Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Haven't Disappeared

I know that I haven't posted in a while, and for that I apologize. I've just been very busy of late between my mother's medical care, my own medical conditions (which I seem to be now recovering from) and work. I hope to resume posting in a few days.

Again, my apologies for the lapse. Thanks for sticking with me.

The Wolf

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's A Good Day

What a weekend it's been!

On Friday I finally went to a doctor to get some help for a sore throat that had been bothering me for a week. It was rapidly becoming unbearable, and, for a ba'al kriah, a sore throat is bad news.

On Saturday night, one of my kids' schools had their annual dinner. It was a nice affair - long, boring and full of speeches. However, I must have eaten something that made me horribly sick - I ended up spending most of the night in the bathroom.

On Sunday night, I nearly lost my mother.* She had been in the hospital for a blood problem when her blood pressure suddenly plummetted, right through the floor. For over an hour and a half the doctors worked on her, trying to get her stable. She had to be intubated and emergency surgery done to find out where she was losing blood from.

After a few shaky hours, the doctor (who, mind you, was supposed to go on vacation last week and put it off because of my mother) came down and told us that her bleeding was under control and that she was going to be kept in the ICU for a while. I went up to see her in the ICU after the opeartion for a few minutes on Sunday night. She looked horrible - tubes everywhere (including the breathing tube), her hair a mess, her face showing pain. Even though she was sedated, I knew she could hear me speaking because she twitched slightly when I spoke to her.

Most of Monday (I was off for the holiday) was spent at the hospital. The breathing tube came out, she was alert and concious and wants to go home (always a good sign for her). She's still going to be in the ICU for a while, but things are looking better.

So, all things considered, if things had gone slightly different, I could have found myself this morning sitting shiva, unable to speak and sick to my stomach and not wanting a housefull of people. Instead, here I am at work this morning with my throat still hurting a bit (much less than earlier) and no stomach illness.

It's a good day.

The Wolf

*My mother has a looooooooooong and complicated medical history. If I told you the half of it, you wouldn't believe one person could go through so much.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On The Divisibility of God's Mercy

A thirteen year old boy in our neighborhood recently came down with cancer. The prognosis for him is good and with the proper care (and God's mercy) he will be fine.

His parents (understandably) asked that people in the neighborhood say Tehillim for their son. An effort soon arose whereby people were asked to say certain chapters of Tehillim every day and that, as a result, the entire book of Tehillim would be recited every day for this child.

A friend of mine, who was organizing the effort, called me up and asked me to participate. I immediately agreed to and was given a set of chapters to recite. I was told that there were two "rules" to observe:

1. That the chapters be recited every day.
2. That the chapters be recited exclusively for the recovery of the boy who is ill. One could certainly pray for the recovery of other people at other times; but these chapters, when recited daily, should be said exclusively for this boy.

I agreed to the rules, even though I don't agree with the latter one. The reason I agreed was simply because it wasn't my child and I certainly wasn't going to dictate to a set of worried, upset parents the conditions under which I would pray for their son.

The whole concept, nonetheless, troubles me. It seems to imply that God (so to speak) only has so much mercy to go around and that if you pray for someone else while you're praying for this boy, then the boy somehow loses out on God's mercy. The whole concept seems entirely wrong to me. I can't imagine God withholding a refuah shelaimah because the prayor (is that even a word?) had someone else in mind while praying.

When discussing the issue with my wife later on that night, I found out that she had the same reservations about this concept that I did. I instructed my wife that should (God forbid) the need ever arise, I don't mind having people say Tehillim for me; but I don't want the exclusivity restriction. I'd *rather* people pray for as many sick people as possible - and I'll do what I can to make it easier for people to do so.

The Wolf

P.S. The boy's name is Chaim Mayer ben Leah Miriam.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

We All Had A Good Laugh

S1 (a 12-year old boy) received an invitation in the mail today to enter this contest.

Alas, the perils of not having a common, American, gender-specific name. :)

The Wolf

Monday, January 02, 2006

Thank You David Fass

David Fass had a letter to the editor in this week's Jewish Press. In it, he expressed dismay at how the average frum person with a high school diploma can think that they know more about science than people who have studied the scientific disciplines at the graduate level and devoted their careers to it. In truth, however, most people who try to use science to disprove evolution, in thinking that they are brighter than the professionals, probably don't even understand the issue at all and simply read a sentence or two in a book such as Rejoice O Youth or the like, without really understanding the scientific principles behind what they are reading.

In reality, however, I think that perhaps Mr. Fass is a bit off on his reasoning. He states in his letter:

However, it's not the errors in Rabbi Eidensohn's letter that I find most troubling. What disturbs me more is the smug belief, evidently shared by many in the yeshiva world, that the working scientist is on average less intelligent than the typical potted plant.

How else can we explain the rabbi's readiness to believe that he has discovered fundamental problems in the theories of physics or biology that have escaped the notice of scientists who study these fields professionally? Such an attitude reflects either an unusual degree of hubris or a fundamental belief that scientists are all bumbling idiots. I suggest it's the latter.

I don't think that the issue is one of hubris or a belief that scientists are idiots. In my humble opinion, I think the issue is that, among many frum people, there exists a belief that there is a vast conspiracy among scientists to keep the truth of God's creation from the masses.

I've come across this mentality in the past. I remember having a conversation with a high school classmate about science and scientists. His response was that the scientists *have* proof that there is a Creator, have proof that the world is only 6000 years old, that there was a global flood, have proof to the existence of Avraham, Moshe, Dovid, etc. However, that evidence is being covered up so that the scientists can push their athiest agenda. (Incidently, he held a similar belief about Christians: that they all know the truth that Judaism is the proper religion, but they are stubbornly clinging to the wrong traditions - for what purpose he couldn't tell me.)

It's not so much that the average chareidi layperson believes that he has a better scientific knowledge than the scientist - it's just that he believes that the scientist is lying through his teeth. Of course, he (the chareidi) has no knowledge of the scientific process or peer review - or if he does, he believes that it is contrived to avoid having the truth leak out.

The problem we face is not one of lack of scientific knowledge (although, I acknowledge Mr. Fass's point about the state of the scientific cirriculum of our high schools) but the belief in a vast scientific conspiracy to hide the truth. The same people who would dismiss as an ignoramous a person who believes that the moon landings were faked or that the U.S. Government is hiding evidence of alien life at Area 51 have no problem believing that every scientist in the world is actively hiding the truth.

The Wolf

Sunday, January 01, 2006

On Theme Shaped Chalos

My wife bakes challah just about every Erev Shabbos (OK, so she didn't do it for the Shabbos that was Erev Pesach this past year... but just about every other week). Truth be told, I've become spoiled because of her delicious challah and find that the store-bought challos are just not as good as they used to be.

In honor of Channukah, my wife came up with these dreidel shaped challos. In previous years, she also made a menorah shaped challah. She's also made ladder shaped challos for Shavous and the traditional round ones for Rosh HaShannah. Does anyone have any suggestions for other shapes for around the year?

The Wolf