Monthly Archives: February, 2018

Can I propose to someone else’s lady?

February 27th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

What would you say about proposing to a girl that is in a relationship with someone?

Tafadzwa

Dear Tafadzwa,

What would we say?  We’d say “Go for it!” Or we might smilingly allude to movies like The Wedding Planner, Made of Honor, and Sweet Home Alabama in all of which the bride ditched the groom just before the wedding, for her true love. But we think we can do better.

You are clearly a straight-forward guy and we hope you don’t mind that our answer will be a mite longer than your question. The bottom line is that we see no moral, ethical, or religious reason not to pop the question.  You see, any woman is in only one of two states: single or married. That’s all.  There is nothing else.  Engaged; in a relationship; seeing someone; got a boyfriend; are all meaningless.

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127 Ways to Leave Your Pessimism

February 26th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

In the constant struggle to build a successful life, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts flitting through one’s mind.  One remains confidently focused on the task by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.

This Thursday we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. It opens:

And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
(Esther 1:1)

The number 127 occurs only once again in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.

And Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old…
(Genesis 23:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning and if a number only appears twice, we need to note the connection between the two occasions.

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Failing Our Children – Again

February 22nd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 46 comments

We, as a society, have failed our children when they cannot safely go to school, concerts or about their daily lives. We have also failed them when we promote policies that increase their chances of  growing up in unstable households and being illiterate, unpracticed in logical thinking, unnecessarily drugged, addicted to violent video games, in a culture that devalues life, and without a moral compass. Compounding our failures is not a good idea.

My heart, like yours, goes out to those children who faced gunfire in Parkland, Florida and whose lives were lost or forever changed by that event. A massacre like that, just as previous mass shootings, should call us to re-evaluate and assess our nation. However, while emotions should prod us to action, just what those actions should be must be dictated only by facts and reality. Emotions, by their very definition are unstable and volatile. Justice and policy should not be.

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What kind of role models are these!

February 21st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 33 comments

My wife and I love listening to your podcast.

I have a question that no Rabbi has been able to answer to my satisfaction. (It could be that they have answered the question accurately but it never resonated with me.)

It’s about Jacob and his children. Jacob is revered by us and his children were given the privilege of having tribes named after them. What bothers me is that these were not nice children. Judah had a terrible mean streak and was known to hang out with women of ill repute. His brothers sold a brother into slavery. They lied to their parents, they wiped out entire cities for revenge. (If I was Jacob’s neighbor my kids would have been under strict instructions to avoid them at all cost!)

Where does the reverence for Jacob’s children come from and why do rabbis insist on calling them righteous?

Cliff

Dear Cliff,

We’re not sure we can answer this question to your satisfaction, but we are going to try and contribute perspective which we hope you will appreciate.

Recently, a book about a complicated woman, Dr. Anne Spoerry was published.  (In Full Flight by John Heminway)  She fought the Nazis while part of the French Resistance. She was betrayed and sent to a concentration camp where she collaborated with the Nazis in monstrous crimes against other captives.  To escape war crime prosecution, she fled to Kenya and spent the rest of her life saving the lives of thousands of Africans.

To the Africans whose lives she improved and saved while working devotedly on that continent she is a heroine. The concentration camp internees who saw her as a sadistic torturer viewed her very differently. A snapshot of her work for the Resistance before she was sent to a concentration camp would reveal another aspect of her personality. We haven’t read the book yet, but we surmise that Dr. Spoerry was an incredibly powerful and complex woman. We may never know the truth about her feelings, motivations and even her actions but her life does serve as a reminder that God created humans as amazingly complicated beings.

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Boats Float; Planes Fly; Couples & Businesses Crash

February 20th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

One of the most sensually satisfying things I’ve ever done was building a seventeen-foot sailing boat out of oak and spruce, plywood and glue, bronze screws and canvas.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell the aromatic sawdust.  After eight months of part-time, loving labor, launch day was almost an anticlimax.  It floated, I climbed aboard, hoisted sail, and glided off across the lake. 

No surprise there; I had purchased plans from an accomplished New Zealand naval architect, Richard Hartley, and followed them diligently.  What is more surprising is that I later built another boat which also floated.  This one was nearly forty feet long and was constructed from steel and cement.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Its hull was a one-inch thick sandwich of steel and cement.  I was not at all surprised when, on launch day, it not only floated but floated exactly to its waterline which I had already painted in bright red on the hull. 

Why wasn’t I surprised?  Because I had purchased plans from a designer in Vancouver who was a recognized expert in ferro-cement boats and I had followed all details diligently.  What percentage of the boats and ships that are built by large shipyards or by serious amateurs float? Actually, about one hundred percent.

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Granite Men; Marshmallow Boys

February 15th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

Imagine a woman in the mid 1800s crossing North America by wagon train. Now imagine her amazement if she was to travel a  similar distance today by jet. Multiple blessings of gratitude would spill from her lips. I tried to keep this in mind recently when I was cramped into a small seat, grazing shoulders with my neighbor, not quite sure where to place my legs and basically confined to that place for six hours.

Still, the trip was long. I was not disciplined enough to focus on work or even to concentrate on the current book I am enjoying reading. American Airlines, aware that a benumbed clientele makes for a successful flight, provided each passenger with a personal entertainment device that had more movies available than I have ever seen on an international flight  let alone a domestic one.

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Should my children read Harry Potter?

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi, Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 32 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I’m an orthodox Jewish homeschool mom of five and I love your show! Our homeschool curriculum focuses heavily on reading good literature and my kids have just reached the age where Edward Eager’s tales of magic, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as many others in the fantasy genre are on many recommended reading lists.

I’m unsure of how to approach the element of magic in children’s stories. The Torah forbids witchcraft, so should stories that feature magic be anathema to my Torah-observant kids?

Thanks for the great materials you produce. I consider them part of my continuing education. 🙂

Jessie W.

Dear Jessie,

We’re delighted that you watch our show and that you are homeschooling. As you may know, we homeschooled for many years and a number of our grandchildren are now being homeschooled as well.

Some of our children were the intended audience age when the first Harry Potter book came out.  This book became a major topic of discussion among both the Jewish and Christian homeschoolers we knew. More than any other topic we can think of, the families we knew (and respected) were all over the map on this one.

Approaches ranged from an absolute ban on reading any sort of fantasy to those who couldn’t see any problem whatsoever with the genre. Our view was somewhere in the middle. We made a judgment call and will share some of our considerations, but we would like to emphasize that each child and his surroundings need to be taken into account. Unlike certain questions, such as whether a child should call a parent by his first name where the answer is clear cut (absolutely not!), this question has a lot of room for knowing an individual child, the specific book, subjectivity and praying for Godly wisdom.

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Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

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Body and Soul

February 12th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

While preparing Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off: This May Be Love for a second printing, I took the opportunity to look through it again. The following quote jumped out at me:

“God created our bodies and souls to work together as one, with the soul defining one’s identity and the body expressing it. Our dress, speech, and behavior should all reflect who we really are, deep within our innermost being. Only then can we be fully ourselves.”

Gila Manolson; Hands Off: This May Be Love

Please Tell Me It’s Satire

February 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

A few times this past week while reading my daily paper I found myself checking whether I was actually following the Onion, a news satire organization. Each page had one or more articles that made me think, “This can’t be real.” Listening to the radio compounded the problem.

There was the opinion piece explaining to men that they should double down on mentoring women despite the fact that they might be falsely accused of sexual harassment. After all, mentoring women is such an important ideal that they should willingly risk their reputation, family and livelihood to do so.

To my astonishment, another article spoke of cities considering instituting rent-control policies. In the two cities in which I have lived that had strong rent-control policies in place, wealthy people paid ludicrously small sums to stay put while less wealthy areas turned into boarded up slums since landlords couldn’t survive on the low rents they were forced to charge. Rent control was far from a rousing success.

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