Monday, September 25, 2017

A schoolyard fistfight morphs into a full-fledged war?

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are like two teenaged bullies (or Alpha males) each trying to prove that he has the bigger, um, equipment.  Neither seems to have any serious interest in working out their disagreements through diplomatic channels.  Or perhaps diplomacy is beyond the capabilities of either of them, because neither of them has the temperament to see beyond their own obsession with being in control.

Our president has done a thorough job of decimating and/or ignoring the State Department, apparently convinced that he can meet all the diplomatic needs of the U.S. with only himself, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.  So now, just when we're in dire need of diplomatic experts to prevent a war, either there are too few experts still to be found in the State Department, or our president is too egotistical to admit that he's made a mistake and ask for their help, or both.  In my opinion, if the United States ends up at war with North Korea, we'll have no one to blame but our own president.  This disaster could be averted if Trump would just stop tweeting insults and send in some seasoned diplomats to help both sides calm down.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Atoning for wastefulness

I'm putting my money where my mouth is:  I've finally decided to cut back on my use of disposables, and have already bought a metal fork, knife, and spoon for use at the office.  Next on the list is a mug.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good place at the office for storing a plate.  But I did ditch the plastic sandwich bags that I'd been using to carry my blueberries and baby carrots--I'm now using small washable containers instead.  My resolution for the new Jewish year is to try be more respectful of bal tashchit (the prohibition against wastefulness) by being more consistent about sparing the environment.

Shanah Tovah u-M'tukah--have a good and sweet new year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

On keeping Noah's Ark afloat

Just within the past few weeks, the Caribbean and a large swath of the southern United States have been devastated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and now, Maria.  I've been saying this to friends and family for years:  Sooner or later, the world is going to have learn from the folks who may be the planet's most experienced flood-prevention experts, the Dutch.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The first all-media, all-the-time U.S. president

The United States now has a president who appears to have no interest in reading anything in print. To the best of my knowledge, President Trump gets most of his information from watching television or following social media online.

He doesn't seem to have any respect for any knowledge or expertise unrelated to business.  

My immediate concern is that he could get us into war simply because he thinks that diplomats and the entire State Department staff are a waste of money.  (For that matter, he seems to think that most of our federal [national] government is a waste of money.)

My long-range concern is that his attitude could infect our young people with a disdain for education and a disinterest in trying to determine the facts.  The last thing we need is a nation of ignorant know-it-alls.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some points to consider regarding halachah (Jewish religious law)

The Sages vs. The Sages

On the one hand, we have the 39 melachot (types of work forbidden on Shabbat/Sabbath), as described by Chazal, our ancient sages.

On the other hand, we have "bal tashchit," the prohibition against wastefulness, which is Chazal's interpretation of the law against destroying fruit trees.  (See Shoftim:  Sparing the fruit trees, and little else, parts one and two.)

A religion of dependency

Our son protests that any religion that can't survive without the help of people who aren't members of that religion is problematic.  He has a point:  What would we do without so-called "Shabbat goyim" to turn on the lights, heat, or the air conditioning at synagogue?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Caught in a trap

First came the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  This brought thousands out of the woodwork, with the hope that they'd be able to live in the U.S. legally.

Then came the authorization for transgender people to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.  (Keep reading--it's in there somewhere.)  Again, thousands came out of the woodwork, happy to serve our country under their true identity.

Then, both open doors were slammed shut--and those who had already "outed" themselves found themselves at risk because of government commitments broken.

What is this, a new version of "bait and switch?"

Friday, September 01, 2017

Ki Tetze vs. perpetual punishment?

Here's a quote from this week's Torah reading,  Parshat Ki Tetze (Ki Teitzei, Ki Tétzé, Ki Tétsé. . whatever):

Deuteronomy 24:

טז  לֹא-יוּמְתוּ אָבוֹת עַל-בָּנִים, וּבָנִים לֹא-יוּמְתוּ עַל-אָבוֹת:  אִישׁ בְּחֶטְאוֹ, יוּמָתוּ.  {ס} 16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin. {S}

And here's a quote from Parashat B'reshit (Breshit, B'reishit, Breishit, Bereshit, Beresheet . . . whatever):

טז  אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר, הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ--בְּעֶצֶב, תֵּלְדִי בָנִים; וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ, תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ, וְהוּא, יִמְשָׁל-בָּךְ.  {ס} 16 Unto the woman He said: 'I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' {S}
יז  וּלְאָדָם אָמַר, כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ, וַתֹּאכַל מִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ--אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה, בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ, בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. 17 And unto Adam He said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
יח  וְקוֹץ וְדַרְדַּר, תַּצְמִיחַ לָךְ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, אֶת-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה. 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
יט  בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ, תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם, עַד שׁוּבְךָ אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה, כִּי מִמֶּנָּה לֻקָּחְתָּ:  כִּי-עָפָר אַתָּה, וְאֶל-עָפָר תָּשׁוּב. 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.'

In my opinion, the passage from D'varim/Deuteronomy contradicts the passage from B'reshit/Genesis.  If one cannot put someone to death for the crime of either his/her parent or her/his child, wouldn't the same also be true in the case of a less severe punishment?

Why are there those who still hold half the human race--namely, all females--guilty because of the sin of one ancestor over 5,000 years ago?

And why do some speak of "the curse of Eve," while I've never heard the phrase "the curse of Adam?"

Just to be fair to women, maybe someone should explain to those men who spend their entire lives in kollel that the Torah requires them to work for a living.
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