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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘baby’

What Does It All Mean?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The continuation of my column on the power of prayer was ready to go – but then tragedy hit. Tragedy of a magnitude none of us could have envisioned.

New York City, the capital of the world, is shaken to its core as buildings tumble, electrical power is lost, highways and neighborhoods are flooded, bridges and tunnels are closed down, cars float away, people lose their homes and even their lives.

What are we to do? How are we to understand this?

As readers know, whenever suffering befalls us I search our holy books to find illumination and guidance. I turn to my most loyal friend – a friend that has always been at my side and given me comfort and strength and never betrayed me – my sefer Tehillim, my Book of Psalms.

The psalms were written by King David, who experienced every type of pain and suffering that can befall mankind, and so each word is drenched with his tears and speaks for all eternity and for all mankind.

The devastation of Hurricane Sandy began on Monday, October 29, the 13th day of the month of Cheshvan. The psalm designated for the 13th day of the month is Psalm 69. I opened to it and the words jumped out: “Save us, oh G-d, for the waters have reached onto my soul.”

There is more. This psalm does not leave us in the cold – it also provides our remedy, our answer: “But as for me, my prayer is to You, Hashem.”

Yes, we must turn in heartfelt prayer to our Heavenly Father and beseech His Mercy, His Salvation.

I looked at the weekly parshah and read how our father Abraham, whose hospitality had no bounds, opened his home to strangers. That which our forefathers experienced and shaped their lives has become part of our DNA.

I think of all those who lost power or were left homeless. I know of a woman who stood in her home, waist deep in water, desperately searching for photographs of her father and mother who are no longer here. Who can comprehend the pain?

And I think of all the wonderful people who opened their homes just like our father Abraham. I am one of those people who had to evacuate and I too have benefited and continue to benefit from that hospitality.

The Rambam taught that when suffering is visited upon us we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the shofar. Everyone must be alerted. Everyone must engage in self-examination and ask, What is my life all about? How would I rate if I were given a “neshamah checkup”? What does my Judaism, my Torah, really mean to me?”

The Rambam wrote that if we regard the tragedies that befall us as simply the way of the world, natural happenings, we are guilty of achzarius (cruelty). At first glance it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would choose the term “cruelty” to describe those who see trials and tribulations as the way of the world. They may be unthinking, apathetic, foolish, obtuse or just cynical, but to accuse them of cruelty seems rather farfetched.

The answer is simple. If we regard our pain and suffering as “mere coincidence” and feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways and change, then indeed such an attitude is cruel, for it invites additional misfortunate upon ourselves and others.

Great Torah luminaries of recent generations told us we were entering the final stages of history, a period called ikvsa di Mashiach – footsteps of the Messiah. So how can we remain silent? Would that not be the ultimate cruelty?

Ours is a generation that has been challenged again and again. We have had so many wakeup calls – some terrifying, some more subtle – but we have remained indifferent to them all.

I will not go back to the time of the Holocaust, though by every right I should – for if that didn’t shake us up, what will? Even the terrible events of 9/11 are no longer vivid in our minds and the fellowship and the kindness that ensued in its wake are all long gone.

Special Baby Born in Ramat Gan

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Mazel Tov is in order for a special new mother in Ramat Gan.

A rare Brazilian tapir, “Pessiflora”, has given birth to a son at the Ramat Gan Safari Park.

Father, Meir, has been moved to a separate enclosure until he overcomes his jealousy for the new arrival.

The unnamed baby was born after a 13-month pregnancy and is enjoying the attention of his mother and older sister, Papaya.

He was born with white stripes which will fade as he matures.

Davening with Baby

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Some 21 years ago I had the honor of being the stay-at-home father, while Nancy was the one with the grownup job that required leaving the house every morning and going to a remote work area that involved other people. With nothing to do but my weekly columns and phone interviews, I was the obvious parenting choice.

So I developed many different activities a father can do with a small child. I learned that a small child can be used as a dumbbell, both for leg and arm lifts. In fact, the older the child becomes, the better shape the father should get into, until she is too heavy for leg lifts (and starts attending school regularly).

I also acquired many skills which never again served me in life, most notably the skill of holding the baby in one arm, opening the fridge, grabbing a bottle, twisting it off with your teeth, holding the bottle between your chin and your neck while filling it up with milk.

I’ve seen some mothers perform these tricks giving the impression they possessed four and five arms. I could do three, max.

Here’s a guy at the Kotel, davening with his little baby on Sukkot. You can tell it’s Sukkot from the guy with the lulav in the back. You can tell the proud father is a Lubavitcher from his siddur (prayer book).

On Sukkot we are mesmerized by the fragrance of the etrog and the haddassim. But I’ll bet you this father is too preoccupied taking in the fresh baby smell… I know I would be.

The picture was taken during the priestly blessing, which is another thing fathers get to do with their children.

Our daughter is in America these days, and so I give her the priestly blessing over Skype. You do what you can.

Chag Same’ach.

Now, That’s an Esrog!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

It turns out this is what a mature esrog looks like, and the lemon-size fruits we’re all used to are baby esrogim, picked at a size that best fit in the palm of our hand. Only the Yemenites, I’m told, prefer the full-impact esrog, which, cone to think of it, could be used both for spiritual and security purposes (“A suspicious guy came up behind me so I knocked him down with my esrog.”).

Because of my relatively rare name, I’m always asked if I’m related in any way to the renowned Yanover Esrogim. I’m not. The Calabria esrog is named after the city of Genoa, Italy, which Jews pronounced as Yanova, and so the esrogim became Yanover (from Yanova).

My own namesake iss the town of Janow in Poland which couldn’t possibly sustain citrus orchards on account of the freezing winter.

You have to admire those Yemenites who pray every Sukkot day with a couple of kilos worth of Four Species in their hands. I’ll bet they smell good, though, and when you cook them after the holiday, it probably is actually edible.

I know it’s weird to be talking about Sukkot from this side of Yom Kippur, but I’ll do Yom Kippur tomorrow. For now, I’m dreaming of my first Sukkot back home.

Charge: Facebook Pages Spew Blood Libels, Attack Jews and Aborigines, Mock Anne Frank

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

There is no scientific equation to determine what is hatred, but a Facebook picture of a smiling Anne Frank surrounded by the caption, “What’s that burning?  Oh it’s my family” is an easy one.  So is a Facebook picture of a baby on a scale emblazoned with a Jewish Star, where the bottom of the scale is a meat grinder with raw ground meat (presumably, a baby’s) oozing out.

Is there any doubt in your mind that those images constitute hate speech (one of the official categories for removal under Facebook’s Terms of Service) and should be removed from Facebook?  That was the basis for the complaints filed by the Online Hate Prevention Institute last month.

Facebook disagreed.  The pictures remain up.

The Australia-based Online Hate Prevention Institute was launched in January this year.  Its mission is to help prevent, or at least control, abusive social media behavior which constitute racism or other forms of hate speech.

Dr. Andre Oboler is the chief executive officer of OHPI.  Oboler has been involved in analyzing and monitoring online hate for five years.   In the time that he’s been monitoring Facebook, the response time has improved, but the results have not.

“OHPI submitted documented complaints following the Facebook complaint protocol, and, true to their word, we received a response within 48 hours,” Oboler told The Jewish Press.  “It’s quite amazing; the Facebook reviewers took down the images, reviewed them, and put them back up with a ‘no action’ decision within 48 hours.”

Oboler waited until the Facebook reviews were completed before posting OHPI’s findings.  The methodical process and the constructive suggestions OHPI made could be held up as models of what to do when confronted with hate speech on social media, except that at this point the diligence does not appear to have paid off.

The suggestions included:

1. Remove the offensive images

2. Close the offensive pages that are posting them

3. Permanently close the accounts of the users abusing Facebook to spread such hate

4. Review which staff assessed these examples and audit their decision making

5. Take active measures to improve staff training to avoid similar poor decisions in the future

6. To institute an appeal process as part of the online reporting system

7. To institute systematic random checks of rejected complaints

At this point, Oboler is hopeful that if sufficient attention is generated, Facebook will feel compelled to re-examine their procedures.  What he would like is for there to be a “systematic change to prevent online-generated harm in the future.”

One way to generate that attention, Oboler suggested, is for Facebook users who think the images described above are offensive to go to the Facebook OPHI site and “Like” it.  Another is to sign the OPHI petition urging Facebook to stop allowing hate speech on its site.

OHPI is also critical of the way in which Facebook has chosen to respond to complaints about offensive Facebook Pages.  Its standard response to pages that are entirely devoted to offensive material is to insert the bracketed phrase: [Controversial Humor] before the rest of the page title.  That phrase acts kind of like the warning label posted on cigarette packages.  The page remains vile, just as the cigarettes remain carcinogenic, but by slapping on the Controversial Humor disclaimer, it appears Facebook is seeking immunity from liability.  Or at least from responsibility.

OPHI discovered this Facebook method when it was engaged in an effort to eradicate hate-filled Facebook Pages dedicated to brutalizing Aborigines.  Remember – OPHI is based in Australia.  After engaging in some promising responses to OPHI’s complaints, Facebook ultimately responded that “While we do not remove this type of content from the site entirely unless it violates our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, out of respect for local laws, we have restricted access to this content in Australia via Facebook.”

But that just doesn’t make any sense, according to Oboler.  As he pointed out, “Facebook’s ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities’ says at 3.7 ‘You will not post content that: is hate speech’. We find it very hard to understand how Facebook can look at this material and decide it is not hate speech. Ultimately, this is where Facebook is going wrong.”

Is there anything Facebook has determined to be sufficiently offensive that it will be removed? Yes, but not much.

Oboler explained that thus far the only hate speech kind of content that has been permanently removed by Facebook is when it is directed against an individual, rather than at an entire race or religion.  In other words, the same problem that hate speech codes on campuses have encountered, plagues complainants hoping for a non-offensive inline community.  Unless the nastiness is directed at a specific person, the default Facebook position is to not remove it.

But really, is it possible for anyone to consider the words accompanying the Anne Frank picture anything but impermissible hate speech?  Facebook apparently does and will continue to do so unless enough people tell them they are wrong.

 

Cutest Time Bomb You Ever Saw

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

First, obviously, this has to be in the top 10 sweetest back-to-school or first-day-of-school images in the history of schools. These boys are lined up on a sidewalk in the ultra-Orthodox, super-Orthodox, mega-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Sheaim, in Jerusalem, where even God has to show papers before they let Him in.

This year, as the Jewish Press has written recently, better than 50 percent of pre-school age children are religious.

Deputy Minister of Education Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) was quoted as saying that only 15 years ago the percentage of Haredim in Israeli educational institutions was only 12.6%. “Today we comprise 32%; and the National Religious are another 20%, and that included Chabad.”

First reaction: Yeah, more frummies!

Second reaction (half a shake later): Is the state of Israel going to come up with ways to make these children, in, say, 12 years, pull their share as soldiers and, later, as tax payers? Or are they going to be such a burden on the rest of the citizenry?

Third reaction: Yeah, more frummies, and God will provide. In 12 years who knows what will happen.

Fourth reaction: Seriously? That’s how you’re planning for the future? “God will provide”?

Fifth reaction: OK, G-d will provide. Feeling better?

Sixth reaction: You are a disgrace.

Final reaction: Oooh, look at the cute babies… Who’s a cute baby? Who’s a cute baby?

Been going on like this 150 years.

Gas Mask Distribution

Monday, August 20th, 2012

http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/gas-mask-distribution.html

Israel seems to have gone into high gear in its plans to distribute gas masks to all its citizens. For days and days, there are long lines as people wait to receive theirs. In some cases, like us, the old ones need to be returned. This is all so very hi-tech. There is an efficiency there – that is belied by what is happening. No one in line has any doubt that this is because of Iran – it is that elephant in the corner; that massive threat just around the bend.

We found our gas masks over the weekend – gone was any opportunity to put this off any further. Elie and Lauren and I drove to Talpiot, a neighborhood in the southern part of Jerusalem. We parked, walked upstairs, and right away saw that there were hundreds of people there waiting. It was a mix of so many things.

One security guard was calling out numbers…620…621…622…623. We were 791 until the man in front of us pulled out a bunch of tickets and gave us 790. He’d found an ticket with a lower number and planned to cut forward in the sequence. He was 686. Apparently the woman in front of him had the same idea. She saw us standing there – and handed us 671 – we went in front of 686. He was philosophical – what he had done to others was just done to him…not much he could complain about.

Of course, he then pulled in the ace of his deck – he pulled out his handicapped ID and asked the guard if he could please advance. Two points to him…he went to the front of the line. Things moved amazingly fast – we were ushered forward to stand on one side of the table. We handed in the old gas masks – it pulled something inside of me when I saw him count them and toss them aside.

He asked for my identification card, and with that, determined that he could give me 5 gas masks – mine, my husband’s, Elie’s, Davidi’s and Aliza’s. “What about Shmulik and Amira?” I asked him. “I gave you seven.”

“Wait,” he told me as he began. He pulled out a box, plugged in a number, and wrote my husband’s name on the box. He then used an infrared scanner to go over the bar code – all so efficient. We’re talking gas masks here! But that was for later. This was about processing people – not about politics or global threats by a madman.

“I have Shmulik’s teudat zehut [identification card] with me,” I continued.

“Wait,” said Elie.

The man gave me another gas mask – for me; one for Elie; one for Davidi; one for Aliza – her box was a different color and was larger – because while the rest of us have adult gas masks, she has the “youth” size.

He took Shmulik’s identification card and began processing it, “what about Amira?” I asked him again. Yes, I wasn’t handling this particularly well, was I?

“Wait,” the man said to me again – and I have to admit, there was patience in his voice each time. The woman next to me started arguing. She wanted to get someone else’s gas mask and the man told her she first had to call the Home Front office. She complained that she had been there more than 2 hours already and wasn’t leaving without the additional gas mask. She was very upset – again, the man taking care of me spoke to her calmly.

My mind was already racing with arguments if he wouldn’t give me the last gas mask – which was silly, I kept telling myself. Even if they give me Amira’s, she still has to come back for her husband and her son. When he finished Shmulik’s gas mask – I had six boxes. “Amira?” I asked him again. Clearly, my brain had no intention of listening to my heart.

“Which one?” he asked me and I showed him.

He plugged in her identification number and went to get a box. I was so relieved – ridiculously so. “Haim didn’t turn in his old one,” he told me (referring to Amira’s husband), but I can give you one for the baby.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/gas-mask-distribution/2012/08/20/

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