Monthly Archives: September, 2019

I Can’t Sleep, but I Don’t Want Medication

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

I have been having trouble sleeping lately. I know I should go talk to my doctor about it but I don’t want to be put on medication. I have been having these anxiety attack for over 4 months now.

I find comfort and instant relief when I read the bible. Do you have any other suggestions for me?

Thank you.  I look forward to your answer

Enid

Dear Enid,

We “coincidentally” saw your question as we were having a discussion about the increase in anxiety in society today. It is hard to avoid the word, whether you are talking to educators, medical professionals, reading ads touting medication or simply keeping one’s ears open.

This should not surprise us. At one and the same time our society has been increasing the voices sounding doom and gloom while removing those constants that anchored us. For years now, schoolchildren have been used as pawns to attend rallies and write politicians and newspapers in order to preempt terrible consequences. It didn’t matter if the feared enemy was loggers (presented as a menacing threat when our children were growing up in the Pacific Northwest), corporations, or political positions and candidates. Something or someone was/is always threatening their world. More than one generation of adults has now not only failed to protect the innocence of the children with whose care they were entrusted, but has actively hurt them. The first generation of those children are now grown and, not surprisingly, increasing numbers of adults find the world a scary place.

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Defending Justin Trudeau???

September 24th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 87 comments

I am a bit nervous about publishing today’s Musing and so will issue the following disclaimer: I am not trying to be provocative. I simply want to ask an honest question. What exactly is wrong with dressing up as someone of another race? I’m not even sure what the word blackface means and I don’t know that anyone else does either.

I used to think that  the word meant a vaguely insulting parody of a black-skinned person in the manner of Al Jolson in the movie, The Jazz Singer. (Disclaimer #2: I haven’t actually seen the movie, but that is my understanding of it.) I’m sure there are dozens of images in movies from the 1920s that would be unacceptable today. I get that. But the assaults on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Virginia Governor Ralph Northam using that word, confuse me. Let’s be clear. I do not agree with either of the men’s politics and would not vote for them if I was an eligible voter in a race that included them. Nonetheless, I despise the idea that disagreeing with someone politically, even vehemently, means that you should try to destroy them personally. I also object to combing through people’s pasts and judging them by standards that didn’t exist at that time. However,  I’m even having trouble understanding why today’s standards see what they did as offensive.

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Grandma Camp Lessons

September 24th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 4 comments

Our fifth season of Grandma Camp is over and once again I am grateful for time spent with five special little girls. (I do have to figure out a way to connect as strongly to our other grandchildren. These five just conveniently cluster in age and gender.)

This year it became clear that they are not so little any more. During year one I scripted and supervised almost each minute of the week. Each year, my involvement has receded a bit and this time around, while I still read aloud from our much-love Grandma’s Attic books and planned some crafts and outings, I was in the background a great deal.

On Wednesday, I overheard some prank calls being made, amid much giggling. As the recipients of the calls were their respective mothers/aunts, I felt no need to say anything. My daughters are perfectly capable of telling young ones to stop bothering them.

Thursday followed with more laughter and whispered consultations. As the girls headed out the door telling me, “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll be back soon,” this time I did ask for more information. It turns out that the success of the phone calls led the girls to think that prank visits on some neighbors might be a good idea.

Here is where the benefits of being a grandmother rather than a mother kicked in. I did not feel the need to lecture them. I didn’t feel the need to berate myself for not having taught them sensitivity and concern for others. I didn’t even mentally berate my own children for not having taught their children well. I simply redirected the girls, mildly suggesting that people wouldn’t appreciate answering the door and finding no one there. They would, however, appreciate finding a card under their door wishing them a great day.

For the next hour, the girls wrote message and drew matching pictures on construction paper, offering all sorts of good wishes and signing the cards, “The Grandma Camp Crew.” Those of our neighbors who know us smiled as they recognized the source of the greetings while those who don’t simply smiled. But no one smiled as broadly as me.

Rosh HaShana Means War

September 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Some of my friends find challenge in running marathons while others play competitive tennis. I’ve also got friends who struggle to achieve and maintain musical proficiency. Others work on their digital dexterity for sleight of hand magical illusions. Yes, I am blessed with very interesting friends and I haven’t even come close to exhausting the list.  My point is that unlike animals, God created human beings with a desire to prove themselves and improve themselves. Animals seem to need nothing more than survival, whereas some successful people, who seem to have it all, risk their lives scaling perilous mountain peaks. 

Unlike animals, we humans revel in the struggle itself; and perhaps no challenge is ultimately as satisfying as that of trying to make oneself a better person. Perhaps this is why in those quaint old stores that used to sell books more shelf space was devoted to what was called the ‘self-help’ category than to any other.  Becoming more self-disciplined; losing weight; being a more loving and considerate spouse; becoming more honest; becoming a more consistent parent; spending less of one’s life staring at a screen; these challenges are all as difficult as climbing Everest or learning to play the violin. Each demands fighting a furious war with one’s own resistance.

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One More Time

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

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

Deuteronomy 26:1 begins, “And it will be when you come to the land…” It continues with the laws of first fruits and other commandments that we are only obligated to do in the land of Israel which the Jewish nation was about to enter.  In truth, most of Deuteronomy is filled with commandments the Jewish people can fulfill fully only in the land of Israel.  Many of them we have actually already learned about earlier, but Moses reviews them here  in his final speech to the nation before they enter the land.  Nachmanides, a key transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, tells us that even the commandments that seem new to us here in Deuteronomy were actually taught earlier in the 40 years in the desert.  They just weren’t recorded in the Torah until this point when Moses reviewed them.

Here is a great parenting tip, straight from Moses!  When something out of the ordinary is going to happen, we should tell our children in advance and in detail what will happen and how they should behave. Then, immediately before the event, we should review again what to do. That’s how Moses did it! 

[Rebecca now gives an example that is relevant for Jewish parents as many mothers bring their young children to synagogue to hear the shofar  (ram’s horn) on the New Year (Rosh HaShanah) holy days. This includes children who may not be accustomed to being in synagogue as they usually go to children’s groups or stay home until they are older and able to behave properly.)  For example, now is a good time to talk to our little children about Rosh Hashanah and the shofar, and how we’re going to go together to hear the shofar, and this is what they need to know.  Synagogue is a place where we behave respectfully and quietly. We will walk, not run in the halls, and we’ll walk quietly to and from our seats, and we don’t talk, especially not when we’re there for Shofar blowing.  (I’m not suggesting this is what you have to say, just sharing what may come up when I do this.)  This conversation can happen now, and repeatedly over the next week as needed.

But then, right before we walk into synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, you can be sure, I, and many other mothers, will say, “Do you remember what we do and don’t do in synagogue on Rosh Hashana?  Can you remember to walk, not run, and be totally quiet once we’re inside?”  Effective mothers do this all the time before trips to the grocery store, museums, airplane travel, before guests come over and on and on.  We all do it, but now you know where it originated! The commandments concerning the land of Israel were taught over a period of 40 years, but now right before entering the land, we get a review, just like we give our kids!  That’s parenting the Biblical way!

The Missing Words

September 23rd, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

I have not seen an advance copy of a new book about adolescence. The title, Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals,” is off-putting only because I consider humans to be an entirely different creation, not simply another breed of animal. Nevertheless, judging by an article I read that was adapted from the book, the book will present fascinating nuggets.

The piece I read explored how different animals, ranging from sea otters to gazelles, put themselves in danger during adolescence. The paradox is that they may not survive. However, if they do, they are better equipped for being successful adults. The parallels to human adolescence provide much food for thought.

What captivated me about the article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal was the complete absence of the words “male” and “female.” I do not know if this is because authors Dr. Natterson-Horowitz and Ms. Kathryn Bowers don’t discuss any distinctions between the sexes in the book or if this was a function of newspaper editing. Somehow I think that mentioning that certain behaviors are unique or more prominent among males or that all behaviors cross gender lines seems to me to be…how shall I say it—Scientific?

Does Financial Independence Sound Appealing?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

I may not be exactly the audience the Wall Street Journal’s money advice for those starting their careers is targeting but, nonetheless,  I was interested in what they had to say. Five successful business individuals wrote short pieces sharing their wisdom. I recognized names like former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and I had heard of the companies that these professionals lead like Land o’Lakes or a subset of Merrill Lynch. There was only one  exception – Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble.

Ms. Herd stood out on a few fronts. Not only did I have no idea who she was or what her company did but looking at the drawings of the featured three women and two men suggested that she was the youngest of the group. Most importantly, her advice was of an entirely different type than everyone else’s.

If, like me, you aren’t familiar with Bumble, it is a dating app. Its unique property is that it gives women sole control of the first point of contact. What interested me, however, wasn’t the company but its thirty-year-old founder and CEO’s advice. You could file all the other respondents’ advice under the category of financial literacy. They included concepts like understanding debt, valuing savings and measuring job opportunities by looking at growth potential and skill acquisition as well as salary.

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Why Don’t Men Get It?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Hello Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Thank you for all your useful teachings, which I enjoy on a daily basis.

I have another marriage question for you. It is interesting to me that while many women are, rightly or wrongly, the main breadwinners in their homes, they still continue to do more household tasks than their husbands do.

Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

We’re delighted that you find our writings valuable and regret that we cannot answer your question just as you asked it. In order to do so, we would have to agree to be constrained by the corner in which you are painting  us.

You are making several  assumptions in the way you phrase  your question. We, too, have read surveys that show that women do more household chores than men. We have read other surveys that show an increasing number of families where wives out-earn their husbands. We’re not sure we have seen any accurate studies showing the overlap between these two sub-groups of families and that drill down into relevant details of these families. There may well be some studies like that, but our first instinct when we see studies on just about any politically hot-potato topic is to ascertain how objective and statistically accurate they are. Very few meet this reasonable standard.

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Nobody is Wrong All the Time

September 17th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

In 1849, the American Bible Society included in its annual report a section that read, “Voltaire predicted that in the 19th century the Bible would be known only as a relic of antiquity.”  Voltaire was a witty 18th century French intellectual who harbored deep hatred for Judeo-Christian Biblical civilization. 

On page 94 of his Philosophical Dictionary he writes about Jews, “…an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched.” 

In a letter to King Frederick of Prussia he described Christianity as “…assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.”  Needless to say, in common with most secular fundamentalists today, he is much more tolerant and openminded about Islam.

Because nobody is wrong all the time, he made some good observations about business.  In his Letters Concerning the English Nation, he contrasts England, where he lived for three years,  with his native France.  He describes how ordinary Frenchmen try to pass themselves off as aristocrats using phrases like “a man of my quality and rank” while they “hold merchants in the most sovereign contempt.”  Voltaire then goes on to say, “The merchant, again, by dint of hearing his profession despised on all occasions, at last is fool enough to blush at his condition.  I will not however take upon me to say which is the most useful to his country.”

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4 Strategies to Reduce Whining

September 16th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 4 comments

My mother rarely baked. There was no need to do so as she was blessed with her own mother nearby who happily delivered mouth-watering birthday cakes, challahs and holiday specialties. We even had a great kosher bakery only a few blocks away from our house. Between Grandma and Mottel’s Bakery, our home was well stocked.

Baking was not an easy activity to do in my mother’s  kitchen. The necessary utensils were kept either high up or low down. Mom stored roasting pans in the oven. This meant they needed to be moved elsewhere before you could bake. Making cookies or a cake meant spending a fair bit of time and energy just pulling the necessary items together and clearing space. Did my mother not bake because it was so much trouble or did she organize her kitchen in this way because she didn’t plan to bake? I do not know.

I do know that we can make many of the things that drain our energy much easier by organizing things differently. Whining and nagging children are a prime example. If we are at the end of our rope because of our children’s incessant demands, the good news is that the problem most likely lies with us, not them. While this may be a bitter pill to swallow, it means that the solution is in our hands. Even if we are willing to live with unpleasant brats, we owe it to our children to help them become individuals who others will also want to be around.

Children nag because it works. Every single time we say no and then change our minds after hearing a request repeated a few times, we teach our children to bug us. Every single time our “no” is met with sulking or aggression or tears and we respond with an emotional outburst of our own, we send the message that our children can control us. Whenever we agree to a an appeal that was delivered in a whiny or impolite tone we provide positive reinforcement for that method of communication, regardless of whether we are happy to say yes to the particular request.

Here are four steps that worked in our home. Obviously, it is easier to set up a relationship this way from the start and it takes longer and much more patience to break established bad habits. As with any new skill, these steps may feel unnatural at first and require intense concentration. When we make a mistake, we need to try over and over again, just as we do when learning a new sport or how to play a musical instrument. Eventually, we begin to do things instinctively and that is when we reap the benefits.

The happiest families I know are those where the parents really enjoy spending time with their children. No one that I know looks forward to stomach flu or lice infestations or some of the other accompaniments of family life. But there is every reason to expect to take pleasure in the majority of our time with our children. We are in charge of making that happen.      

1) Don’t respond to your children instinctively or with your attention focused elsewhere. From a very young age children can learn not to interrupt a telephone call or conversation. From a slightly older age, we parents can learn not to answer the phone, or respond to other attention-diverting technology, or to try to have an intense adult conversation at times when we know that our focus should be on our children. We need to be present in more than a physical sense when interacting with our children. 

2) It is completely appropriate to remind a two-year-old to say please. It is completely absurd to remind a seven-year-old of these same words. If they are missing, or if your child’s tone of voice is unpleasant or rude explain (softly and matter-of-factly) that you aren’t able to listen to a request presented in such a way and your child can try again in five minutes. Then set a timer so you both know when the time is up. Depending on the age, there might be an “X strikes and you’re out” rule.

3) When everyone knows the rules, life is simpler. If sugary snacks or computer time or messy arts and crafts are limited to certain times and occasions, then no one will expect them to be available around the clock. Very few children in Vermont beg to go to the beach in February. If you never allow the glitter to come out within an hour of bedtime, no one will ask for it. 

4) Some of the whiniest children I know are the children of complaining, less-than-grateful adults. Monitor your interactions with your spouse, parents, siblings and children. Do you speak to each other respectfully and in a pleasant tone of voice? Are you rude to other people in your life? Do you model gratitude or entitlement as you go through your day? We can’t expect young children to behave better than we do.

We spend a great deal of time with our children. Let’s not let whining ruin those special hours.   

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