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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

Homosexuality and Going OTD

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/homosexuality-and-going-otd_3460.html

There is yet another article (published in The Times of Israel) that is sympathetic to Orthodox Jews who are homosexual. Asher Zeiger laments the fact that these Jews are so often shunned by the mainstream Orthodox institutions that many of them end up going OTD.

Mr. Zeiger wonders why it is that Orthodox Jews have such a hard time accepting gay Jews into their community while other sinners are easily accepted. Here is how he puts it:

Yes, the Torah forbids homosexuality. But there is far more biblical text devoted to Sabbath observance, business dealings, unleavened bread on Passover, and a litany of sexual improprieties, than the couple of verses that discuss homosexuality. Nobody’s relationship with God should be defined by the mitzvot that they do not keep.

Those who do not keep many other mitzvot are (hopefully) accepted as equal members of the Jewish community — with a handful of exceptions made for those whose violations have seriously harmed other people. So why can we not see and accept homosexuals in the same way that we see and accept Jews who do not observe the Shabbat and festivals, or do not eat strictly kosher food?

He suggests a possible explanation:

Maybe the problem lies in the inability of most heterosexuals to understand homosexuality in the same way that we can relate to the attraction of, say, driving to the beach on Shabbat, or eating whatever and wherever we wish. And don’t get me started on the appeal of just giving in to our basest natural sexual urges.

But we don’t “get” homosexuality in the same way, and all too often, the natural reaction to what people cannot understand is to attack, belittle and invalidate. It is as though by delegitimizing it, people are absolved from having to understand, let alone accept it.

I’m not sure this really explains it. Although there are people who are not repulsed by homosexual behavior there are probably many more people who are. These are not bad people. They just have a natural revulsion to such behavior. No matter how open-minded one is about this subject they just cannot get past it.

Why is this sin different from other sins – including other sins in the Torah labeled a Toevah (abomination)? From the article:

To eat any of the animals, fish and birds listed as unkosher (Deuteronomy 14) is considered a to’eva, as are dishonest business practices (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

These sins are also called Toevah and yet they do not seem to really repulse most people – even though they probably should.

It is therefore easy to see why there is so much depression among homosexuals. Sometimes even leading to suicide. Despite the current social and political pressure to normalize homosexuality there still seems to be an undercurrent of popular resistance to it. Mr Zeiger observes (correctly in my view) that we still live in “a largely gay-unfriendly world” and that “homosexuality is the target of the kind of hatred and vitriol otherwise reserved for only the sleaziest of pedophiles and the fans of arch-rival sports teams.”

It is no small wonder than why many formerly Orthodox Gay Jews go OTD.

That is indeed sad.

I can’t do anything about innate negative feelings. But I think it behooves those of us who may have them to overcome them and treat fellow human beings who have same sex attractions no less honorably than we do people guilty of other Toevos. As Mr. Zeiger puts it. We all sin. But not all of us sin the same way. By being so repulsed we end up turning these people away leaving them with a feeling of abandonment and being hated by their fellow Jews. Jews who are otherwise decent people.

When decent society rejects you… how are you supposed to feel?!

Shouldn’t we be bringing them close to us instead of pushing them away? Like we would with any Jew? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to observe as many Mitzvos as they can? Of what value is it to turn away from them with the obvious revulsion so often expressed by an anti-gay zealot like this Levin character (pictured above)? What does he accomplish other than causing people to go OTD?

Rubin Report: The True Lesson of a Tragedy in Colorado Film Theater

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

http://rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/what-is-true-lesson-of-tragedy-in.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+Rubinreports+(RubinReports)&utm_content=Yahoo!+Mail

I really thought there was nothing to say or write about the shootings at the Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre. The prattling, smug, and often unsubstantiated talk filling the airwaves and print pages really added nothing. But then I realized that there is indeed something important to conclude from this tragic episode. And it’s one of the most important things—perhaps the most important of all—to understand about history, civilization, humanity, and society.

Human frailty.

None of us are perfect. We all have weaknesses and shortcomings. And some have more than others. We see a daily display of jealousy, anger, hatred, ignorance, misunderstanding, clashing goals or interests, and the whole panoply of bad things that humans think, say, and do.

Just read the talk-backs to articles on almost any subjects and you quickly find that kind of bickering, meanness, passions overcoming facts, hidden agenda, and the hundred other things that, as Hamlet says, “The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to.”

This is the world we live and die in. Perhaps we succeed or fail, in our own eyes or that of others. Perhaps we don’t have as many material goods as we would like or as much fame or as much respect or as much power. Frustration is not some accident that crops up; it is woven into the very fabric of life.

And so someone cracks, as happened in Phoenix, Arizona, or in Aurora, Colorado. They might crack more quietly as serial killers do, or publicly as do those who suddenly turn on their fellow humans who are strangers to them. Or the cracking can take place on a world stage, as rabid dictators with howling followers go to commit war, massacre, oppression, and terrorism.

Or it can be on a tiny, human level in the daily acts of rudeness and sins to which we are victim and that we commit even to loved ones.

There is no solution. Certainly, individuals can be helped; problems can at times be diminished. But there is no political ideology or government program or redistribution of wealth that is going to cure humanity’s ills.In today’s secular, even anti-religious, Western society, those who are religious are seen as aggressive, intolerant, and foolish. But there are two things that a decent religious person possesses that others don’t: A belief that there is a divine judge, which may make them curb their behavior; and a desire for self-improvement, to reduce their sins and strive for something higher.

With all the cults, self-help programs,and psychiatrists, how often do others pursue such a path.

Starting in the nineteenth century, humanity seemed on a roll. And indeed great things were accomplished. Medicine eased suffering and extended life; science spread knowledge and improved living standards. So much was done for the good.

Yet in large part the twentieth century contained as much or more hell than the Dark Ages. The understanding that humanity could do a lot better made possible wonderful progress. The hubris that it could be transformed utterly in a utopian manner by the right political philosophy or system made possible horrible suffering.

If we accept humanity’s imperfection there is an important political message contained therein. No ideology, no institution, no panacea can be trusted with power over ourselves. The greatness of real democracy and the wisdom of America’s founders are already being once again transformed by clichés, mouthed even by the politicians who don’t understand these things and are in fact fighting against them.

Yet the point of that system is simply this:

Individual liberty, restricted when necessary but never lightly nor too extensively, is the best guarantee for avoiding the systemic imposition of other people’s frailties on oneself: their desire for power; their belief that they have all the answers; their conviction that you should live and think as they do. Once such sentiments were the stuff of conservatism against which liberalism revolted; today they are the essence of the new radicalism that has — temporarily? — seized the banner of liberalism.

And that brings us back to a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. It was first and foremost the responsibility of this young man to pull his life into order, and then of his family, and then of those around him. To wait for the government authorities to take action promotes a fatal passivity. If he had not had access to guns — though even in the states with the tightest restrictions criminals seem able to obtain them — or if someone else in that theatre had possessed their own, things would have turned out differently in terms of the number of casualties.

Only in America

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Once again this great nation of ours lives up to its credo.

To some it may be of small consequence that 14 year-old Edon Pinchot won the hearts of Americans last Monday night as he sang a rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium” on the television show, “America’s Got Talent” (See Edon’s performance below). But I would disagree. It demonstrates something about America.

He not only got a standing ovation from the audience, he was showered with praise by the 3 judges who are not reticent to ridicule bad performances. Of the 12 contestants competing in these quarter-finals, only four are selected to go to the next level. The 3 judges predicted Edon to be one of those four. And they were right. Edon has moved on to the next level of competition.

What is unusual about Edon is that he is an Orthodox Jew. He is a recent graduate of Chicago’s Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School located in Skokie. I know his grandparents. His grandfather and I served together on the board of directors at HTC. They are a wonderful and committed Torah family.

What is even more unusual is that Edon wore a rather nice sized Kipa on his head. It took courage for this young boy to perform in front of a live audience knowing that millions of viewers were watching him on TV. But it took serious commitment to his Judaism to keep a Kipa on his head in a business known for vanity and conformity to the whims of popular culture. Had he removed his Kipa for this performance, it would have been understandable. But he chose to wear it proudly in public. He deserves a lot of credit for that.

Credit goes to the American people too for taking him into their hearts. Americans didn’t see a Kipa – even though it was very obviously upon his head. They saw a talented young boy singing his heart out. And they loved it.

I often say that anti Semitism in this country is practically nonexistent. Except for isolated pockets of extremism like the Neo Nazis, the KKK… or Palestinian-influenced anti-Zionism that occasionally morphs into the anti Semitism popping up in some universities – one would be hard pressed to see it on any real scale.

Among examples of our acceptance that I have pointed to are: Evangelical Christians, the Gore/Lieberman candidacy, and various news stories about how average Americans see their fellow Jewish citizens as equals and have defend them agains anti Semitic attacks. And now once again we have yet another cross-section of Americans that have done the same.

This – despite all the bad behavior some of us are guilty of. I think John McCain was right. When asked by a reporter a few years ago about whether Jack Abramoff’s behavior would negatively color the views Americans had of the Jewish people, he answered that the American people are smart enough to know that one person does not represent the whole. I think that’s right. Makes me proud to be an American.

Happy Birthday America!

The Secret to Buying the Right Stocks

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

What kind of investor do you think you are? Do you try to time the market and jump in at the right minute? Or are you a more cautious kind of person who spends hours researching market performance before you consider buying or selling anything?

In fact, it doesn’t really matter what kind of investor you think you are. The results of your efforts are translated into the profits and losses that appear in your portfolio. Therefore, even if you feel very confident and have a great feeling about a particular stock that everyone’s talking about, when push comes to shove, your emotions make very little difference. Actual market performance is, at the end of the day, what counts.

For many years, investors have always wanted to know what the true secret is to buying the right stocks. From the South Sea Bubble to the Great Depression, there are those who fell by the wayside when everything went wrong, while on the other hand, there were those who made the right moves and ended up living in luxury. So, what is it that helps some people get it right, while others don’t? Is there any real basis for investing by following your gut feelings? And, if the famous disclaimer, “past performance is no indication of future returns,” is actually true, what is the point of all of the research out there into markets, stocks, performance, etc. anyway? Perhaps the whole thing is one great gamble.

These questions, of why people invest the way they do, have occupied researchers in recent years, giving rise to the science of behavioral investing. One such researcher, Professor Terrance Odean of the University of California (Berkeley), studied the behavior of investors and reached the conclusion that “the average investor is his own worst enemy.”

According to Professor Odean, “the average investor is better off not trying to time the market.” From his research, he has found that individuals tend to get market timing and behavior wrong more often than institutional investors. There can be many reasons for this. For example, an individual is more likely to be driven by emotions such as fear or regret, whereas an institution is less likely to be driven by emotion. Secondly, as Professor Odean points out, “there are times when institutional investors know things that individuals don’t know, so they have an informational advantage or ability to process publicly available information in a better way.”

Based on Professor Odean’s research, the most efficient way to buy stocks may be to use the services of a money manager. Professional money managers hopefully won’t be blinded by emotion when making investment decisions (after all it’s their job!) and have more access to the right information than the average investor.

If you want to find out more about the theories of behavioral investing, watch a video of my interview with Professor Odean, which took place on the Goldstein on Gelt radio show.

Improving A Child’s Derech Eretz

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I have five children, and am struggling with my oldest son. He can be so good at times, but then he will talk to me with such chutzpah. I want to have a good relationship with him, but I worry when he speaks to me this way – and therefore, I end up reacting badly. This creates a vicious cycle, as he speaks back to me with even more chutzpah. I know I should react differently, but how can I respond kindly when he is speaking to me in such a disrespectful way? Wouldn’t that set a bad precedent?

My other children are beginning to follow his behavior, and I feel like the situation is spiraling out of control. What can I do to stop my other children from speaking to me in the same wrongful manner as their brother? And how can I get my son to speak to me more respectfully?

A Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother:

Thank you for your letter. I do not know your son’s age, but if he’s age-appropriate he should view my DVD, “Chutzpah is Muktzah2” (available in Judaica sefarim stores). If he’s past the age of eight, making him too old to get much out of this DVD, perhaps you should purchase it for your toddlers and younger children. The DVD teaches them how to behave with derech eretz (e.g. saying please, thank you, don’t wake Mommy, I’ll do it with pleasure, I am sorry, etc.) and features great musical interludes with famous Jewish singers.

The issue you raise is, unfortunately, very widespread. But you are already one step ahead of the game, as you recognize that your son’s behavior is inappropriate and are properly taking steps to rectify the situation. It is important to speak to your son when he is calm, explain to him that you love him, but it is hurtful when he speaks to you disrespectfully. Tell him of your desire to have a good relationship with him, and that you want his input into how this can happen. Try to come up with a joint plan focusing on how each of you treats the other. Explain to your son that as his mother, he must speak to you with derech eretz – but that you will change your tone with him as well, speaking towards him with greater derech eretz.

To give the plan an improved chance of success, devise ways to ask each other to do things while explaining the reasons why at times those things cannot be done immediately. A good way for your son to speak to you (and for faster results for you to speak to him) is to say “I’ll do it with pleasure” when you ask him to do something. Another thing to say if he can’t fulfill your request right away: “Is it possible for me to do it in one minute?” If he does not seem amenable to these scripts, develop your own verbal thoughts that work for both of you. (Remember that a prepared script is likely to make it easier for your son to speak more appropriately to you, as he will have a better idea of what you are looking for.)

Make sure to heap praise on him when he speaks with derech eretz. Similarly, if he reverts back to speaking disrespectfully, calmly say, “Can you please say that again with derech eretz?”

It is not a good time to attempt to change your son’s behavior if he is extremely tired or hungry. In those situations, it would be better to have him get some rest or eat something. Then you can quietly and calmly tell him that although you know he was tired and/or hungry, you still expect more from your special son than to speak with you in an unsuitable way. By staying calm, you are telling your son – without engendering more disrespect – that his actions are unacceptable.

Once the tone with your oldest son improves, your other children will likely follow suit in the way they speak with you. But you should speak with each of them as well. You and your husband should also converse in the same mode, setting a good example for your children to emulate. Children generally learn and act through the examples set by their parents. Additionally, it’s a good idea to role-play with them on ways to speak more respectfully, as this will ready them when the real situations arise.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

As parents to a handful of boys, I’d say we have our hands full. Seriously, I realize that boys will be boys and I know we should be grateful that they’re not a bunch of sissies. But what we hadn’t counted on was our eldest – the supposedly mature one – endlessly picking fights with his younger brothers.

Rachel, I’m not talking about squabbles over something tangible; I mean unprovoked physical altercations, blows that hurt and lead to wailing and shrieks of pain by our younger children who honestly don’t ask for it.

This has been going on for quite some time now, and as nerve-wracking as the noise and mayhem have been, up until last week we just chalked it up to sibling rivalry, figuring that it had to do with the attention that was diverted from our oldest with each new addition to the family.

We’ve reasoned with Yonie (not his real name), tried charts with a reward system for good behavior, and even instituted special dates with mommy or daddy (where one child gets to enjoy the exclusive attention of one of his parents on an outing) on a rotating basis. Every time we think we’ve made progress, it’s back to square one a day or two later.

Like I said, until last week — when our son pounced on someone else’s child, a kid almost half his age. This was something new and something we weren’t going to tolerate.

That night we sat him down, determined to get to the bottom of what was driving our bechor –who, believe it or not, is otherwise a shy and soft-spoken soul – to act out in such bizarre fashion.

After endless prodding and seemingly getting nowhere, a question asked by his father led to the shocking revelation that our son was being hounded relentlessly by a school bully — on the school bus, on a daily basis, for almost two years now!! Further prompting brought to light that Yonie (of slight build) had a fear of his tormentor who was “much bigger than me.”

It began to dawn on us that our 12-year old son has been acting out his own frustration and “getting even” by pummeling his weaker younger brothers, and inadvertently teaching them all how to be bullies! My husband was also very concerned about Yonie’s lack of resilience in not standing up to the bully.

Hopefully, we will be able to reverse the damage that has been eating away at our boys. We’ve already been to the school to speak to the principal and will follow up to make sure that appropriate action is taken.

In the meanwhile, my message to parents is not to chalk up their child’s odd or out-of-character behavior to “a passing phase” or “sibling rivalry.” Get to the bottom of it — the sooner the better.

P.S. I don’t refer to a public school in Anytown, USA; our children attend a cheder in a baalbatish yeshivish community.

Still Shaken…

Dear Shaken,

Children in schools the world over are being affected by the scourge of bullying — so much so that there’s been a mound of research done to try and evaluate the extent, the causes and effects on both aggressor and victim, and the best course of action to take to protect our vulnerable children.

Bullying comes in the form of repeated physical, verbal or psychological assault, usually directed at victims who are unable to defend themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean that parents should suddenly consider their children’s quarrels among themselves or with their peers as bullying. A fight or argument, especially between equals in physical size and strength, doesn’t constitute bullying.

So what makes a child vulnerable and susceptible to being picked on this way? A whole host of things, in fact, such as a lack of verbal skills that impedes self-expression; the craving of attention; physical clumsiness; shyness; low self-esteem or even the lack of ability to build friendships.

If you’re wondering why your son never spoke to you or complained about the bullying, studies have shown that most victims don’t tell their parents or teachers for fear that they will not be believed and/or they feel that nothing will be done about it. Victims are also prone to fearing retaliation, as well as embarrassment, at being unable to stand up for themselves.

Your husband, by the way, may not be doing his son any favor by encouraging him to take on the bully. Without adult intervention, this can chas v’sholom end up causing Yonie physical harm.

In contrast to those parents who choose to look away when their children get involved in altercations with others outside their home, you did the right thing by taking your son to task about his unacceptable behavior. In addition, his low self-confidence will be boosted by your show of support and caring.

It’s My Opinion: Tantrums

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The recent loss by the Knicks in game two of their playoff series with the Miami Heat resulted in more than the loss of a basketball game. In an explosive postgame meltdown, Knicks star Amare Stoudemire lost control and punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher. His outburst led to 15 stitches in his hand. Stoudemire left Miami bandaged up and wearing an arm sling.

Tantrums, unfortunately, are not just the behavior of frustrated toddlers. Many adults give themselves permission to act out their anger. An explosive tantrum is always a terrible way to deal with a vexing situation.

During a tantrum the thinking part of the brain simply shuts down and the primitive reactionary component kicks in. Psychologists agree that neither promises of incredible gifts nor threats of dire punishments are effective once a child is in the throes of a frenzy. This shutdown occurs in tantrum throwers of all ages. The trick to averting this occurrence is, of course, not to allow one’s anger to rage out of control. Anger management skills are essential.

Jewish tradition treats the results of acting on anger in a very serious way. Rambam warns of the consequences of this phenomenon in a letter of counsel to his son. He writes of the importance of controlling rage. Our sages admonish, “If one becomes angry, if he is a prophet, his spirit of prophecy will be removed from him.” It is common sense to understand that if an individual’s mind is not letting him see the present clearly, it would be impossible for him to have the clarity to see the future.

Amare Stoudemire wound up with a bloody hand and as a derided target for tabloid headline writers. He said, “I am so mad at myself right now. I want to apologize to the fans and my team….”

It’s normal for human beings of all ages to experience a full range of emotions. Anger is one of them. People are “wired” differently and can respond differently to the same provocation. Our job is to harness our reactions and attain mastery of our own behavior.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/its-my-opinion-tantrums/2012/05/10/

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