Friday, April 29, 2011

My Sister's Keeper

When Kinneret was pregnant with David I spoke to a doctor friend of mine about whether or not we should bank his cord blood. He didn't think it was worth it and he added that if we were ever to need cord blood it would be cheaper to have another baby. In the end we decided to bank his cord blood after speaking with another doctor acquaintance (Summy's brother-in-law), although we didn't do it again for Ora.
I recently watched "My Sister's Keeper," a movie that revolves around a family that pursued my first friend's strategy. The daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and after no bone marrow donor can be found her parents decide to have another baby engineered to be a genetic match to the leukemic daughter. The second daughter is born and she ends up serving as a donor on multiple occasions, sometimes suffering severe adverse reactions. When the older daughter goes into kidney failure the mother insists that the younger daughter donate one of her kidneys. At this point the younger daughter says that she's had enough and she retains a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emanciption.

If you like depressing dramas, it's a great movie. But it's also a good springboard for some discussion. The subject of organ donation and halakhah recently flooded the Jblogosphere (e.g., Hirhurim), specifically the question of brain stem death. I think "My Sister's Keeper" would have provided an interesting tangential debate, i.e., may one coerce a minor child to serve as a donor. Even if there isn't actual coercion, do parents even have the right to ask a minor child to serve as a donor?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pesach Rants: The Seder

If the seder is supposed to be to educate the kids, why does it start so late? What is the purpose if the kids are already dozing off right after mah nishtanah? There is an interesting discussion here about starting the seder early, but even assuming the established practice to wait until nighfall, who in the hell invited the chazan to daven maariv and shlep out the hallel? Isn't it late enough already? (And someone please remind me why we need to recite hallel twice at night?)

And if the seder is supposed to be to educate the kids, why do we sit around rambling in a language the kids (to say nothing of the adults at many tables) don't understand?

I have no authority over the shul's schedule and shaliach tzibbur roster, but I can control what goes on at my own table. So this year we did some parts in English.

And it went something like this:

Abba: At first our forefathers were idolaters . . .

David: Why does it say four fathers?

Abba: Forefathers means ancestors.

David: But why four fathers?

Abba: I just told you. Forefathers means ancestors. Now let me continue.

David: But there were only three fathers?

Abba: Huh? I said forefathers.

David: But there were only three fathers.

Abba: What are you talking about?

Finally Kineret had to point out to me that he was confused because he thought I was talking about the avos.

(And now I realize that he was probably further confused because I keep asking him who the 4 imos were--he keeps on including Dina--and here I was talking about "four fathers.")

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Balabustas, Pesach and Christina Aguilera

This is time of the year when balabustas world wide sing songs of lament. Now in my humble opinion that's just the wrong attitude. Instead they should be singing Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" (a la "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger").

Ok, just kidding. Ok, just kidding. But I hadn't heard this song in a while and it's been in my head all day since having heard it this morning.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

David's Daily Journal

David came home with a stack of his daily personal journal assignments. It was an interesting read. Some days were revealing about his perspective on things; other days were simply amusing. Overall it was a gratifying (and somewhat surprising) experience to see him write so expressively. But is also served us with an important warning, i.e., there are no house secrets when you pair a first-grader with a personal journal assignment.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Conflict vs. Unity

"The clash of opinions honestly thought out is far better than a unanimity obtained by the enforced or voluntary suppression of the reasoning faculty."

-Sir Leon Simon, The Elements of Zionism (London: Association of Young Zionists, 1934), p. 5.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Of Metaphors and Anthropomorphisms

Sometimes I'm concerned that David may not be absorbing everything that he is taught in school.

* * *

While reading through the Haggadah last night with David we reached the lines that speak of God taking the Jews out of Egypt with a strong arm, an outstretched arm, etc. Then this morning we paused after Yigdal for a line of be'ur tefillah and I focused on ein lo demus ha-guf ve-eino guf, i.e., the principle of God's incorporeality. We translated the line and then I started to explain that even though we read last night about God's hand, it doesn't mean He really has a hand. Instead of the expected confusion I was greeted with a smile and, "Abba, it's a metaphor."

I guess things do sink in after all in school.

Monday, April 4, 2011

President David

The other day I was explaining to David how one become the president of the United States, term limits, etc.. Then I told him that if he wants perhaps even he can be the president one day. He was intrigued by the possibility and asked what he has to do to become the president. I told him he has to study hard and do well in school. "And then they'll put my picture on a place mat?" he inquired with excitement.

* * *

Ora says a few more words: baby, ball, bubbles, eyes, outside and nana [banana].

She loves her doll and doll carriage. Today she put a hat on her head and one on her doll's head and put the doll in the carriage as if she were going to take her for a walk outside.

Ora is very attached to her pacifiers. That's right multiple pacifiers. Shabbat afternoon she crammed two pacifiers into her mouth and went her merry way.

She generally wakes up at least once at night (if not more often) for a bottle. She sits up strait and cries until we bring it to her. The she opens her mouth, lets the the pacifier fall out, goes limp and falls strait back with the bottle her mouth. It's so mechanically cute.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Are Brooklyn Yeshivos So Cheap?

People often wonder why Teaneck-type schools are so much more expensive than Brooklyn-type schools. Of course it's easy to point to the fancier facilities, more extra-curricular activities, the serious college-prep curriculum, better-paid employees, etc.

Wait, did I write better-paid employees? I should have written that Teaneck-type schools have paid employees.

Gil at Hirhurim commented in a recent thread that he overheard a rebbe mention that his wife, a Bais Yaakov teacher, is owed two years salary. Anyone famliar with Brooklyn-type schools knows that this is an oft-heard lament.

Well I guess it's easier to charge such cheap tuition when you don't have to pay employees on time, if ever.

Similarly, not paying rent on time (or ever), also common in Brooklyn-type schools, helps keep tuition down.

Yes, these practices are aborent and in my humble opinion defeat the purpose of sending your kid to yeshivah, but please don't leave any comments bashing the community in which these types of schools are usually found. My point in this post is simply to explain one reason why Teaneck-type schools are so damn expensive and question if parents who want a Teaneck-type school at Brooklyn prices are willing for their kids' teachers to be treated like slaves and for landlords to be stiffed.