Showing posts from April, 2017

True leaders and demagogues

When I saw the title of this piece, If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists? I instantly thought of Moshe Rabbeinu, the paradigmatic leader of a people who was the humblest of men. The Torah also provides contrasts to him. We have the demagogue figure in Korach, whose attempted coup was self-serving rather than a true struggle for fairness. Another foil for Moshe is the greatest prophet ever for the world-at-large, namely Bilam, whose attributes include not humility but an egotistical desire for honor and riches.

The “romance of leadership” hypothesis suggests that we generally have a biased tendency to understand social events in terms of leadership and people tend to romanticize the figure of the leader.
My own research shows that our psychological states can also bias our perceptions of charismatic leaders. High levels of anxiety make us hungry for charisma. As a result, crises increase not only the search for charismatic leaders, but also …

Questions and Actions: Why we make this night different from all other nights

Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?
Who told you that?

That's an old joke that reflects our emphasis on asking questions, something that is fundamental to Torah study and to the transmission of the mesorah that we enact every Pesach.

The seder centers around the number four and the famous four questions. But four is the minimum, and further questions are encouraged by deliberately doing things that strike people as being out of the normal routine.

So here's a question: why go through all the question when we already know the answers?  We can simply tell the story, with all the drama built into the story of rags to rich of avdus to cheirus or of benighted ovdey avoda zara to enlightened people who witness Divine revelations in the geula.

Why the questions? I'm so glad you asked.

In the book  Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade Robert Cialdini  (p. 254) defend the underlying idea "Let me ask you a question for your information&qu…

Before there were clickbait articles

I  usually resist clickbait, but I did fall for this on One Thing Happy People Do Every Day (It Takes Less Than 1 Minute)  because I wanted to ascertain if it would relay the conventional wisdom of smiling to feel happier. It did. The only other thing it added was a suggestion for what it badly names going first. That makes it sound like cutting in line, but the writer really means is approaching the other person first, saying "hello," and the like.

 Clearly, Chris Heivly here considers this a huge chidush. But that's because he likely was never exposed to Pirkei Avos. Those 6 chapters of Mishna that we read in the weeks between Pesach and Shavuos contain a great deal of wisdom that applies to social and business interactions. Among them are two that cover his advice. One is the advice of Rabbi Masya ben Charash (4:20) " Be the first to greet every individual." And in the first chapter (15) the last part of Shammai three-part exhortation is: הוי מקביל את כל …

Pesach desserts

One other thing about the store-bought cakes: nearly all of them have a potato starch base. Consequently, take the blessing of shehakol rather than the mezonos that we usually say on cakes based on flour. For that reason, many shuls skip their usual kiddushes because they have no mezonos to set out.  However, if you do not have the custom of avoiding gebrokts, that is a mixture of matzah and water, you can make your own mezonos cakes based on cake meal, which is finely ground matzah meal. The first two recipes are based on that. The second two are gluten-free. 
Passover apple cake 1 c. sugar
1 c. cake meal
1/2 c.oil
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tbsp. lemon juice
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff, glossy peaks
5 lg. apples, sliced
1/3 to 1/2 c. chopped nuts
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8 inch square pan. Combine first 5 ingredients, stir until well blended. Fold in beaten egg whites; gently, but thoroughly. Pour 1/2 of batter into greased baking pan. Arrange s…