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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

The Illusion of Influence

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





Does it really matter to us as a society that the man having the most impact on our lives doesn't actually exist?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Before this week, I'd never heard of Don Draper. By next week, I expect to have mostly forgotten him.

I guess that proves I'm out of touch with contemporary culture — a term that has increasingly become an oxymoron.

Nonetheless, I can't say that I'm embarrassed to have never heard of this year's Most Influential Man. What mortifies me far more is to find myself living in a society that considers a fictional character to be its most significant public figure.

I had to strain my memory to place the first runner up, track star Usain Bolt. I'm still straining my powers of reason to understand how a sprinter from Jamaica might be considered the most influential real person in United States.

Number three on the list is President Barack Obama. I have heard of him, and it's hard to argue that the president is the most influential man in his own country, no matter what one may think of his policies.

The rankings lay in the hands of readers polled annually by AskMen.com, a website (of which I had also never heard) devoted to men and their lifestyles. Topping the list as well were, in order: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, American Idol judge Simon Cowell, late pop star Michael Jackson, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, tennis champion Roger Federer, quarterback Peyton Manning, and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White.

But grabbing the most votes was Don Draper, lead character in the Emmy-winning drama Mad Men. And for the first time in the poll's history, the most influential man in American does not actually exist.

According to Reuters, AskMen.com editor-in-chief James Bassil explained the vote this way: "One of the big themes this year was that men really want to take on these traditional roles — as fathers, working men, provider at home, leader at the office. I think they are yearning for what is a solid past."

That would be a comforting thought … if it were actually true. Indeed, one wonders if Mr. Bassil has watched the show or read his own magazine.

AskMen.com's own website had this to say: "[Draper is] a postwar archetype, both a brilliant career man and a temptation-swayed philanderer who sincerely wants to be a family man… permanently conflicted over how to reconcile his morals and his desires." The website for Mad Men describes the show as a "sexy, stylized and provocative drama [that] follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell."

Were that not enough to debunk Mr. Bassil's rose-colored analysis, the list of the top ten winners is more than enough. Celebrities, athletes, billionaire businessmen, and an ideologically left-leaning president hardly reflect a trend back toward traditional values.

In truth, the evidence suggests just the opposite, that Americans are increasingly obsessed with glitz and glamour, with power and wealth, with conquest and ego-gratification. The sad moral of the story is that the poll-winners are genuinely influential in steering our society toward superficial hopes and unrealistic dreams. How fitting that the most influential man is not only a fictional character, but a profoundly flawed and ambivalent one at that.

The bright side of the story, however, is that the poll reveals the attitudes and aspirations not of Americans as a whole but of AskMen.com readers. If the publication is anything like its forerunners, Playboy and GQ, it is hardly a fair representation of the country. Indeed, it would seem to say more about the inner conflict of testosterone-driven alpha males than those typical family men who may already be living — not merely yearning for — traditional values.

As we enter the concluding days of the Sukkos festival, we should be grateful for yet another opportunity to remember the underlying message of the holiday: Just as the sukkah's roof of leaves and branches offer only the appearance of security from the uncertainties of life, so too do the temporal gratifications of this world offer only the most fleeting pleasure and fulfillment. The ability to discern between reality and fantasy is the key to true happiness and eternal contentment.

And as Sukkos reaches its end, we do not immediately return to the routine of our daily lives. Instead, we pause a moment longer to rejoice in the clarity we have achieved, to impress upon ourselves that no matter how persistently the deceptions of the material world may assault our spiritual senses, the Almighty has provided us with the ultimate defense against the influences of secularism and superficiality.

From Passover in the springtime to Shavuos in the summer, through Rosh HaShonah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos in the fall, the cycle of holidays culminates with Simchas Torah, the ultimate celebration of physical and spiritual freedom, of Jewish identity and unity, of love for the Almighty and for every member of our community. It is the Torah that teaches us the difference between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, between reality and illusion. And it is our celebration in the Torah that projects the joy of the festival season forward into the future, so that it will permeate every day of our lives and guide us toward eternity.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. Visit him at http://torahideals.wordpress.com .






© 2009, Rabbi Yonason Goldson