Monthly Archives: October, 2017

I’m in an awful work situation

October 31st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

I work within a team in a government organization directly managing 8 people on a project. Within the immediate team there is a man who is accountable for the whole project.

I have recently noted that this man I speak about has  exhibited a lot of narcissistic traits—tells lies and denies it later, undermines my authority to the contractor, will not speak to me but decides to sends emails warranting a reaction (which I must confess I have fallen victim to). He has also frequently insulted me by questioning my competence and is now verbally abusing other team members.

I have raised this with senior management who have all taken a ‘sit-on-the-fence’ attitude because they don’t want to deal with the situation. I have asked to see HR. When I finally got a chance after this was arranged, HR did not even read the email copies I took as evidence. She said, “These are normal things that happen in a team”. I used to work for a major private company  and this behaviour from the man would not be tolerated and he would have been dismissed.

I work 12-hr shifts (mostly doing this man’s job as well as mine) whilst he sits there doing nothing. I really want to leave, just for my sanity. Yet people say God may be using this to train you and also since you are a Christian you may be the one to get him saved.

I don’t believe you can change a narcissist. What do I do?

Abena

Dear Abena,

It sounds like you’re in a terrible work situation. In our experience, government is much slower to remove ineffective employees than the private sector.

You aren’t asking us whether leaving is a good career move but rather whether you have an obligation to stay as a Christian in order to help your superior. If there is a theological dimension, we can’t comment on that, but here is our take.

Firstly, we think that, in general, it’s a good idea to leave psychological diagnoses to those trained in that area. It’s very easy to for all of us to find that annoying people in our orbits are narcissists, obsessive-compulsive, neurotic and bearers of a host of other syndromes. Whether this man has a personality disorder or not isn’t the issue. What matters is that you are miserable at work and putting in unreasonable hours. You tried working within the system and it didn’t work. Perhaps there are things you can do or maybe you’ve exhausted your options; that wasn’t your question to us.

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It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic

October 31st, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

A passing look at the Drudge report showed the following juxtaposition of links, one after another. 1) Family brutally beaten by group of teens in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor 2) Rising crime in Asian community has residents arming themselves 3) Update: Young Americans flock to paganism.

 

Compassion Confusion

October 30th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Have you ever endured the ugliness of having to step cautiously past a comatose vagrant and his smelly bundles blocking the entry to a store you’re trying to patronize?  I know what you’re thinking. “Our rabbi lacks mercy for the homeless,” right?

Have you ever visited a home where the parents are meticulously raising monstrous little brats by bribing them for basic compliance?  Did you have to stop yourself from rolling your eyes as mom and dad yielded to a toddler’s terrible tantrum?  Are you thinking that your rabbi lacks kind feelings for children?

Many employers fail to demand adequate performance from certain classes of employees thereby imposing additional pressures on other employees who are not deemed worthy of special compassion.  Even in education, many grades and admissions are not bestowed impartially but on the basis of compassion.

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Fake News is Old News

October 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

My husband and I have spent about thirty hours in the car over the past week. He was the keynote or guest speaker at a synagogue, a church and a business group and we both preferred driving to flying. During that time we barely listened to news. Instead we took advantage of the fantastic gift of downloading audio books from our local library.  Even when we are home, I find myself spending more time on the crossword puzzle in my morning paper rather than reading the news.

While we never kept radio news going constantly in the background and our lack of a TV set in our home meant that watching the evening news wasn’t part of our daily routine, I realize that I am avoiding news in a way that I didn’t used to do. I am tuning out.

Part of this is a function of excessive input. There is simply a constant barrage of information in our 24/7 society (o.k., for me 24/6 since Shabbat is blessedly a day off). Too much information available makes it less appealing. Furthermore, since news outlets can and do post constantly, their level of reliability has substantially dropped. At the same time, the tone of reporting has become more shrill, hysterical and partisan. If I want read fiction, I can find much better literature than reporters are delivering.

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Who were the Nephilim?

October 25th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Genesis 6:2-4 talks about the sons of God taking the daughters of men in marriage. If I am understanding the passage correctly it would seem that the Nephilim were the progeny of these relationships, and that they were the “heroes of old, men of renown.” 

I have heard various interpretations of these passages. Recently a friend of mine brought up these passages to support the theory that there were extra terrestrial or heavenly beings on the earth during this time. 

What is the most widely accepted interpretation of this passage?

Nathan S.

Dear Nathan,

Funnily enough, I (Rabbi, not Susan) spoke about this very section as the guest rabbi in a synagogue in Montreal this past Shabbat. I was given insufficient time to address that teaching fully and, here too, we have limited space in our Ask the Rabbi section. All we can do is give the beginning of an approach.

Starting from the last point in your letter, we aren’t very interested in “the most widely accepted interpretation of this passage.” Biblical understanding isn’t a popularity contest. While we’re sure you mean “interpretation” by worthy people, there are so many depths to the Torah that what appear to be different approaches are actually complementary ways of viewing the Bible.  This is reminiscent of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Each man feels a different part of the beast. So, one describes thick poles (the legs), another a rope (the tail) and yet another a trumpet (the trunk). They are all actually describing the same creature. Similarly, when there are many different pieces of ancient Jewish wisdom on one verse, as disparate as they seem, they each provide one window into the truth.

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Don’t Blame Me

October 24th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 8 comments

On June 4, 1944, recognizing how easily D-Day could fail, Gen. Eisenhower prepared the following:

“Our landings…have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold… The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

As a family member or business professional, learning to accept responsibility is profoundly valuable.  Learn to say, “I messed up and I accept all consequences.” The character strength needed for this is increasingly rare and we need to acquire it ourselves before we can hope to influence others.

Hebrew reveals one aspect of owning one’s actions. Referring to Leah and Rachel’s sibling relationship in Genesis 29, two words are used, GDoLah and K’TaNah, older and younger. Earlier, when Lot and his daughters flee the destruction of Sodom, we encountered two other words BeCHiRah – firstborn, and TZeiRah – younger (19:31).   In chapter 19 we find a clustering of the root letters TZ-R.  Lot escapes to the city of TZoaR whose name occurs six times in this chapter. The associated word TZeiRah — younger— appears four times.  In just these few verses, the TZ-R root is used ten times; more than in the rest of Genesis all together.  Word clustering is one of the ways that ancient Jewish wisdom unpacks Scripture’s deeper meaning.

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Is the Victim Always Blameless?

October 19th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Just because something has become an oft-repeated slogan doesn’t mean that it is correct. Adolescents (of all ages) in the Sixties shouted, “Better Red than Dead,” in righteous ignorance that for millions of people living under it, Communism was a death sentence. Hillary Clinton chose not to reprise the chant of her generation, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” during her ill-fated presidential campaign. One assumes that even if she once wanted people to believe that motto, she had since changed her mind.

Just because the accusation, “You’re blaming the victim,” is wielded as a truncheon meant to quash discussion doesn’t mean that the concept should not be challenged. Let’s move away from the emotional issue of sexual abuse or harassment and question this idea in a different arena.

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Was my response to my son appropriate?

October 18th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Once again I need to pass on your wise words to one of my children. My 15-year-old shocked me last night when, after recounting how I had come up with a non-conventional (but not prohibited) method for building a card tower, and leading my teammates to win a “competition” ( done for fun at back-to-school night), my son said, ” You’re not going to like this, but at school they would call that, ‘a Jew move.’” He said this in earshot of a friend, who agreed. 

I was shocked. First, I asked him, ” Are you ‘dissing’ your heritage?” To which he said, “Umm, yes.” Then I asked him, “Or are you using a colloquial ‘diss’ that is actually a compliment, since it means you were smart enough to figure out a solution to the problem before anyone else?” His answer “Yes, that too.” I was still so upset, I told him I felt it was disrespectful to his heritage, and it bothered me so much I was leaving him to eat his dinner alone. And I left the room. 

How could I have handled this better? What should I have added? (I left the room before I told him that when another parent said, ” She’s folding the cards!” the teacher said, “Yes, you may need to fold the cards a bit.”)

Dear Mrs. M.,

Even if some time has passed since this event, it is still not too late to have a discussion about it. Actually, your emotional reaction had its own impact and there is value in that, but a calm and rational conversation is also necessary.

We think you should start by explaining how each of us is sensitive on certain topics based on our personal experiences. These can include our race, religion, gender, economic status, physical health and stature, history of mental issues, place of birth and an endless number of other factors. Just as poking a physical sore spot on our body elicits a stronger reaction than poking a healthy area of skin, we react more fiercely when someone pokes at an area where we are emotionally vulnerable. Your son ‘poked’ a sensitive area of yours.

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The Birds, the Beasts and Me

October 17th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People appeared years before Mark Zuckerberg elevated the importance of acquiring friends on Facebook.  Yet, most healthy people realize that collecting “friends” only to further your own interests or in a fake world has nothing in common with establishing authentic relationships.

Let’s see if we can get an insight into real relationships through an unexpected Biblical connection:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field
and 
every bird of the air and brought them to Adam
to see what he would call them…
(Genesis 2:19)

God brought Adam two categories of creatures (i) every beast of the field; (ii) every bird of the air.

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No Tears for Hugh

October 11th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

While it is getting more difficult to find areas that unite people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I think that neither liberal-leaning feminists nor conservative, traditionally minded women are shedding tears for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.  Before I proceed to destroy that Kumbaya moment, let’s take a minute to enjoy it.

Time’s up!

It is easy to focus scorn on the founder of movements you don’t like. I’m not a fan of Playboy magazine, Playboy Clubs or the Playboy philosophy that encouraged sexual liberation. However, the Hefner empire wasn’t built because the government forced men to purchase its products or forced women to participate in its businesses.  Men chose to buy magazines and become key-holders at the clubs; women chose to pose for the magazine and auditioned to work at the clubs. Many married women chose to either look the other way or chuckle when their husbands subscribed to Playboy and visited the clubs, sometimes even accompanying them. Lack of participation from either men or women could have derailed Hefner’s vision.

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