Monthly Archives: January, 2020

The Royals and Me

January 29th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 22 comments

Initially, I didn’t think that Harry and Meghan’s choices had much to do with me. Yes, like many other people, articles about England’s royal family catch my attention, but I don’t particularly seek them out. My limited interest in TV means that I’m not sure if Meghan Markle’s show Suits was about a) a law firm b) a fashion house or c) neither of the above. I had not heard of her until she got engaged to a prince and I have too much going on in my own life to spend even a few minutes obsessing about hers. However, I have been rethinking my initial reaction.

I have to admit that as soon as the ex-HRH (his/her royal highness) couple began showing up on the Saanich Peninsula, just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, I started paying closer attention. That is my family’s “happy place” where we have spent many wonderful summers, and we really don’t want it to get a lot of attention. But that wasn’t what made me change my mind.

An article contrasting Kate Middleton’s and Meghan Markle’s adjustment to life as a royal set me thinking. While neither grew up in the palace, Kate accepted her chosen life circumstances and has been graciously enhancing the monarchy while Meghan has taken a  different direction. Perhaps, the contrast between them isn’t as disassociated from my life as I first thought it was.

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America’s Real War

January 29th, 2020 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

We are super-excited about updating our book, America’s Real War. This best-selling book helped launch a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Much of it was prescient but being written before 9/11 it desperately needs to be brought up to date. We hope you will join us in this project: Go HERE for more information.

Why don’t you speak up?

January 29th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

I listened to your podcast about The Real Reason the Left Silences Conservative Speakers and Suppresses Pro-Family Voices (November 2018). It was a most brilliant and stunning analysis.  You are obviously calling the position of the Left as anti-Biblical. 

My question is:  Since you are a major voice in America today to both Christians and Jews, and since both Reformed and Conservative Jewish Communities vote almost 100% Left as well as the Secular Church, why not call them out specifically? 

If not for hypocrisy, then at least for the glaring contradiction that they worship Bible but vote against it? Then we, who agree with you, could build on your statements of perfect logic with people in our circles of influence.

Susan B.

Dear Susan B.,

We were looking through our rather large stack of unanswered ‘Ask the Rabbi’ questions and came across yours. It is extraordinarily appropriate this week since our conversation is filled with exactly this topic as we prepare for our long-awaited Master Class updating our book, America’ s Real War.

Let us correct your impression that we might have been remiss in failing to ‘call out’ the Jewish culprits. When you read America’s Real War, either as a participant in our upcoming Master Class program or else by awaiting the rewriting and publication of the new updated edition, you will discover that we exercised very little restraint in naming the bad actors in the Jewish community. These include the communities you identify as well as other Americans of Jewish ancestry whose entire value systems are shaped by modern secular fundamentalism rather than by the values of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We exposed the villains so thoroughly that when America’s Real War first came out in 1999, our family was targeted so aggressively that today’s social justice warriors and cancel cowards would have been impressed. Without dwelling on it, it was an unpleasant period for us and for our children.  But it was also annealing in the way that steel is strengthened by fire and we all grew from the sometimes frightening experience.

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Don’t Complain – Act!

January 28th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Have you ever grappled with one of those wooden puzzle boxes that has a secret compartment? If you manipulate the different pieces correctly, a hidden drawer pops open and you find the concealed prize.

This type of puzzle can be extremely frustrating. I was once handed such an item at a dinner party. After a while, I became convinced that there was no answer. The whole thing was simply a sadistic game. At that point, the friend who gave me the game took back the box and showed me exactly how to solve the puzzle. Once I knew how it was quite simple.

In a similar manner, a full 30% of the Book of Exodus is taken up by a long and detailed description of how Israel got out of Egypt.  We Jews read those Torah portions every single year, and in addition, once each year we actually live out the entire experience in a ceremony known as the Passover Seder.

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Don’t Complain – Do!

January 28th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

There was a family I once knew.  Mom, dad, and three delightful young children lived in a small home they rented in a really rotten part of our town.  It wasn’t rotten because it was poor. No, this part of town was poor because its inhabitants lived by rotten values.  These five beautiful people made up one of the very few intact, functional families in that neighborhood where fatherlessness was the rule. Of the men to be seen, almost none were working or married.

My friends worked very hard; dad devoted himself to his job all day and studied accounting at night. Mom fed her children both body and soul, nourishing them and educating them with facts and morals while providing a warm nurturing home for her husband.

Then, eventually one day—a breakthrough!  Dad’s employer, rewarding years of diligence, dedication and integrity, allowed him to participate on favorable terms in the company’s initial public offering.  From then on their financial fortunes soared. After a few years, the family moved into a large and comfortable home in the most prestigious suburb of town.

Each of the children, now young teenagers, was given their own room.  I remember their mother telling me that during their first few weeks in the new house, she’d find all her children sleeping in one room every morning.  They were close siblings and instinctively drifted together as they were unaccustomed to being alone in a big empty room.

That was what mom told me. What dad told me was much more surprising.  He went right back to the old neighborhood and made the owner of their old house an offer he couldn’t refuse.  He then put the house up for rent at below-market with one proviso: for one night each year, his family could move back into the house while the renters were put up in a hotel.

Sure enough, I saw it with my own eyes.  Once each year, on the anniversary of the date they moved out of the little old house, they moved right back in.  Clutching their sleeping bags and blankets, the family drove across town.  Dad parked his car right there on the street where he used to park every night for so many years.  The five of them slowly walked up the short concrete pathway, mounted the steps to the front door and went in.

After a plain sandwich supper eaten while they sat on the floor of the living room, they unrolled their sleeping bags right there on the carpet and spent a weird and uncomfortable night.  The next morning, they arose and without much conversation, each wrapped in his own thoughts, the family returned to its lovely new house.  The slightly heavy atmosphere lasted until they walked through their elegant front door whereupon a happy bedlam ensued.

Let me have dad explain in his own words why he led his family on this bizarre annual ritual. 

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Families Make the Nation

January 28th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

The book of Genesis focuses on the families of our Matriarchs and Patriarchs. In contrast, Exodus is the book of the formation of the Jewish nation.  Surprisingly, Exodus, the book of the nation, begins with— families! We are told (Exodus 1:2) that Jacob’s sons came down to Egypt, each man with his household. 

The book of the formation of the Jewish people is also the only book that ends with families. The final verse includes the words,  “Beis Yisrael” the families of Israel, whereas the remaining books of the Torah end with the words “Bnei Yisrael”, the children of Israel.  Exodus begins with families and ends with families.

This is a profound lesson and it is a theme that is repeated over and over as the Jewish nation is formed. The people exists only as an outgrowth of the family.  To build a nation, we must begin and end with the family.  More specifically, not just with a family, but with a wife and mother.  When the beginning of Exodus describes that Jacob’s children came with their households, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us, “That is his wife.”  The nation begins when the tribes come to Egypt with their wives.  The women, the builders of the families, play an outsized role in the beginning of Exodus as the Jewish nation begins to form.

The first women mentioned are the Jewish midwives,  Shifra and Puah.  Interestingly, this is the only time in the Torah these women are called by these names.  Elsewhere, their true names are given, Yocheved (Jochebed) and Miriam, but here, in our first introduction to them, they are Shifra and Puah.  What do those names mean?  Shifra comes from the word “l’sha-per” to beautify, and Puah is a term that means vocalizing or speaking.  We are told that these women were called these names because of the way they cared for the Jewish infants: Shifra would beautify the Jewish babies, washing them, rubbing oil into their skin, and Puah would coo or murmur soothing words to the babies. 

It’s good to remember that Yocheved was the wife of Amram, the leader of the Jewish nation. Surely she was an exemplary woman and leader in her own right. Miriam spent the rest of her life as a leader of the Jewish nation and as a prophetess.  These women had important roles and there are other talents of theirs by which they could have been known aside from their role as nurturers of Jewish babies.  Yet, we know them first as Shifra and Puah, women who wash and sing to babies.

I think that one lesson we can all take from these verses is very simple.  We live in a mixed-up world, where things of lesser importance seem vital, and truly vital and significant jobs seem trivial.  Exodus tells us that the foundation of the Jewish nation doesn’t rest on its synagogues, schools, charity organizations, fundraisers, or kosher grocers, but on each individual family.  And each family rests on the foundation of the woman of that home.

What does that woman do that is so valuable?  Maybe Shifra and Puah are here to remind us that it isn’t the big, glorious projects as much as the small, mundane acts of loving, caring, and nurturing.  Brushing our kids’ teeth and hair, singing songs, telling stories, and nursery rhymes to them. We sometimes get confused.  Why should I sit on the couch and read them a story when they can watch an adorable animated version on my phone?  Then I can be doing something really important at the same time.  No!  Exodus is here to remind us that it is each small moment, each seemingly trivial act that women and mothers do that is at the foundation of the entire nation.  We think it is small, but really, each small act of care and love in a family builds our entire people.

The No-Musing Musing

January 23rd, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

This may be the shortest Susan’s Musings I have yet written. I love writing and I love the links that my writing forge between us. I feel like I know those of you who frequently comment even though we have never met in person, and I am thrilled when some of you come up to me at events where my husband or I are speaking—or even at the airport.

I have often written about homemaking and building a family being a full-time-job. This week has served as a confirmation. On Sunday, I pulled out my recipe files and planned dinners for the week. Tonight will be the first one we are actually eating.

Our children are grown, and we are blessed to live near many of those adults and their own little ones. This week, while I did what I could, I also turned down a few requests for help and, after offering rushed good wishes, I wasn’t able to stay and celebrate with our nine-year-old birthday girl.

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How much of a priority is paternity leave?

January 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

The closing pitcher for tonight’s baseball playoff game is taking 3 days of paternity leave because of the birth of his daughter this morning. He will miss 2 games as a result.

Given that his wife had no medical issues with the birth, shouldn’t he be out there doing his job the next two nights?

Thomas P.

Dear Thomas,

We’re sorry to only get to your question now, although you submitted it closer to  October 2019, when Washington National player, Daniel Hudson, took paternity leave at the time of the National League Championship Series. However, the issue has cropped up before and since. This is not surprising when you consider that baseball teams are made up of men, many of an age when they are establishing families. In fact, baseball adopted an official paternity leave policy in 2011. Many players and officials made comments expressing the sentiment that baseball is important but family is more important.

That sounds warm and cuddly but it camouflages reality. These men are able to play professional baseball, not because it is important but because enough people enjoy watching them do so and are willing to pay for that privilege. As you suggested, this is a job.  Your local dry cleaner might close for a few days when his wife gives birth but he wouldn’t say, “Dry cleaning is important but family is more important.” The main reason he goes off to work each day is to support his family. If he has concerns that his livelihood might be imperiled if his store closes, then he will not take paternity leave but will stay open. If it came down to being with his wife and new baby for a few days or being able to provide them with a roof over their head and food on the table, there isn’t really a choice as to where his obligation lies. If baseball fans stopped attending games because their team, let’s say, loses the World Series because the star pitcher is off on paternity leave, the players will find themselves out of very lucrative jobs. That calculation should be an internal and unforced decision for the individual store owner or a baseball League to make. 

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Stars and Superstitions

January 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Why do people say “Bless you!” to a sneezer? Well, you see, in olden times they believed…Why do so many believe that walking under a ladder brings back luck?  You see, about 5,000 years ago, Egyptians thought…What is the ‘evil eye’? It was something feared by the ancients… See the subtext here?  Dismiss something as ‘from yesterday’ and you condemn it to irrelevancy.  Only today and tomorrow count; yesterday is probably only a superstition.

What is the significance of the Star of David? Well, it was found on a 3rd-century Jewish tombstone…It is discussed in medieval Kabbalah texts…In the early 1600s, it appeared on a flag flying over a Czechoslovakian synagogue. 

Does it really have no contemporary significance?  Is it just a six-pointed star that ignorant people used to draw that Jews later adopted as a symbol?

6 is the first of what are called “perfect numbers”.  All the numbers that can be exactly divided into 6 also add up to 6.  (1 + 2 + 3 = 6)  The second perfect number is 28 and the third is 496. More importantly, it is the number of directions at which we can look at our world. Imagine yourself embedded in the middle of a lucite cube. You can look out of its six faces: forwards (north), left (west), rear (south), right (east), up and down. 

Most importantly, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them…” (Exodus 20:11).  But the Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David is not just a six-pointed star.  It is one triangle superimposed on another. It is actually two triangles, one of which is rotated half a circle (180 degrees) and then superimposed upon the other.

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PAL – Parents Against Leeches

January 19th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 2 comments

No matter what brought you to his office, your doctor has probably not prescribed leeches or blood-letting. Thinking of those once-common medical remedies may even make you question whether George Washington and others might have survived longer without medical assistance.

That doesn’t mean that the medical advice we get today is necessarily foolproof. Yes, there have been innumerable advances, but new challenges arise and medicine is a field that is constantly developing. How does a parent decide to listen to medical direction or to ignore it?

I was thinking of this when re-reading Small Steps by Peg Kehret.  The author tells her story of contracting polio in 1949 when she was in seventh grade. It is a book worth sharing with our pre-teens and teenagers both as a depiction of a polio epidemic that, thankfully, we no longer see and as an evocative piece of writing. As a mother, one section particularly resonates with me.

Shortly after Peg was first diagnosed and hospitalized, she was running a fever. Worried about dehydration, the nurses encouraged her to drink. After she aspirated some soda, they restricted her to water and juice. However, largely from fear of aspirating again and being put in an iron lung, Peg barely swallowed anything. Day after day, her parents watched her grow weaker. Finally, they asked Peg if there was anything she would like to drink and she responded, “A chocolate milkshake.”

The nurse on duty told Peg’s parents that she was forbidden to have either milk or ice-cream as they would cause her to choke. The nurse held up the specter of their daughter choking to death because of their actions. Her parents responded that they were watching her slowly die anyway and went out and got her a milkshake. Within an hour of sipping the shake, Peg’s temperature dropped and she began her road to recovery.

I know that we now have IVs and that if parents today tried to behave in that way, social services would be called. But I still find myself asking if I would be so confident that expert advice was wrong and able to accept responsibility for ignoring it. This question isn’t limited to medical advice. We are besieged by authorities ranging from politicians to psychologists to schools pronouncing what is best for our children and families. Sometimes they are right; oftentimes they are wrong.

Here is my blessing to parents. May God guide you to have the humility to listen to advice and the wisdom and courage to know when to pay attention and when to ignore it.

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