web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘dog’

What My Dog Taught Me About God

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Upon request, I am sharing the following story from my friend, Mrs. S.

Two years ago Mrs. S. was divorced after an unhappy, childless marriage. Now in her mid-60s, she has no interest in finding a new husband. At this time, she told me, she is just beginning to discover herself as an independent adult, and she is reveling in the opportunity to make her own choices on everything from what to cook for dinner to what color to paint the bedroom. The road to independence has been difficult. Using imagery from Psalm 23, she told me that she has come through the dark valley and is now walking in sunlight. However, she still wasn’t feeling that God was with her.

Indeed, where was God during the dark years of her marriage? Why hadn’t she had children? Why was she alone and struggling financially at this time of her life? Why wasn’t God taking care of her? She told me that all these thoughts had been eating at her for a long time – to be honest, since before her divorce.

Another, simpler thing that bothered her after her husband moved away was loneliness. Being alone in the house was scary, but she was unable to sell it due to the poor housing market. Finally she decided to get a dog. She went to the local animal shelter and found a small poodle mix to adopt. Soon she and the dog had become great companions. He followed her around when she was busy, slept quietly at her feet when she read, and sat in the kitchen doorway brimming with hopeful anticipation when she cooked. After she had a “dog door” installed he was able to go out to the fenced yard when he needed to, so she could leave him alone when she went to work.

“About once a week I take him to the dog park,” she related. “There he can run around freely and play with other dogs. He loves it. He makes friends with the other dog owners and roughhouses with the other dogs. The one thing he doesn’t do is pay any attention to me. Some dogs huddle near their owners. Not mine. Once I let him off his leash, he doesn’t come near me until I call him to go home. I used to think he was so busy he just didn’t even remember I was there.

“Then one day he was playing with some other dogs about 80 feet from me. A French Bulldog, about twice my dog’s weight, started barking aggressively at me. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, my dog streaked up to me. He didn’t attack the other dog; he didn’t even act aggressively. He just dashed up to me and jumped on me, his whole rear end wagging to beat the band. The other dog took one look and wandered off to find someone else to bully. As soon as the “danger” was gone, my dog ran back to his friends and resumed his game.”

She paused thoughtfully before continuing her story. “I thought about this for a long time. We had been in the park for about half an hour, and during that time he hadn’t come near me, although I was keeping my eye on him. I was sure he had totally forgotten about me and didn’t have a clue where I was. However, the minute I was threatened, he was there protecting me.

“That night, when we were taking our evening walk, I was thinking of how protective he had been when suddenly he crossed from my left to my right. Sometimes he walks in a proper ‘heel’ position, just behind me and to the left, and sometimes he lags behind. Usually, however, he walks in front of me – not dragging on the leash, just keeping a few paces ahead of me. That evening when he changed position I looked around and saw that someone had gotten into a car across the street just ahead of us. My dog had placed himself between this possible danger and me.  After that, I noticed that he changes position whenever he perceives a danger. Whenever he sees another person, a moving car, or something out of the ordinary like a pile of rubbish by the curb, or if he hears something behind us, he gets between it and me. He is doing his 14-pound best to keep me safe.

In the Dog House: Gabriel Metsu’s Dismissal of Hagar

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Gabriel Metsu: 1629-1667


April 10-July 24, 2011


National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


4th and Constitution Avenue, NW


 

 


Hagar and Ishmael, as imagined by the 17th century Dutch Catholic painter Gabriel Metsu, are literally in the doghouse.

 

As Abraham ejects Hagar and Ishmael from his home – while someone wishes the duo good riddance as she or he leans out the upstairs window – two dogs occupy the foreground of the painting.

 

Dogs are typically signs of loyalty in northern Renaissance art, but the two dogs in Metsu’s painting, which is part of an exhibit organized by the National Gallery of Ireland, the Rijksmuseum, the National Gallery of Art (D.C.), seem to convey the opposite of loyalty.

 

 


 

 

Just as the dogs’ master is turning out his handmaiden-turned-wife and their son, one dog shows his rear end and his tail to viewers, as he disappears into the shadows of a doghouse in the bottom left corner of the painting.

 

The other dog, which emerges from the darkness of the doorway of the home into the light, expresses an interest in a slingshot-shaped bone, perhaps a wishbone or so-called merrythought bone.

 

Although the ruddy Ishmael – barefoot and dressed in an open tunic – is all innocence, as he nervously toys with his golden curls, Hagar stands her ground powerfully. Judging from the muscles on her left arm, Hagar has not only been drawn based on a male model, but “she” could probably pummel Abraham if she felt like it.

 

Per Genesis 21:14, Abraham provided Hagar and Ishmael with a loaf of bread and a jug or sack of water. Perhaps that jug is what Metsu has depicted slung over Hagar’s shoulder, but even if Hagar has been given some supplies, they are very basic.

 

The puddle behind the doghouse and the river winding its way into the background (beneath an overgrown bridge and ruins of a castle, surely spelling destruction and the passage of time) are a tease. Where Hagar and Ishmael are headed is a desert, in which, when the water supply dwindles, Hagar will leave a feverish Ishmael for dead underneath a shrubbery. It will take an angel’s intervention to save mother and child.

 

Abraham, meanwhile, is adamant as he orders Hagar and Ishmael out of the house. His feet firmly planted on the doorstep – which supports not only the patriarch, but also Metsu’s signature – Abraham’s left index finger shows Hagar just what direction she can take her son, whom Sarah accused of “playing” (many commentators say trying to kill) with her son Isaac.

 

 


 

 

Much ambiguity surrounds the figure leaning out the window. The sturdy, brown-haired figure could be Isaac waving good-bye in earnest to his half-brother, whom he will miss greatly. If the figure is Isaac, it could also represent Metsu’s invention of an extra-biblical scene: Isaac mocking Hagar and Ishmael on their way into exile.

 

This somewhat diabolical interpretation of Metsu’s — there is no indication in Genesis that Sarah or Isaac were spiteful — is laden with irony as well. Sarah has called upon Abraham to dismiss Ishmael for mocking her son (or a variety of other offenses offered by the commentators), only to have Isaac (in Metsu’s world) mock Ishmael right back and kick him while he is down. However, the figure could be Sarah, whom we can assume is thrilled to see Hagar and Ishmael sent packing.

 

The Abraham of the bible was so unsure about what to do that God had to intervene (“All that Sarah, your wife, tells you, listen surely to her voice! For through Isaac shall your seed make a name for yourself”). Per Genesis 21:11, the notion of chasing Hagar and Ishmael away “was very evil in Abraham’s eyes.” But Metsu’s Abraham has no doubts. Though Hagar looks back at Abraham, Abraham’s eyes don’t seem to meet Hagar’s.

 

 


 

 

Abraham’s attention appears to be on the heavens and the increasingly foreboding storm developing in the top left corner of the canvas. Abraham’s line of sight passes through the Isaac or Sarah figure, and one wonders if Abraham and Sarah have created the storm that has cast a shadow over the landscape, but will bring no rain when Hagar and Ishmael will need it most.

 

At the press viewing of the exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque painting, called a colleague’s and my attention to the doorways, or portals, in Metsu’s works. In The Dismissal of Hagar – and here it’s worth noting that the biblical word used in Genesis 12 is garaysh, which implies actively chasing away rather than a more passive dismissal – the doorway framing Abraham’s body is pitch black.

 

In some senses, Abraham has come out of nowhere to dismiss Hagar, and either Sarah or Isaac is probably lurking in that dark abyss. The same can be said of the dog walking into the doghouse, which is equally dark, with the exception of Hagar’s bright red dress – conveying sin or blood, perhaps? – the rest of Metsu’s palette consists of medium, earthy tones.

 

Hagar wears a similarly colored dress in Jan Victors’ work on the same subject dated about 1635. In Victors’ painting both Sarah and Isaac are visible, and though both of them smile, Abraham is much more tentative and sympathetic. Another mysterious figure (perhaps Eliezer?) appears on the horizon off to the right.

 

In Pieter Pietersz Lastman’s 1612 scene, both Hagar and Abraham wear red, and Sarah and Isaac look on from a distance. Lastman’s Abraham gently puts his hand on Ishmael’s head as he looks at Hagar. It would seem that Metsu departed from artistic precedent by depicting a firm and unsympathetic Abraham.

 

 


 

 

In The Dismissal of Hagar, Metsu has complicated the scene in many different ways. The dogs and the dark skies foreshadow, the river and the puddle (and perhaps the figure in the window) taunt and the palette accuses. The dark doorways offer Hagar, Ishmael and the viewer no entry point into the safety and comfort of the house – nothing to grab onto visually. Ishmael looks confused; Abraham resolute; and Hagar cold.

 

But most fascinatingly, Metsu has carefully balanced the visual elements so cleverly that it is tough for viewers to point fingers as confidently as Abraham does. We know how this story ends, but somehow Metsu has managed to cloud it in mystery.

 


Image (and three details): Gabriel Metsu. The Dismissal of Hagar, c. 1653-1654. Oil on canvas. Unframed: 112 x 86 cm (44 1/8 x 33 7/8 in.). Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, acquired with the generous support of the Vereniging Rembrandt.


 

 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


 


 


 

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/22/09

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

You may choose not to print this letter, but I am hoping that you will. It addresses a concern that I have rarely seen discussed in a frum publication. Nevertheless, there must be other readers who will relate to the subject.

My husband has gotten this yen for owning a dog. We live in our own home and have a nice though not very large private backyard. My husband feels that a dog would be a deterrent to unwanted visitors.

My problem, to be perfectly honest, is that I tend to cross the street when I spot a dog from a distance away. I considered the possibility that I might be able to get used to a gentle animal of my own, but I was highly skeptical. A recent experience has backed up my hunch. I should also add that as a stay-at-home-mom I am the one manning the home base, while my husband is out for the better part of the day.

Our eight year-old-son was very excited at the prospect of having a pet. But then again, he was also excited about the turtle we got him when he begged for it, and I’ll bet you can figure out who ended up cleaning up the smelly mess.

Anyhow, my husband recently visited an animal shelter in the city we live in and brought a dog home by way of convincing me that one can easily integrate itself into our household. This dog actually seemed docile enough and in no time became quite comfortable, especially when I would be cooking dinner. In response to his hungry panting, I threw him practically all of the meat that I had prepared for our family’s meal.

In fact, within a short time frame, like one day, the dog became my shadow. After a couple of days of having the dog follow me all day long (and I mean I did not even have privacy where everyone else in the world manages to have some), I felt myself going into stress overload. I wasted no further time in informing my well-meaning but misguided husband that he could choose between us: it was either the dog or me.

With much misgiving on my husband’s part and very obvious reluctance on the dog’s, the animal was duly returned to the shelter.

Was I wrong, mean, justified ?

Guess who’s in the doghouse now

Dear Guess,

Thanks for the smile, though, I imagine that you were actually far from amused, and I can’t really say I blame you. From being afraid to encounter a dog in the street to having one confined with you 24/7 is quite a leap to take.

Unless there’s an animal lover on the premises willing to take on the responsibility that goes along with owning a dog (training it, walking it, feeding and caring for it), it would be an injustice to the animal itself to assume its care. A backyard is nice but insufficient – a dog needs more attention than a fence and some fresh air and is certainly not meant for indoor confinement. By its very nature, a dog requires much romping space.

Besides, as your letter indicates, the animal lover in your home obviously had no intention of personally seeing to its welfare. To have shouldered you with the burden of dog duty, reluctant as you were to the idea in the first place, was wrong and inappropriate. I would therefore take the position that you are/were perfectly justified to have given your husband a take-it-or-I-leave ultimatum.

You comment that your husband felt the dog could serve as “a deterrent to unwanted visitors.” If this refers to a potential intruder, that’s great. But what of those who come to your door expecting a warm human welcome and are instead startled or intimidated by the sound/sight of a barking or menacing dog?

And then, of course, there is the issue of whom to leave your pet with when you have occasion to get away for a few days or longer and cannot possibly take the dog along. A pet cannot be abandoned or left to fend for itself.

No offense to animal lovers everywhere, but not everyone is cut out to own one. First you’ve got to be an “animal lover” and then you must have the means to properly care for it.

What are you doing in the doghouse? Throw off your leash and stand up straight for what you believe.

The Well Spouse’s Need To Be Cared For

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

        Most well spouses live their years as care givers without any one giving a care about them. They are rarely asked how they are or anything else about themselves. They are bombarded with advice, criticism and questions about their partners, but rarely, if ever, about themselves. If they take some respite time, they are often ostracized by their friends, community, and, in some cases, even their family. And so they forget over time what it is liked to be cared for in little ways. I received several letters that told how shocked people were when finally someone showed them some caring. In many cases it was just a sentence, but it meant the world to them.

 

         Louise, though caring for her well spouse, was caring for her daughter’s dog Lucy when she was away at university. “A larger mutt bit Lucy, and I rushed her to the vet who was not there at the time. The receptionist telephoned him to ask what they should do about the bite. He asked to speak to me. I thought he was going to give me instructions on how to look after the dog. Instead he wanted to know if I was alright! He wasn’t concerned about the dog, but about me! Wow! He saw me as the well care giver and felt (and wanted me to know) I was important too!”

 

         “When I was first divorced (from my chronically ill husband), I attended a Shabbat service at which the rabbi made me feel that only an intact family counted and a divorced home (especially that of a former well spouse) was very wrong. Consequently, I stopped going to synagogue. I was very hurt, but didn’t feel strong enough to meet with the rabbi to take issue (with him). About a month after not attending shul, I received a phone call from the chairperson of the membership committee. She wanted to know why I wasn’t attending. I explained that I didn’t feel welcome.”

 

         It turned out that she too was a well spouse who understood the history of not being cared about and not being made to feel welcome. “We chatted for over an hour and both of us cried” at having found the caring and understanding in each other. The writer goes on to say that not only did she go back to the shul but the next year “began a singles’ group which met for brunch on Sundays.” This group was for any single, no matter how they got to be single. Singles, widows and divorcees were all welcome. As time went on, they became a surrogate family. For many of them, especially the writer, it was the group that provided the caring that she had not received for so long.

 

         A well spouse support group was dealing with the feeling of not being cared about. One of the things mentioned was that their spouses never got them birthday gifts any more. One person’s husband, who was though quite ill, would remember it was her birthday and tell her to go buy herself a gift…from him. “It wasn’t the same,” she said. “In some ways it only made me feel even more ignored and not cared for.” The group decided that they would get each other flowers for their birthdays. “It was wonderful to get a present again. Even though you knew it was coming. It just made you feel cared about, at least on this special day.”

 

         In the Winter (#84) edition of Mainstay, the newsletter of The Well Spouse Association, an ill spouse, Michael Robinson, writes of his wife’s experiences with lack of caring. “One of the things that is most bothersome to me is that very few people ever ask my wife how she is doing…it is as if she is invisible even in the doctor’s office and when the reason for the visit is that she is sick, he wants to know how I am doing before asking her what brought her to the office.”

 

         When, as in the first story, the words in a mere sentence like, “Are you alright?” can mean so much to a caregiver, think what is said in a paragraph would do. If a mere sentence makes them cry for joy, imagine how an invitation for coffee or a meal might make them feel. What about a birthday gift or flowers for Shabbat or for no reason at all. What about just asking how they are, and not making reference to their spouse − just once. These are all little things we can do to show we care. Doing them would probably give hours, if not days or weeks, of feeling great joy for someone who has been in starvation mode for words and acts of caring for so very long.

 

         You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

Telling Israel’s Stories To Kids

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

        The event space at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at New York City’s famous Lincoln Square plays host to a stream of important book readings and signings. One recent gathering brought together four diverse children and young adult book authors, each reading from their individual creations that shared one common theme: Israel.

 

         The authors – Sonia Levitin, Kathy Walden Kaplan, Mark H. Podwal and Tammar Stein – each had works selected for inclusion on the Anti-Defamation League’s new Israel Book Connections list. The list, a new addition to the ADL’s website, is designed as a resource for educators.

 

         The event drew an enthusiastic audience that included local educators and librarians. Dana Lehrman, librarian at the Jane Addams Vocational High School in the South Bronx, said that the books featured at the reading had the potential for wide appeal to her students.

 

         “I work in a public high school where the student population is mostly black and Hispanic, but I think it’s very valuable for me to be involved in a multicultural forum like this,” Lehrman said.

 

         She said that the fact that the students at her school had no personal connection to Israel did not dissuade them from reading books such as the ones presented at the reading.

 

         “The universality of good literature is recognized by teenagers,” she said.

 


 

         Levitin, the most prolific of the authors in attendance, with over 40 different books published to date, had two of her works named to the ADL’s list: The Return, a story of the Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel, both written and set in the 1980′s, and The Singing Mountain, her 1998 novel about a youth’s religious transformation after a visit to Israel.

 

         At the reading, Levitin recalled how she visited Israel for the first time in the wake of Operation Moses, which in the course of several weeks in 1985 brought some 6,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan. By the early 1990′s, Levitin had already visited Israel 14 times.

 

         Israel, as seen through Levitin’s writing, is a sacred land of hope, immersed in history and meaning. The wide-eyed explorations that her protagonists experience in Israel mirror the author’s own convictions – that Israel is a land of wonder, unlike any other place in the world.

 

        

 

 

         “I think that everybody who goes to Israel, whether they are Jewish or they are not Jewish, feels a connection right away.”

 


 

         Kathy Walden Kaplan lived in Haifa for only a short time in the early 1970′s, but it made a lasting impression. Kaplan, who is perhaps best known for her career in sculpture, experienced the Yom Kippur War while in Israel, and eventually retold her story through the eyes of children and a stray dog some three decades later in her book, The Dog of Knots.

 

         Kaplan said that since her book was published in 2004, many school librarians have embraced it and added this unusual historical novel to student reading lists.

 

         “The dog is very symbolic of the problems in the region that may seem intractable and unmanageable,” Kaplan said.

 

         Even through the backdrop of war, the dog became a focal point that bonded the neighborhood together and reinforced the strength of humanity and compassion during a tumultuous moment in history, reviewers noted.

 

 

 


 

         Tammar Stein’s Light Years takes place during another difficult time in Israel’s history. In her 2005 novel, set in Israel and the United States in the late 1990′s, Stein’s heroine, Maya, is forced to confront the reality of losing a loved one in a terror attack.

 

         Stein, who has lived extensively in Israel and the United States, said that while it would be unfair to define Israel by the terrorism to which it has been subjected, she did not wish to shy away from the subject in her work. She said she spent five years working on the book, striving to develop her characters in the most realistic and honest manner possible, drawing on her relationships with real Israelis.

 

         “[The way Israel often appeared in the media] really gave the impression to people who have never been to Israel and don’t know much about the country that it is a very backwards and dangerous kind of place . . . [I wanted to] show what it is like to be an intelligent, modern person and have to deal with [the specter of terrorism] and how traumatic it is to deal with that,” Stein said.

 

         Her book goes on to depict the breadth of Israeli life beyond the conflict, as she felt it should, since that is the reality, and realism was her goal.

 

         Stein said the Israel of Light Years is as much “about a lot of the wonderful aspects of the country, the modernity, the nightlife, the amazing foods and even the high-tech industry,” as it is about the challenges of living in a time of terrorism.

 


 

         Mark H. Podwal’s book, Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses and Crescents, was published in 2005 and is intended for the youngest of audiences. As such, its popularity draws as much from Podwal’s experience as an illustrator as a writer.

 

         Podwal told the audience how his ecumenical story illuminates for the youngest of readers the role of Jerusalem as the holiest place for Jews, as well as its holiness to Christians and Moslems.

 

         While the stories each author brought to the reading were very different from each other, the unique and multifaceted cultural wealth of Israel was the common denominator that unified the reading.


(www.Israel21c.com)

Telling Israel’s Stories To Kids

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

        The event space at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at New York City’s famous Lincoln Square plays host to a stream of important book readings and signings. One recent gathering brought together four diverse children and young adult book authors, each reading from their individual creations that shared one common theme: Israel.

 

         The authors – Sonia Levitin, Kathy Walden Kaplan, Mark H. Podwal and Tammar Stein – each had works selected for inclusion on the Anti-Defamation League’s new Israel Book Connections list. The list, a new addition to the ADL’s website, is designed as a resource for educators.

 

         The event drew an enthusiastic audience that included local educators and librarians. Dana Lehrman, librarian at the Jane Addams Vocational High School in the South Bronx, said that the books featured at the reading had the potential for wide appeal to her students.

 

         “I work in a public high school where the student population is mostly black and Hispanic, but I think it’s very valuable for me to be involved in a multicultural forum like this,” Lehrman said.

 

         She said that the fact that the students at her school had no personal connection to Israel did not dissuade them from reading books such as the ones presented at the reading.

 

         “The universality of good literature is recognized by teenagers,” she said.

 

 

         Levitin, the most prolific of the authors in attendance, with over 40 different books published to date, had two of her works named to the ADL’s list: The Return, a story of the Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel, both written and set in the 1980′s, and The Singing Mountain, her 1998 novel about a youth’s religious transformation after a visit to Israel.

 

         At the reading, Levitin recalled how she visited Israel for the first time in the wake of Operation Moses, which in the course of several weeks in 1985 brought some 6,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan. By the early 1990′s, Levitin had already visited Israel 14 times.

 

         Israel, as seen through Levitin’s writing, is a sacred land of hope, immersed in history and meaning. The wide-eyed explorations that her protagonists experience in Israel mirror the author’s own convictions – that Israel is a land of wonder, unlike any other place in the world.

 

        

 

 

         ”I think that everybody who goes to Israel, whether they are Jewish or they are not Jewish, feels a connection right away.”

 

 

         Kathy Walden Kaplan lived in Haifa for only a short time in the early 1970′s, but it made a lasting impression. Kaplan, who is perhaps best known for her career in sculpture, experienced the Yom Kippur War while in Israel, and eventually retold her story through the eyes of children and a stray dog some three decades later in her book, The Dog of Knots.

 

         Kaplan said that since her book was published in 2004, many school librarians have embraced it and added this unusual historical novel to student reading lists.

 

         “The dog is very symbolic of the problems in the region that may seem intractable and unmanageable,” Kaplan said.

 

         Even through the backdrop of war, the dog became a focal point that bonded the neighborhood together and reinforced the strength of humanity and compassion during a tumultuous moment in history, reviewers noted.

 

 

 

 

         Tammar Stein’s Light Years takes place during another difficult time in Israel’s history. In her 2005 novel, set in Israel and the United States in the late 1990′s, Stein’s heroine, Maya, is forced to confront the reality of losing a loved one in a terror attack.

 

         Stein, who has lived extensively in Israel and the United States, said that while it would be unfair to define Israel by the terrorism to which it has been subjected, she did not wish to shy away from the subject in her work. She said she spent five years working on the book, striving to develop her characters in the most realistic and honest manner possible, drawing on her relationships with real Israelis.

 

         “[The way Israel often appeared in the media] really gave the impression to people who have never been to Israel and don’t know much about the country that it is a very backwards and dangerous kind of place . . . [I wanted to] show what it is like to be an intelligent, modern person and have to deal with [the specter of terrorism] and how traumatic it is to deal with that,” Stein said.

 

         Her book goes on to depict the breadth of Israeli life beyond the conflict, as she felt it should, since that is the reality, and realism was her goal.

 

         Stein said the Israel of Light Years is as much “about a lot of the wonderful aspects of the country, the modernity, the nightlife, the amazing foods and even the high-tech industry,” as it is about the challenges of living in a time of terrorism.

 

 

         Mark H. Podwal’s book, Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses and Crescents, was published in 2005 and is intended for the youngest of audiences. As such, its popularity draws as much from Podwal’s experience as an illustrator as a writer.

 

         Podwal told the audience how his ecumenical story illuminates for the youngest of readers the role of Jerusalem as the holiest place for Jews, as well as its holiness to Christians and Moslems.

 

         While the stories each author brought to the reading were very different from each other, the unique and multifaceted cultural wealth of Israel was the common denominator that unified the reading.

(www.Israel21c.com)

Self-Image And Barking Dogs (Part I)

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Chanukah is over and we are now dealing with the repercussions of wantonly indulging in crispy, crunchy, melt in your mouth potato latkes and overdosing on sugary, chocolaty, jelly-oozing donuts. Skirts that used to be a breeze zippering up (at least half-way) require the pulling in of non-existing abdominal muscles and deep inhaling in order to get the zipper moving at all. Buttons on blouses that ensured you were modestly dressed are on the verge of popping and flying across the room if you so much as move your arm. And the stairs that you used to run up with your groceries now require climbing in stages, even when empty-handed.



The fact is, you’re overweight and out of shape and you’ve got two options. Either buy yourself a new wardrobe in a bigger size or take a good look in the mirror and make some lifestyle changes.


This is especially true of the baby -boom generation. The oldest of this group are hitting 60 and need to do a reality check in terms of their appearance, but most importantly their health.


Of course the second option is the hardest one to choose – but at the end of the day – the most sensible and life-enhancing. However, in order to move forward in that direction, one crucial step needs to be taken. And that is that if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, don’t let yourself be awash in feelings of self-loathing or disgust because “you let yourself go”. Having a negative attitude is counterproductive, as you may not feel you deserve to look good or feel better and you will subconsciously sabotage your attempts to do so. You will, unwittingly, and without being aware of it, “punish yourself” for the “crime” of not being perfect.


In my experience overweight people are not necessarily gluttons who have no self-control. Many, in fact, may even eat fewer calories per day than their slimmer friends. Some people are just “blessed/cursed” with very efficient metabolisms that than convert every calorie into fuel for the body before using the next one, with unused food calories stored as fat. While many may see this as a curse – for those who were in a chronic state of food deprivation their body’s ability to hang on to calories may have made the difference between life and death. My parents survived the starvation they endured in the concentration/labors camps they were inmates of, but many of their friends and relatives who were the same age and were raised in the same economic/social level and had to live on the same meager rations did not. My guess is that my parents had an inborn ability to sustain themselves on fewer calories, a trait passed on to their children.


For despite the fact that I was an average eater and spent my free time with my twin brother outdoors climbing trees and playing soccer, chasing squirrels and pigeons and racing up and down the neighborhood on foot or by bike – either chased by the local bullies (we were small for our age) or engaged in fist fights with them (bullies tend to be cowards and back off when confronted) – I was never average but was considered chubby.


So the first step towards a healthier lifestyle is to not look down on yourself. The second is to ignore hurtful, demoralizing comments about how you look that may come from a spouse or parents, friends or adult children. Some may be well meaning but clueless as to how to express their concern in a way that will motivate you to take steps leading to better health and nutrition. Others, due to their own self-esteem issues are trying to make you feel inadequate in a warped attempt to feel superior or to control you.


Since I usually am a truthful person, I assumed everyone was, and when I was younger and people made negative comments about how I looked or how I was dressed – I believed them, much to my detriment. A “friend” would whisper, for example, in shul, that my hair was a mess or that my sweater didn’t match my skirt – and I would be so self-conscious that I would not socialize, too embarrassed to talk to anyone and thinking why anyone would want to be seen talking to a mess like me. It took a long time but I have reached a point that if I sense that someone is deliberately trying to be mean or undermine me in any way, I weigh their opinion the way I view a dog that barks at me. It’s just a dog barking. Nothing to pay attention to.


(To be continued)

The Treif Bribe

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

(This story is true. All names have been changed to protect the people’s privacy.)

It was in the late 1980s. Retired FBI agent Tim McCarthy, Inspector General for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, took the call in his office from Kevin Green, the head of the FBI-NYPD Inter-Agency Task Force investigating official corruption in New York State and City government.

“Tim, can you come down to the city ASAP?” Special Agent Green asked. “It’s something I can’t discuss on the phone.”

“Sure,” replied Tim. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the FBI office a half-hour after the train comes in from Albany.”

The next morning McCarthy and Green met in Green’s office in Manhattan.

“NYPD arrested Jose Rodriguez, a lowlife who was getting phony licenses and registrations in Brooklyn,” Green told McCarthy. “Rodriguez wants to cop a plea with no jail time. He told the cops that he could give them a ‘big guy’ at DMV, so they brought him to us.”

“Who’s he selling out?” asked McCarthy.

“Someone really big – the top civil servant in DMV in the City, the Director of Downstate Field Operations, a guy named Sam Goldberg, who he says is on the take.”

Green proceeded to tell McCarthy the whole story.

“Rodriguez runs an unlicensed private service bureau. For a fee, he brings people’s applications to DMV offices and waits in the lines. But he also deals in phony registrations for stolen or salvage cars and licenses for people who can’t get them legitimately. He collects a thousand dollars for each phony registration or license he gets. He has clerks in Brooklyn who take his paper – the fake birth certificates, phony passports, forged bills of sale, etc. – and issue good documents. They get about a hundred for each registration or license. To make sure he has no problems, he got hold of Goldberg and pays him off to look the other way and not investigate any of the ”ad paper’ he passes off on the clerks.”

“We’ve decided we’re going to pick up Goldberg and sweat him. Rodriguez gave us a lot of details and it sounds good,” Green said to McCarthy. “We want you there because you know Goldberg and can help us put pressure on him to make admissions.”

“Yes, I know Goldberg – very well, and that’s why I don’t believe this bull – story about him. He’s a religious man. He really believes that stuff in the Bible about honesty. He would never take a bribe,” McCarthy insisted.

“Well, Rodriguez told us exactly how he passes the money to Goldberg. With so many details, we have to believe him. He says he calls Goldberg around noon from the pay phones in the lobby of 80 Centre Street, where Goldberg’s office is. He gets Goldberg on the phone, using an alias they previously agreed on, doesn’t say anything, and hangs up. That’s the signal for Goldberg to come down. Rodriguez buys a hot dog from the corner hot dog stand, slips five folded 100-dollar bills between the hot dog and the napkin. Goldberg comes out of the building, goes to the hot dog stand, and Rodriguez unobtrusively gives him the hot dog with the money. Goldberg starts eating the hot dog and walks back into the building and goes to his office.”

At this, McCarthy started to laugh out loud. “You don’t know Sam Goldberg at all,” he said. “He’s 100% kosher – both figuratively and literally. He’s so honest he would never take a bribe nor would he even touch a hot dog from that hot dog stand. They’re not kosher. He doesn’t even eat just any kosher – it has to be glatt kosher. When he comes to Albany, he brings all his food with him. When we meet here in the city, all of us in DMV know this so we let him pick the restaurant for lunch.”

“You won’t sweat Sam Goldberg on this kind of bull—-. Not while I’m around,” McCarthy said.

“Pull Rodriguez in,” McCarthy insisted, tell him to make a payoff to Goldberg with marked money. You offer him complete immunity if Goldberg takes the money as Rodriguez says he does. I personally guarantee it won’t happen.”

After a lot of urging by McCarthy, Green finally agreed to the sting operation. Needless to say, Rodriguez couldn’t deliver. There was no way he could arrange for Sam Goldberg – who he hated because Goldberg actually had barred him from the Brooklyn DMV office for his illegal activities – to meet him and accept anything from him.

Years later, at my retirement party, Tim McCarthy told me this story. I had been at the press conference at which Rodriguez’s arrest was announced. Sam Goldberg was singled out for his cooperation with the investigation. Jose Rodriguez got no immunity – he pleaded guilty and went to jail as did a number of DMV clerks and others involved in the scam.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-treif-bribe/2005/05/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: