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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. 30, 2004 /7 Shevat, 5764

Why don't we get it?

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

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Thinking out of the box — our own


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Several years ago I was dispatched by my wife to the grocery store for a last minute item. It was the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Time was tight. Tasks piled up. I ran to the store and quickly found the item. My luck: the line is the longest line I'd ever seen there. Rosh Hashanah eve, and I'm stuck behind 16 people.


This was a very efficient store — what went wrong?


I asked the clerk just that when I finally reached the check-out counter.


A black lady looked at me uncomprehendingly and said, "Don'tcha know, buddy? It's a Jewish holiday!"

Shortly after last Sukkos (Tabernacles), I was deplaning from Israel at Newark Airport. The plane was 90 minutes late. I had only 30 minutes to deplane, clear customs, get to another terminal, clear security and rush to the plane. every second counted.


I had no checked baggage, sped out of the plane and headed to customs. In good conscience I could check "no" on the customs form for every item but one. "Are you carrying fruit?" I was sorely tempted to check no, but I was carrying a couple of esrogs, which I like for Havdalah spices.


"Citron" is English for "esrog" and I needed to get through the line without a second's delay. I jotted down, under fruit, "citrons."


My luck. The customs agent, instead of passing me through, has to get to the bottom of my "yes" for fruits.


"What's a citron?" he asks.


"Well . . . "


The truth is, I don't know how to explain it. I am a little flustered due to the time crunch.


"Kinda of a yellow fruit," I manage.


The agent looks skeptical.


"Let me see it."


Just what I need — a lengthy baggage search.


I open my carry-on and can't find the citron.


The agent takes over. With excruciatingly slow hands, he starts shuffling through my packed items.


I briefly explain why I'm rushed.


He doesn't want to hear.


Finally, he finds the citron.


I'm counting the seconds.


"What's this?" he asks.


I still stumble, trying to explain a citron.


Suddenly, a light goes on. Not mine. His.


"Is this an esrog?" he asks.


"Yes," I say.


"Well, why didn't you say so! Go right through."


When the obvious stares us in the face, we often fail to see it. Consider this week's Torah portion. Pharaoh has suffered 10 plagues. Why doesn't he get it? Why does it take the 10th plague, the killing of the firstborn, before he lets the Jews leave Egypt? Wasn't one disastrous plague enough?


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Indeed, after nine plagues, Pharaoh is more stubborn than ever. For the first time he throws Moses out and even threatens him with death. "Go from me! Beware — do not see my face any more, for on the day you see my face you shall die!" (Ex. 10:28).


Isn't this odd? Had not the reality of a Divine force been made abundantly clear to Pharaoh? How did he miss the signals, becoming more clueless than ever?


I stare at a long line at the grocery store; it never dawns on me that the line is long because of Rosh Hashanah eve — the very reason I am there to begin with.


I stutter over "citrons," when tens of thousands of "esrogs" pass through US customs each Sukkos.


Pharaoh's failure to absorb his own reality was catastrophic. During the first five plagues, he hardened his own heart. Then, during the last five plagues, the Torah says that G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart. Maimonides explains the shift:


G-d punished Pharaoh's earlier, freely chosen stubbornness. When Pharaoh first hardened his heart, this was his sin. For this, G-d punished Pharaoh, such that he was robbed of the ability to see his own sin and to repent.


Rabbi Israel Salanter developed this idea in psychological terms. A sin, he observed, is more than an objective wrong. I steal $10 — it's a sin. The remedy, one would think, would be to return the $10. Not so simple, said Rabbi Israel. A sin leaves a residue; it decreases my spiritual capacity. A sin has two consequences: one objective and one spiritual. The objective one, in most cases, may easily be remedied. I may return the $10. This takes courage, but it is easier than removing the spiritual stain on my soul, left by my sin.


The stain on the soul is twofold. First, if I steal once, it's easier to steal again. Second, I become impure. I have soiled myself. The return of the money cannot remove the stain. That requires separate, spiritual effort.


Pharaoh could not see the obvious after nine plagues because the stains on his soul accumulated and deepened with each additional sin. After refusing the Jews' request to be freed as slaves and then suffering one plague, Pharaoh did more than oppress his people. He deepened his spiritual blindness, he let his soul atrophy. He densitized himself. He found it easier to refuse the Jews again.


Pharaoh needed to do more than let the Jews go. He needed to repent the damage he had done to his own people, due to the damage his sin had done to his own soul. By the time he got to the ninth plague, Pharaoh had become so atrophied that he couldn't begin to see himself, or the reality of G-d's and Moses' power. He lashed out against Moses, without understanding that he was lashing out against himself.


Sin is like any other mistaken path — the longer you travel it, the harder it is to return. The sooner you begin to return, the shorter the ultimate journey.


The ultimate goal is clarity. A person who properly sees the reality of G-d and the spiritual requirements of the Torah always sees the obvious. No one ever trips him up.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News. To comment, please click here.

© 2004, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg