Showing posts from February, 2009

The Cinderella Myth and the Sense of Entitlement

Fairy tales seem to be harmless enough. But some of them present a rather warped picture of the world. I don't refer to the introduction of magical elements but to the concept of how one goes about getting what one wants. Two stories that particularly bother me are Puss in Boots and Rumpelstilsken. The protagonists both "win," but only through completely misrepresenting who and what they are and taking credit for the achievements or possessions of another. So the moral of the story is, boys and girls, the ends justify the means. Don't worry about the Faustian bargains you make along the way; you can cheat your way out of those. You'll get to marry a princess because she believes the lies spun by a cat. Or you'll get to marry a prince because he believes you have spun rooms full of straw into gold. Those two stories are among the most insidious I have encountered. But there is even some danger to the most popular of the fairy tales, the Cinderella st…

Making sense of a Chazal

This morning I heard a speech that referred to the Sages' explanation for the fact that the Immahos [Matriarchs] were akaros [barren] as "Hakdosh Baruch Hu mithave letfilathan shel tzadikim" [G-d desires the prayers of the righteous]. It struck me that this hardly sounds comforting. On the contrary, it sounds like G-d, who actually lacks and, therefore, needs or should desire nothing deliberately withholds what people want just to make them jump through the hoops, so to speak. It sounds like a sadistic game. That's my kashe [problem or question].

So I thought about how this can be explained, especially given the context of the barren state of the Matriarchs. Think about this: a Matriarch by definition has to become a mother. That is her destined role. And the Immahos, who were all prophetesses, recognized what role was intended for them. And herein lies the answer to the kashe. Even when something is clearly seen as one's destiny, that does not mean it c…

Macher class

OK, right off I will say that I am not any type of macher at all. But I have been thinking that there is not only one macher type. While all machers do share some common traits, there are variations on the macher personality. Indeed, the classification of machers could work for one of those composition assignments I used to assign. If it boils down to only 2 types, it would be done as a comparison/contrast. If there are 3 or more to be identified, it would be written as a classification essay.

So here's what I've been thinking about the types of machers that I encounter. Very simply, there are those I cannot abide at all, and those that I can work with. Let us call them type A ( and B.

Type A know that machers have to be pushy, and that about sums them up. There is nothing positive to say about such people. They say things like, "I only pay half the prices everyone else does." This is their G-d-given right, apparently, because a mahcer does not want to admi…

You're looking particularly modest today

The Wheel of Fortune Does Make its Way Round

A few weeks ago, someone whose husband is "in chinuch" reported that she was turned down for a scholarship for sleepaway cam for her son this year, though she had received it last year. The man told her that there are many far worse off than those in chinuch during this economic downturn. Indeed, many rebbeim make $60-$90K and sometimes even more, making their salaries higher than many full-time city jobs that do not give the summers and all yomim tovim off, not to mention the huge tax benefits of parsonage and the fact that many yeshivos pay the salaries directly to the yeshivos of the rebbeim's children, in effect, lowering their taxable income substantially and allowing tuition payments to be made with pre-tax dollars.

But nothing is everlasting. I heard that YU declared an across the board pay cut of 15% for MTA rebbeim. A local principle said he was flooded with resumes just after the news broke. But he is considering doing likewise, so the rebbeim likely will …

all decked out for Purim

on the home page of Check it out, and find Purim Divrei Torah -- not Purim Torah -- on the DivreiTorah page and Levana's recipes for Purim on the Homefront page.

All are equal, but some are more equal than others

The following is a post that appeared this week in the 5Towns Shuls list [note: I know nothing about this company and am not suggesting or implying anything about it; my point is a different one]. Note that this post's email is one that is off the company's name. Whenever I try to post for jobs for Kallah Magazine, my posts are rejected if I include the email address that is with the explanation that no business names are allowed. BTW a number of FTS posters have emails that are their company names like one that describes the platters they make. But their posts always go through. I'm wondering if any of you can explain to me why the Sunenergy post is compliant and mine is not.

[Note: Message edited by moderator]

We are looking for professional & talented sales experience (both
inside and outside sales-you can work from anywhere!) to help develop
and expand our corporate and residential client base.

This is a commission only position with grea…

Do you know what is equal to a diamond carat?

Someone told me this today, and I plan to include it in the diamond article of the spring issue. Stay tuned for the surprising answer.

Do you think Monet would have ...

banned all other painters from the scenes he painted? I don't think so. Though the Impressionists departed from the more classical art forms, they did not feel they had to put down each other in order to gain recognition as artists. True artists have confidence in what they do even when they are not publicly recognized or enriched for their visionary works. In fact, Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime; his canvases were used for patches! But now his pictures go for millions. (So you get the juxtaposition of this post to the one just before --- evidence of my own family trip to the met, though we spent less time on Impressionists this visit than we have in the past)
But anyway, what made me think of this is my own visit to someone who declares himself an "artist." According to him, no other photographers can ever do what he can. Look, I have no problem with the arrogance, well, at least not much. What really gets me is the twist of logic that allows him…

What you can do in NY this week for free

Go to to download the PDF for a coupon good for up to 6 admissions. However, this is not for a date visit because the visitors must include at least one child. As it says: Family Admission Offer (February 13–22)Celebrate Winter Recess by taking advantage of our special Family Admission Offer (PDF) to receive complimentary admission for you and your family (six people maximum; must include at least one child) to the Museum's Main Building and The Cloisters Museum and Gardens.

The holiday of this weekend

Well, of course, Monday is Presidents' Day. (Remember to put the apostrophe after the s because the day commemorates 2 presidents.) My girls are off from school that day, even though the same school makes a point of making parents drive these girls in on Thanksgiving and on Veteran's Day, not to mention Martin Luther King Day, and January first (which is after all not the Jewish New Year). But there is another day that is celebrated by bestowing bouquets of red roses or boxes of chocolates. That holiday is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Valentines Day. Actually, it is St. Valentine's Day (note the apostrophe placement here). Like St. Patrick's Day, it is named for a saint in the Catholic tradition. In other words, this is not just an American holiday like the ones I named above while ticking off which days my girls get off and which they don't (my son, BTW, gets none of these days off).

Therefore, I find it very unseemly for a kosher restaurant (und…

At least the stats are positive

With Purim less than a month away, the plans for the spring issue of Kallah Magazine are in full swing. That includes many often frustrating hours of cold calling prospective advertisers. And, yes, I do it myself. So I just glanced at my site statistics and found that for February (which is, admittedly, less than half over) over 90% of visitors bookmarked as a favorite. Actually over the year of 2008, the number was 51.5% of visitors, which is still not bad at all. Now if I were as unscrupulous as some who shamelessly promote their publications, I would claim the ninety-something number as an average. But honesty is really its own reward because it is certainly not rewarded in money terms.

Question on Yael & Sisra

According to the rabbinic observation (based on the number of words Devora uses when relating nafal beyn ragleyha) there were 7 rounds between Yael on Sisra. Has anyone ever found a reason why this point is identified. I know she was tiring him out, but the number seven usually is signifiant and would seem rather much under the circumstances. And BTW this particular drush was not at all censored in my BY education. In fact, one girl questioned why Yael was concerned with avoiding kley gever in using a tent peg rather than a sword to slay the general when she already gave herself over to him 7 times.

To Bee: Devora's role

Devora makes some people uncomfortable. What to do with a woman who was a public figure -- a judge, prophet, and military leader? For some, the solution is to downplay her public role by splitting it and giving prominence to her role as wife. Thus, when my calss was taught a song intended to help us memorize all the shoftim, when it came to Devora, suddenly the leader role of the judge became a partnership, and a husband was brought in so that Devora would not have to go it alone. In the song, it was Devora along with her husband Barak that are credited with the role of shoftim for her time .

Now, Devora is never identified as the wife of Barak but of Lapidos in the text of the navi itself.However, some do identify her husband as Barak who point to the similarity of lightning nad flame to make the identification. I would think that some would be very uncomfotable with the notion of a woman working so closely -- as Devora does with Barak -- and seem so familiar with a man who is…

Quantum mechanics, observation, and halacha

For a brief intro to the problem of Schrödinger's cat, see
So it is the observation that determines whether the cat is dead or alive. Until there is observation of the fact, the cat is considered in both the dead and alive state. Many have difficulty with this concept because in our usual frame of logic it is either/or. But this suspended determination also exist in the halachic realm. For certain categories, it is the observation that classifies, and what you don't see doesn't count. Consequently, one could actually be advised to avoid seeing in order to avoid the category. Perhaps there is some connection between talmudic thinking and physics.

Not a sin tax but a thin tax

I was given a petition to sign to protest a proposal to assess a tax (the sales tax rate) on gym membership. Now, if the justification for proposing an extra tax on sugared sodas is that it is a tax on something that is bad for the consumer, so it is like a "sin tax," what would be the rationale for taxing something that is good for you? My guess is that they just assume if you can afford the gym membership, you can afford the tax. But that type of reasoning could also lead to adding a sales tax on private school tuition. If you really couldn't afford it, you would not have opted for private school over free public school.

But where did they throw it?

Opening sentence from an SAT essay: "Threw out history . . ."

The Shadchan Gets Her Man

Though my kids have all advanced beyond easy reader picture books, I couldn't resist picking up Someone for Mr. Sussman by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books) from the children's room in the library. The narrator, a bespectacled boy between 8 and 10 or so, begins the book: "My bubbie is a shadkhen. If you're not Jewish, you may not know what a shadkhen is. . . . . Finding a person the perfect match is so easy for her. Except for one man: Mr. Sussman!"But Mr. Sussman certainly does meet his match in the determined bubbie who reinvents herself from one end of the spectrum -- as a kerchiefed frum one who believes kosher is exemplified by many dishes and silverware planted in flowerpots -- to the other -- wearing stiletto heels over fishnet stockings to prove herself a dancer. But is is not these stratagems that bring about the happy ending. The final lines are: "And, I thought to myself, Bubbie was right, you know ... [ellipses in text] 'No pot is so cr…

gotta have a sense of humor about it

This morning someone asked me if the man she saw walking with me was my son. I replied, "no, he's my husband." To mitigate her embarrassment a bit, I admitted that he is often taken for our kids' brother. (No one ever assumes I'm their sister.)