Posts in Susan’s Musings

Take My Advice?

June 13th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

Let me go out on a limb and suggest that you not run your life based on the experiences of, or advice given by, Bill Callahan, Paul Dolan or Ann Landers. Like some of you, the only one of the three whose name was familiar to me before today was advice columnist Ann Landers (actual name Eppie Lederer). She, along with her twin sister of Dear Abby  fame, had an outsized influence on Americans in the second half of the twentieth century.

However, recently two reviews crossed my desk. The first was of musician Bill Callahan’s latest album where I was intrigued by the discussion of the evolution of his music. According to reviewer, Mark Richardson, Mr. Callahan’s earlier 15 albums share a theme of alienation. Mr. Richardson shares one of the musician’s quotes from an interview in 2009. “I’m not afraid to die lately. I don’t have any kids to look after. I don’t hold any great worth for humanity.”

While neither Mr. Callahan nor I believe that the only way to have worth to humanity is to have children, his current music is different. His latest work, produced after he bought a home, married and had a child, reveals his feelings on being needed.

The second review I saw was of a book by Professor Paul Dolan. He argues that studies show that women, in particular, are happier and better off without spouses and children. This seems to echo a much circulated Ann Landers’ column from 1975 where she asked readers if they would choose to have children again, if they had the opportunity to change their pasts. At the time, the results caused quite a stir when about 70% of respondents said they would not. While her poll was debunked as unscientific and follow-up surveys produced completely conflicting totals, Professor Dolan (whose book I have not read) suggests that intellectually rigorous studies would support Ann Landers’ conclusions. I register my skepticism.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Professor Dolan’s book becomes standard reading in Women’s Studies courses. It echoes the Left’s prejudice against marriage and family. I, too, am not objective, though my own biases suggest that both women and men are happier when devoted to a spouse and children. Singer Bill Callahan’s experience rings far more true to me.

In today’s fractured, false, and corrupt society, many social and political arguments are stated as “proven”. Yet, as our culture moves away from timeless truths and abandons the compass of morality, we become easy prey for ephemeral fads and passing whims. That portends much regret and disillusionment down the road for those who follow the crowd rather than seeking the truth. ‘Question authority’ may have been a rebellious slogan of liberals in the Sixties, but it should be the mantra of every independent-minded person today.

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What a Burden!

June 5th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

When the word “burden” appears three times in an article (with an additional showing in the subtitle) and the word “privilege” is nowhere to be seen, it isn’t hard to detect a bias. That was my first impression after reading Wall Street Journal food columnist, Bee Wilson’s essay entitled, “Feeding a Family Isn’t a Job for Mothers Alone.” 

I don’t want to talk about the premise of the article, though I do (surprise, surprise) have some thoughts on it. The subtitle: “In an era of processed foods, wholesome home cooking is more important than ever—and men need to share that burden,” pretty much lays out the author’s views. For my part, I was more struck by a sentiment underlying the whole article that is rather common today. I speak of the sentiment that life should be pleasurable and easy.

I’m a self-inflicted victim of this thinking myself. I generally expect to have a certain amount of time each day for reading, exercising and relaxing. My normal schedule allows me a night’s sleep. I assume that much of my day, including work, will be enjoyable. For this, I should be overflowing with gratitude.

What happens instead, however, is that my expectations increase along with my blessings. If my grandmother almost never ate out in a restaurant, and my mother did so a few times a year, I think it perfectly normal to have food prepared for me a few times a month. If my grandfather was grateful for any job that allowed him to feed and clothe his family, my generation expects that work should be emotionally gratifying. Instead of being overwhelmed with the blessing of having the financial means, safe environment and abundance of food with which to feed a family, we feel the burden of having to cook and prepare meals repeatedly.

I vividly recall the first time I supplemented our eldest child’s feeding with some solid food. I was swamped with a panicky feeling as I realized that, after months of relative ease where my milk could supply all her needs, she was soon going to want to eat numerous times a day. It would be years before she could take care of herself in that regard! I also know well the tired feeling of having no idea what to make for dinner and little energy with which to make it.  I am certainly not yearning for a return to the days of working in sweatshops or as sharecroppers.  I have no desire to see men and women dying young as years of exhausting labor takes its toll. Nonetheless, Ms. Wilson’s article reminded me of how easy it is to pity ourselves when, in reality, even our problems are those of the blessed and fortunate.

P.S. Please note that our office and store will be closed from Friday night, June 7 through Monday night June 10 in honor and observance of the holy days of Shavuot (Pentecost). Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. In recognition of that, in addition to the 2 books that were already featured on sale this week, until we close for Shabbat, we are also offering The Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life audio CD for a reduced price.

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When Divorce Wasn’t an Option

May 30th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

Department stores continue to disappear and the crowds in the remaining ones are increasingly poorly behaved.  Just about anything you want is available online.  I find myself  rarely stepping foot in a mall. Yet, there is one category of store that I still enjoy visiting in person. Second-hand book stores get my heart racing. I have difficulty walking away empty-handed.

And what gems I have found! One of my favorite discoveries was a copy of Pink and White Tyranny. While Harriet Beecher Stowe is universally known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she was a prolific author with other volumes to her credit. Pink and White Tyranny tells the tale of a New England man accustomed to competent, intelligent, God-fearing, principled and diligent women such as his sister. On vacation he meets and marries a different type of girl, one whose entire life training has been to catch a husband; she is a bit of mindless pink and white fluff.  The book is sad and humorous; depicting his arrival home with his new wife and his slowly growing comprehension that he has made a disastrous choice in his life partner.

The book should be heralded today as a feminist tome. Just as she railed against slavery in her best-seller, in this book Mrs. Stowe makes a passionate case for cultivating women’s minds rather than focusing only on their beauty. Yet I doubt if Pink and White Tyranny is going to enjoy a resurgence of popularity. Unlike the typical hero of today’s fiction, the protagonist doesn’t end up divorcing his unsuitable mate and starting anew. His wife doesn’t end up rebelling against her upbringing and becoming the CEO of her own company while finding true love with a more forward-looking man. Instead, the protagonist acknowledges both his stupidity and his responsibility and concludes that walking away from a commitment would only add another wrong to his life’s reckoning. His wife stays ignorant and self-centered, only realizing that she wasted her life once it is too late.

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that divorce is one of life’s sad realities. A few lives may indeed improve after a divorce. Nonetheless, divorce is always a tragic reality that causes suffering to both people and God. There is great harm in allowing the idea of divorce to become culturally neutral or normative. The hero of Pink and White Tyranny decides that it would be unmanly and unethical to send away his wife in the hope of salvaging his own chance for happiness, In contrast, today’s novels often deal with divorce as an accepted and even lauded factor of life. In “chick lit” in particular, second marriages tend to provide sunshine and light that was absent from the first.

Our nine-year-old granddaughter is an avid writer.  She regularly producing extensive adventure stories for us to read. A few weeks back she expressed her sympathies for her mother who, in her mind, without a computer, clearly wasn’t able to write prolifically when she was a little girl. This younger generation was unable to conceive of writing by hand for hours on end and painstakingly copying the final version as her mother indeed did. 

We tend to define “normal” by what we know. I am grateful to be able to read books from a time when society as a whole treated marriage with the respect and seriousness that it deserves. And I am grateful to Harriet Beecher Stowe and numerous other authors who wrote, revised and copied when doing so took an effort that is long-forgotten.

Speaking of marriage…
Arm yourself with valuable ideas

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Hands Off! This May Be Love I Only Want to Get Married Once

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Who Are You Calling Names? by Judy Gruen

May 23rd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

I am delighted to share this platform today with my good friend, Judy Gruen. I think it’s a great reminder that each of us can choose to add kindness to the world with a simple act. 

Recently, I attended a memorial tribute for an elderly friend named Maurice. I had met Maurice and his wife, Mildred, back in the late 1980’s, when my husband, Jeff, and I had joined Pacific Jewish Center in Venice, the “Shul on the Beach.” We had been drawn there by the teachings of Rabbi Daniel Lapin and his wife, Susan, and their dynamic leadership that had begun to revitalize a once-thriving Jewish congregation.

Now, Maurice was a big man with a big personality, brash and bluntly opinionated. A strong baritone, Maurice usually seized the opportunity to begin prayers and hymns with his melodies of choice. His commanding voice and musical selections helped define the spiritual atmosphere of the synagogue for nearly 40 years.

Maurice was a colorful character, yet as people reminisced and eulogized him, it was clear that he had touched people by always remembering synagogue members’ full names, bellowing out his greetings: “Jacob Israel!” Or, “Leah Emunah!” His loud acknowledgement became one of his trademarks, but it didn’t end there.

He also remembered the names of extended family members, and he also remembered what troubles or issues they were dealing with.

As I sat listening to the tributes, I nodded in recognition. Long ago, I told Maurice that my sister was about to undergo her seventh spinal surgery for complications of severe scoliosis. For years afterward, he’d regularly ask me, his brow furrowed with concern, “How’s your sister Sharon doing?”

One speaker said half-jokingly, “I thought Maurice only remembered the names of my parents and siblings. Now that I know he did that for everyone, I’m feeling a little less special.”

The little girl named Leah Emunah is now a young mother in her 20’s. She said, “Even though the synagogue was overflowing with children, Maurice knew all our names. We all understood that in a small congregation, we were each important. Only later did I realize that a big part of this feeling came from Maurice always addressing us by name.”

I decided to honor Maurice’s memory by making a point of greeting people by name. I first tried it at the grocery store. As the cashier rang up my purchases, she glanced at me and asked, “Did you find everything you were looking for today, ma’am?”

I expected the question — it was company protocol to ask. Even on occasions when I hadn’t found quite everything I had looked for, I’d still answer blandly, “Yes, thank you.”

That day, I decided not to answer by rote. I read her name tag and said, “Yes, thank you, Toni.”

She looked back at me for a just a second and visibly brightened. “Glad to hear it!” she answered with a smile.

With only one word, I was able to infuse a predictable and commonplace interaction with a small spark of personal connection. She was not just a cashier ringing up groceries during a long shift. She was a woman named Toni.

Since then, I try to always call sales clerks or service reps by name, both in person and even in online chat sessions. In person, I always am rewarded with a smile, a straightening of the shoulders, an appreciative look. I wish I had thought of doing this on my own, but I was prompted to do it because Maurice had set a gold standard in carrying out this mitzvah, a good deed commanded by God. I had known it was a mitzvah to greet people with a pleasant demeanor. What had I been waiting for?

You never know where a kind greeting can lead. My friend Barry not only chatted with the manager of a local mailbox store, calling her by name, he asked her out on a date. They were married within the year.

In today’s society, too many people feel invisible and lonely. Increasingly, even when we’d like to smile or nod or make small talk with another person in public, we can’t. Too often, they are in the addictive clutch of their phones, an impenetrable barrier. These small losses add up to a much larger fracturing of the social compact.

I discovered through my little experiment, and Maurice proved, that the simple, old-fashioned practice of greeting others with a kind expression and acknowledging their names when we can isn’t such a small thing after all.

Judy Gruen’s latest book is “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith”  (She Writes Press, 2017). (3 Guesses who the Rabbi in the title is.) Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Aish.com, Jewish Journal, and many other media outlets.

This Week’s Featured Items

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel – on sale Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel – MP3 on sale The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith

For Your Own Good

May 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

I appreciate warnings. When I’m a guest at a meal and my hostess tells us that one of the dips is super spicy, I appreciate knowing that before setting my mouth on fire. When a friend suggests that I skip reading a popular book because it is filled with profanity, I appreciate taking it off my reading list. When my phone alerts me about an accident up ahead and re-routes me, I appreciate saving the time I would have sat motionless on the freeway.

But what happens if I find out that the dip wasn’t actually spicy at all. There simply wasn’t enough to go around and my hostess wanted to save it for her other guests. Or my friend knew that I would love the book which was actually unobjectionable, but wanted to write about it on her blog before I wrote about it on mine. What if the developers of my traffic app only wanted to route me so that I would pass a certain coffee shop that was giving them a kickback on each beverage sold?

I no longer appreciate the warnings. Instead I feel manipulated.

This is exactly what is happening on Facebook and other social media sites today. I was aware that years ago already, Google and YouTube restricted videos from Prager University warning that they were “inappropriate” for young audiences. If you have seen these videos you will understand that the translation of “inappropriate” is worry that young people might be exposed to conservative ideas and the fear that they may be intrigued to learn more about them.

Recently, however, I’m seeing more of this type of slanting of information masquerading as concern for viewers. Not by silencing  entities like Prager University, which at least has other avenues in which to disseminate its ideas, but by playing liberal extremist nanny to the interactions between individuals. This week, Facebook masked a photo that was posted by a contact of mine. Facebook feigned concern that the post might offend me, so that they wrote, “We covered this photo so you can decide if you want to see it.” There was an additional warning: “This photo may show violent or graphic comment.” Now, there are a lot of inappropriate picture that I wish I did not have to see. Many of them are on the covers of newspapers or magazines that are hard to avoid as you walk through an airport or check out from a supermarket. However, although, I don’t personally know this contact, I do know that she has never posted anything I would consider inappropriate. I proceeded to click on the “uncover this photo” tab.

If you have your smelling salts at hand along with a teddy bear to cuddle if your blood pressure begins to climb, here is the message I uncovered.

Welcome

You came here from there because you didn’t like there, and now you want to change here to be like there. We are not racist, phobic or anti whatever-you-are, we simply like here the way it is and most of us actually came here because it is not like there, wherever there was. You are welcome here, but please stop trying to make here like there. If you want here to be like there you should not have left there to come here, and you are invited to leave here and go back there at your earliest convenience.

I do hope you have survived this graphic encounter with words that are so out-of-bounds that social media know-it-alls will shield you from them. My first thought was that this should be sent to all those white, wealthy, liberal individuals leaving states like California and moving to states like Texas.

May I humbly suggest that you be careful whose invitations you accept, whose book reviews you respect and whose driving directions you follow. Most importantly, treat concern for your well-being from any politician, academic or media outlet as a clarion call to research more and make up your own mind. 

Nine verses that explain terrible ideas becoming popular once again.

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel

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Tower of Power

Dis-Connecting in the Caribbean

May 8th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

It is time for re-entry to reality. I have been off-line for over a week and only now do I realize how “connected” I usually am.

For many years, during our summer boating trips, we were out of touch in a way that today’s youth can’t imagine. When we sailed from California to Hawaii one of our friends and crew was a ham radio operator. Every few days he would hail some radio pal, who then, as a courtesy, phoned our parents to tell them that we were fine. Aside from that sporadic crackly contact we spent twenty-two days isolated from the world on our sailing boat in a small world of our own.

Even during our trips along the British Columbia coast, we were often incredibly isolated. My husband vividly remembers taking the dinghy ashore to call his parents from the phone booth on a dock on Quadra Island, BC. When his father asked him what he thought of the war, his response was, “What war?” (The first Iraq War had broken out a few days earlier.)

That is no longer the case. When we nowadays boat in British Columbia as we love to do, we have cell phones that are almost always within reach of a signal.   We often also enjoy WiFi availability courtesy of a harbor (harbour) at which we are docked. By using a hot spot, we can even be online while at anchor. This is a gift for us, as being able to work for a few hours a day allows us to get away more often. However, until this past week, I hadn’t realized how much information is continually bombarding us.

Even though I turn off for 25 hours each week for Shabbat and occasional holy days can add another 48 hours to that tally a few times a year, the expectation of hearing things almost instantaneously has become my norm. This past week, sailing the Caribbean in a small boat as guests of our son and daughter-in-law was a throwback to earlier years. I had no WiFi connection, though the magic of What’s App allowed me to stay in touch with our family chat.

We sailed. We swam. We snorkeled. We enjoyed the magnificent beauty of God’s creation. We read. I completed more embroidery than I usually manage to do in a few months at home.

We had time for deep, meaningful conversations.

Person 1: Does anyone know what day it is?

Person 2: I think it’s Monday.

Person 3: I’m pretty sure it’s Tuesday.

It is time to jump back into real life. Our wonderful team kept our ministry running smoothly, but I look forward to finding out what is going on. I’m eager to read comments on the past weeks’ Ask the Rabbi and Musing. (Now you know why I didn’t reply.) And, while I was perfectly content being unaware of what world leaders, politicians and pundits were doing and saying, too much ignorance isn’t healthy. Yet, it is good to know that the world managed without my input and I have to think that my mental health flourished without input from the world. Perhaps, for a short while at least, I can remember that just because I can access the latest news at the touch of my fingertips doesn’t mean that I should always do so.

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Is Venezuela Coming Here?

May 2nd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

Unless you have family or friends in or from Venezuela, the country seems far removed from most people’s daily lives. Considering the paucity of geographical knowledge that most Americans possess, it might even be considered a success if many people could place Venezuela on the correct continent. Yet, it would be a mistake to ignore that South American country.

In an incredibly short time political decisions, along with Cuba’s intrusive assistance and specifically socialist leanings, turned Venezuela from one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries into a land where hunger, shortage and sadness abound. We ignore the warnings emanating from this disaster at our own risk.  Today, Venezuela serves as compelling evidence of how evil ideologies will gradually impoverish a society and destroy lives.  And all this was done in the name of equality and compassion.

Closer to home, I encourage you to watch two videos. (I strongly suggest you not do so too soon after eating.) They show how two cities, Seattle and San Francisco, are no longer jewels of the American west coast, but have tragically deteriorated into rather filthy, dangerous, crime-ridden cities in serious decline.

When our oldest two children where small, our family spent one summer on our sailboat in San Francisco. We had a wonderful time taking day trips from that magnificent location. Years later, when our family had blessedly added another five children, we moved from Southern California to the Seattle area. We rejoiced in the clean air and breathtakingly beautiful views. Not only was crime low but civic pride and respect for the law was high. Only five years ago, in 2014, when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl, there were articles about how Seattle rioted politely, with joke pages listing posts such as: I rioted by crossing the street on a red light—twice! When a few fans did get out of hand and damaged a pergola in downtown’s Pioneer Square, the public raised funds almost immediately to rebuild it.  As you can sadly see in the video, Seattle is unrecognizable today.

The United States is a large country. It can still thrive as a nation even while parts of it wallow in filth. However, there is a tipping point. Increasingly, those citizens who are financially able to do so are voting with their feet, moving from high-tax, high-crime, failing cities and states. Unfortunately, as they move to safer, better functioning cities, they bring their misguided voting patterns with them, potentially setting in motion the eventual destruction of their new homes.

Pay attention to Venezuela, and should you meet newly relocated neighbors, perhaps a showing of the Seattle KOMO news report would make a fitting “welcome to our neighborhood” evening activity.

If you don’t understand what money represents, you can’t make it
(or recognize why capitalism is better than socialism)

On Sale: The Income Abundance Set

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.

The above story is one of many I could tell about that impish little girl with a glint in her eye. She is now a lovely young woman, married, the mother of two little boys and a practicing nurse. Fortunately, her sense of humor has matured while remaining vibrant. My thoughts immediately jumped to her when I saw headline snippets of a hard-hearted and clueless Washington state senator declaring that nurses spend their time playing cards.

The facts were almost as incorrect as in my opening story. Senator Maureen Walsh did say that nurses, “…probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” But she was making a point, poorly worded as it was, that was not meant to denigrate nurses or nursing, but rather to point out the difference in the needs of hospitals in urban, rural and remote areas. In a debate on regulations, she was highlighting that rules which make sense under certain conditions can be crippling under others.

My point isn’t whether her argument is accurate or a good one. That should emerge from debate and factual information. However, instead of discovering what she actually said and discussing it, what happened was a public keel-hauling, taking her remarks out of context and stirring the social media pot of venom. Could her words have been more carefully chosen? Of course. Yet, there is not one of us who hasn’t clumsily said something we could have better articulated.

My daughter, who worked in the ICU for two years has, along with her colleagues, missed meals while on 12-hour shifts. They have found it impossible to catch a rest or go to the bathroom. We increasingly treat both our doctors and nurses poorly, if not cruelly, in ways that demoralize them and decrease the care they can provide for patients. Some of that is the result of regulations that sounded good on paper but worked out completely differently in reality. Debate on many issues is desperately needed. A society that plays “gotcha” instead of encouraging open conversation and dialogue, as it did with Senator Walsh, is establishing a more dangerous scenario than the one concocted in my eight-year-old’s imagination.

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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.

My husband and I have cultivated relationships outside our “box” for many years. In the early years of our marriage, this took the form of leading a synagogue made up mostly of young Jews who had a strong ethnic Jewish identity but negligible religious education or knowledge. (If you’d like to know more about our electrifying experiences during those years, check out Judy Gruen’s The Skeptic and the Rabbi, telling her story of reluctantly being drawn to faith via my husband’s teachings.) This meant that the Jews we welcomed into our home often behaved in ways that were counter to our convictions. They drove by car to our home or synagogue on the Sabbath; brought us non-kosher food as hostess gifts and sometimes even approached topics with our young children that made us uncomfortable. We had no difficulty distinguishing between their behavior and them. Over the years, many of them involved themselves in our congregation and began to follow the Torah; others did not. People in both of those categories came to be our dearest friends.

When we shifted our professional focus away from our Jewish community and onto the national stage out of concern about the anti-Godly direction the United States was taking, we again forged friendships with those different from us. In this case, our new relationships were mostly with Christians. While we agreed on the moral vision for the country, our theologies were not congruent. Since we all took God and His book seriously we could work towards a mutual goal, however this meant putting our differences to the side. In our case, we truly were (and are) completely not disturbed by the notion that some of these individuals are convinced that we will not meet them in Heaven. (It actually amuses us that some secular Jews who profess not to believe in an after-life and Heaven at all, get highly offended at that theological view.) We respectfully listen as our Christian allies pray in Jesus’ name.  Our Christian friends, on the other hand,  share their faith (evangelize) by example rather than by insisting on conversations we do not want to have and  do what they can to support our religious needs. Once again, we count many of these Christians as dear and cherished friends.

I see the #Walkaway group as another example of this kind of alliance.  I think that many in this group have mistaken ideas and I’m quite sure many in the group think I do too. I can embrace them for their political decisions without embracing everything about them.

Knowing something of history is imperative for making wise choices in life. However,  trying to live as if we were still in an earlier  era is an easily made mistake.  When the Jewish Reform movement first started in Germany during the  1800s, those Jews who abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did so deliberately rebelling against God. At that time and place, Orthodox Judaism sought no common ground with Reform. Instead what was needed was vigorous opposition to this distortion of Judaism.   By contrast today, most Reform or completely unaffiliated Jews aren’t rebelling; often they are extremely serious about the only version of Judaism they’ve ever known.

When European pogroms against Jews were regular occurrences in many countries, frequently encouraged by the local priest, the answer was not to form a Cossack-Jewish friendship society. But that is no longer today’s world.  For the most part, anti-Semitism today stems from Islam and secularists.

And when sexual norms began to be shattered during the 1960s, whether through the birth control pill, the normalization of homosexual behavior or the  deprecation of marriage, loud voices of opposition were required. However, many of those living by those new rules today are not revolutionaries. They are often following a path that they believe to be good and normative.

I still think that when Jews desecrate the Sabbath, it is a problem. I still think that homosexual activity is a sin, along with many other behaviors (like gossip) that are completely accepted today. Yet those who do these things are not automatically my enemy. A common theme one hears in the #Walkaway stories is how supporting President Trump or even having something positive to say about any Republican is enough to end decades of friendships and destroy family relationships. Yet, what I read and hear is not a desire to reciprocate the venomous feelings towards these ideologically pure “progressives,” but a wish that these estranged loved ones can overcome their hatred.

At this time in history, the right thing is to build alliances with anyone who doesn’t think that those who disagree with him should be physically, emotionally or financially attacked. It is time to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who feels that the power of government should not be used to impose thought control over the populace. It is time to find common ground with anyone who is willing to let each American live by his or her beliefs rather than strip us of our freedom of speech, religion and assembly. There may be numerous areas of disagreement, but, disturbingly, today there is an ascendant group that is trying to crush those with whom they differ. At a time such as this, new friendships and alliances are needed. There may be other times when doctrinal purity must be emphasized. Now is not one of those times.

P.S. In honor and observance of Passover, our online store will be closed from Friday evening, April 19th through Sunday evening April 21st.

Catch these sale prices!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin Audio Rabbi Lapin Download
Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Biblically-based Introduction to the Hebrew alphabet Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt MP3

 

Grouchy Women

April 10th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 comments

Dennis Prager’s thought-provoking columns are always interesting to read, and I agree with his arguments most of the time.  A column this week is an exception to the rule.  You can read it here, but to sum it up, he suggests that just as men as a group have more aggressive natures than women do, women as a group have a tendency to being malcontent.

Dennis’ thought process started when he recently read Betty Friedan’s seminal book from 1963, The Feminine Mystique. In January, 2015, I too, decided that, as a book that helped launch the feminist movement, it was worth a read. Like Dennis, I too commented that having achieved more than Ms. Friedan imagined, women today should be rejoicing. Instead, we see many women who are bitter and discontented. I wrote an article asking, “Could it be that…women are just complainers regardless of what is happening?” Dennis and I answer that question differently.

I do agree that, in the aggregate, women and men have different natures. Women are more emotionally driven than men are, a quality that, just like male aggressiveness, can help or harm society. If women adulate and even adopt men’s aggressiveness, as has sometimes happened in history, the world becomes a cruel and vicious place. If men adulate and adopt women’s emotionalism, as has happened in our culture since the 1960s, the world becomes an unhappier and less productive place.

On issue after issue, men have failed to be men, falling prey to emotional and illogical arguments ranging from, “a woman’s body is her own,” when there is clearly another human being sharing that body, to the culture-destroying, “intentions matter more than results.” Most of all, both men and women emotionally embraced the attitude of victimhood, seeing happiness and fulfillment as an obligation that society must deliver. Men and women have chosen and been taught not to take responsibility for their own lives, but to depend on the government and others.

People respond to a false sense of victimhood in different ways. Real injustice can be fought; fake injustice cannot. Men are more likely to respond to this frustration by taking drugs, committing suicide, getting into fights or taking stupid physical risks. In the past decades women increasingly respond by becoming both unhappy and political activists. As we chase God out of our lives, we are supremely less well-equipped to elevate gratitude and appreciation over bitterness and sullenness.  As I wrote in my Musing on this topic, “Those of us who wish to be happy need to inoculate ourselves against that virus, surrounding ourselves with women looking for realistic joy rather than victimhood.” That is true for men as well. Sorry Dennis, but sinking into misery rather than counting our blessings is a human failing, not a feminine one.

P.S. I received a lot of positive comments on last week’s Musing about vaccinations. I also received private messages appalled that I would write this during a measles outbreak. I wish those who wrote privately telling me how irresponsible I was would have posted publicly as well.

I was not specifically talking about the measles vaccine, though my timing may not have been the best, and as I said, I see both sides of this issue. Lack of trust is rampant in many areas of our lives now, and that includes lack of trust in the medical community. In another field, Boeing’s only chance of reviving consumer confidence in the 737 MAX and the company in general means that they have to accept responsibility for their wrongs and explain what will change. Similarly, I think the onus is on the officials  of the American Medical Association, politicians and other in leadership to acknowledge when they have given priority to concerns other than the safety of patients and explain what will change going forward. Certainly, a measles outbreak will encourage some parents who were hesitating to vaccinate to do so, but as long as underlying worries are not aired and respectfully dealt with, I don’t see a change in the basic lack of confidence in the medical establishment that exists among many loving and intelligent parents.

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How about wealth, family and laughter?
Check out Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language
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