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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

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

Face Off

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





What Judaism has to say about the secret of the Mona Lisa's smile

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | What is the Mona Lisa really thinking?


Structurally unremarkable and noticeably unfinished, Da Vinci's most famous masterpiece has intrigued experts and laymen alike. One can spend hours gazing at the mysterious woman, wondering where she is looking, why she is smiling and, perhaps most perplexing, what is it about her that captures our attention and imagination more compellingly than any other portrait.


Let's face it: something about her face grabs hold of us and will not let go.


But is she real? Or was Leonardo's model merely a foundation on which the artist created that breathtakingly timeless expression from his own inner genius and his painter's pallate? Is the serene and stately woman really a composite, as suggested by the misty and magical world that swirls behind her? Or was she perhaps no more than another pretty face, with little going on behind those enigmatic eyes but an endless recapitulation of the chores that awaited her after the sitting or the grocery list she would have to fill on her way home?


We will probably never know. But there is good reason to believe that La Giaconda was in fact a woman every bit as complex and multifarious as her inscrutable expression would have us believe.


In his bestselling book Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell cites the work of psychologists Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman, who mapped the expressions of the human face and identified 43 distinct muscle movements incorporated into facial expressions. Their research has been applied to the study of marriage counseling, schizophrenia, heart disease, and the computer animation that brought us Toy Story and Shrek.


Intuitively, we all read minds by reading faces: smiles reveal joy and friendship, frowns show unhappiness and frustration, scowls express disdain and contempt. When understood more precisely, facial expressions can reveal subtleties and nuances of personality and character. When read with training and discernment, the face can uncover deception and deceit which, no matter how expertly, cannot completely sever the connection between inner feelings and outward expression.


Conversely, our expressions not only display emotions — they can evoke them. Smiling can improve your mood; creasing your brow can increase anxiety; narrowing your eyes can increase anger. Relaxing the face into an expression of calm can lower your heartbeat and respiration; tensing it into a scowl can have the opposite effect.


Fascinating as it is, the research of Tomkins and Ekman comes as little surprise to those well-versed in Jewish tradition. The Hebrew word ponim, meaning "face," also translates as "inside." That the most ancient of all languages should conflate the external appearance of the face with the interior workings of the soul might have baffled scholars through the ages if not for their implicit understanding that the human face is inextricably bound to the human heart.


In contrast, the Hebrew word for "garment" is beged, which shares its grammatical root with bogad, meaning "betrayal." We may change our clothing in an attempt to disguise ourselves or adopt an alter ego, but as much as we try to mask our expressions, our inner thoughts and feelings will eventually give us away.


King Solomon said as much in his Proverbs: As water reflects one face to another, so too the heart of a man to his fellow. Just as the heart pumps the blood that cycles through the body, similarly will a man's countenance revisit him in the form of the relationships he affects through his outward expression. The inner self becomes public through the face, defining the course of our lives and our place among our fellow men.


Perhaps this is why the great sage Shammai taught, "Encounter every person b'saiver ponim yafos … with a pleasant countenance." On the most basic level, we cannot help but feel drawn to others who greet us with a smile and a friendly word. Not only to we bring joy into the world around us, but we make others want to seek out our company and companionship.


Beyond the effect we have on others, however, is the more immediate effect we have upon ourselves. As Tomkins and Ekman observed, by acquiring a pleasant countenance we can refashion ourselves into more pleasant individuals.


Perhaps this, then, is the secret of the Mona Lisa's smile. With only the most subtle upward twisting of her lips, the mysterious lady has awakened in her own heart the first stirrings of joy and contentment. Captured by the artist's brushstrokes, her gentle expression has become iconic by transcending time, bringing the wisdom of the ancients forward into the contemporary era by reminding us of the power of a look, a glance, or a smile.


In a generation in which we have become increasing adept and concealing our identities and severing all but the most superficial connections to one another, it's reassuring to recall how easy it can be to restore our relationships. With one little smile we can truly change ourselves, and change the world.

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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