Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Long and Torturous Route...


I've always been a bit puzzled and frightened by the narrative in Parshas Balak.
Bilaam is approached by messengers of the King of Moav who beseech him to come curse the Jews.
He obviously knows deep down that it's not a good thing to do and yet he really wants to go along with them, so he tells them to spend the night while he receives divine permission.
And amazingly enough Hashem tells him that he could follow them but only utter what he tells him to.
So off they go and although there are unmistakable hints along the way goading him to turn back, he ignores them and continues on with "G-ds blessing".
The story ends with him basically becoming a puppet of Hashem.

The lesson of this story is summed up by the words of Chazal "B'Derech SheOdom Rotze Leilech, Molichin Oso.."
Translated loosely means In the path that a person wants to go...he is led that way. This is true no matter which path you choose.
Basically, if you choose bad, Hashem will try sending you messages and hints to get you to turn around, but if you're stubborn enough to continue on, then Hashem will even help you in you errant way.

Why is that?
What is the logic behind this?
I could understand Hashem not stopping you and not getting in the way of your free will, but why would he help you?

I think sometimes we think we're running away from Hashem and it feels like it, but in reality we're running right into his arms.
I think of Yona who ran as far as he could only to find himself right back where he needed to be.
I think of the Yona from Noahs Teiva who flew away, only to find nowhere to land and end up right back at the ark.

I think of the spiritual world as a round globe. You can either go next door the straight and logical way or you could take the long and torturous route all the way around the world.

So when it says Hashem helps you go in the errant way that you insist on going, it's because he knows that this way also leads back to him. That eventually, by trial and error, by a process of spiritual maturing, the long and winding road will make it's way back, as long as a persons heart is open to it.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rubashkin and our co-dependency


In the treatment of addictions one must usually also deal with a by-product of the illness called "co-dependency".
What that means is, besides for the addict and his illness, those closest to addict start assuming roles over time that help them adapt to and often facilitate living with an addict.
So for instance the wife of an alcoholic will start adapting her whole psyche to her reality and will learn to accept the inevitable abuse until it reaches a point when she almost needs it. This is the purpose of al-anon support groups to help co-dependents regain normal behavior.

Sometimes when I observe our communities response to certain events I can't help and wonder if we're suffering from co-dependency.
For thousands of years we've been living with a sick partner. We've been hounded and abused by a gentile world that operated in a system un-civility and unfettered power and we were at their absolute mercy.
But I believe we've also, to some degree, become co-dependents. It's almost like we need the abuse. Like our eyes light up at the slightest signal of anti-semitism. It's our comfort zone.
We all know that it says Halacha Biyedua..Esav Sonei L'Yaakov. But what kind of Halacha is it? Is it in Shulchan Orech?
No..of course not. It's Agadda. It's the part of the Torah that does not mandate action.
If it says that before Moshiach comes Chutzpa will rule. Does that mandate us to act with impudence?
It also says that the Messianic era will usher in a universal era of peace among nations. Can't this Agadda trump the first one?

Yes, there is anti-semitism and always will be. True anti-semitism must be rooted out and dealt with.
But this knee jerk reaction and hand wringing leaves me with no other theory but the one I just expounded.

I wish our community would focus more on the personal side of our beautiful religion. The personal relationships with Hashem that every person can attain in any circumstance that they're in.
Leave the cosmic affairs to Hashem.
Focus on the Halachas of the Shulchan Orech instead of fretting over the Halacha B'yedua....

What prompted this is the sad affair of the Rubashkin case.
It's a Kafkaesque nightmare. Yes people are human and they transgress and do bad things, but to be caught in such an unforgiving system is horrible.

Having said that, I'm absolutely appalled by things that I'm hearing.
This judge is known for her strict robotic style and her unforgiving sentences and has left a trail of hurt victims in her wake.
No Rubashkin is not the first and most likely not the last. To hear the words Anti-Semitism leveled at her is another manifestation of this co-dependency I described above.

Let me copy and paste from a website where people post comments and reviews of judges.
Here are comments about Judge Reade before the Rubashkin case.

Dominated by her insecurities. Can be very rude and perfunctory. Seems to take pleasure in trying to embarrass criminal defense attorneys even in front of the jury. A judge to avoid if at all possible.

Proof that standards for the federal bench are pretty low. Reade acts like a secretary who's been asked to take over the boss' desk for the day -- and the status has gone to her head.

Insecurities rule. Invokes fear not respect.

Exceptional harsh sentencer - very pro goverment - they win everything

Between Linda Reade and the USPO, I feel like there are 3 prosecutors in the room. She clearly despises CJA lawyers and PDs - perhaps she thinks we're bottom feeders who can't get any other kinds of cases? And she makes no effort to hide it... It's very discouraging.

Reade manages by indimatation and fear. Acts like the whole courthouse and world revolves around her. Makes snaps judgments without getting the facts and then when the facts proove her wrong she ignores them and never admits she is wrong.

She is far and away the most unpleasant judge that I have practiced in front of. She does not appear to enjoy her position, and has no inclination to make tough decisions protecting the civil rights of clients.

Is a puppet for the Department of Injustice. Post Booker has never exercised her discretion to vary on behalf of a defendant- thus creating a defacto unconstitutional sentencing scheme. Does whatever a AUSA wants her to do - she isl ike a 2nd prosecutor in the courtroom...loves law enforcement- neither they not the US Attorneys can do any wrong - a total rubberstamp for the prosecutors.

Insecurties drive her rudeness and downright hostility towards lawyers. Totally inflexible and closed minded. Elevates form over substance. Not an once of energy directed to being fair. Imperial attutude, a poor excuse for a federal judge.

In sentencing ALWAYS does what the prosecution wants. Never varies and exercises independent judicial discretion or judgement. Ignores the command of Booker to actually apply the 3553(e) factors and reduce a sentence - not even once in a blue moon. I am sure Ashcroft and Gonzales text her what to do in sentencings. She is brutally mean and totally lacks compassion for any defendant. A judicial disgrace.

This judge takes the easy way out when sentencing for drug offenses; meaning, instead of considering cases on individual basis, she delivers the maximum punishment. She's putting the wrong people in prison because she's too lazy to really examine the evidence.

It appears this judge passes judgement literally before trials ever begin. From what I've read below, there is no justice with Judge Reade - only sentencing. Sad and disappointing. Perhaps she's forgotten the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and everyone deserves a fair trisl.

I am a retired trial lawyer. This judge is strongly biased in favor of the government. There is no way that she is acceptable in a criminal case. I witnessed her wrath on a young drug user and she gave him 35-plus years. This is outrageous and she should be impeached.

This really makes me worried. I have a case coming before this judge. The police have already lied about the facts - and now I find out that the judge is biased? What is a person to do? Does anyone know the feeling of having no hope or confidence in the legal system? It is a very bad feeling. I wonder if this is how monsters are made.

She is the worst judge and prides herself upon her ability to ruin families. She sentenced a first-time drug offender to 17-plus years. Letters of recommendations? What do those mean? They don't help. PSI? What is that? That doesn't help. She only focuses on the crime and not the person and the crime. She should not be a judge -- maybe a prison guard. She is hateful and needs to be removed from the bench.

One size fits all for Judge Reade and that's the maximum. She has no compassion for a family that is being ripped apart for years due to the illness of addiction. Someone with that kind of power, control, and pure hatred should not be a decision maker over people’s lives. I wish for 1 day she had to walk in prisoner’s shoes after she’s sentenced them

Then the Rubashkin trial started and all the comments deal with this case.

she is probably one of the worst judges in the world! SHE IS HORABLE AND SHOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!

I am shocked at her cruelty and lack of justice. An awful person who should be impeached as judge. Yimach Shima.


She is a peice of dung!!



This anti-Semitic judge should be impeached.

Really disgusting biased judge!!! hopefully one day she will stand her day in court for not granting proper justice!!!

I hope you do not get the chance to read this letter as you should already be dead.You are the biggest criminal in the world. You judge an innocent man to a horrible sentenece, which is unfair, unjust, cruel, and disgusting. How in the world are you going to live with yourself!?!? There are no words to describe your despicable actions. Your family should definitely consider a mental home for you. I would request of you to rethink your judgement, however I don't know if I can make such a request of an animal.

Since she has no respect for human life and dignitu, may she be cursed to 27 years of pure hell starting today! Amen


I rest my case.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crime and Punishment


I just got finished reading, one of the greatest books ever written. If you haven't read it I highly advise that you do.
Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky.

The story is of a young Russian student named Raskolnikov who commits a horrible crime. The book deals with the inner workings of his mind, the tremendous burden of guilt that slowly pecks away at his sanity, and ultimately the inner need to accept upon himself suffering in order to come to some kind of redemption.
It follows the lives of numerous characters but the other central character of the book is Sonia. Sonia is an 18 year old with a troubled past of her own that Raskolnikov feels an affinity to and who he finally admits the crime to. She doesn't judge him harshly but guides him through her inner goodness to do the right thing.
Even when he finally gets himself to go to the police station to admit the crime and hears the officer tell him that he's not a suspect and he leaves feeling giddy at his "getting off the hook", he catches a glimpse of her across the street with her questioning eyes and turns back around to give himself in.

He's sent to Siberia for 7 years of hard labor and she follows him there. Initially there is tension between them as he still is not 100% at peace with the situation.
Then comes the most beautiful passage of the book at the very end.

"One evening, when he was almost well again, Raskolnikov fell asleep. On waking up he chanced to go to the window, and at once saw Sonia in the distance at the hospital gate. She seemed to be waiting for someone. Something stabbed him to the heart at that minute. He shuddered and moved away from the window. Next day Sonia did not come, nor the day after; he noticed that he was expecting her uneasily. At last he was discharged. On reaching the prison he learnt from the convicts that Sofya Semyonovna was lying ill at home and was unable to go out.

He was very uneasy and sent to inquire after her; he soon learnt that her illness was not dangerous. Hearing that he was anxious about her, Sonia sent him a pencilled note, telling him that she was much better, that she had a slight cold and that she would soon, very soon come and see him at his work. His heart throbbed painfully as he read it.

Again it was a warm bright day. Early in the morning, at six o'clock, he went off to work on the river bank, where they used to pound alabaster and where there was a kiln for baking it in a shed. There were only three of them sent. One of the convicts went with the guard to the fortress to fetch a tool; the other began getting the wood ready and laying it in the kiln. Raskolnikov came out of the shed on to the river bank, sat down on a heap of logs by the shed and began gazing at the wide deserted river. From the high bank a broad landscape opened before him, the sound of singing floated faintly audible from the other bank. In the vast steppe, bathed in sunshine, he could just see, like black specks, the nomads' tents. There there was freedom, there other men were living, utterly unlike those here; there time itself seemed to stand still, as though the age of Abraham and his flocks had not passed. Raskolnikov sat gazing, his thoughts passed into day-dreams, into contemplation; he thought of nothing, but a vague restlessness excited and troubled him. Suddenly he found Sonia beside him; she had come up noiselessly and sat down at his side. It was still quite early; the morning chill was still keen. She wore her poor old burnous and the green shawl; her face still showed signs of illness, it was thinner and paler. She gave him a joyful smile of welcome, but held out her hand with her usual timidity. She was always timid of holding out her hand to him and sometimes did not offer it at all, as though afraid he would repel it. He always took her hand as though with repugnance, always seemed vexed to meet her and was sometimes obstinately silent throughout her visit. Sometimes she trembled before him and went away deeply grieved. But now their hands did not part. He stole a rapid glance at her and dropped his eyes on the ground without speaking. They were alone, no one had seen them. The guard had turned away for the time.

How it happened he did not know. But all at once something seemed to seize him and fling him at her feet. He wept and threw his arms round her knees. For the first instant she was terribly frightened and she turned pale. She jumped up and looked at him trembling. But at the same moment she understood, and a light of infinite happiness came into her eyes. She knew and had no doubt that he loved her beyond everything and that at last the moment had come. . . .

They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.

They resolved to wait and be patient. They had another seven years to wait, and what terrible suffering and what infinite happiness before them! But he had risen again and he knew it and felt it in all his being, while she--she only lived in his life.

On the evening of the same day, when the barracks were locked, Raskolnikov lay on his plank bed and thought of her. He had even fancied that day that all the convicts who had been his enemies looked at him differently; he had even entered into talk with them and they answered him in a friendly way. He remembered that now, and thought it was bound to be so. Wasn't everything now bound to be changed?

He thought of her. He remembered how continually he had tormented her and wounded her heart. He remembered her pale and thin little face. But these recollections scarcely troubled him now; he knew with what infinite love he would now repay all her sufferings. And what were all, /all/ the agonies of the past! Everything, even his crime, his sentence and imprisonment, seemed to him now in the first rush of feeling an external, strange fact with which he had no concern. But he could not think for long together of anything that evening, and he could not have analysed anything consciously; he was simply feeling. Life had stepped into the place of theory and something quite different would work itself out in his mind.

He did not open it now, but one thought passed through his mind: "Can her convictions not be mine now? Her feelings, her aspirations at least. . . ."

She too had been greatly agitated that day, and at night she was taken ill again. But she was so happy--and so unexpectedly happy--that she was almost frightened of her happiness. Seven years, /only/ seven years! At the beginning of their happiness at some moments they were both ready to look on those seven years as though they were seven days. He did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering.

But that is the beginning of a new story--the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended."

And I sit here wondering at our view of suffering. How do we accept it?
We go running to pray and beseech the heavens the have it removed so we could go back to our pampered existence.

But perhaps we're letting go of the greatest gift we can have.
Perhaps we should embrace the suffering and use it as a vehicle for new beginnings.

To shudder and cry, to introspect and grow...and suffer for something greater, for a greater you.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

musings with clipboard in hand

The other day I was sitting in a medical office holding a clipboard in my hand with a simple form to fill out.
It was a Medical History Form. The question on top read "Have you ever suffered from the following conditions?"
And thus began the list. And I began checking off...no...no....no...no..
Anesthesia Problems
Birth Defect
Bleeding Problems
Cancer, Breast
Cancer, Colon
Cancer, Melanoma
Cancer, Prostate
Cancer, Lung
Cancer, Other
Diabetes 1
Diabetes 2
Heart Problems
Kidney Disease...
and on and on

and I'm checking..no...no....no...and a lump forms in my throat (a benign one).
I think about the unbelievably complex human body and the myriad of things that can go wrong. And at that moment I feel so grateful, but I also feel like a ticking time bomb...


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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

the realization


He sat there off to the side..
listening...just listening
.......for 3 straight days
listening to endless opinions
to men and their ideas
their arguments..and outlooks
to their impassioned debates
to utter stupidity
time and time

when his eyes suddenly lit up
as this realization crept up
his psyche like an army
of marching ants..
...and although he'd suspected it
all along
he was not really sure
...until now
it excited him
to no end
...and terrified him
all at once

He looked around and felt sorry for them..
.........and for himself
as he was destined to share this earth
for he was now thoroughly convinced
that he....and he alone
was the only man on earth
........with common sense

But he knew that only inward
only inward...
...will he find his peace
for one cannot preach common sense
to those that have no receptors

so alas
he stood up
threw out his empty styrofoam cup
and continued on his lonely way...



Thursday, June 03, 2010



So election season has come to Lakewood like a runaway train with no breaks heading into station.
It's nice to see that democracy has finally reared it's ugly head in this part of the nation as well.
Democracy never comes without a fight.

My take?
I like to see what kind of sound decisions I could expect from people I'm voting for.
And the fact that anyone would want to enter politics is beyond my comprehension, thereby showing their inability to make sound decisions.
So...I'm beginning to think anarchy is the answer.