.” Dr. Zimmerman writes, “This guide aims to help parents and educators continue their giving during the incredibly important transition period from katan to gadol. Providing the proper chinuch in these most sensitive areas of intimacy and development into an adult is crucial to help the katan develop properly into a gadol. Being m’chaneich him with love, acceptance, respect, knowledge, support, dedication, and validation develops his internal capacity to become a gadol.”
Dr. Zimmerman emphasizes that parents are the main influence on their children’s development, and children accept their guidance more than from any other source, so that is why it is vital for parents to actively engage in educating their sons in these areas with a Torah perspective. Dr. Zimmerman writes,” When children have an understanding of the changes taking place in their bodies, a basic intimacy education, and a healthy approach to these challenges, it minimizes confusion, anxiety, pathological shame, and difficulties. Conversely, this conversation promotes safety, security, confidence, and well-being.”
The book is structured in an organized, user-friendly way. The foreword by Rav Aharon Feldman, provides the framework for the book. The book is then divided into two parts. The first part provides conversation points and suggested templates for how to have important conversations with your children about marital intimacy, physical development, taavah, hotzaas zera, and health and safety.
The information in the second part is for parents or educators to understand issues and extrapolate messages they want to impart to their children based on what each child needs. Dr. Zimmerman writes, “The material in the second part is critical for the proper understanding and approach to this education. Since we can only “give what we have,” by developing a better understanding and appreciation of these topics, we will significantly enhance what our child receives.”
Dr. Zimmerman shared that this book can be helpful as a guide for parents to use throughout their son’s adolescence. Even if parents did not have access to this type of information and did not have these conversations with their children before adolescence, they can still become more understanding and supportive of their children. If they have a better understanding of what adolescents might be going through, knowledge of how to help children, awareness of what would be indicative of a clinical problem, etc., the adults in children’s lives can be more empathic, open, supportive, and strategic in their approach to their teens. Dr. Zimmerman shared that simply moving from avoidance to showing up and being there for one’s child is a major statement in its own right and has the potential to enhance the relationship between the parent and child. Certainly, having healthy and positive Torah-based and psychologically sound messages to impart will be even more beneficial.
He added that when a child is an independent adult, he needs to be approached differently. However, many adult males can benefit from the contents of the second section of the book.
Dr. Zimmerman’s vision and hope is that we will create a sea of change. Rabbanim and mechanchim will encourage parents to proactively educate their children in these matters. The rabbanim and mechanchim will also know the material so they can provide healthy and proper guidance and encouragement to boys. When our homes and yeshivos provide proactive education, are better equipped to address the inevitable challenges that arise, and are working in tandem, our children will, im yirtzeh Hashem, be healthier, happier, and more connected and productive ovdei Hashem.
As Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita said regarding parents discussing these topics, “If we are open with kids, they’ll be open with us, and that’s most important.”
Our community and klal Yisrael owe tremendous hakaras ha’tov for all that Dr. Zimmerman does for the klal and for bravely setting forth a book that can literally save lives and help parents to raise mentally healthy strong men with proper Torah values.
The book is available on Amazon, through Feldheim, Mosaica Press, and at Jewish bookstores. The audiobook version is available on Amazon.
By Susie Garber