Monthly Archives: April, 2019

My vegan relative really gets to me!

April 30th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

How do I convince my relative that she is wrong to be so concerned with animal rights & veganism?  She is a good person but its seems that she is more concerned w/animal welfare than people welfare.  Where did this attitude come from?

Bernadette

Dear Bernadette,

We have a two-word answer for you: You don’t. In general, it is usually ineffective and often destructive to try to persuade anyone to abandon their convictions and sign on to our own beliefs.  Trying to change the religious, political or social beliefs of others generally achieves nothing but damaged relationships.

Arguing about facts is fine because the answer can easily be discovered.  We could insist that Mount Rainier is 14,400 feet high and thus some 2,000 feet higher than Japan’s Mount Fuji, to anyone who claimed the opposite.  But arguing about beliefs is quite different. We would nod smilingly at the person who expressed the view that Mount Fuji is the most beautiful mountain visible from a major city.  We believe that this distinction belongs to Mount Rainier near Seattle but why would we argue?  We have different beliefs.

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May I Have a Word?

April 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

In January 2007, in a dazzling speech at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words, “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…” 

On June 4th, 1940, Winston Churchill gave a speech warning of a possible Nazi invasion.  This was its climax:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Just over 3,300 years ago, Moses concluded a 36-day long speech to Israel with these words:

I’m 120 years old today and can no longer go out and come in for the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’ The Lord your God will cross before you; he will destroy these nations from before you and you shall inherit them. Joshua, he will cross over before you as the Lord has spoken.

(Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

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Faith in the Future: the Musical

April 28th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 1 comment

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

In Exodus 15:20,  Miriam leads the Jewish women in song after the splitting of the Red Sea.  Actually, if you look at the verses closely, she started while still in the middle of the sea!  And it wasn’t just singing: these women had musical instruments ready for just this moment!

Imagine if you have to leave your home—not an apartment you’ve been in for a few months, but a home you and your family have lived in for over 200 years!  You are in a huge rush—so huge that the dough you’ve just finished kneading has no time to rise.  What will you take with you?  I can think of many things I would want to take, and honestly, musical instruments don’t even make the it onto the top 20!  Why did the women take instruments?  The great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, Rashi (1040-1105),  tells us they were so sure Hashem would perform miracles for them and they would want to sing their thanks, so they prepared accordingly.  Amazing, isn’t it?

But let’s look at Miriam’s life a little more closely.  This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of her.

As a young child, Miriam saw that the pain and distress of the Jewish people had led to husbands and wives separating.  We’re told she saw that there would be a redemption and there would be a redeemer born, and convinced her father that Jewish couples had to continue building for that future even while today looked dark.

When Moses was born, the whole house filled with light.  Everyone knew he was special. Yet when it came time for him to be put in the river, who is the only one who stayed with him to watch and see what would become of him?  Miriam, the person who excelled at seeing a glorious future even in the darkest moments.

The women singing with their drums and flutes, led by Miriam, were exemplifying confident faith—looking with confidence into the future and being sure that the future was one of glorious redemption.

This is the legacy we have inherited and this is the one we need as we raise our children.  It can be easy to get stuck in the moment with our children and feel frustrated at whatever difficult stage we are currently dealing with.  In truth though, we need to look into the future with confident faith, and have the vision and faith to see our children in the future as adults, where the exact same qualities that are so exasperating right now, can be their greatest strengths.

My mother often tells of reading a story from Natan Sharansky’s mother. His mother shared that as a child he was so stubborn and strong-willed that he would gladly remain in the corner all day instead of apologizing for whatever he had done.  I’m sure that was incredibly frustrating for his mother—we’ve all dealt with stubbornness and it isn’t easy.  Imagine though if his mother would have known how his stubbornness would serve him and the Jewish people as an adult when he spent over 9 years in the Soviet Gulag as a prisoner of conscience! 

Confident faith requires us to look beyond the here and now and see the potential for the future.

This is true both in viewing our children’s inherent qualities and also to keep in mind as we make decisions about how to raise them.  It’s crucial that we look beyond the short term and envision the beautiful future which will come from each child and each situation.  This is the gift of confident faith with which we have been blessed.

Gotcha!

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

Picture this scene. Your eight-year-old daughter comes running in with blood pouring down her hand. Sobbing, she explains that her teenage sister left the food processor cutting blade in a sudsy sink full of water. When younger sibling reached in to get a spoon, she badly cut herself.

In addition to bandaging up the wound, are thoughts of punishment for the older child running through your head? After all, the rule about not leaving sharp objects concealed so that they can hurt someone has been discussed many times.

I actually do not remember if I called out my oldest child’s name in anger (though I’m sure she does) before realizing that the “blood” was actually ketchup and the entire story was a fabrication concocted in the mind of a mischievous, sometimes verging on fiendish, little girl.

Knowing the entire story, in context, makes a world of difference.

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What do you eat at a Passover feast?

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel – they’re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple.

But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod’s Temple?

Thank you,

Joshua F.

Dear Joshua,

Are you trying to start an international incident? A religious war? The foods you cite—gefilte fish, potato kugel, carrot and prune tzimmes and the other foods you mention are traditional foods only for Jews whose ancestors lived in eastern Europe. But, we Jews have been around for a long time and we have lived everywhere from China to Morocco, from Johannesburg to Gibraltar. Some of these communities lasted for a short time, others for thousands of years. Jews were expelled from Egypt, Libya and other Islamic countries during the second half of the twentieth century but a few still live in Iran and many other countries that would surprise you. A traditional Syrian or Yemenite Passover meal would have none of the foods you mentioned.

Even the ceremonial foods that are required as part of the Passover Seder will look different in different communities. For example, a vegetable from the ground is needed, but our own family uses potatoes while other families use leeks. The matzah itself, the centerpiece of the meal, looks quite different if baked by those from Arab countries vs. European ones.

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Find the Father

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Progressive societies tend to quickly impose restrictions on behaviors that are considered dangerous to ‘society’.  Occasionally, this goal of providing security for society is achieved at the cost of people’s freedoms but progressive voters don’t doubt that the exchange is a worthwhile one.

For instance, some people, many of them thoughtful and educated parents, choose not to vaccinate their children for various reasons.  Progressive politicians like New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, have little hesitation in imposing mandatory vaccination orders with fines of $1,000 for violators.  This sounds logical and seems to be prudent public policy. In the name of public health government trounces parents’ freedoms.

Years ago the freedoms of a private citizen to open a restaurant that allowed smoking were abrogated.  By that time, the rights of people to smoke in most public areas had long since been trampled.  How was this achieved?  By government addressing what it saw as its duty to provide health for all.  But wait, then surely government should have banned not only smoking but also mountain climbing and bungee jumping along with all other life-threatening activities?  “No,” answered big-government progressives. “While climbing and other high risk activities imperil only the participant himself,”  they insisted, “smoking jeopardizes everyone because smoke exhaled by the smoker pollutes all the air for all living things.”   Again, the greater good was achieved with a corresponding loss of freedom judged by many to be a worthy exchange.

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Helicopter Mom – Me?

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 5 comments

If there is one thing that, until now, I have never been accused of, it is being a helicopter parent. If anything, more than a few of our children’s friends’ parents thought that my husband and I allowed our children too much independence. One of our daughters was incredibly upset that we did not sign her up for SAT review classes or care enough about her grades once she attended a ‘real’ high school.

Yet, as homeschooling increases in the United Kingdom, one British columnist has labeled me, by association and after the fact,  a “militant,” “arrogant,” and “controlling” mother who homeschooled to “dominate and diminish” my children. Wow!

To be fair, the author, Janet Street-Porter is willing to debate home-schooling mothers she knows and works with. Her strong language seems to more headline-grabbing than actually insulting. However, I think it is worth analyzing and rebutting her arguments.

While homeschooling has become rather mainstream in the United States, that isn’t so for much of the rest of the world. It is highly regulated in some countries and illegal in others, most notably Germany. When I was teaching my children, the most frequent accusation hurled at us was that we were hampering their socialization skills. That was laughable If you knew our outgoing children and the many friendships and relationships they had, but that tired allegation didn’t even make it into this article.

Instead, the article’s slant is the damage caused to British society in general and their  children in particular by parents take them out of the system. Ms. Street-Porter contends that those who don’t feel the school system is satisfactory from an educational point of view are  selfish to care only for our children rather than working within the system to improve academics for all. I admittedly am not familiar with British bureaucracy, but if it is anything like America, we’re not talking a fix that will be accomplished within the schooling lifetime of any student today.  Things are that bad and the status quo is too entrenched. I know many homeschooling parents who actively work to improve education on a community and national level. Doing the best for one’s own child doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else’s.

Another accusation hurled at homeschooling parents in this article was a reluctance to embrace the necessity of discipline. Again, unless British schools are complete opposites from American ones, most homeschooling families are far more disciplined than classrooms, not less. Parents who are disorganized wimps can scrape by when their kids are out of the house for many hours a day. When the kids are always home, structure and routine usually co-exist with learning and play.

As for the recommendation that children must learn to handle bullying and that homeschooling to avoid it will reduce children’s resilience and ability to get along with others, I think that is completely misguided. Most parents that I know who homeschool in response to classroom, school bus and schoolyard bullying start out as reluctant homeschoolers.  They have worked with their children, the teachers and administration to try to solve the problem, all to no avail. They are making a difficult decision not to sacrifice their children’s emotional health.

The article closes with this paragraph: “Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children’s lives – monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are “safe”. Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.”

One of the easiest ways to monitor your child is to put them in a controlled environment for most of their waking hours. In other words, send them to school. My children and many of their homeschooling peers were far more independent and had a wider variety of activities than their friends who marched in lock-step with twenty or so other children of precisely their own age. Dominating and diminishing my children? I prefer to think of homeschooling as assisting my children in reaching their full potential; propelling them aloft rather than helicoptering over them.

Prayers

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Our hearts and prayers go out to our Christian friends whose co-religionists were massacred on one of the holiest days of their year. This is a crime not only against them, but against all humanity.

Strange Bedfellows

April 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

I recently wrote about the #Walkaway Movement, founded by Brandon Straka, as one of the bright lights on the American horizon. I avoided mentioning one aspect of his crusade that I do think deserves discussion. I would like to do so now. How I can ally with them and, more so, greatly appreciate their involvement in affecting the future of this country, while disagreeing vehemently with many of their lifestyle choices?

The movement is diverse in a way that few areas of American life are today. Rather than identifying by color, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion or nationality, those signing on agree on shared ideas. Among them are a love for the United States, respect for freedom of speech and thought, and serious concern about the bullying and hate being promoted by today’s Democrat Party.

Wherein lies the problem? Many, including the founder, Brandon, identify and behave, particularly in the sexual arena, in ways that I not only think of as religiously sinful but consider damaging to the long-term health of a culture. Yet, I am grateful for their presence. For their part, they are not demanding obeisance from me or anyone else for how they live their lives, though I imagine at least some are hurt by what they see as my prejudices. At its most basic, you could say that the relationship is based on the idea, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but I think that is not only incorrect, but misses an opportunity.

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Notre Dame Will Rise Again

April 16th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

Landing an American on the moon and bringing him home again in 1969 was a multi-year project that involved all Americans. A few directly but most through willingly paying their taxes that underwrote the huge expense. Building Notre Dame Cathedral on its island, with its sandstone walls, its rib vaults and its flying buttresses took about a hundred years and must have also involved a large part of the population. For the 12th century, it was no less a technological miracle than was the moon landing in the 20th. So ahead of its time was Notre Dame that it retained its title as the tallest building in Paris for hundreds of years. Wars, riots and revolutions over the centuries inflicted severe damage on the cathedral but it was always restored and often improved. Again this time, many generous benefactors along with the French government promise repair. They do so because to many, the cathedral is no more than an irreplaceable artistic and cultural legacy; a national monument. The fervent Christian faith that inspired its creation and made it possible has faded into obscurity in modern day France. But in reality, it was the fuel of Christian fervor that hoisted those colossal oak beams two hundred feet up in the air to form the base for 200 tons of lead sheeting as the roof. Along with many massive stone blocks, all this was raised and placed into position with no electrical power, no steam power, and no hydraulic power. As has happened on many occasions during the past few hundred years, Notre Dame will again be restored but let’s not forget that regardless of the secularization of France today, that cathedral was built by the Christianity that shaped western civilization and for the best part of a millennium it has stood as a monument to the faith that built it and that was practiced within it. That won’t change.

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