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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

The World’s First Murder: A Closer Look at Cain and Abel — Thomas Edison and the glassblower

By Rabbi David Fohrman


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To sophisticated moderns, the Bible can sometimes seem like a collection of fairy tales. No longer.

Combining a careful reading of the text with ancient rabbinic analysis, the author takes us behind the scenes in Scripture, revealing a startling tapestry of meaning in stories that many have written-off as fiction.

As before, he has designed the series to be interactive. You are encouraged to pose questions and offer comments. Try to stump the rabbi — he'll respond!

The seventh in a series

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The year is 1879. The place, Menlo Park, New Jersey.


You are a glassblower. But it is a mere job, you are quite sure — not a life's calling.


Orphaned at a young age, you dropped out of high school to take over your father's glassworks shop. Since then, you've reliably provided for your mother and sisters, and you are proud of that. But sometimes, late at night, you lie awake. You've never quite shaken off the urge to be a part of something larger than this.


During the years you've spent in your humble shop, the realms of industry and technology have exploded with innovation. The telegraph came into being just a few years ago, and the world will never be the same. Things which seemed the stuff of science fiction are becoming a reality. It is all happening in your lifetime. You would give anything to be a part of it.


Alas, though, fate and fortune had other plans. Day after day, you ply your trade, and customers come and go. But one day, something curious happens. A man comes into your shop that has an unusually keen interest in the work you are doing. He looks at the delicate balls of hollow glass you've constructed, and he compliments you on your skill. Then he tips his hat and leaves.

BEHOLD, THE BUSH WAS ABLAZE, BUT IT WAS NOT BEING CONSUMED…

One night about a month later, you are walking home from work when something catches your eye. All the houses are dark, save one. At the far end of the block, a light emanates from a living room window. You walk on by to investigate the possible danger — perhaps a candle has been left burning unintentionally — and are startled to find that the source of the light is not a candle at all. Instead, there is a man hunched over a glowing ember, enclosed in glass. The ember is white hot, its shine is terrifyingly bright, but strangely, it doesn't seem to be burning…


Suddenly, the ember flares and the man recoils. The glass shatters, and the house is plunged into smoky darkness. You hurry away, but in the glare of the ember, you caught a glimpse of the man's face. It was that fellow you met in your shop a month ago.


That night, you can't stop thinking about the strange light. A voice inside you tells you that something momentous is afoot. You feel that somehow, on the sleepy streets of Menlo Park, the world is about to change forever.


THE RABBI RESPONDS
Following last week's installment we were again flooded by reader participatory mail!

Please click HERE for an 17-minute presentation in which the rabbi highlights and responds via Real Audio to a sampling of your exceptionally smart and perceptive questions.

As this series was designed to be interactive, we encourage you to challenge the rabbi. Don't feel shy about doing so! Use the link in the bio at the bottom of this article to e-mail him.


You throw off the covers, pull on a bathrobe, and hurry down the street to that house. The man opens the door and greets you with a smile. "I've been waiting for you", he tells you with a wink, "I could use the services of a good glassblower".


At three in the morning that cold December night, Thomas Edison tells you everything. You hear about his quest to harness electricity to create a lasting, reliable form of illumination. For the first time, he tells you, people will have the benefit of light without the aid of the sun or a flame. He shows you his sketches and his calculations. He is almost ready to unveil his invention. But he is missing just one thing. That is why, he tells you, it was so fortunate that you showed up at his house this evening.


For Edison's new "light bulb" to actually work, the ember — or the filament, as he called it — needs to be encased in a complete vacuum. There can't be any air whatsoever in the inner chamber or the filament will ignite and the device will explode. He needs, he tells you, the services of a good glassblower; someone who can create a hollow ball of glass filled with a perfect vacuum.


You tell him you can do it, that he's come to the right man. You've been making glass ornaments all your life, and it's not so hard to suck the air out of the sphere as you seal it. You return to his shop the next evening, and you easily encase his contraption in the clear, sealed chamber he had been looking for. Edison turns a switch and the dream he told you about takes shape before your eyes. The carbonized sewing thread inside the crystal orb begins to glow steadily and evenly. The seconds turn to minutes, and minutes to hours. The light continues to shine. You and Edison had done it.


Days later, you both invite the entire neighborhood to Edison's makeshift garage laboratory. You and he have rigged it from end to end with wires and with these new-fangled "light-bulbs". It's a moonless night and the sky is black, but with one flick of the switch, all that changes. The entire laboratory is illuminated with the light of a hundred tiny suns. The men and women who have come to watch erupt in spontaneous applause.


Your dream has come true before your eyes. The age of the incandescent light-bulb has dawned, and you, the humble glassblower from a small New Jersey hamlet, have been a part of it. What more could you ask for?

THE DANGER OF THE DREAM

The story seems to be a happy one. But it won't necessarily end that way. Troubled waters may lie just below the surface of this idyllic little scene.


The trouble begins with this:


Your partnership with Mr. Edison may have started with a chance encounter, but it is not a trivial opportunity. Its possibilities touch the core of who you are and what you want to be. Glassblowing is all very nice, but you don't think that's what your life is truly about. What's really made your stay on earth meaningful, you feel, is this great opportunity to create on a grand scale — this chance to boldly seize nature by the throat and make something new out of it; to harness the fearsome power of lightning in a little glass ball and transform men's lives forever.


Now, stand back for a moment and consider this:


What happens when something you make means so much to you that you view the wondrous creation as an expression of your deepest self, that you feel a need to assiduously safeguard it; that you see yourself not merely as its "creator" but as its "acquirer", as its rightful owner?


On one hand, there is nothing evil or malevolent about making this jump from "creator" to "owner". But it creates certain challenges. Especially when that which one cherishes was not made by him alone, but was made in partnership with someone else.

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WHO'S WHO?

The first great challenge one faces, it seems to me, is whether one will see this partnership for what it truly is, not just how one might wish it would be.


Let's talk about you, the glassblower, and Mr. Edison. Who is the major partner in this endeavor, and who is the minor partner?


Well, let's see. Edison came up with the idea, sketched out the plans, did the calculations, spotted the pitfalls, planned how to correct them, and designed the first working model of the light-bulb. And you were the glassblower who filled an order for a ball of glass with nothing inside.


It seems pretty clear that you are the minor partner. But that's not necessarily how you would choose to see it. It is a difficult thing to be the junior partner in your life's dream. And in any case, there is another way to look at things:



It's been five years since my first, fateful meeting with Edison. As I'm leaving the office one day, I glance behind me at the words emblazoned across the entry way to our new corporate headquarters , "Edison & Fohrman Electric Works". And for the first time, I feel vaguely uneasy.


"How come it has to be "Edison & Fohrman Electric Works"?" I wonder to myself. "Why sure, the sign guys had to put one of our names first, and "E" does come before "F" if we follow alphabetical order — but really now, couldn't it just have easily have said "Fohrman & Edison Electric Works? I mean, let's face it. Thomas is a nice guy and all, and far be it from me to actually bring this up with him, but, you know, he'd never be anywhere without a good glassblower like me in his life. Why, he'd still be out there in his garage with all those exploding light bulbs going off all around him. Sure, he came up with all the plans, but it is one thing to think of things, it's another to put them into practice. You know, I really should talk to those sign guys about reversing those names…".

EVE AND CAIN

Eve's exclamation in the wake of her delivery of mankind's first child may well have been an attempt to grapple with this very dilemma. How does one balance the burning passion to create new life, the sense that one's destiny and reason for living is bound up with this mind-boggling ability to create a new man, with the reality that one is the junior partner in this enterprise?


Eve declares that she has "acquired" a little man with G-d — kaniti ish et hashem. As we noted last week, the word "et" seems to convey the kind of "with" that normally signifies an unequal partnership; a partnership of subject and object, of actor and tool. But the precise meaning of Eve's phrase is difficult and elusive. Who, exactly, is the actor, and who is the tool?


Does she mean that G-d is the primary partner and she, the vehicle by which the child came to be, is secondary? This would certainly seem to reflect the reality of the situation. G-d is the architect of the system of reproduction; He designed it, and He alone stands behind its intricate biochemistry. Eve brings this design into the world in a practical sense; she is the glassblower, as it were, providing a vehicle through which the Almighty's artistry can find its physical expression.


Perhaps, this, indeed, is what Eve means. From a translation standpoint, there is reason to believe this is so. The word "et", when used to mean "with", may well mean "along with" — as in "I went shopping along with you". Here, I am clearly secondary to you; the sense of the phrase is that I am tagging along with you. Something like this, for example, seems to be what the Bible has in mind when it says that Joseph was shepherding "et" his brothers (see Genesis, 37:2). Joseph was shepherding along with them; he was tagging along, as it were. Similarly, Eve may mean that she has created this little man along with G-d, the primary creator.


But it may not be so simple. As a matter of fact, even in the case of Joseph, it may not be so simple. Look again at that verse about Joseph and his brothers, and this time, let's see the words in their larger context:


Joseph was seventeen years old, and he was shepherding "et" his brothers through sheep…and he brought back bad reports [about his brothers] to his father.


There is something incongruous in that sentence. What is it supposed to mean that Joseph was shepherding along with his brothers through sheep? Yes, you heard right, that is in facr what the Hebrew says. The Hebrew prefix "b", placed here before the word "sheep", signifies either "through", "with", "concerning" or some other similar preposition. None of these words easily make sense in the verse, and indeed, the phrase "shepherding through sheep" appears nowhere else in the entire Five Books of Moses.


The verse, I think, seems to suggest a secondary level of meaning. On the one hand, yes, Joseph is shepherding along with his brothers, and what they are shepherding is sheep. But on another level, what Joseph is really tending is not sheep at all. He is tending his brothers — and he is doing it through the medium of sheep.


Let me explain. Think about what Joseph is really doing in this verse. He is using the opportunity of shared work-time with his brothers to bring back reports about his brothers to their father. Thus, while ostensibly shepherding with his brothers, he is in fact tending them — using sheep in order to do so. The brothers are more like the direct object of Joseph's shepherding than co-subjects along with Joseph.


When it comes to Eve, a similar kind of double meaning may lie in the verse. On the one hand, Eve declares that she has created this child along with G-d. But recall that G-d appears after the word "et", in a spot usually reserved for a direct object. Perhaps a secondary meaning whispers something else: That Eve has "acquired" this child, and that G-d, her partner in this act, has been the means through which she has been able to do so. She has used the services of G-d to bring about her dream.


The difference between one meaning and another is subtle. But it is not inconsequential. For while meaning "A" and meaning "B" may seem very close, it may be that the discrepancy between them becomes fully recognizable only in the next generation — in the hands of the man named for Eve's word "acquire", in the hands of Kayin / Cain. Indeed, how Fohrman views Edison is not just an issue of attitude and perspective. It also influences how I act towards Edison. It influences the kind of gifts I might choose to give him.


And therein, I believe, lies the key to understanding the mystery of Cain's rejected offering.


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The rabbi's earlier series of twelve articles, "Serpents of Desire: Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden", is now available as an e-book from JewishExplorations.com. Now, save $100 when you buy the full library of tapes and CDs by Rabbi Fohrman — only at JewishExplorations.com.

Rabbi David Fohrman teaches Biblical Themes at the Johns Hopkins University, and directs the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies. His intriguing talks on a wide array of Biblical themes are available on tape and CD at jewishexplorations.com


Previously:

What kind of ‘with’?
Living the dream of Eve
Blood on the ground
Echoes of Eden
The enigmatic genius of Cain
A Closer Look at Cain and Abel
Sure, the Bible is holy, but does it really mean anything?


© 2005, Rabbi David Fohrman