Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rabbi Hirsch on the Mother's Grief

I really liked this insight by Rabbi Hirsch, taken from Twerksi's Positive Parenting:

Commenting on the verse in Proverbs, "A wise son gladdens a father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother" (10:1), Rabbi Hirsch states:

It is interesting that joy from a successful son is foretold here to the father, while sorrow from an unsuccessful son is linked with the mother. We believe this may be based on the following consideration: No matter how much a father does for his child, it cannot be compared to the sacrifices and privations of a mother. For her, months and years of suffering and renunciation set in from the very beginning of the child's existence. By the time the father directs his personal attention to the child's development, the mother has already devoted years of constant care to his physical, spiritual, and moral growth. It follows that if the child turns out to be well-brought up, and the parents are fortunate enough to find joy in a wise and successful son, the father has won a big prize - in return for a comparatively low stake. If, on the other hand, the child becomes an inept, foolish person, then who can fathom the grief of his mother? She is forced to admit that she has wasted years of anxious days and sleepless nights, that she has spent the best part of her physical strength and mental energy, and all of this for what result? - a foolish son.

Rabbi Hirsch continues with a quote from Proverbs, "What, my son? And what, son of my womb? And what, son of my vows?" (31:2)

Thus begins a mother's admonition to her son, the king. A true mother has been preparing her thoughts fro the spiritual future of her child while he was yet in her womb; her solemn vows accompany his entrance into the world. He is the son of her womb and the son of her vows. A mother's thoughts and emotions during the time that she bears and suckles her child are not without effect. The saying "to imbibe something with one's mother's milk" is no empty phrase. That is the time when the seed is planted for the child's qualities of character, for gentleness or violence, for modesty or sensuality, for a conduct of nobility or vulgarity. This seed is planted within her child by his mother's thoughts while he is still physically connected with her. After that it is his mother's example which shows his awakening soul the ideas that he should follow - truth, decency, purity, or their opposites! Showing her child the right way takes intelligence and firm resolve on the part of a mother, for the success of his future behavior depends on her teaching him the first requirement: to control his own will.

The father's teachings are of great importance, but just as the value of a finished product made by the finest craftsmen depends on the material he was given to work with - gold, silver, tin - the child produced by the father's education cannot be better than the substance provided by the mother; i.e., the basic traits of love, trust, consideration, reverence, and patience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Musings After a Visit to Yad Vashem

I haven't been to the Yad Vashem (Holocaust memorial) museum in Jerusalem since I went as a soldier in February 2004.

I tend to stay away from Holocaust films, unless they're movies with plots like those of Defiance or Escape from Sobibor.

I don't know if my attitude is that of the minority or majority of Jewry today.

I know what happened during the Holocaust - and have been haunted by it since I stepped foot in Dachau as a 10 year old. I still will read books about survivors, or when possible, listen to them speak in person

... But I'm tired. I'm tired of the pain and anger I feel when I 'see' that reality. A reality where the world turned its back on the Jews - be it the Yanks, the Brits, the Catholic Church, or humanity bar the 'The Righteous Among The Nations' - and left us at the mercy of the Nazi war machine. The reality I live in is so different obviously - and that's why I struggle with that reality so much.

Which brings me to today. I went with my wife, parents and nonna (Italian for grandmother) to Yad Vashem. It was extremely difficult - as always. I gritted my teeth and held back tears most of the time. My people. My nation. My brothers. My sisters. Annihilated for being Jews. Tertiated.

I burst out in tears in one of the last exhibits - that displaying the many stories of the aforementioned 'Righteous Among The Nations' (for these stories - see here) - when I read the following quote (paraphrased as I didn't write it down), "I know that when I stand in front of God I won't be asked like Cain why I remained silent when my brother's blood was screaming from the ground." In one of the darkest periods in human history, there were flashes of light. Light that saved thousands of human beings who's only crime was being Jewish.

After leaving Yad Vashem with the expected mixed emotions of sadness and anger, I thought to myself how lucky we are to have Israel. We can rely on ourselves ... not on the hope that other nations will protect us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Was Clinton smoking ... again?

Who said this:

We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif

Here's a hint, it's the man Clinton referred to when he said that "within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East" had he still be alive.

Still struggling?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home is where the Happiness is

The following is a story from Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski's book, Positive Parenting:

In Cracow, there stands a synagogue known as 'The Synagogue of Itzik the son of Reb Yekale.' The story goes that Itzki was a peasant who had a recurring dream. Again and again he dreamed that under a particular bridge in Prague there lay buried a huge treasure, which would belong to anyone who unearthed it. At first Itzik dismissed the dream as absurdity, but after numerous repetitions he began to take it more seriously. Yet the whole thing was so preposterous. How could Itzik, who did not have two copper coins to rub together, get to Prague? But the obsession gave him no rest, and although his wife told him to get the crazy idea out of his head, he decided once and for all that he must go to Prague and find the treasure. So, one day, he took some meager provisions and set out for Prague.

When Itzik was fortunate enough to hitch a ride on a passing wagon, he rode. Otherwise, he hiked.

After many weeks, Itzik arrived at Prague, and sought out the bridge he had envisioned in his dream. But alas, there were always police patrolling the area, and there was no way he could begin to dig.

Day after Day, he loitered around the bridge, hoping that perhaps there would be a break in the patrol, and he would be able to dig for the treasure. Finally one of the police patrols approached him. "Why are you constantly loitering around this area day after day?" the policeman asked. "What is it that you want here?"

Itzik saw no other way than to simply tell the truth. He related his dream to the policeman, and also the weeks of travail until he came to Prague from his humble village near Cracow.

The policeman howled with laughter. "You fool!" he said. "And because of a silly dream, too. I have been dreaming that in a tiny village near Cracow, there is a little hut that belongs to a peasant named Itzik the son of Reb Yekale, and that under the floor of that hut there lays buried an immense treasure."

The story goes that Itzik immediately returned home from Prague, and upon digging up the earthen floor of his hut, discovered an immense treasure. The Synagogue of Itzik the son of Reb Yekale's was built with part of this fortune.

Many people look for wealth elsewhere. They search for wealth of all kings, but especially for the greatest wealth of all: happiness. They think that it is to be found elsewhere, and they expend enormous energies to search it out. Little do they know that the happiness they seek lies right within themselves. No need to travel long distances or to work in foreign territories. It is there at one's fingertips, right within one's self. One only has to believe this and to look within.


An interesting quiz from CiF Watch, Comment is Free or Stormfront?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

... and on the Bus, Part III

The bus was packed today. There was little room to stand and every stop resulted in people being pushed slightly to the side so that passengers could get on and off the bus. On one stop, one old man made his way through and as he exited the bus, a religious 30 year old looking man shouted him, "Are you an idiot? Don't push me." I looked at him in disbelief - was he honestly calling the white haired man an idiot for trying to get off the bus? The ~30 year old man proceeded to explain his reasoning in a cellphone conversation, "The man waited till the last second to get up [knowing how buses stop here in Israel, can you honestly blame him?], and then pushed by me and almost made me drop my phone." Yes, that is definitely a reason to call an old man a tembel. I think one can tell the path society is taking by how it treats its elders ... It's a sad testament not only for Israeli society, but for society in general, how today's elders are afforded less and less respect ...


October was an interesting month. Talya & Nissim spent 10 days abroad in Geneva & Paris. It was the first time I was 'home alone' since I got married. I found myself saddened by the empty house I returned to every day, and found myself appreciating my wife even more considering the fact she annually has to deal with 30+ days while I'm miluim (Reserve Duty).

Ironically enough, within a few days after my wife & kid returned, I was off to London for business - my first trip there in two years. It was great to see old faces, and meet new ones, but the highlight of the trip was watching Liverpool play Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. I've been a Liverpool fan since the mid '80s and I've always wanted to see them live. The last opportunity I had was unfortunately canceled by the Lebanon War, but this time I didn't miss out on the game. Though we lost 2-1 (despite a cracking goal from Emiliano Insua), it was just an amazing experience and I really look forward to getting to the Holy Grail of footy stadiums (at least for a Liverpool fan!), Anfield, in the next few years.


An interesting piece from Der Spiegel about Israel's operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear site.