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In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Shaking open our self-centered eyes

By Fenton Johnson





A memo to sophisticates and the thinking about our inevitably flawed initial perceptions when nature - i.e. the Divine - becomes humanity's enemy


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The New York Times characterizes the tsunami that struck coastal Japan as "murderous," while a friend writes that "Planet Earth is an unfriendly place." I rode out the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in my seventh-floor apartment in San Francisco, which experience instilled in me an appropriate terror and respect for the fluidity of so-called terra firma. The epicenter of that 6.9 earthquake was located far from my home — from which I infer that I can only imagine the power and trauma of a 9.0 quake centered close to the Japanese coast.

The key is not to rid ourselves of seeing the world in human terms; we're imaginative creatures, our imaginations are where our greatest fun lies, and besides, we comprehend the universe by placing it in a box whose boundaries and metaphors we draw from human experience. We don't need to abandon anthropomorphism, but we desperately need a bit of distance from the tendency to see the world through our inevitably self-centered eyes.

In his 1759 novel "Candide," the French philosopher Voltaire seized upon the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 (somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 dead) to satirize his fellow philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Candide, Voltaire's simple-minded hero, encounters one trauma after another, but each time he accepts the assurance of his mentor, Dr. Pangloss, that these are necessary aspects of, in the words of Leibniz, this "best of all possible worlds."

Interpreted so simplistically, Leibniz's thesis is easy to mock, and yet hilarious and bitterly true as "Candide" is, every page reveals the flaw in Voltaire's attack — his outrage assumes that the universe can and should fulfill our notions of justice. To describe an earthquake as cruel (or a tsunami as murderous) assumes that good and evil are qualities established and defined by some overarching, presumably supernatural power whose ways and means lend themselves to human comprehension and even control. But who says the universe was created so that human beings might understand it — that it must make or is supposed to make sense?

Experts assure us that the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan were aged, that our plants are safe or can be retrofitted to be safe, that the implications of Japan's "partial" meltdowns are not like Chernobyl's, that with enough money and expertise we can insulate ourselves from our rock-and-roll world. I respond with a weary sigh born of the memory of that relatively mild 1989 quake.


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Any town near the epicenter of a 9.0 earthquake is going to be swamped, one way or another. Any nuclear power plant near the epicenter of such a quake is going to sustain major damage. Construction of nuclear power facilities must take under consideration not just the shaking, the tsunami and the attendant destruction but also human greed and carelessness. Our decision to build them must proceed not from an assumption of control but its opposite: We will never be able to account for every permutation of the fantastically complex interaction of the world's physical forces — much less the fallibilities of the plants' operators.

We may choose to build nuclear power plants, or we may choose a view of today's lapping waves over worries about tomorrow's tsunami, but let's not kid ourselves about who's responsible for our choices and their consequences. Words like "murderous" and "unfriendly" place the blame on nature, when nature is blameless. If blame must be placed, let us appropriately assume it ourselves.

We decided to build towns on the beach and cities on the faults; we created the complex web of power-hungry machines that require ever more energy. After that honest and mindful reckoning, let us stockpile resources and make evacuation plans and fund more disaster response agencies, even as we take a long, hard, soul-searching look at our insistence on hauling out experts to justify bad ideas (e.g., building nuclear power plants near major fault zones) whenever they serve our short-term priorities.

Energy is the foundation of modern civilized life. Can we generate power cleanly and safely? Can we teach ourselves to live more frugally and use energy more wisely? We are in the midst of a great investigation of those questions. We do the Earth and ourselves the greatest disservice in imagining that addressing them lies outside our lives and choices.

Experience has taught me to have faith in a higher power, which for the sake of efficiency I call G0d, but my G0d is not the great gray-bearded guy in the sky tugging and pulling at Earth's strings, however that vision might provide a cool explanation for earthquakes. Instead I believe in the G0d of Exodus 3:14, "I am what I am," or, in another translation, "I am what is."

"What is" includes everything — earthquakes, tsunamis, laughing babies, your little dog Spot. G0d's great wisdom has left to us human beings the creation of a world in which we can devise and practice virtue. We will do ourselves and the world a great service by taking responsibility for our choices, in our language and in our lives.

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Fenton Johnson's most recent book is "Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks."









© 2011, Los Angeles Times. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services