Monthly Archives: June, 2019

Decisions, Decisions…

June 30th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

“My parents forced me to continue with piano lessons for four years. They ruined my enjoyment of music.”

“I get so much pleasure from sitting down and playing. I’m incredibly grateful that my parents insisted that I stick with my piano lessons.”

Well, which is it? If you are a parent with a child tearfully pleading to stop piano lessons, how do you know what he or she will say years down the road? You don’t, of course.

A good friend of mine faced a dilemma. Her son’s Little League team had an important game taking place at the same time as a momentous family occasion. Which should he attend? Because of the type of family event both her husband and son acknowledged that it was her decision to make. After weighing up all the sides, the baseball team came in second. Was she right or wrong?

The whole point of being human is that we don’t know the answers to these questions. Since the day that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, our actions are almost never 100% right or 100% wrong. We can ruminate, ponder, ask advice and stress when we have a decision to make. But in the final analysis while we can hold conflicting thoughts in our mind, our actions must go one way or the other. Since we can only play out one script, even years later we often don’t know what would have happened had we chosen the alternate path.

When she was around five, one of our daughters found decision making almost impossible. She was paralyzed by indecision. One time, she was invited to a friend’s house but knew that our family was going out for pizza. Instead of seeing two fun options, either one of which would make for a lovely afternoon, she saw that no matter what she chose she would be missing out on something. As she matured, she learned to focus on the positive side of the choices she made rather than dwell on the negative.

In talking to young men and women who are searching for life partners, a common concern that surfaces is, “What if I meet someone more suited for me once I have made a commitment?” That way of thinking, of course, ensures never getting married. Surely, one of the signs of being mature enough to marry is being able to control one’s thoughts and concentrate on what is, rather than what might have been. Perversely, trying to keep all options open usually guarantees ending up with nothing.

We all do best when we realize that, “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back,” works fine when choosing a toothpaste and not at all when choosing those things that truly matter. As I try to remind myself, we should work on cultivating an attitude of counting one’s blessings in ourselves and in our children rather than constantly tallying what went wrong. It will count for far more than piano lessons in determining whether or not we enjoy music along with all other aspects of our lives.


Am I Your Mirror?

June 30th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter

You are familiar with the infamous story of the twelve spies who were sent to scout out the land in preparation for the children of Israel’s planned immediate entry into their land.  Catastrophically, ten of the spies came back with negative feedback about the land of Israel, and ultimately our entry to the land was delayed for forty years until that generation was gone. 

Today I’d like to look at one line the spies said in their report while describing the overwhelming size and strength of the inhabitants of Canaan.  “Van’hi v’eineinu kachagavim v’chein hayinu b’eineihem.” “And we were in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were also in their eyes.” (Numbers 13:33)

Listen carefully: First they say we saw ourselves tiny and insignificant like grasshoppers and only afterwards do they say that others perceived them that way as well.

The message is obvious.  We aren’t defined or limited by how others perceive us; it’s the other way around.  We see ourselves one way, positively or negatively, and then broadcast that viewpoint to everyone around us. Ultimately others end up seeing us the same way we do.

This in itself is a profound point and one worth a few minutes of our thought today.  We each have tremendous power within ourselves, and our limiting factor is often not what others think, but it’s primarily that we don’t believe enough in ourselves and our potential and we then broadcast that to those around us.

However, this isn’t really what I wanted to focus on because Your Mother’s Guidance keeps the focus on mothering.  I believe this next point is urgent.  While it is true that we, adults, broadcast our self-image from the inside out and need to take responsibility to adjust our self-perceptions accordingly, our children’s self image is very much shaped by how they perceive we see them

When a child thinks we see them one way, good or bad, they then begin to perceive themselves the same way.  This is the opposite of the spies.  Sometimes, of course, parents and teachers send explicit messages to children about who we think they are and what we think they are good at or not. Sometimes our messages are so subtle that we don’t even know we’re broadcasting them, but our kids are listening and absorbing an image of themselves that stems from us.

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are embarking on the beginning of summer vacation.  Many hours are ahead where we will be the central adult figure in our children’s lives and the lens through which they see themselves reflected and defined.  Let’s take some time to think through what messages we may be transmitting to our children about themselves.

Perhaps we recognize their good qualities, positive intentions, and purity, and convey that regularly.  And maybe we sometimes, very subtly or not so subtly, we give them negative messages or view them in ways that limit them or define them as less than they can be.  Our kids self-perceptions are heavily influenced by us.  We owe it to them to take time to think through each one, maybe taking a few minutes to write down what are the positive, infinite attributes we see in each child, to remind ourselves of what we want to convey.  Every attribute has its positive side; every incident has its positive angle. It’s up to us to see it in our kids and share with them the beauty and positivity that we see.  May God bless each of us with success in this giant endeavor.


Information is Optional

June 26th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 43 comments

The air in Brooklyn, New York, is rarely fresh and invigorating. Between the exhaust from vehicles and often-muggy weather, it is frequently malodorous. Nevertheless, when my friend Sharon and I stepped onto the local college campus, a slightly sweet and sickening odor that we had never previously met assaulted us.

We were high school seniors taking part in a program allowing us to attend classes at a local college. We quickly discovered that the smell of marijuana was as ubiquitous as blue jeans. We just as quickly discovered that we had been leading a blessedly sheltered life at our Jewish school.

Fast forward a few decades and the legalization of marijuana is spreading across the country. Many of the Democrats vying to be president include federal legalization as part of their platform. They cite data showing that states that have legalized marijuana have seen a reduced rate of deaths from opioid addiction.



I’m ready to give up fortune-telling. Now what do I do?

June 25th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

I recently decided to come back to my faith based roots. I went away from it for many years as I lived in the way of the world and not God’s ways.

During that time I have built up a successful business as a Tarot card reader/fortune teller. Since reading scripture and seeing what it says about divination I realize I may have made a grave mistake. I know now this is probably something I need to get out of.

I fully realize that I got myself into this. My dilemma is, I am praying to God to help me find a way out, a new career. I am at the same time tormented by thoughts that since I am in a state of sin he won’t hear me. I guess my question is, I got myself into this tangled mess and I don’t know how spiritually or physically to get out. Is this career having a bad effect on my life?


Tara M.

Dear Tara,

Before we say anything else, let us tell you how much we admire you. It is an incredibly difficult thing to turn one’s life around, acknowledge having gone the wrong way, and be willing to start over on a better path.

Second, and even more important, God is always open to our repentance regardless of how far we’ve sunk. We can assure you that there are many worse failings than tarot reading and fortune telling. Always know that He is always standing by and waiting to hear from us as soon as we call out to Him.

The Lord is near to all who call Him, to all who call upon Him with sincerity.
(Psalms 145:18)

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that repentance comprises three steps on which you are already making good progress.



Love Her, Hate Her

June 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

During a few appearances in California recently, I found myself counseling three sincere and newly married young rabbis.  They had all enjoyed the good fortune of marrying lovely young women deeply devoted to religious ideals along with an eager willingness to adopt the mission of being rabbis’ wives.

It turned out that all three were experiencing the same mild marital problem and it was resolved for all of them with exactly the same directive.  It’s one my wife and I dubbed “The 3-A challenge for men”.  I directed these three well-meaning newlyweds to create regular opportunities to make themselves authentically feel and then tell their wives how much they Appreciate them, Adore them, and Admire them. 

Please don’t for a moment think that my three young men meekly acquiesced to my instruction.  They didn’t.  They insisted that their wives knew how they felt. They insisted that such spiritual wives as they were blessed to have would see such compliments as mere flattery. Again, I patiently explained that unless they took the time and effort to really feel deep appreciation, adoration, and admiration for their wives, saying it would be nothing but flattery.  Furthermore, I insisted, their wives were entitled to husbands who really felt that way about them.  Furthermore, a great many wives, unless told, tend to doubt the esteem in which their husbands hold them.



Rippling Out

June 23rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

Although the Temple is not standing right now and the priests, descendants of Aaron, are not able to fully fulfill their birthright mission, there is still much to learn from their obligations.  In Leviticus 16:17, Aaron is told to bring sacrifices to gain atonement for himself, his household, and the whole Jewish nation. First himself.  Then his household.  Then the nation.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that before one can attempt to change the world, one must first change his smaller sphere of influence, his family. Before he can even change his family, he must change himself. 

It’s a powerful moment, as our children grow, when a parent realizes he can’t change or control his child.  My child chooses at each moment how he wants to live his lifeit’s his life, not mine.  I, as a parent, have to recognize that I only have the ability to change myself. By witnessing my development and my improvement my child may be influenced to change.

In a book describing the life of an exemplary Jewish woman who recently passed away, it describes that when her child struggled with something like getting up on time for prayer, this woman wouldn’t go wake him. Instead she would go pray for him. 

When we notice areas we’d like our children to improve in, let’s work on improving ourselves in those areas.  Our circle of influence ripples outwards from ourselves, the center.  When we change, those ripples move through everyone around us allowing them to change too.

The Kohen Gadol, the High Priest atoned for himself, his family, and then his nation.  If we begin to purify ourselves, we end up with a purified family and a purified nation, but it has to go in that order.


The Not-Straight-A Report Card

June 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

It is the end of the school year, which means that scores of children are bringing their final report cards home to their parents.  While one hopes that the image of the stern father overlooking the many ‘A’ s while focusing on the lone ‘C’ is apocryphal, there is no denying the myriad subjects in which most students are expected to excel.

Writing in the New York Times, opinion writer Margaret Renkl recently observed, “School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best.”

These are powerful words. As I look back at my elementary and high school classmates, some of the most successful among us were not honor students. Whether we measure success by income, public achievement, community involvement or having happy and fulfilled family lives, some of the best students certainly seem to be successful—but then so do some of the least scholastic. Even if we measure by professional and academic success alone, a classmate who struggled to maintain a barely passing average may very well be at the top of his or her field. After all, you can be a brilliant chemist who has trouble writing a coherent paragraph or a best-selling author who thinks that the San Juan Islands are in Puerto Rico. However, a D in English or geography is not going to give you a superlative report card.

I’m all in favor or getting a broad education. At the same time, let’s remember that school is an artificial environment which shares only a partial resemblance to the rest of life.


Dads and Diapers Don’t Mix

June 20th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 42 comments

‘Dads and Diapers Don’t Mix,’ sounds like a terrible rallying cry. One can hardly imagine anyone willing to wear a T-shirt with that mantra. Nonetheless, I’m going to give a shot at explaining why I think it might be a necessary one.

Like many slogans, the sentiment expressed is meant to be attention-getting rather than being a complete and erudite explanation of an issue. For the record, I think it perfectly fine for fathers to change their babies’ diapers. What I oppose is the thinking that often goes along with publicly promoting the idea that dads should be more involved in their infants’ lives.



Our Loss; Our Challenge

June 19th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

These past few weeks a number of great people who were all over the age of 100 passed away. I have seen notices of the deaths of Frances Oldham Kelsey, Tom Derek Bowden and Nicholas Winton.

You may be unfamiliar with some of these names, but each of them stepped up when there was a desperate need for responsible, humanitarian and courageous action. Each of them saved lives when others turned away.

Their famous actions took place decades ago, yet all humanity was blessed by the lengthy years that followed when they were still among us. When Jacob goes to Haran in Genesis 28:10, the verse makes the point of saying that he left Be’ersheba. Rather reduntant, no? You can’t go somewhere without leaving where you were. Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that the extra wordage tells us that Be’ersheba lost something with Jacob’s going. While he was there, the city benefitted simply by the presence of a great person.

When we read of great exploits of those who lived before us, we can stay a bit disconnected. It makes for wonderful, adventurous reading, but it is history—our times are different. Sharing this earth with those who did great things prods us to recognize that bravery and sticking out our necks for what is right is a current need as well. As long as these individuals were on this planet, their very presence brought blessing to the world. Now that they are gone, the onus is even more on us to compensate for that loss.


Did I Waste Money?

June 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

I’ve been following you on YouTube and listening to your audio book. I’m a Korean American Christian, but have been interested and following Judaica lately.

I live in San Diego County and decided to go to a mom and pop Judaica store to purchase my first Torah. I had a very pleasant experience talking to the owner, and she helped me pick out my first Torah, business blessing sign, and accessories. We talked for a bit about her family, family history in the holocaust, etc.

I’m making an attempt to network and add more ‘real friends’ in my list of friends. I’m trying to specialize and bless others as well.

After I purchased my items at the store, I checked on Amazon (I buy almost everything online), and was disappointed I paid about $60 more than Amazon.

I’m currently having financial hardship. Should I be disappointed I paid too much or be glad this is a blessing to the business owner and her family? I feel guilty that I feel bad.


Dear Sam,

We appreciate that you have been following our work and that you wrote in with this dilemma. We think that because of the ubiquity of online shopping and the ease of comparing prices among vendors, many others share your question.

We use the term ‘ethical capitalism’ to define the best type of marketplace in a Godly society. While it is easy to focus on the obligations of business owner, that is only half the story. Certainly, a store owner must be honest in describing his wares and transparently above-board in his dealings. However, customers have obligations too. 


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