Monthly Archives: February 25, 2014

Gluten Free Dating

Specialized dating websites are quite familiar to most Orthodox singles.  Frumster (now ‘JWed’) and Saw You at Sinai are dating websites dedicated primarily to Orthodox Jews looking for a likeminded mate.  By now, the websites’ specialized categories that singles use to define themselves – and what they are looking for in a spouse – have become a part of our everyday parlance. ‘Modern Orthodox Machmir (strict)’, ‘Modern Orthodox Liberal’, and ‘Modern Orthodox Centrist’ are terms that singles use to narrow the field of potential spouses even further. 

The highly specialized dating website has become increasingly popular in the wider culture as well.  Are you gluten free, and tired of explaining your diet on dates?  Try GlutenFree Singles, a specialized dating website for – you guessed it – gluten free singles.  Interested in living on a farm?  Check out the Farmers Only dating website, whose tagline is “City Folks just don’t get it.”  There is even a dating website for devotees of Ayn Rand’s famous novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and her Objectivist philosophy. (Angela Chen, Wall Street Journal, Finding Love With a Farmer, a Gluten-Free Eater or Ayn Rand Fan, Oct. 15, 2013)

It is essential to share similar outlooks on life with one’s spouse, and to have common goals.  Opposites attract, but those who share similar ideals have a greater likelihood of fewer conflicts down the road, and an increased likelihood of long term happiness.

On the other hand, one who seeks the ‘perfect’ partner who matches up entirely with his or her dating checklist is likely to experience significant frustration.  Human beings are too unique, too different in a myriad of ways, to satisfy every last requirement of a picky dater’s checklist.

The author, Rachel Simon, describes how […]

By |February 25, 2014|

Discontent

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
(Walt Whitman, Song of Myself)

Walt Whitman’s classic paean to animals reflects the deep yearning of human beings for the sweet simplicity of the animal kingdom.  Unlike human beings, animals are satisfied with their lot; their existence is not complicated by the torments that characterize the human condition.  As King Solomon, the wisest of all men, wrote, “…the satiety of the rich man does not let him sleep” (Kohelet 5:11).  The Rabbis famously explain that “One who has one hundred wants two hundred” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:34).  Even the wealthiest man is never satisfied with what he has!  By contrast, a well fed cow is a happy cow; he lacks for nothing, and is satisfied.

“And Bezalel and Oholiab shall work, and every wise-hearted man, in whom God has put wisdom and understanding in them (Chochmah U’Tevunah BaHeimah)…” (Parshat Vayakhel, Shemot 36:1).  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that there is a hidden message in the words “Chochmah U’Tevunah BaHeimah,” “God has put wisdom and understanding in them.” The word “in them,” “BaHeimah,” can also be read as “BeHeimah,” or “animal.”  Read this way, the verse now reads: “God has put wisdom and understanding in animals.”  According to Rebbe Nachman, […]

By |February 16, 2014|

In Defense of the Generalist

We currently live in the golden age of the specialist.  In the words of Alain De Botton, “our age offers us access to unimpeachable masters of specific trades [such as] the construction of ship loading conveyors… professors of medicine concentrated solely on the workings of human liver enzymes… and scholars across the world investigating nothing but the later Merovingian period of Frankish history.” (Alain De Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, 21-22)

The focus on specialization is rooted in the division of labor that helped propel the industrial revolution, and which broke most jobs into small parts in order to increase efficiency and production.  By enabling workers to focus on particular niche areas of work, specialization fosters an expertise which the generalist can never hope acquire.  And so modern Western culture, which idealizes the productivity that is a direct consequence of the division of labor, encourages us to specialize.

The Talmud, however, offers a different perspective: “Rav Yosef was Sinai (i.e., renowned for his breadth of knowledge), and Rabba was Oker Harim (“an uprooter of mountains” – renowned for his sharp intellect).  The moment arrived when they were needed (one of them was to be chosen as the head of the Yeshiva).  They sent the following question to the Sages of Israel: “Which takes precedence, Sinai or Oker Harim?  The Sages of Israel sent to them in response: “Sinai takes precedence, for everyone needs the owner of the wheat (i.e., one who is expert in the sources).” (Brachot 64a)

According to the Sages of Israel, a scholar with a broad base of knowledge is preferable to one who “uproots mountains” – a specialist who is deeply analytical, but who consequently focuses on a narrow area of […]

By |February 10, 2014|

Restoring the Soul

In 1915, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant wrote a letter to the Bintel Brief, a secular Yiddish advice column in Der Forvertz (The Forward).  He explained that his biography was similar to so many other Jewish immigrants from Lithuania; he attended Cheder as a child, had a good head for learning, but later became an unbeliever, a Zionist and finally a socialist. Hoping for a better life, he immigrated to America, but was quickly beset by a succession of troubles: His wife and business partners betrayed him, he was unjustly imprisoned, and he suffered from painful loneliness and depression.  His American dream shattered, he found consolation in an unexpected place: “Four years have passed since I got out of prison, and do you know where I now find my consolation?  In the old Gemora.  Call me an idiot or whatever you want but… when I am absorbed in the Talmud, I forget my loneliness and sorrow and my room turns into a palace where I am king.” (Isaac Metzker, A Bintel Brief : Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward, 133)

Torah study has many purposes.  First and foremost, it is the encounter of mankind with the divine – a meeting of the minds, so to speak, with God.  It is also, of course, an indispensable prelude to the performance of mitzvot; without study, proper action is impossible.  And Torah study is an act of mental purification; as Rav Simcha Bunim of Prschyzcha explained, one page from Talmud with commentaries purifies the brain the way a mikveh purifies the body.

But Torah study is also something else: it is a restoration of the soul.  “The Torah of Hashem is […]

By |February 3, 2014|