Reality Check

In this issue

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 March 4, 2004 / 11 Adar, 5764

The Book of Esther: The Story of Human Importance

By Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

In life, it's the Divine who's in the details | From a subjective point of view, it seems that the existence and behavior of a single human being is of little importance.

After all, with the exception of those leaders, thinkers and scientists who really make a contribution toward the advancement (or devastation) of mankind, the vast majority of people, numbering in the billions, do not seem to make any difference in terms of the future and wellbeing of our society. If not for the fact of their numbers, they would have stayed unnoticed and the world would not have missed them if they would not have been born.

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From an objective point of view, however, it seems to be very different.

Suddenly, every human being becomes of ultimate importance. Let's examine a historical case in point.

Letitia Ramolino, the mother of Napoleon Bonaparte, met her future husband, Carlos Buonaparte, at the cheese market in Ajaccio. Under normal circumstances, she would not have gone there, since it was her brother who normally shopped for the family. However, on that very sunny day, he decided to see some of his friends and asked his sister to do the honors.

Why? He wanted to thank his friends who had just sent him some bottles of wine. They had bought the wine on a long journey to visit their uncle, who had just been released from a hospital after he had been hurt by a carriage in the town, Sevilla. This carriage had gone out of control because one of the horses had fallen ill, due to poisoned food that its master had fed it. This, in turn, was the result of a farmer who had sold the food to a shopkeeper who had forgotten to put it in a cool place, and it had started to rot. The fact that this food had come to this shopkeeper and not to the man the farmer would normally sell it to was due to the fact thatů etc, etc.

The infinite cobweb of causes in this chain of "trivialities," to which nobody would give any significance as far as world events are concerned, ultimately led to the creation of the Code Napoleon and the battle of Waterloo.

Every act, smile, cry, sneeze or silence, in fact, our very presence or absence, causes an ongoing chain which may start at home but, like a pool in which one throws a little stone, it will ultimately touch a large part if not the whole of society.

Would it be possible to remove one pawn, even when it is only a babysitter in one's home, within a few days all discussion in the country would be different and in a few more days it would have an impact on foreign countries and millions of people. True, nobody is indispensable, but everybody is a link in an infinite web of world affairs. Consequently, nobody can ever say: I am not important. Everybody makes a difference in the overall state of world affairs. And not just in the form of a "drop in the ocean" but in every aspect. Without him everything would have been different!

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But how, we should ask, are we to survive and stay sane once we know what we could cause by one little "unimportant" act? Our conversation with a friend could cause a disaster or a world revolution. The smile we give a sick person may ultimately help him, but could also be misunderstood and cause his death and the death of many others. And even if we decide to move to a forest and hide there till the end of our days, how will we know that our absence is not bringing about terrible after-effects or denying mankind much potential happiness?

Indeed, we do not know.

The veil of uncertainty will ultimately fall in front of us, and we will find ourselves in total darkness. The reason for this is that we are clearly the father of our actions, but, once we have acted, our deeds are no longer ours. They have removed themselves from our parental authority.

In fact, it may very well be that one has only good intentions but the outcome of his deeds leads, in the end, to a disaster.

In 1520, when Las Casas, a deeply religious priest in Cuba, realized that his parish had been destroyed by the Spanish, he received permission from Cardinal Ximenes to employ a few hundred black people to help him restore it. As such, this was a noble deed, he saved his parish, but he destroyed the lives of millions because he became, without being aware of it, the father of black slave labor and apartheid. Dr. Guillotin invented an axe that would substantially decrease the pain of those who had to be executed. No doubt he meant well, he could not suffer the pain of so many who had to die and tried to help them, but tens of thousands cursed his name. This is the irony of history.

This being so, what shall man do? And to what extent is man responsible for his deeds? He is not able to know the ultimate effects of his actions, so where is the distinction between responsibility and pure fate?

There can only be one answer to this question: Man is only responsible for those consequences he could clearly have seen in advance. He can only be taken to task for those matters that he can see as the direct outcome of his actions. He is not responsible when unexpected external matters creep into the picture, which he could not have foreseen. More than anything else, it is his intention that counts and not so much the effect.

This is the deeper meaning of the Book of Esther. Looking carefully into the story, one realizes that matters of cause and effect are turned around in a web of surprises that nobody could have predicted. Speaking in terms of pure logic, the story should have ended in the total extermination of the Jewish people. That it did not, was solely dependent on circumstances which were beyond responsible human action and prediction.

It's for this reason the sages remarked that "Esther" symbolizes the "hESTER panim," the hiding of the Divine's "face", which means nothing else than that His direct providence is only noticeable after the event. (Despite being Scripture, the Divine is not mentioned anywhere in the Book of Esther)

What may be perceived by man as an infinite amount of arbitrary incidents, a confusing web of coincidence, is, after all, the result of G-d's active role in history.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a world-renowned lecturer and ambassador for Judaism, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Sephardic Heritage. Comment by clicking here.

© 2004, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo