Monthly Archives: June, 2016

Rays of Hope

June 30th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

Last week, when I was feeling overwhelmed by the mendacity, chicanery and overall incompetence of politicians and the press, I gave myself a challenge. The next Musing, the one I am writing now, will sound positive.

It would be easy to write of family, friends, health, the comforts of living in America in the 21st century or hundreds of other blessings that effortlessly spring to mind. All of these are crucially important and much appreciated,  but as a Musing to contrast with last week’s, this would be a cop-out. I decided that I needed to find rays of hope on a national level. Here are some of the things I found: (more…)

Can a non-Jew become “Chosen”?

June 30th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


I listen to your podcast very often and I must say, that those helped me in becoming better human being. Hence my relationship with God improved as well (at least I think). But as I read through the Bible and other books, I always find some mention that only Israelites are the God’s nation. Why is that so important and mentioned quite often? Does this mean, that a person born outside Israel or in non-jewish family can believe in God, yet can never become one of his “chosen”?    

I only want you to be happy

June 29th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Did your parents ever say to you, “We only want you to be happy”? Did they get their wish? Are you happy? All the time? Occasionally? What if shoplifting makes you happy? Would your parents still stand by their sentiment?

Happiness is a perplexing concept. We use the word all the time. Engaged couple—I’m so happy to be marrying you! Business leader—I’m not happy about this situation. Our first First Lady—“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy…”


The Emperor Has No Clothes

June 23rd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

On occasion, I astound my husband with a rather unimpressive talent I possess. We can be in a hotel room, turn the TV to ‘Nick at Nite’ and after viewing a few minutes of an ancient sitcom, I will relate the entire half-hour plot to him. 

The episodes were seared into my mind during childhood summers when I Love Lucy, That Girl, The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, Family Affair and other cultural highlights (let’s not forget Green Acres, Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show!) filled my mornings before I headed out to bicycle and play outdoors for the rest of the day. 

While those shows portrayed moral uprightness and scintillating entertainment compared to what’s on TV today, no one would mistake them for Shakespeare. Yet, it wasn’t until years —and many hours of TV viewing —later that I realized how inane so much of entertainment is. 


How do I answer questions about homosexuality on Facebook?

June 23rd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments


I’m debating a Christian on Facebook about homosexuality. I asked him, “What is sex for,” hoping to approach this from a Natural Law standpoint. His response was, “Sex is for intimacy and closeness, to become one flesh. The most common byproduct of heterosexual unions is pregnancy, but this is by no means what sex is for.”  How can I respond to this?

What an overreaction!

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“What an overreaction!” This exclamation came from a man who consulted me about some business problems. He was alluding to a former customer of his who angrily left him for a competitor and also bad-mouthed him to others. “We were late on a delivery and off he went on a rant,” he continued. “What an overreaction!”

My gentle questioning revealed that my client had not personally called the aggrieved customer to apologize nor had he offered any kind of compensation. But what was far more interesting was that I discovered that this occurrence was not the first time my client had delivered appalling service to this customer. It was not even the second time. It was the third. (more…)

Do orthodox Jews interpret the Bible literally?

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


My pastor tells me that, “The most orthodox view historically seems to be not a literal interpretation,” with the creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Would you agree with this? Are there other passages in the Torah like this? Are their hints in the Hebrew that suggest something to be non-literal?  ∼ Jarred


Dear Jarred,

A few days ago, Jews celebrated the festival of Shavuot, known in English as Pentecost. Shavuot falls during the Hebrew month of Sivan, whose sign is twins. (General culture adapted this idea turning it into the zodiac sign of Gemini.)


The Torn Shirt

June 16th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

I just put my white shirt in the washing machine, a reasonable place for something I wore daily for a week. The shirt has an eight-inch tear down its front. I tore it, in accordance with Jewish tradition, at the cemetery as we were getting ready to bury my father, and wore it for the week of mourning.

I’m not quite sure why I’m laundering it. Even if my sewing skills were greater than they are, I would not be planning to mend the shirt. I realize that simply discarding a piece of clothing, as I will do, is not an option that always existed. In days when each article of dress was acquired by diligently saving money, where three or four pieces of clothing were all anyone owned, the torn shirt of mourning was mended, pressed and put back into service. It served as a constant, visible reminder of how we piece lives back together after a loss, never quite the same as before but carrying on. 

When my mother died sixteen years ago (that number shocks me as she is so present in my heart) I mourned, deeply, for her. I still miss her wisdom, laughter and love. The youngest of her family, she was the first of her five siblings to go. I found great comfort and security in talking to her sister and brothers as the years passed.  This time around, my father was one of the last remaining members of his generation. Each year, there are fewer people to answer the questions raised by old photographs and memories, on both a personal and national level. They were people who would neither be ignorant nor confused or scornful about this week’s observation of Flag Day. With or without the visible reminder of a shirt, the reality of the loss of a generation is clearly evident. 


Pray For Your Life

June 14th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If you’ve acquired a new car recently, you probably drove it happily for a while without even cracking open the operating manual in the glovebox. After all, you know how to drive and most cars are fairly standard. You switch it from P to D, press on one pedal to go faster and press the other one to slow down. Maybe the first time you opened the manual was when it began to rain. Despite looking like you needed an advanced engineering degree, the index quickly took you to page 72 for which helped you master the seventeen different modes for clearing rain drops from your windshield. The option for automatic operation whenever it senses rain drops is very cool and made you smile. (more…)

Our Lose/Lose Society

June 2nd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

We’re all familiar with the concept of win/win. I buy a dress that fits my needs in exchange for money that fits the needs of the storeowner. Mike washes the supper dishes and Tali dries them so that they can both get outside and play before it gets dark.

Our society is steadily creeping towards basing itself on a lose/lose philosophy. The sad incident at the Cincinnati Zoo is just one example. Here are the bare facts: a three-year-old toddler entered the moat surrounding the gorilla enclosure and was dragged through the water by a gorilla. 

What if the zoo had not shot the animal? The child might have been rescued safely or might have been harmed. There certainly was a threat of greater damage. How much time do you think would have passed before Black LIves Matter activists began questioning whether the zoo might have acted more quickly and shot the gorilla had the child been white? How long before President Obama picked up the opportunity to agitate for hatred between Americans, a specialty of his, by suggesting that racist America revealed itself once again? How long before someone posted a despicable, stupid comment under the article on a news website making a comparison between the Black child and the gorilla? How long until a daring reporter found out that the bigoted comment-writer once walked on a New York City street that Donald Trump frequently strode, proving that all Trump supporters are Ku Klux Klan wanna-bees? 

I give that scenario two days to play out. 

Meanwhile, the twitter-sphere is out for blood. Someone has to pay! The zoo, the parents, the owner of the trucking company that transported the gorilla to the zoo—surely someone has to suffer because of the deeply sad occurrence. 

Perhaps not. Maybe zoos and other public areas can reassess their safety features and make some changes after being emotionally shaken by this incident. Maybe all parents will be reminded of the speed with which a child can get into trouble. They can hug their children a bit tighter and commit to greater care while at the same time being reminded that as humans they cannot guarantee their children’s safety. Maybe the parents of the toddler who fell into the moat will feel a greater responsibility to raise their children to be givers to their community and country so that their presence is a blessing to the world. Maybe those who believe like PETA that an animal’s life is worth more than a human one will question deep inside themselves whether they truly would have rather seen the gorilla alive and the child dead. Maybe we can, as a society, accept that tragedies can occur without needing to demonize a scapegoat. 

Obviously, if the scenario had played out on a movie screen, a different script could have been written. Instead, it was real life. Everyone on the spot did the best they could within the limitations of human frailty, time and place. That is called reality. The gorilla lost its life, the zoo lost its gorilla and its reputation, the parents lost equanimity and anonymity. As a society we have become less comfortable saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” and quicker to condemn and vilify. At what point do we say that there was enough loss and simply accept that bad things sometimes just do happen?


I was sent the following video by a friend and found it surprising and shocking. Especially when our cell phones constantly seduce us to look at them instead of around us, I urge you to take the time and see this before heading to the water with kids (or adults).


And…while you’re packing summer reading for when the kids are out of the water, don’t forget our 3 Thought Tool books. Light enough for summer; deep enough for growth. 

Available in a money-saving set or separately

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