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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

Into the Void

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





At this junction of introspection, how to renew our commitment to be more trusting and more trustworthy

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | You can't be too careful these days. Or so it would seem, based upon the warning labels that are turning up more and more frequently on common, household products. A few examples:


For external use only — On a curling iron.

Do not use in shower — On a hair dryer.

Do not drive with sunshield in place — On a cardboard screen that keeps sunlight off the dashboard.

May irritate eyes — On a can of self-defense pepper spray.

Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you — On a rear-view mirror.

Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage — On a baby stroller.

Warning: May cause drowsiness — On a bottle of sleeping pills.

Caution: Do not use near power lines — On a toilet plunger.

Do not use as an ice cream topping — On a tube of hair coloring.

Warning: do not attempt to swallow — On a mattress.


What does it tell us about ourselves that we have to be told the painfully obvious? Where are we headed when the victory of common sense over monstrous stupidity can no longer be taken for granted?

On the other hand, the obvious sometimes does surprise us by proving less than obvious. So I learned a number of years ago when visiting a new children's park with my oldest child.

My eighteen-month-old daughter showed no fear as she ascended the six-foot high ladder to the top of the slide. Never an especially nervous father, I stood calmly beside her, a model of parental responsibility although little concerned for her safety. After all, what could happen?

What could happen, indeed?

FOR BEST RESULTS, MISUSE AS DIRECTED
As my daughter reached the top of the ladder, she stepped boldly onto the crest of the slide and fearlessly peered down the long slope before her. And then, instead of dropping onto her derriere and sliding down in the conventional manner, she let out a shriek of delight and leapt over the hand rail and into the void.

Possessing reasonably good reflexes, I reacted instinctively and caught her in mid air. Barely had I set her feet back on the earth when, with a mischievous laugh, she raced up the ladder again. This time, however, I was ready. I stopped her as she reached the top, explained the proper method of descent, instructed her to slide down properly, then let her go.

And she went… once again leaping over the hand rail and into my arms.

I don't remember whether I ever did convince my daughter to use the slide correctly that day. But I do remember the absolute and unadulterated trust with which she threw herself into space knowing that I would catch her.

If only they could stay toddlers forever.


STIMULATION AND INSPIRATION

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As adults, we find it a lot harder to trust a lot less. Marriage counselors sometimes employ a device commonly used by improvisation troupes: the "trust fall." What performers on a stage intuitively understand — and what partners in a family often have to learn — is that no partnership succeeds unless each party has confidence in the other. To establish trust (or to determine whether trust exists), Person A stands in front of Person B and falls straight back, trusting that Person B will not let Person A fall into a possible brain concussion. Often, it takes many tries before one party or the other is able to complete the exercise by keeping both feet together. Life teaches us to look after ourselves, and the habits of experience are not easily unlearned.

In contrast, little children have no illusions of their own self-sufficiency. They know they need their parents, and their confidence in us is pristine. Only with time and experience do they acquire doubt and skepticism.

That's when parenting becomes a real challenge. Just as most parents calmly and lovingly instruct children who are too young to think for themselves, similarly does the wise parent grit his teeth and — with a smile whenever possible — state the obvious to older children who have become too impulsive or stubborn to think at all:


Wear your helmet.

Swallow before you talk.

Do your laundry before you run out of clothes.

Don't jump off the roof.

Don't text while driving… or in class… or at the dinner table… or when I'm talking to you.


And because our teenagers have lost the trust that came to them so naturally when they were younger, we repeat ourselves again and again and again.

Not surprisingly, our Father in Heaven does exactly the same thing.

STATING THE OBVIOUS
Included in the Torah we find a large body of laws called mishpatim, often translated as "statutes." In contrast to laws of religious ritual (and those so arcane that they seem to defy human logic), the mishpatim govern human interaction according to principles and values that any society would likely enact on its own for the benefit of its citizenry. Don't murder.

Don't steal.

Don't commit adultery.

Don't bear false witness.

Do not mistreat the widow or the orphan.


These are only a few examples from long list of detailed regulations governing individual responsibility toward the personal and property of one's neighbor, together with a legal system that seeks to ensure civil justice.

Which brings us back to our original question about the obvious: if these mishpatim are laws we would have thought of and instituted on our own, why did the Almighty have to command us to do them? And why do we have to review them in the weekly Torah portions we read year after year?

Ultimately, it all comes down to trust.

Why do our children trust us implicitly when they are young? Simply because they have never found any reason not to. We feed them, clean them, protect them, and entertain them, thereby providing them with a sense of love and safety. Because they suffer from no illusions that they are able to look after themselves, they contentedly accept us in our role as guardians of their welfare.

As they begin to mature, however, their world takes on a different complexion, becoming a place of not only exploration but of self-assertion. The more children experience their own sense of individual identity, the more they seek to establish their own independence. They want to establish themselves as autonomous and self-reliant by drawing their own boundaries and making their own rules. At the same time, they are terrified of the responsibilities of independence. Predictably, they blame us for the tension that seems to be pulling them apart.

When that happens, we, their parents, change from protectors to jailors, from guardians to tyrants. And they, our children, want nothing more than to break free. It is the end of trust, the end of innocence.

WE ARE CHILDREN FOREVER
And so it is in our own relationship with the Almighty. We are His children, but He has created us each with an independent will, so that we struggle to unshackle ourselves from His authority and prove that we are up to the task of living as free people. Obsessed with asserting our own psychological and moral autonomy, we question every axiom, challenge every rule, and push every limit to the breaking point, until even the most obvious philosophical truisms start to seem quaint, or archaic, or irrational.

But alongside our irrepressible egos there remains within us some remnant of the child we once were, the child who laughed and played and found joy in every moment of existence because the world was a place of unquestionable security. And just as our children gradually recover from the insanity of adolescence and begin to recapture respect for their parents' wisdom and devotion, so too can we approach the ancient traditions of our people with new appreciation once we are willing to surrender the illusion that we are masters of our fate and concede that all we truly control is the inclination of our hearts.

It is not a leap of faith. It's a leap of trust.

It's a leap of trust into the arms of the Creator of All, the One who brought the universe into being, the One who renews continuously His promise to our ancestors that He would never forsake their children, the One who has kept the Jewish people alive and vibrant throughout the rise and fall of countless empires and oppressors. It is a leap of trust into the hands of the Master of All, the One who revealed His will to our forebears at Sinai and brought us into our land, the One who loves us enough to chastise us when we become intoxicated with the freedom to disregard Him, the One who gives all His children everything they need, withholding from us that which we only think we need.

Finally, it is a leap of logic. Indeed, it makes perfect sense to acknowledge that the wisdom we recognize in the statutes that govern civil society testifies to the wisdom that sometimes eludes us in the laws of religious ritual and spiritual self-perfection, and that both were designed to serve our own ultimate best interest. And it makes perfect sense to study and review the laws again and again, perpetually gaining greater appreciation of their wisdom by fulfilling the command to toil in them by day and by night.

Just as it makes perfect sense to place our security in the hands of the One we know will never let us fall.


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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. He is author of Dawn to Destiny: Exploring Jewish History and its Hidden Wisdom, an overview of Jewish philosophy and history from Creation through the compilation of the Talmud, now available from Judaica Press. Visit him at http://torahideals.com .






© 2011, Rabbi Yonason Goldson