Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Singles -- Learn to Think For Yourselves!

I think that Cheryl Kupfer is rapidly becoming one of my favorite columnists over at The Jewish Press. Her column today (again about shidduchim) hit a nerve with me.

In this week's column, she relates the story of a not-so-young woman in her 30s (and closer to 40) who was still single. Her friend, a shadchan (matchmaker), redt her (proposed a date) to a never-been-married man. Although she wasn't exactly what he was looking for, he apparently thought that there might be some possibility there agreed to see her. Once he agreed, the shadchan approached the woman about the date. What happened next? Ms. Kupfer tells us:

Once this “girl’ was told that this young man was interested, she got in touch with a mentor who is involved in a shidduch group and who, no doubt had been looking out for her. This woman, however, after being given the boy’s information “just didn’t see it” and suggested to this almost 40-year-old not go out with him. She turned down the shidduch.

What was the reaction from the shadchan?

“Do you know how many people I never thought to set up because ‘I didn’t see it’ are now happily married?” my friend exclaimed, visibly agitated. “What would it have hurt if she just met with him? What did she have to lose?”

Lest you think that this is an isolated case, I can tell you that it is not. I have seen similar cases with my own eyes. I know of a woman who is in her early 30s and will not date someone unless her mentor (a man whom I know and who really does have her best interests in mind) checks him out and gives the OK.

Whenever I hear cases like these, I always ask myself the following questions:

1. It's a date, not a marriage proposal! As long as you're reasonably sure he's not an axe-murderer or a rapist, why not go on a date? What (aside from an evening) have you got to lose?

2. Don't you think you're old enough to decide for yourself whether or not a particular gentleman is right for you? Assuming that you are a mature, responsible adult, you are fully capable of deciding what qualities you need in a mate and asking the pertinent questions yourself.

3. At your age, you can't afford to be too choosy. If your goal is, indeed, to get married, realize that after the age of 30, there will be fewer and fewer men knocking at your door. Take every opportunity you get to go out.

Now, I'll admit that maybe I'm not seeing the problem from the singles' point of view. Thank God, I've been happily married for a long time and never had to put up with the "shidduch dating" scene. So, maybe there is a side of this that I am missing. If anyone is aware of it, please feel free to write in and educate me. But I've always been a firm believer in doing everything possible to get unmarried men and women together to meet and marry. I believe that we should be doing everything we can to facilitate meetings, not block them. Unless you find out that the guy or girl have some *serious* defect (polygamist, etc.) what's the harm in just going out on the date? The worst that can happen is that you have a lousy time and the evening was a waste. But with the potential upside is so great, I don't see how you can *not* go.

Ms. Kupfer ends her column with a similar story of another older single who lost a potential chance because* someone else* thought the shidduch wasn't good enough.

I am reminded of a phone call I made many years ago that was intercepted by the mother of an older single (still unmarried) who I wanted to set up with a divorced father of one. She, too, was in her late 30s. Her mother asked why I was calling, and being polite and a bit stupid, I told her that I had a shidduch for her daughter.

When she heard that the man was divorced with a child, SHE nixed it, with an indignant tone in her voice that I would even think of setting up her child with such a man. She too, like the mentor above, was wearing rose-colored glasses that had been dipped in the skewed waters of Denial.

How about letting her decide? True, maybe she wasn't looking for someone with a child, but perhaps she might have liked the man enough anyway? Would it have been so bad to even suggest a date and that she find out? How could she know that this man might not have been perfect for her daughter?

Personally, I think that we need to make some changes. We need to have older singles begin to think for themselves. We need to show them that they are perfectly capable of evaluating whether or not to go out on a date with someone. They don't require anyone's permission.

Secondly, we need to instruct mentors and parents of older singles to simply stay out of the way. Unless there is some really, really, really solid reason why the match wouldn't work, then they should advise them to go out and have fun. Older singles don't need a gatekeeper anymore -- they can make their own decisions.

The Wolf

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How To Prevent A Breech Birth? -- Part II

Back in May, I posted about a friend who was expecting and the baby was in a breech position. One of the things that was recommended to her was to make sure the seforim (Judaica books) in the house were turned in the upright position. At that time, I asked if anyone had a source for this "segulah" or if it was simply an old-wives tale.

Well, it seems that we now have an answer: according to Rafi, the segulah is attributed to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the son of the Steipler. Interestingly, he also brings another... odd... segulah for turning the baby as well from Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher .

He (supposedly) said regarding a breech baby: the husband and wife have to stroll down to Lifta (a natural spring at the entrance to Jerusalem) or Moza (the site of another natural spring, just outside Jerusalem) -

Note: I assume this means any natural spring would work, but he mentioned those two. Or maybe he was specific to these two, so do not hold me responsible if you try it elsewhere and it does not work.

the husband then have to get some spring water into your mouth and put it directly into the wife's mouth.. 3 times! I think she has to drink the water, but the person telling me was not clear on that..

according to R' Fisher - if that doesn't work the baby wasn't meant to turn... and it is dangerous for it to turn.. (hmmm...that means it is not the segulah not working, but it was not meant to be. so you never know if the segulah really works or not.)

The Wolf

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kol Koreh Against Heter Mechira

Yeshiva World is reporting that Rav Eliyashiv (and others) has signed a Kol Koreh against the use of a Heter Mechira (temporarily selling land in Israel to a non-Jew) in the coming Shvi'is year. As per YW:

The Kol Koreh states that the Heter Mechira leads to the desecration of the “holy and precious” Mitzvah of Shmita.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the scholarship to know whether the Heter Mechira is a "solid" heter, or if the use of it should really be abandoned. However, one thing is clear, Rav Eliyashiv believes that we should not use the heter and keep the mitzvah of shvi'is (not working the land in the sabbatical year).

My question is this -- if using a Heter Mechira leads to the "desecration of the holy and precious mitzvah" of shvi'is, why doesn't the use of a prozbul lead to the "desecration of the holy and precious" of the mitzvah of shmitas k'safim (cancellation of debts)?

The Wolf

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We All Need A Laugh: Proof That Moshe Was a Satmar.

This *has* to be theater of the absurd. I'd hate to think that anyone actually thinks this way.

Hat tip: DaBoys from Chaptzem

The Wolf

UPDATE: After going to the actual YouTube page, I see that it *is* theater of the absurd, but it was inspired by reasoning just as scary.

The Wolf

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Science and Torah (again) in the Jewish Press

A letter to the editor in today's Jewish Press (last one on the page) regarding Rabbi Slifkin's new book caught my attention.

In the letter, a person (a doctor, by the title in his name) takes Rabbi Slifkin to task for accepting science over Torah (which is not necessarily what he does... but we'll leave that point alone for the moment). He writes:

It’s a simple matter to present various midrashim and Talmudic dictums which seemingly do not jibe with modern science and then suggest that our rabbinic teachings must therefore be flawed. The fly in Slifkin’s ointment is that science – yes, “holy science” – is by no means infallible. In fact, scientific information is subject to constant change.

In this last point, he is certainly correct. Science does change and, in fact, never presents itself as being infallable. Indeed, a hypotheses that is not falsifiable is not a scientific hypothesis. Science relies upon peer review and demands that if a new hypothesis is put forward, that it be tested and an attempt to disprove it be made.

He then continues:

I am no prophet, but I can predict with certainty that within twenty years most of what the scientific community presently believes will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Really? Within twenty years most of the science that we know is going to be disproven (I'm assuming that's what he means by "be relegated to the dustbin of history")? Somehow, I find this statement highly unlikely. While there will certainly be some things that change, I'm positive that the most basic scientific facts that we know of -- that are the bedrock of future advances in science -- are not going to change in the next hundred years, let alone in the next twenty.

  • The age of the universe is not going to suddenly be reduced to 6000 years in the next twenty years.
  • The studies of archeology, geology, genetics, chemistry, biology, zoology and many other disciplines which show the earth (and life upon it) to be more than 6000 years old are not going to disappear in the next twenty years.
  • The four basic forces in the universe are not going to disappear in the next twenty years.
  • Einstein's theories of relativity, the Laws of Thermodynamics and many other scientific theories are not going to disappear for a long, long, time -- and even if they are changed, the changes will certainly only be minor tweakings -- not wholesale revolutions.

The fact that the letter writer (assuming he is a medical doctor -- he could be a Doctor of Divinity or hold some other non-scientific doctorate) is a doctor is all the more scary. Yes, medical science is changing at a rapid pace as we learn more about the human body, genetics and the like. But the basic underpinnings of the things that are taught in the medical schools today are not likely to change anytime soon.

He continues onward:

It’s the height of foolishness to abandon the truths given by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu more than three thousand years ago, and faithfully recorded by our Sages in the Talmud and midrashim, because of slavish belief in scientific notions that will not survive their adherents.

And, I suppose, this is a sticky point: If you maintain that the midrashim and everything contained in the Talmud was given to Moshe at Sinai and faithfully transmitted down, unaltered in any way from one generation to the next (something that I find highly unlikely and possibly the subject of a future post) and that they are literally God-given truth, then you would probably take this view. However, you don't have to posit this at all. You can certainly posit that midrashim either don't have to be taken 100% literally, or else that they can be viewed as embellishments on existing legends (not to be taken to mean falsehoods) that are used to teach valuable moral lessons. You can view the scientific statements in the Talmud as being a reflection of the science and folklore of the day, and not as God-given truths. When viewed this way, I don't have to worry about the Gemara losing it's validity because the sun doesn't go behind a curtain at night or because half-earthen mice don't exist.

The good doctor's last point (that the scientific principles currently espoused won't survive their adherents) is very interesting. I'm fairly certain that the Church said the same thing about Galileo, Darwin and other people whose scientific statements have been validated throughout the years.

The Wolf

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Your College Electives: If You Had To Do It All Over Again

For those of us who went to college, I'm sure we all took electives that interested us at the time. However, as we age, we sometimes look back and say "I took THAT?!"

So, if you could go back and take your electives over again, what would you take? For this exercise, name the college you went to (a link to the Bulliten or list of courses would be helpful), how long ago you graduated and what electives you would take now if you had it all to do over again. Please try to keep the number of electives you would take similar to the number that you actually took.

In short, how have your academic interests changed since you graduated?

So, for me... I went to Brooklyn College. I graduated in 1993.

Electives I took in college:

Classics 15 -- Greek & Roman Mythology
English 11.1 -- Introduction to Creative Writing
English 15.1 -- Writing Fiction I
English 15.2 -- Writing Fiction II
English 16.1 -- Writing Poetry I
English 18.11 -- News Writing
English 18.12 -- Editing
English 18.13 -- Feature Writing
Phys Ed 17.2 -- Archery
Phys Ed 23 -- First Aid & Safety
Phys Ed 44.1 -- Emergency Care
Phys Ed 44.2 -- Emergency Care Practium (these two are to become a licensed NYS EMT)
Phys Ed 45 -- Leadership in Emergency Care
Psych 2 -- Introduction to Psychology

If I had to do it all over again (courses actually taken in italics):

Classics 15 -- Greek & Roman Mythology
English 11.1 -- Introduction to Creative Writing
English 15.1 -- Writing Fiction I
English 15.2 -- Writing Fiction II
Phys Ed 23 -- First Aid & Safety
Phys Ed 44.1 -- Emergency Care
Phys Ed 44.2 -- Emergency Care Practium (these two are to become a licensed NYS EMT)
Anthro & Archaeology 2.2: Introduction to Archaeology
Anthro & Archaeology 7.5: Archaeology in Biblical Lands
Econ 10.1 -- Elementary Macroeconomics
History 50 -- Ancient Jewish History
Judaic Stud 24 -- Dead Sea Scrolls
Physics 0.11 -- Introduction to Astronomy
Sociology 5 -- Introduction to Sociology

I tag XGH, Orthodox Nerd, Jacob Da Jew, Neandershort, SerAndEz, Steg and Psychotoddler

The Wolf

Friday, August 10, 2007

Off Topic: My Goal: 155 or Bust!

OK, here's the personal announcement that I alluded to two weeks ago:

For those of you who have met me in real life, you know that I am not a skinny person. On the contrary, I'm rather overweight.

Furthermore, for those of you who know me, I wasn't always this way. About three years ago, I weighed in at 247 pounds. At that point, I didn't like the way I looked, I was always feeling run down and, in general, wasn't as happy as I felt I could be.

So, I trudged myself down to the local Weight Watchers center and bought their plan lock, stock and barrel. I stuck to it faithfully for eleven months, and in June of 2005, I was down to 152 pounds -- a total loss of 95 pounds. People told me that I was half the man I used to be, although, in reality, I was about 62% of the person I was.

What I liked about the WW program was that it didn't restrict the foods you could eat (like the Atkins diet). Instead, it focused on teaching you to eat properly. You learn how to make intelligent food decisions -- how to properly plan portion sizes, how to allocate your food budget over the course of the day, and how to make trade-offs for the foods that you want to eat. I liked the fact that if I wanted to have ice cream, I could... I just had to allocate enough points* for it.

Independently of WW, I also began to realize that there were certain behaviors that were causing me to gain weight. I found that whenever I sat down to watch TV, I had to have food. Even if I wasn't hungry, I'd find myself in the kitchen rummaging around for something to eat while watching that Simpsons episode. If I was reading, I would often need to be stuffing my face at the same time as well... and I read a lot. If there was food on my plate, I would be terribly disturbed by the thought of wasting it, so I ate it... even if I wasn't hungry. By recognizing these behaviors, I was able to learn to change them, so that I wouldn't have to have the bag of chips just to watch television. I learned that it's OK if I don't eat every last bit of food on my plate.

Sadly, over the course of the last two years, it seems that I've unlearned these things. I once again find myself going to the pantry just to watch TV. I find myself feeling that I have to finish everything on my plate. I find myself eating even when I'm not hungry. And, I have stopped keeping track of what I am eating. Sadly, as a result, I've put back almost all of the weight that I worked so hard to lose. I don't think I'm back up to 247 yet, but I'm pretty sure that I'm in the 240 range.

Of course, there are other options. Skipper had the stomach band surgery a while back. A brother-in-law of mine had it done as well. My aunt and stepmother had the bypass surgery. But I'm not going to go either of these routes for several reasons:

1. For starters, I'm pretty confident that I can lose the weight again through diet and exercise.
2. I see the adjustments that Skipper and others have to make in their lives for this surgery. The changes to their eating habits are far more extreme than any changes that I made when I lost the weight three years ago.
3. I am one of those odd people who (thank God) has never broken a bone, never had an operation and never needed stitches. I'd like to keep it that way.

So, I'm off. After Shabbos, I'm going to step on the scale and I'll know my starting point. I'll probably put a ticker on the top of this blog so that people can see, at a glance where I'm holding. In addition, I set up another blog (no reason to bore everyone here about my weight loss unless they want to read about it) where I'll provide notes on my progress, on things that I learn (or re-learn) and hopefully give advice to others who ask.

Here's looking forward to the journey: 155 or bust!

The Wolf

* Under the Weight Watchers system, each food is assigned a point value based on the calories, fat and dietary fiber in the food. Each person is allocated a certain number of points that they can eat during the day.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shidduch silliness

I saw this on the End The Madness Boards, posted by Tali.

I recently tried to fix up Avraham* with Tzivia*. The two of them sounded reasonably suitable on paper, and seemed to have workably compatible personalities.

Avraham said yes. Tzivia said no.

Why not?

Because, GET THIS: Tzivia thought that it was inapropriate for a bochur to be talking on the phone to me, a single girl. So she flatly refused one of the most quality people I have ever been privileged to know.

What gives???

Now, I don't know what Tzivia's problem is. After all, had Tali been a married woman, then Avraham's "sin" would be far worse -- imagine a yeshiva bochur talking to a married woman on the phone. And certainly, Tzivia would consider it just as inappropriate for a girl to talk to a single or married man who is trying to set them up with someone else.

So, according to Tzivia, it seems that the only acceptable way to make a shidduch is via a married couple where the wife gets the girl and the husband gets the guy. Any other method is "inappropriate."

*Sigh* And the madness continues.

The Wolf

Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm Back! Guess where I've been?

Eeees and I had a wonderful few days away. Here are some pics (including a panorama) that I took while we were gone. Click on the pics for larger images (especially the panorama).

Twenty Wolfish points to anyone who can guess where we were. (If you know me IRL and know where I went, then you're not eligible.)

The Wolf