Nov 25, 2011


What a medical oops this was! A woman underwent IVF only to be told that the baby she was carrying was not her own, but someone else's embryo! She sustained the pregnancy because she believes in the sanctity of life.  This was a tremendously difficult challenge since the baby wasn't hers and she wasn't going to keep it (although she would have loved to).  The baby went to its genetic parents immediately after it was born.  The book is appropriately named, Inconceivable.

The couple who tells the story, alternating between the husband's voice and the wife's voice, are Catholic.  They wanted a large family and they are devoted to the church, giving it their time, energy and resources.  Interestingly, they defied the Church's position on IVF which is that IVF is morally unacceptable. 

Despite being religious people, they have ideas about G-d that are not what I would call "religious."  She says she does not believe "G-d only gives you what you can handle."  She does not believe G-d tests people.  She does not believe that G-d is in charge of His world, "that He sits up in heaven and decides who gets what tragedy or blessing."  She says, shockingly, "We are certain that G-d didn't do this to us.  We just know it happened."  And she doesn't believe in "gam zu l'tova," that something good will come of this. 

I don't know how widespread these beliefs are among Catholics or Christians in general.  I find it so surprising when these ideas are the bedrock of our emuna.  If she doesn't think G-d is running the world, what does she think G-d is about? That He created the world and retired? I don't want to get into Christian theology but I'd be interested in knowing whether this couple's belief system is shared by many church goers and what they think about reward and punishment. 

Nov 23, 2011

Can't Wait!

An analogy R' Frand gave many years ago made quite an impression on me, since I still remember it! His lecture was about Moshiach and he said that when Americans were held hostage in Lebanon, one of the wives said that every night she was so disappointed that her husband had not been released.  And every morning she anticipated her husband being released that day.  She was that sure it was going to happen.

The wording of the 12th Principle of Faith (Ani Maamin) is, "I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though he may be delayed, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come."

In the 15th bracha of the Shmone Esrei, we say, "... for we hope for Your salvation all day long ..."

How many of us say the bedtime Shema, get into bed, and think - I can't believe it! Moshiach didn't come today! I'm sure he'll come tomorrow!

How many of us get up in the morning and think, "Today is the day! Moshiach is coming!

Let's walk (feel) the talk!

Boruch Hashem

There is lots of talk this week about gratitude, and many articles about feeling thankful and expressing it.  It has been noted that we are called Yehudim from the root meaning thanks, and that we are supposed to say 100 brachos a day.

I am reminded of my elderly great-aunts who have been through a lot in life.  It's good training when a child is asked what he feels grateful about.  However, when the elderly say, "boruch Hashem yom yom" (I bless/thank G-d every day), it is especially touching.  They've experienced sadness and loss and yet, they focus on Hashem's blessings.  May we do the same when we reach their age.

Nov 18, 2011

Positive Psychology - An Oxymoron?

Two days ago there was a news item which said: Medication to treat mental health disorders is soaring among U.S. adults.  20% of all adults said they took at least one medication to treat a mental disorder. Among women, 25% said they took such medication and 20% said they were using an antidepressant.

The number of children under 10 taking antipsychotic medication, which is reserved for the most severe mental illnesses, doubled from 2001 to 2010.

In short, we are either getting crazier and sadder or the psychiatric and pharmaceutical companies are doing a great job convincing us that we are. 

The crying shame is that the voice of psychologists like Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology” who was called “the Freud of the 21st century” by Newsweek, is drowned out by the doom peddlers.  Seligman shocked the world of psychology by focusing on what makes people mentally healthy instead of what makes them mentally ill.

Forbes had an article last week about the upcoming DSM V with an intro that said, "The new manual of mental disorders coins bizarre new psychological disorders, lowers the threshold for diagnosing old ones, and has some critics pulling their hair out."

We are a generation that wants to be victims, that wants to be able to blame our parents, our environment, our genes, our so-called chemical imbalance, anything but ourselves, for our problems.  If you as much as suggest that someone who has truly suffered at the hands of evil people can move past that and have a good life, you are vilified and accused of not understanding the depths of the person's trauma. 

In their sincerity to help molestation victims, they push those hapless individuals down and seek to keep them down.  I suspect it's because they believe that if the person goes on to lead a happy life, it demonstrates that what happened to them was not that egregious.  That's like saying that a Holocaust victim who was stripped of his dignity, who was robbed and beaten, who was a hairsbreadth away from death thousands of times and who lost his parents, spouse, children, extended family and community, could not go on to marry and live a good life.  But thousands did! And they are heroes of the spirit, particularly if they retained their faith and raised religious, upstanding children. 

"Positive Psychology" may seem like an oxymoron but it doesn't have to be.

Nov 10, 2011

An Extra Kidney?

The frum media has had many heartwarming stories lately, about people donating kidneys to those in need, strangers to the donor.  Poskim have ruled that it is permissible to do this.

What I wonder about is the comment, often made by those promoting kidney donations, that perhaps this is the reason why Hashem gave us an "extra" kidney, so we could donate it.  This is predicated on the view that we don't need two kidneys and that we can function perfectly well with one.

This pronouncement does not sit well with me.  Is this really the case, that for millenia, billions of people were given two kidneys by Hashem, so that in our generation, a few people can donate a kidney? It is reminiscent of the medical wisdom of yesteryear in which tonsils and the appendix were considered superfluous and were frequently surgically removed without a compelling reason to do so. 

I'm sure it's true that as of now, with the medical knowledge we have today, it looks as though a person can manage just fine with one kidney, and since a person in dire need of a kidney is in a state of pikuach nefesh, poskim have ruled that a person can donate a kidney.  However, to say that Hashem created us with an extra, unnecessary organ? I'm not convinced.