Showing posts from October, 2009

Avram Haivri: the original lonely man of faith

Our picture of Avraham Avinu is of a cordial host who invited everyone in, and must have been well-liked and respected. This is true. But there is also another aspect to the personality of Avraham. He did not live out his life as Mr. Popular but struggled against the trend of his society.

My current project is Hakthav Vehakabala on the parsha. He offers a number of interesting perspectives, including why Avram was called "Ivri." He explains the 3 (concurrent -- not mutually exclusive) definitions to the word. One is a reference to family -- Ever -- Avram's ancestor. The second refers to geography and language. Avram is identified as coming from ever hanahar,the other side of the river and speaking Hebrew.

The third approach, though, is more concerned not with where Avram is coming from but with what he stood for. Ever refers to one of two opposing sides, as in a legal dispute. The whole of civilization was on one side -- fixed in their false beliefs -- and Av…

A guest post - question on what was "meant to be"

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous emailed me requesting this be posted. Feel free to comment, though all comments will be moderated before posting for the near future:

Here is my question, as well as food-for-thought: Many people date for ages, and nothing happens; all of a sudden they are engaged - how do they "decide" that this boy/girl is "the one"? I have noticed in personal experiences as well as with friends; sometimes things "click" and sometimes they dont; sometimes engagements are, chalilah broken, sometimes divorces occur (unfortunately the number of frun divorces has been rising the last decade or so) within months of marriage. How does one go from deciding that their dating partner is their destined spouse to breaking an engagement or getting divorced? And here is a concept that someone told me: Oftentimes, when a couple is on the verge of engagement, and one of them decides he/she is "not ready" and wants to just continue da…

Orthodox according to whom?

I can just picture certain people jumping to certain conclusions about what this will be about. But they would be wrong. I am posting about aspects of the Jewish wedding on
One of the ads generated by the posts is for a site called coolketubahs. It's slogan is: "Not your grandmothers ketubah." It sells $300 ketubahs (all English) with your choice of text. There are actual halachic perameters for the ketubah, so I am somewhat doubtful that what they call "Orthodox" would actually pass muster. Here's the text:
OrthodoxOn the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, son of ___, and ___, daughter of ___, join each other before family and friends to make a mutual covenant as husband and wife, partners in life, a bond called marriage. The groom, ___, affirms: "From this moment forward, I acknowledge you as my wife according to the ancient traditions of Israel and the noble laws of Moses. In faithful m…

The clash that ensues over freedom of speech

See the article on FIRE's 10th anniversary bash and the clash of Nat Hentoff with Nadine Strossen at
The second comment on the article (not in the article) is worth quoting: "If, like me, you are an octogenarian who grew up in New York City, you expect to be offended by some of the speech directed at you. So what? So nothing."

Too early in the season rant

Today I was in the Jewish owned Amazing Savings in the Jewish market area of Lawrence. It's not even November, yet the holiday season is upon us. Not only was nearly a full aisle devoted to Christmas decorations, gift wrap, etc., but Christmas music played nonstop. I think they ran through all the standards, from the almost secular "Jingle Bells" to the more religious "Silent Night." Now, I know that this is to be expected at the malls in December and even late November, but finding it in a Jewish owned store in October really seems like too much!

Faith doesn't mean you get a free ride

Lest you jump to conclusions about me based on previous post, there is also a place for reason in life plans. See

Why bother acting Jewish?

From the reactions sparked by the Divrei Chaim's post (linked to in
it seems to me that there are many people who identify as Orthodox, who likely spend the extra money on kosher meat, abstain from work on Shabbos, and even crack open a Gemara who seem to regard the religion as something substandard. Now I am not saying that there are no problems in the frum community. There certainly are problems that should be recognized so that they can be addressed. But as for the Jewish faith, that is something that transcends all mutations of time and circumstances. The Torah was true when the people believed the world was flat, and the Torah remains true when people believe it be round. It is not something that can be superseded by the changes in theories of science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, or politics. Should there be a contradiction between what we take the Torah to mean and what we per…

Would that be frum flirting?

I want to clarify that I am not endorsing the following. It was posted on a shul list, though it doesn't sound 100% frum:

Join the guys of Real Live People Party for this exciting seminar. With the holiday and party season at our doors, we figured a dating crash course was in order. This class is limited to 10 participants.

If you answer Yes to the following on. We can help! This workshop will energize you and give you a new perspective on meeting and dating. We'll help you minimize your weaknesses and develop your dating strengths. Bring any personal questions so we can give you the answers to help you take your dating life to the next level.

* Is your dating life harder than you want it to be?
* Can’t figure out what you should and shouldn’t do on a date?
* Do you freeze when you see a person you want to approach?


* How to flirt
* Why flirting will make or break your dates
* How to know when to approach a woman
* 3 biggest mistakes men mak…

Would you consider 25% risk good odds?

From the Divrei Chaim:

"A local Jewish newspaper ran an editorial last week criticizing the choice many make to attend secular college. The challenges posed by the environment of a secular college, both ideological and in terms of shmirasmitzvos, present a danger for Jewish youth, especially for those who dorm. According to some studies as many as 25% of those who attend such colleges leave the fold."

25% happens to be the risk of having a baby with Tay Sachs when both parents are carriers. So it seems that odds are good ; after, the couple still has a 75% chance of having an unaffected child. Still the whole purpose of organizations like Dor Yeshorim is to prevent the situation from arising because the heartache of seeing one’s child die – even if there are 3 others who survive – is so devastating to a parent. If a parent conceives of the child going of the derech as a tragedy, 25% odds, or any odds, are not good enough.

Now, I will concede the point that kids can go off the d…

Children's stories and values

I have touched on the questionable values conveyed in some popular fairy tales in What of the story The Little Red Hen? If you need to refresh your memory about it, you can read a version online at
I recall in one of M. Scott Peck's books, he offers his thoughts on the story. At first blush, he considered it "unChristian" because the hen appears to not care for the other animals. But on further consideration, he considerd it correct (in a Christian sense, as well) because it demonstrates that there is no escaping from personal responsibility.

I agree with the fact that the lack of charity in the story seems harsh and unkind. But the fact of the matter is that the other animals were not needy -- they abstained from work out of sheer laziness, not because they were incapacitated or occupied with other tasks. What right to those…

Why are Jews warned not to return to Egypt?

G-d didn't want them to be in denile.
But, unfortuantely, they end up there anyway.

Aspects of the Jewish wedding -- the bedeken

There's more to the veil than bridal adornment. See
Aspects of the Jewish wedding -- the bedeken

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The beauty of the rainbow

When you see a rainbow, what should you think? On the one hand, it is undoubtedly a beautiful sight. The appearance of a rainbow in a cloud is one of the things chosen for comparison to the appearance of the KohenGadol as he returned from his service in the KodeshhaKedoshim on YomKippur. That sounds very positive. On the other hand, the bracha recited upon seeing a rainbow refers to Hashem's remembering the brith and keeping his word. The promise was not to destroy the world again as he did during the mabul. We say that a rainbow does not appear in truly worthy generations because the rainbow as reminder of that promise would not be needed if the generation merited salvation on its own.

Of course, from a rationalist perspective, the rainbow is a purely natural phenomenon. You can see a rainbow of colors any time you apply a prism to white light, and the water droplets act as prisms to make the colors appear in the sky. So why should this natural cause and effect be characte…

Milestones and expectations

The post on Jew, Jobss, and Employment on Orthonomics
drew a lot of comments, including one I thought worth sharing below:
Miami Al said...The thing that makes this all so frustratingly insane is that Judaism inherently recognizes life cycle events and growing maturation, both with celebrations and responsibilities. In the Yeshiva culture that's been created, those remain for ritualistic purposes but not in reality. The divorce between ritual and reality is at the core of this problem.

A child turns 3 and is now presumed to be somewhat aware of their surroundings. At this age, we expect Kashrut, Shabbat, Tzitzit, and Kippot to be worn, symbolizing that they are now young Jews, which corresponds to ritual responsibility. This is also the age that children are no doubt capable of basic chores like helping set the table, etc., and becoming little people and not infants.

At age 9/10, three years before Bat/Bar Mitzvah, we expect them to start approaching their coming ritual adulthood wit…

Perspective altered by experience

I always thought a yard was three feet,
then I started mowing the lawn.
- C.E. Cowman
The yard also seems to expand when the leaves have to be raked.

from ghetto girl to JAP

These are not just jokes but reflections of changing roles and perspective as evidenced by Jewish characters in books and film. You can read Riv-Ellen Prell's done study online:
"Stereotypes in the United States." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. October 20, 2009 .

you see, I have good reason for wearing sneakers

And for all those who feel that high heels make you more attractive, you may have regrets later. Read
Sexy now, sorry later: Most women in heels report foot pain -- DailyFinance

What to do with your square pegs?

I know parents who shuffle their boys from yeshiva to yeshiva, descending along the line of black hat approved places even when the boys show no inclination for that style of learning or lifestyle and, consequently, get into trouble and even expelled. Of course, the parents mean well, but I do wonder if they are sometimes sacrificing the welfare of their children to the alter of the right label for how they view themselves int he religio-politico spectrum and what their desire not to mar their daughters' shidduch resumes with the mention of a sibling's school that is not RW approved. Chanoch lana'ar al pi darko seems to go out the window when it comes to maintaining appearances.

Another problematic approach I see is the practice of shipping off boys as young as 13 for high schools that require them to dorm. I understanding the yehiva view on this, but still, it gives parents the opportunity to palm off their children on others and not deal with the day to day -- admittedly …

The mothers' active role in Jewish weddings and a query

For my NY Jewish Bridal Examiner page, I am planning to go through some of the aspects of the traditional Jewish wedding. There are people who struggle to reform the ceremony within a nominally Orthodox setting by suggesting various additions to give women more publicly active roles at the wedding. But, the way I see it, women were granted more activity in the Jewish wedding than in the traditional nonJewish counterpart. Think about the fact that usually both the bride and groom are equally escorted by both their parents in contrast to the bride only being escorted by her father -- who give her in marriage. Another thing the mothers get to do is break the plate for the Tnaim. I'm wondering why that falls to the mothers rather than the fathers. Anyone know?

Think there's a possibility of someone better?

Here's a questions sent to Rav Aviner:
"I have been dating a young woman for a long time, it is going well and we have decided to get married. But I ask myself: maybe I can find better?"
Rav Aviner's answer is unequivocal:
"No, she is the one. Believe in Divine Providence."

Some give and take on the shidduch resume

A reply via email that came in to my post asking about the history of the shidduch resume on the 5 Towns Shuls list. I'll refer to the writer (a woman) as M.
[from M.:] Hi, Ariella -Happy New Year! Here's my opinion, being from out of town and dating, married,.and divorced in several states. Men and women and their families and shadchanim have always wanted to find out about potential shidduchim, and they have always used whatever resources they could find - word of mouth, letter-writing, phone-calling, internet searches, databases, and so on. They have always tried to organize that information in whatever medium they had - index cards, notebooks, computer, spreadsheets, checklists, videotapes,etc. The websites like JDate have checklists and standard questions that they ask. It makes sense for shadchanim to streamline their information collection and ask for standard information from each prospect as well.The current "shidduch resume" is just a means of gathering in…

Anyone know the history?

I do not recall ever hearing the term "shidduch resume" back when I and my peers were "in the parsha." So I would think that the phenomenon has to be less than 15 years old. I would hazard a guess that the shidduch resume came about close to10 years ago. But I don't know that for certain. I'm wondering if there is someone out there with a string of children whose ages would have spanned the before and after shidduch resume entrance into the system who would have noted the sea change. Your input would be helpful.

Shidduch resume poll

This poll is posted on

Shidduch resumes1. are good because they expedite the shidduch process 19% [ 7 ]2. just give the vital statistics but do not convey what the person is about 36% [ 13 ]3. give a real sense of the person and a completely accurate picture of what s/he is about 0% [ 0 ]4. are used primarily to screen people out 11% [ 4 ]5. are fundamentally flawed and should be abolished 13% [ 5 ]6. both 1 and 3 0% [ 0 ]7. 2, 4, and 5 19% [ 7 ]Total Votes : 36
Though I don't have the poll set in a functional mode here, you can comment with your vote.

Related posts at

Getting married on Sukkos?

Chag Sameach!

Laundry, cooking, baking, cleaning, cooking, laundry, baking, laundry, cooking, cleaning. So goes erev Yom Tov even with my head start on Thursday. So that's why people like to go away for Sukkoth! But we're still glad to be home in our own sukkah with our homemade food, cakes, and challahs.

Wishing you all a good Yom Tov!