Monthly Archives: April, 2016

Should my children go to prom?

April 27th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


“Will you go to Prom with me?” Countless teens ask every year about this undoubtedly scantily clad showcase for the (male) eyes, which I eschew as anti-holy behavior. I have a question, with two aspects.

  1. If my children are courting during the spring, should they be encouraged to attend, or taught to avoid it?
  2. If my children are NOT courting during this time, should they be allowed to accept or make an invitation for the date?

∼ Michael


Dear Michael,

A young couple came with their newborn to ask their rabbi, “When should we start thinking about her education?” He replied, “You’re already about nine months behind schedule.” (more…)


Get a Good Mood from Food Dude

April 26th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Food is fuel, isn’t it? A meal for a human is the equivalent of adding wood to our fireplace. After all, our body temperature must be maintained at about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Just as a home furnace converts firewood, coal, oil, or natural gas into heat, so do our bodies convert food into heat. Naturally we feel cold when we are famished.

But if food is just fuel, why do we crave steak and fries today; eggplant parmesan tomorrow, and spinach quiche the next day? Why don’t we want celery and peanut butter every day? After all, we don’t fuel our fireplaces with wood today and coal tomorrow.   Clearly something else is going on. Food is far more than merely fuel. (more…)


Welcome to the 1500s

April 14th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

On the surface, President Obama and King Henry VIII of England have little in common. Even the most ardent conspiracy theorist doesn’t suggest that the president has beheaded one, let alone two, wives. Even those who recognize that there are gaps in what we know of the president’s history do not suspect multiple marriages as part of what has not been disclosed. While history shows that Henry VIII cut a dashing figure as a youth, by the time he was President Obama’s current age he was corpulent and physically loathsome. 

Yet, as I read a well-researched account of the king’s last few years, albeit historical fiction, I found myself thinking that there were comparisons to be made. I knew that Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church, establishing himself as the religious authority. What I hadn’t realized was how much of the turmoil in his life reflected the tussle playing out between following closely in Rome’s path (albeit with himself as the head of the church) versus promoting the Protestant Reformation. 

The king, whether due to a mercurial nature or as a carefully plotted pattern, alternately approved of one side or the other. When he changed, his people needed to change with him. Translations of the Bible in English were promoted by the king and then forbidden, making those who had followed his actions and words traitors to the Crown. Safety was non-existent. Speaking your mind and following your conscience, even when it was consistent with Henry VIII’s past views, branded you a criminal when his proclamations shifted. Being burned to death and tortured on the rack might follow.

Thankfully, our government doesn’t have hidden torture chambers underneath the Capitol. Yet it does have the power to destroy people’s lives, taking away their livelihoods and savings. While (we hope) it doesn’t have spies circulating with the purpose of finding ways to incriminate honest citizens, it has access to our personal records and the ability to manipulate agencies such as the IRS and the Justice Department to punish enemies and reward friends. 

For years, Barack Obama alternated between supporting civil unions while declaring marriage to be “the union between a man and a woman,” to leaning more towards homosexual rights. Once he decisively chose a side, those who are not willing to betray their religious or moral beliefs are heretics. The government is unleashed to bankrupt their businesses and  harass them. Granted, that is better than having one’s eyes put out or one’s  back broken, but no one should sanctimoniously pat themselves on the back thinking this is a great advance. To the best of my knowledge, Henry VIII is not accused of personally killing any of his subjects. Yet, no one doubts that his courtiers and lackeys knew who he wanted maltreated. That  corrupt political reality hasn’t changed. 

I’ve seen a great deal written about “angry white men” during this election cycle. I’ve also seen Wall Street Journal editorials, and the utterances of John Kasich and Paul Ryan among others studiously ignore the fact that upright, religious Americans are being criminalized. Mitt Romney avoided moral issues and only wanted to discuss the economy. Yet lots of Americans of faith feel victims of a witch hunt. The Governor of N. Carolina, and the owner of  TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton, Illinois, who is facing an $80,000 fine can tell you about that. When every day converts normal words into “trigger words” and everyday actions into “attacks” that can cause Americans to lose jobs and reputations, it won’t be long before anyone without a protector at court will be fair game.

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The Too Few Flue

April 12th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“I earned more money last year than my father/grandfather made his entire life!” Have you heard people saying that? I have; many times. It often means that the speaker is astounded at having earned more money than he ever expected to and the polite way to express this sentiment is by comparing it to a previous generation. Many people maintain a mental money-making number that they believe deep in their hearts to be the unspoken upper limit of what they think themselves capable.

Were it not so, nobody would ever be surprised at how much money he made. On the contrary, if our expectations were really limitless, we’d always view our revenue as merely okay. Better than last year this time, perhaps, but nowhere near what is possible. But we don’t think that way. Instead most of us think upper-limit rather than limitless. Instead of planning next year’s income in terms of “Let’s see how high we can make it,” we think in terms of “How close might I get to my goal?” The trouble is that the goal is almost always far lower than it might have been. (more…)


Cleaning and Loving It

April 7th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

I have a friend who gets little pleasure from cooking. It is a reality of life for her rather than a tactile, sensual experience. That is, unless she is cooking for the Sabbath. When she does that, the activity is infused with meaning and importance and changes from an annoying necessity into a higher calling. 

I feel somewhat the same about cleaning. While I like having a tidy and well-ordered house, I can’t say that I enjoy the process of scrubbing and polishing. The exception is when I am cleaning in preparation for Passover. 

I don’t really have a way to explain Passover preparations to anyone who has not been involved in them. Picture getting ready for Thanksgiving except before you can start your cooking you need to get rid of all the existing food you have in the house as well as put away all your dishes and kitchen utensils, and bring in all “special for Thanksgiving” items that are only used once a year. There are lists of ingredients and products that you ordinarily rely on that can’t be used. Plus, the house needs to be cleaned from top to bottom to ensure that no forbidden items are hiding away. That’s for starters. Oh yes, and there will be eight days of eating rather than one, with five of them requiring festive meals twice a day.

Passover is daunting. It is also my favorite holiday of the year. And while we have occasionally spent the holiday at the home of friends or family and sometimes even at a hotel, I only truly fully feel the holiday spirit when we are home. On all the holidays, recipes and traditions connect me strongly to my mother, grandmother and all the women in my family who preceded them, but the connection is magnified with Passover. 

My husband does not understand. His mantra over these weeks is, “You really don’t have to do that,” meaning that we can have a kosher Passover without my going over the light switches with a toothbrush and toothpick. He does not have, as I do, the vision of my grandmother in her eighties, wearing her one and only pair of jeans, purchased and used for only one occasion in the entire year – getting down on the floor to scrub under the cupboards before Passover. I can’t explain it myself. I only know that, in my mind, while cleaning is usually a chore that interferes with “more important things,” during the weeks preceding Passover it gives me a great thrill. Not only am I cleaning for a higher purpose, but the activity itself has meaning. 

And quite frankly, I am pretty uninterested in what the rabbis (even my own beloved one) say as to what is unnecessary. My question to them always is, “But, what did your mother do?” Invariably, the answer is that they went way overboard. Passover belongs to the Jewish people, but Passover cleaning belongs to Jewish women. 

Reprinted from March 2009

Would you like to look more deeply into Passover?
What if it can serve as a personal template for redemption as well as a national one?

Let me goLet Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt


Should I be in business with a sinner?

April 7th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


I have been a born-again Christian for 35 years. During that time a health and wellness company I worked with as an independent contractor/nurse for 25 years, decided to sell.

They offered the company to myself and a homosexual man. I was always service and he was the sales arm of the business. I went ahead with the partnership, and the business has been blessed beyond belief. The business allows me to bless others by helping educate them to lead a healthy life. 

My partner knows I am a born again Christian, but I do not judge him. I have taken the stance of hating the sin, but loving the sinner. Do you feel this is wrong for my husband and myself? 


∼ Patti


Dear Patti,

Congratulations on owning and running a business that fulfills you and blesses so many. We’d like to expand your question so that it covers multiple examples rather than only the one you mention. God-fearing people could have the same concern about a business partner who publicly sins in any number of ways, not only the sin you describe.



This Way or That

April 5th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Want to lose weight? It’s always hard, but why make it harder than necessary by using the wrong strategies? Everyone knows that there are two prongs to this challenging goal: eating fewer calories and increasing exercise. Where to start? Is it more effective to sign up at a gym and use the exhilaration of mastering the Elliptical to help overcome the urge for chocolate cream eclairs or better first to lay off the calories and once that urge has been defeated, get going on the treadmill?

Intoxicated by a regular paycheck in your first job after college you’ve gone on a spending spree. The credit card bills make you hyperventilate each month. Got to get the finances into shape. Got to stop spending and start saving. But which one first? Take a scissors to the credit cards and then go and open a savings account or the other way around. Do we humans respond best to ending destructive behavior and only then starting the restorative conduct or the other way around? (more…)

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