Sep 30, 2013

The Seminary High


A woman whose daughter went to seminary in Israel for a year, said she wants her daughter to have six months back home before dating so she can see who she really is and not date from a "seminary high." 

That got me thinking.  Why does this mother think that the "real" person is the one who comes down from her inspiration? Maybe the inspired person is the real person? How are we defining real?

An analogy, you go to an event or shiur and are inspired by the speaker.  Is that real or not? You know how when are you excited by what you heard, you want to tell people about it? Would it be a good idea to wait a week or a month before telling anyone so the inspiration will wear off and the real you will be back? I don't think so ...

But I do understand where that mother is coming from.  It's one thing to sit in a classroom, having all expenses paid for, usually by one's parents, and being inspired to marry a ben Torah and enable him to learn for years to come.  Actually being married and living that life is another thing.  So the mother figures that six months down the road, reality will set in.  If the girl still feels strongly about her religious undertakings and ambitions, she will say so and date accordingly (though even then, it's not like actually being married).  But to date while on a high can be a dangerous proposition because you can end up married based on idealistic commitments that are not as desirable as time goes on.

R' Avigdor Miller z'l felt otherwise.  He said a girl should go from graduation to the chuppa for precisely that reason.  She is idealistic and should marry in that state and it will uplift her future life.

Sep 29, 2013

Is He Really Doing His Best?

Shais Taub found it necessary to write a lengthy (more than a page) explanation about his use of the phrase "he was doing his best" in a previous article.  It leaves me wondering what the point is in using a phrase that is so puzzling that it needs that much explaining. 

I remember coming across the phrase, "He is doing the best he can with the tools he has" in Miriam Adahan's writings years ago, and not liking it.  Why? Because it isn't true.  I assume that if I am not always doing the best I can, neither are other people.  After all, how often are we actually doing the best we can.  If someone offered us a million dollars to do better, wouldn't we do better? Quite likely!

Taub says, "When looking at a person's behavior, we have to take into account all sorts of factors ... the best that they were able to do at that moment, with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacities they had at that time.  These factors include their experiences, their education, whether they had enough sleep last night, and so on."

He goes on to say that none of these factors are excuses and they don't absolve anyone of anything.  They just help explain the rationale behind someone's behavior.  He goes through all this explaining in order, he says, to help us see that the problem is with the other person, not us.  But then I don't accept this line either, "They were pathetically incapable of doing better." Sure they were! But for some reason, Taub wants to use these phrases which aren't true, while simultaneously saying, the person should have done something to become the kind of person that doesn't do those bad things.

I can see thinking through various factors to explain someone's unacceptable behavior; we do this when we are judging someone favorably.  But why not simply say: "Their behavior was unacceptable; They could have done better; It was hard for them because of bad habits/poor role models/difficult personality, etc.?"

Sep 15, 2013

Shlomie!

 

I started reading it on Rosh Hashana and finished it on Yom Kippur - I highly recommend the book Shlomie! (Artscroll).  He wasn't the usual rosh yeshiva, mashgiach, or rebbe that Artscroll biographies are about.  He was a balabus who lived in Flatbush who was a vilde chaya as a boy and went from yeshiva to yeshiva to yeshiva.  Today, he would be drugged for ADHD.  His good heart and yiras shomayim were always apparent, even when he was unable to sit in a classroom.

He went on to become extremely wealthy and a huge baal tzedaka.  His greatness was not merely in being able to write checks (though that is a great thing).  He loved people and loved making people happy.  He was constantly alert to how to help people in ways that had nothing to do with money.  Another aspect of his greatness was the fact that even though he could barely sit long enough to learn, he had regular learning sedarim and was machshiv Torah and talmidei chachamim.  He sought to grow spiritually and kept moving further away from a materialistic lifestyle.

He is an inspiration for those who were not a success in yeshiva and an inspiration to all when it comes to loving and pursuing chesed.  It's a book about a "regular guy," who with all his fun-loving geshmak-keit, was quite extraordinary.

Sep 13, 2013

Internet - A Necessary Evil?


The Internet has been referred to, in our circles, as a "necessary evil" at best, and the instrument of the yetzer hara at worst.  And yet, to my ears at least, this message rings hollow.  The frum publications that describe the Asifos (gatherings) that were held to denounce the Internet, are on the Internet! If I'm remembering correctly, I found out about the Torah shiurim website torahanytime.com from an ad in Hamodia magazine!

In a column by Yonoson Rosenblum, he referred to a recent cover story of Mishpacha about the public relations efforts of the Chassidish residents of Montreal's Outremont district.  The Chassidim there were resented by the non-Jews and tensions were running high.  Instead of doing nothing, they did various activities to explain themselves to the general public and present themselves as good neighbors.  One thing they did was "create an online presence to introduce themselves to their neighbors." 

When I read his mention of the online presence, with no disqualifying statements whatsoever, I thought - so much for the warnings and the denunciations of the Internet.  When we need it, we use it.  And this is part of life as we know it today.  Rhetoric which vilifies the Internet makes the vilifiers sound out of touch with reality.

Sep 12, 2013

Be a Guest - Be a Host!


I received an email which informed me that someone on Shabbat.com had sent me a message, asking whether he could join us for a meal on Yom Tov. 

Have you seen the site? You can sign up as a guest or a host and then, either wait for someone to invite you or to ask you for an invitation, or actively seek a guest or a host.  This person lives in a different neighborhood and will be davening in my area on Yom Tov.

I checked out his profile and then spoke to one of his references (in Arizona), just to ascertain that he is a normal person.  I was reassured that yes he is, and a mentch.  That was enough for me to send a message back to him.  We exchanged a few messages, about food preferences and timing and we are on!

Isn't this special? A "brother," a fellow Jew we never met before, will join us in our succa! How exciting!

Sep 10, 2013

Post Rosh Hashana Thoughts


Primaries were held today for major positions and an election is coming up in November.  As I wrote almost a year ago: here , the election was decided by the Heavenly court on Rosh Hashana and we voters went to carry out their decision.

There is news regarding Syria every day and the big question is whether the US will attack or not.  On Rosh Hashana I thought, the articles I've been scanning speak about those for and against a military response, but there is no united feeling here about what should be done.  I figured, that's because the decision about Syria will be made on Rosh Hashana.

Now it's a few days after Rosh Hashana, and there is still no clear direction.  Maybe it is because the decision in the Heavenly court was not finalized and matters are pending during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva.  I think about how the "little people" like the president of the US and other world leaders think they are making history with their decisions.  In reality, they are carrying out G-d's plan for the world which is the Geula. 

And since all world events are about us, as the Gemara says, a ship does not sink at the other end of the world except for the Jewish people, maybe that is why the decision is pending.  I don't know whether we should attack or not, but Teshuva, Tefilla, and Tzedaka will avert the evil in any decrees.

Sep 2, 2013

From Hopeless to Hope in an Instant


In a recent news item, a man in Ohio, Tony Yahle, was given up by the doctors and declared dead.  And yet, 45 minutes after his heart stopped beating he began to show signs of life. They say he fully awoke at the hospital five days later.

The cardiologist, Dr. Raja Nazir, said, "In the last 20 years, I've never seen anybody who we have pronounced dead ... and then for him to come back, I've never seen it.  Actually, I've never heard of it."

The man's 18 year old son said, his father went "from hopeless to hope in an instant.”

That last line stood out for me.

We have a phrase for that: yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin (the salvation of Hashem like the blink of an eye).

I looked up how fast is a blink of an eye and found this: On average, a human eye takes between 300 and 400 milliseconds to complete a single blink. That's roughly between three-tenths and four-tenths of a second.