Thursday, November 24, 2016

Extreme Emunah, Extreme Chessed: Thoughts on Chayei Sarah 5777

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We learned in parshas Noach a few weeks ago that one of the condemnations of Noach comes about because he doesn’t leave the Teiva after the flood. He sits there, plays around with sending birds, it’s a very nice story but eventually Hashem has to intervene and tell him, “LEAVE ALREADY.”

(I’m paraphrasing.  And speaking of paraphrasing, most of this dvar Torah was heavily inspired by three divrei Torah of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  You can find links to them at the end.)

Noach didn’t want to leave the teiva. He had seen the world destroyed. He didn’t know how he could go on. And, looking backwards perhaps, he drowned his troubles rather than looking forward.

We have all met people who have been through something like that, I think. People who lived through the Shoah, who saw their world destroyed. And yet – most picked themselves up and went on with their lives.

Rabbi Sacks calls these people his “mentors in courage.” He spent time asking what allowed them to move on. Unlike Noach, to leap out of the boat and rebuild the world. To not descend into the depths.

My mother grew up in the generation when people didn’t talk about the Shoah. For better or worse, nobody could talk about it. It was told in whispers – and in silences. Eventually, they began to speak, but only when they realized that it was long past, and that the future was assured.

This is what Avraham does in this week’s parsha.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why are Jewish children's books so bad?

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I shared this post last week on Facebook asking why so many Jewish kids' books are so awful.  Lots and lots and lots of people clicked Like.  Some even shared it.  But very few people actually answered the question, so I’m asking it again here.

What do you think?  Why is there so much bad Jewish children’s literature?

Before we start, though, here’s another picture from Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, the masterpiece that kicked off this whole controversy.

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Yup, a nice Jewish story to share with your Jewish kids for any Jewish time of year!

I don’t want to write too much because for once, I really do want to hear what you have to say.  But just to get those brain-thoughts flowing….Here are some comments that a few people did post on Facebook:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why Tablet Magazine has it all wrong. :-(

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Dear Tablet Magazine,

I read an article on your site today.  It’s not a common thing, I don’t stop by every day, but as with so much of the great content on your site, I liked the article.  Indeed, I agreed with it, and felt that I – as a Jewish writer of Jewish children’s books - had something to add to the dialogue.

That’s why I scrolled down to comment… only to find THIS:

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And THIS:

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Commenting Charges!  But I don’t need to tell YOU that, of course.  It was YOUR c̶a̶s̶h̶ ̶c̶o̶w̶  idea.

$2 per day.  Ouch.

And then I saw THIS – your largely nonsense-based explanation of how there’s so much spam out there that you want to charge me $180 a year for the privilege of adding my text to your site (usually, people pay ME for my content – that’s what being a writer is all about).

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(Oops – sorry, it’s not a FEE, it’s a commitment to “the cause of great conversation,” as if your site is surely the only place I will be conversing over the next 365 days.)

You’re also quick to assure me that if I don’t have $18 handy (like if I’m using it for other things, like raising my Jewish family), or I just don’t feel like paying, then I can try to get your attention in some inferior cheapskate way, like Facebook.

I know, I know, it’s not actual MONEY, it’s a “largely symbolic measure” to create a more pleasant environment – ie, one without me in it.

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But here’s the best part, Tablet Magazine. 

Oh, yes, it does get better.