Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Evidence Against Evolution?

  • The Wall Street Journal

Week in Ideas: Daniel Akst


Honesty Begins at Home

Studies in lab settings have found that people are quite willing to lie when it's to their advantage. But a paper finds that, at home, they're remarkably honest.
In one experiment, researchers phoned people at home and asked them to flip a coin, promising about $20 or an Amazon.com gift code if the coin landed tails. Heads? They'd get nothing. The researchers had no way to know which of the 658 participants might be lying, but a result of around 50-50 would indicate honesty. In fact, 56% reported heads.
In a second experiment, 94 people were asked by phone to flip a coin four times (and promised about $6.60 for every throw of tails). The results were almost exactly what would be expected statistically, suggesting that not much lying was going on. The data weren't correlated to gender; in previous studies, women were found to be more honest.
"Truth-Telling: A Representative Assessment," Johannes Abeler, Anke Becker and Armin Falk, Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Discussion Paper 6919 (October)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Google Hangout/You Tube/Conference Call Shiur Live this Motzo'ei Shabbos: Zos Chanukah

This Motzo'ei Shabbos, Parashas Mikeitz
נר שמיני של חנוכה, זאת חנוכה
The night following 2 Teves, Dec. 15th

10:00 pm EST

9:00 pm CST, 7:00 pm PST

זאת חנוכה

Zos Chanukah

Invitations to the Hangout will go out 

shortly before the shiur via Google+.

Simulcast live at youtube.com/mtajt

To join by conference call:

Dial: (209) 647-1600
Access Code: 435678#

Additional Help

Joining the Conference - At the scheduled date and time of the conference call, dial the conference line and enter the access code followed by the pound sign when prompted.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

"Halacha b'yadu'a Esav soneh l'Yaakov"

מסירת מודעה

The assertion that Halacha b'yadu'a Esav soneh l'Yaakov is related to general Antisemitism, has no source in Chazal. As Rashi brings it down in Chumash (Bereishis 33:4), it is strictly a statement concerning the relationship between the two brothers. There is no basis for its extrapolation to broader groups of people. From my perspective, bandying the statement around obfuscates rather than clarifies, as it makes Antisemitism some intrinsic emotion innate to non-Jews. Were that indeed the case, it would seem unjust to punish those who are predisposed to it. It is also not appropriate to link this Chazal to the profound derashah (Shabbos 89a) concerning the sinah that came down at Sinai. The Likkutei Torah (R' Schneur Zalman of Liadi) explains that this derashah refers to the hatred that the Jews received at Sinai - towards the vile traits of pagan nations (see Rashi ad loc., who also seems to have understood the Gemara in that vein).

Moreover, it seems very difficult to reconcile this notion of pre-programmed detestation of Jews with our mission of Ohr la'Goyim:

...ועיקר סיבה זו שיהא רוב חיותנו בגלות, דהקב"ה גילה לאברהם אשר נוצרו בניו להיות לאור גויים, וזה אי אפשר רק כשהם מפוזרים בגלות
 הנצי"ב, העמק דבר לבראשית מז כח  

Friday, November 23, 2012

10:00 pm Motzo'ei Shabbos Parashas Vayeitzei, 11 Kislev; 24 Nov, Live Google Hangout/YouTube/Conference Call Shiur

This Motzo'ei Shabbos, Parashas Vayeitzei
The night following 11 Kislev, Nov. 24th

10:00 pm EST

9:00 pm CST, 8:00 pm PST

The Remarkable Izhbitzer

 on the 


Analyzing this extraordinary Izhbiter on Vayishlach:

ספר מי השילוח - פרשת וישלח 

וזהו סדר השבטים כפי השתנות מניניהם בששה עשר מקומות

א. סדר תולדותם בפ' ויצא - ראובן, שמעון, לוי, יהודא, דן, נפתלי, גד, ואשר, יששכר, זבולון, יוסף ובנימין

ב. הסדר בבואו לאביו פ' וישלח - ראובן, שמעון, לוי, יהודה, יששכר, זבולון, גד, אשר, יוסף, בנימין, דן, נפתלי, גד, אשר

ג. סדר ביאתם למצרים פ' ויגש - ראובן, שמעון, לוי, יהודה, יששכר, זבולון, גד, אשר, יוסף, בנימין, דן, נפתלי

ד. סדר שברכם אביהם בפ' ויחי - ראובן, שמעון, לוי, יהודה, זבולון, יששכר, דן, גד אשר, נפתלי, יוסף, בנימין

ה. הסדר שבפ' ואלה שמות - ראובן, שמעון, לוי, יהודה, יששכר, זבולון, ובנימין, דן, נפתלי, גד, אשר, ויוסף הי' וכו'

ו. בפרשת וארא - ראובן, שמעון, לוי

ז. אנשים שנקבו לספור את ישראל בפ' במדבר - ראובן, שמעון, יהודה, יששכר, זבולו, אפרים, מנשה, בנימין, דן, אשר, גד, נפתלי

ח. סדר מספרם למשפחותם בפ' במדבר - ראובן, שמעון, גד, יהודה, יששכר, זבולון, אפרים, מנשה, בנימין, דן, אשר, ,נפתלי

ט. סדר הדגלים - דגל יהודה יששכר זבולון, מזרח. דגל ראובן שמעון גד, דרום. דגל אפרים מנשה בנימין, מערב. דגל דן אשר נפתלי, צפון

י. סדר הנשיאים בקרבנותיהם בפ' נשא - יהודה, יששכר, זבולו, ראובן, שמעון, גד, אפרים, מנשה, בנימין, דן ,אשר, נפתלי

יא. סדר מסע הדגלים בפ' בהעלותך - יהודה, יששכר, זבולון ונסעו בני כו', ראובן שמעון גד ונסעו הקהתים כו', אפרים מנשה בנימן דן אשר נפתלי

יב. סדר בפ' שלח אשר שלח משה - ראובן, שמעון, יהודה, יששכר, אפרים ובנימין זבולון, מנשה, דן, אשר, נפתלי, גד

יג. כסדר החלוקה בארץ בפ' פנחס - ראובן שמעון גד יהודה יששכר זבולון מנשה אפרים בנימין דן אשר נפתלי

יד. נשיא אחד למטה ינחלו הארץ בפ' מסעי - יהודה שמעון בנימין דן מנשה אפרים זבולון יששכר אשר נפתלי

טו. בפ' תבוא, אלה יעמדו לברך - שמעון ולוי יהודה יששכר יוסף ובנימין, ואלה כו', ראובן גד אשר זבולון דן נפתלי

טז. הסדר שברכם משה בפ' וזאת הברכה - ראובן יהודה לוי בנימין יוסף זבולון יששכר גד דן נפתלי אשר

הרי ששה עשר פעמים נמנו בהשתנות במקומותם ומכל פעם נמצא למוד, וכנגד זה סדרו אנשי כנסת הגדולה ששה עשר שבחים במאת ויציב, והמשכיל יבין

Invitations to the Hangout will go out shortly before the shiur via Google+.
Simulcast live at youtube.com/mtajt

To join by conference call:

Dial: (209) 647-1600
Access Code: 435678#

Additional Help

Joining the Conference - At the scheduled date and time of the conference call, dial the conference line and enter the access code followed by the pound sign when prompted.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Live Google Hangout/You Tube Shiur this Motzo'ei Shabbos Lech Lecha - Trying Times: Bitachon in Difficult Situations

This Motzo'ei Shabbos, Parashas Lech Lecha
The night following 11 Marcheshvan, Oct. 27th

10:00 pm EDT

Trying Times: 

Bitachon in Difficult Situations

Invitations to the Hangout will go out shortly before the shiur via Google+.
Simulcast live at youtube.com/mtajt

To join by conference call:

Dial: (209) 647-1600
Access Code: 435678#

Additional Help

Joining the Conference - At the scheduled date and time of the conference call, dial the conference line and enter the access code followed by the pound sign when prompted.

Two Very Disturbing, Different, Yet Connected, Articles from today's WSJ

The first essay presents the underpinnings for the second essay...

Dow Jones Reprints: This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool at the bottom of any article or visit www.djreprints.comSee a sample reprint in PDF format.Order a reprint of this article now
  • The Wall Street Journal

  • America's Religious Past 

    Fades in a Secular Age

    Unthinkable to the Founders: One in five Americans today has no religious affiliation.

    A hypothetical Martian with a deep interest in America's political and cultural history would be surprised and perhaps amused at the religious composition of those running in the current presidential campaign.
    The incumbent president is an adult convert to Christianity after being raised by a mother he has described as agnostic but interested in many faiths. His opponent is a Mormon, a faith tradition entirely indigenous to America and less than two centuries old. As for the two vice-presidential candidates, both are Catholic. This is the first presidential election in American history in which neither of the two presidential candidates or vice-presidential candidates was brought up as a Protestant.
    According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, American Protestants recently became a minority of the country (48%) for the first time—not just since the American Revolution, but since the establishment of the first English colonies on American soil. Even more notably, the same Pew research revealed that 20% of all Americans now say they are not affiliated with any religion.
    At one level, this is a victory for religious pluralism—or, to use the politically correct term, diversity. At another, when one in five Americans has no religious affiliation, it is a commentary on the diminished importance of the moral underpinnings that characterized the United States for most of its existence.
    At the country's founding, even skeptics and Deists like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin paid great respect to the morality and values that the vast majority of Americans accepted as God-given standards by which to live. These were standards rooted in Christian belief and teachings. Jefferson, as is well known, was a man of the Enlightenment who was genuinely skeptical about the supernatural claims of Christianity. Even he, however, believed in the need for virtue in national life as an essential ingredient for the safe continuation of the republic.
    The Founders shared a conviction about the necessity for national virtue, and most equated this directly with Christianity. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) said that Christianity was "the strong ground of republicanism. Many of its concepts have for their objects republican liberty and equality, as well as simplicity, integrity and economy in government."
    Happily for all of us since then, the Founders rejected the folly of the state's promoting any denominational brand of Christianity. After much early and often noisy opposition from Protestants at the popular level, Catholics came first to be tolerated and then eventually to be welcomed into the national tapestry of faiths. Just as the leaven of the Gospel message of love pricked Protestant Christian consciences to accept Catholics, so did the Gospel's message move Americans to address, and at last erase, the wicked national stain of slavery.
    Meanwhile, at the popular level, individual lives were being changed and entire communities swept clean of corruption and squalor through the phenomenal social effect of the Second Great Awakening (from approximately 1800 to 1850), a Christian revival movement that swept the country. A teacher traveling through Kentucky in 1802 at the height of the revivals there reported that "it was the most moral place" he had ever visited. In South Carolina, after similar revivals, he observed: "Drunkards have become more sober and orderly—bruisers, bullies and blackguards meek, inoffensive, and peaceable."
    It is hard to believe today, when a secular orthodoxy clanks its way peevishly through academe, the media and popular culture, that it was broadly accepted by most Americans throughout the 19th century that America was at heart Christian—not in any formal or legal sense, but in the values and morality that most people wanted to observe.
    The German-trained historian George Bancroft, in his magisterial "History of the United States of America," said that he thought America was a Christian nation established and sustained by God for the purpose of spreading liberty and democracy in the world, an idea that lies at the heart of American exceptionalism. In fact, the belief that America was called by God to be "a new Israel" and a blessing to the world goes right back to the Puritan preacher John Winthrop. In his famous shipboard sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity," on the Arabella in 1631, Winthrop made the much-quoted statement about America: "We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."
    The eyes of all are still upon America, but it is a markedly different place. As the secularization of that city upon a hill continues, it is not hard to imagine a presidential race one day that involves candidates who practice no religion at all.
    Mr. Aikman, a former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine, is the author of "One Nation Without God: The Battle for Christianity in an Age of Unbelief" (Baker Books, 2012).
    A version of this article appeared October 26, 2012, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: America's Religious Past Fades in a Secular Age.

    Haunted Houses Get More 


    Top Hollywood talent is behind a new generation of horror chambers that are dialing up the fright factor with movie-quality special effects and psychological torments.

    Go behind the scenes at popular New York City haunted house "Blood Manor" and see the high-tech software, video and elaborate props used to instill fear. Meet the actors and get an inside look at the morgue and "pig room." Scariest haunted house? You decide. With WSJ Off Duty host, Wendy Bounds.

    On a recent Friday night in Manhattan, William Friedkin, the director of horror classic "The Exorcist," found himself being roughed up with a bag over his head and a serial killer lurking at his side. "I don't recall when I've experienced anything that terrifying," he says.

    Mr. Friedkin had just entered the chamber of the Angel of Death in a performance of "Killers," one of a new breed of haunted house this Halloween that is proving so petrifying that patrons have been known to lose control of their bodily functions midtour.

    This new generation of extreme entertainment features psychological torture, intense sensory deprivation and hands-on assaults by people playing mass murderers. The houses incorporate Hollywood-grade special effects, some designed by the same crews that build the sets for the biggest-grossing horror movies and backed by the directors or producers of major horror franchises.
    At "Blackout Haunted House" in Manhattan, visitors pay up to $60 to be subjected to a litany of psychological and physical abuse, including extreme disorientation in a room filled with fog where your face is masked, your hands are strapped to a table and ear-piercing death metal music is blaring through headphones while a screaming actor bashes a mallet around your fingers.
    "The Nest" in Chandler, Arizona charges $25 and mines Facebook for personal details of visitors to its serial-killer-themed house. After passing through a 3-D maze replete with bungee jumpers, collapsing hallways and a vertigo-inducing spinning tunnel, visitors hear their names echoing through rooms while images of their friends and family appear zombified and blood-spattered.
    [image]Photo Illustration by Mick Coulas; Goretorium: (l-r) Denise Truscello; Jacob Kepler for The Wall Street Journal; Blackout: Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal (2); Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Orlando Resort (2)
    A new generation of extreme entertainment features psychological torture and intense sensory deprivation.
    Horror-movie director Eli Roth has upped the ante, splashing a movie-size budget of $10 million on "Goretorium," a Las Vegas year-round haunted house in the theme of his graphically violent "Hostel" and "Cabin Fever" hits. Horror producer Jason Blum recently opened "Blumhouse of Horrors" in downtown Los Angeles, drawing on his "Paranormal Activity," "Insidious" and "Sinister" movies. (Mr. Blum is married to a Wall Street Journal reporter.)

    Horror Inc.

    • 'Goretorium,' a Las Vegas year-round haunted house, cost $10 million to build.
    • About 20% of visitors don't make it through 'Blackout Haunted House,' shouting 'safety' to get out.
    • Insurance waivers require visitors to assume all risks and warn of 'graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror.'
    • The producer of 'Paranormal Activity' just opened a house of horrors in Los Angeles.
    "Killers," like other houses, has drawn on a pool of more talented actors than the "boo" performers of the past, ones who can more convincingly deliver chilling monologues or make patrons believe they're about to have their fingers chopped off. Also in the mix: masters of Hollywood makeup, props and traditional effects who have found themselves with less movie work amid the rise of digital effects.
    Halloween has emerged as the second-biggest commercial holiday of the year, with anticipated revenue of $8 billion this year, the result of an aggressive push by retailers to create a reason for big spending between back-to-school and Christmas. Haunted houses in particular have mushroomed, popping up everywhere from blacked-out urban storefronts to cornfields and backyards.

    The Haunted House Association estimates there are 2,000 haunted houses in America. The average ticket price has risen to $15 from $5 in the 1990s, but high-end houses now charge as much as $60 for a mere 20 minutes of entertainment. Spreading across major cities, from Denver to Columbus, Ohio, the new houses largely cater to urban hipsters and hard-core horror fans, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
    This year's haunts are playing into a new taste for more immersive forms of entertainment. Felix Barrett, the co-creator of theater production "Sleep No More," where masked audience members move freely between rooms of a Manhattan warehouse, says people are seeking an antidote to the screen-based, digital age we're living in, which has become depersonalized and passive. Tom Pearson, the co-creator of "Then She Fell," an audience-led production based on the writings of Lewis Carroll, says the computer screen is our new proscenium and "when we go out, we want to be in a world where we can't see the edges—we want a more visceral, live experience."
    "Blackout Haunted House" takes that idea to an extreme, breaching the long-held no-no in haunted houses of touching customers. On a recent sold-out Saturday night, visitors started their journey by being dragged backward through a door into a pitch-black hallway before being aggressively frisked by an anonymous person whispering their names. Moving through a series of rooms, visitors are embraced by a naked male dancer and have their face licked and bitten through a bag placed over their head.
    Haunted Hoochie
    A hatchet girl at 'Haunted Hoochie.'
    "Blackout," the brainchild of experimental-theater veterans, amps up the fear factor by making visitors go it alone. The psychological games begin before you enter: Visitors are asked to sign a lengthy waiver which requires them to assume all risk and warns them about the "graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror, adult sexual content, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe-light effects, strong odors, exposure to water, physical contact and crawling" that they are about to experience.
    As they await their turn, visitors are positioned in a dimly lighted room so they can witness the person ahead of them being dragged through the first door while also watching others run screaming out the exit. About 20% of visitors (including this reporter) don't make it through, shouting the code word "safety" to be escorted out.
    Mike Ross, 26, of Yorktown, N.Y., made an early exit after refusing to dance with the naked dancer. Mr. Ross's girlfriend, Dana Vario of White Plains, N.Y., also 26 and a haunted-house junkie, said she plans to return, however. "You need to have an open mind and be willing to be tortured," she said.
    Humans—especially men—have always sought out horror, whether it be through classic cautionary tales, the Bible or Greek mythology. Aeschylus' "The House of Atreus" depicts horrific incidents of incest and cannibalism. The primal emotional reactions of fight or flight have become increasingly remote in contemporary society, however.
    "Most of us live ordinary lives with few high-intensity moments, and horror provides that rush we're impoverished of," says Stuart Fischoff, emeritus professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles.
    13th Floor Haunted House
    '13th Floor Haunted House'
    In brainstorming a theme for "Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House," haunted house veterans Timothy Haskell and Steve Kopelman turned to real-life serial killers, including John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and the Zodiac killer. "The scariest things in life are real," says Mr. Haskell. They built a series of chambers in a gothic-style building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, each featuring a mass murderer in a meticulously designed set. Audience members who elect to have a cross marked on their forehead in fake blood get to play victims and accomplices, as Mr. Friedkin did.
    Mr. Haskell acknowledges he faced some flak for his choice of theme, which didn't go down so well with the family of one of the victims. He says he tried not to glorify the killers, however.
    Mr. Kopelman, who has been building haunted houses for 30 years, says there has been a professionalization of the business and owners think more seriously about their business model these days. He says there are three big costs: rent, advertising and labor. In the downturn, getting short-term leases has become easier as has finding labor, he says. That has helped them bulk up with greater numbers of actors. ("The Nest" has 120 actors in all).
    The key is pacing the house to get as many people through as possible—an easier feat for venues with more space.
    With technology now more affordable, houses can buy scores of animatronics and other tricks. "The Nest" uses radio frequency identification to track visitors through its haunt with readers and antennae sending data to a server that customizes rooms. For the 3-D maze, they use chromadepth glasses that bring hot colors such as red to the forefront.
    The Nest Haunted House
    The slaughter room at 'The Nest.'
    For "Goretorium," Mr. Roth did a test run at Universal Studios' Hollywood theme park last year, with a $600,000 haunted house based on "Hostel." "I got to try things out, I got to say, 'What if we have a guy in a meat grinder being ground up and you see the guts?' and I learned how to do it," he said. He also worked as a scare performer, or "scaracter," posing as a torturer chasing visitors from room to room. "If people didn't get scared, I took it very personally," he says.

    Mr. Roth chose the Las Vegas Strip for "Goretorium" because of its focus on round-the-clock entertainment. It didn't start out as a $10 million project. "I kept adding stuff," he says.
    Like his movies—Mr. Roth is part of the "Splat Pack" of filmmakers known for their hard-core horror themes—his haunted house is violent and bloody. Set in the fictional rundown Delmont Hotel & Casino from the 1960s, it plays on torture and cannibalism, among other themes. One of Mr. Roth's prized and most expensive features is a giant human meat grinder shaped like a tunnel that disorients visitors by spinning and cost $250,000.
    Unlike most haunted houses, "Goretorium" is a year-round attraction. Mr. Roth is seeking to do what Hollywood did with horror movies like his own "Hostel," which was released widely in January 2006 and proved there was demand for horror outside the typical Halloween season. To keep horror fans in its grip, "Goretorium" also features an outdoor lounge serving gore-themed cocktails and a wedding chapel. Special events include all-night horror moviethons, costume contests and zombie walks.
    The plan is to expand to other cities, such as Hollywood, New York, London and Tokyo.

    "I want to use this to build world-class, top-of-the-line haunts and to really make it a place for the horror community," says Mr. Roth. "I want to do what Disney did for children's movies."
    A version of this article appeared October 26, 2012, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Haunted Houses Get More Extreme.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    The Three-Ply Cord | Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog

    The Three-Ply Cord | Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog

    The cause which we fight for, day in and day out...

    Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog
    A compilation of the Rabbi's recent thoughts and ideas..
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    The Three-Ply Cord
    Posted on October 12, 2012 | 7 Comments
    King Solomon stated in his wisdom “Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their effort.” But three are even better, “for the three-ply cord is not easily severed” (Kohelet 4:9,12). The Midrash (Kohelet Raba 4) interprets this as applicable to family continuity: “R. Zi’era said that a family of scholars will produce scholars, and a family of Bnai Torah will produce Bnai Torah, and wealth will beget wealth, ‘for the three-ply cord is not easily severed.’” One sage asked: didn’t a well known family lose their wealth? To which R. Zi’era responded: “Did I say ‘the three-ply cord is never severed?’ I said “for the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”  But why should a three-ply cord – tough and durable – ever be severed?

    A new unpublished study recently brought to my attention has challenging implications for the Torah world – to wit, that 50% of the graduates of Modern Orthodox high schools are no longer Shabbat or Kashrut observant within two years of their graduation. Another study from last year reported the not-quite-shocking news that 25% of those graduates who attend secular colleges assimilate during college and completely abandon Torah and mitzvot.

    Those are frightening statistics that should cause us all to shudder. Perhaps the numbers are less dire than they seem on the surface. For sure, a not-insignificant percentage of students enter those high schools already lacking in Shabbat observance – their families are not observant – and they leave the same way. Other teens already fall off the derech while in high school – a more exacting study would measure their observance level at graduation and then two years later. But, undoubtedly, many slide off the path of Torah as soon as they gain a modicum of autonomy. Just as certain, there are some who return to Torah years later as well.

    What are we missing? What are we lacking? What are we failing to provide them after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per child on their Jewish education? What is going wrong? And how can it be rectified?

    It needs to be stated that parents who look to blame the schools, the shuls, the youth groups, the Rabbis, the teachers, and/or the greater community are looking in the wrong place. They should start by looking in the mirror. That should be obvious, because parents have the primary obligation of educating their children – “you shall teach [these words] to your children to speak of them…” (Devarim 11:19). Even if parents delegate this task, they still remain primarily responsible. And of course, the general disclaimer always pertains in these matters: there are perfect parents whose kids go off the derech and horrendous parents (absolute scoundrels) whose children are righteous and scholarly. Even such illustrious people as Yitzchak and Rivka produced one of each – a tzadik and a scoundrel. There is no panacea, and we can only talk about the majority. There will always be exceptions.

    To me, it all goes back to basics – not just what the parents say, but what parents say and do. The “chut hameshulash” – the “three-ply cord” of our world is Torah study, prayer and Shabbat – and in no particular order. Children who see their parents prioritize shul – not once or twice a week, but every day – see shul as a value. Children who see their parents attend shul once a week and primarily socialize and converse while there see shul as a place to meet their friends. When older, they can just bypass the middleman and just go straight to their friends.

    Similarly, children who see parents learning Torah during their leisure time perceive learning as a value. Children whose Shabbat is different than the other days of the week – the Shabbat table is different, the conversation is laden with talk of Torah, ideas, values, and zemirot instead of idle chitchat, sports, and gossip – experience a different Shabbat. It’s just a different day. When Shabbat is not observed as a different day, it stops being a different day.

    I have noticed that there are teens who simply do not daven – they will converse the whole time – and invariably they are the children of fathers who themselves don’t stop talking in shul. Children who roam the halls of the synagogue Shabbat morning are invariably the offspring of parents who roam the halls. Like father, like son.

    And something else: too many teenagers have absolutely no concept of “Bigdei Shabbat” – the obligation to wear special clothing on Shabbat. I am not even referring to wearing ties and jackets, although that is clearly perceived as dignified dress in America. Many teens come to shul dressed in weekday clothing but even on the lower end of what might be called “school casual.” How do parents not impress on their children from their earliest youth with the idea of “Shabbat clothing?” That is part of what makes Shabbat different. Every child – girl or boy – should have clothing specially designated for Shabbat, ideally a jacket and tie for boys and a nice dress for girls. At age five, I put on a suit and tie for Shabbat, and never looked back. How are children allowed to leave the house on Shabbat as if it is a Sunday – whether it is to attend shul in the morning or meet their friends in the afternoon?

    Are we then surprised when Shabbat for them becomes “not Shabbat”? Their whole experience of Shabbat is being told what they can’t do, incarcerated for two hours in the morning in a place where they don’t want to be, to then eat a meal that might be devoid of spiritual substance, the day salvaged only when they meet their friends who have had similar experiences. But if Shabbat is not a different day, then apparently the moment the child gains his independence, or a moment or two after that, his Shabbat becomes Saturday, which, combined with Sunday and Friday night, makes for a long, fun and enjoyable weekend. The fifteen year old who walks around the streets Shabbat afternoon in shorts and sneakers will likely not be observing Shabbat when he is twenty. But no one will make the connection then – so make it now.

    “For the three-ply cord is not easily severed.” The three-ply cord of Torah, tefila and Shabbat is not easily undone. The survey is not as surprising as is the persistent reluctance to draw the obvious conclusions and instead cast a wide net looking for the suspects. George Orwell famously wrote that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The good news is that we need not look very far for solutions. If the parent wants the child to learn Torah, then the parent should learn Torah. If the parent wants the child to daven, then the parent should daven. If the parent wants the child to enjoy Shabbat as a holy, special day, then the parent should make Shabbat into a holy, special day.

    Perhaps there is an even more important idea. The Midrash (ibid) also states: “two are better than one – that is, a man and his wife who are better than each alone, but the ‘third cord’ (that fortifies the first two) is G-d who provides them with children.”

    Parents have to convey to their children beginning in infancy a sense of G-d’s immanence, a sense of the godly in life, and a Jewish identity that is rooted in the Torah that Moshe commanded us. Children should be inculcated beginning in infancy that what they do matters before G-d, and that mitzvot are not just performances but points of connection to the Creator. When parents enlist G-d in their parenting – not as the Source of all guilt and dire punishment, but as the Source of “the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov,” then “the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”  Anything can happen. There are no guarantees in life, and each person is endowed with free choice. But “the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”

    We must reduce our expectations to the simple – what we want for our children, our greatest priority – is the summation of our lives: not that they should necessarily attend Columbia, Harvard or Yale, or become doctors, lawyers, rabbis, or businessmen, but rather “the sum of the matter, when all has been considered, is to fear G-d and keep His commandments…” (Kohelet 12:13). When we speak with pride not of “my son the doctor” or “my daughter the lawyer” but find our true pride in “my son the G-d-fearing Jew” and “my daughter the Shomeret Mitzvot,” then we and they will be prepared for the great era ahead, when G-d’s name will be made great and exalted before the nations.

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    This entry was posted in Contemporary Life, Current Events, Halacha, Machshava/Jewish Thought, Minhagim, Philosophy, Tefillah. Bookmark the permalink.

    tzorichiyun | October 14, 2012 at 5:40 am | Reply
    Very nice.

    Mr. Cohen | October 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    Rabbi Pruzansky said:

    “…25% of those graduates who attend secular colleges assimilate during college and completely abandon Torah and mitzvot.”

    Modern Orthodox parents should encourage their children to NOT attend sleep-away colleges. Instead, Modern Orthodox students should attend college near home, so they can and continue to live with parents or Orthodox roommates until marriage.

    Yair | October 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    For those of us interested in following up, whose unpublished study are you citing?

    Rabbi | October 17, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
    I can’t say. It was unpublished for a reason.
    - RSP

    Mr. Cohen | October 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
    Modern Orthodox parents should encourage their children to attend Jewish colleges, like YU and Touro.

    Jack Berlin | October 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    Rabbi. The US is in tough economic shape with a very debt/gdp ratio in part due to reckless and inefficient spending. You focus on parents in your solution to a Yeshiva Day school issue you highlight. What is the religious objective of todays modern orthodox institution? You mention yiras shamayim as a primary objective for us as a nation. If the primary goal is achieved through parents, why is our generation bankrupting itself with reckless/inefficient spending on a broken yeshiva system ? Is there a better model? Perhaps the economic resources of the community should be spent on strengthening the emunah of the parent body and the “trickle down” effect will be engaged!

    Srully Epstein | October 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    @Jack Berlin,

    Yeshivos are expensive, true, but they are not broken. Jewish children get a terrific education today, and their parents’ spending and sacrifice for that education should not be described as “reckless” or “inefficient.”

    The good rabbis point is, I believe, that all this wonderful education faces an uphill battle if parents don’t demonstrate in the home the values that their children are learning in the yeshiva. Torah is a living experience, not at academic pursuit.