Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Divrei Torah - JewishLink

The Participant Observer

I have had a long and abiding interest in the process by which we make decisions in our lives. Long ago, I was taught that the best way to make a decision is to impartially examine all of the relevant available facts. Impartiality guarantees objectivity. Sadly, however, we are seldom truly impartial and, therefore, our ability to make


What’s Missing In This Picture?

The old and crum­bling building housed a synagogue that was a “gift” from Joseph Sta­lin to the Jews of Odes­sa. Historically, Odessa was a metropolis with a large Jewish population and many dozens of synagogues of all types. With the advent of the Communist regime, and especially under Sta­lin’s heavy-fisted rule, almost all of those syna­gogues were closed


“Discipline and Suffering”

As a parent, grand­parent, and psychologist, I am often considered to be something of an ex­pert on parenting and child-rearing. In that capacity, I have frequently been asked to review or give an opinion about any of the plethora of books on the subject of raising one’s children.

Like in any genre, there are better books and worse books in this category.


Va’etchanan: Thou Shalt Not Alter the Recipe

The meal had been going wonderfully. The meat roll (pastrami and smoked turkey) and salmon gefilte fish had been delicious. The chu­lent was just so, not too runny, not too dry. The portabella mushroom chicken was perfection itself. Even the potato kugel tasted better than usual. But then Elisheva was an excellent cook, so none of this came as a big surprise. The


“Religion is Good for You”

“Religion is good for you.” “A religious person is a mentally healthy person.” Statements such as these could not have been made when I was a graduate stu­dent in psychology back in the 1960s. Quite the contrary. The prevalent belief in the mental health profession then was that reli­gion was a neurosis, and that religious peo­ple needed to abandon their


Devarim: The Final Oration

Scene: The Parsi­panny Hilton Grand Ballroom. A hall filled with red, white, and blue balloons and streamers, with ap­proximately 200 people standing around, looking a bit dejected. A man in a pin-striped suit with perfectly coiffed, grey hair approaches the podium. (Loud applause.)

“Thank you. Thank you. I just got off the phone with Joshua Franklin and


The Jewish Obsession: Parshat Devarim/Shabbat Chazon

The popular media often accuses the Jewish people of an obsession. Some accuse us good-humoredly of an obses­sion with food. Others maliciously accuse us of being obsessed with money. I agree that there is a Jewish obsession. I maintain that it is justice with which we are obsessed.

I define an obsession as an idea that dom­inates our thinking even when there


“Who Was Your Teacher?”

Except for the saints among us, we all boast. Sometimes we boast about our own natural endowments, our good looks, or our athletic prowess. Often we boast about our achievements, social or professional.

There is one type of boasting that seems to be unique to the traditional Jewish commu­nity. That is a boasting not about oneself, but rather about one’s


“Humble, Not Meek”

I don’t usually disa­gree publicly with lec­turers, particularly when they are expressing opin­ions which are most­ly consistent with my own. But there was one time when I felt that I had to speak up and ob­ject to one of the speaker’s expressions.

It was at a lecture on the subject of self-ab­sorption. The speaker characterized the time we live in as


Two Jews, Three Opinions: Parshat Korach

We all nod our heads in agreement when we hear the phrase, “Two Jews, three opinions.” We similarly chuckle when we hear the anecdote about the Jew who was discovered after years of living alone on a desert island. His rescuers noticed that he had built two huts aside from the one he lived in. He told the puzzled people who saved him that they were shuls, or


“Memory Loss”

When one reaches a certain age, he does not have to be reminded that his memory is not what it used to be. These days, one receives e-mails, unsolicited of course, with such titles as “Eight Tips for Improving Memory,” and “Preventing Memory Loss in the Aging Person.” Undoubtedly, one of the conse­quences of the passage of the years is the fad­ing of some,


Distinctly Different

The term is one that I first heard back in high school. There are times that I find it helpful, and there are times I find myself resistant to using it. The term is “Judeo-Christian.”

I understand that this term was first used back in the early 19 thcentury to refer to the fact that the roots of the religion of Christianity are to be found in the

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