In 2003, I was named President of Thomas Nelson. It was an extremely busy time. I made some major changes to my executive team and had two vacant positions. As a result, I essentially had three jobs. One morning on my way to work, I grabbed my computer case in my right hand, a fresh cup of coffee in my left, and headed downstairs to the garage to leave to work.Four steps from the bottom, I slipped on the carpet. Without a free hand to grab the stair-rail, I tumbled forward. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my fanny on the landing.My wife Gail heard me fall and came running. “Are you okay?” she asked as she raced down the stairs to help me up.
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “However, I’m afraid I’ve made a mess.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she offered as she helped me up. “I can clean this up while you get changed.”
When I put my weight down on my right foot, I let out a yelp. “Oh my gosh! I think my ankle is sprained.” As it turned out, it was more than sprained. It was broken.
My day was, of course, scuttled. In fact, the next ten days were scuttled. I had to have surgery, including a plate and six screws to repair the damage. In addition, for three months I had to wear a therapeutic boot (in lieu of a cast). This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
The reason I ask is that the Jewish calendar seems to be exclusively about Jewish history and the Jewish experience: Passover celebrates our liberation from Egypt, Shavout our receiving the Torah at Sinai, Yom Kippur is when G-d forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf and Sukkot recalls the divine protection during our wanderings through the desert. The list goes on: Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, Lag BaOmer, Tishah B'Av--virtually all our holy days, festivals and special dates are distinctly Jewish affairs, concerned with our lives as Jews.
One very significant exception: the festival of Rosh Hashanah, which marks the birthday of the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, who walked the earth some 2,000 years before the first Jew was born and nearly 2,500 years before we were proclaimed a people at Mount Sinai.
And Rosh Hashanah is clearly more than a token "Goyim Appreciation Day." As its name proclaims, it's the head of the Jewish year. And as the Chassidic masters point out, the head of a thing is its primary and most encompassing component.
We Jews have a reputation for being an insular lot. We stand before G-d as Jews, relate to each other as Jews, study, pray, and do acts of kindness as Jews, are born, marry, die and are buried as Jews. And we keep our Jewishness to ourselves: unlike most other religions and isms, we have no interest in converting non-Jews to Judaism. If people show interest, we try to talk them out of it.
So why is the very "head" of our year the one festival which relates to humanity as a whole?
Yet Judaism does have a universal message--one that is fundamental, indeed primal, to our identity as Jews. In the words of our sages, "Civility (derech eretz) comes before Torah."
Long before the Children of Israel received the Torah with its 613 mitzvot, Adam and Eve were given the fundamental laws of civilization. Later, these were reiterated to Noah and his sons and became known as the "Seven Noahide Laws." And when we stood at Sinai to receive "our" mitzvot, we were also given the job of "prevailing upon all inhabitants of the world to accept the laws commanded to the Children of Noah" (Maimonides' Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings 7:10).
The Noahide Code is Judaism's universal message, yet it is not a "religion." The Noahide Code is not a "religion." This isn't a scaled-down Judaism for non-Jews. Rather, it's G-d's blueprint for civilization, a seven-point foundation for the building of a just, moral and ethical society on earth. The Seven Laws include basics such as: Do not murder your fellow man. Do not steal. Be faithful to your spouse. Do not tear a limb off a living animal. Establish the legal and social institutions that will ensure a just and compassionate society.
Where it gets interesting is with the first two laws: belief in G-d and the prohibition against blaspheme. I have a confession to make: some of my best friends are atheists. I can already hear them saying: "In my book, when you bring G-d into the picture, that's religion, not morality or ethics. You can be a moral person also if you don't believe in and respect G-d." But the entire point of the Noahide Code is that there's no morality without G-d. Humanism won't cut it.
How you think of G-d, how you communicate with G-d, how you serve G-d--that's between you and G-d. That's religion. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the basic premise that the world has a Boss. That we are answerable to a higher authority than ourselves. That the One who created human life also set down the rules for humane living, and enforces those rules.
This--the Noachide Code insists--is the only viable basis for a civilized world.
A few short weeks ago, the awful realization hit us squarely in the face with the force of a Category Five storm: How pitifully thin the veneer of civilization is, how quickly it crumbles when its artificial supports are swept away!
This is what it takes, in this great country of ours, to stave off the law of the jungle: policemen to watch what we're doing, and policemen's police to make sure the policemen show up for work in the morning. Oh, and a few more important things: electric lights so that the policemen can see us, and passable roads so that they can cart us off to jail.
Turn off the lights, flood the roads and disable the punch clocks in the police stations, and five thousand years of civilization evaporate in an hour. The strong prey on the weak, pillaging and raping simply because they can.
I have another confession: some of my best friends are cultural snobs. I hear them saying: "You say that civilization broke down? You call those people civilized? Do they attend the opera on Wednesday nights? Have they read Voltaire? Do they gather in each other's homes in the evenings to discuss the great moral philosophers of the Rationalist and Humanist schools? These are people who have lived in poverty and depravity all their lives. Nothing really changed. It's just that before the hurricane, the crime and squalor in their ghettos followed certain known patterns and were nicely contained by police reports and government statistics. What shocked you was just more of the same, without the usual frames of reference. That's all..."
Turn off the lights, flood the roads and disable the punch clocks in the police stations, and five thousand years of civilization evaporate in an hour. Ok. So let's look back not three weeks but a hundred years. Question: What country had more moral philosophers per square kilometer than any other before or since? Answer: A large Western European country, begins with the letter G. Question: What country orchestrated, but a generation later, a highly efficient operation, aided by sophisticated technologies and accompanied by strains of Wagner, which was also the most horrendous acts of torture and murder in human history? Answer: Same place.
It's really quite logical. As the ancients said, you can't raise yourself by grabbing a fistful of your own hair and pulling upwards. Nothing human-based will ever transcend the human. A philosophy conceived by the human mind will be elegantly refuted--or side-stepped--by that same mind at the service of its own instincts.
Morality and ethics--the notion that "I want to do this but I won't because it's wrong" and "I don't feel like it, but I'll do it because it's the right thing to do"--might be temporarily enforced by a philosopher's thesis or a policeman's gun. But not for long.
On Rosh Hashanah we remember, and remind the world, that G-d created man and woman, G-d gave them the gift of life, and G-d laid down its rules: respect the life, family and property of your fellow, treat the creatures of your planet kindly, do charity and uphold justice. Do so not only because it makes sense to you, not only because it "feels right," but because you are a subject of G-d and you accept your Sovereign's decrees.
This is the fountainhead of our existence. Without this, there is nothing.
It is the Birthday of the World. It is a time to start over and plan what you want for you and your family and friends for the next year It is a time to remove bad habits and start new good habits. For the thirteen year old It is time to to ask God that you be worthy of the gift of life for another year and that you use it well.
Put those party hats away! Getting the year started is serious business! New Year's day is for us Jews not a time for frivolous rejoicing, but rather a solemn day of prayer. It is the Day of Memorial when all creatures of the earth are remembered by the Creator and judged according to their merits. Yet, solemn and aweinspiring though this day is, we know that the Supreme judge of the universe is kind and merciful. He is not out to punish us, but merely wants us to follow the laws and regulations He laid down for us for our own good. He has made this Day of Judgment a day of forgiveness and mercy.
Courtesy Farbrengen Magazine
Rosh Hashanah does not find us unprepared. In the month of Elul the approach of Rosh Hashanah was heralded by the daily sounding of the shofar in the synagogue (except Saturdays). During the month of Elul the Jew is particularly careful in the observance of the religious precepts he takes more time for his prayers, he finds himself overflowing with charity and lovingkindness, and resolutely determines to cast away his evil ways and habits of the past. And a wonderful feeling grips the heart of the true repenter, as if a magic hand has removed the heavy burden that has been weighing upon it in the past. It is the feeling of being able to begin life anew, like a newly born innocent child, with no blemish on his record.
Such is the feeling that the Jew brings with him into the synagogue on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. He finds himself close to Gd, with his prayers pouring out from the very depth of his heart.
These were the days before Yom Kippur. I was lonely and couldn't figure out why. The loneliness had been there for months.
Things were good with my wife and kids. I'd been on the phone with my sisters and in close contact with my friends.
So, what was the source of this loneliness?
I was missing G-d.
I was and had been feeling distant from Him. A strange feeling for me. Even in my late teens I had been able to connect with Him when I needed to. He always answers my calls. Sometimes I don't even need to call. I just feel his companionship as I journey through life.
But these last months had been lonely. I had been separate from Him, unable even to call out. And I didn't know why.
Just before Yom Kippur, I received an e-mail from a friend. He's not a religious Jew, though we discourse often about G-d and Torah. He's a writer and has a way with words. We also share the same disease, and talk much about our symptoms, history, fears, treatments and aches. There's a special something that happens with people who share the same disease. We never have to worry about boring each other. All our concerns and obsessions about the daily changes in our health or symptoms, our latest internet discoveries about new cures and clinical trials may bore others, but are continuously fascinating to us.
At the end of this email my friend wrote: "Jay, this Yom Kippur, I don't think you should go to shul and ask G-d for forgiveness. This Yom Kippur you should stay home and G-d should come crawling on His knees and beg you to forgive Him for what He's done to you."
When I read these lines I laughed. My friend is a sacrilegious provocateur. He believed what he said, but he mainly wrote those words to shock me. I filed his words, but paid them little attention.
As Yom Kippur drew close, I continued to wonder what was taking place between G-d and me. I worried that this day of prayer and fasting would be void of the usual connection that Yom Kippur brings.
And then in a flash I realized that I was angry at G-d. And had been for some time. I was angry about my disease and I was angry that I was not yet healed. I was angry about my pain. And I was angry at the disruption to my life, the fear, the worry and anxiety that my disease was causing my family and those who loved and cared about me. I was angry about the whole thing, and He, being the boss of everything that happens in the world, was responsible and to blame.
And so, I entered Yom Kippur angry at G-d.
I put on my kittel and my tallit and I went to shul. I had received permission from my doctors and rabbi to fast. I beat my chest and listed my sins. I asked forgiveness. And yet, no matter how long the list of sins was, no matter how much I sought forgiveness, I could not find any act so heinous as to deserve the punishment that I felt was being inflicted upon me.
I prayed for G-d's forgiveness, and in my prayer book I read the words that promised His forgiveness. He would forgive me, I read, because that was His nature. He is a forgiver. He loves me. He wants me to be close to Him. And so He forgives me not for any reason, not because I deserve it, but simply because that is who He is. He is merciful and forgives and wipes the slate clean so that we -- He and I -- can be close again for the coming year.
I read these words, nice words, yet my anger remained.
Then I again remembered the email. In his cynicism, my friend had hit the mark: I needed to forgive G-d. I needed to rid myself of my anger and blame for the sickness He had given me. I needed to wipe the slate clean so that He and I could be close once again. I realized that I was angry at G-d
But how? On what basis should I forgive Him? If He was human, I could forgive Him for His imperfections, His fallibility, His pettiness, His upbringing, His fragility and vulnerabitity. I could try to put myself in His shoes, to understand His position. But He is G-d, perfect and complete! Acting with wisdom and intention. How could I forgive Him?!
As I continued my prayers throughout the day, with my anger and inability to forgive foremost in my mind, the words in my prayer book began to transform from pleas for forgiveness to instructions on how to forgive. Could it be that on this Yom Kippur, G-d was teaching me how to forgive Him? Were these words lessons on forgiveness from the Master of Forgiveness?
The instructions seemed clear: Forgive for the sake of forgiveness. Forgive not because there is a reason that you understand (for you may never understand My ways) nor because I deserve it (for the ways that I manifest are often terrible and frightening). Forgive solely out of love, so we can be close once again. Forgive because you, created in My image, are also a forgiver. I created you with that capacity so that always, no matter what happens in your life, you and I can be close, so that you and whomever you love, despite what transpires between you, can always reunite and begin again, clean and pure, ready for a new start.
The message and instructions were there and I began to hear through the prayers G-d speaking to me, reaching out for reconciliation, waiting for my forgiveness, providing instruction on how to forgive Him.
Again I remembered my friend's provocative e-mail. No, G-d was not crawling. But was He begging? Was He beseeching me for forgiveness and reconciliation? Was our unity more important to Him than any sin I had committed against Him or any pain He had inflicted upon me?
Still, I could not do it. Even seeing the extent to which He was reaching out to me, I was incapable of forgiveness. Though I wanted to forgive, on this day of truth, I saw that I could not. What He had done to me remained too terrible, too intentional to forgive.
As the closing Ne'ilah prayer approached, I was in despair. It all seemed hopeless. When I presented my case before my invisible set of internal of judges I carry with me, I was judged right, He guilty. He deserved my distance and rejection and I would stubbornly and righteously continue it.
As the sun began to set I felt completely alone. The loneliness was intolerable.
The feeling reminded me of times when I argue with my wife. We fight about some injustice or hurt that has occurred. I present my case before my internal judges and I am proven right. I withdraw in righteousness, punish her with rejection and distance. Sometimes it will last a few hours, sometimes a couple of days. But finally, the loneliness sets in. The distance becomes unbearable. The withdrawal demands an end. My desire for reconciliation and reunification overpowers any need to be right or to punish. And so, without needing to even speak about what it was we were fighting about, eventually we forgive each other so that we can be together again, loving again, carrying on our lives and relationship and family in good will and with a fresh start. We don't forgive because of any reason, nor out of our acceptance of each other's human pettiness or frailty or imperfection. We forgive simply from the desire to love and reunite. Simply so we can be together again. So that things will be the way they should. We forgive simply from the desire to love and reunite
And in the last minutes of Yom Kippur, out of my unbearable loneliness and separation from G-d, I found my ability to forgive. I forgave simply so that we -- G-d and I -- could be close again. So that we would return to the unity that is meant to be between us. Out my love for Him, my need of Him, my inability to carry on without Him I found the capacity somewhere in me. I reached out to Him in forgiveness and in that moment the pain and blame began to recede.
For me, Yom Kippur has not ended. This forgiveness business is not so easy as to be learned and actualized in a day. My anger and resentment, frustration and intolerance still flare, still cause damage. On my bad days it is hard for me to accept all that is happening, changing, challenging my life. But some new dynamic has entered the process. A softening. An acceptance. A letting go. A…. forgiveness.
For, you see, the last thing I want during the fragility of this time in my life is to be separate from G-d or from those whom I love or from the rising sun or a star-filled night.
I don't want anger and blame to ruin any moment of my life nor rend me from the unity with which G-d has created the world and that only I have the power to destroy.
Thankfully, G-d has provided me with the capacity to forgive and, now, in these days since Yom Kippur, he has provided me with the opportunity to reveal that forgiveness. He knows that both He and I, and all those that He and I love, will eventually, continuously do unforgivable things to each other. And despite the pain we will cause each other, we will need to forgive each other.
To not forgive would be an unbearable breach of the unity of creation.
By Jay Litvin More articles... | RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author Jay Litvin was born in Chicago in 1944. He moved to Israel in 1993 to serve as medical liaison for Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl program, and took a leading role in airlifting children from the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; he also founded and directed Chabad’s Terror Victims program in Israel. Jay passed away in April of 2004 after a valiant four-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their seven children. He was a frequent contributor to the Jewish website Chabad.org.
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The Law of Attraction is a popular idea that states that a person’s attitude attracts matching happenstance. Pessimism attracts misfortune, while optimism attracts good fortune.
The power of attitude to change the flow of a person’s life is a tacit assumption of much of Torah literature, particularly in that most influential source of common wisdom, the Psalms. “One who trusts in G‑d, kindness surrounds him!”1 “Fortunate is the man who puts his trust in G‑d!”2
The sages of the Talmud similarly appear to take this law for granted. For example, in dismissing as useless superstition a folk-omen to determine whether one’s journey will meet with success or doom, the sages advise, “But don’t do it.” Why not? “Because perhaps the omen will be negative, the person will worry, and his fortune will go sour.”3
The Zohar describes this optimism effect in cosmic terms:4
The Lower World is always ready to receive and is called a precious stone. The Upper World only gives it according to its state. If its state is of a bright countenance from below, in the same manner it is shone upon from above; but if it is in sadness, it is correspondingly given judgment. Similarly, it is written, “Serve G‑d with joy!”—because human joy draws another supernal joy. Thus, just as the Lower World is crowned, so it draws from above.
Yet, reading those words, you’ll note a critical distinction between this ancient attitude and the law of attraction. The law of attraction places the human being smack in the center of the universe, pulling all the strings. You create your own reality. Jewish optimism, on the other hand, is based on a faith in a fundamentally beneficent Higher Reality.
Jewish optimism doesn’t create or even attract anything new; it simply pulls back the blinds, opens up the windows and allows the light of day to shine in without distortion. G‑d is good and there’s only one of Him—and therefore all that happens must be essentially good. Our faith that this is so allows it to be visibly so.
A metaphor that might help:Optimism just lets the movie play clearly, in hi-res Think of a video streamed through narrow bandwidth, full of ugly artifacts and audio distortion. Similarly, evil and negative events are distortions of life-giving energy from above. Optimism loosens the constrictions, widens the bandwidth and allows the video to flow through in high resolution with minimal compression and zero information loss. The movie was a good movie all along—but now it looks good as well.
Truthfully, in certain situations, trust in G‑d can flip around the underlying reality as well. On the first verse from the Psalms we cited above, Rabbi Yosef Albo (c. 1380–1444) writes:
This means that even if he is not fit of his own accord, nevertheless, this is how trust in G‑d works, drawing kindness freely upon those who trust.5
Similarly, Rabenu Bachye ibn Pakuda (d. 1340):
One who trusts in G‑d is rewarded by being carried high above affliction—even when it is befitting for such affliction to befall him.6
This is more than allowing a clear signal to enter—rather, it is a reciprocal effect.Sometimes, trusting G‑d can change everything Think of a young child walking through a storm, tightly clutching his father’s hand. No matter how exasperated the father may have been with his child’s behavior a moment ago, those tight little fingers around his own elicit an instinctual response to be big and strong, provide and protect—as Wordsworth described, “The child is the father of the man.” Any vestige of anger has suddenly vanished, replaced by pure compassion. So too, our total reliance on G‑d can work wonders when all else has failed.
When the son of Reb Michel Blinner of Nevel was in mortal danger, he asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the “Tzemach Tzedek,” for a blessing. The Tzemach Tzedek responded, “Awaken the power of trust in G‑d with simple faith that He, blessed be He, will save your son. Thought helps. Think good and it will be good.”
And so it was that Reb Michel’s son was saved.7
Still, none of this makes you the author of your reality. On the contrary, it is your utter surrender to a truth infinitely greater than yourself—a.k.a. G‑d—that effects this change in your reality.
The law of attraction is attractive to human reason—and ego. The kind of optimism that has kept the Jewish People in existence all these millennia is based on neither of these. Rather, it’s firm foundation is a super-rational conviction, one that has proven itself more powerful than any other idea in human history: That life is good, because its Maker is good, and our job in life is to prove it so.
FOOTNOTES 1. Psalms 32:10
2. Ibid 40:5
3. Horayot 12a
4. Zohar, volume 3, 56a
5. Ikkarim, maamar 4, end of chapter 46. See also chapter 47.
6. Rabbeinu Bachya Ben Asher, Kad Hakemach, Bitachon
By Tzvi Freeman More articles... | Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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I happen to sell health insurance among other insurances so I make money when the insurance companies make money. Truthfully it is a small part of business but I appreciate that part of my paycheck. Birth Control not being covered is a religious issues it would be cheaper for all of us if it was required to be covered. Paying for birth control is cheaper than paying for a birth. I'm missing the part where you personally insulted Sarah Palin and Laura Ingram. I have never posted anything by Bill Mahr or Ed Schultz and I think their actions were wrong. Speaking of double standard. I have never heard you complaining about Viagra being covered. It is certainly your choice to believe me or not but I really felt personally insulted by your words. Please feel free to have the last word.
I have decided to take as a personal insult directed to me anything said about Sandra Fluke. I also think birth control should be covered by insurance carriers. I think it is a health issue and would reduce insurance and government spending. I suppose there are thoughtful arguments against that position but this it what I feel I have been reading.
"What does it say about Rachel ... essentially says she must be paid to have sex?" Limbaugh asked. "What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." "
"Should we buy Rachel swim goggles to protect her eyes from dangerous ejaculate as well? "
"What if Rachel is entertaining more than one gentleman caller at a time? As a taxpayer, I think it's important that our money meet every possible need that Rachel might encounter......"
"Carbonite's stock price seems to be falling faster than Rachel's undergarments."
http://www.jessicascott.net/blog/2012/03/i-am-not-a-slut/ I Am Not A Slut by Jessica Scott I took a brief hiatus from twitter/facebook over the last weekend because the rhetoric was getting my blood pressure up and well, to spare the people around me endless rants about the stupidity in our national dialogue, I had to turn it off.
The rhetoric has gotten out of control. The extreme rhetoric that says a woman should just put an aspirin between her knees to keep from getting pregnant, or that proposes a bill in the Senate allowing employers to decide not to cover medical issues they deem immoral or the fact that a group of middle aged men have returned to an era where they get to tell me what to do with my body: I’m a little pissed.
I am a 35 year old married mother of 2, an Army officer who has deployed and I use birth control to be a good soldier and a responsible parent.
I use birth control to stop having my period so that I can go to the field and not worry about it.
I use birth control while deployed with my husband to keep from getting pregnant and getting sent home and letting down all the men AND women on my team.
I use birth control to keep from having more children than we can afford.
You may rationalize or justify your behavior any way you would like. There is no question that posting the whole article is copyright infringing unless you have permission of the copyright holder. Copyright in classroom and copyright on a website are very different. There are built in exceptions for classroom use.
If you choose to infringe copyright for "the greater good" of the forum please be honest about that and don't justify your behavior as legal.
Regardless of the legality I actually personally have some issues with the way you use content. If you only publish excerpts you would drive traffic to the websites and blogs that post content that you find of value. By posting full length articles you are taking away advertising dollars ( by removing traffic and page views) from content creators and interfering with their right to be paid for creating content.
How to really help your troubled teen. by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
The Facebook Dad got over 28 million views on You Tube.
He sits on a lawn chair, his smoking cigarette dangles at his side, looks straight into the camera and speaks to us all.
“This is for my daughter Hannah and all her friends who think that her rebellious post on Facebook is cute.”
This father spent six hours and $130 fixing his daughter’s laptop only to discover her secret post on Facebook, cursing him out. [The following quote has been cleaned up for this family site.]
“To my parents: I am not your slave….It’s not my responsibility to clean up your garbage...You could just pay me for all the stuff I do around the house…I am tired of picking up after you…. I need to clean, do work around the house, chores, and school work. I’m tired of this garbage. I have no life.”
Dad takes a moment and then responds to his daughter’s obnoxious words.
A seemingly dubious distinction belongs to this week's parshah, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10). It is the only reading in the Torah where the name of Moses is not mentioned, from the first parshah of the Book of Exodus (in which he is born) until the end of the Book of Numbers.1 Tetzaveh's opening words are V'atah tetzaveh -- "and you shall command." The you is Moses and G‑d is telling him what to instruct the Jewish people. But the verse only says "you" -- no name, no "Moses." Why? Some explain that the day of Moses' passing, 7 Adar, almost always occurs in this week, and the absence of his name is an appropriate symbol of his demise. Others suggest that it is as a result of Moses' own words. Remember the Golden Calf episode? The people had sinned and G‑d was going to wipe them out and start over again with Moses and his own dynasty. Moses defended his errant flock before the Almighty arguing for their forgiveness. And if not? Well, Moses used some very strong words there. Micheini noh misifrecho -- "Erase me from your book that You have written!" Moses himself said his name should be erased from the Torah if G‑d would not forgive His people. So even though G‑d did forgive them, the words of a tzaddik (perfectly righteous person) are eternal and leave an impression. The effect of those words, therefore, was that somewhere in the Book, in Torah, his name would be erased. Moses would be missing where he normally should have appeared. Thus it is that in the week when we remember his passing, Moses' name is gone. So say a variety of commentaries. But, characteristically, the Chassidic commentaries, reflecting the inner dimension of Torah, go a step further -- and deeper. What's in a name? they ask. Who needs a name? Does a person require a name for himself? Not really, he knows who he is. So a name is essentially for other people to be able to attract his attention, so they can call him, address him, etc. In other words, a name is only an external handle, a vehicle for others to identify or describe a person; but it is all outside of the person himself and peripheral to his own true, inner identity. Names are secondary to the essence of an individual. The essence of every person, who he or she really is, is beyond any name, beyond any title. So why is Moses' name not mentioned? Because he said, “Erase me” at the Golden Calf? Because he spoke with chutzpah before the Almighty? You think it is a punishment? Not at all, says the Rebbe. On the contrary, this was perhaps the greatest moment in the life of our greatest spiritual leader. What would we imagine to be Moses' finest hour? Receiving the Torah? Leading the Jews to the Exodus? Splitting the Sea? Would you be shocked if I told you it is none of the above? Indeed, Moses' finest, most glorious, absolutely greatest moment on earth was when he stood his ground before G‑d, pleading for his people, fighting for their forgiveness. His most brilliant, shining hour was when he put his own life and future on the line and said: "G‑d, if they go, I go! If you refuse to forgive these sinners, then erase my name from your holy Torah!" It was through Moses' total commitment towards his people that the faithful shepherd saved his flock from extinction. And G‑d Himself was pleased with His chosen shepherd's words and acceded to his request. So the absence of Moses' name this week, far from being a negative, carries with it a profound blessing. It does not say the name Moses, but "v'atah" -- and You. A name is only a name, but here G‑d talks to Moses in the second person directly. You. And the You represents something far deeper than a mere name; it is the You symbolizing the spiritual essence of Moses. And what is that essence? His unflinching commitment to his people, come what may -- even if it be at his own expense. This is the very soul of Moses, the faithful shepherd. The You that goes beyond the superficial and beyond what any name could possibly encapsulate. It represents the deepest core of his neshamah, deeper than any appellation or detailed description could hope to portray. Moses' name may be missing, but his spiritual presence is felt in a way that no name could ever do justice to. May all our leaders take note and be inspired.
FOOTNOTES1.The Torah's last book, Deuteronomy, consists wholly of Meses' closing words to the people of Israel before his passing. By Yossy Goldman More articles... | Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a distinguished Chabad family. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Highlands North Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association, and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. About the artist: Dovid Brook lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations. To view or purchase David’s art, please visit davidasherbrook.com. The content on this page is copyrighted by the author, publisher and/or Chabad.org, and is produced by Chabad.org. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with the copyright policy.
I have a question for Rachel; I have learned a lot about the Jewish faith from your post; and, a lot about life in general.
In spite of GM's accusations, I am not anti-semetic (although sometimes I do disagree with the policies of Israel) I have nothing against people of the Jewish faith; in fact, I admire them greatly for their achievement and their response to adversity. I used to work for Cantor Fitzgerald; a Jewish firm. I still remember Bernie (Cantor) saying when I asked him who is Fitzgerald he said, "I just made him up. It was good for business to have an Irish name along mine." I remember being in his office in Beverly Hills and the World Trade Center; I admired his business acumen and his love for Rodin. His offices will filled with sculptures; it was like being in a museum. It was tragic what happened; many people I knew died, however I had already left the firm by then.
Anyway, often times I am not PC. Yet I mean no insult. So my question is, with all due respect, in casual conversation, is the word "Jew" offensive? i.e. He is a "Jew" for example? I mean I often say, Christians, I don't say Christian faith, etc. I think you get my question. Of course, context is important, but as a generalization, is it offensive? I mean I have heard Jewish people say, "I am a Jew" and be proud of it. Why not? What's wrong with that?
I look forward and will respect your opinion.
Thank you for your kind words
You would have actually have to ask an anti-Semite that question.
Jew is more often used derogatorily than jewish so it has negative connotations. It is not that Jew is necessarily an insult but that the person using word Jew instead of Jewish is more likely being insulting.
Judaism is a system for living that is built on obligations as opposed to rights. This is especially true with respect to the Jewish approach to marriage. Obligations foster responsibility and giving. Rights foster a sense of entitlement which can lead to irresponsibility. In Judaism, one is not entitled to anything. Everything good we have is a gift. So with this in mind, I present Judaism’s Bill of Obligations in Marriage: I have an obligation to: 1. To be a mensch. (Need I say more? Then let me spell it out for you…) 2. Strive to give my spouse pleasure, not pain. 3. Avoid blaming and attacking my spouse for things that bother me.. 4. Express what I need and not expect my spouse to mind read. 5. Take my spouse’s feelings and needs seriously. 6. Make sure that my spouse feels emotionally safe with me. 7. Give my spouse a consistent and enjoyable physical intimacy.
My father and my wife’s mother both turn 90. Not that unusual in the twenty first century when miracle drugs and modern hygiene contribute remarkably to longevity. But remarkable, nevertheless, in this instance. Both are holocaust survivors.
My father was a teenager when the Nazis murdered his parents in front of his eyes. He lost his two brothers and three sisters in the horrors of the death camps. Miraculously escaping the camp by smuggling guns in, he spent the rest of his teenage years fighting Nazis as a partisan in the forests of Poland. There he befriended a young man in the Polish resistance who was destined to become Pope John Paul II.
The very first United Jewish Appeal was launched this week. Our Parshah deals with the first fundraising campaign in history. Moses initiated it in order to build the Sanctuary in the wilderness as well as all to acquire all the materials needed for the special utensils required for the sacred services. This is, therefore, a good time to talk about the art of giving.
The holy Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin said that while some people claim that "If you give you are a fool and if you take you are clever," Jewish tradition teaches us that those who give and think they are only giving are, in fact, the fools. But those who give and understand that they are also receiving at the same time are truly wise.
The truth is that in giving, we actually receive more than we give. And not only a slice of heaven in far-away paradise, but even in the here and now. Certainly, in our relationships--whether family, business or social--our generosity is often reciprocated and we find the other party responding in kind. But it goes beyond giving in order to get back. The very fact that we have done good, that which is right and noble, gives us a sense of satisfaction. "The takers of the world may eat better. But the givers of the world sleep better."
This explains the unusual expression in our G-d's words to Moses in our Parshah: v'yikchu li terumah--"and they shall take for me a contribution." Why take? Surely, give would be the more correct term. But because in giving we are also receiving, the word take is also appropriate. For the same reason we find that the Hebrew expression for "acts of loving kindness" ("gemilut chassadim") is always in the plural form. Because every time someone performs a single act of kindness, at least two people are benefiting--the receiver and also the giver.
I have seen people over the years who were good people, giving people, who shared and cared for others. Then, after years of being givers, they stopped. Why? They became frustrated at the lack of appreciation for all their hard work. After all they had done for others, they never even got a simple "Thank You." So they were disappointed, disillusioned, and in some instances, even bitter. They resigned from public life and from whatever community services they were involved in.
How sad that they didn't realize that even if human beings are notoriously unappreciative, G-d Almighty takes note of every act of kindness we perform. And He responds with infinite blessings in his own way. Our sages taught that if we express regret over the good that we have done, we might well forfeit all the merits we would have otherwise deserved.
The rabbinate is one of the helping professions. Anyone involved in a congregational position doesn't only make speeches and teach Torah. One is called upon to serve in a pastoral role--visiting, helping, counseling, comforting. While it can be very taxing and often emotionally draining, it is without doubt a source of deep satisfaction; particularly when one is able to make a real difference in people's lives.
There are, of course, many people I have been privileged to help in one way or another over the years. One feels a very profound sense of purpose knowing that you were able to help someone through a crisis, or lift their spirits in a hospital, or give them hope and solace in a time of loss. Sure, I was the giver. But I received so much back in return. My life was rendered so much more meaningful, more worthy, for having helped a person in need.
I shall never forget the look on a young woman's face when I gave her the good news that I had managed to locate her wayward, absentee husband and convinced him to sign on the dotted line to give her the long awaited Get that would finally free her to get on with her life. She was so radiant, absolutely beaming with joy. Whatever efforts I had made on her behalf were well worth it just to see her feel the freedom.
So whenever you think you're a big deal because you did something for a good cause, remember; you are receiving much more than you are giving. Let us all be givers and be blessed for it.
By Yossy Goldman More articles... | RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a distinguished Chabad family. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Highlands North Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association, and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
The content on this page is copyrighted by the author, publisher and/or Chabad.org, and is produced by Chabad.org. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with the copyright policy.
https://www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe The Torah teaches God blessed Abraham with "everything" (Gen. 24:1). Yet Abraham left his native home, drove one son away, nearly sacrificed the other, was forced by famine to flee to Egypt, feared for his wife, fought a war and witnessed both wickedness and destruction. How is that "blessed with everything"? To be blessed is not only to have comfort and ease. Blessing entails struggle and uncertainty as well as sweetness. "Everything" is a full palette life, all the colors -- sting and honey, loss and hope.
Each choice is also a rejection, each embrace an exclusion. Living offers continual lessons in drawing boundaries. "Art is limitation. The essence of every picture is the frame," said Chesterton. We can do much but not all. We can choose widely, and wisely, but choose we must.
We live in buildings we did not build, using technology we did not invent as we walk streets we did not pave, buoyed by an economy and society we did not create. A moment of thanks to those who came before us, who built and innovated, ploughed and paved, and enabled us to flourish that we might improve our world for those who will follow
Three keys to catapulting from paralysis to action.
What is the most frightening six-letter word in the English language?
No, it's not, "D-A-T-I-N-G." And it's not, "S-K-I-I-N-G." And it's not, "P-A-S-T-R-Y" either.
How about, "C-H-A-N-G-E"?
If you're like most people (and don't fool yourself -- you are), C-H-A-N-G-E pretty much scares the dickens out of you. All of us try to make changes in our daily lives, but how many of us are really successful?
You try to quit smoking, or lose weight, or speak Hebrew, or visit your grandmother, or surf the Internet a bit less, or spend more time with your kids, and chances are you may make a bold and decent start, but it peters out after a few days. Or, more likely, you never really get started at all, you just talk about it all the time.
Welcome to the club. Everyone finds change difficult. But some people do seem to be better at it than others. What is their secret? How do they manage to move forward? Why do some people view life's hurdles as challenges to embrace while others perceive every new transition as a 50-ton barrier on the road in front of them?
The answer is not nearly as simple as this article appears to make it, but it is within reach.
Here are three keys that may not sound especially potent or very new, but still have the potential to catapult you from paralysis to action.
1. SEE WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE
A fundamental requirement for embarking on anything new is that you must believe in yourself. All of us have succeeded in certain areas and have failed in others. Unfortunately, the failures often seem to overshadow the achievements. We tend to magnify our deficiencies and downplay our accomplishments.
This must stop. You'll never muster enough energy to make difficult changes without compelling evidence that you are a capable human being. The only way to do this is by remembering, listing, and savoring the successes in your life. Five minutes a day should be sufficient. After a while, you WILL start believing that you can.
How do we know this is true? Because the wisest of all men, King Solomon, said so.
"The heart of the wise man looks to the right; the heart of the fool looks left" (Proverbs).
The Hebrew language has the unique distinction of being written and read from right to left. This means that every holy book is opened and every subsequent page is turned to the right side. So many of us open these books with the best of intentions. We want to study, we want to teach, we want to finish etc. But, all too often, reality sets in. We get bogged down, we slow down, we lose our interest and our resolve. We want to quit and we often do.
A great part of our bent to surrender comes from the enormity of the task. "Look at how many pages there are in this book. I'll never finish anyway. I might as well quit now."
Stop, says King Solomon. You are looking at the wrong side of the book. Only a fool looks to the left. That shows you how many pages you haven't yet studied. Look to the right. There you will see what you have already learned. That will encourage you to continue your task and complete your mission. That is the formula for becoming wise.
2. 'COLD TURKEY' IS FOR THE BIRDS
Everyone has bad habits. They range from the terribly serious kind -- drugs, gambling, over-eating, to the milder variety -- nail-biting, interrupting, and being a 'neat freak'.
One of the most potent stumbling blocks to success is the notion that the only way to quit is to do so all at once. Not true. I have found that most people make changes gradually. There are times and situations where only radical methods can be effective, but, by and large, throw a large hamburger on a high-chair tray in front of little Joey and chances are it will end up on the floor. But cut it into small, manageable, bite-size pieces and he might eat two burgers
Big Joey is a lot like little Joey. By definition, habits (and certainly addictions) are things we have done for long periods of time. The swift and sudden removal of them may produce swift and sudden change. But that is not what you are looking for. You want lasting change.
Identify a firm and specific goal. I want to stop coming late to meetings, dinners, work, synagogue, and medical appointments, whatever. Do not attempt any alteration in your schedule for two weeks. Simply jot down every time you come late and by how many minutes. Create an objective for the following week to reduce that late-coming by just five minutes in just two or three places. Chart your results. Do not overreach your goal. Even if it seems easy, just stick to the plan. Add five minutes and two more places each week. If you fail, just extend the same projection for an additional week. Take pleasure in your accomplishment. Reward yourself. 3. LEAVE THE COMPARISONS TO THE REAL ESTATE BROKERS
One of the side effects of this incredible Age of Communication is that everyone knows everything about everybody. Or, at least they think they do.
"Boy, Stan sure looks like he's making the big bucks." "Debbie lives such a carefree life. Not a worry in the world." "Well isn't Miriam just Miss Popular. No wonder she's always smiling."
The fact is that we actually know very little about Stan, Debbie, or Miriam. All we know is what we see. And the reality may be very far from the discernible.
But that doesn't stop us from making constant and damaging comparisons.
"I'll just never be as popular as Miriam. So why even bother trying to make friends with __________." "I'll always be a worrier. That's just the way I am wired. I wish I could be more like Debbie.
"So what if I'm unemployed. Stan's making high six figures and I should start at 60K?"
We use our mistaken impressions to formulate damaging comparisons about people around us, and then conclude that we can never "match up" to our peers.
How soon we forget that God made each of us with our own unique personality, DNA, fingerprints, and purpose. No two people contain the same potential or mission on this planet. So, besides the fact that things are NEVER the way they seem, our goals must singularly be our own. What someone else, no matter how similar he may seem to you, has accomplished is completely irrelevant to your life objectives.
Focus on what is within your reach. Never forget that your capacity to change is not in any way associated with anyone else's achievements or failures. Be your own man or woman. Change is hard enough without having to compare yourself to anyone else.
In sum, focus on your successes, cut the new steps into bite-size pieces, and never ever compare yourself to anyone else. That's the simple formula to get you started on the road to change. No, the road is not perfectly paved, free of traffic, or easy to navigate. But it does not have to be nearly as daunting as we think it is.
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Kodak declared bankruptcy this week. Legislation to ban digital cameras could have saved this company, a “jobs creator,” pillar of the community and long-time wonderful brand. One wonders why they didn’t make the effort? Would you have lobbied for that bill?
A friend tells a story about Kodak. Apparently, they had 59 buildings on the site that made film. As the film business started to shrink, the obvious thing for Kodak to do was to shrink as well, to reduce overhead, to become more nimble. The CEO said, “look out at those buildings and answer this question for me: How many steps are involved in making film?”
The answer, of course, was 59. Slowly shrinking wasn’t an option. The overhang was too large, it was going to take a leap, not a gradual series of steps. And that’s why the future is uncomfortable for most successful industrialists, including those in the media business.
It’s interesting to note that the only people who are in favor of SOPA and PIPA are people who are paid to be in favor of it. And creators (authors like me and Clay Shirky and Scott Adams) aren’t. While the folks at the “Copyright Alliance” pretend to be looking out for the interests of independent filmmakers and authors, the fact is that the only paying members of their lobbying group seem to be big corporations, corporations that aren’t worried about creators, they’re worried about profits. Given a choice between a great film and a profitable one, they’d pick the profitable one every time. Given the choice between paying net profits to creators and adjusting the accounting…
Anyway, back to the future:
The leap to a new structure is painful for successful industries precisely because they’re successful. In book publishing, the carefully constructed system of agents, advances, copyeditors, printers, scarcity, distributors, sales calls, bestseller lists, returns and lunches is threatened by the new regime of the long tail, zero marginal cost and ebook readers with a central choke point. The problem with getting from one place to another is that you need to shut down building 59, and it’s hard to do that while the old model is still working, at least a little bit.
Just about all the people who lost their jobs in Rochester meant well and worked hard and did their jobs well. They need to blame the senior management of Kodak, the ones who were afraid of the future and hoped it would go away. There are more pictures being taken more often by more people than ever before–Kodak leadership couldn’t deal with their overhang and was so in love with their success that they insisted the world change in their favor, as opposed to embracing the future that was sure to arrive.
Please understand that the destruction of the music business had no impact at all on the amount of music available, and little that I can see on the quality of that music either. Musicians just want to make music, thanks very much, and they’ll find a way to make a living gigging in order to do so. The destruction of the film business in Rochester is going to have very little impact on people’s ability to take photos. The destruction of the New York publishing establishment will make me sad, and they/we should hustle, but it’s not going to have much impact on the number of books that are written.
Before we rush to the most draconian solution we can think of to save the status quo, I think it’s worth considering what the function of the threatened industry is, and whether we can achieve that function more directly now that the future is arriving.
Check out this short TED video from Clay Shirky. Especially the first minute, the middle 90 seconds and the last one as well.
Every year since 2006 or so, I've skipped the tradition of throwing up a New Year's Resolution that I'll soon forget, and instead, I've focused on creating THREE WORDS that sum up all that I would like to focus on for the coming year. This method works well for several people, and over the years, we've had many people write out blog posts that describe their Three Words and how they use the model to improve themselves and/or their business in the coming year. It's that time again.
I don't unveil my own personal Three Words until January 1, but I'll tell you about how it works by going through my 2011 words. My words were:
* Reinvest * Package * Flow
The words are meant to help me see the way I'd like to view my world, the lens I choose to use. So, with "reinvest," my intent was to talk about reinvesting my effort on fitness and financial goals, as well as some of my community commitments. My effort to "package" was to make sure people better understood what I was selling and that they understood how to use it. My "flow" goal was to make sure that I worked on eliminating distractions and cutting out all the various clutter points of my personal and professional life.
I can see from a review of the year where things went well and where things didn't. I can see where I didn't focus on my three words and then I can sometimes see where I did it better. Interestingly, the last two months of 2011 were where I invested the most effort in accomplishing the desires behind those three words. So, though my year at large wasn't very well guided by those three words, they saw me into the efforts that will make 2012 really great for me.
PLAN YOUR THREE WORDS
People rush into telling me their three words, but if you're going to do this in a meaningful way, the goal is that you think long and hard about what these words will mean for you, how you can sum up an entire PERSPECTIVE into these words, and how you can use them as guideposts for your actions in the coming year.
Last year, as with this year, I invited people just like you, Rachel , to write in and share your Three Words. Here's just a very small sampling:
Dimitri - Move, Grow Share.
Susan - Focus, Grow Connect.
Amruta - Ask, Do, Share.
Eric - Adapt, Support, Teach.
David - Remarkable, Share, Understand.
C.C. - Create, Inspire, Teach
Beth - Challenge, Empower, Collaborate
Lisa - Passion, Balance, Give Back.
You can see where they're headed with these. I didn't pick them because they're the best or the worst of the examples. And there are maybe another 100 or so people you can learn from here: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/my-3-words-for-2011/ . But maybe that will get you going.
RECIPES FOR LIVING
Thereafter, here's what I'm going to do to slot my Three Words into my actions for any given week or day. Here's the whole larger layout, in order of hierarchy.
Three Words - those words that guide my principles and direction.
Monthly Challenge - I'm going to push myself to one, two, or three challenges a month, wherein which I'll tackle something important that matches with those challenges. I know, for instance, that Jacqueline and I will be doing a month of yoga starting January 1. So, every single day in January, no matter what else I'll do, I'll do yoga daily. Come February, I probably will switch to another challenge, and again, one per every three words.
Daily Recipes- With that in mind, then I know how to align my days by putting together "daily recipes." So now, if I have a fitness goal, a development goal, and a business goal, I'll slot this into each day with this recipe action. For January, I know that I'll be doing yoga daily. That'll be listed into my fitness recipe slots for daily consideration. I'll have my business goals broken down to recipes, so I won't have to wonder, "How will I add value today?" It'll just be there. See how that works?
So, you go from 3 Words, to a Monthly Challenge that hopefully is your 3 Words in action, and from that into Daily Recipes, which are your way to keep those goals top of mind.
My One Reveal
One word of my Three Words will be "practice." And by that, I mean to honor this sentiment: "the practice is the reward." It's something that Jacqueline and I are working on a lot in our personal lives and in our relationship. It spreads beyond that into my business and personal goals as well. The methods above? They are ideal for maintaining a practice-based mindset. As Jacqueline and I were talking about those monthly challenges, she pointed out that it's a lot easier to commit to a month at a time of practice and that it's easier to see the rewards of that, than it is to try and remind yourself of your 3 words all year long. I don't disagree at all. -- From Chris Brogan's newsletter
My three words are Sanctuary, Presentation, Connect
Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware It's not too late to avoid these common regrets in life.
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected: denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
Related Article: Torah With Morrie #4: Live Like You're Dying
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one.
Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
by Ben Gross http://bengross.com/your-new-years-resolution-pick-better-passwords/ As we near the end of 2011, I can’t help but think this is the year I had the most trouble telling the difference between actual news stories and pieces from “America’s Finest News Source”, The Onion. As I write this article, details are still unfolding from the data breach at the well-known private intelligence firm Stratfor.
According to reports, hackers found a weakly protected database of usernames and passwords and an unencrypted database of credit card information. The hackers proceeded to use credit cards in the database to make donations to charitable organizations. Just because any story can use a bit more absurdity, there were claims and counter claims of whether or not the attack was associated with Anonymous, the discerning hackers first choice of affiliation.
According to Identity Finder, the Stratfor database contained approximately 44,000 hashed passwords in the database, roughly half of which have already been exposed. Unfortunately, another 20,000 or passwords on pastebin would not even be newsworthy, if it were not for the notoriety of Stratfor. Note: if you think you might have been on the list of compromised accounts in the Stratfor database, you can check at Dazzlepod.
There is plenty of blame to go around. First, Stratfor stored user passwords as basic unsalted MD5 hashes, which is simply irresponsible. There are widely available and generally well-regarded solutions for storing passwords such as bcrypt, which is nicely summarized in Coda Hale’s How To Safely Store A Password. Secondly, and more importantly, storing customer’s credit cards in clear text is unconscionable. Never mind the question about why on earth they were storing CCVs in their database, which is never OK.
Given the recent attacks against Sony, Gawker, HBGary Federal, and Infragard Atlanta, one could reasonably expect that Stratfor would pay more attention to the operational security side given their business.
To put the Stratfor hack in a more global context, the 2011 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report aggregates data from Verizon RISK, the U.S. Secret Service and the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit. DataLossDB Statistics collected data from open sources including news reports, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and public records. These reports give a more nuanced breakdown of the types of breaches and data exposed across many industries.
As much as it pains me to blame the victim, a great many of the subscribers to Stratfor’s service, clearly could and should have picked better passwords. According to Stratfor Confidential Customer’s passwords analysis, we could start with the 418 users who picked “stratfor” as their password or even the 71 users who picked “123456.” The database was full of weak passwords, which was why the clear text of nearly half the passwords followed in a post shortly after the original password hashes appeared online.
In Data Evaporation and the Security of Recycled Accounts, I described how passwords for email accounts are frequently the weak link in the security chain. It is common for sites to allow users to reset their passwords to the email address listed on the account. This means that a compromised email account may be the only method an attacker needs to gain access to other accounts.
In my dissertation interviews, I talked with people about how they managed their accounts and passwords. Many of my interviewees told me they effectively had 2–3 passwords they used for most accounts with some minor variations due to password complexity rules. The interviewees frequently reported using a set of low, medium, and high security passwords. Unfortunately, the email accounts were often given the low security passwords.
It pains me to think how many of the customers in Stratfor’s database likely reuse the same password on multiple sites. In Measuring password re-use empirically, Joseph Bonneau analyzed the overlap between rootkit.com and gawker.com passwords in addition to other studies and found a wide-spread ranging from 10% to 50% overlap. Even with 10% overlap, there are significant benefits from leveraging one exploited password database to compromise another. As always, XKCD keeps track of the pulse of the internet and has informative comics for both Password Reuse and Password Strength.
Realistically, it’s getting to the point where unless you have a pretty fantastic password, if your password is in a database of poorly hashed passwords then someone with a bit of time can discover it. Why is that you might ask? Whitepixel the purveyors of fine open source GPU accelerated password hashing software report that it currently achieves 33.1 billion password/sec on 4 x AMD Radeon HD 5970 for MD5 hashes. This is fast enough to make rainbow tables (pre-computed hashes for a dictionary attack) much less compelling. If the attacker has any additional personal information this significantly increases the chance of a successful attack since so many people use bits of personal information in their passwords. Bruce Schneier describes commercial software that exploits personal information when attempting compromise password hashes in Secure Passwords Keep You Safer.
In general, unless your password or pass phrase is quite long you are far better off with a long randomly generated string that you manage with a password manager. There are many good options including my personal favorite 1Password, LastPass, RoboForm, or the open source projects PwdHash or Password Safe. PasswordCard is a nice alternative if you would prefer a solution you can always carry with you that does not require any dependencies besides what you can carry in your wallet.
Unfortunately, none of the password managers are magic. You will still have to deal with a depressingly large number of services that force you to choose poor passwords with arbitrary restrictions. Troy Hunt names some offenders in the Who’s who of bad password practices – banks, airlines and more. Still, if you simply use a password manager and different password with each service, you will dramatically limit any potential damage, as an attacker cannot reuse your password on another service.
DEBUNKERY BY ALASDAIR WILKINS DEC 12, 2011 3:00 PM 18,232 68 Share
http://io9.com/5867401/ There really is no difference between men and women’s math abilities There's a longstanding myth of a gender gap between boys' and girls' math performance, suggesting some basic biological difference in how the two genders approach math. It's deeply controversial and widely discredited. And now, a new study has completely debunked it. Until now, there was maybe a sliver of statistical data to support the existence of this gender gap — nothing remotely convincing, mind you, but just enough that the idea couldn't be entirely dismissed out of hand. While most who studied the issue pointed for cultural or social reasons why girls might lag behind boys in math performance, there was still room for biological theories to be proposed.
The best-known of these is the "greater male variability hypothesis", which basically says ability among males varies more widely than that of females, which means you'll see more males at the extreme ends of the spectrum, good and bad. Then-Harvard president Larry Summers infamously put forward this idea back in 2005 as a way to explain the lack of great female mathematicians, and this was one of about a dozen different factors that ultimately cost him his job.
Now, researchers Jane Mertz of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jonathan Kane of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater have performed the most comprehensive exploration yet of math performance. They took in data from 86 different countries, many of which had not previously kept reliable records of math performance and so their addition allowed for much stronger cross-cultural analysis. So what did they find?
First, in many countries, there's no gender gap at all both at the average and very high levels of performance. Some countries, including the United States, do show a gender gap, but that gap has decreased substantially over the last few decades, and some test scores suggest American girls have already caught up to their male counterparts.
The researchers looked at one measure of young people with extremely high math abilities - namely, those who scored a 700 or higher on the math section of the SAT before the age of 13. In 1970, boys in this category outnumbered girls 13 to 1, while today the ratio is just 3 to 1 and still falling. Similarly, while just 5% of math Ph.D.s in the United States in the 1960s were given to women, today that figure stands at 30%. All of these findings argue strongly that the apparent gender gaps are really just disparities in education and cultural expectations, not evidence of some deeper biological mechanism. If there really is a "math gene" or something like it that males have and boys don't, we simply wouldn't see such vast changes over time or indeed in different countries, many of which show no gender gap at all.
And what about the greater male variability hypothesis? Well, there's a bit of evidence to support this - provided you blatantly cherry-pick certain countries. Kane and Mertz compared the variability of male and female math scores in different countries and found that the variability ratio in Taiwan is 1.31, meaning boys there do have substantially more variability than girls.
However, the ratio in Morocco is 1.00, meaning there is absolutely no difference in the genders' variability. You can go even further by looking at Tunisia, which has a ratio of 0.91, which means it's actually the girls there who show greater variability. For this hypothesis to be correct, it would have to hold true for all countries — the fact that the ratios vary so much means it's just the result of different cultural factors, or it could simply be random statistical noise.
Mertz and Kane were also able to debunk a couple other hypotheses about math performance, specifically the "single-gender classroom hypothesis" and "Muslim culture hypothesis", both of which were argued for by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt. The idea here is that the gender inequity found in many Muslim countries actually benefits girls, perhaps because they are generally educated in gender-separated classrooms and that helps somehow.
It's an interesting, counter-intuitive idea, but it also appears to be completely wrong. The authors say that, upon close examination of the data, girls in these single-gender classrooms still scored quite poorly. The boys in these countries, such as Bahrain and Oman, had scored even worse, but Kane suggests that's because many attend religious schools with little emphasis on mathematics.
Also, low-performing girls are often pressured to drop out of school and so don't appear in the statistics, which falsely inflates the girls' overall performance. The point, says Kane, is that these differing scores don't point to benefits of gender-separated classrooms or speak to features of Muslim culture as a whole - rather, they're due to social factors in play in a few countries, and the single-gender classrooms are just a confounding variable.
Indeed, Mertz and Kane were able to demonstrate pretty much the exact opposite of those hypotheses: as a general rule, high gender equality doesn't just remove the gender gap, it also improves test scores overall. In particular, countries where women have high participation in the labor force, and command salaries comparable to those of their male counterparts, generally have the highest math scores overall. The researchers comment on this finding:
Kane: "We found that boys — as well as girls — tend to do better in math when raised in countries where females have better equality, and that's new and important. It makes sense that when women are well-educated and earn a good income, the math scores of their children of both genders benefit."
Mertz: "Many folks believe gender equity is a win-lose zero-sum game: If females are given more, males end up with less. Our results indicate that, at least for math achievement, gender equity is a win-win situation."
As for how to close the gap even further and generally increase math scores, Mertz says the study argues strongly against the proposal to create single-gender classrooms. Instead, the researchers point to fairly common sense solutions: increase the number of math teachers in middle and high schools, decrease the number of children currently living in poverty, and take greater steps to reduce gender inequity.
Those may all seem fairly straightforward, but that's pretty much exactly the point - this isn't about tricking our brains or creating some perfect conditions to unlock children's hidden mathematical aptitude. As Mertz explains, this is all about culture, not biology:
"None of our findings suggest that an innate biological difference between the sexes is the primary reason for a gender gap in math performance at any level. Rather, these major international studies strongly suggest that the math-gender gap, where it occurs, is due to sociocultural factors that differ among countries, and that these factors can be changed."
Read the original paper at the American Mathematical Society.
Beauty and the Greeks by Rabbi Doniel Baron What was the underlying conflict between Jewish and Greek philosophy?
The ancient Greeks were obsessed with aesthetics and held beauty above all. The Greeks also championed the potential of the mind, and the works of their philosophers remain required reading at universities to this day. Far from keeping this idea to themselves, the Greeks spread their value system to every culture they conquered. In an astounding military campaign in which Alexander the Great conquered large swathes of the world and remained undefeated, the Greeks created a vast empire through which they broadcast their message.
Yet when Greek culture and its way of life reached the land of Israel, it met with incredible resistance from the rabbinic establishment. For the two centuries leading up to the story of Chanukah, years during which the Jews were exposed to Greek culture, the rabbis maintained their relentless opposition to the Greek way of life.
Things came to a head when Antiochus the Greek finally outlawed the most essential practices of Judaism. The rabbis refused to back down, and were willing to risk everything to preserve the Jewish way. The resulting conflict became the miraculous story of Chanukah, the Jewish triumph over the Greeks, and the establishment of an independent Jewish government in Judea.
Is Beauty Bad?
The underlying conflict between Jewish and Greek philosophy begs explanation. What was so bad about the beauty that the Greeks extolled? Are aesthetics dangerous? Why were they so vehemently against Greek culture even before it outlawed the practice of Judaism?
In a similar vein, what bothered the Greeks? They had political control and what appeared to be clear military superiority. Their culture dominated the world. What was it about the stubborn band of Jews in Judea that so irked them? What pushed them to go so far as banning another people's religion?
The answer cannot be that Judaism frowns on beauty. The Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, was replete with gold and silver. Designed and built according to prophetic instructions, it was known as one of the most beautiful structures in the world, and the remnant of the complex that survives to our day hints to its grandeur. Jerusalem itself is called the epitome of beauty in the Book of Lamentations. The Torah commands us to beautify our fulfillment of commandments with physical beauty, and have a beautiful sukkah, shofar, and more. The Torah itself emphasizes how some of our holiest ancestors, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Yosef were extraordinarily beautiful people -- physical beauty noticed by the most powerful monarchs of the time.
What, then, was wrong with the Greeks? Why didn't the rabbis embrace a thinking culture that appreciated physical beauty?
What is Beauty?
The answer lies in the core definition of beauty. Classical beauty, the conception of aesthetic that survived the millennia, stems from harmony. Without harmony, we tend to find visual stimuli either boring and bland or chaotic and overly busy. One example of harmony is found in symmetry; an image which is perfectly balanced is appealing. The Greeks were obsessed with the human physique, itself a marvel of perfect symmetry. We also find harmony in sharp contrasts such as in the sight of a deep valley against the backdrop of a tall mountain.
Even for the less artistic among us, perception of color illustrates this idea. We see beauty in the use of analogous colors, colors which are adjacent to each other on the tertiary color wheel, a progressive arrangement of 12 colors ordered according to their wavelengths. Yet we also see beauty from contrasts, particularly from complementary colors which are directly opposite each other on a color wheel. Both reflect harmony that unites the colors of the medium, either through contrast or complement, and presents one with a balanced visual medium.
With this background, we can understand the real war between the Greeks and the Jews. While the Greeks understood the harmony in physical beauty, they missed the point. The ultimate harmony is the union of the spiritual and physical worlds. It creates a beauty like no other, an effect so powerful that any attempt to imitate it is an insult to the notion of beauty.
There is no greater harmony than the connection between material things and their spiritual source. Jerusalem is the essence of beauty in Judaism; it is the point where heaven and earth kiss, a bridge between two realms, one side of a symmetrical phenomenon. According to Jewish tradition, the physical energy that sustains every part of the world flows from Jerusalem. King Solomon understood how Jerusalem connects every corner of the earth to its spiritual source, and was even able to plant in Jerusalem things indigenous to other parts of the world because he understood where each channel of energy stemmed from Jerusalem and extended across the globe. Jerusalem below is the physical counterpart of the spiritual energy that flows to the world, creating the perfect harmony between physical and spiritual.
The beautiful people in the Torah were living reflections of harmony between the physical world and the spiritual. Joseph, for example, was so handsome that the local women would climb the walls just to get a glimpse of him. Instead of letting physical pleasure dominate him, Joseph stood up to the test when tempted by Potiphar's wife, and did not let his physical beauty sever him from the real harmony of living a spiritual life. Our ancestors described as beautiful were individuals whose physical attractiveness lived in perfect harmony with their spiritual essence.
The Greeks traded real harmony between heaven and earth for the cheap harmony between different aspects of the physical world. In fact, it is often physical beauty and temptation that stands in the way of one's access to real harmony. The Greeks abused beauty because they flaunted something that was only externally beautiful and ignored the pursuit of genuine harmony. From their perspective, only things that man can perceive and understand exist, and harmony with something transcendental would be impossible.
The rabbis immediately spotted the threat in Greek culture, and fought against replacing real beauty with a superficial imposter. In turn, the Greeks eventually realized the threat that the Jews posed to their own philosophy and how our idea of beauty makes theirs meaningless. They therefore went on the offensive.
We won the battle on Chanukah over 2,000 years ago, but the war continues. Our opponents brandish all that which is pleasing to see and which seems beautiful. Yet nothing they offer comes close to the harmony between body and soul. It's up to us to decide whether to settle for phony beauty that provides nothing more than harmony between physical things, or whether we are true to our legacy of striving for the ultimate harmony between the physical and spiritual, between body and soul.
The temptation prevails to this day, and the lure of all that appears pleasing, especially during the commercial "holiday season," is overwhelming. Chanukah calls to us, asking us to seek real beauty, the harmony that can only come from connection to a higher realm.
Not everyone is lucky enough to get a wake-up call in life. Some people get theirs just in time. Others get it but don't hear it. Still others hear it loud and clear but refuse to take any notice. Pharaoh got his in this week's Parshah (Torah reading) when Joseph interpreted his dreams and advised him to appoint "a wise and discerning man" who would oversee a macro economic plan for the country. Joseph explained to the King of Egypt that because he experienced two dreams and woke up in between it was a sign from heaven to wake up and act immediately as the matter was of the utmost urgency. Pharaoh took the message to heart and the rest is history. On the health and well-being level, a little cholesterol, climbing blood pressure or recurring bronchitis might be the not-so-subtle signs that it's time for a change of lifestyle. These are the medical wake up calls we receive in life. Do we really have to wait for a heart attack, G-d forbid, to stop smoking, or start eating less and exercising more? That's what wake-up calls are for, to help us get the message before it's too late. Then there are the spiritual signs. I will never forget a friend who shared with me the story of his own red lights flashing and how a changed spiritual lifestyle literally saved his life. He was a workaholic driving himself to the brink. Had he carried on indefinitely he simply would not have survived. Then he decided to give Shabbat a try. What he had never previously appreciated about Shabbat was that it is a spiritually invigorating day of rest and spiritual serenity. And in discovering Shabbat, he rediscovered his humanity. (He also discovered he could play golf on Sundays instead of Saturdays.) A short trigger film I once used at a Shabbaton weekend program depicted a series of professionals and artisans at work. As they became engrossed and immersed in their respective roles they each became so identified with their work that they lost their own identities. Monday through Friday, the carpenter's face dissolved into a hammer, the doctor took on the face of a stethoscope and the accountant's head started looking exactly like a calculator. Then on Shabbat they closed their offices and came home to celebrate the day of rest with their families; slowly but surely, their faces were remolded from their professions to their personalities. Total immersion in their work had dehumanized them. They had become machines. Now, thanks to Shabbat, they were human again. That short video left a lasting impression. It's not easy to change ingrained habits. But Chanukah, which usually falls during this week's Parshah, carries with it a relevant message in this regard. Take one day at a time. One doesn't have to do it all at once. One light at a time is all it takes. On the first night we kindle a single Chanukah light, on the second night we kindle two lights, and on the third night three. We add a little light each day, and before long the menorah is complete and all eight Chanukah lights are burning bright. It's ok to take one day at a time. It's not ok to go back to sleep after you get a wake up call. Whether it's your medical well being or your spiritual health, the occasional wake up call is a valuable sign from Above that it may be time to adjust our attitudes, lifestyles or priorities. Please G-d, each of us in our own lives will hear the call and act on the alarm bells with alacrity
The Talmud teaches that "A small amount of light cancels much darkness." We begin tonight with a single candle for Hanukkah, along with the shamash, the flame that ignites the others. Place the hanukkiah in the window; dispel the darkness, one candle at a time. Celebrate the miracle of creating light.
A two minute teaching: A cruse of oil that should have lasted only one day lasted eight. But if so, the miracle was only for seven days -- it would have lasted one day in any case. So why do we light for eight days? Because the first night was the greatest Hanukkah miracle -- the courage to renew the tradition, hope in the future, to keep faith with God's promise and the steadfast human heart.
Chanukah starts at sundown tonight. Happy Chanukah!
Chanukah in Bergen Belsen by Libi Astaire
The rabbi was desperately looking for a small light in the sea of dark despair.
“In their very essence a Jew and despair are contradictory. They simply cannot co-exist together.” Rabbi Shraga Shmuel Schnitzler, who went by the more familiar name of Rabbi Shmelke, looked around the barracks to make sure that the others had understood his point. Amidst the crowd of weary faces that stared back at him, there were a few who were nodding their heads in agreement. Perhaps they, too, had been chassidim in another life — the life that existed before the war — and so they could appreciate the tales that Rabbi Shmelke told about chassidic Rebbes of former days.
Rabbi Shmelke didn’t tell his stories just to pass the time. His job, as he saw it, was to keep up the spirits of the Jews who were imprisoned in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. That job would have been much easier if they were prophets, since the end of the war was just a few months away. But during that Kislev of 1944, the situation seemed as hopeless as ever. Even the thought of Chanukah, which was fast approaching, couldn’t dispel the gloom for most of them.
For Rabbi Shmelke, it was a different story. Since the beginning of the month he had been busy preparing for the holiday. He asked the same question to everyone he met: “Can you get us a little oil? Do you someone who works in the kitchen?”
The answer was always the same: No.
With dismay, he realized that Chanukah was only a few days away. He knew only too well what would happen if he couldn’t find any oil. Many of his fellow prisoners were clinging to life only by a slender thread of hope. Once that thread was snapped, they would succumb to the deep sea of dark despair that threatened to drown them. So he had to find some oil. Even if he found only enough oil to kindle the first Chanukah for a few seconds that would be enough. But no Chanukah lights? That wasn’t an option.
The day before Chanukah Rabbi Shmelke was at work — his “other” job in the camp was to remove dead bodies from the barracks — when he received an order to go to the last barrack, where some people had died during the previous night. While he walked across a field his foot got caught in a small hole in the frozen earth and he almost fell. He removed his foot from the hole and noticed that there was something buried inside. After making sure that no guards were watching him, he knelt down to see what it was.
He pulled out a small jar from the ground. Inside was some congealed liquid. Oil, he whispered. Oil for Chanukah!
Rabbi Shmelke then reached his hand inside the hole a second time. To his delight he discovered that the hiding place contained more surprises. He pulled out a carefully wrapped package and quickly undid the paper wrapping. Inside were eight little cups and eight thin strands of cotton.
It was obvious that some Jewish prisoner had buried this little menorah and the oil. But who was he? And where was he? Had he been transported to another camp? Had he died?
Although Rabbi Shmelke desperately wanted oil for his own barracks, he sincerely hoped that the Jew who had buried these things was still alive. Perhaps he was still in the camp and he would come back the next day and search for the treasure that he had so carefully hidden. So Rabbi Shmelke carefully reburied everything. But for the rest of the day and night, he asked every Jew that he met the same question: “I found some oil and a menorah. Maybe you were the one who hid them?”
The other prisoners looked at him with sad eyes, certain that at last the horrors of the Rabbi’s work had destroyed his mind. “No, Rabbi,” they said, one after another. “I didn’t hide any oil. I didn’t hide a menorah.”
Related Article: Chanukah in the Soviet Gulag
The next night, however, they discovered that Rabbi Shmelke hadn’t gone mad. When they returned to their barracks after the evening roll call they saw, to their amazement, a little menorah standing on one of the bunks. To their even greater surprise, one of the cups was filled with oil!
Rabbi Shmelke recited the blessings and then kindled the light for the first night. The group watched in silence while the tiny flame fought its eternal battle against the surrounding darkness. Some smiled, others cried. All felt a sweet spark of hope revive inside their embattled and embittered hearts.
Their own personal miracle was repeated on each night of the holiday. And then a few months later, in April 1945, an even greater miracle occurred. Germany surrendered. The war was over.
Rabbi Shmelke was one of the fortunate few who survived the war. After Bergen Belsen was liberated he returned to Hungary, where he served as a spiritual leader for other survivors and became known as the Tachaber Rav.
Several years later he made a trip to the United States, and while he was there he paid a visit to an acquaintance from the “old country” — Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. While they reminisced, the Satmar Rebbe mentioned that he had also been a prisoner in Bergen Belsen.
“I was there a year before you,” said the Satmar Rebbe. “I was rescued on the 21st of Kislev, four days before Chanukah. Before I found out about the rescue plan, I made provisions for the holiday. I bribed several camp officials and put together a package of oil, cups, and wicks, which I then buried in a field. I always felt badly that my little menorah was never put to use.”
How much do our parents and grandparents influence us? Of course, the genes we inherit from them determine lots of important things about us – from our cholesterol levels to when we will go grey. But what about emotionally or spiritually?
I'd like to suggest that they influence us more than we might care to admit. We also tend to underestimate the potential they have in molding the value systems of the next generation.
A powerful case in point is the story in this week's Parshah. Joseph is sold into slavery down in Egypt and winds up in the house of Potiphar. His master's wife casts her lustful gaze on the handsome young man and repeatedly attempts to seduce him. Joseph is consistent in his refusal to even consider her advances. Then one day, the entire household goes to the temple for a special occasion. She feigns illness in order to be home alone with Joseph. He comes to the house "to do his work" (Genesis 39:11). Rashi offers two interpretations: the simple--that he came to work; and another, that he actually came to do his work with her!
Determined as he was, on this occasion Joseph was beginning to falter. Morale and morality were weakening and it seemed as if he was about to succumb to the temptress' entreaties.
Then suddenly something happened to help Joseph regain his senses and self-control. What was it--did they come home early? Did the postman ring the bell? Says Rashi, there appeared before Joseph an vision, an vision so potent that it restored his composure there and then. What was that image? Quoting the Talmud, Rashi says it was "the image of the visage of his father." Joseph suddenly saw his father Jacob's face, and with that his moral resolve was restored.
Was this a telepathic message transmitted from the Holy Land? According to the simple reading, at that stage Jacob didn't even know that Joseph was alive. He had been missing and presumed dead, devoured by a wild animal. The straightforward understanding of this Talmudic passage is that Joseph remembered his father and envisioned his patriarchal face, the classical image of the sage with the long, white beard. And with that image in his mind, Joseph found renewed spiritual stamina to resist temptation.
Some might understand this episode as Joseph not wanting to disappoint his aged father. Others might see the image as a catalyst evoking in Joseph his own latent spiritual resources. Either way, with Jacob's visage in his mind, Joseph wasn't prepared to lose the moral high ground. He couldn't and wouldn't do it to his dad. And, through his father; Joseph remembered who he was--a proud son of Jacob and grandson of Isaac and Abraham.
Such was the effect Jacob had on Joseph and such is the effect every father and mother, grandfather and grandfather, can potentially bring to bear on their offspring. Of course, they would have to be respected by their children as men and women of stature for their image to represent any kind of moral symbolism. If the image of a parent or grandparent would send a signal to the young person to, say, "go for it, my boy!" then clearly the system will fail. I can safely say that if not for the image of my own father and grandfather and their subtle influence on me, I would never have become a rabbi. They didn't push me at all but their influence was profound. Just their image, their character and very being, was enough to guide me in the right direction during my own wavering moments of youthful indecision.
Joseph was nearly lost way down in Egypt land but that one image of his father saved him from sin and helped him go on to achieve greatness. May we all be good role models and may our own images help inspire our children and grandchildren.
Friedman is wrong By JPOST EDITORIAL 12/15/2011 23:58
His misunderstanding of Israel is evident in his underlying assumption that appears in his columns repeatedly: that were Israel to just leave the settlements, peace would flow like a river. Talkbacks (77)
For the past several years, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, that guru for American Jewish liberals, has shown that he doesn’t really understand Israel or the region.
His misunderstanding of Israel is evident in his underlying assumption that appears in his columns repeatedly: that were Israel to just leave the settlements, peace would flow like a river.
Well, Israel uprooted all 21 settlements from Gaza in 2005, but instead of peace, received an unending barrage of missiles in return.
The settlements are a consequence of the conflict, not its cause. The PLO, if anyone has forgotten, was established in 1964, three years before the Six Day War and any thought of a West Bank settlement.
As for Friedman’s failure to understand the region, readers need look no further than his breathless “Postcard from Cairo” columns at the outset of the Arab Spring last February. To have read Friedman then was to believe this was 1989 all over again, and that Hosni Mubarak would be deposed and replaced by the Egyptian version of Vaclav Havel.
In one piece, he castigated Israel for not being more supportive of the protesters in Tahrir Square. “The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment,” he wrote, “and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh – right to the very end.”
Wrong. Israel wasn’t supporting Pharaoh, but rather deeply concerned that following the Egyptian revolution, Sinai would turn into a terrorist base, the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline would be a constant target of attack, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo would be ransacked, and the Muslim Brotherhood – and Salafists to their right – would win the country’s parliamentary election.
Click here to find out more! Now, in his latest piece on Israel that appeared Wednesday entitled “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir,” Friedman demonstrated that he also doesn’t know America.
In a line that could have come straight from the pens of AIPAC-bashers Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, Friedman wrote that he hoped Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he loathes, understood that the standing ovation he got in Congress earlier this year was not for his politics, but rather one that was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
That’s right – that wicked, despicable Israel lobby.
According to Friedman, anybody who supports Israel must be on the nefarious Jewish lobby’s payroll. Otherwise, how could they dare? Maybe Friedman should consider the possibility that the ovation was the result of America’s elected officials – in tune with the feelings of their constituents – seeing in Israel a plucky little country that shares their own basic values and is trying to survive in an awfully bad neighborhood.
Maybe Friedman should consider that the ovation was the result of politicians understanding that this conflict is not about one settlement, or one Jerusalem neighborhood, but rather over the Jewish people’s right to a homeland.
No, that can’t be. In fact, writes Friedman – always concerned about Israel’s soul – were Netanyahu to go to the University of Wisconsin, many students, including Jews, would stay away because they are confused by Israeli policies: the current spate of right-wing Knesset legislation, the segregation of women on buses, the settlements.
And then came the kicker. Friedman’s proof that Israel is merrily heading down the path toward the abyss is that radical left-wing Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy says so.
Dubbing Levy a “powerful liberal voice, writing in Haaretz,” Friedman quotes from a recent Levy column: “What we are witnessing is w-a-r. This fall a culture war, no less, broke out in Israel, and it is being waged on many more, and deeper, fronts than are apparent. It is not only the government, as important as that is, that hangs in the balance, but also the very character of the state.”
Friedman’s use of an extremist such as Levy to prove his point is akin to taking the writings of America-bashing left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky as proof that America is bad.
The problem with Friedman and those sharing his sentiments about Israel is that they take an exception and make it the rule.
This school of thought takes a sex-segregated bus in Mea She’arim and turns the whole country into Iran; takes rocks thrown by bad, misguided youth at an IDF base and turns Israel into a country on the brink of civil war; and takes the government’s refusal to bail out a failing commercial television station as putting Israel on the fast track to Soviet Russia.
What is needed is some proportion. The burning of mosques by Jewish hooligans is deplorable, but it is no more representative of the country – or the direction it is going – than Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ burning of a Koran in May was a reflection of America. Friedman should know this.
I am missing the connection between puppetry and getting a liberal arts education. Writing well at 18 and writing well at 22 should be very different things.
What happens if you get learn a trade and 5 years later technology changes and your skills are obsolete or even worse 25 years later and you way too young to retire but learning a new skill would be difficult. What do you do then? A college degree might look a lot more attractive. What is your suggestion for all the out of work construction workers?
Community colleges are wonderful resources and can be a great fit for some. However the undergraduate education you get at community colleges is often less rigirous than the education you get at many traditional colleges.
I am not denying that there is a higher education bubble and that is it a serious problem.
Day Care does provide education and you can help you kids with their homework when you get home from work.
It is true that people wrongly look down on stay at home moms. They are definitely worthy of great respect but so are working moms. You seem to be suggesting that is impossible to be a working mother and a good parent.
I have friends who are working moms and I have friends that are stay at home moms and I have friends that are somewhat in between. Almost all complain about feeling guilty and being looked down upon by people who made different choices than they did. The right solutions for your family does not have to be the right solution for someone else.
Julien Smith has delivered a surprise, a confrontation, a book that will push you, scare you and possibly stick with you for years to come. The idea is simple: your flinch mechanism can save your life. It shortcircuits the conscious mind and allows you to pull back and avoid danger faster than you can even imagine it’s there. But what if danger is exactly what you need? What if facing the flinch is the one best way to get what you want? Here’s a chance to read the book everyone will be talking about, before they do. What are you afraid of? Here’s how to find out.
Video Interview with Chris Brogan ( It has a lot of swearing)
Would you think that “how are you today?” can be a religious question? And that it plays an important role in a major Biblical narrative?
In this week’s Parshah, Vayeishev (Genesis 37–40), we read the dramatic story of Joseph—the technicolor dream coat, the sibling rivalry in Jacob’s family, and Joseph’s descent to Egypt, sold into slavery. After being framed by his master’s wife for scorning her attempts at seduction, young Joseph finds himself incarcerated in an Egyptian jail. There he meets the Pharaoh’s butler and baker, and correctly interprets their respective dreams. Later, when Pharaoh himself will be perturbed by his own dreams, the butler will remember Joseph, and Joseph will be brought from the dungeon to the royal court. His dream analysis will satisfy the monarch, and the young Hebrew slave boy will be catapulted to prominence and named viceroy of Egypt.
How did Joseph’s salvation begin? It began with the imprisoned Joseph noticing that the butler and baker were looking somewhat depressed. “And Joseph came to them in the morning and he saw them, and behold, they were troubled. He asked Pharaoh’s officials . . . ‘Why do you look so bad today?’” (Genesis 40:6–7). They tell him about their disturbing dreams, he interprets the dreams correctly, and the rest is history.
But why did Joseph have to ask them anything at all? Why was it so strange to see people in prison looking sad? Surely depression is quite the norm in dungeons. Wouldn’t we expect most people in jail to look miserable?
According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the answer is that Joseph was exhibiting a higher sense of care and concern for his fellow human beings. Torn away from his father and home life, imprisoned in a foreign land, he could have been forgiven for wallowing in his own miseries. Yet, upon seeing his fellow prisoners looking particularly unsettled, he was sensitive enough to take the time to inquire about their well-being. In the end, not only did he help them, but his own salvation came about through that fateful encounter. Had he thought to himself, “Hey, I’ve got my own problems, why worry about them?” he might have languished in prison indefinitely.
Sometimes, says the Rebbe, a simple “how are you today?” can prove historic.
It’s a lesson to all of us to be a little friendlier. To greet people, perhaps even to smile more often.
Some years ago, after studying in the Talmud how one of the great sages declared that he had never allowed anyone else to greet him first but always made a point of initiating the greeting, I made a personal resolution to try and put this approach into practice. Every Shabbat I walk quite a few kilometers to and from our shul here in Johannesburg. I pass by many fellow pedestrians, mostly local black residents. Rarely had any of them greeted me, but now I am the one to say “good morning” to them. They always respond, though I must confess that some do look rather surprised. In a country where for many years they were not acknowledged as full-fledged citizens, a simple “hello” can become a very humanizing experience. Conversely, I am sometimes unpleasantly surprised when, ironically, a fellow Jew will walk right by me without even so much as a nod.
When we meet someone we know and ask, “Hey, how are you doing?” do we wait for the answer? Try this experiment. Next time you are asked how you are doing, answer “Lousy!” See if the other person is listening and responds, or just carries on his merry way, oblivious to your response.
Aside from Joseph’s many outstanding qualities which we ought to try and emulate, in this rather simple passage Joseph reminds us to be genuinely interested in other people’s well-being. And that it should not be beneath our dignity, nor should we be inhibited, to make an honest and sincere inquiry as to their condition. Who knows? It may not only change their lives, but ours.
If you could have seen me Wednesday morning, September 28th, you would have found me with clothing and luggage sprawled all over my room. My family and I were trying to head to New York City in good time before Rosh Hashana would begin. We would be having our Hineni High Holiday prayer services in the Essex House together with Jews from every part of the world. Rosh Hashana would go straight into Shabbos so we had to pack ourselves up for the next three days. That may not sound like a lot but when you are a family trying to get out on time, tensions rise and nerves are frayed. I was trying to remember everything we would need.
“Everyone collect your luggage into my room!” I called out. “I am running downstairs to put together some stuff in the kitchen. Then please take all the suit bags and hanging things along with all the suitcases to the car. We need to leave in 15 minutes.”
I heard footsteps rushing back and forth on the floor above me.
Great, I thought. They’re listening.
Then I heard the bumping sound of luggage being dragged down the steps.
“Wow, we might really make this with time to spare!”
The car was loaded with all our gear. We piled in and made our way to the city. Traffic was heavy but we finally pulled up to the hotel. I ran out of the car to wait at the reception desk and check us all in while my husband settled the car. The bellhop sped ahead with the luggage.
Finally I was able to take a breath. Not bad, I thought. I even have a little time before Rosh Hashana begins to contemplate and put my thoughts in order. The time flew by and there were just 40 minutes left till candle lighting. My children began getting ready. You could hear the noisy blow dryers as doors slammed open and shut.
I looked around the room and tried to see where my luggage was put. I didn’t find it anywhere. I looked under the beds, in the closet, in the bathroom. Nowhere.
I stepped out into the hall. Could it have been left there? Nope, nothing there.
I ran into my children’s room and turned everything upside down. Still no luggage.
My heart began beating hard. I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. I ran back to my room.
“Okay everyone!” I called out. “I don’t see my suitcase anywhere. Does anyone know where my luggage is?”
My family began searching the room, looking under the beds, behind the curtains, in the closet. They came up with nothing, just as I had. Uh oh. This doesn't look good.
“What color was your suitcase?”
“Were your hanging things in it too, Mommy?”
I took a breath. "Does anyone remember bringing a blue suitcase into the hotel?" All I got were blank stares.
“Does anyone remember loading my blue luggage into the car?”
“Well, I took the suit bags and hat boxes.”
“And I had to take the heavy suitcase that no one wanted to shlep.”
Everyone began to tell me what they did take – everything except my luggage.
I began to feel angry. Why does everyone remember their stuff and my stuff gets left behind? What am I going to do for the next three days? This isn’t right!
And then a thought popped into my head that totally changed my perspective. Not for just that moment, but the way I have seen things ever since.
It’s about time that I take responsibility and not blame others if there’s a mess-up, I thought to myself. Yes, I asked everyone to take my luggage and it would’ve been perfect if they did. But the bottom line is: it’s my luggage! I was supposed to check and make sure my suitcase made it to the car. I am accountable for my things. The buck stops here.
Sure, it’s great to have people help me but bottom line is it’s up to me to be sure that my suitcase makes it out the door. I have no one else to blame but myself.
My family looked at me, wondering what I would say. I could see that they felt terrible.
“Listen,” I said. “It’s my luggage! This is no one’s fault. I don’t blame anyone. It would’ve been nice if someone had put it in the car but it was really my job to be sure that it was there. And besides, it’s now 15 minutes before Rosh Hashana. How can I fail my first test of the year?”
P.S. If you are wondering what I did for the next three days, here’s the epilogue:
My husband suggested that I call a friend who lives down the block and ask her to find my luggage in our home and send it to me via taxi. At first I resisted. How could I trouble someone with all this 15 minutes before candle lighting? But my husband encouraged me, very strongly, to make the call. And my dear friend who I know wishes to remain anonymous began her year with a great mitzvah.
By Rabbi David Wolpe There is a large literature of 'doubleness' — Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe's William Wilson, Dostoevsky's The Double, James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, among many others. The idea that we are all split is an attractive explanation of our conflicting impulses. The Rabbis speak about a good and an evil inclination, but they do not propose any sort of simple minded split. "Were it not for the evil inclination, man would not care to build, would not marry and beget children or attend to the affairs of human existence." One Talmudic legend tells of the evil inclination being captured. As a result no house was built and no egg was laid. In other words, our drives are inextricable; our energies pour out in ways that are sometimes harmful, sometimes helpful, and usually a bit of both. In Kaddish Leon Wieseltier wrote, "But goodness and badness are almost never unmixed, since the heart is hungry and the will is free." We are less split than swirled, our characters marbled with drives. Nudging ourselves a bit closer to goodness, an effort requiring both humility and wisdom, is the deeper, daily nobility of we commingled creatures. The Maccabeats - Miracle - Matisyahu - Hanukkah
Ladies, it's not complicated. And guys feel free to add your additional points in the comment sections below. 1) Just like women, we need love. Even though women have the reputation of being more emotionally needy, we find ourselves longing for those words. Please say them often. 2) Additionally we crave respect and approval. Show us admiration and your wish will be our command. Nag us or attack us and we will retreat to our caves.
3) We are not mind readers. We can’t anticipate your needs and desires. Tell us what you want. Help us out. We want to give to you but you need to tell us how. Don’t be coy; be straight. The proof of our love is not in our clairvoyance but in our response to your clearly expressed wishes. 4) We respect what a good mother you are and how much you do for the community, but we do not want to be at the bottom of your to-do list. We want to feel like we are the most important person in your life. (Would you mind getting off the phone when we walk in the door?) 5) Our desire for physical intimacy is not some trivial biological need that we should just suppress until the kids are older. It is an expression of our desire for a deep and profound connection with you. When you rebuff it, it is hurtful and we feel rejected. Imagine if we are always too tired to talk to you… 6) Our jobs are important to us – for our self-worth, for a feeling of accomplishment, and because we want to provide for our families. Please try to understand that we work hard and are actually not on the golf course all day. 7) You seem to think we’re incompetent but we are actually capable of watching our children – and even doing a good job of it! If you want to have a break and get out of the house, please go – and trust us. We are not another one of your children. Please don’t speak of us that way (we don’t think it’s cute) when talking with your friends, and please don’t treat us that way. It diminishes us and you. 9) We really wish we could give you all the material possessions your heart desires. It is painful to us that we can’t. Please don’t increase the pressure by constantly criticizing us about it. 10) We are simple creatures with simple needs. We don’t require elaborate dinners on fancy china. We just want the comfort of a warm home and the love of a good woman.
Ten Things Women Wish Men Knew What, you say: Only 10?! Yes there are more. This is just a starting point. Add your additional points in the comment section below. 1) We want you to tell us you love us. Yes, we need to hear the actual words. We do not want to be like poor Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, begging his wife of 25 years to answer the question, “Do you love me?” We want you to tell us. Frequently. 2) And we want you to match your actions to your words. (Yes, we’re very demanding!) If you tell us you love us and then proceed to ignore all of our requests, needs and desires, your declaration will ring false. Not sure how? Ask us. We have a list.
3) We want to be more important than your job. We appreciate your (our) need for the fulfillment of your career ambitions but we want to feel like we are your first priority. This is usually manifested by calling during the day to check in, taking our calls and sounding like you are really interested in speaking to us, and treating us (at least) as nicely and with as much respect and sense of importance as you do your top client. 4) Time with you is much more valuable to us than more money. Yes, we appreciate the nice possessions but we’d rather go for a walk with you or spend a quiet evening together than receive a gift. Material goods do not and cannot compensate for not seeing you. 5) A few words of appreciation go a long way. “Thanks for dinner. It was delicious. I really liked the flavor” is certainly encouraging. Everyone wants to feel that their efforts are noticed and not taken for granted. Or: “I know you are also busy; thanks for going to the cleaners.” You get the picture. 6) Although you never get pregnant, our children are a shared responsibility. It is not “no big deal” (your words) when I take care of them, nor is it “an extraordinary act of kindness” (your implied words) when you do. (Along these same lines, I’ve noticed that when I go out of town you are flooded with meals and offers of help; yet when you go out of town, no one offers anything….) We are on this journey together and we are both responsible for our family. 7) We do not grow and change through criticism (do you?). You may have convinced yourself that you are only telling us for our own good but 1) you’re wrong because and it’s hurtful and ineffective and 2) you’re probably doing it to make your life easier. Like children (and plants) we grow best when nourished, nurtured and loved. Just because we are capable doesn’t mean we want to do everything ourselves. Changing a light bulb or taking out the garbage are not uniquely male pursuits or skills. I am certainly capable of both (this is not a source of great pride) and frequently engage in these activities. But we want you to relieve our burden, to take care of us – in all respects. We feel emotionally tended to when you take over some of these responsibilities, mundane and otherwise. 9) Clothing costs a lot more than you realize! I’m only partially being tongue-in-cheek here. Especially for newly married men who have never walked through the women’s section of a department store, the prices of basic shoes, dresses and skirts may seem absurd. They probably are. But you need to be sensitive to our needs and to what a realistic (considering many factors) expenditure will be. This experience will stand you in good stead should you ever be the parent of teenage girls! 10) Do not ever comment on our weight except to say how thin and beautiful we look.
Scott Buchanan http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/about/donrag.shtml "Under the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, have you persuaded yourself that there are knowledges and truths beyond your grasp, things that you simply cannot learn? Have you allowed adverse evidence to pile up and force you to conclude that you are not mathematical, not linguistic, not poetic, not scientific, not philosophical? If you have allowed this to happen, you have arbitrarily imposed limits on your intellectual freedom, and you have smothered the fires from which all other freedoms arise."
A Liberal Arts degree does not equal a Humanities degree. I happen to have ended up with an English degree but I took more Math and Science classes combined than I took English Classes.
I think EE majors should have a liberal arts background even if they have to be in a 5 year program to do so. You will make lots more money if you are engineer that can speak or write well than if can’t but that is not the most important factor to me. English majors should have a background in the math and sciences.
There is a higher education bubble and it is a huge problem but having everyone get a STEM won’t solve the higher education bubble. STEM degrees will just be worth less.
My plumber has a college degree. ( My previous plumber his father didn’t) I don’t think the only reason people should go to college is for money or status.
I have a friend that was a math major and became an art history major and got her masters in museum studies and she is working and doesn’t regret it. Her twin sister the physics major is actually having more work problems. Statically Stem majors do make more but I don’t think anyone one on this board thinks money equals happiness or the amount of money you make has anything to do with your value as a person.
I have friends who are writers and friends who are scientists and all value their liberal arts degree. I personally find my liberal arts degree one of the best choices I have ever made and you will never convince me it was a mistake.
I will probably won't be able to post for a few days.
Are you arguing against liberal arts degree or against college degrees at all? The cost of not going to school is larger than the cost of college education-- statistically. However, If you want a job today a degree alone won't cut it you need experience ( volunteer work, internships and summer jobs) and you need to network. If you think liberal arts is the problem what do you think people should major in? I would say that all the PHD's I know recommend a liberal arts degree to start with because you will specialize enough later. I only have A Bachelors but knowing how to read almost anything has certainly been very valuable to me personally and professionally.
Want to play G‑d? It’s simple, says the Talmud—and it’s a mitzvah, too: just visit the sick. G‑d visited Abraham when he was sick, so when you visit the sick, you’re playing G‑d.
In Hebrew, the game’s called bikkur cholim. Here are the rules:
Giving a Lift No frowns, no tears, no gloomy faces. None of that is going to heal anybody. Your job is to provide a little smile, some hope, and maybe even a few laughs. Learn a few good lines, like, “What’s a spring chicken like you doing in a place like this?” or, “How’s the room service in this place?” Extra points for every smile you elicit.
Of course, you have to know when you’re overstaying your welcome. At that point, tell the patient the chassidic adage, “Think good and things will be good”—and quietly slip out.
Lending a Hand Your presence itself is therapeutic, but the patient has other needs too. Find out how you can be of help. Grocery shopping? A ride to the doctor? Or maybe the house needs some tidying?
Time your visit with care. If the patient is in middle of a medical procedure, or in the immediate aftermath of one, it is likely that he or she won’t be in the mood for visitors.
Sometimes the situation doesn’t allow for visits. You can still do bikkur cholim by visiting the family, offering a helping hand, and . . .
Saying a Prayer The patient’s room is a holy place. While there, say a short prayer for a speedy recovery, such as, “May G‑d care for you amongst all the patients of Israel.” Or, on Shabbat, “On Shabbat it is forbidden to plead, but healing is soon to come.” When you leave, say a psalm or other prayer.
Guest post: In defense of a liberal education By Daniel de Vise http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/guest-post-in-defense-of-a-liberal-education/2011/12/02/gIQAj8plKO_blog.html?mid=5484 St. John's College President Chris Nelson, left, talks with students on the Annapolis school’s campus. (Mark Gail - The Washington Post) Liberal arts colleges have struggled in these lean years to retain the confidence of parents that they will prepare students for a better fate than barista duty. Studies consistently show lib-arts students get a good education. Yet, Georgetown researcher Anthony Carnevale and others have documented that graduates in science and tech fields stand to earn more money in the long run.
Here, then, is a guest post from Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, an outspoken champion of the liberal arts.
Students headed for college are worried that they may not find employment when they graduate. Specialized career training at the undergraduate level might thus seem to have appeal. And yet, study after study suggests that this can be short-sighted. The best preparation for the workforce of tomorrow, for the jobs that have yet to be created, is a liberal education -- the kind of education most especially found at the small residential liberal arts colleges across the country.
In the latest of these studies, alumni of our national liberal arts colleges, including St. John’s College, describe just how much they have benefitted personally and professionally from their college experience. The Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 independent liberal arts colleges, released the findings of a national survey.
The Annapolis Group survey found that 60 percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt “better prepared” for life after college than students who attended other colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities. The reasons are undoubtedly many, but one of them must surely be the level of personal attention the student receives at these colleges. For instance, 89 percent of liberal arts college graduates reported finding a mentor while in college, compared to 66 percent for public flagship universities.
Another reason will be the efforts made at these colleges to help their students develop the skills they will need to use in any career or profession: thoughtful reflection concerning the ends and means of both public and private life, habits of inquiry that will open pathways to new discoveries, practice in shaping a thought and in listening to others - actually listening.
These are skills best honed in small classes, where students are not just taking lecture notes but are actively participating in their own education. There they get daily practice working with their classmates in analyzing problems, framing arguments, interpreting meaning, demonstrating propositions, and translating works written in a foreign language. Experience has taught us that education is a cooperative art that is best done with others who can challenge our thinking and open our minds to new ways of seeing the world and making our way in it. The stronger the community of learning, the more opportunity to practice this cooperative art. Once again, experience has taught us that smaller, residential campuses are stronger communities of learning that help to maximize these cooperative opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.
The best educated person today, just as yesterday, is one fully capable of adapting to or taking advantage of changing conditions, precisely because the well-educated adult has integrity of character, a rootedness in essentials, and a self-understanding that makes it possible to live well and consistently in an unpredictable world. That character and self-understanding are best shaped in communities of learning that are concerned more with foundations than with extravagances, more with roots than with branches.
How do liberal arts colleges go about doing this? Consider what they are asked to study. Students at St. John’s College study original works in mathematics and science, language and literature, politics and history, philosophy and theology. All of these books – from Homer to Shakespeare, Plato to Hegel, and Euclid to Einstein -- help students consider the deeply human questions: What kind of world do I live in? What is my place in it? What should I do with my life? How should I live a life that is worthy of my humanity? They then have a lifetime to practice the arts they have learned, to deepen their questions, and to choose with some intelligence the life that suits them best. Boundaries throughout the world are vanishing, and we need our next generation of leaders in every field, in every endeavor, to have been broadly educated across the disciplines rather than narrowly trained.
St. John’s graduates reflect the strengths of all liberal arts college alumni. They enter a broad array of careers, from entrepreneurial endeavors to medicine, law, and teaching. St. John’s College is among the top two percent of all colleges in the percentage of alumni who go on to earn PhDs, and the top four percent of colleges in the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs in science and engineering. These graduates have faced some of the most difficult texts ever written and have acquired intellectual virtues along the way: courage in the face of the unknown and the difficult; candor about their ignorance; industry in preparation; and open attentiveness to the words of their colleagues - all things that will stand them in good stead as they head into the world of work and family, citizenship and service.
Graduates of the nation’s many fine liberal arts institutions are prepared not only for a diverse range of career, but for life.
When asked by Reddit users how growing up with two mothers affected him, Wahl's told them that he has realized when he is asked this question that he is actually being asked what it is like growing up without a father.
"I had to learn how to shave from my best friend's dad. It's something I was briefly bullied about when I was growing up. It made me aware of the whole gay marriage debate--and the effects it might have on my family--from a young age," Wahls said.
A Letter from an Israeli Reserve Soldier by Aron Adler Our young country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, does not turn its back on humanity.
My name is Aron Adler. I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Efrat, Israel. Though very busy, I don't view my life as unusual. Most of the time, I am just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in Magen David Adom, Israel's national EMS service. At night, I'm in my first year of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter of life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.
A few weeks out of every year, I'm called up to the Israeli army to do my reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit. My squad is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up to serve when responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a father of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer, a holistic healer, and my 24-year-old commander who is still trying to figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normal people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.
This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called "Kerem Shalom." Above and beyond the "typical" things for which we train – war, terrorism, border infiltration, etc., this year we were confronted by a new challenge. Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur. What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing from the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a better life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. In return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to Bedouin "guides," these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan, Eritrea and other African countries through Egypt and the Sinai desert, into the safe haven of Israel.
We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees suffer on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion, rape, murder and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert. Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and their goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade the bullets of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt's soldiers are ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of Egypt and into Israel. It's an almost nightly event.
For those who finally get across the border, the first people they encounter are Israeli soldiers, people like me and those in my unit, who are tasked with a primary mission of defending the lives of the Israeli people. On one side of the border soldiers shoot to kill. On the other side, they know they will be treated with more respect than in any of the countries they crossed to get to this point.
Related Article: Our Soldiers
The region where it all happens is highly sensitive and risky from a security point of view, an area stricken with terror at every turn. It's just a few miles south of the place where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. And yet the Israeli soldiers who are confronted with these refugees do it not with rifles aimed at them, but with a helping hand and an open heart. The refugees are taken to a nearby IDF base, given clean clothes, a hot drink, food and medical attention. They are finally safe.
Even though I live in Israel and am aware through media reports of the events that take place on the Egyptian border, I never understood the intensity and complexity of the scenario until I experienced it myself.
In the course of the past few nights, I have witnessed much. At 9 p.m. last night, the first reports came in of gunfire heard from the Egyptian border. Minutes later, IDF scouts spotted small groups of people trying to get across the fence. In the period of about one hour, we picked up 13 men - cold, barefoot, dehydrated - some wearing nothing except underpants. Their bodies were covered with lacerations and other wounds. We gathered them in a room, gave them blankets, tea and treated their wounds. I don't speak a word of their language, but the look on their faces said it all and reminded me once again why I am so proud to be a Jew and an Israeli. Sadly, it was later determined that the gunshots we heard were deadly, killing three others fleeing for their lives.
During the 350 days a year when I am not on active duty, when I am just another man trying to get by, the people tasked with doing this amazing job, this amazing deed, the people witnessing these events, are mostly young Israeli soldiers just out of high school, serving their compulsory time in the IDF, some only 18 years old.
The refugees flooding into Israel are a heavy burden on our small country. More than 100,000 refugees have fled this way, and hundreds more cross the border every month. The social, economic and humanitarian issues created by this influx of refugees are immense. There are serious security consequences for Israel as well. This influx of African refugees poses a crisis for Israel. Israel has yet to come up with the solutions required to deal with this crisis effectively, balancing its' sensitive social, economic and security issues, at the same time striving to care for the refugees.
I don't have the answers to these complex problems which desperately need to be resolved. I'm not writing these words with the intention of taking a political position or a tactical stand on the issue.
I am writing to tell you and the entire world what's really happening down here on the Egyptian/Israeli border. And to tell you that despite all the serious problems created by this national crisis, these refugees have no reason to fear us. Because they know, as the entire world needs to know, that Israel has not shut its eyes to their suffering and pain. Israel has not looked the other way. The State of Israel has put politics aside to take the ethical and humane path as it has so often done before, in every instance of human suffering and natural disasters around the globe. We Jews know only too well about suffering and pain. The Jewish people have been there. We have been the refugees and the persecuted so many times, over thousands of years, all over the world.
Today, when African refugees flood our borders in search of freedom and better lives, and some for fear of their lives, it is particularly noteworthy how Israel deals with them, despite the enormous strain it puts on our country on so many levels.
Our young and thriving Jewish people and country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, do not turn their backs on humanity. Though I already knew that, this week I once again experienced it firsthand. I am overwhelmed with emotion and immensely proud to be a member of this nation.
With love of Israel, Aron Adler, writing from the Israel/Gaza/Egyptian border
Thanksgiving may be the holiday from hell for nutritionists, and it produces plenty of war stories for psychiatrists dealing with drunken family meltdowns. But it has recently become the favorite feast of psychologists studying the consequences of giving thanks. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked, which helps explain why so many brothers-in-law survive Thanksgiving without serious injury.
But what if you’re not the grateful sort? I sought guidance from the psychologists who have made gratitude a hot research topic. Here’s their advice for getting into the holiday spirit — or at least getting through dinner Thursday:
Start with “gratitude lite.” That’s the term used by Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, for the technique used in his pioneering experiments he conducted along with Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami. They instructed people to keep a journal listing five things for which they felt grateful, like a friend’s generosity, something they’d learned, a sunset they’d enjoyed.
The gratitude journal was brief — just one sentence for each of the five things — and done only once a week, but after two months there were significant effects. Compared with a control group, the people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.
Further benefits were observed in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. The ones who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic than those in a control group, and these reports were corroborated by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.
“If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep,” Dr. Emmons advises in “Thanks!” his book on gratitude research.
Don’t confuse gratitude with indebtedness. Sure, you may feel obliged to return a favor, but that’s not gratitude, at least not the way psychologists define it. Indebtedness is more of a negative feeling and doesn’t yield the same benefits as gratitude, which inclines you to be nice to anyone, not just a benefactor.
In an experiment at Northeastern University, Monica Bartlett and David DeSteno sabotaged each participant’s computer and arranged for another student to fix it. Afterward, the students who had been helped were likelier to volunteer to help someone else — a complete stranger — with an unrelated task. Gratitude promoted good karma. And if it works with strangers ....
Try it on your family. No matter how dysfunctional your family, gratitude can still work, says Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside.
“Do one small and unobtrusive thoughtful or generous thing for each member of your family on Thanksgiving,” she advises. “Say thank you for every thoughtful or kind gesture. Express your admiration for someone’s skills or talents — wielding that kitchen knife so masterfully, for example. And truly listen, even when your grandfather is boring you again with the same World War II story.”
Don’t counterattack. If you’re bracing for insults on Thursday, consider a recent experiment at the University of Kentucky. After turning in a piece of writing, some students received praise for it while others got a scathing evaluation: “This is one of the worst essays I’ve ever read!”
Then each student played a computer game against the person who’d done the evaluation. The winner of the game could administer a blast of white noise to the loser. Not surprisingly, the insulted essayists retaliated against their critics by subjecting them to especially loud blasts — much louder than the noise administered by the students who’d gotten positive evaluations.
But there was an exception to this trend among a subgroup of the students: the ones who had been instructed to write essays about things for which they were grateful. After that exercise in counting their blessings, they weren’t bothered by the nasty criticism — or at least they didn’t feel compelled to amp up the noise against their critics.
“Gratitude is more than just feeling good,” says Nathan DeWall, who led the study at Kentucky. “It helps people become less aggressive by enhancing their empathy. “It’s an equal-opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and benefit from it, even the most crotchety uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”
Share the feeling. Why does gratitude do so much good? “More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” Dr. McCullough says. “It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.”
Try a gratitude visit. This exercise, recommended by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, begins with writing a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better. Be specific about what the person did and how it affected you. Deliver it in person, preferably without telling the person in advance what the visit is about. When you get there, read the whole thing slowly to your benefactor. “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now,” Dr. Seligman guarantees in his book “Flourish.”
Contemplate a higher power. Religious individuals don’t necessarily act with more gratitude in a specific situation, but thinking about religion can cause people to feel and act more gratefully, as demonstrated in experiments by Jo-Ann Tsang and colleagues at Baylor University. Other research shows that praying can increase gratitude.
Go for deep gratitude. Once you’ve learned to count your blessings, Dr. Emmons says, you can think bigger.
“As a culture, we have lost a deep sense of gratefulness about the freedoms we enjoy, a lack of gratitude toward those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, a lack of gratitude for all the material advantages we have,” he says. “The focus of Thanksgiving should be a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us.”
And if that seems too daunting, you can least tell yourself —
Hey, it could always be worse. When your relatives force you to look at photos on their phones, be thankful they no longer have access to a slide projector. When your aunt expounds on politics, rejoice inwardly that she does not hold elected office. Instead of focusing on the dry, tasteless turkey on your plate, be grateful the six-hour roasting process killed any toxic bacteria.
Is that too much of a stretch? When all else fails, remember the Monty Python mantra of the Black Plague victim: “I’m not dead.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
By Rabbi David Wolpe On Thanksgiving we are grateful for what we have and mindful of what others lack. It is a good time to ask — what do we really believe? Some people believe in a God who grants good to the one who prays most or behaves best. Such people might wish to read the book of Job, or look out the window; they will discover that ease and anguish are unevenly distributed in this world and follow no discernible pattern of reward. Others think God is completely arbitrary or absent. Such people might be mindful of the abundance of blessing that exists and how much we human beings are responsible for its poor distribution or unfair allotment. Then there are those who find themselves in the third camp — the bewildered believers. They are like Rabbi Nahman, who said he was a 'moon man,' that his faith waxed and waned. Surely Rabbi Nahman would have understood Miguel De Unamuno, the great Spanish philosopher and man of letters: "Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself." Happy Thanksgiving.
What would you pay for a cognition detector, a mechanism that could read thoughts? What would you pay to stop your friends from having one? Socializing just wouldn't be the same if our thoughts became transparent.
Think about that time your colleague congratulated you on an impressive presentation you made. "Naw, I don't think it was any better than the job you did last week," you responded. "Finally he acknowledges that my work is superior to his..." you think. Or about the time your neighbors stops by unexpectedly. "How great of you to come by, we were just talking about you!" you say with a hug. "How rude of you to drop in without calling," you think. "And what are you thinking about my housekeeping?"
It's uncomfortable to be plagued by an ugly thought. It can erode our self-respectThere is often a significant disparity between the words we speak and the thoughts that run through our mind. Like a shiny apple with a rotten core, we often project an image of humility, graciousness and loyalty, while our inner thoughts look surprisingly ugly.
It's uncomfortable to be plagued by an ugly thought. It can erode our self-respect. What kind of person would have thoughts like these? What kind of friend am I to be so jealous? What moral integrity do I have if I scheme sinful thoughts? What kind of self-progress have I made if I'm still plagued by the same demons? Even if we choose not to act upon them, just listening to our dysfunctional thoughts can be severely demoralizing. Who am I fooling with my charade of piety when the real me is still quite crude and pleasure driven?
In the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812, founder of Chabad chassidism) sheds some optimistic light on dark thoughts. He exposes a conspiracy played out by our yetzer hara (evil inclination). The yetzer hara drops us a thought or an urge that makes us very uncomfortable. Even if we'd never act on the impulse, just sensing its presence is embarrassing and even depressing. And that's exactly where the yetzer hara wants us to be: embarrassed and depressed. Once our spirits are down and our self-confidence is deflated, we're nice and vulnerable for the real attack.
This understanding the yetzer hara's strategy makes it clear that it's always counter-productive to inspect a shameful thought and be disappointed because of it. The key is to simply let it go.
In fact we can actually feel pleased by its arrival.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman takes us to the Zohar, and we listen to a mystical understanding of a conversation that takes place between Isaac and Esau (as recorded in Genesis 27:4). Isaac asks his favorite son to prepare him a meal before he would bless him. "And make me delicacies such as I love," he instructs Esau.
"These words," says the Zohar, "is the message of the Shechinah [Divine Presence] to her children, the Jewish people."
What is the meaning of this Zohar? Why would G‑d ask His people to prepare delicacies? And since "delicacies" is written in plural form, what are the multiple kinds of delicacies that G‑d enjoys?
Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains: There are two types of delectable foods; the first type is naturally sweet and mellow, while the second type is naturally bitter or sour. Take onions—when raw they are painfully sharp to the palate, but sauté them and they'll enhance every dish. Lemons, garlic, ginger, horseradish—they are culinary necessities and add an irreplaceable edge to an entrée.
And G‑d says: Two things give Me pleasure: holy thoughts, and also unholy thoughts—that are ignoredSo, Isaac says, "Make me delicacies"; some sweet, some edgy. And G‑d says to His people: Two things give Me pleasure: holy thoughts, and also unholy thoughts—that are ignored. In fact, when an unholy thought is ignored, says the Zohar, "G‑d's glory rises… more than by any other praise."
Just like G‑d loves perfection, He loves imperfection. He watches in delight as the humiliating thought penetrates our consciousness and we chose to reject it. Not inviting the thought in and not judging ourselves for it, but just simply dropping it and thinking about something else. Apparently this sends G‑d soaring.
Our evil inclination will attack us at our weakest point and make us feel thoroughly dysfunctional before luring us into its world. But with a little meta-cognition we can reverse attack by viewing an ugly impulse as an opportunity to serve G‑d a well-prepared delicacy.