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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2006 / 27 Teves, 5766

It hurts only when I laugh

By Jay D. Homnick


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Often the unspoken word screams louder than the spoken. Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik (!820-1892), grandfather of the famous Jewish philosopher who bore the same name, served for some years as the rabbi of Brest-Litovsk (aka Brisk), Lithuania. Once a poor woman approached him with a legal question: Could she use milk in place of the traditional four cups of wine at the Passover seder? He sidestepped the question by handing her twenty-five rubles as a gift and telling her to buy wine. His children protested: "Dad, wine only costs five rubles!"


"Yes," the rabbi answered. "But since Jews don't eat meat and milk together, the fact that she considered using milk for the Four Cups told me that she had no money for meat, either."


Lately the country has been following closely some literary dramas. Folks who hardly read books have been drawn into the excitement. Two major authors, embraced by intellectuals and to a degree the general public, have been exposed as frauds. In the case of J. T. Leroy, it has actually become clear that no such person exists. The works presented as his memoirs are actually fiction created by an authoress named Laura Albert. The Mister Leroy who has appeared at parties in epicene outfits and glided about simpering silently is an actress named Savannah Knoop performing a masquerade. After this was exposed by New York magazine, many celebrities who had embraced that author and "his" work were embarrassed and resentful.


The more widely known story involved James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, also marketed as autobiography. The book had received the imprimatur of Oprah Winfrey and was catapulted into astronomic sales on her say-so. Investigating reporters at TheSmokingGun.com checked out the major claims of that tome against the documented history of the author and found that it was chock full of exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright fantasies. The matter was fanned by Time and various TV news special reports until Oprah finally confronted Frey, accusing him of betrayal and of casting her as a dupe.


Still I say that the true story here is not what is spoken but what is unspoken. It tells us a great deal about the current state of our society. And what it tells us, while laden with tragic elements, establishes solid grounds for optimism.


WHAT DO THESE two cases have in common? They share the feature of ordinary middle-class Americans constructing, either from whole cloth or the barest swatches of truth, an effigy of a horrific existence in Uncle Sam's underbelly.


J.T. Leroy told of an impoverished childhood with a poor West Virginian mother. At age eleven, she began pimping him out in drag for a twisted androgynous form of prostitution. The venue chosen for these dubious walks on the dark side of Americana would have alerted me instantly to the scam; namely, truck stops. Anyone outside of New York and San Francisco has visited enough truck stops during road trips to spot the palpable absurdity of this premise. But the jaded urbanites relished this image.


Frey, for his part, recounted a drug and alcohol habit gone so amok that he spent many months at a time in jails and rehabs. He loads all this down with overdrawn cliché characters: buffoonish cops, sadistic jail guards, brutish cellmates, a dentist who performs root canal surgery without anesthesia and a crack whore with whom he falls desperately in love during detox… for whom he searches ever after in vain. She seems to have disappeared, you see, engulfed by the city in all its hellish depravity, all its hopeless despair.


Remember the first axiom of journalism. "Dog Bites Man" is not a headline; "Man Bites Dog" is the ideal. What this means is that every time you read an article about the man biting the dog, you should really be cheered by the invisible headline which reads: "99 Percent of Men Don't Bite Dogs." Pessimists have a tendency to extrapolate the wrong message, thinking that men must be biting dogs everywhere and the order of existence has broken down. It is the optimist who is the smart reader, who grasps the true import of the story.


Years ago we had a society in which the fakers were all pretending to be rich, to have advanced degrees, to have been received in the courts of kings, to have been the consorts of the beautiful and the famous. The unspoken message was that society itself was poor and stolid, with the fantasy of high places providing its only escape.


Now we have people lying about how much they have been dirtied. They plead for us to envision them rolling in vomit and filth. They are desperate to engage us in their bitter memory of poverty. Oh, how awful was their degradation! What accounts for this need to poor-mouth themselves and badmouth the country? Only this: we are living in unprecedented comfort and prosperity, which is all so terribly… boring.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jay D. Homnick is the author of many books and essays on Jewish political and religious affairs. Comment by clicking here.

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