Monthly Archives: February, 2019

Time for Mass Resignations at Amazon?

February 28th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

There is a concept in Jewish thought that God judges us in the manner in which we judge others. If we overlook a friend who slights us, God will similarly overlook our slighting of Him. If we judge someone else’s actions in the most favorable light, God will  judge our actions in the most favorable light. If we go out of our way to help another person, God will likewise provide extra help for us. 

It would be lovely if our society adopted this idea. Anyone who insisted during the Justice Kavanaugh’s show trial that, “We must believe all women,” should be held to that standard even if they or someone they revere is accused. Meanwhile, in a similar situation, those of us who argued for upholding the rule of law and evidence would be given a fair hearing.

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When Reality Mimics a Musing

February 27th, 2019 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind 2 comments

In my February 14, 2019 Susan’s Musing, I reflected on the TV show Hogan’s Heroes as a way of thinking about how to view the pictures of VA Governor Northam and the pictures of him that surfaced from his medical school yearbook. My conclusion was that it is dangerous and stokes the fires of hatred to look at everything through the eyes of “ism,”  be it racism, anti-Semitism or any other type. Many of you commented and a lively discussion ensued.

A few days ago, one of the trustees of and major donors to Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania resigned because a picture surfaced of him as a college sophomore wearing a swastika armband at a Hogan’s Heroes-themed party.

Chalk up one more victory for intolerance.

 

Must I stay in touch with my siblings?

February 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

Should we avoid associating with Godless people? I’m the only religious child with 3 brothers and two sisters and I’m frequently torn between seeing them and avoiding the negative effect they can have on me. I find they do drag me down when I’m in their presence.

Do I owe anything to them because they are family?

Thanks,

Tom P.

Dear Tom,

The short answer is, “yes,” but that doesn’t answer the question, “What do you owe them?”  God placed a moral obligation upon siblings towards one another.  But the borders are not black and white.  Many children gravitate towards rules, be they in games or classrooms, and get upset when a rule is unclear. As we grow, we learn about nuances and exceptions to the rules, but we are constantly tested by needing to straddle lines such as between justice and mercy or discipline and compassion. We human beings often find it easier to live in a world of black and white rather than in the real world that God placed us which has many shades of grey in most of the real-life decisions we face every day.

You are in such a situation with your family, though you haven’t given us any examples of why they drag you down. At one extreme, you have no obligation, shall we say, to join your siblings at a movie that doesn’t meet your moral criteria, but in most cases, while you might not enjoy meeting occasionally for coffee or a family party, we would recommend that you do so. There should be a way to retain some contact while simultaneously limiting and shaping it.

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Tent on the Beach

February 26th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Lately I’ve been listening to the rhetoric of ambitious politicians both in the United States and Europe.  They tend to speak of business in very negative terms usually with adjectives like greedy, selfish, and unfair.  They blame corporations for everything from inequality to poverty and from depression to crime.  They preach that the institution of business is inherently flawed.

Business, like politics, education and the press is run by people who sometimes do illegal and immoral things. But an additional complaint against businesses is the notion of competitiveness. Implementing new ideas in itself is evil, they claim, as it results in the closing of less creative enterprises.

It is true that business does depend upon constant innovation as things change.  The man making, selling or repairing fax machines in the 1980s had to adapt to email and cell technology at the turn of the century.

Former finance minister of Austria and mid-20th century Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter said that business depends upon creative destruction.  Humans’ constant march forward to ever-newer ways of doing things is not a lamentable side effect of commerce but is an essential element of wealth creation. 

Prior to his death, Moses addressed each of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. 

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A Child’s Coat; a Mother’s Love

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 4 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 28 details the clothing that the Priests and High Priest wore while doing the service in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The Torah describes them as “Bigdei Kodesh” “holy clothing”  because of their function of being worn in holy service. I’d like to share with you another instance in Scripture of holy clothing and this one came about through a mother’s love!

I learned this many years ago from Rabbi Meir Prengler, currently of Los Angeles, and it was so powerful and beautiful that it stuck with me. 

When Hannah brought Samuel to serve in the Tabernacle under the priest, Eli, she was giving up her beloved son obtained miraculously after years of childlessness.  Out of her great love for her son, Samuel,  she made him a special coat – a meil, so he would have something of hers with him even when they were apart (I Samuel 2:19). 

With each stitch she sewed, she imbued the coat with her love, and a mother’s love is eternal.  This explains why the coat grew with Samuel as he grew, and even remained his after his death.  Later,  after Samuel died, King Saul needed to talk to him from beyond the grave and how did Saul identify Samuel?  The man with the coat (I Samuel 28:14).

Rabbi Prengler told us that the great love that Chana instilled in this coat made it an item of holiness, so spiritual that it even surpassed death.  We can’t begin to comprehend the power of our actions or the effect that our love has and will continue to have on our children. The truth is that a mother’s love is powerful beyond belief.

Eleanor’s Eleven Keys to a More Fulfilling Life

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Reading Recommendations, Susan's Musings 29 comments

Have you noticed how many books have a number in the title, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  Or how many articles are enticingly entitled “The Top 5 Reasons We Fall Out of Love”?  We human beings love lists. Who wouldn’t be smitten with the idea that if I only do these seven or ten or fifteen things, my life will be better, my marriage will be stronger and my career will flourish? Of course, it is easier to read the ideas than to put in the hard work of executing them. And, of course, no list—even the most marvelous one—hits every area every time.

I recently read a book from decades ago, with a subtitle that still resonates today. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most admired women, wrote You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life only a few years before her death (decades after her husband’s presidency). The advice she gives holds up rather well, though I think she would be shocked to discover that by today’s standards she might very well be considered a hard-core conservative rather than an icon of the Democrat Party.

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Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

Shalom,

 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.

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Friends Forever?

February 18th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

Go ahead; list the ten most important relationships in your life.  Some will be family and others will be business and work relationships.  There will probably be a few friends on the list too.  Family relationships are fairly well defined.  The obligations and expectations of those relationships are, for the most part, known quantities. Business relationships are also clear, governed as most are by contracts.  But what about friends?  What are the obligations of friendship? What are reasonable expectations of friendship?

While the Five Books of Moses are packed with rules and rituals that shape both family and business relationships, it is notably light on mention of friendships.  We know just what employees owe their employers and vice versa, and we know what parents owe children and what children owe their parents, but if we ask people what they owe their friends, the answer could be, “It depends on the friend.”

Everyone knows the answer to the question, “For how long will your parent be your parent?”  If asked for how long a marriage is intended to last, the correct answer is, ‘This is forever.’  But if one is asked for how long one’s friend will be one’s friend, the prudent answer is, “I don’t know.”  The true answer might be, “For as long as we both want to be friends.”

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Frustrate Your Child Today

February 18th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 6 comments

The above words may not sound as nice as, “Do a random act of kindness today,” but they may be just as important. Stick with me as I make a case for following them. First, let me give you a few suggestions how to go about accomplishing this aim:

  1. Make clear that the newest, greatest, best birthday present they ever received will not be available for use until a hand-written thank-you card is ready for mailing.
  2. Respond to the words, “I’m bored,” with a grateful smile and a broom or mop.
  3. Meticulously follow through on carefully thought out statements such as, “Any clothing/shoes/toys/stuff left lying around the living room after bedtime will be quarantined for seven days.
  4. Present an age-appropriate poem to each child (and adult) and pick a date where only those who recite their poems will be invited to a family ice-cream social. Be flexible here and allow everyone to pick his or her poem as long as it meets approval. (The poem Fleas: Adam had ‘em should not be admissible for anyone over two-years-old.)
  5. Have a policy that unless there are the type of extenuating circumstances that occur no more than once a year,  whining never turns a no into a yes, a yes into a no, or a whining child into a quiet one watching a video or playing a game on your phone.
  6. Refuse to complain to your child’s teacher because the work is too hard unless your grandmother would have complained to your mother’s teacher over similar work. (In other words, the 8X table does need to be memorized.)

I think you get the idea.

Life frustrates babies and toddlers. They cannot communicate as well as they would like to and learning to walk automatically includes a great deal of falling and bumped heads. Generally, babies aren’t able to control their lives very much. The good news is that we can’t fix their deficiencies. We can certainly smooth the way by understand their abilities, clearing obstacles from their path, and setting routines in place that help them thrive, but we cannot yell at the pediatrician because our six-month-old isn’t walking or expressing himself in full sentences. If we saw a mother who never let her child try to crawl or walk out of fear of the child falling, we wouldn’t applaud her but hope that she found a mothering mentor. And when, after lots of failed attempts, an upright little one navigates his way across the room or builds a tower of blocks that stands, his beaming face tells us that the reward is a function of the effort.

As our children get older, their frustrations come less from the tremendous physical and physiological growth they are undergoing and more from character, intellectual and self-discipline development. Yet—and this is true for adults as well—without hitting limitations, being frustrated and overcoming those hurdles, they and we do not grow.

A thirteen-month-old crying in frustration raises our sympathies or, at least, our understanding. For the most part, we can deal with him. We can distract him or hold him or put him in his crib to fall asleep. Assuming a healthy child in a healthy atmosphere we can be pretty sure that today’s challenge will disappear over the next few weeks.

An older child yelling in frustration often scares or angers us. She may blame us for her unhappiness or demand that we fix things. After all, no one else’s parents demand written thank-you notes rather than a quick text, the other teachers let their students use calculators and everyone else her age is allowed to own a smart phone. We are the problem.

Responding in kind by yelling back and threatening punishment or, alternatively, complaining to her coach or teacher may provide temporary relief, but long-term damage. Clearing the roadblock by letting her drop a class or even by arranging prematurely for a tutor, teaches that she cannot help herself and find her own solutions. It sets her up for a life of passivity and failure rather than the joy of accomplishment.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that frustrating your child should be the sole guiding path in your parenting. But in a milieu of love and support, staying out of the way and letting our children fall down, bump their heads and get up and try again can be one of the kindest actions we take.

Honoring a Brave Man

February 14th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

On February 6, I, like many others, was shaken to hear of the death of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I am honored to have been asked to eulogize him for one of the most important Jewish newspapers.

You can read excerpts from my words on our American Alliance of Jews and Christians page here.

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