Showing posts from November, 2008

in time of famine

Last year, I grappled with the question of Yitzchak and Rivka not abstaining from marital relations during a famine when Yosef is said to have done so. Alas the KallahMagazine blog posts of last year have been obliterated from existence. But the Divrei Chaim did pick up on the issue, as you can see here:
During this year's layning of Parashas Toldos, I thought of another possible explanation, though it would have to rely on the principle of events presented out of strict chronological order. During the famine, Yitzchak and his family travel to Gerrar, as Hashem told him not to leave Eretz Yisrael. Just like his father had, Yitzchak tells the people of the region that his good-looking wife is his sister. The difference is that whereas Sarah was instantly taken for the king -- both in Egypt and in Gerrar -- this king is more cautious. He allows many days to pass and seems to keep the purported brother…

Are worms worth it?

I know someone who has made a point of arriving at Kmart at 6 AM the day after Thanksgiving for the Early Bird Black Friday specials. As I have pointed out to him, though, the toys, etc., stay on sale for weeks following. For example, the kitchen set toy he lugged home in the dawn's early light was still around for pretty much the same price after that day. Nevertheless, people allow themselves to whipped into a frenzy of shopping. I just received an email from Kohl's informing me that the store will open at 4 AM. That's right, you can get up at 3 in the morning to be among the first at the store. But why should you, when the early bird specials are available until 1 PM? I suppose that they would like to make it seem that the best bargains will be snatched right away. But, in fact, the store has been promoting holiday shopping for the past several weeks already with the holiday decorations on display and the music of the season piping into shoppers' ears.

Rivka and Yitzchak

The second patriarch and matriarch are the couple of choice for those with an inclination to the right. A shadchan is entrusted with making the match for the young couple. The bride leaves her home to join her husband where he resides. The husband marries the young woman chosen for him;he comes to love her after marriage. Rivka proves to be the docile ideal who covers hides behind her scarf when she first sees her intended and seems to keep herself under wraps, as well, avoiding any direct confrontation with her husband. Unlike Sarah, she does not tell her husband directly what she thinks should be done about the differences between their two sons. Instead, she has to orchestrate a rather elaborate ruse to get Yitzchak to utter the blessing for Yaakov. (The only time we see her speaking directly to Yitzchak is when she seeks a way to get Yaakov out of Esav's reach and so declares that her younger son must go abroad to find his wife, so that not all their daughters-in-law wi…

Not Negotiable

This past Shabbos, Rabbi Friedman spoke about the episdoe of Avraham's purchase of maaras hamchpela from Ephron. Chazal are critical of Ephron who was a big talker -- saying "you want the field, take it; I give it to you as a gift" -- who didn't even do a little, for when it came down to the actual sale, he exacted a high price. Now if Avraham knew that the price was a high, why did he not bargain it down? (One would think that bargaining would have ensued no matter what price was quoted.) It is possible that Avraham could have obtained the property at a cheaper price. But in this case, he did not want the seller to have any regrets about the sale that would reslt in his claiming to have been forced into the transaction. Rabbi Friedman pointed out that Avraham was avoiding a situation in which the seller may have any negative feeling about the deal by paying the full asking price. There are situations in which the impression one is making is of far greater v…

The Marriage of Avraham and Sarah

From the glimpses we have of the relationships of the Avos and Immahos related in the Torah, it is clear that one size does not fit all as the model of marriage.

Sarah is very direct with Avraham. She tells him what she wants him to do, complains about situations she does not like, and takes action openly. She does not resort to going behind her husband's back to convince him to do what she wants by having someone else tell him to do so, as some people today suggest in their marriage advice. Would anyone say that there was a lack of Shalom Bayis between Avraham and Sarah because she was not passive and indirect? That would be a most ludicrous assertion.

First, Sarah tell her husband to take Hagar as a wife. Then when Hagar treats her with less regard, Sarah complains to Avraham who assures her that she is still mistress over the maid. It is notable that Avraham does not exclaim at Sarah complaining about a situation that she brought about herself by coming up with the plan for…

Well, this one takes the cake

In the course of calling up potential advertisers, I encounter a lot of excuses fornot being able to discuss the matter at the time. Some are mazel tovs. Three people I called last week had babies of their own or grandchildren. Today's excuse was not something you would wish mazel tov for, but it certainly is too original to be made up. The person I called today said that it was not a good time because he was on his way to prison. Not, mind you, that he had just been arrested. Rather, he was going to see a friend there. But still, the "can't talk now, on my way to jail" certainly tops my list for a call deferred.

Do the ends justify the means?

This post is not my usual sort of thing. It is a reaction to the article in this week's Jewish Star, "Obscene billboard still in plain sight on Rockaway Turnpike" by Michael Orbach. I've seen the billboard in question while driving past. I actually would call it a sign because it is posted over the building of the "gentlemen's club" it is meant to advertise. The woman who is pictured in this sign is very provocatively clad. Is this something I find personally offensive? Yes. But I find quite a number of public displays personally offensive. For example, I find many of the images flashed on the TV screen in my gym's machine room equally offensive with women clad just about the same way dancing or otherwise displaying themselves on what I assume is the MTV channel. I alsofind some of the lyrics of the music pumped over the speakers offensive. And this is the gym that caters to the frum women in the area!
But what I consider inappropriate, mo…

Force of Habit and Fear

Today is Veterans Day -- a legal holiday on a Federal level. That means that banks are closed, district school buses are not running (though my children have school today) and that meters are NOT in effect. While the good people of Cedarhurst must be well aware of the first two items on the list, they show themselves to have forgotten the day with respect to the last item. On Central Avenue I took note and saw not a single meter without time on it. In the parking lot between Spruce and Washington the results were mixed with a few fed meters among the unfed. But the people parking on Central have been so trained by the sight of relentless metermaids (and one man) and the tickets slapped on the windshield the instant a meter runs out that they are afraid to risk parking without depositing their quarters.

I would guess that the group think effect is at work here. Someone may park and rejoice upon exit at being able to keep the quarter within his/her own possession. But then the par…

Beware of schoolbus drivers

Yesterday I took the Defensive Driving Course offered through AARP. No, I am not yet over 50, but the course is open to all area residents at my local library. For an investment of $10 and one day (which was actually shorter due to our early dismissal), I qualify for significant savings on my auto insurance. I took the same class through the same venue 3 years ago, so it was time to renew. The essence of each class is the same, but the video presentation and text get modified slightly, and each instructor puts his (each time I've taken this class, the instructor was male) own spin on things.

What this instructor alerted us to was something that sounds like a scheme cooked up between school bus drivers and police officers who wish to increase their ticket distribution. The law in NY is that drivers must stop 20 feet back from school buses with flashing lights, even on the other side of a divided highway. The law also allows the driver to pass if after passing the driver waves …

Barbie as the anti-ideal

I just came across this article on
Unfortunately, the author is no longer accessible. But it is interesting to see her take and the defenses of allowing children to play with the dolls that follow. Now it is true, that Barbie is not an icon of tznius, nor is her body type one that is within the realm of possibility for most people. But do toys shape our self-image, or are they tools for imaginative play? I recently passed on my daughters' Barbie dolls to my niece because they never were very enamored of this type doll, and even my youngest clings only to a single baby doll. My sister's reaction was that her daughter would like them, but she was concerned about their presence with her teen boys.

Sheitels -- Hair to Stay?

Below is the article on the subject I published a few years ago, “The Advent of the American Sheitel.” QueensCollege Journal of Jewish Studies. Vol. VI (Spring 2004) 93-101.
The Advent of the American Sheitel. For Jews who wish to be accepted as Americans rather than viewed as different, the right look is essential. Particularly for women, fashioning oneself into the American mold calls for attaining the correct female form. As Susan Weidman Schneider writes in Jewish and Female, “Assimilation for Jewish women has often meant trying to change the way we look,” as the fall prey to the “’straightening’ syndrome. They follow the dictates “straighten your hair, your teeth, your body, you nose, your house,” so that you may achieve “’acceptability’” (Schneider 245).
 In American society, the evident ethnicity of hair covering was unacceptable, so the modern minded discarded the sheitels (wigs) that were traditionally worn by married women. However, in recent years, the sheitel has reem…

When your budget limits beer can someone else pick up the tab for champagne?

See the discussion that ensued at
which includes the post "Don't Mind the Budget Gap"

My take on ayin hara

In Parashas Lech Lecha, according to Rashi 16:5, we see the effect of ayin hara. After Hagar conceives, she loses her regard for Sarah. Sarah is very upset by the situation and comes down hard on her maid, who, consequently flees. She is then told by Divine messenger to return to her mistress and take whatever Sarah wishes to dole out to her. She is also assured that she will be pregnant. Rashi explains that Sarah had put ayin hara on her, which caused her to miscarry the first pregnancy. So what did Sarah do here? Did she make a voodoo doll of Hagar and stick her with pins? Did she cast a spell? Did she utter a curse? I don't think any of those actions can be ascribed to Sarah Immeinu.

What I think happened is that once Hagar ceased to treated Sarah with the respect she deserved, she became subject to strict judgment. Sarah's thought about her own ill treatment due to Hagar's lording it over her would have made an impression in the Heavenly court. That would have…

Are you prepared to make a judgment?

"'It drives me mad to hear people say: 'Don't be judgmental.' That's moral philosophy at the level of an Australian soap opera. If people weren't judgmental, how could we possibly have a moral viewpoint in society? We wouldn't have the first clue where we were. All rational discourse about what we should do would grind to a half. No, whtever you do, don't fall that weak-minded nonsense about not being judgmental. Don't be excessively judgmental, if you like, but always -- always -- be prepared to make a judgment. Otherwise you'll go through life not really knowing what you mean."

The little tirade above are the words spoken by a fictional Scottish woman in her early 60's in Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith. New York: Anchor Books, 2006. p. 49.

On promoting shidduchim

"I think it's our duty -- everyone's duty -- to fix up; single women and single men, preferably for purposes of matrimony. We who actually know them surely are better than those computer dating services at figuring out their potential compatibility, plus it's exceedingly unlikely that any person we fix up is going to turn out to be a serial killer. .. we shouldn't be discouraged by matchmaking failures or even by matchmaking catastrophes. For eventually, like me, you may after many misses make the perfect match, turning two people -- two stranger who wouldn't have met if we had minded our own business -- into one quite happily married couple."
from Judith Viorst in Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days. New York: Free Press 2007 p. 64

Advice for parents and in-law

from Judith Viorst in Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days. New York: Free Press 2007. p. 54

These are the statements she had to tell herself while her son, daughter-in-law and their 3 children stayed with them for 3 months
"Don't judge, advise, or criticize.
Respect their boundaries and choices.
Accept who they are."

As for the person your child has married,
"when a friend once said to me, 'What am I going to do? I really don't like the woman my son has married,' I a -- a great believer in family intactness -- had only one answer to offer: 'Learn to like her.'"