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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘person’

Reality Threat

Monday, November 5th, 2012

The following is a partial list of things I always knew I would never be good at:

1) Math 2) Creative writing 3) Jewish outreach 4) Playing with children

How did I come up with this list? Simple. Math was never my favorite subject in school and I always had to work hard to earn decent grades on math tests; creative writing may have been up my alley in elementary and high school, but over the past few years I have concluded that my thinking turned way too focused for anything imaginative to be born from it; Jewish outreach is not for a person like me who grew up in a sheltered environment and who gags over all or most exposure to secular society; and playing with children, well, I’m way too intellectual to know what to do with such purely emotional beings.

I would’ve left it at that, but over the past six months my reality began to shake. It didn’t quite topple over, but I’m trying to steady it before it does.

You see, recently, I sat in on a chemistry class. As many of you know, chemistry involves math and for me math involves anxiety. But somehow, as I sat in on the class I didn’t feel anxious and I actually enjoyed the material. It was very strange. Did something suddenly turn on in my brain that made me know and like the math? Was I really good at it? And why wasn’t I feeling uptight and nervous? I tried to draw out the anxiety I always felt when in my classes of old, but then I thought better of it and decided to just let it be.

But I walked out of there in a daze.

Creative writing. Okay, I used to be good at it, but not anymore. I haven’t written a creative piece in ages – except that a few months back something possessed me to try my hand at writing a creative story, and lo and behold, it turned out pretty good. I thought I would try to earn a few bucks for it so I sent it off to a magazine for possible publication. Okay, I’ll admit that they accepted it. I wrote a few more stories since then and a few more got published, but it’s hard to imagine myself as a writer.

I mean, I’m a writer of sorts, but certainly not the creative type.

And Jewish outreach? I don’t know what to make of this, but during the summer I got a job at a kiruv school where I tutored a bunch of students. I think they learned well and they kind of liked me too, but, really, I only helped them a bit with textual stuff and tried to answer a few of their questions as best as I was able. I keep in touch with them on a fairly regular basis, but I still don’t think I’m the kiruv type. As I said, I’m too sheltered to really be comfortable with such different walks of life.

Playing with children is also something I don’t do. I would do it if I knew what to do, but I don’t know how kids think and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to communicate with them. So, I was very surprised when a shy type of kid decided that she liked me and wanted to play with me. I mean, all I did was smile at her! I decided to try out this new experience before going back to the same old me who doesn’t know what to do with kids. I asked the little girl what she wanted to play and suggested that she get a book and that I would read it to her. She did. It was nice, but it was weird. It was hard to believe that it was me playing with this pipsqueak.

So, here I am stuck with a whole bunch of confusing scenarios that threaten to topple my identity. But I’m not the kind of person who really topples so easily and I will not allow some random aberrations to create an exception. So, to reconfirm: I am not good at math, I am not a creative writer, I will not make a good outreach professional, and I don’t know what in heaven’s name to do with children. There. Now I recognize myself. That feels a whole lot better.

S. Goldfarb

Love And Fear…Of Food

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Some of us climb a scale each day in terror and dread. Some of us alight a scale, with our hearts thumping and throats tightening. We may know how to jump off and on, or gyrate this way or that to create a different number. And we will stare at that all important number – which could very well dictate our mood for the rest of the day. We believe the final number to be the true judge of our worth – of how well we are doing. And we are sorry that the scale could not be fooled.

I try not to think back to those obsessive weighing-in days. Yes, I am not as slender as I was back then. Yes, I still have days where I feel very large, and need to remind myself that I am much more than a dress size. One day I discovered other ways to monitor size, and my scale lost its power over me. No longer was my self-worth tied to random blinking numbers. I bravely abandoned the scale that was my companion most of my youth and put it away. I learned about a whole world that did not revolve around food plans and rigid choices. I learned that food could be my friend, and I could enjoy it based on my tastes and likes. I learned that my body actually knows when food is necessary, and that I could trust my hunger. I realized that G-d wants us to eat and enjoy, instead of feeling tortured when faced with tasty food.

Eating is a constant, and we ought to notice what it is we consume. What am I choosing to eat at this moment? Do I eat with abandon, or with awareness? Am I even enjoying the food? Am I making my blessings properly, before and after a meal or snack, expressing to G-d how grateful I am for these choices?

I think of a friend, a mentor from my days in New York. She was a truly special woman who not only raised a large family, but had also begun to have grandchildren. Then she succumbed to an awful illness and quickly was gone. The first thought I had then upon hearing the news was “but she never got to be as thin as she wanted.” Yet, G-d took her. Her time was up.

What if we spend our all our waking moments mourning over an extra morsel of cake? What if we regret our food decisions each time we make them? What if we don’t see what we’ve become?

All of us are expert calorie counters. We know all the labels, and can recite the calories fat and carbs of each item. Our generation is truly more educated than any other about food, and the consequences of eating poorly. Even young children have jumped on the food bandwagon, and can rattle off the fat contents and calories. We have the knowledge to make better choices.

It is good to be aware, to be sure we are not eating recreationally, to fill time, but rather that we are reaching for food based on our internal hunger signals. I wonder, though, do we focus equally on our spiritual progress?

The High Holidays are just a few weeks behind us. We have been judged by the one true Judge – and we made promises and resolutions. The real world, the real judgement of our worth, lies entirely in our behaviors and choices. Good intentions are nice, but only valuable if we make them concrete with action. G-d does not care about the number on the scales; He does not care how much we weigh. However, He does care about how we treat our mothers and fathers. He will measure the nuances of our speech around our coworkers and how we act when we are behind the steering wheel.

Am I spending all my waking moments mourning over something I ate that was high in calorie? Am I noticing how I look or who I have become? Do I appreciate the gift of what I do have? Do I truly revel in the present, appreciating life? Do I count my blessings or my calorie consumption?

Penina Scheiner

Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Why The Ear?

The great Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai was once asked by a student, “Rebbe, I have a question which has puzzled me for some time. We find in the Torah a law concerning an eved Ivri, a Hebrew slave. He serves for six years and at the end of that time he may go free. Should he refuse, however, saying that he likes his master and prefers to remain with him, the tribunal takes him and makes a hole in his ear as a punishment.”

“This is true,” said Rabban Yochanan, “but what is there about it that you do not understand?”

“What troubles me is this,” answered the student. “Why is it the ear that is pierced? Was it not the tongue that declared that the slave did not wish to go free? Should not it – rather than the ear – be the organ that is pierced?”

“What you ask is very good and I shall tell you the answer. How does one become a slave? There are two ways: The first is being sold by the court because he stole and did not have money to pay back what he took. In this case it is the theft that caused him to be a slave.

“We tell this slave, this ear which heard the words at Har Sinai, Thou shalt not steal, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment causing the man to become a slave, shall be pierced!

“On the other hand, there are people who sell themselves as slaves. Once again we tell such a person, this ear which heard the commandment of the Almighty, Unto Me are the Children of Israel slaves, and not slaves to other slaves, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment shall be pierced.”

A Joint Holiday

Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai, as the leading rabbi of his time, would get into a great many discussions with pagans who attempted to contradict or attack the Torah. He would always answer them directly and to the point.

Once he was asked, “Both of us, Jews and Pagans alike, have holidays that are happy and call for thanksgiving. Nevertheless, our holidays never come out at the same time so that we might be happy and give thanks together on the same day for the same thing.”

Rabban Yochanan then said, “This is not really true. There is one day on which we both celebrate and rejoice together.”

“Tell me what that day is,” said the man, for I do not know to what you refer.”

“I refer to the times when rains have not fallen and the whole land was parched. All the people – Jew and pagan alike – looked to the sky for rain and on that great day when rain descended from heaven to water the parched earth, every man shouted for joy and proclaimed a holiday of thanksgiving to the Almighty. And this is what our Holy Scriptures say, the wheat fields are clothed with sheep, the valleys are wrapped with produce, they shall cheer and even sing forth, shout unto the L-rd All The Earth.”

Magic

Yet another time, Rabban Yochanan was approached by a pagan nobleman and asked, “Why do you claim that we have magic and sorcery when you yourself have this?”

When Rabban Yochanan heard this he asked, “Where in our holy Torah do you claim that we have laws that are magic and sorcery?”

“I will tell you,” answered the pagan. “In the Torah you have a certain commandment concerning a red cow. You burn its carcass and mix the ashes with water and then bring it before a man who has become defiled through contact with a corpse and you say to him, when the water is sprinkled on you it will make you pure.

“Now I ask you, is this not the magic and sorcery that you object to?”

“Let me explain this to you,” said Rabban Yochanan. “Have you ever seen a man who is mentally disturbed and it is said he has been invaded by an evil spirit?”

“Yes,” answered the man.

“Tell me, what do you do with this person in order to heal him from the evil spirit?”

“We burn incense and throw holy water upon him until the evil spirit leaves him,” replied the pagan.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

United Jewish Council’s Legislative Breakfast to Celebrate 40 Years of Service

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

November 4, 2012 (New York, NY) – The United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side (UJC-LES) will hold a Legislative Breakfast to celebrate 40 years of its service to the community and the partners who made it possible.

Several outstanding leaders of the Lower East Side will present and receive awards. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will present an award to New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, and Judge Marty Shulman will present an award to Mr. and Mrs. Dovid Sandel for Bikur Cholim, an organization that provides help to the sick and needy. Rabbi Tzvi Romm will present an award in memory of Ben Sauerhaft a long time community activist. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty CEO William Rapfogel will be Master of Ceremonies.

The United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side serves as a coordinating body of neighborhood, secular, civic, and fraternal organizations. Formed in 1971 by neighborhood leaders and residents, the UJC works to preserve and stabilize the Lower East Side of Manhattan community through the provision of a wide range of human services and community development programs. Most programs serve the needs of the elderly, while the UJC also operates a wide range of programs for families and children. To find out more about UJC-LES visit our website at www.ujces.org.

The Breakfast will take place Sunday, November 4 from 10 am to 1 pm at Congregation Chasam Sopher, 10 Clinton Street, Manhattan. The breakfast costs $36 per person with sponsorships ($180 – $1,000). The Breakfast is free for the press, but members of the media are asked to RSVP in advance to Sheila Selig at 212-233-6037 x 106 or ujcbreakfast@gmail.com.

WHAT: United Jewish Council’s Legislative Breakfast

WHEN: Sunday, November 4, 2012 – 10 am to 1 pm

WHERE: Congregation Chasam Sopher
10 Clinton Street
New York, NY

WHO: Speaker Sheldon Silver
Council Member Margaret Chin
Rabbi Tzvi Romm
Mr. and Mrs. Dovid Sandel
Mr. William Rapfogel

CONTACT: Sheila Selig, Executive Director
212-233-6037 x 106 or ujcbreakfast@gmail.com

Jewish Press Staff

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”.

Malkah Fleisher

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.

Pnina Baim

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.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/noach-hashem-hates-thievery/2012/10/17/

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