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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Israel and the Kobyashi Maru

Monday, May 6th, 2013

If you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you might not know about the Kobyashi Maru test. I don’t doubt that someone (or more) has written an entire doctoral thesis on the Kobyashi Maru test. What it is – simply – is an impossible situation in which there can be no winner.

As with so many things from Star Trek, there are deeper questions, challenges, that reflect back on the lives we lead – as people, and as citizens of nations. The paradox presented in the Kobyashi Maru test is simple. A starship is given the option – break an international…let’s say…interplanetary…treaty to rescue 300 lives that are in imminent and immediate danger…risking war…or let them die.

If you do not enter the “neutral zone” – 300 lives are lost. If you do, you are surrounded by enemy forces with little chance of successfully shooting your way out.

What do you do when you find yourself in a no-win position, caught between two immovable options? Where there is no way out put to hurt someone you love…where each side presents you the option of choosing their solution or the promise of a destroyed relationship? What do nations do when they must sacrifice some lives or risk many?

What does a nation do when it is caught between the need to protect some of its citizens, which requires, in many cases, curtailing the rights of others? What happens when as a society you want peace – and to maintain whatever peace you can manage, you must be constantly ready to wage war?

What happens when you are surrounded by enemies who are ever on alert for an opportunity to destroy you. What happens when on a personal or national level you face the Kobayashi Maru test?

Of course, the difference between fiction and reality is that, in fiction at least, you can cheat.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

All Dolled Up For The Holidays

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

“My mother always made the Jewish holidays lots of fun when we were growing up, so is it any wonder I started my own Judaica business?”


 


My daughter is looking directly into the television camera as she says these words and I’m kvelling.  You plant seeds and then you wait for moments like this.  


 


An acquaintance of hers at the Jewish Television Channel (JTC) was planning a program on Passover and contacted my daughter, the owner of a youth-oriented online Judaica store, for innovative ideas.  When she began to reminisce about the Ken and Barbie Seders at her house, the producer was smitten.  Tell me more. 


 


And so yom tov came even earlier this year.  It may have been mid-February, but my dining room table was already set for Passover, complete with Seder plate, matzah holder, Kiddush cup and Barbie dolls.  Sometimes a doll is just a doll, but when Passover rolled around at our house Ken and Barbie were honored guests, not just “at” but also “on” our Seder table.  A short explanation. 

 

 

 


Ken Doll in the role as Moses on Seder Table display

 


Growing up the child of immigrants, without even a television set in our modest Brooklyn apartment, I eagerly anticipated the Passover Seder.  When my mother replaced our simple everyday dishes with pearly white plates trimmed in gold, it was the signal that we were in store for a special night of delicious holiday foods and a blockbuster story of heroic proportions. 


 


That was the ’50s.   But it was obvious that the next generation, our children, who had been weaned on Star Trek and Indiana Jones, needed more to engage their interest for the long evening ahead.  My background in design and marketing convinced me that the medium is the message and so I set out to add punch to the epic with visual representations of the starring cast.  After all, who doesn’t love action figures?  When I resurrected my daughter’s extensive Barbie and Ken collection I was ecstatic to discover a Ken figure with a flowing mane, a la Charlton Heston.  Perfect!

 

 


Barbie Doll in the role as Miriam with her tambourine on the Seder Table

 


Off came the glitzy, immodest costumes to be replaced by attire more appropriate for a sojourn in the desert, with no sewing involved.  I merely cut a hole in a big square piece of fabric, slipped it over Ken’s head, tied it with a sash and voila, Moses was ready to confront Pharaoh and his minions. 


 


Barbie’s transformation into a Jewish maidel involved a little more ingenuity.  With a bit of lace tied around her hair and a long tunic draped over her shoulders, Bridal Barbie morphed into the prophetess, Miriam, playing her tambourine.  Additional dolls provided the supporting cast, Aaron and Tziporah.  A Styrofoam platform covered in faux grass and desert friendly foliage, with a few plastic frogs and diseased cattle, completed the scenario.


 


“This is our Victorian dollhouse,” my daughter continues, as the camera follows her to a corner of the dining room.   After two hours of filming she has become a pro.  “My mother changes the decorations for every holiday.” 


 


Like my dining room table, the dollhouse has also become “Pesachdik” with miniature matzos replacing the latkes and doughnuts that graced the Chanukah setting.  In between holidays, the dollhouse is decorated for Shabbos with traditional challah and gefilte fish. 

 

 


Passover Dollhouse

 


I first began furnishing the dollhouse over 20 years ago as a result of visit to Princeton, New Jersey, during the December holiday season.  Our children were enchanted by the town that resembled a Victorian postcard, so I adapted the idea for a Victorian Chanukah, foraging for items wherever I traveled.  A small town in Massachusetts provided one of my most treasured finds, a miniature copy of The Jewish Press.


 


Today a new generation has arisen who delights in the Seder at Bubby’s house so that when Ken and Barbie make their annual appearance at our table this year they will be greeted by my little granddaughter.  And just like Afikoman and matzah ball soup, another tradition will be passed on from generation to generation.


 

 

Helen Zegerman Schwimmer is the author of Like The Stars of the Heavens. To contact Helen, visit Helenschwimmer.com. To view the online Judaica store, visit popjudaica.com.

The Miracle Of Trying

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

         Chanukah has come and gone, and so have the donuts, the latkes and the celebration of the two amazing miracles that took place at that time. The first, of course, was the successful revolt of a ragtag group of religious Jews against the physical and spiritual presence of the Hellenist Greeks in the land of Israel. The second was the lasting of one day’s supply of oil in the Temple for eight days.


 


         These miracles are not something to think about for just one week during the year. They should be on our minds daily, for they offer a life-enhancing lesson that we should take to heart.

 

         This lesson is simple. Do not let the facts on the ground ever deter you from trying to reach a goal.

 

         It might be amusing for some to discover (like I did) that this message of trying, despite the “facts” staring at you, was often brought forth in the popular science-fiction series, “Star Trek.” It would seem that in just about every episode, the chief engineer of the spaceship exploring the galaxy would be ordered by the captain “to get us out of here.” The spaceship would be in imminent danger of being destroyed by an exploding asteroid, swallowed up by a space monster the size of a planet or trapped forever in another dimension – unless it quickly went to warp speed and zoomed away.

 

         Often the captain would tell the chief engineer that he had about three minutes to repair the warp drive. And the chief engineer, in a reproachful voice, would tell the captain that he needed at least 30 minutes and that he “couldn’t change the laws of physics.” But he would always try, and he always succeeded.

 

         Of course this was television, and a happy ending was necessary for the show to continue. But the lesson here is the one we can glean by examining the Chanukah miracles that describe two situations that, on paper, seemed hopeless and thus not worth trying to do something about.

 

         The first revolved around a group of outnumbered Jews fighting to oust their enemy. The Greek army had a large, well-oiled fighting machine. It’s likely Matityahu, the leader of the Jewish freedom fighters, must have repeatedly been warned not to even think about fighting the Greeks.

 

         Similarly when it came time to light the menorah in the Holy Temple and there was only enough oil for one day, the opinion of most might have been, “don’t bother, the flame is not going to last – so why waste what you have?”

 

         However, like the fictional chief engineer on the spaceship, Matityahu did not let logic or the laws of nature stop him from trying. He did not let the extreme odds against success hold him back from “going for it.”

 

         And neither should we. The road of life is full of potholes and seeming dead-ends. Faced with these damaging bumps in the road, or barriers and obstacles indicating that the journey is over – and that any attempt to continue is futile – there is the temptation to just accept the yoke of the status quo. The lesson of Chanukah, however, is clear. Do not give up; do not let the “facts” stop you from trying to change what seems to be cut in stone.

 

         Many years ago, while flipping through a newspaper looking for the comics, I came across the obit page. Most were a few lines, so when I saw a rather lengthy piece, I glanced at it out of curiosity. It started with the words, “eighteen years after being given six months to live, the family sadly announces the passing of…” It went on to say how this man in his upper 40′s, having far exceeded medical expectations, had outlived some of his doctors. Obviously, this man did not allow the “experts” dictate to him what his future would be. Despite the “facts on the ground” he fought – just like the Maccabees.

 

         So, too, must we not let “reality” stop us from trying to attain our heartfelt goals. There are many individuals who have been told that they are terminally ill, will never have children, will never walk again, or that their child will never be functional. Yet they or their loved one are alive and well, having achieved the supposedly impossible.

 

         The act of trying is itself a kiddush Hashem – an act of extreme faith. When attempting the seemingly impossible, you are expressing your belief that there is a Master of the Universe, who is above the laws of physics, nature, biology, etc. Hence, He can execute miracles. All He requires is that you take the first step.

 

         At the end of the day, since all is in Hashem’s wise hands, the true measure of your success will not be in the attaining, but in the trying. 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/the-miracle-of-trying/2007/12/19/

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