Jul 31, 2016

Not Just Yearning for Moshiach

In Ami magazine, Rabbi Yoel Gold of LA wrote about his grandmother who recently passed away.  She was a woman who said the entire Tehillim every day and she greatly anticipated the coming of Moshiach:

"Not in the vaguely hopeful way many of us do.  No, she waited for Moshiach with the anticipation and purity of a young child waiting to be picked up by Mommy at the end of the a school day.  When we grandchildren called her in the morning, the conversation would inevitably begin with, 'By the end of today, we may all be in Yerushalayim!' If we called in the evening, she would sigh, 'Oy, Moshiach didn't come today. When is he finally going to arrive?'"

When his grandparents became engaged in 1947, his grandfather gave her a beautiful gold bracelet. It appeared in the engagement pictures but never again, because she never wore it.

When asked why she didn't wear it, she didn't respond, which made them wonder whether it had gotten lost or stolen.

After she died, her house was cleared out and one of his sisters found an embroidered bag with the bracelet inside in a box.  There was a note which said: Parshas Chayei Sara 5772 (the week she was diagnosed with her illness), I received this bracelet from my chasan when we got engaged and it means very much to me.  Because it is so precious, I decided to set it aside to donate to the Beis Ha'Mikdash when it is rebuilt, may it be soon.

The same thing was written in her will.  Nobody was to wear the bracelet.  She had put it aside for the Beis Ha'Mikdash.

Such a special woman.  I'd love to know more about her like where she was born, her family, her Jewish education.

So I hesitate to express my reservations. I feel bad for her husband. He gave her a gift and he wanted to see her wear it and enjoy it.  I wish her desire to donate to the Beis Ha'Mikdash was expressed differently.

Jul 30, 2016

The Dog Knew Better

I heard this remarkable story from an eye witness:

She grew up in Strasbourg and lived on a fancy avenue on the fourth floor with her family.  The next door neighbor was a virulent anti-Semite who yelled epithets whenever he saw her father with his beard and Chassidic garb.

One seder night, Leil Shimurim, her father led his sons and sons-in-law and grandchildren downstairs and out to the street to sing Chasal Siddur Pesach.  They sang and danced and the infuriated gentile neighbor ordered his huge German Shepherd to attack her father (who was oblivious to what was happening with the neighbor).

Instead of attacking, the dog just crouched there quietly.  The women on the balcony watched this.

From then on, the neighbor did not say another word.  He saw that G-d was with this man and feared messing with him.

Jul 27, 2016

Elie Wiesel's First Person Testimony

I was quite disappointed, actually horrified, when I discovered that Eli Wiesel's Night is listed as "fiction" in the my public library system.   The librarian checked to see how the book is listed in the neighboring library systems and found that it is as "non-fiction."
He gave me an email address where I could address my complaint to the person in charge of "collection management."  

I wrote a letter saying Night is a memoir, a Holocaust memoir that is assigned reading to many students. What a shame and, worse, what an undermining of Wiesel's work and life, to have students think the book is "made up." I hope you will rectify this categorization.
I received a speedy response which said:
I am the lead Hebrew and Yiddish cataloger for BPL.
Your question was forwarded to me. I am taking the liberty of letting you know that it is receiving much attention.

I have emailed a number of Jewish veteran librarians around the system to get their input. 

I appreciate the gravity of the impression that this could make on students, or provide an opening for a Holocaust denier. I don't think personally the great majority of people will get that idea, especially as there are so many other memoirs and history books in the collection.

In fairness to the original decision by someone to consider it fiction:
The book is a memoir but was written in novel form. There were changes in the ending from the Yiddish original to the French version which was subsequently translated into English.
Also there were sequels Dawn and Day (the Accident).
I subsequently found this interesting article: Amazon-recategorizes-Elie-Wiesel-s-Night

Jul 17, 2016

Artificial Communication?

In a chinuch article, the author responds to a question about cell phones for a high school student.  He makes reference to the dangers of technology but his main point is children need to be fully present to develop connections with others.  He says, "Cellphones are artificial connections.  A real connection is a face to face conversation between two people and includes their facial and body language and their full attention."

I wonder what he would say about letter writing, writing letters to grandparents, as I did when I was a child and teenager and even older.  What about penpals.  What about letters to and from camp.  Would he say that letter writing is an artificial connection?

I don't recall any condemnation of letter writing over the past decades, only praise.  Was something lacking because there were no facial or body language? Yes.  But did that make communication via letter artificial, i.e. fake?

What makes communication other than face to face talking artificial? It lacks what face to face conversations have, but that doesn't make it artificial.  It can even be argued that sometimes things can be expressed in writing that cannot be said face to face, which would make writing superior sometimes.

I don't find it helpful when people condemn today's means of communication without acknowledging its positive aspects and when their arguments aren't consistent.

Jul 13, 2016

What We Eat

In a health column in a frum publication, written by a "certified Health Coach," Rivka Segal, the author says when she was studying to become a health coach, the school curriculum intentionally taught them conflicting dietary theories.  One week they learned about a carb-free, high protein diet and the next week they'd learn about a high carb diet.  Each course was taught by an expert in the field, often the founder of that diet.

Each time, the presentation was so convincing, that is, until the next class.  She says, "The purpose .. was to teach us that with diet and nutrition, there are no absolutes, and there is no one right way to eat."

It's "eating relativity" in which everyone can be right, and it's whatever works for you.

I find this troubling and I'm not sure it's true.  Granted, there can be differences between people in what they can and should eat and avoid, but aren't there general principles that apply to the majority of people? The Rambam thought so.  He even included his dietary guidelines in his Mishna Torah!

I found this anecdote she related quite interesting.  She spoke with someone whose daughter has Crohn's disease.  The mother said that a top doctor told her daughter not to discuss her condition with anyone.  Why? Not because of secrecy but because every patient's experience with Crohn's is different and what is helpful to one is not to another.  He felt that talking to others about their approach would be confusing and overwhelming and he encouraged her to figure out what works for her body.

She concludes by saying there are some general guidelines like we should avoid sugar, caffeine and processed food, and that we can all benefit from regular exercise, reducing stress, and drinking more water, but what about salt, coffee, eggs, butter, margarine, meat, whole milk and on and on? We read conflicting information on these items.  Are there no definitive answers?

Jul 10, 2016

Confessions by Those in the Field of Mental Health

Psychotherapist, Shimon Russell, in an interview with Ami magazine said, "My first ten years out of college, I tried to do everything they taught me.  The next ten years, I tried to forget everything I'd been taught, to see if I could figure out what actually works.  My third decade of practice has been completely devoted to integrating all of it, both psychologically and spiritually."

In a Hamodia article, Rabbi Dr Abraham Twersky says, "When I was in my second year of medical school, my professor asked me what I was going for.  I told him psychiatry and he said, 'That's good.  Go to all the lectures, listen to what they say, ace your board exams, and then forget it all and use your head."

Is there any other field of medicine (or any other field) in which a student would find it beneficial to forget what was taught and figure things out for themselves? What does this tell us about the field of mental health, treatment and therapy?

I wonder why they think it's a good idea to share how useless their education was, other than providing them with official credentials which is not of any help to their clients. 

Jul 9, 2016

Watch What You Wish For

There is a frightening Metzudas Dovid in today's haftorah for parshas Korach. In Shmuel I, chapter 12, pasuk16, Shmuel rebukes the Jewish people for asking for a king.

Metzudas Dovid says, Shmuel says, "If you will say, if asking for a king was considered bad by Hashem, why did He agree" and give us a king, Shaul?
"To this I respond, even now, after He agreed, stand by and see this great thing [and Shmuel says, it's the wheat harvest now (not a time when it rains) and I will call to Hashem and He will give thunder and rain ...] and from this you will be able to understand the ways of Hashem.  Hashem fulfills the request of a petitioner even if it is bad in the eyes of Hashem, and even if to the petitioner it will not be considered beneficial."

Apparently, this is why we use the phrase: may all mishalos libeich l'tova be fulfilled - all requests of your heart for good, leaving it up to Hashem to determine what is good for us.