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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘person’

Ki-Moon Passes on Offer to Take Flying Leap With Baumgartner

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Sound barrier-breaking world record skydiver Felix Baumgartner was politely declined by an unlikely protégé on Tuesday, after offering to teach UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to sky dive.

Baumgartner and Ki-moon met during a photo opportunity, following Baumgartner’s 24 mile-above-the-Earth dive.  When Ki-moon spoke about Baumgartner’s achievement, the death-defying Austrian offered to teach him the tricks of the trade.

Ban did not take Baumgartner up on his offer, but called him “the most courageous person in the world”.

How To Have Guests And Still Enjoy Your Meal

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I feel that I am a good authority to write on this topic, because although I love having guests, it completely stresses me out. Something happens to me when we have guests over; I feel this urge to have the table perfect, the food innovative, delicious and abundant and my children buffed and shiny. When things don’t turn out well, it’s not exactly pretty. As my husband says, I don’t mind if we have guests, just don’t take it out on me. I can’t say I’ve always been successful at that. I tend to become singlemindly focused on my specific goals: having a meticulously clean, perfectly presented showcase of my home, while sorta, kinda forgetting what the whole point is. A low point was at a tehillim gathering last year before Rosh Hashana. I broke down in tears when asked what I was making for the meals because the stuffed artichokes heart I had made looked nothing like the picture in the cookbook.

This year, I resolved not to make the same mistakes. Firstly, when I host guests, I resist the urge to pile on the invites. In the past, once I was inviting one family over, I rationalized that I might as well invite a couple of more. After all, what are four more people when you’re already having six? I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more. I’ve noticed that for each additional person at the table, I tend to make at least three more portions of food. That’s a lot of stress on the cook! Also, it causes the meal to resemble a party, with either everyone talking at once, or worse, only some people talking and others being ignored. When there are only a few select guests, I can give each individual the attention warranted, which is the reason the invitation was offered in the first place.

The second thing I decided to limit was experimenting with new recipes on my guests. My husband and little children are notoriously picky. I’m a much more adventuress eater, but it’s quite difficult to eat an entire pumpkin peanut butter soup by myself (http://www.levanacooks.com/quick-pumpkin-peanut-butter-soup-recipe/). In the past, I would use the opportunity to leaf through my collection of cookbooks to find interesting recipes and create a menu from them. All too often, the food would flop, causing tremendous anxiety on my part feeling that there would be nothing edible to eat. So now, I prepare one unique dish and keep the rest of the meal to old favorites.

Then there’s the issue of too much food. Between the four types of kugels, two chickens, a meat option, and the strings beans I feel I must make or my guests will think there’s no food, there is often not enough room to even put the dishes down. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, it’s very easy to over-estimate the quantity of food people consume.

Here’s what I’ve decided: it’s far better to serve superior quality and limit the quantity. This saves time and money. For each menu, I choose one protein, one carbohydrate and one vegetable. I tend to serve either fish or soup, not both, because it fills everyone up, leaving no room for the main. Fish, with small roasted potatoes and veggies works beautifully as a main as well. In terms of quantity, I allocated one portion per person. Although there is always the fear that someone would want seconds and there won’t be enough, that has actually never happened. It’s rare for people to eat the full portion of anything when there are other choices. Regardless, even if one is circumspect with the quantity, leftovers always remain. Because it’s hard for my family to eat leftovers continuously, I divide the recipes into smaller tins and then freeze if I see they won’t be needed. This limits how much the food is being reheated. For dessert, I stock up on chocolate and nuts when they are on sale and serve it along with fresh fruit. A homemade cake is always nice, and for Yom Tov, my favorite dessert is to serve fresh hot cake that was baked during the main course along with some pareve ice cream.

In terms of the house, I’ve slowly learned to let go a little, though honestly, it’s always been a struggle. I just try to remember that when I’m in other people’s homes, I’m not judging them when I see dishes still in the sink, and I just hope they aren’t judging me. In terms of decoration, there is nothing like a bouquet of fresh flowers to make a table beautiful, but if that can’t be arranged, I do without and nobody dies. Although I enjoy using my good Shabbos dishes, when I have more then eight people at the table, I use disposable. Even with a dishwasher, the dishes can pile up fast, and I hate being busy at the sink rinsing when I should be hosting.

Noach: Hashem Hates Thievery

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

“And Hashem said to Noach: The end of all flesh has come before me since the land is filled with robbery through them, and I will now destroy the land.” – Bereishis 6:13

In this pasuk, Hashem appears to Noach, telling him the world has turned to evil and He will now destroy all of life. Noach, his family, and the animals that remained pure will be the core of a new world. The reason for this destruction is stealing – “since the land is filled with robbery.”

Rashi is troubled that thievery is being treated as the pivotal point of the world’s existence. There are many sins that are worse. Rashi seems to answer this by saying that stealing was the crime that sealed their fate. Granted they were involved in other iniquities, but this was the one that actually demanded justice.

This Rashi is difficult to understand, as we know stealing is not one of the most severe sins. There are three cardinal sins a Jew is obligated to give up his life not to commit: idol worship, adultery, and murder. While stealing is certainly a serious crime, it isn’t among these – in fact, it isn’t even in their league.

Even more to the point, in a previous pasuk Rashi told us the main crimes then were idol worship and illicit relations. The Torah tells us “all flesh was corrupted.” It is clear that these more serious sins were rampant. How then can we understand Rashi’s statement that stealing was the crime that caused their destruction?

This question can best be answered with a mashal.

Different Scales of Measure

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries on the planet; the average working man there earns about 180 dollars a year. Imagine that I walk into a Savings and Loan Company in the United States and say, “I am looking to take out a mortgage on a new home.”

The loan officer will ask me, “What is your income? What assets do you have?”

I respond, “My friend, no need to worry. Why, I earn as much as ten men in Bangladesh. In fact, I don’t like to brag, but I earn as much as a hundred men there!”

Needless to say, I wouldn’t secure a loan. Because earning 1,800 dollars a year or even 18,000 dollars a year in our economy is below poverty level.

This is an example of different scales of measure. In a third world country where much of the population is starving, earning your daily bread and water might qualify you as well off, whereas in a more affluent world, it would be quite poor. More than objective wealth being the determinant of your status, it is the standard against which you are being measured. When the bar is raised, it becomes much more difficult to be considered acceptable.

So too, in the system of Hashem’s judgment, there are different standards of measure. There is din – strict judgment, and there is rachamim – the mercy system. Strict din demands perfection. There is no room for shortcomings and no place for excuses; you are responsible. You did an act that act that brought about a result, so you are accountable – utterly, completely and totally. No mitigating factors, no extenuating circumstances. You are guilty as charged.

Rachamim is very different. This system introduces understanding: “There were compelling factors.” “It was a difficult situation.” “There are few people in this generation who would have done much better.”

In the Heavenly system of judgment, there is a balance between rachamim and din. At one point, the balance may be 60 percent rachamim, 40 percent din. At another point it might be 80/20. If strict din would be in place, no mortal could stand. Even the Avos, the greatest humans who ever lived, would not have passed.

Certain times and actions change the balance between rachamim and din. Much of our davening focuses on asking Hashem to judge us more favorably, to introduce mercy into the deliberation. On the flip side, there are certain actions that strengthen the middah of din, moving the balance over to more strict judgment.

This seems to be the answer to Rashi. It isn’t that stealing is a more severe crime than immorality – it is less severe. However, there is an element to stealing that awakens din. Stealing from a person demonstrates a total disregard of his rights – it’s as if he isn’t a person. I can take away his property, even his very sustenance. Chazal tell us, “As a person acts toward others, Hashem acts toward him.” Because robbery is an abrogation of a person’s rights, it causes a change in the way Hashem judges. It is as if Hashem says, “If you act that way toward others, then I will act accordingly to you.” Therefore, stealing changes the way Hashem judges because it causes the middah of din to react more strongly.

Palestinian Statehood, Terror, And The U.S. Presidential Election (First of Two Parts)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

President Obama and Governor Romney strongly disagree on many issues but the daylight between them is especially great in the imminent matter of Palestinian statehood. For his part, the president still believes in a two-state solution, and in a corollary willingness of the Palestinian side to negotiate fairly. His opponent is unambiguous in a fully contrary insistence that the Palestinians are not interested in peace.

One thing is certain. Jurisprudentially and strategically, Romney’s position here is substantially more compelling. After all, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are clear in their continuing commitment to use force for “self-determination” and “national liberation.” For these two contending factions, this belligerent commitment would make sense even after a formal granting of Palestinian sovereignty. This is because, in their view, and on their maps, all of Israel proper would still remain “Occupied Palestine.”

What would be the legal status of any such post-independence expressions of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens (noncombatants)? In broad terms, these expressions would be determinably criminal. More narrowly, they would constitute terrorism.

Under binding international law, a fully constituted or at least a UN-birthed state of Palestine would be unable to justify any linguistic transformations of an impermissible insurgency into permissible “self-defense.”

Terrorism, as I have pointed out in the past, is a codified and customary crime under international law. Its explicit criminalization can be discovered in all of the authoritative sources of international law listed at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Now, though unacknowledged by President Obama, whenever Palestinian “militants” claim the right to use “any means necessary” against an alleged Israeli “occupation,” their arguments are legally unsupportable and crudely contrived.

Both Obama and Romney should always be prepared to look behind the news. Even if Palestinian claims for “national self-determination” should soon be supported at the UN, most likely, it seems, as a non-member state, there will still remain ascertainable and firm limits on the allowable targets of insurgent violence, and on the permissible levels of such violence. This is the case even though any post-independence Palestinian resorts to force would now be more or less state-supported.

Both candidates should understand: Palestine’s most probable future is written in its well-documented and bloody past. The strictly limited rights of insurgency under international law can never include the use of nail-filled bombs directed at children and other innocent noncombatants. (Sometimes these projectiles have first been dipped painstakingly in rat poison.)

Under even their most generous definition in jurisprudence, these particular and restricted rights to the use of force can never supplant the settled or peremptory rules of humanitarian international law. More popularly, these rules are known as the law of war, or the law of armed conflict.

At its heart, of course, international law intends to “make sense.” Nowhere is it written that certain political goals are so flagrantly worthy of implementation that their satisfaction can ever allow the deliberate incineration of infants in their cribs, or of children in school or at play. One doesn’t need to be a professor of international law to understand such an elementary expectation of human decency. Further, under international law, it won’t matter at all if such conspicuously murderous strategies are launched by a now recognized sovereign state.

From the beginning, supporters of Palestinian terror against Israelis have argued, disingenuously, that the desired end of their “sacred” insurgency (Palestinian independence) automatically justifies their adopted means (willful and indiscriminate attacks on Jewish civilians). Leaving aside the everyday and ordinary ethical standards by which any such argument must be manifestly unacceptable, the ends can never justify the means under conventional or customary international law. Never.

For more than two thousand years, the binding principles of world law have stipulated that intentional forms of violence that are directed against the innocent are always repugnant. Hence, prima facie, these forms are always prohibited.

One person’s terrorist can never be another person’s freedom fighter. Though it’s fashionable to insist at university or embassy cocktail parties that one person’s terrorist can indeed be another person’s freedom fighter, this popular expression is utterly facile, a thoroughly empty witticism devoid of any meaningful legal content.

While it is true that certain insurgencies can be judged per se lawful (after all, the idea of “just cause” can be found, inter alia, in the Declaration of Independence of the United States), these residually permissible resorts to force must nonetheless conform to the longstanding laws of war.

…To Be Continued Next Week

The Snake Made Me Do It

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

If Eve had read www.jewishsexuality.com, she wouldn’t have followed after her eyes and got us all kicked out of the garden. If Adam had read jewishsexuality.com, he wouldn’t have eaten the “apple.” Today, we don’t have to make the same mistakes they did. We have the teachings of the Torah and the advice of the Sages to rely upon. While I won’t quote from the holy Zohar here, for people who enjoy the secrets of Torah, there’s a lot more to the snake than his pretty long tail.

Which brings us to Noach. If his generation had taken the time to read jewishsexuality.com, they could have avoided the flood. The Zohar teaches that the wanton sexual sin of the time was the real cause of the flood. Measure for measure.

Concerning Noach himself, our Sages express a certain criticism. Yes, he righteously followed each and every order in building the ark, but he didn’t hurry around the countryside, from village to village, warning people what would be if they didn’t improve their ways.  Maybe he felt they wouldn’t listen. After all, the sexual urge is a powerful passion, and people don’t like being told that they can’t do whatever they please, like they did in the days preceding the flood. Noach was a private tzaddik, minding his own business, unlike Avraham who traveled to and fro, teaching people about the godly way to live.

If a person sees that his fellow man is erring in his ways, he has the obligation to enlighten him, so that the transgressor can correct his wrongdoing. If he doesn’t, he himself becomes part of the sin. True, not everyone is on a level to rebuke others, and rebuke isn’t an easy thing to do, but the principle is clear that when you see someone heading for destruction, it is a good deed to endeavor to save him.

That is what I have been doing when writing about the mitzvah of aliyah. I don’t seek to insult anyone – rather to wake people up to the higher and holier reality which we enjoy here in theLandofIsrael, living according to the guidelines of Torah. And this is why I urge readers to browse through the jewishsexuality.com website, to alert them of the dangers that brought on the flood.  Whether it is the flood of assimilation that is devastating the Jewish People in the Diaspora, or the flood of immodesty and licentiousness on the Internet in which the world is drowning, everyone must do his share to save not only himself, but also his fellow.

Put the two together and you get the Covenant of the Brit between God and the Jewish People, coming up in the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, where our sexual holiness and the gift of the Land of Israel are inseparably linked.

How Marriage Can Make You Richer

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Comedian Billy Connolly once said, “Marriage is a wonderful invention; then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.” However, what Mr. Connolly probably was not aware of when he said this was that marriage can also prolong your life more than a bicycle repair kit would.

Once retired, married couples tend to live longer than single people do, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But they don’t just live longer. They also accumulate more wealth during their working years. Of course, every retired person’s situation is different. Some have managed to accrue enough savings and successful investments in their working years to have a comfortable life, while for others, when their income drops post-retirement they have very few resources.

Some people can retire well even though they have minimal savings. This is because they may have assets, such as a house and pension benefits, that allow them to live comfortably.

What was interesting in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s study was that it showed that single people accrued far fewer assets than married people, even though they had fewer people to support during their lifetime. Interestingly, 57% of single-person households were left with no housing wealth or just $10,000 in savings when they passed away. While the surviving spouses of married folks were often hit hard financially when they were widowed, they still did better in terms of asset accumulation than their single peers.

The bottom line is that in financial terms, marriage may be justified. For example, although there are usually more dependents in a marriage situation, such as children and/or a stay-at-home spouse, couples are more likely to put down roots and buy a house, which can significantly boost their net assets, post-mortgage payments. And when both partners in a marriage have worked, then the differences in asset accumulation are even more obvious.

While comedians often like to make fun of marriage and family life, there is nothing funny about its potential to make you richer, or your retirement more comfortable. And if you and your spouse are so inclined to go bike riding, don’t forget to bring along your bicycle repair kit.  It, like marriage can make your future more secure.

Everybody Is a Winner

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

I recently read a disturbing news article about a social phenomenon that is tragic beyond words.

The article stated that more people were losing their lives by committing suicide than by car crashes. This conclusion was based on a recent study by the American Journal of Public Health based on data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics from the years 2000-2009.

The study found that vehicular fatalities during this period had declined by 25%, but deaths from suicides rose 15%. Experts, however, believe that the number is actually closer to 20%, and that many deaths listed as accidental were not. There is a cultural and religious stigma in regards to killing oneself, so some suicides were orchestrated to look unintentional.

Conversely, despite it seeming as if there are more drivers on the road – we are all to often frustrated by traffic congestion that turns highways into parking lots – and the increase in distracted drivers, the decrease in car accidents was attributed to various safety features like front and side air bags, seat belts and stricter penalties for speeding and drinking.

So why are so many people killing themselves, or attempting to, since some try but fail? I can only imagine that they are looking for a way out of lives saturated with abject misery; they feel trapped in a cage of never-ending unhappiness.

Many wake up wishing they hadn’t. Each day is emotionally traumatic and they do not even entertain the possibility of their lives getting better; they have no iota of hope that the situation they find themselves in will ever improve.

In trying to understand the mindset of a suicidal person, I imagine that it is like having your finger stuck in a flame. No matter how hard you try to pull the finger out of the fire, you cannot. You are in such torturous pain, and so desperate for the agony to stop, that you want to kill yourself to get blessed relief. You see no other option.

But their excruciating pain is not physical – it is emotional.

They are enveloped in the flames of relentless despair and hopelessness; some try to dull the pain through alcohol, drugs or unsavory distractions and behaviors. But all they manage to achieve is a temporary respite. Their finger is still in the fire and they face endless years of torment. I believe the fuel feeding this flame is a deep sense of worthlessness, an overwhelming belief that they are perpetual losers; thus they see no point in even trying to strive for success, be it socially, financially or spiritually.

They have given up, believing they have failed and will continue to do so. They feel like caged gerbils on an exercise wheel, running and running and running to no avail – as hard as they try, they get nowhere.

Sadly, the “oxygen” that feeds this extreme sense of inadequacy is often supplied by those who should have been building their egos and fortifying their sense of self, planting and nurturing the seeds of confidence and self-like that would bloom into a happy, optimistic, and emotionally healthy human being. These include mothers and fathers, siblings, spouses, teachers, neighbors, friends, colleagues, employers – even strangers.

Constant, unrelenting criticism, denigration, and belittling – whether unintentional (in a misguided attempt to motivate you to do better academically, improve your job performance, or your looks,) or deliberate – bullies trying to shore up their own low self-esteem by mocking, teasing, and even physically hurting someone they perceive to be a bigger “loser” than themselves – whittles away a person’s belief that he is worthful (as opposed to worthless) and deserving of respect.

Individually, every put down or jab is just a single straw, but thousands of these straws piling up over the years can crush the strongest back and break the sturdiest spirit.

(I remember when I was little and would walk down the street, an elderly neighbor who often sat on his porch, would call out to me, “Hey fatty!” I was a bit chubby, but what did he gain by denigrating me? I was too much of a tomboy to care how I looked, but it was a negative straw nonetheless.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/everybody-is-a-winner/2012/10/14/

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