Monthly Archives: September, 2017

You Should See the Other Guy

September 28th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 38 comments

We are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance, that started with Rosh HaShanah (Head of the Year) and ends with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It’s a time for introspection, for evaluating one’s actions over the past year and committing to improvement should God bless us with more time.

I always find it disconcerting to discover that the character flaws that I examined last year—and the year before that and the year before that—are often the same ones I revisit this year.  Occasionally one gets to pat oneself  on the back for having made some change but, being human, there is always more to do.

I don’t know if this is my own personal failing or if other people grapple with this as well, but I sometimes find myself aiming for humble soul-searching at the same time as a script plays in my mind along the lines of, “Well, o.k., so I showed a lack of (fill in the blank) when I did (fill in the blank), but compared to (fill in the blank) I don’t think I’m doing that badly.” After all, in a world filled with some really bad people, I consider myself one of the good guys. In a world filled with lots of complacent people, at least I can say that I try.

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I can’t stand religious hypocrites!

September 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

I am very sensitive for various reasons to religious hypocrisy.

Though I am no longer a Christian, I grew up as one and remember hearing a sermon or lecture about how the sin of hypocrisy is not just about claiming to be of a particular faith and then not following “the rules”.  It’s much worse – if someone turns away from G’d because of someone’s hypocrisy, the hypocrite takes on the ultimate destination of the seeker.

If a Jew demands “righteousness” of other Jews and voices condemnation of other Jews for not being perfect Jews and then goes around committing the same sins, how is that seen in Judaism?  How is it handled?

Laura M.

Dear Laura,

While we did abbreviate your letter for practical reasons, your aversion to religious hypocrisy came across loud and clear. Yet, we think that hypocrisy might be one of those words that means different things to different people.

You speak of a Jew—though you could be speaking of someone of any religion—who condemns others for not being perfect and then commits the same sins.  There is a world of difference between imperfection, inconsistency and hypocrisy.

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Gender Equality?

September 26th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 4 comments

An online CNN headline reads: How to teach children about gender equality. The closing sentence after a fairly well-sized article and accompanying video says, “When I asked them [5th and 6th grade students] if they would tell their sons and daughters that girls and boys are different, they unanimously said they would tell their kids that girls and boys are equal.”

Perhaps an English lesson might be helpful. Different and equal are not antonyms. Furthermore, equal is a meaningless word if you don’t define what you are comparing. So two dimes and one nickel are equal in monetary value to one quarter, but they are not equal in weight or number.

A lesson in logic might be helpful as well.  Stating that women as a group prefer A while men as a group prefer B or that men and women tend to excel in certain areas doesn’t say anything relevant about a particular woman or man or limit an individual in any way. The fact that my friend Robin happens to be a computer geek does not prove that if an overwhelming percentage of top software engineers are male, discrimination or social conditioning is to blame.

The article suggests examining ads and magazines for depictions of men and women and discussing stereotyping and misleading pictures. I’m all for that. It is important to understand how false airbrushed pictures are and how the media seduces us into believing and craving certain things. The author of the article and I would probably agree on some ads that we would both condemn. However, I would also include in the category of awareness learning how prevalent social conditioning is that is trying to do away with the idea of two genders because, subconsciously or not, there is a societal rebellion against the Creator of the concept expressed as, “Male and female He created them.”

 

 

Who Me?

September 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Which word connects these five sentences?

  • The world of baseball went wild in the spring of 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
  • It was at the height of the hurricane when three men and a woman, crewing the Coast Guard Sikorsky Jayhawk helicopter, took off hoping to home in on the radio distress beacon that had been deployed by the stricken cargo ship.
  • There were no signs of trouble the day that newlyweds, Mary and Allen moved into their new home.
  • Almost everyone knows that in sports, the home team enjoys an advantage but nobody knows exactly why.
  • China prices its car exports far lower than they do at home.

In each sentence, the word “home” has a slightly different meaning but with a little thought one can see how these five different applications might be connected.  But there is little point in the exercise.

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It’s a Holy Day; Let’s Eat

September 19th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

A four-week window of Jewish holy days is approaching. I understand why we will spend more time in synagogue than usual. However, we will also spend more time at the dining room table. This isn’t a concession to human frailty; it is recognition of human greatness.

Ever since the start of our lives as babes suckling at our mothers’ breasts, eating provides us with not one, but two benefits.  They are (i) physical nourishment and sustenance, and (ii) spiritual and emotional sustenance.  The link between eating and emotion is well studied.  Many of us have ‘comfort foods.’  Gloom and uncertainty are often banished by a meal that fills our heart as well as our stomach.

Have you ever wondered why so many young people nowadays suffer from eating disorders that were virtually unknown a generation or two ago?  Surely the answer is the spiritual desert in which so many young people live.  Eating disorders are more often treated by a psychologist than by a nutritionist because there is a powerful spiritual component to eating. In other words, food and faith go together.

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Encouraging Loneliness

September 13th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

A headline from the Wall Street  Journal, “Innovation in Health Care” report reads: Government Role in Fighting Loneliness. More accurate would be: Government Role Over the Years in Causing Loneliness. So many government policies have been factors in breaking up families, reducing the need for belonging to churches and social groups, and making people think that they can “make it on their own” (with government assistance) rather than needing human support and connection. Before spending taxpayer money to combat loneliness maybe we could just roll back all sorts of government innovations that increased it.

An Honest Man

September 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Sometimes, what I start out thinking I am going to write about and what I end up saying are entirely different. Last week was a case in point. I intended to write about the book I had just read, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, but from an entirely different perspective than I ended up doing.

As I read, I was captivated by the honesty of Will Durant. Over the course of a long life, he often found his ideas tested by reality and he showed immense strength of character and depths of wisdom in a willingness to question some of his strongest convictions.

Relatively early in his career, his socialist leanings absorbed a harsh blow when he and his wife, Ariel, travelled to Russia during its Stalinist era. What they saw was far from the worker’s paradise in which they believed. Over the years, Mr. Durant developed an understanding of human nature that sought to merge his affection for the ideals of socialism with the reality of what actually motivates people to work hard.

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My Wife Wants to be Cremated

September 12th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

My wife has stage 4 cervical cancer and is not healthy enough for the standard treatments. We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best. 

She has expressed a desire to be cremated.  It’s cheaper, and when I pass I will  be interned at Arlington as I am a veteran.  It sounded OK to me at first but I’m having reservations.

Your thoughts, should a Jew or a Christian consider cremation?

Robert H.

Dear Robert,

We are moved by your words, “We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best,” and pray that God responds favorably to your prayers.

While we love teaching what the Torah says we aren’t comfortable telling you as a Christian how to act. We recommend that you discuss this with a respected mentor and/or clergy from your own faith.

We can tell you that in Torah Judaism, proper treatment of the body after death is defined as burial, just as God told Adam toward the end of Genesis chapter 3. This is so important that, for faithful Jews, even if one’s parents expressed their wishes to be cremated, their children may not carry out those wishes. The idea is that after death, the parents will have entered a World of Truth and will be appalled that they ever wanted to do something counter to God’s law. As such, giving them a proper burial is actually following their final wishes.

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Of Hurricanes and Hatred

September 11th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

This week offers a view into two types of tragedy. Our news is filled with stories of people losing homes, businesses and even their lives due to hurricanes. Sixteen years ago this week, on September 11, 2001, the news was full of stories of many more people losing their lives (the loss of businesses existed but was overshadowed by the magnitude of loss of human life) due to an evil ideology full of hatred.

Scripture pulls no punches in warning us of tragedies that will overwhelm us should we abandon God’s guidance. Many of these are consequences that flow naturally rather than bolts of lightning from Heaven as people focus on the wrong things and stop seeing humanity as created in God’s image.

One section of the Torah, filled with horrifying descriptions of misery, begins with these words:

…if you do not listen to the voice of the Lord your God…
(Deuteronomy 28:15)

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9/11 and Hurricanes

September 11th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

As devastating as the weather has been to so many people, neighborhoods and cities, it is better to face the ‘wrath of nature’ than the hatred and evil of people as America did 16 years ago today.

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