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 5, 2004 /12 Adar, 5764

Purim and the Ultimate Question: Why?

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson

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Masks, danger and second-guessing

https://www.jewishworldreview.com | The streets were quiet late Sunday evening as I pulled into my driveway and stepped out of my car. I had already reached my front porch when I heard hurried footsteps behind me, crunching on the snow. I turned quickly, but didn't register much about the man bounding toward me except the ski mask over his face and the gun in his hand.

He asked for my wallet. I gave it to him. He searched through it, found no cash, and dropped it on the ground. He told me to empty my pockets, asked for my car keys, and rummaged through my glove box. Again he found nothing. Then off he ran, leaving me to hurry inside and punch 911 into the phone.

The whole episode probably took less than three minutes, and from beginning to end I don't think my heart rate increased a beat. He never said a threatening word; indeed, he was almost polite. He didn't force his way into the house, didn't put the gun to my head, didn't order me to lie down on the concrete. It was surreal. He even tossed me my keys before he ran off, with the absurd admonition to "have money next time."

By the time the police arrived I was shaking. There had been a robber but I couldn't describe him. There had been a gun and a car, but in the dark I couldn't see well enough to describe them either. Nothing remained of him except a footprint in the snow. Nothing had been taken from me — except my peace of mind.

Before the end of the week I began wondering whether it had happened at all.

Perhaps the Jews of Persia felt the same way 2,360 years ago.

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One day, every Jewish man, woman, and child had found himself under a death sentence from King Ahasuerus and his wicked viceroy, Haman. And literally the next day, every Jew found himself restored to grace: The leader of the Jews, Mordechai, had replaced Haman as viceroy, while Haman himself had been hanged from the gallows he had built for Mordechai. Jews far and wide must have marveled at such a dramatic turnabout, quite possibly wondering whether they had ever truly been in danger.

It would have been a fair question. The Talmud records that the students of Rabbi Shimon asked their teacher what the Jews of Persia had done to incur the death penalty. The rabbi replied that they had bowed down to an idol, which Haman had worn on a chain around his neck.

But they only appeared to bow down to the idol, the students protested, because they had believed that not bowing down to Haman would imperil their lives. Indeed, answered Rabbi Shimon, which is why they only appeared to be in any real danger.

A remarkable insight, that Haman had never posed a genuine threat to the Jews, that their lives and the existence of their entire people had never been stake, that any appearance of danger had in fact been nothing but an illusion.

According to Rabbi Shimon, the Jewish people did not escape a narrow brush with death, but had been made to believe that their lives were on the line to compel them to make a cheshbon hanefesh — an accounting of the soul: to look into their hearts, to examine their deeds, to evaluate their attitudes, to contemplate their character, to seek out any possible reason to explain why they felt themselves estranged from their Creator.

In the case of the Jews of Persia, their near-fatal flaw had been to lose trust in their Father in Heaven. They had known it was wrong to bow down to Haman, but they had believed they had no choice. After three days of fasting and reflection they realized that what they had done thinking to save themselves had, or at least appeared to have, put their very survival in jeopardy.

And what of my encounter with a man hiding behind a mask and a gun?

I may spend months or years contemplating that question, making my own cheshbon hanefesh again and again. But it was not lost on me that my own apparent brush with death came three days after the bombing of Jersualem's Number 19 bus that left ten dead and fifty injured. Like the people who got off the bus a stop before the blast or thought to board a stop later, my own life was merely the squeeze of a criminal's finger away from a violent end. Was I really in danger, or was I only close to danger to make me ask: Why me? Why them? Why now?

Until the day when we stand before the True Judge we can never answer such questions with certainty. But to ask the question, to search for answers by searching every corner of our souls, that is the path toward wisdom and righteousness, the path we should all walk as we seek to understand the most impenetrable mysteries of our own hearts and strive to make ourselves worthy of every step we take under the heavens.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School and Aish HaTorah in St. Louis. To comment, please click here.

© 2004, Rabbi Yonason Goldson