Monthly Archives: April, 2020

Vaccine Development: Seeking Poets?

April 30th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 28 comments

My husband and I were discussing whether the production of pharmaceuticals and other vital commodities would move back to the United States from China. He brought up an angle that had eluded me.

“We aren’t raising enough people with the education and ability to produce many of these things,” he said. “To make matters worse, not only are we not producing nearly enough design and production engineers, chemists, and people who know how to operate numerically controlled machine tools,  powerful unions have placed almost insurmountable impediments to manufacturing in America and have pushed wages beyond the economically sustainable.  Add to that all the politicians willing to buy votes with unrealistic economic promises and seeking power via unnecessary regulations, and we simply are years from returning to a manufacturing economy. That’s without even mentioning lawyers poised to attack any successful company.

With that in mind, my attention was caught by a newspaper article that was part of a series of how a variety of professionals are working during this pandemic. We have all read so much over the past few years about a renewed focus on STEM— science, technology, engineering and math—exactly those areas in which my husband was declaring our country to be deficient. This particular article featured a science teacher developing remote lessons. Although meant as a laudatory piece, it actually showed how meaningless a STEM label can be. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “A touchy-feely humanities class by any other name would still be a liberal arts class.”

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My Unemployed Husband is No Help to Me

April 29th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Your shows are so impacting.  They help me to adjust my thinking, but I am having some challenges letting my new thought pattern influence and change my situation.

In short, I am employed and my husband is not. He lost his job because he did not meet the company’s new requirements and qualifications. While at home, he sleeps for several hours and watches TV.  I am still left to care for the children and the house after a 10-hour day.

When we talk about work, he says that he is entitled to rest from work because he has worked for many years.  He goes on to say that there was a time when I was at home (with the kids) and he brought in all the money (which was not much).

This is exhausting. I feel like a single parent with a lazy bear in my house.  It’s ok that I taught myself not to depend on him for anything, but it would be good to have some support.  What should I do?

Rheon

Dear Rheon,

As we repeat from time to time, we are not offering personal and comprehensive advice since we only know you through your short letter.  We will try to raise questions and make points that we hope may be applicable to your unique situation.

Having said that, our hearts really do go out to you. Loneliness within a marriage is a cruel form of misery. While your husband’s being out of work sounds unrelated to COVID-19, many couples today are grappling with unemployment.  The emotional and intimate aspects are often more severe than the economic, though of course they are related. 

Our impression, Rheon, is that your marital problems go way back further than your husband losing his job. Mutual disrespect leaps out from your words. You minimize the income he brought in when he was working and his words, which you quote, disparage your contribution in running a home and raising a family. Disrespect, whether through hostile words, sarcasm, “humor”, or facial expression is a machete that hacks away at a marriage. It is incredibly hard to change the way spouses talk to and about each other, but it is vital to do so for a marriage to succeed.

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Why Did I Do That?

April 27th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

Many of us are spending more time these days not only with our spouses and children but with ourselves. Unable to run around as usual, we may find ourselves paying more attention to our own thoughts, feelings, words and actions, including how we react under stress.

Have you caught yourself thinking, speaking or acting just the way your parents did? Or maybe, your knee-jerk reaction is the exact opposite from your parents?

Have you been slightly embarrassed to catch yourself imitating an expression or gesture of a celebrity or mindlessly repeating the “wisdom” of a pundit?

Your ‘Yes!’ reminds us of the mysterious power our parents exert upon our souls and the extent to which influential people impact our inner natures.

Whether in professional, social, or family settings, our instinctive reaction to challenging circumstances is unlikely to be the most productive one. Our susceptibility to being influenced by those around us can harm our lives because few of the occasions to which we need to respond grant us the luxury of lengthy contemplation.

We regularly react to events more because of how we’ve been shaped rather than by carefully analyzing them. How do we overcome this?

As usual, I seek guidance in a verse from Scripture:

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Balancing Home, Work and School

April 27th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

Many of us are trying to figure out a new normal as we balance work from home and school at home.  There is a struggle within us—which has priority:  Work or home?  School or home?

Leviticus 12 begins with the laws of impurity and purity surrounding childbirth.  (These are very poor translations of the Hebrew words tumah and tahara, but will serve for the purpose of this writing.) The previous chapter, Leviticus 11, discusses the laws of purity and impurity of animals.  Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that just as when God created the world, He first created animals and then man, so too, when teaching us about the spiritual state of creation, the Torah begins with animals and ends with man.  There is a well-known teaching on this that says:

“If man merits, we say to him, you are primary out of all the creations, but if he doesn’t merit, we say to him, even a lowly worm preceded you.”  There are two ways of looking at mankind.  We are either the pinnacle, the apex of creation or just the stragglers.  A prominent 19th-century Hungarian rabbi expounded on this saying that in one way, mankind is clearly inferior to animals.  Animals can forage in their local fields and forests for food and they don’t need any clothing or furnishings, whereas we have to work hard to procure and prepare food, clothing, and housing.  But in another sense, he taught, people are elevated and distinguished beyond all animals because we have a purpose and goal in life, which is to serve God and engage in His Torah and this purpose gives us grandeur and importance.  That is why the teaching says, if a person “merits”, meaning fulfills his purpose faithfully and strives to reach his potential, we say, “you are the pinnacle of creation”, but if a person, “doesn’t merit”, doesn’t act upon the responsibilities inherent in being a human, then truly all other animals are better than he, because no other creature has to work as hard as he for his basic physical needs. Then we say, “Even a worm is ahead of you”.

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Time to Outlaw Homeschooling?

April 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 37 comments

Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, an esteemed mentor of my husband’s and a revered teacher of thousands, once gave my husband an unusual blessing. He said, “May God protect you from those who believe they are acting for the sake of Heaven.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke, but there was deep sincerity behind his words.

Those who believe that their motives are entirely pure, selfless and represent the only truth are dangerous indeed. Those who deliberately use the language of morality, selflessness and idealism to bamboozle others are likely even more dangerous.

I do not know Professor Elizabeth Bartholet or whether she believes that she is acting only for the public good, but having read her essay in the Arizona Law Review warning about the potential abuses of homeschooling and recommending judicial action to counter parental authority, I do know that her thinking is dangerous indeed. As the Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, she is in a position to do great harm.

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Second chance marriage

April 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been listening to your videos on YouTube and I’m so grateful for the valuable information you share.

I am a religious Jewish woman and very family-oriented. I got married at 23 which was over 2 years ago. There has been too much unsureness & insecurity & we recently got divorced.

I don’t even believe in divorce – not that it’s a religion – but basically I think there’s always something that can be done or worked on. I’d never believe that I’d go through it, & with our 1 & 1/2-year-old, but I realized so much negativity can be too much.

I’d like to be with the right person G-d willing, but aside from having a good time dating & good company how can one ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?

Thanks a million.

Yvonne     (name changed for privacy)

Dear Yvonne,

How can one “ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?”  One can’t. However, we can up the odds of entering into a positive and long-lasting marriage.

The two separate components of doing so are first, finding the best person and then second, making the union work. In God’s Biblical blueprint, neither Adam nor Eve were given choices.  God didn’t parade a choice of women before Adam like an early MIss Eden contest.  Neither did He allow Eve the option of looking at Adam and saying, “Hmm….really? That’s it?  Could You maybe show me another one?”  The emphasis in the elemental model of marriage was on what happened after the wedding rather than on the process of choosing.

Nowadays, it is not so simple; partially because to some extent, we are all greatly influenced by a deteriorated culture around us, and indeed, some of us are damaged.  For that and other reasons, choosing wisely is now an increasingly important part of the process of building a lifelong marriage.

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Male Highs and Lows

April 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

“No questions are out of bounds,” I explained to the awkward-looking young man who approached me.  “Nothing in the entire spectrum of human experience falls outside the purview of ancient Jewish wisdom or beyond the Torah upon which it is based.  Go ahead and tell me what is worrying you,” I assured him.

He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other and with his face betraying inner embarrassment, he finally blurted out his question.  “Why did God create men to both urinate and reproduce through the same bodily orifice whereas with women it’s different?”  I had to stop myself from smiling.  Having finally got this conundrum off his chest, he looked like he couldn’t decide whether to feel relief or a desire to flee.

“That is a wonderful question and a very important one,” I told him.  At this point, all panic vanished from his face.  I then told him the answer and added that I would be writing about it in a future Thought Tool for everyone else who had thought of the question but lacked his courage to ask it.  Trent, this one is for you!

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School at Home vs. Homeschooling

April 20th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

Now that families are settling into an isolation routine, I thought it worthwhile to distinguish between schooling at home and homeschooling.

When my mother was small, she contracted polio. Over the course of her childhood, she spent many months at home recuperating from operations. During that time, the school district regularly sent a teacher to her apartment. I believe the teacher came once or twice a week though I am not sure; my mother rarely spoke of those years. Those sessions, coupled with a sharp intellect and parents who valued learning, seemed to have been most successful. Missing classes, facing poverty during the Depression and immigrant parents for whom English was not their first language didn’t hold my mother back. She joined her classmates when she could and eventually graduated college at a time when that was quite an achievement.

My grandparents had never heard of the term homeschooling. Rather, circumstance dictated that my mother was often schooled at home. I assume that her parents made sure that she finished her assignments, but they trusted the visiting teacher to supervise what she was learning. Today, when many schools are closed, circumstances are leading many children to similarly be schooled at home.

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Where did the money go?

April 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

With the current stock market losses can you explain where the loss in value goes?

Brad

Great question, Brad, 

May we try to put it into concrete terms?   Suppose you owned a stock in the Weem, Acheit & Sellate Widget Company for which you had paid $10.  Now you want to sell it but you can only get $6 for it.  You’re asking, where is the other $4?  The buyer who purchased your share for $6 doesn’t have your $4.  The broker you might have used to facilitate the transaction doesn’t have it and W.A. & S. Widget Company doesn’t have it.  So where did it go?  That’s what you’re asking, right?

This question reminds us of a helpful old riddle. Three men had lunch together and the total bill came to $25.  Each man handed the waiter a $10 bill. On his way back to the table with five $1 bills in change, the waiter had an idea. $5 change is hard to divide among the three diners, so the waiter pocketed $2 and gave each man $1.

With each man having handed over a $10 and got back $1 in change, each man ended up paying $9. Multiply by 3 as there were 3 men, so that comes to $27. Now remember the $2 in the waiter’s pocket and $27 + $2 = $29.  Where is the missing $1?  Did we start with $30, not $29?  Who has the missing $1?

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Inherit the Land

April 13th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Thought Tools are meant as practical, real-world application of specific principles in Ancient Jewish wisdom.  Before submitting them for publication we ask ourselves whether they would have made sense to our grandparents and if they will make sense to our grandchildren. In other words, are they ‘evergreen’?  Little gets stale more quickly than political columns, while God’s Biblical blueprint is always current.

Occasionally we make an exception and when we do, it’s because politics is nothing more than the practical application of someone’s deeply held moral beliefs.  The World Health Organization (WHO) began in 1948 because of some people’s belief that it would be good for this United Nations agency to exist.  Advocating for universal health care as one of its mandates was someone’s idea of morality. It isn’t mine, but it was someone’s. 

WHO issues a list of the countries with the best healthcare systems. The United States ranks at number 37.  France and Italy occupy positions 1 and 2 respectively. The list of 36 countries with supposedly superior health care than the United States includes Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Cypress, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Dominica. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it would be better to need urgent medical care in Columbia or Cypress or even France than in Wichita, KS.  WHO’s chief criterion for ‘best’ healthcare is actually ‘most equal’ healthcare. Poor or even appalling healthcare delivered equally to all puts you up high on the WHO list.

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