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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘test’

Aliyah and the Gifted Child

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

As an education writer for the nonprofit organization, Kars4Kids, and as someone who made Aliyah from Pittsburgh 34 years ago, I decided to write about the challenges of Aliyah from western countries with school age children. See the previous piece in this series, Aliyah and the Special Needs Educator. Today I interview Rachel Moore of Neve Daniel.

Varda: Tell me about yourself, Rachel.

Rachel Moore

Rachel Moore

Rachel: I am 41 years old, expecting my 8th child. I have been working in PR and communications for the past 17 years in government and the non-profit world. I blog, sing, and study Torah whenever I can grab an opportunity.

Varda: When did you make Aliyah? How many children did you bring with you and what were their ages?

Rachel: I made Aliyah in 1995 at 22. However, I left again in 2000 and spent 12 years back in the U.S. for personal reasons, and only moved back in July of 2012.

My second time settling here was truly Aliyah for my children, who at the time were 12, 11, 11, 9, 7 and 4.

My eldest is my stepson, 19, who is a sophomore at Rutgers University in the U.S. He did not move here with us. My other 6 children are now 13, 12 year-old twins, 10, 8 and 5, and I am due with another one – today, actually[Rachel had her baby that evening, a little boy! V.E.].

Varda: Tell me about your children. What are their difficulties?

Rachel: We have at least two children who have been classified as “gifted” outside of Israel, and meeting their needs is a challenge, and also requires learning the system. In addition, I have one daughter who I suspect as having ADHD, but she hasn’t been classified – yet.

Varda: Where do they go to school?

The newest addition to the Moore family.

The newest addition to the Moore family.

Rachel: My 13 year-old daughter attends Orot Etzion girls’ school. My 12 year-old twin boys attend Horev High School (7th grade), my 10 year-old son attends Carmei Yehuda, Mamad Hativa Bogeret boys’ school in Alon Shvut, my 8 year-old daughter attends Shirat Chanan, Mamad Hativa Tzeira in Alon Shvut, and my 5 year-old attends the Mechina of Orot Etzion in Neve Daniel.

Varda: Do your children receive additional help outside of school?

Rachel: My daughter with [suspected] ADHD sees a therapist (in English) outside of school that specializes in children with this disability. My 10 year-old son is now enrolled in a gifted pull-out program in Efrat once a week called Afikim [Eligibility is determined by both written and oral tests and only 1.5% of students are accepted], and is in mitzuyanut [gifted class]within school. We had to get him special permission to take the test to qualify for Afikim at the beginning of 5th grade, because the test is usually given in 2nd grade.

We believe that our 2nd grader would have qualified [as gifted] the year we moved here, but we didn’t know she had the option to take the test in English or with translation help. No one had explained this to us, so she took it with the rest of the class. We may still pursue an appeal so that she can retake the test, but it will probably be an uphill battle.

Varda: What out-of-pocket expenses do you have in educating your children and what is covered by the state?

Temptations, Tests, and the Search for Spiritual Courage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

I was recently walking down the street when I smelled one of the most amazing unkosher cuisines I could ever remember smelling. As I stared at my food enemy, I had a thought which I imagine most religious Jews have at one point or another. I wondered: Was God testing me with this great smell? Was this amazing scent a way to bring my downfall?

Pondering this trivial “test” led to a greater philosophical and theological question: What is the religious nature of temptations and tests?

The Torah says, “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He sent hardships to test you.” (Deut. 8:2). We read that G-d has Bnei Yisrael wander in the desert for 40 years as a test.

What is this about? To place a nation (man, woman, and child) through such transient and confused misery for decades as a test? I also often wonder if the Jewish people are being tested today, with our own state in Israel and unprecedented wealth and influence in the US. What will we do with the great blessings we’ve been granted? What does this idea mean that G-d tests us as individuals and as a nation?

It must be more than schar v’onesh (that God is merely keeping our score card) or that G-d is merely flexing power in the world.

I also can’t relate to the cynical answer found in the book of Job, where God tests Job because of a disagreement with Satan. My belief in a benevolent and personal G-d precludes the possibility of random tests.

Still within distance of smelling my temptation of the day, I began to ponder answers:

For years, the most compelling answer to me has been that it is through the struggle of these challenges that we truly grow. These temptations are ways of teaching people about G-d and the incredible human capacity for compassion and spiritual depth. The Ramban argues that this was exactly the purpose of the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) for Avraham.

Alternatively, perhaps there is a utilitarian approach that more people can learn from a test than the one having to undergo the discomfort of the test. The Rambam and Radak argue that the purpose of the test at the Akeidah was not for Avraham to learn but for the future adherents of the Abrahamic faith to learn. This sets a gold standard for others to try to follow.

Rav Kook goes even further, arguing that Avraham was being tested in order to “prove” to the pagan religions that monotheism can match the religious passion of pagan worship through the act of inward sacrifice, without the need for savage and barbaric sacrifices. One is being tested in order to teach others through its example.

Another utilitarian approach is that tests can provide opportunities for others to do mitzvot to help when we are struggling. It is for the moral good of the community at large.

These explanations may be true and all of them are worth thinking about but Rav Tzadok teaches that just as a person needs to believe in G-d so too one needs to believe in oneself. These days many of us (including myself) are struggling less with why we are tested by G-d and more with how we can overcome our obstacles and challenges to live a happier, more meaningful, more successful life. Do we believe in our own capacity to overcome in the face of adversity?

One tool that we can all consider experimenting with: The Gemara says that the Torah is the seasoning for the yetzer hara (personal evil inclination). The Maggid of Mezritch offers a beautiful interpretation that since the yetzer hara is the main dish and the Torah is the seasoning, we must serve God with the full ecstasy of the yetzer hara. The purpose is not to destroy or subdue the yetzer hara but rather to spice it up – to access its energy and channel it towards good.

This is to say that when we experience struggle we should use that temptation and channel that new energy towards good rather than attempt to dismiss or remove the temptation. This is why the Midrash explains that without the yetzer hara there would be no business or procreation. In a complex way, we need our desire for self-advancement to further societal goals.

Testing And Prophecy

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

How did our ancestors distinguish a true prophet from a false one?

Unlike kings or priests, prophets did not derive authority from formal office. Their authority lay in their personality, their ability to give voice to the word of God, their self-evident inspiration. But precisely because a prophet has privileged access to the word others cannot hear, the visions others cannot see, the real possibility existed of false prophets – like those of Baal in the days of King Ahab.

What was there to prevent a fraudulent, or even a sincere but mistaken, figure, able to perform signs and wonders and move the people by the power of his words, from taking the nation in a wrong direction, misleading others and perhaps even himself?

Moses addresses this concern in our sedra:

“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

On the face of it, the test is simple: if what the prophet predicts comes to pass, he is a true prophet; if not, not. Clearly, though, it was not that simple.

The classic case is the Book of Jonah. Jonah is commanded by God to warn the people of Nineveh that their wickedness is about to bring disaster on them. Jonah attempts to flee, but fails – the famous story of the sea, the storm, and the “great fish.” Eventually he goes to Nineveh and utters the words God has commanded him to say – “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed” – the people repent and the city is spared. Jonah, however, is deeply dissatisfied:

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3).

Jonah’s complaint can be understood in two ways. First, he was distressed that God had forgiven the people. They were, after all, wicked. They deserved to be punished. Why then did a mere change of heart release them from the punishment that was their due?

Second, he had been made to look a fool. He had told them that in 40 days the city would be destroyed. It was not. God’s mercy made nonsense of his prediction.

Jonah is wrong to be displeased: that much is clear. God says, in the rhetorical question with which the book concludes: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Should I not be merciful? Should I not forgive?

But what then becomes of the criterion Moses lays down for distinguishing between a true and false prophet: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”? Jonah had proclaimed that the city would be destroyed in 40 days. It wasn’t; yet the proclamation was true. He really did speak the word of God. How can this be so?

The answer is given in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been prophesying national disaster. The people had drifted from their religious vocation, and the result would be defeat and exile. It was a difficult and demoralizing message for people to hear. A false prophet arose, Hananiah son of Azzur, preaching the opposite. Babylon, Israel’s enemy, would soon be defeated. Within two years the crisis would be over. Jeremiah knew that it was not so, and that Hananiah was telling the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. He addressed the assembled people:

He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster, and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”

Jeremiah makes a fundamental distinction between good news and bad. It is easy to prophesy disaster. If the prophecy comes true, then you have spoken the truth. If it does not, then you can say: God relented and forgave. A negative prophecy cannot be refuted – but a positive one can. If the good foreseen comes to pass, then the prophecy is true. If it does not, then you cannot say, “God changed His mind” because God does not retract from a promise He has made of good, or peace, or return.

It is therefore only when the prophet offers a positive vision that he can be tested. That is why Jonah was wrong to believe he had failed when his negative prophecy – the destruction of Nineveh – failed to come true. This is how Maimonides puts it:

“As to calamities predicted by a prophet, if, for example, he foretells the death of a certain individual or declares that in particular year there will be famine or war and so forth, the non-fulfillment of his forecast does not disprove his prophetic character. We are not to say, ‘See, he spoke and his prediction has not come to pass.’ For God is long-suffering and abounding in kindness and repents of evil. It may also be that those who were threatened repented and were therefore forgiven, as happened to the men of Nineveh. Possibly too, the execution of the sentence is only deferred, as in the case of Hezekiah.

“But if the prophet, in the name of God, assures good fortune, declaring that a particular event would come to pass, and the benefit promised has not been realized, he is unquestionably a false prophet, for no blessing decreed by the Almighty, even if promised conditionally, is ever revoked … Hence we learn that only when he predicts good fortune can the prophet be tested (Yesodei ha-Torah 10:4).

Fundamental conclusions follow from this. A prophet is not an oracle: a prophecy is not a prediction. Precisely because Judaism believes in free will, the human future can never be unfailingly predicted. People are capable of change. God forgives. As we say in our prayers on the High Holy Days: “Prayer, penitence, and charity avert the evil decree.”

There is no decree that cannot be revoked. A prophet does not foretell. He warns. A prophet does not speak to predict future catastrophe but rather to avert it. If a prediction comes true it has succeeded. If a prophecy comes true it has failed.

The second consequence is no less far-reaching. The real test of prophecy is not bad news but good. Calamity, catastrophe, disaster prove nothing. Anyone can foretell these things without risking his reputation or authority. It is only by the realization of a positive vision that prophecy is put to the test.

So it was with Israel’s prophets. They were realists, not optimists. They warned of the dangers that lay ahead. But they were also, without exception, agents of hope. They could see beyond the catastrophe to the consolation. That is the test of a true prophet.

Nationwide Emergency Drill Begins

Monday, May 27th, 2013

The first of two sirens went off in Israel at 12:30PM, as the country performs a nationwide drill. Residents are expected to go to their safe rooms for 10 minutes.
There will be a second siren alarm later in the day.

On The Interface Of Science And Torah Ethics Human Genomics: Scientific Achievement and Ethical Dilemmas

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“G-d formed man from the earth and breathed into him a living soul.”

The greatest achievement of the biological sciences since that moment in creation has been the Human Genome Project, a massive effort by thousand of biologists, chemists and physicists who isolated and identified the 24,000 genes that Hashem placed in Adam and Eve, and through them in each of their descendents. These genes direct the formation of all our physical and mental attributes. Despite having the same genes, however, we are not all identical. When compared to the genetic make-up of the “reference human,” whose gene sequences were published at the completion of the Human Genome Project, every individual’s genome has about four million variations, some of which predispose to disease or determine response to a specific treatment. “Personal Genomics” is the goal that medical geneticists hope to achieve under which specific treatment for a disease would be determined by studying the whole genome sequence [WGS] of a patient.

The WGS is a non-invasive test requiring only some blood or saliva. Such testing now exists for analyzing fetal DNA from pregnant women. Unlike amniocentesis, which needs fluid removed from the sack (amnion) that surrounds and protects the developing fetus and may cause a spontaneous abortion, these new tests need only a few drops of blood from the mother to isolate fetal DNA, and a swab of the father’s saliva. Three commercial labs launched versions of this test in the past twelve months and last June, researchers at the University of Washington used this non-invasive test to “read” the entire genome of an 18 week fetus.

This magnificent advance in the study of the human genome poses an ethical challenge to all who are guided by Torah law. Even our current primitive ability to study the genetics of a fetus, to determine if it carries the genetic Down’s Syndrome, has resulted in the abortion of 90% of those so identified. Testing 24,000 genes for “normalcy” will surely result in a massive increase in abortions. Current obstetrical practice routinely includes an ultrasound scan of the developing fetus. Under instruction from their liability insurance company to avoid suits for “unlawful birth” doctors must report to parents’ every minor deviation from the idealized norm. If such deviations are reported, worry and fear supplants the joy of pregnancy until, as almost always, a normal, healthy child is born.

What will be the decision of young parents who planned on a family of three children- two of whom are home in bed and one in utero? Why risk the tragedy of a genetically defective child being born? Cancel this one and try again in a few months!

Torah Law is unambiguous! Aborting even the earliest pregnancy violates biblical law. Some who follow the dictates of halacha are misled by the reference in the Talmud to an embryo before 40 days of gestation as “maya b’alma,” which they translate incorrectly as “merely water.” The reference is to the unformed stage of development (like water without form) and is not intended to impugn the embryo’s claim to life. When the health of the mother is endangered, the halacha differentiates between a pre- or post-40 day gestation. The halacha, however, defends the implanted embryo’s claim to life even if it requires transgressing Torah Law, come the Sabbath, to obtain medical care that would prevent the termination of the early pregnancy.

There is another ethical dilemma to evaluate. Is knowledge an absolute good? Must everyone be aware of every potential mishap that may occur because of some genetic flaw harbored in his genome?

Indeed, most would agree that it is better not to know of the presence of a catastrophic gene such as the gene for Huntington’s Disease which destroys the brain by age 50 and for which there is no cure. But there are many who prefer to have a life of simple faith in Hashem knowing that His kindness will protect from all evil. They do not want to know—hence the dilemma. When one member of a family undertakes a WGS study, it reveals information about every other close relative. To tell them the test results imposes the burden of knowledge that they prefer not to bear. To withhold genetic information such as the presence of cancer genes which predispose to the disease prevents them from taking necessary precautions such as frequent medical examination or early pharmacological or radiological intervention that be life saving.

Earthquake? No, This is Just a Drill (and an Earthquake)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

On Sunday, Israel will be running a countrywide drill to test its preparation in case of a massive earthquake and tsunami. Thousands of emergency personnel, citizens, and even schools will be participating. Announcements will be made on TV and radio as part of the simulation.

Some local towns will be continuing with the drill throughout the week on a smaller scale to test specific preparations.

On Friday morning, tremors were felt in Israel from a 5.0 earthquake that originated north of Alexandria, Egypt. Nothing like a little realism to set the tone for the simulation.

IDF Holds Surprise Exercise Testing Preparedness

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

On Wednesday morning, following an order of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the IDF conducted a surprise exercise to test the preparedness and capabilities of a number of units, with a special focus on the artillery and air force. Forces from all regional commands participated in the exercise, alongside soldiers from the IAF.

The exercise began with the mobilization of various units, several of which drilled their mobilization protocols. The exercise will continue with forces massing from the center of Israel and moving north to the Golan Heights, and will conclude with a live fire exercise in the afternoon. The exercise will examine a number of issues in the areas of preparedness and competence.

The exercise was planned in advance and is not connected to nor the result of any change in the alert level. The exercise is in fact part of a routine set of reviews and surprise exercises conducted throughout the year by the IDF Comptroller.

The exercise is under the command of Chief Artillery Officer Brg. Gen. Roy Riftin, and is expected to conclude later this evening.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-holds-surprise-exercise-testing-preparedness/2012/09/19/

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