Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood and Obama's Empty Chair

POLITICS IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS, or at least it should be - significant things that deeply impact the lives of citizens of this country are shaped by what happens in politics. But it was hard for me, like thousands of others, not to be entertained by what happened last night at the Republican National Convention when Clint Eastwood showed up to speak.

I'm not sure which was more amusing - watching him have an imaginary conversation with President Obama while speaking to an empty chair, or the fact that, within minutes, someone had created a Twitter handle @InvisibleObama. An hour later, @InvisibleObama had over 20,000 followers. As of this afternoon, it was almost 50,000! And it wasn't just a clever idea. Whoever is behind the tweets is one funny tweeter.

Here are just a few examples:
Invisible Obama ‏@InvisibleObama
When Mitt Romney says "Mr. Chairman", do you think he's referring to me?
Invisible Obama ‏@InvisibleObama
I'm behind Mitt! No seriously. I'm right behind him.

And, my favorite one from today: Invisible Obama ‏@InvisibleObama
Just thought I'd share a picture of my Cabinet.


In the midst of the amusing tweets I saw rolling down my screen last night, Rabbi Andrea Myers tweeted:
Rabbi Andrea Myers ‏@RabbiAndrea I will never look at a Chair of Elijah the same way again. #oyandvey #RNC #ClintEastwood

Elijah's Chair was the original empty chair. It shows up at a Bris (circumcision) in particular, but there are other community occasions when the idea of an empty chair - an extra seat that indicates openness to receiving an unexpected visitor or guest - is commonly referred to as 'Elijah's chair'. On Passover, we also have the tradition of 'Elijah's Cup'. The story behind this tradition is that there were certain questions that the Sages of the Talmud were unsure how to answer, specifically with regard to how they designed the Passover Seder ritual, but on other occasions as well. Elijah, who is held in Jewish tradition to return to announce the arrival of the Messiah, would be able to resolve our unanswered questions when he did so.

But, enjoying the playfulness of Rabbi Myer's tweet, I had a thought. This coming year, when Passover comes around - a festival when we discuss what freedom truly means - what would happen if we included an empty chair and had a conversation with @InvisibleElijah ? What would the conversation look like if we had that conversation as it pertained to freedoms in our own land with @InvisibleObama? Of course, by then we will know who the next President of the United States will be and we may be addressing a different President.

By the way, apparently there's a bit more to this connection between Eastwood's empty chair, @InvisibleObama, and Elijah. It pertains to major fundraising events where Obama may appear and may stop by at the tables of specific donors:

At some past events, the president’s team would arrange for an empty chair to be at each table—“the Elijah chair,” as some donors call it—so that Obama would have a place to sit. (reported in Tablet Magazine).



Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz is a Reform rabbi in Westborough, Massachusetts. Follow her on Twitter at @RabbiGurevitz.

Pat Monahan of Train Gets Dumped on Yom Kippur

THIS TIME OF YEAR JEWS have a tendancy to make confession, and I have a confession to make. I like the band Train. I don’t know if that is embarrassing or not, that is how oblivious I can be. I just like their infectious pop tunes. It is a little annoying that a lot of their songs become background music in commercials, but they are entitled to make money, especially since people don’t but albums anymore.

Since their early hits like “Meet Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter” I have always liked their songs and found them thought provoking. Once used “Calling All Angels” was the theme of my on campus Rosh Hashanah sermon about being our better selves. I am not sure if that is what the song is about, and that is beauty of the whole thing. I never really imagined that Train was particularly Jewish, but they got my attention last week.

I was on a long drive and heard the song “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” from their new album. (Video)

I was more than a little surprised when lead singer Pat Monahan who is singing about the woman who left him and complains that he “can’t believe she left on Yom Kippur.” Where did that come from? Extensive Googling has determined that Pat is not Jewish, though he once performed at an LA Jewish Federation event. So what was this about? To be honest, I have no idea, I think it is just a funny rhyme at that moment in this humorous song, but it being Elul and the Jewish New Year being right around the corner, it got me thinking, is Train teasing me to seek out some deeper meaning?
Maybe.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Prince Harry's Wild Vegas Adventures

HERE'S A PIECE OF SHOCKING NEWS: Prince Harry likes to party and so do most 20 and 30 year olds. But his late night revelries are scrutinized more closely than everyone because he is a member of the royal family.

So it was not surprising to hear the outrage and anger emanating from England, when Prince Harry was caught on video challenging USA gold medal winner, Ryan Lochte, to a swimming race in the middle of a giant pool party, and subsequently photographed in the nude hanging out with women in his hotel room. I guess the old dictum that "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn’t apply in the Facebook and Twitter age.

While his behavior isn’t abnormal for someone his age, and his family should take comfort in knowing this, he is deserving of the criticism leveled at him. First, part of the English taxpayer money is used to provide for his security detail. I can't imagine that the British are eager to subsidize Prince Harry's wild forays into the Las Vegas nightlife. More importantly, though, Harry's behavior reflects poorly on his family. Being part of the royal family comes with certain expectations and responsibilities. Because of the family he was born into, Prince Harry can't simply act like ‘one of the boys’ if he isn’t treated like one of them.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why I Hate the Lakers

Elul is the time that we are supposed to focus on self-reflection and spiritual growth. It is a time we are supposed to see the good in others, ask for forgiveness and remove hatred from our heart. This is becoming a problem for me, because I now hate the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hatred is an emotion that is not taken to kindly in the Torah. The Torah clearly instructs us “You shall not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). It is one of the rare times the Torah commands us not to feel something. Typically the Torah forbids actions, and allows us the freedom to feel, because emotions can come and go without any repercussions. Hatred, on the other hand, is the root cause for so many destructive actions that we need to combat the very emotion itself. There are times we need to hate particular behaviors or actions, but we are never commanded to hate people. Yes, we are told to wipe out the nation of Amalek and not to forget how they attacked the most vulnerable of our people (Deuteronomy 25:19), but we are not commanded to hate them as well.

However, I enjoy hating the Lakers. Sports is much more fun when you have someone to hate. As a Miami Heat fan, my team spent the last two years being hated by everyone else, and being the hatee is not nearly as fun as being the hater. When you’re the hated team you can’t really hate other teams, you just take it from the other teams’ fans. The Heat and Celtics have a heated rivalry, but I don’t hate the Celtics (well, maybe except Kevin Garnett). I respect them and enjoy the intensity of the rivalry. Now that the Lakers have become the most hated team in the NBA, I am ecstatic to hate along with the rest of the country.

Why are the Lakers so hated? Here are the top three reasons in descending order:


3. Metta World Peace (Ron Artest)- That’s right, somehow Metta World Artest is the THIRD least likable player on the Lakers. That’s incredible. A guy who started a brawl in the opposing team’s stands and has been suspended 14 times by the NBA for acts of violence, cursing out fans and domestic abuse is more likable than two other players on his own team.

2. Kobe Bryant- Kobe Bryant has played for the Lakers since 1996. In those sixteen years much ink has been spilled on why Kobe is not more popular than he should be. While Michael Jordan became a beloved international phenomenon, Kobe is respected as one of the greatest players in NBA history, and not all that likable. Why isn’t he beloved.

There was the accusation of rape in Eagle, Colorado. Charges were ultimately dropped, but he did settle the civil suit out of court. He has had very public disputes with teammates and coaches, including Phil Jackson, mostly for being selfish and unable to work well within a team. His personality is often described as stand-offish and aloof. He nicknamed himself the Black Mamba and refers to himself as such.

The Olympics allows basketball fans to root for USA players on opposing NBA teams, and it puts you in the shoes of their NBA team fans. I now know that Kevin Durant is a lot of fun to root for. Russel Westbrook’s inconsistent high-flying game makes him terrifying to root for. Kobe Bryant is painful to root for. He often ignores his teammates and takes terrible shots. He makes bizarre faces when fouls are called on him.

Last week he was playing in a fundraiser in China with Chinese pop stars. His team was losing by 29 points in the second half, so Kobe decided to score 68 points against these hapless players in a charity exhibition game. The video is just uncomfortable to watch. The other players don’t get what in the world he’s doing.

It is so much fun to root against Kobe.


1. Dwight Howard- Howard has incredibly leapfrogged both of them. He ruined the Orlando Magic by openly requesting a trade while under contract, then denying he did, then doing it again, then denying he did…He forced management to fire Coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith. He announced publicly that he would only accept a trade to Brooklyn, thereby destroying Orlando’s leverage in a trade. Whatever you think LeBron did or didn’t do two summers, Dwight Howard is significantly worse, and now the least likable player in the league.

You throw those three players together on a talented super team in LA, and you’ve built a perfect storm of jealousy, anger and disgust from the rest of the country. It is fantastic.

I don’t really hate Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard. I’m sure I would enjoy getting to know them. However, for sports to be fun the emotional intensity needs to be ratcheted up, and artificial hatred is the best way to do that.

For women, this could be celebrity relationships. Many women become emotionally invested in celebrity relationships, whether it’s Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Stewart or the contestants on “The Bachelor”. Next time you step on to a plane, look at the magazines that the women are reading. Invariably 90% will be reading People or Us magazine (I have done this test numerous times and it never fails). For most it is frivolous entertainment. Sure some people get too emotionally invested in celebrity relationships or their sports teams, but for most, it is a fun distraction. You need just a little twinge of love and hate to make the whole endeavor fun enough to invest your time. It’s not real hate. Its “sports hate” or “celebrity hate”.

The truth is, in the Torah we have a similar concept. Yaakov (Jacob) is more obviously righteous when contrasted with his brother Esav (Esau) or father-in-law Lavan. We internally root for Yaakov and root against Esav. Do we “hate” Esav? Not entirely. We “Torah hate” Esav, like we “Torah hate” Cain, Haman and Korach. They probably had some redeeming qualities, but by being slightly repulsed by them helps emotionally connect to the story and the Torah’s narrative. I think this form of hate it can even be a little healthy.

So as we prepare for Rosh HaShanah I am resolute to remove real hatred from my heart and see the good in others, but I’m going to go right on sports hating the LA Lakers. Especially Kobe.


Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz is an Orthodox rabbi who built the first eruv in San Francisco. He has also founded the "Jewish Ethics and the Internet" program. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiStrul.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bon Jovi's Flop is a Jewish Winner

IN 2006, BON JOVI RELEASED a new song, “Welcome To Wherever You Are,” thinking it would be a smashing success. But as he admitted to Larry King, it flopped. Ironically, he also told King that he seriously considered removing “Living on a prayer” from the ‘Slippery When Wet” album because he didn’t feel that the song was up to his standards. Hmm….

It’s now August 2012, a mere six years since its release, and a member of my congregation (Thanks Justin!) just introduced me to this ‘dud’ of a song. Clearly, the fact that I have not been aware of its existence for all these years testifies to its poor reception……..or maybe I just need to get out a little more. But I digress.

To the point- “Welcome To Wherever You Are” is no dud. It’s fantastic. I am shocked that it didn’t live up to Bon Jovi’s expectations. The song gives hope to those who are depressed about their current station in life. It instructs people not to harbor anger towards God, and it inspires those who are stuck in a rut to embrace the present. As he says, “you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” Count your blessings, and continue working hard in life to achieve your goals. “Be who you want to be, be who you are.” You can become whoever and whatever you want to be.


As a rabbi, I am delighted that this song is packed with religious language and philosophy that has been debated by rabbis and scholars for generations. More importantly, I happen to agree with his theological views as laid out in the song. Here are three examples:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jewish Unity, Chick-fil-A and Time Magazine

LAST WEEK'S TIME MAGAZINE international edition was entitled “The Battle for Jerusalem: How the Holy City Became the Front Line in the Struggle for Israel’s Jewish Identity”. It focuses on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat HaYovel, a secular stronghold that has recently seen a mass migration of Chareidi (often translated as Ultra-Orthodox) Jews. Jerusalem, and Israel, is portrayed as being in the midst of a nationwide religious civil war. Time magazine is correct about the assertion, they are just focusing on the wrong society.

The truth is, America’s religious divide is widening while in Israel it is trending towards unity. The Chick-fil-A controversy shed light on the intense emotions latent in American society about religion.

When Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said on a radio show that he thought that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, gay rights groups protested, some starting a “kiss-in” in objection to Cathy’s comments. Gay marriage opponents responded by having a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”, where the fast food chain broke sales records. Republican politicians followed suit, and tweeted out pictures of them and their staff eating Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tweeted a picture of a spread of the fast-food chain’s famous sandwiches that served as lunch for his Washington office staff.

Louie Gohmert @replouiegohmert

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Olympics - Tales of Perseverance and Dedication

THE SUMMER OLYMPICS HAVE come and gone, and, as is the case of any Olympic games, there were so many amazing stories, so unforgettable moments that these magnificent athletes provided for us over the past two weeks. Usain Bolt once again claiming the throne of “World’s Fastest Man.”

The adorable and bubbly Missy Franklin beginning what looks to be a highly decorated career with four gold medals. The United Kingdom’s own Andy Murray crushing Roger Federer on the grass courts of Wimbledon. The sight of South African runner, Oscar Pistorius, the first ever a double amputee to compete at the Olympics. And, of course, the birth of the “McKayla is Not Impressed” meme.

But for me, the two athletes I will remember the most from this Olympiad are Gabby Douglas and Michael Phelps. Both of them have etched their names in sporting lore, but their stories coming into these Summer games could not be more different.

For Gabby Douglas, her journey to Olympic glory as the all-around women’s gymnastics champion and member of the Team USA’s gold winning crew, “The “Fierce Five”, almost never happened. Indeed, just a few months ago, she considered quitting gymnastics for good. Gabby Douglas, raised by a single mother in Virginia, fought injuries and overcame the odds to be a part of this year’s Olympics.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cameron Van Der Burgh's Immoral Gold Medal

LAST WEEK, SOUTH AFRICA'S Cameron Van Der Burgh won the gold medal in the 100M breaststroke in world record time. But his victory came under scrutiny after the Australian team accused him of making illegal ‘dolphin kicks.’

According to Jason Devaney of NBC Olympics: “In breaststroke, competitors are allowed to take one dolphin kick at the start and one after each turn before starting their breaststroke kick. But with no underwater video judging, swimmers are sometimes able to sneak in an extra dolphin kick – a whip-like motion generated from the hips. Video replays appear to show van der Burgh taking three of them.” Van Der Burgh finally came clean a few days ago and admitted to cheating. From all indications, it doesn’t appear as though the IOC will strip him of the medal or world record, but I think they should.

What I find most fascinating about this story, however, is what he told a reporter when asked why he cheated: “If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind. It’s not obviously - shall we say - the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.”



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder Meets USY On Wheels

IN THE SUMMER OF 1992, I was a 16-year-old on a Jewish teen trip called USY on Wheels. We were halfway into the trip when we arrived in Palo Alto, California. Our bus of 42 teens and four counselors pulled into the parking lot of our hotel and we immediately realized that we weren't the only tour bus in the parking lot.

There were rows upon rows of fancy luxury tour buses with beautiful designs covering their entire exterior. It was only when we entered the hotel to check in to our rooms that we learned that all of the performers of Lollapalooza were guests of the same hotel.


Waiting for the elevator I encountered Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I talked to him for a few minutes in front of the hotel elevator, until he explained that he was losing his voice from all of these back-to-back shows and needed to get some hot tea and go to bed. I remember laughing at the fact that this hard rocker with a reputation for partying was going to call it a night around 11:30 pm.

One of the other members of the Chili Peppers turned to our group and told us not to do anything stupid at the hotel. Not thirty seconds later did we attempt to pack as many of us as possible into one elevator only to find ourselves stuck between floors. Fortunately for us, our bus driver’s husband was a firefighter and managed to save us before the local fire department arrived.


That Saturday morning following our Shabbat services, a number of teens from our group met Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder by the hotel pool. Pearl Jam would soon become my favorite rock band (which it is to this day), but back in the summer of 1992 I hadn't even heard of them.

Some of the teens in our group from New York had already become devoted fans of Pearl Jam and immediately recognized Eddie Vedder. Vedder and his girlfriend at the time, who had purple hair, were on their way to the tennis courts to hit some balls. While it was a USY policy not to use cameras on Shabbat, some of the teens in our group took pictures with Eddie Vedder. Some even had him autograph their paperback prayer books.

When one of our counselors saw what was transpiring, things got interesting. The counselors explained to Eddie Vedder that we were a Jewish teenage group that was not supposed to be taking photographs on the Jewish Sabbath. Vedder pointed to his girlfriend and told the group that she was partially Jewish and that he respected our religious observance.

One of the counselors told him that he and his girlfriend were invited to join us for our afternoon study session. (It is a tradition in the summer time to study Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Sages, on Shabbat afternoon.) The teens who had their prayer books autographed were reprimanded and then Eddie Vedder went on his way.

If the story ended there, it would have made for a great anecdote of my summer experience. But twenty minutes into our study session in walked Eddie Vedder with his girlfriend. The teenagers began whispering and pointing to the back of the room at the surprise guest. What was usually a boring study session would became memorable.

Vedder and his girlfriend sat in the back of the room listening as we discussed Jewish values and theology. About thirty minutes went by and they decided they wanted to leave so Eddie Vedder raised his hand and said something bizarre about the existence of cows. We all sat there bewildered. (In fairness, it might have been an intelligent observation but it was lost on us teens.)

We left the hotel on Sunday and said our goodbyes to our new friends, which included rock stars, roadies and groupies. As our tour bus pulled away from the hotel parking lot we snapped our final photos of the tour buses.

At the first highway rest stop I got off the bus, walked inside the store and purchased Pearl Jam's “Ten” on CD. I would listen to that album thousands of times over the next decade. And I would come back to it many times in the decade that followed. Eddie Vedder's music spoke to me during the rest of my teen years and into college.

Last year to mark the twentieth anniversary of the release of “Ten,” Cameron Crowe produced a documentary called “Pearl Jam Twenty.” Watching the DVD at home late one night recently, I thought back to the memorable and life changing summer I spent on a tour bus out West twenty years ago. While I didn't even know who Eddie Vedder was as he sat in the back of the room at our Shabbat afternoon study session, just knowing that I had learned Torah with Eddie Vedder brought chills to my spine. I don't know if he ever studied Torah again after that one afternoon, but I sure feel blessed and honored to have witnessed the Jewish education of Eddie Vedder.


Rabbi Jason Miller is the "Techie Rabbi" and is the co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog. He also blogs for the Huffington Post and is on Twitter at @rabbijason.

Batman Doesn't Negotiate with Terrorists

BATMAN - THE DARK KNIGHT HIT theatres on July 18, 2008 and became the highest grossing opening in history.

But something else made that same week a significant moment in Jewish history. TWO days earlier, on July 16, 2008, Israel released five convicted terrorists and the remains of 200 dead terrorists in exchange for the bodies of two captured Israeli soldiers.

At the risk of trivializing a great tragedy by juxtaposing it with a movie about a comic book, at the time I could not help but feel that the movie was a deliberate commentary on the current events.

The Joker was a terrorist. Much like Hamas and Hezbollah, he could not be reasoned with and was happy to see the world burn. He targeted innocent civilians and threatened to blow up a hospital if his demands were not met. Batman felt that capitulating to the Joker's demands would not bring an end to the Joker's reign of terror.


In the movie there is a debate between Batman and Morgan Freeman, who represented Batman's conscience, as to whether it was ethical to use Patriot-Act-like-technology that would invade people's privacy in order to find and stop the Joker. Morgan Freeman is opposed in principle but ultimately agrees with Batman that it is warranted, necessary, and even ethical under the circumstances.

The message to me was clear. Batman does not negotiate with terrorists. The movie seemed to be making a clear statement, and the movie's overwhelming popularity, while not exactly a gallop poll, may have also served as an indicator of public opinion.

Or perhaps not.

But either way, it is clear to me that Batman supports Israel's right to defend itself against its enemies, and in a broader sense Batman is a right wing (pun intended) political conservative and would probably vote for the Republican candidate for Gotham City Mayor.

Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman film, not only confirms this belief, but addresses a host of political wedge issues, all of which Batman falls on the Right side (as opposed to the Left side).

Here are a few examples: (SPOILER ALERT):

As far back as the Adam West version of Batman, the caped crusader is known for working in tandem with the police. In the current incarnation, even when the police are hunting him down, the average police officers are portrayed as competent, valiant, and heroic - not the norm by any means for most Hollywood films. But at the end of the movie one police officer, revealed at the very end to be the future Robin, makes a decision to throw away his badge and fight crime on his own. He decides that there are too many laws that inhibit the police and encourage the criminals making it too hard to fight crime by the book. If the bad guys are not playing fair then the good guys must use whatever means are necessary to stop them. This quite obviously applies to Israel's war against its enemies, as well as the global war on terror, and the domestic debate on how to deal with crime.

Part of the evil plot involves taking away all of Bruce Wayne's money. They do this by breaking into a computer and purchasing millions of worthless stock options with Bruce Wayne's account. This could have been accomplished simply by stealing his Ameritrade login and password. Instead, the writers of the film have the bad guys Occupy Wall Street. In some outlandish scheme, the bad guys break into the Gotham stock exchange and hold everyone hostage, drawing the attention of an army of police and Batman. This gratuitous plot hole was clearly placed to evoke images of the real life Occupy Wall Street movement. Later in the movie, after the entire master plan unravels, speeches are made by the bad guys about how the have-nots have to take Gotham back from the haves. Amidst the mayhem someone says, "now all of this stuff belongs to everyone." In essence the movie is about Batman's fight to prevent a world where Occupy Wall Street has its day.

Wayne enterprises creates a nuclear device that has the potential to produce safe nuclear energy. However, Bruce Wayne prevents certain people from attaining this energy for fear that the device will be used to make a bomb. A character representing a very liberal kumbaya ideology constantly leans on Bruce telling him that he has to trust people. Of course in the end the bomb gets into the hands of the very people who said, "trust me" and the outcome is disastrous. This is a not-so-subtle echo of the debate over how Israel and U.S. foreign policy should deal with Iran's nuclear program. Do we trust those who think Iran should be allowed to develop nuclear power or do we prevent them from becoming nuclear. I know where Batman would stand!

Rabbi Avigdor Miller was once asked if it was permitted to allow children to read Batman comics. He did his research by reading one himself. He answered that the comics are good for children because they "teach law and order to the kids by making sure the hero always overcomes the villain. The heroes even teach humility since they disguise their true identities and keep their good deeds confidential."

Batman has always been a platform for discussing serious issues and teaching morality. The writers of Dark Knight Rises have continued that legacy by providing us with a movie that entertains as well as confronts us with serious issues. But I wonder - does Batman's right wing stance on issues signal a change in the direction of the traditionally Left wing Hollywood norm? Or are the writers of Batman anomolies and Hollywood will continue to promote the views of the radical left? Will the Dark Knight continue to Rise?


Rabbi Jon Gross is an Orthodox rabbi in Omaha and considers himself the Chief Rabbi of the State of Nebraska. He sold his chametz to Warren Buffet this year. Follow him on Twitter at @Jon_Gross.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wu Minxia, Tiger Mothers and Jewish Parenting

BEING AN OLYMPIAN ISN'T EASY. But sometimes, it’s even harder to be an Olympic parent.

The parents of Olympians sacrifice mightily to support their children’s success. They wake up early and drive long distances to training sessions and matches; and many times, they have to send their children away to succeed. In the end, athletic success takes precedence over the parent child bond. One example of this is Wu Minxia, the exceptional Chinese diver who has won gold medals in three straight Olympics. Her father Wu Jueming described their relationship:

“We never tell her what’s happening at home,” Wu Jueming (said)…. “We even kept the news that her grandparents died from her. When grandma died, [Wu] seemed almost like she had a premonition, and she called us asking if she was okay. We had to lie; we told her, ‘everything’s okay.’ It’s been like this for so many years. We long ago realized that our daughter doesn’t belong to us completely. Enjoying the company of family? I don’t think about it. I don’t dare think about it."

More shocking is the fact that Wu Minxia’s parents are in London to watch her compete, but she and her parents have not spoken to each other. Her parents don’t want to distract her from her training.

U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman's parents watch her compete in London.
Have Wu Minxia’s parents gone too far? They have enabled their daughter to become an exceptional athlete, but at what cost?

Fundamentally, this type of extreme parenting raises the question of what parenting is all about. Some see pushing the child to personal excellence as the parent’s main role. For Wu Minxia parents, that might take the form of sports prowess, but that is not the only excellence that parents can, or should, push for. (That’s  a topic for another article).  Amy Chua, the author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” describes what she calls a “Tiger Mother”.  She explains that she demanded absolute success from her children, to the point that her daughters

“were never allowed to:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.”

What was shocking to many about Chua’s book is that she sacrificed her maternal love on the altar of her daughter’s success.  Would Judaism demand the same from our parents?

Judaism in many ways appreciates the ethos of tiger parenting.  A parent is not a mere nurturer; as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik puts it, true parenting is meant to be “covenantal parenting”. It‘s not enough to give a child a secure home; it’s a parent’s job to raise the child to spiritual and intellectual excellence. Covenantal parenting demands that we raise exceptional Jews; and for generations, Jewish parents have sent their children away from home to find personal greatness. The Talmud (Megillah 16b) records a tradition the Jacob was sent by his family to study for 22 uninterrupted years at the academy of Shem and Ever; and ever since, parents have been sending away their children to yeshivot, to achieve spiritual excellence.  My own son will be traveling in weeks’ time to spend a year at an Israeli yeshiva.  I’ll miss him a lot, of course. But when I was his age, I went away from home to study for many years; now it’s his turn to search for Jewish excellence. I definitely understand what extreme parenting is all about.

But at the same time, extreme parenting seems so…extreme. Maimonides sees true virtue in moderation, finding a way to reconcile multiple virtues and values. And the parent-child bond, a bond of love, is cherished in Biblical literature. Maimonides in the Moreh Nevukhim (3:48) explains the Biblical rule that requires one to  send away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks. He sees the purpose of this commandment as being based on compassion for the mother, to prevent her from getting upset as she sees her chicks taken away. To Maimonides, the concern of a mother for a child is the same, both in animal and in man, and even the animal's love for a child deserves our concern. And the lesson here is that if humanity wants to merit “long days”, they must treat the parent-child attachment, even the parent-child attachment of birds, with respect. And that's what is missing in Amy Chua's parental vision. Yes, Tiger Parenting builds exceptional children; but it also builds mediocre families.

Should Jews be Tiger Mothers?  Probably not. We believe in excellence, but we believe in loving families as well. If the cost of giving up extreme parenting is one or two fewer champions, then so be it.


Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz is an Orthodox rabbi in Montreal. He blogs at the Happiness Warrior and is on Twitter at @RabbiChaim.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chik-Fil-A: Free Speech or Sedition?

I AM A BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL. As a rabbi I must be careful how to talk about this from the pulpit-but here, in cyberspace, I think I am allowed to be totally upfront about my Cantabrigian roots (first place in the US to perform same-sex marriage), belief in equal rights for all above creature comforts for some, and being a registered Democrat who actually goes out and votes. I don’t eat meat, don’t kill bugs and try to live in mixed income housing (although in Atlanta, it turns out that sort of thing seems not to exist but I do the best I can)

So you will not be surprised when I share with you that I support legally defining marriage as between two people regardless of gender.

As you may have heard, Chik-Fil-A president, Dan Cathy, came out as anti-gay marriage. People are in an uproar. None of this is news.

Although I find his opinion disagreeable, he has the right to share it. From a business perspective, if I were the president of a big company, I might keep my controversial feelings to myself. In Cathy’s defense, Chik-Fil-A is consistent with its conservative Christian values in how it runs its business (closed on Sundays so Christians can have more time for worship). It is not a publically traded company, their hiring practices are all legal and they have not broken any laws as far as I know. (And if you bring in a program from ANY house of worship, they will give you a free sandwich or something-even if that house of worship is non-Christian)

So he doesn’t like same-sex marriage. What difference does it make?



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tisha B’av Thoughts & the Aurora Massacre

TWO WEEKS AGO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE suffered a terrible tragedy at the hands of a twisted young man. Twelve innocent men, women, and children were murdered in cold blood and over 50 others were injured while watching the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO.

Parents lost their children, spouses were widowed, and friends were lost forever. No words can truly do justice to express my feelings of pain, shock, and anger. I had to wait two weeks to write about this story in order to fully digest the severity of it all. When I saw The Dark Knight Rises in the theater, my stomach cringed every time there were explosions and gun shots on the big screen.

As a Jew, I am no stranger to bloodshed. Around the world, my brothers and sisters have been gunned down by terrorists for being Jewish. But my anguish is felt equally when evil is perpetrated against any human being. I still feel the sting of this attack acutely. However, I am concerned that much of the American public doesn’t have the Jewish sensibility of long term memory capacity. It is likely that they have already begun to forget what transpired just a few short weeks ago. To be sure, having a long memory carries with it a lot of baggage; it isn't all that rosy. The fear of the past often makes it impossible to press forward and move on with life. Nevertheless, remember we must.


Do you think anyone outside of the immediate family will remember and honor the victims past their one year anniversary? Will any laws be changed or amended as a result of this crime? In this age of social media, human beings are not conditioned to reflect on any story once it has stopped trending on Twitter. As a result, we are doing a great disservice to the innocent victims, their families, and society by not using tragic events like these as moments for reflection, growth, and positive action.

Jewish tradition has been instrumental in conditioning people to cope with tragedy, decry evil, and ensure that something like this doesn't happen again. Thousands of years have passed since the evil nation of Amalek tried to destroy our people, yet we still come to the synagogue and pledge “Zachor…Lo Tishkach,” that we mustn’t forget. We commemorate the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah, where we declare never again. Indeed, many have the custom to recite the "six rememberences" daily. Also on an individual level, we observe the Yahrzeit of a loved one by lighting a candle in their memory. I don't know the best way to honor the victims of the Aurora shooting, but I do know that keeping the flame of their lives in our thoughts and prayers will go a long way.

This idea became even clearer to me when I sang the final and most moving kina, or elegy, of the Tisha B’av service last week. “Eli Tzion ViAreh,” directs Jews all around the world to weep over the destruction of the temple that was destroyed hundreds of years ago. In attempting to evoke from the reader feelings of pain, grief, and loss the author uses two distinct images: a mother suffering from labor pains and a young woman who tragically loses her husband. While the pains of childbirth are physically debilitating, the loss of a loved one is emotionally devastating. Why then, would the author conjure up two images of pain that couldn't be any more different?


I believe that the author wished to emphasize and remind us that the obligation to remember a significant event must not only have a short term effect like the pains of bearing a child, it must make a lasting impact on our lives in the same way that the pain losing a loved one lasts forever.

It is my fervent hope that the American people will adopt the collective memory of this Jewish sensibility and never forget any of the horrors that are meted out against them. Let us bring honor to the victims and their families by taking positive steps, large or small, to ensure this is not repeated. In doing so, we will become a stronger and more united nation.

Zachor, Al Tishkach.


Rabbi Joshua Hess is a co-founder of PopJewish.com. He is an Orthodox rabbi in Linden, NJ and a life-long sports fan. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiHess.

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Open Letter to Gabby Douglas

THIS AN OPEN LETTER TO Gabby Douglas about her hair.

Dear Gabby,

Mazal Tov! It was such a joy to watch you perform last night and take home the gold medal in gymnastics.
And yet, before I even knew you had won, I had already heard the hype about your hair.

"Really?" I thought. I quickly realized that I shouldn't be surprised.

I'm a Jewish woman with a full head if kinky ethnic curls that I have spent much of my life trying to "control" with the correct mouse, gel, and other "product." As a teenager, I spent far too many hours obsessing about the nature of my hair and responding to others' discomfort with the fact that it often had an attitude of its own. Had I been an athlete, my hair would have been all over the place.

Now that I am adult, I am regularly surprised by the number of Jewish women who dedicate real time to straightening their curls every single morning, in order to disable their uncontrollable, natural, ethnic tresses. Today, a straightening iron seems to be a staple in the bathroom if every Jewish girl – except for me.


Siyum HaShas Photo Essay

LAST NIGHT I HAD the pleasure of attending my first Siyum HaShas, the 12th communal gathering celebrating the thousands and thousands of daily daf yomi learners who spent the past seven and a half years learning a page of Talmud a day to completion. For those unable to attend, this intrepid Rabbinic reporter covered the event for all of you. Here is a video essay of my experience.

As a New York Rabbi for one whole day (I just began my post as Rabbi of WSIS on the Upper West Side of Manhattan) this was going to be a great opportunity for our family to get acquainted to Jewish life in New York. From what we had heard, there are many Jews who have taken up residence in New York. I can now verify the veracity of that assertion. For our kids, who have grown up in San Francisco, this was a religious and cultural experience. It was also a quintessential New York experience. First a subway ride to Penn Station, which my kids thought was an airport from the inside, and then a harried trek through the maze that is Penn Station looking for NJ Transit. There were hundreds of well-dressed Orthodox Jews meandering around trying to find out how to get to New Jersey. I’m afraid there are still some Brooklyn based Chassidim who took the wrong train and are lost in Atlantic City as we speak.

I wasn’t sure how many kids would be there, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many there were. There was a presentation for a children’s siyum that went concurrent with the siyum hashas and they handed out a special kids magazine to all children in attendance. A really nice touch.


As I got to my seat the view was overwhelming. This was a football stadium, packed with Jews! Not that most Jets and Giants games aren’t packed with Jews, but this was different. I was trying to gauge the crowd, and I would estimate it as 50% “yeshivish” of different types, 25% Modern Orthodox, 20% Chassidic and 5% undeclared. It was pretty diverse, but it was an Agudat Yisrael production with predominantly ‘Yeshivish” Rabbis speaking. The speakers were fantastic. They were uplifting, positive and truly captured the communal feel of the evening.

This might be parochial and nit-picky of me, but I would have liked to have seen at least one Yeshiva University Rosh Yeshiva or RCA Rabbi do something from the dais. They couldn’t find a spot for Rav Herschel Schacter? Really? Considering the crowd had so many Modern Orthodox Jews and so many Modern Orthodox Shuls (including mine) have a daf yomi it seemed appropriate. To their credit, the speakers all spoke to the importance of Torah learning and how it creates unity. There was a tremendous sense of unity in the audience and it truly felt like a communal experience. Unfortunately, I felt the choice of speakers did not demonstrate the same diversity.

The most prominent Modern Orthodox Jew was philanthropist Jay Schottenstein, who sponsored the event in memory of his father Jerome and, of course, commissioned the Artscroll Talmud series which helped so many learn Daf Yomi. They showed a well done video talking about the family’s role in the Siyum HaShas (the videos at the event were fantastic). Still, it bothered me a little that the evening’s main sponsor was a committed member of his Columbus, Ohio Modern Orthodox Shul, but there was no chance his Shul’s Rabbi would be asked to speak at the event.


If you look carefully at the top tier you can see a dark green mechitzah (divider), which was put up specifically for the event at a reported cost of $250,000. The mechitzahs were used for davening, but were then opened up for the rest of the event. The New York Times story on the Siyum chose to focus on the womens’ experience and that Charedi women don’t learn Talmud. It kind of missed the point of this event, but I understand how an outsider looking in would quickly be drawn to the gender disparity at the event, especially a female reporter from the New York Times.

First, I was surprised by how many women were there. There were well over 10,000 in attendance. I thought the level of segregation was a bit unnecessary. As I noted earlier, there were separate entrances, even though men and women walked freely throughout the entire stadium. In the “male section” the women’s bathrooms were turned into men’s bathrooms. This became quite a challenge when my three daughters wanted to use the bathroom. Let’s just say I am a big fan of the “family bathroom” concept. Thank you Met Life Stadium.

With so many women in attendance, I’m not sure why they needed to be in the nose bleed seats. Why couldn’t they have been given a lower level section too? You might say because they were only observers and not actual Siyum participants, but how many of the men there were actually finishing Shas? Half? Many, like me, were just there for the experience. Plus, in the skyboxes (yes, there were skyboxes), men and women were together, even though it was officially the “men’s section”.


When people spoke of the Siyum HaShas, they all spoke of the spine tingling communal Kaddish. As the video shows, they were absolutely right.


Having such an event at a football stadium created some odd and humorous moments. Some speakers referenced the setting. One speaker used it as an elaboration of a part of the special Siyum prayer that everyone runs to something, but Jews are supposed to run to things that have lasting value while others run to things that ultimately are meaningless. That does accurately describe football fans, and I am a football fan. Still, there were some absurdities that the setting produced. The gate names are all sponsored, “Pepsi Gate”, “Verizon Gate”, etc. As we entered, a staff member on a megaphone was announcing, “All Rabbis who are sitting on the dais should enter through the Bud Light Gate”.


These men were not exactly buying Papa John’s pepperoni pizzas, but all of the stadium signage was up and it created some cognitive dissonance. I was really hoping the concessions would be serving hot cholent and kishka. Unfortunately they only sold snacks, water and sodas. Actually, maybe it was for the best.


I know the Jets care about their Jewish fans. A few years back the team complained to the NFL that too many of their early season home games fell out on Jewish holidays thus precluding their vast Jewish fan base from attending (take that Nazis!). Nonetheless, this was pretty funny. The video monitors had rotating borders promoting future stadium events, sponsors and the local teams. Only in New York.

In the end, the Siyum HaShas was a wonderful experience for me and the entire family. I look forward tomorrow to teaching the first daf tomorrow at our Shul. I have every intention of completing Shas and celebrating in earnest seven and a half years from now. For me the Siyum HaShas was an inspirational communal experience that will kickstart a whole new learning experience for me, and I suspect, tens of thousands of others.


Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz is rabbi of Congregation Adath Israel in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiStrul.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting Chai on ‘Weeds’: Show's Top Jewish References

FANS OF THE LONG-RUNNING SHOWTIME series “Weeds” know that writer and creator Jenji Kohan is not afraid to pepper the show with Jewish themes. While the show, now in its final season, has changed its flavor over the years and gained some critics, many devotees still enjoy the story about a marijuana-selling widowed mother from the suburbs and her family’s experiences.

Throughout the different webs of relationships, Kohan, who is Jewish, has managed to bring esoteric Jewish concepts into the series, including in a recent episode that featured ruminations on the power and purpose of immersing in the mikvah. Perhaps because the show is on the subscription-based Showtime network, its Jewish essence hasn’t been widely covered, but Kohan, who considered attending rabbinical seminary, has taken on some controversial Jewish subjects in the past eight seasons. Here are the top Jewish references:

* Unveiling (Season 1, Episode 8): It’s likely that many viewers thought this was a funeral service at the cemetery, but Jewish fans recognized the ritual as the unveiling of Judah Botwin’s tombstone. Once the family returns from the cemetery, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) explains her day to the Drug Enforcement Agency agent who becomes her boyfriend: “It’s where they unveil the gravestone. It’s a Jewish thing. I know you’re thinking, ‘She doesn’t look Jewish.’ I come from Welsh stock … I’m not Jewish. My husband. He’s dead now. He was Jewish.”

Showtime

The episode also tackles the controversial topic of Jewish lineage when the Orthodox rabbi tells the Botwin boys, Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould), that they are not legitimately Jewish because their mother isn’t Jewish and they had never converted to Judaism. The young Shane is hurt by the news and takes out his aggression on his wrestling opponent, whose foot he bites after yelling “Sh’ma Yisrael!”

* Rabbinical School (Season 2): Nancy’s out-of-work brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) decides the best way to keep from returning to military service will be to become a rabbi. He enrolls in the fictional Hamidrash L’Torah rabbinical school, where he falls in loves with the dean, the attractive Israeli Yael Hoffman (Meital Dohan). While much of the ongoing rabbinical school experience is silly, some rather serious issues are discussed, including Andy’s theological convictions, which come up while he is writing his admissions essay.

* Euthanasia (Season 4, Episodes 2 and 3): The Botwins leave the Agrestic/Majestic community after it burns and relocate to the home of Nancy’s father-in-law. There they find Lenny Botwin (Albert Brooks) and his mother, Bubbie (Jo Farkas), who is hooked up to a ventilator. The Auschwitz survivor regains consciousness and asks Lenny to kill her. The Botwin men discuss the wisdom and ethics of euthanizing Bubbie, but in the end Lenny agrees to have Nancy kill Bubbie.

* Sitting Shiva (Season 4, Episode 4): While shiva is one of the most well-known Jewish rituals, not many television shows have accurately portrayed it. This episode focuses entirely on the Botwin family sitting shiva for Bubbie at son Lenny’s insistence. Several laws and customs of shiva are mentioned during the episode, including the understanding that family members should not cook for themselves. A shiva candle is lit, and friends and neighbors come to pay their respect.

* Levirate Marriage (Ongoing): While Andy mentions the Jewish concept of a Levirate marriage to his sister-in-law Nancy at one point in the show’s history, the theme is an ongoing one. The Torah dictates that an unmarried man must marry his brother’s widow, but that applies only if the widow has not had children. So even if the law would not apply in Nancy and Andy’s case -- both because she already has children and she is not Jewish -- the constant and sometimes awkward attraction between them seems continually to remind the viewer of Andy’s enjoyment and frustration over the hunt.

* Bris (Season 5, Episode 8): Nancy gives birth to Tijuana Mayor and cartel leader Esteban Reyes’ baby boy, but the father (Demian Bichir) refuses to sign the birth certificate for fear of its effect on his political career. Andy signs the birth certificate as the boy’s father and insists on a brit for the baby, whom he promises to raise proudly as his Jewish son. At the brit, baby Stevie is given the Hebrew name Avi Melech (son of a king).

Showtime

* Mikvah (Season 8, Episode 5): At the end of this episode, Rabbi David Bloom (David Julian Hirsh), the rabbi/hospital chaplain, finally confronts Nancy, who has been secretly swimming in his backyard swimming pool. This is the same rabbi who talks theology with Andy at the hospital when he is concerned about Nancy’s well-being after she is shot in the head at the end of the previous season. When Nancy explains that swimming in the pool feels like a sort of rebirth for her, the rabbi explains the Jewish concept of tevillah (immersion in a mikvah). This is likely the most spiritual and New Age definition of the mikvah ritual that has ever been offered on television.

Kohan has said that she’s not afraid to take on inherently Jewish concepts on the show no matter how esoteric they may be. For the many Jewish fans of "Weeds," there have been many instances of surprise and pride over the years after unpredicted mentions of a Jewish ritual or theme. As the final season comes to a close, there may just be more Jewish references to come.

Originally published at JTA.org and cross-posted to blog.rabbijason.com


Rabbi Jason Miller is an educator and blogger. He is a co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog. He is president of Access Computer Technology in Michigan and is on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

Flying Yarmulke at Anthrax Concert

DISCLAIMER: I AM A BIG ANTHRAX FAN. I always have been. I saw my first Anthrax concert in the early-mid 1980s and have followed the band since then. In fact, I was in the front row, cheering louder than anyone else, when they ripped it up on the Bronx dubbed “Anthrax Day” at the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium last year.

I have also been aware that their once long-maned, now bald and goateed iconic axe-slinger Scott Ian, is Jewish. Scott Ian’s Jewish identity is known and affectionately acknowledged throughout the thrash metal/heavy metal community. To wit, Ian tweeted a photo, on July 10th of a guitar given to him by the late “Dimebag” Darrell formerly of Pantera and Damageplan. Of course, Dimebag had signed the guitar to Scott, “To My Jewish Rebel Brother.”

On Sunday night, Scott tweeted to his approximately 110K followers “Someone caught a signed yarmulke that I threw into the crowd tonight. Yep, you heard me.” Anthrax was headlining the Jager stage at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in Bristow, Virginia Sunday. Mosh pits at Anthrax concerts are known to be some of the largest, most intense, powerful mosh pits in the metal world. Trust me, I've been in my share of them.


So, into the midst of this swirling, sweaty, dusty, dirty, thrashing, mass of humanity, Scott Ian whips an autographed kippah. A few hours later after the concert is over, he wants to make sure everyone knows about it, so he tweets it. Almost predictably, the very first reply to Scott’s tweet asks, “What’s that?” “That” is, of course a head covering that all religiously observant Jewish males wear, and most liberal Jewish men and women wear when going to synagogue called a yarmulke or kippah. It is a Jewish symbol almost as recognizable as a Magen David, a Star of David.

So, why does an iconic Thrash Metal Rock Star throw a Jewish religious/spiritual object into the crowd at a Metal concert? While some might view this act as purely disrespectful, it wasn’t. By virtue of the fact that he autographed the kippah, one imagines that he fully expects the lucky fan who caught it, to keep it as a prized piece of rock and roll memorabilia. (I happen to have a couple of guitar picks that Scott Ian has tossed into the crowd at other Anthrax concerts.) Since it was a Jewish religious object as opposed to a rock and roll artifact/object, perhaps he was, in a way, trying to share that part of himself with the crowd.

In some ways, Judaism, spirituality, and heavy metal or hard rock seem at odds with each other, and yet in other ways, as I have written about before, there is an intense spirituality that runs through Rock, including Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and Punk. I suspect that for Scott Ian, throwing this kippah into the mosh pit was a way of acknowledging that for him, there is a deep and congruent relationship between his Jewish identity, his experience of spirituality, and Rock & Roll. I get it.

I hope he saves the next autographed kippah for me, I'd wear it.


Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh serves Bnai Keshet in Montclair NJ and The New Shul in NYC. He is profoundly Deaf and loves music. He has appeared on stage with Twisted Sister and Jane's Addiction and is on Twitter @RabbiDarby

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kelly Clarkson and Loving our Partner’s “Dark Side”

VERY FEW AMERICAN IDOL alums have had the kind of success as Kelly Clarkson. The winner of the first ever season of “Idol”, Kelly Clarkson has gone on to become a pop star with numerous chart topping hits, with only Carrie Underwood, season four winner and country music star, selling more albums.

While Miss Clarkson has had a great deal of commercial success, it would seem from her music that she is having difficulty finding “Mr. Right.” In fact, many of her most popular songs are about love and loss.

For instance, take the chorus of 2004’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes”, a song written after a bad breakup –“Here I am, once again, I'm torn into pieces. Can't deny it, can't pretend, just thought you were the one. Broken up, deep inside, but you won't get to see the tears I cry - behind these hazel eyes.” And, as we hear in one of the hits from her current album, “Stronger”, she is more than capable of bouncing back from romantic disappointments, as she sings, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone.

What doesn't kill you makes a fighter, footsteps even lighter, doesn't mean I'm over ‘cause you're gone.” Clearly, Miss Clarkson has experienced a few speedbumps on the road to finding her soulmate.


So in her latest hit, “Dark Side”, Clarkson asks one of the most important questions when it comes to finding one’s beloved. She sings, “Everybody's got a dark side. Do you love me? Can you love mine? Nobody's a picture perfect. But we're worth it. You know that we're worth it. Will you love me? Even with my dark side?” This song hits upon a key issue that all couples face – we all come with our faults. There are parts of our personality that are not always the most appealing to our potential suitors. Everyone has their baggage. The question for a potential couple is, can you love the entirety of your partner, warts and all? No one is perfect, but are you perfect for each other?

This got me thinking about one of my favorite teachings from Proverbs that I often use during a wedding ceremony. In Proverbs, we read, “Love covers up all faults.” When we are truly in love, we are able to overlook the blemishes of our partner. This does not mean, however, that we are blind to them, that we only see them through rose-colored glasses. We notice our loved one’s imperfections, and may even comment on them (though, from my personal experience, that isn’t always so wise). But in the end, our partner’s flaws do not lessen our love. If anything, the intimacy of being comfortable enough in a relationship to expose your “dark side”, your peccadillos that you don’t share with anyone else, is a true test of a loving bond that will last a lifetime. It is that kind of love that I wish upon Miss Clarkson and everyone else!