Sep 29, 2016

Disturbing Ad

I saw an ad in the new Health Section of Mishpacha with R' Michel Twerski's picture in which he promotes [I was going to say the name of the System, but decided not to advertise it] for mental well being.  I wrote a letter to the magazine saying this is disturbing when LP, wife and business partner of GP, who teach and promote the System says, “No thoughts are true, no experiences are true, the principles [of their System] are the only things that are true.”

I asked, if that isn't kefira, what is?

This is the basis for the System which is sourced in Buddhist philosophy. The frum proponents of this System, like R' Michel Twersky etc. try to avoid the kefira aspect, but it's there.

Sep 26, 2016

The Mind-Body Connection

Ten months ago, I wrote about Dr Sarno here, about physical pain being a smokescreen that masks emotional issues; confront the emotional issue and the physical pain vanishes.
I have two recent examples of this.  I attended an exercise class and the instructor wasn't the usual one.  I didn't like the class and left shortly after it began.  Later that day I felt pain in my side and thought it might be from the unpleasant exercises the instructor had led.  I felt the pain for a week or two.  At some point I looked up sciatica online and thought that what I felt might be sciatica.  It did not stop me from doing my usual activities but I felt it.  When I mentioned sciatica to someone, he said, oh you know what Dr. Sarno thinks about that ... That set me thinking.
A week ago, I woke up Shabbos morning feeling dizzy, and that was before I even got out of bed.  No fever, just a disturbing feeling of dizziness.  Not a the room is spinning kind of feeling; I'm not sure how to describe it.  Anyway, I stayed home all day.  The next day I still felt it somewhat but decided to go about my day as usual, despite it.  By Monday it was mostly gone.
It occurred to me that in both cases there was something emotionally perturbing to me that I could link to the onset of the symptom.  I have no way of proving whether the symptoms would have gone away regardless, but I can't help but wonder whether consciously confronting the emotional disturbance is what made the physical symptoms go away.

Sep 21, 2016

Mistakes Abound

One of my Yemos Ha'Moshiach fantasies is that all incorrect information will disappear out of books.  All the stories told about various tzaddikim and gedolim will have only the correct names and the details will be accurate.  I assume there will be large swathes of empty white space in many books.

I am reminded of this because of a story I read in Torah Tavlin, a very nice series of books with divrei Torah and stories.  The story is one I knew previously and I know it as it is told accurately.  In this book however, the author has one main character dying instead of being away on a trip, and another character being the grandson when he was actually the son.  This is in addition to embellishing the story with a description that is probably not true and which is certainly not part of the original story.  The core point of the story remains though.

It sure does make me wonder about the other stories in the book! It's like when I read descriptions about Jewish life written by non-Jews or Jews who are not knowledgeable and I see inaccuracies and outright errors.  I would think they would have fact checkers who would verify things like Jewish law.  Makes me wonder about the accuracy of information I read on subjects that I'm not that familiar with.  It does not inspire confidence!

Sep 19, 2016

Everything is Up for Discussion

There was an interesting article by R' Dovid Hofstedter in Mishpacha magazine in which he questions whether the overabundance of negative information we are bombarded with is good for us. 

He brings Torah examples that demonstrate that exposure to negative things has an effect on us, even when those things are mitzvah related (like destroying an ir nidachas or seeing a sota in her disgrace). 

Furthermore, R' Hofstedter says, we become connected to what we see and if we are connected to it, we are disconnected from Hashem.  "Every connection to something extraneous from Torah and mitzvos, even something that is not prohibited, detaches us and disconnects us from Torah and mitzvos, our ultimate connection to Hashem."

It is interesting that Mishpacha printed his article which says "All kinds of topics that in the not-too-distant past were never found in our publications, now not only appear in print but also become conversation points at the Shabbos table and therefore, part of our lives.  They thus attain a measure of de facto acceptability." 

Not only that, but people say how "brave" the publication is for writing about what was formerly taboo! They think that somehow, magically, just by discussing it, we have accomplished something, even if all it amounts to is someone feeling better for having read it.  But what about the negative fallout for bringing it out into the open?
Related posts are here and here.

Sep 14, 2016

Disengagement Not Possible

In this week's parsha, Ki Seitzei 22:15, on the words, "the father of the girl and her mother," Rashi says that the ones who raised bad offspring should be put to shame because of her.

There are those who like to attempt disconnecting from their children.  Their line is, their children have bechira and it's their lives.  They don't take the blame if the children don't turn out well, and presumably, if they're consistent, they don't take any credit if the children turn out well.

The problem with this is, we can never disconnect from our children as our children are part of us in every way.  Children are a reflection of their parents, for better and for worse.  We have nachas and deserve credit when they turn out well, and as Rashi says, if G-d forbid they don't turn out well, it's to the parents' shame.

Sep 13, 2016

Who Says Children Need Parents Anyway ...

continued from previous post

This rosh yeshiva made it into my "bad book" when I read an interview with a woman who turned to him for advice.  The woman said with pride about her daycare center, “We introduced the option of starting earlier and ending later …” and this is for babies and toddlers! She did this after consulting with the rosh yeshiva who gave her his approval.  The longer hours make it unnecessary for the babies' fathers (the mothers are out working) to pick up the children.  Why should the parents take care of their own children when they have more important things to do?

The woman went on to describe a program she was excited about, which she wanted to study, but she was reluctant (surprisingly) to travel and leave her young children without her.  The same rosh yeshiva told her to go ahead, to do it while she was excited about it.

So with the latest thing I heard from this rosh yeshiva, that's three strikes.  He's out.

Sep 9, 2016

Rosh Yeshiva's Misguided Approach

I was listening to a shiur given by a talmid of a certain American rosh yeshiva and once again, I was peeved to hear a foolish idea from this rosh yeshiva. 

This time, it was about what to teach an 8-9 year old child from an irreligious home who attends a religious program.  Why teach him about kashrus and Shabbos, this rosh yeshiva asks.  Do you think he will be able to eat kosher on his own? Keep Shabbos on his own? Instead, teach him about tzedaka, chesed, Ahavas Hashem, Yiras Hashem, things the child can do on his own.

I have read numerous stories about young children being taught about kashrus and Shabbos who were the catalysts for their entire families becoming frum.  I read one just yesterday, a first person account in which her six year old, who attended a religious program, asked that the family keep kosher which he had learned about.  The mother refused but subsequently decided to do it, along with other mitzvos.

I remember a story of a little girl who learned about Shabbos and lighting Shabbos candles.  She asked her mother to buy candles and her mother refused.  So the little girl went to the store on her own and asked for candles and the person gave her yartzeit candles, thinking that was probably what her mother wanted.  The little girl lit two yartzeit candles in her room and when her mother discovered this and asked what was going on, she innocently replied that one candle was for her mother and one for her father.  That changed things in a hurry!

Numerous stories can be told by those who work in Talmud Torahs, Sunday schools, programs like Shuvu in Eretz Yisrael for Russian children, etc. about children who, in their sincerity, have followed through on their seemingly impossible commitments, and sometimes changed their entire families along the way.