This week, Anne Hornung-Soukup, finance director of the ACA (American Citzens Abroad), comes back to Goldstein on Gelt to tell us more about the American government’s taxation policy and how it relates to U.S. expats. Taxation for American citizens abroad is a complicated story. Listen to this week’s show to find out how U.S. taxes still affect you, even if you haven’t been back to the States for years or have never been there but have American parents…
Posts Tagged ‘LIFE’
Gail Reynolds, the “Six Million-Pound Mum,” shares more of her insights on how to build a business while being a full-time mother. Gail tells us more about how she worked her way up through Avon to become a successful woman entrepreneur who has addressed the European Union on the subject of women in business. How did she do it? And can it work for you? Listen to this weeks show to find out.
I’ve been chugging along for the last few days trying to think what to write, not feeling there was much to say. The wonderful thing about the flat of the roller coaster is that time seems to stretch without a sense of urgency. It’s so boring on the flat of the roller coaster and I am grateful for boring. I am grateful that I can go to sleep at night and not worry that my phone may not be charged enough. Everything is okay; missiles aren’t flying and my sons are home safe. Boring is one of God’s greatest gifts!
Elie is studying engineering; Shmulik is looking into studying computers and Davidi needs a haircut! Aliza is cruising towards her 13th birthday, just as Davidi is in the final days before he turns 17.
My oldest daughter is studying and watching her baby gain words and actions every day. It is amazing how quickly babies learn – at least this one. I know they all must, but I just don’t remember seeing a baby understand so much, so fast, so early.
My children were the most amazing…how is it possible that a grandchild can be as amazing (perhaps even a bit more amazing in some ways?). He calls me “Savta” – grandma in Hebrew, and my heart melts. He gives me a kiss and I am unsure I can ever put him down. You can talk to him and he talks back. He was over today and when Aliza went upstairs for a minute, he walked over to the steps, looked up and called, “Iza! Down!” He walked around the room identifying things, calling out words. This is the beauty of the calm oasis of today.
Sometimes I feel that something is coming – and it’s scary. I don’t know what it is, if it is. I saw a report that 400 people were killed in Syria today – bodies are being found and there are reports of chemical weapons being used. Iran remains an open sore; a danger on the edge. The Egyptians aren’t particularly stable; God knows what is happening in Lebanon and Jordan issued a warning to Jews last week not to visit dressed in apparel that easily identifies them as Jews…for their own safety of course. Personally, I’d cut to the chase on that one and tell Jews not to visit, but never mind.
Driving home today with Elie on a beautiful sunny day, I felt this pressure, this concern as we drove up the mountain to Maale Adumim. It’s probably a combination of a lot of things. For one thing, I’m busy at work – two courses running, a new writer starting, and to top it off, we’re coordinating an amazing national conference for February 7 (www.megacomm.org).
The Executive Director of an organization wrote to me explaining their interest in attending the conference. The conversation turned a bit personal and wanting to show that I have an interest in the work they do, I mentioned that I was “A Soldier’s Mother.” I provided a link to the blog – hoping she would come here and read a bit and see that we share common interests.
And in the response – sadness turned to a smile. “Oh my goodness,” she wrote, “YOU are asoldiersmother?…I read your blog and have shared your pieces often.”
I guess it’s my ego, but I find that so cool. I like when people say, “oh, I’ve heard of you” or “I read your blog.” But, I just loved that “YOU” are a soldier’s mother? I’m not sure, but I think I wrote back, “I am, I am.” If I didn’t write it back, I certainly thought it.
I am, you see – for 31 days this year, an active soldier’s mother; and for 365 days a year for the next 25 years or so, the mother soldiers that can be called – any time, without warning. I’ve experienced the “Tzav Shmona” – an immediate mobilization and I can tell you that I pray to God I never experience it again. I can still feel the air leaving my body when I heard Lauren tell me that they were on the way back to Maale Adumim for Elie to get his army gear, that he’d been called in.
Life’s petty annoyances…
What can I do about a sister-in-law who dresses like a slob? When she comes to visit us for Shabbos, it is embarrassing for me to be seen with her or to have other company over. I’ve even offered to take her shopping, but she finds excuses not to take me up on it and doesn’t really seem to care. Truth is she lives in Brooklyn and we are in Long Island, and so we don’t get to see one another much on weekdays.
I should say that her husband (my brother) isn’t too bothered by his dowdy-dressing wife so soliciting his help wouldn’t do a thing. My husband says live and let live and doesn’t understand my obsession with this or why it gets to me at all.
Do you see any way for me to knock some style sense into her?
Chic she’s not
You’re trying too hard. Designer labels are not for everyone and the fashion police won’t issue her a summons for failing to be fashion conscious. The reality is that some people simply can’t be bothered fussing with a wardrobe and are perfectly content and comfortable wearing loose-fitting and casual clothes that may strike another as colorless and boring. As the saying goes, to each his own.
Instead of focusing on your sister-in-law’s exterior, try concentrating on her inner qualities and talents. For her birthday you can make the effort of presenting her with a nice sweater or top that was “on sale” and that you thought would go well with the color of her eyes or that skirt she seems to favor. Other than that, give it a rest; surely your energy can be put to better use.
There is a couple in my neighborhood whose marriage is on the rocks and from what I’ve been led to believe, her relentless nudging may be a contributing factor. They’ve only been married a few months but it seems that the wife is constantly berating her husband for not going to shul on time on Shabbos mornings.
How would I know? Her husband confided in mine, and I would just like to put the message out there for wives to stop berating their husbands and treating them like babies.
The worst thing a wife can do is to make her man feel inadequate or worthless. Chances are he’s been getting up early all his life and was nudged by his mother in his single years about getting to shul on time. Now is his chance to be independent, to do his own thing, and his wife should let him.
In time, especially with kids in the picture, he is bound to come around and get up on time on his own. Right now, the wife should mind her own responsibilities and keep mum about his. He is a grown boy and knows what he has to do.
Marriage is not about nagging
Right you are. The last thing a husband wants is a mother figure in a wife. If nothing else, voicing her displeasure is not likely to motivate him to get to shul on time.
She can try getting up early herself to fix him his favorite morning beverage and then prepare to join him enthusiastically on his walk to shul. He may even start looking forward to making it on time. What is certain is that you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.
How do I stop a yenta from minding everyone else’s business? I work in a large office with many other girls and this one woman is always questioning me about my personal life. At first I thought this was just her way of being friendly, but before I knew what was happening I was bombarded by twenty questions, from my age and where I live, to how many kids I have, when I got married, where my husband’s from and what my sandwich consists of (no kidding; we were in the lunch room).
Am I being too sensitive? I am sort of a private person and old school; details of my personal life are no one’s affair unless I volunteer to share them. How do I handle this type of situation and what should be my comeback to Ms. Busybody when she next intrudes on my lunch break?
The great debate over the internet has been focused on the Shmutz (pornography) it contains and the pitfalls of dragging people into an abyss of internet addictions that have destroyed families. I don’t think this is an arguable fact. It is a danger that affects everyone. Religious , secular; Jews and non Jews alike.
There are religious Jews right here in Chicago I know personally that were ensnared into online chat-rooms that in one case – if not for intervening circumstances – may have led a married male adult into an affair with a minor teenage girl!
I am not going to go into what the root psychological causes are for such things. Suffice it to say that the internet is not a cause but a facilitator to such terrible ends. I would go so far as to say that there are probably more people who have these problems than we may think – considering that addictions of this type are so easy to hide because of the ability to quickly both access and delete an internet site.
In that sense I agree (and always have) with those on the right who say that these dangers are real and we need to protect not only our children – but ourselves from becoming exposed and addicted to these sites. I would add that if one does have such an addiction that they seek professional help before it ruins their marriage …and their lives. Because – as I said the addiction is there for psychological reasons.
But this post is about another less talked about but serious issue about the internet. It is about opening up a world heretofore closed to many religious Jews. It is the world of information and knowledge that is not sourced in the narrow culture that one is raised in. One will find perspectives on life that are radically different from what they are used to and are quickly accessed. And sometimes this new information can play havoc in one’s life.
This phenomenon was ably described in an article in Tablet Magazine. It was written by a young woman who has left her Chasidic community. It’s hard to tell from her article whether she remained observant – although there are hints that she may no longer be. But clearly she lost a lot because of her odyssey on the internet. Her husband eventually left her.
Even though one can see here how online experiences contributed to her journey, I reject the notion that learning about and even accepting the perspectives of other people is necessarily a bad thing. It can be but it depends on the particular perspective one accepts. I happen to believe that some of what she experienced was a good thing. The following is a telling excerpt about her journey:
I was not raised to think. I knew what I needed to know: about tznius and that modesty is, or should be, my most important preoccupation. I knew that striving to have seven or 10 or a dozen children and being a good and pious homemaker is the pinnacle of achievement for a woman, the thing I was brought into this world to accomplish. Secular education was frowned upon. More than frowned upon: Being educated, oifgeklert, was a shame, a blight on the family. There was the very bare minimum of secular education, of course: reading and writing and elementary math. But even that was an afterthought. Fear of God, being a good girl, and growing up a pious Hasidic woman was the meat and potatoes of our education.
On the Internet, I cared about so many topics, yet knew that I still knew so little. The world, the physical boundaries, the world of ideas, the world of dangerous questions and of even more dangerous answers seemed big, wide, and endless. It was a world of things I never imagined and never even dared to try and imagine.
I got to know some people on the Internet. A rabbi from Brooklyn, father of six children, emailed me that he read my questions about the prohibition on birth control and that he would be glad to show me the rabbinic sources on the matter and that a lot of what I was taught in my Hasidic girl’s school might be not be true. A woman, Modern Orthodox, responded to my description of the Hasidic ritual of shaving the head by asking, “Why in the world do you do it?”
Because you have to, I said.
That she learned that the dogma of Chasidus does not define observant Judaism for everyone is a good thing. Knowledge in this case is power. But did her online experience take her too far? Could that have been prevented if it did?
It is never a good idea to live two lives which she did at first. An overt one in her isolated real world – and a covert one in her virtual world online. At the same time – had she been more open from the start I’m not sure her online education would have been tolerated in her community. Even if it meant only changing her Hashkafos and not essential religious beliefs and practices.
Knowledge is good. It is a powerful tool for improving one’s life. But in some cases, as with this woman it also had a terrible consequence.
This is not to say that all knowledge will improve one’s life. Many skeptics have been created by being exposed to contradictions between science and Torah that seem to be irresolvable. Or to Biblical criticism based on modern scholarship.
One well known blogger (who no longer blogs) very famously and very publicly became a skeptic in precisely that way. And he expressed sorrow at it – although to the best of my knowledge he remains a skeptic to this day. This is not a good result.
Does that make a ban worthwhile? One could argue that it does – since saving the soul of even one Jew is worth the price. The problem is that the internet is not the cause. Just as is the case with porn addiction, the internet is a facilitator.
Bright young minds will have questions. The most logical place to see answers is from your parents or teachers. But when questions are explicitly or implicitly forbidden, these very same young people will seek answers elsewhere. The easiest place to find them is the internet. Ban, no matter how strong they are, no matter how enforced they are will not prevent a young person from somehow finding access. And that’s when the slippery slope begins. Furthermore the taboo against the internet will prevent any countervailing arguments.
Young people will have questions and the internet is too ubiquitous to withstand any ban, no matter how severe. Once one is convinced they found the truth in the words of heresy, no one will be able to disabuse them of that notion.
A far better approach in my view is to meet the challenge head on. Orthodox students should never be discouraged from asking questions. And more importantly teachers have to be prepared to answer them. And admit when they don’t have a good answer.
Mayim G’nuvim Yimtaku. Stolen waters are sweet. The more something is banned, the sweeter the forbidden fruit becomes and will surely be sought out by increasing numbers of people. It is of no use to simply say to a student “Don’t go there.” Or accuse a questioner of heresy by dint of merely asking a question. People with unanswered questions will find a way to answer them. And often those answers are what leads them astray.
Nowhere is the ban stronger than in the Chasidic world where this writer is from. Did she leave observance entirely? I don’t know. Could it have been prevented if she had been denied internet access? Again, I don’t know. But one thing is certain. The internet is here to stay and becoming as integral a part of our lives as the telephone is. More so, in fact.
I may be spitting in the wind here. I’m sure that very few Chasidim will be reading this post. And even less pay attention to it. Certainly not their leaders. But even though I am a Daas Hedyot, that doesn’t mean my points aren’t valid. Or that my warnings aren’t true. Or that my advice shouldn’t be taken seriously. MiKol Melamdei Hischalti. So I will offer it anyway knowing full well that no one in that world will take heed.
Learn a lesson from this woman’s story. Open up your minds. Allow questions to be asked. Be prepared to answer them honestly and to admit not having answer when you don’t. Teach your students to use the internet responsibly and don’t make into a forbidden fruit with bans and extreme sanctions. Do not expel people form you community who do not adopt ever Chumra you demand of them. Be tolerant of all Hashkafos. You never know. This may actually do more to preserve your way of life than all of your
In response to yesterday’s blog about Mashiach, I received a few questions about Jezeus, the heralded Xtian messiah, so before continuing with our discussion about the true Jewish Mashiach, I will try to shatter this terrible Xtian myth that has plunged mankind into darkness for the last 2000 years. Hopefully, this knowledge will give you the ammunition you need should you encounter one of the Jews for Jezeus missionaries who are crawling like cockroaches all over the globe in search of hapless Jewish victims.
It is explained in the Talmud that the first missionary, the “one from Nazereth,” was a student of Rabbi Yehushua ben Prachia, one of the great Sages of the time and leader of the Great Assembly. Traveling together on a journey, they stopped at a lodge along the way. After a lady innkeeper attended to their needs in a diligent fashion, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia praised her for honoring Torah scholars in the appropriate manner. Pure and saintly as he was, he remarked in an innocent fashion, “How pleasant this innkeeper is.” The commentator Rashi explains his remark as referring to, “her deeds.” However, the “Nazereth” jumped up and exclaimed, “But her eyes aren’t pretty!”
When Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia heard his student say this, he proclaimed, “Evil person! You are preoccupied with this!?” meaning looking at women. And he drove him away in the most severe manner, as the Talmud records, “He thrust the Nazereth away with both hands” (Sotah, 47A).
In his lectures about the Mashiach at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained that the Sages of the Talmud deliberately stated that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia “thrust the Nazereth away with both hands,” as opposed to pushing him away with the left hand and drawing him close with the right, in the usual educational manner. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia reacted in this emphatic way in thrusting the “Nazereth” away to show that he was clearly not the Mashiach.
The task of the Mashiach (or the Messiah, as he is known in English) is to save the Jews from its enemies and rebuild the Nation of Israel, yet the followers of Jezeus have slaughtered millions and millions of Jews and done everything in their power to keep Israel lowly and weak. Referring to Christianity’s renegade founder, the great Jewish Torah Sage, the Rambam (also known to the English-speaking world as Maimonides), writes:
“Can there be a greater stumbling block than this one? All of the Prophets spoke of the Mashiach as the redeemer of Israel, and as its savior, who would gather their dispersed, and strengthen their observance of the commandments, while this one caused the annihilation of Israel by the sword, and caused their remnants to be scattered and scorned. He caused the Torah to be altered, and brought the majority of the world to err, and to serve a god other than the Lord” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:4, see the uncensored edition of Mossad HaRav Kook Publications).
Thus, if you come across a missionary for Jezeus, you have permission from the Talmud and from the Rambam to thrust him away with both hands.
The prohibition against idol worship tops the list of the Ten Commandments. No one is allowed to make or worship a graven image. As the Rambam explains, “The essential principle concerning idolatry is that people are not to worship anything created – neither angel, planet, star, the elements, or something derived from them” (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship, Ch.9).
This includes great golden Buddhas, Hindu monkey gods, totem poles, statues of Jezeus, and the like. I would post a few photos in illustration, but it is even forbidden to gaze upon the picture of an idolatrous figure, as it says, “Turn not after their idols” (Vayikra, 19:4. See Rambam, 2:2, loc. cited).
In his writings on Christianity, which he calls, “Minut,” Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook explains that it began as a breakaway sect of Judaism which grew in influence and ultimately led the world astray with its doctrines. He categorizes it as idol worship, and says that its founder brought the majority of the world to err by serving a god other than the Almighty. By abandoning the mitzvot, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While imitating many of Judaism’s values and beliefs, Christianity actually led the world away from the true service of God.
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The gentle sound of the piano fills the air, its soothing tone effectively relieving stress while giving rise to inner peace. I immerse myself in the magnificence of the song – “ki Hashem Hu HaElokim baShamayim v’al kein n’kaveh Lecha” (Hashem is the only G-d – in Heaven above And therefore we place our hope in You that we may soon see Your mighty splendor.) – performed by the popular singer Yaakov Schweky.
How melodious the words, each syllable resonating transporting me to a planet that is ruled by calm and tranquility. Music, an integral part of my soul, can erupt and give voice to sudden song and rejoicing, and I thank the One Above for the beauty He created and orchestrated in this world for humanity to enjoy.
In Tehillim, prayers, zemiros, and at special events such as weddings, the sound of music uplifts each of us, “gladdening the heart” for the moment.
Alas, no longer do my fingers roll effortlessly over the piano keyboard, my first “love” that featured prominently in my life from early childhood on into young adulthood… For now, like a prisoner in chains, each morning upon awakening I feel the blood draining from my body.
Another day of death and murder by a man responsible for robbing me of LIFE and living.
An Agunah in Agony
Music stirs the soul, perhaps like nothing else. Music evokes joyful memories of tender moments and nostalgic recollection. The haunting sound of the violin can make a grown man weep; the jubilant strumming of the guitar can induce one’s soul to dance in wild abandon.
Dovid HaMelech found ultimate expression of every emotion known to man in the strings of his harp. Chassidic rebbes of yore aroused spiritual longing in the hearts of their disciples with uplifting tunes and zemiros.
As I write, I am being taken back in time, to the recent past, when I had the good fortune to be part of the spellbound audience of a beloved rebbe as he danced the ceremonial mitzvah tantz with the kallah – his daughter – to the most inspiring tune of Reb Shlome’s Niggun. Man, woman and child without exception were transported to another era, to a place that transcends the here and now. Ah, forgive my diversion – for this is a letter not so much about the subject of music as it is of a tragedy of our time – the plight of a helpless agunah.
Two years and one month ago, to be precise, you wrote to this column of your heartbreak. You were a widow when a fellow from overseas courted you via long distance communication for six months. He turned on his charm and had you believing in him and in that happiness would be yours forever after. Yet within 24 hours after marching to the chuppah, he was exposed as a fraud – when, to your horror, you discovered he was not at all what he purported to be. Sadly left no alternative, you confronted reality and asked for a get within a few weeks.
More than three years have now elapsed since that time, and pathetically you languish “in captivity,” robbed of the right that most of us take for granted.
I appeal to anyone in our reading audience who may be in a position to help you out of your wretched state to get in touch via this column. Such individual would stand to reap the tremendous mitzvah of saving a life and of freeing a prisoner.
Our prayers are with you, and our hope is that you will soon emerge from your dark confines to enjoy the joyous and sweet music that will break out in celebration of your freedom.
Wishing our reading audience and all of Klal Yisrael a G’mar Chasimah Tovah!