A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.



It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur

boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff.

The Non-Musing Musing

Here are some of the things I considered writing about this week:

  • Venezuela and Zimbabwe
  • Why no one (not even women or the Democrat Party) is a winner in the Roy Moore matter
  • What Mitch McConnell did right—and what he did wrong
  • How quickly murder rampage stopped being front-page news

Here is why I am not writing about any of those things:

Even though I love writing, in the continual juggling act called life, cooking and baking won out this week over my Musings. Our grandson, Eliyahu, becomes a bar-mitzva this Shabbat. Despite the frequent misunderstanding that a Jewish boy turning thirteen is all about throwing a grand party, it actually is the age when the yoke of religious obligation descends on a pair of developing shoulders. The boy can shrug off the yoke, be crushed by it, or as we pray will be true in Eliyahu’s case, the yoke serves as a soul-building weight.

Since out-of-town friends and family will be coming to hear Eliyahu read from the Torah in synagogue as an initiation to being a responsible member of the community, my husband and I are hosting a dessert buffet after Shabbat to give everyone an additional chance to come together. 

The evening will give my husband and me the opportunity to toast our daughter and son-in-law who do an incredible job nurturing each of their children’s individual personalities. In Eliyahu’s case, this includes music and performing. We hope that he will express his talent for, and pleasure in, music by playing cello for our guests. 

I don’t expect Eliyahu to particularly appreciate having home-made cookies rather than bakery ones. I’m sure the guests would enjoy store-bought apple cider as much as my slowly simmered concoction (though our house wouldn’t have smelled as amazingly yesterday). But as each year seems to fly by more rapidly than the one before it, I decided to stop and cherish this special occasion. Professionally made food might be just as tasty and would be presented more beautifully. The extra ingredient of love, however, is one that only I can provide.  I love writing my weekly Susan’s Musings, but I love celebrating with family even more.

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As a single mom, should I be thinking about marriage?

What’s the biblical instruction for a single mother who met the Lord during pregnancy? I feel I’m not called to be single, but have not dated for over 11 years, as I was dedicated to mothering.

From a biblical perspective, should I seek marriage or seek singleness?

Thank you!


Dear Mka,

There’s a phrase, Kol HaKavod, used in Israel when someone has done something exceptional. It literally means “all the honor [to you],” and is a way of acknowledging actions that go above and beyond the norm. We say to you: Kol HaKavod.

Firstly, you changed the path of your life, and that of your child, by findng the Lord during your pregnancy. Since then, you devoted yourself to being a mother and, we assume, making a fulfilling life for yourself. By not dating, you focused on the relationship already in your life, with your child. When a single mother dates it frequently introduces emotional, psychological and often physical, instability into a child’s life.

In our view, the question you are asking, suggests that you are ready, not to date, but to court. The difference is that dating is an activity in itself while courting is purposeful. In your case, marriage means a commitment to both you and your child, and will strengthen the foundation you have already built. Since you are not looking for a spouse out of desperation, we feel you have every chance of meeting a man worthy of you.

Courting, and then marriage, will be a major upheaval in your lives. Upheaval is challenging, but it can also lead to a better future. Becoming a wife and providing your child with a father can make the coming years richer and healthier.

We couldn’t help noticing that you phrased your question in terms of ‘seeking’ singleness or marriage.  We don’t think that’s really the choice you face.  You are not at a crossroads at which, in order to proceed, you must now make a decision to choose A or B.   Your real choice is between doing nothing; just continuing down the road you’ve been on, and embarking on a major challenge—deliberately and purposefully seeking marriage.  The first choice would be the easier though the latter would be more fulfilling. But not easy.

We would recommend beginning the process by letting trusted friends and mentors know of your decision. Rather than going out with someone randomly, you should only meet those men who clearly share your faith, values and outlook.

A delicate balance is needed between being honest and open with your child and not burdening him or her with too much information. It might be helpful to talk to others who have preceded you on this path.

We have three resources on dating/courtship and marriage and hope they might prove helpful to you (Madam, I’m Adam; Hands Off: This May Be Love, and I Only Want to Get Married Once). You can see them here. Look in the Family, Friendship and Society section.

Wishing you a bright future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Blind as a….Cardiologist?

My earliest recollection of seeing a man knowledgeable in one specialty making foolish pronouncements in another area was South African heart-transplant pioneer, Dr. Christiaan Barnard.  It was March, 1969, and his successful transplant of a healthy heart into middle-aged South African grocer, Louis Washkansky, 15 months earlier had transformed Barnard into an international celebrity.

At a charity event in Johannesburg one evening, I watched the handsome superstar beguile a bevy of socialites hovering around him.  I edged closer hoping to hear more about his historic medical procedure.  Instead, what I heard was Dr. Barnard explaining why the Americans’ race to land a man on the moon was doomed.  Then, in response to a question from a pretty young thing, he launched into a lesson on how to maintain a long and happy marriage.  His audience hung on his every word and as a young guy with very limited life experience, I can’t claim that I felt any particular skepticism.

Only a few months later, two events taught me caution about pontificating outside your area of expertise.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and Christiaan Barnard and Aletta, his wife of 20 years, divorced. I decided that although his medical expertise was epic, his knowledge of space travel and marriage left much to be desired. This idea was reinforced when Dr. Barnard’s second and third marriages each lasted 12 years.

It is easy for even remarkable human beings possessing enormous, but specialized knowledge, to be blind in other areas.

This truism returned to me the other day while reading that one of the founders of Paypal and the force behind the remarkable Tesla automobile, Elon Musk, had made a completely ridiculous announcement.  During a speech to the nation’s governors, he insisted that the biggest threat facing civilization is artificial intelligence.  Really?  Furthermore, he assured the roomful of politicians that the only way to cope was by vastly increased government regulation.  The way government regulation has improved medicine, education, and Amtrak?

Spiritual blindness is more prevalent and far more dangerous than ophthalmic blindness.

God expects us to make use of existing medical knowledge to heal our physical bodies, so when Scripture discusses maladies, they are usually spiritually based.  For instance, let’s glance at the three instances of blindness in the Bible.

The prophet Eli had sons who were behaving abominably:

Now, Eli had become very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and that they would lie with the women who congregated at the entrance
of the tent of meeting.

(I Samuel 2:22)

Not surprisingly, it was emotionally untenable for him to accept that his sons and heirs were such failures.  Consequently, he is soon described as ‘blind’.

And it was on that day, that Eli was lying in his place, and his eyes had begun to grow dim; he could not see. 
(I Samuel 3:2)

Another example is Isaac.  His older son, Esau, is a bitter disappointment.  He denigrates the family’s spiritual birthright and marries women who do the same.

And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright.  And Esau said….
what use is this birthright to me?
(Genesis 25:31-32)

And Esau was forty years old when he married Judith.the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bosmath the daughter of Elon the Hittite;
and they made life bitter for Isaac and for Rebekah.

(Genesis 26:34-35)

Not surprisingly, it is emotionally painful for him to acknowledge the truth about his son so he too is described as blind.

And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old,
his eyes became dim so he could not see…

(Genesis 27:1)

The only other instance of “natural” Biblical blindness needs a little help from ancient Jewish wisdom.  You’ll remember that after Cain murdered Abel, God imposed punishments.  One strange part of God’s retribution for his crime was to assure Cain:

…the killer of Cain will arise in the 7th generation…
(Genesis 4:15)

I am of course aware that the conventional translation, based on the King James version, reads “…Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold…”   Not only is this not exactly what the Hebrew original says, but as we all know, there is no record of anyone being punished ‘sevenfold’ for killing Cain.

Now, let’s see who is the seventh generation from Cain?  Turns out his name was Tuval-Cain and he was responsible for casting formidable weapons from iron.  (Genesis 4: 17-22).  In a strange verse, his father, Lemech, makes a confession to his two wives.  He admits to having killed a man and a boy and adds a mysterious allusion to Cain dying.  (Genesis 4:23)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains what happened.  Weapon-obsessed son Tuval-Cain, took his blind father, Lemech, out hunting.  Thinking he’d spotted a wild animal in the bush, he placed a powerful crossbow he had built into his father’s hands and pointed him towards the target.  Lemech fired and with his son guiding him they raced to see their victim.  To Tuval-Cain’s shock, he saw that the ‘prey’ was his legendary ancestor Cain. When Lemech realized what happened, he lashed out in horror and dismay and accidentally killed his son.

Once again, we find blindness linked to a father resisting seeing and acknowledging the truth about his son’s failings.  In this case, a fresh and developing world did not exactly need a weapons-maker.  Like Eli and Isaac, Lemech was blind to Tuval-Cain’s shortcomings.

We can all be quite blind in certain areas particularly if there is any emotion involved.  The emotion can be ego, either a result of our pride in our accomplishments or on account of our emotional involvement with the topic on which we pontificate.

If “blindness” can happen to Lemech, Isaac, and Eli the prophet, and if it can happen to super-achievers like Barnard and Musk, it can also afflict you and me.  Arrogance at our own achievements can bring on blindness as can emotional involvement.  It is hard to keep blindness at bay when people we love (or are infatuated with) are concerned.

It is not hard for an adored celebrity to start believing that he knows everything about everything.  It is not hard for a super-successful entrepreneur with no failures on his resume to think that his mechanical inventions have the power to take over the world.

The Eternal Guide Book assures us that artificial intelligence will impact the world just as the internal combustion engine did when it replaced horses, and just as radio and the Internet did when they arrived.  But a threat to civilization?  Don’t be ridiculous. The best source for everything from marriage secrets to societal threats is not from an oft-married celebrity or an entrepreneur, but from the Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual.  Studying Scripture doesn’t just bring knowledge.  It brings something far more valuable—wisdom.

  *   *   *


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Womanly Virtue???


Have you ever heard people (usually female) say that if only women ran the world there would be fewer wars and less aggression? That argument never resonated with me, but an emerging trend is revealing serious flaws in the concept.

The trend is towards the commission of violent crime by women. On Halloween, a woman in an upscale neighborhood of Baltimore was randomly attacked by a pack of 10-15 juveniles. I use the word pack deliberately, as the behavior resembled feral animals more than humans. The newspaper report reads,

“I had a red down-like vest on, so they grabbed the back of my vest and then held me, and then out in front of them came six young women with wood pieces that were like maybe an inch thick and about three feet long…” 

“They started hitting me with the wood, in the knees, a lot in my face…”

A number of other citizens were similarly attacked on the same evening.

Earlier in the year, in Chicago, two males and two females, aged 18-24, were charged with hate crimes after viciously torturing a mentally disabled teen. Once again, the attackers completely submerged their humanity.

Women have always been capable of physical viciousness. Accounts exist of Indian women doing unimaginable things to captives. There were female Kapos in Nazi concentration camps and individual mothers have tragically abused children. But are we seeing an increase in callous behavior among groups of supposedly mentally sane females at a time when there is no communal or governmental structure providing the patina of approval? I fear we are.

There are a few commonly advanced reasons for the general deterioration of civilized behavior. Among them are the increasing number of children being raised in single-parent (usually female) homes; the explosion  of anger promoted by technology that allows anonymity and discourages real discourse and relationships; the dismal failure of a government school system with politicians seemingly focused on everything except providing decent education;  and a public disdain for religion and traditional values.

I would like to make one more suggestion. This thought is coming from my mind and heart. I know that many will refute it and, indeed find it offensive. I have seen no studies to support it nor have I conducted interviews to test my thesis. Yet, it may very well be valid and I do think it is worth putting on the table.

Since the “Murphy Brown” days, we have seen that wealthy, upper-class, and well-connected woman can indeed manage lives as single mothers. The children may lack fathers, but their mothers can afford to purchase the backup support they need and to provide for their children’s needs. However, as the idea of single-parenthood was promoted, women without the same financial and cultural advantages mimicked the behavior even though they were completely incapable of mimicking the positive outcomes. (And no, I am not saying that no non-wealthy mother can successfully raise a family. That is patently untrue. I am speaking in broad terms on a societal, not an individual, level.) Government misguidedly set policies in place to further discourage the concept of reserving parenthood for married couples.

In a similar way, I would like to advance the idea that abortion has had a different effect on the elites who advocate for it and the general populace who falls victim to that elitist vision. People may pontificate that abortion is a minor medical procedure with no emotional element, but in the real world ending a potential life does not equate with removing a benign fibroid.

Not only is the “clump of cells” you are destroying capable of developing a heartbeat, lungs, liver and fingernails, assuming it hasn’t already acquired those features, it is capable of developing a personality. In the future, for many women cooing over a winsome infant or delighting in a toddler’s lisp must bring a reminder of what might have been. In addition, that fetus is a miniature version of you. Destroying something that carries your own chromosomes and genes might very well have a conscious or subconscious psychological effect.

Emotionally secure girls, with access to physical and psychological support may process an abortion without being shattered. Perhaps they can put the memory in a box, separate from the rest of their lives. What about girls who don’t live in similarly healthy environments? Even if some aren’t affected by having an abortion, can we posit that almost no one is?

Is it possible, that by training young women to view abortion as benign, we are creating a group of women who are learning to close themselves off to their emotions? Are we creating hardened, masculine girls? When I was in junior high school, we were assigned a project having to do with the Holocaust. I don’t even remember what a few of my friends and I worked on, but, in a memory that brings me shame, I know that we reached a point of cracking “Holocaust jokes”. I think that we simply weren’t able to handle the research we did, the constant reading about unimaginable atrocities. Yes, children our age and younger underwent those atrocities, but we blessedly were spared them. It might have been better for us not to read so many graphic details until we were more mature. Is it so absurd to think that a generation immersed in an abortion culture learns to deaden their feelings?

I have no information on the specific girls involved in the recent heinous crimes. Their personal stories are somewhat irrelevant. The culture around them disrespects human life.

Can this be a factor in the scary and disturbing increase of violent behavior of young girls? I don’t know, but neither do I think that it should be automatically dismissed.

  *    *   *

Understanding how ideas and behaviors can continue through generations
is one of the Biblical messages of the conflict between
descendants of Isaac and descendants of Ishmael.

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