A cheery post-Purim post (not) - attitudes towards death

My husband's cousin is a psychologist, so when he came to us with his wife and children one weekend, I thought to myself, who better to talk to about this issue that had been preying on my mind.

A long time ago, I came across a website that provided fascinating information about longevity, and it stirred up a hornet's nest of emotions inside me - anger, confusion, and frustration - and I wanted to use my cousin as a sounding board. (I know what you're thinking - what a thrilling weekend it must have been for him - but the truth is that when you talk to most people about death, they will either: a) if they're English, change the subject and talk about the weather; b) clam up completely; or c) chuckle nervously and look for the nearest exit out of the room. I figured that since my cousin deals with psychotic patients on a daily basis, my rambling thoughts shouldn't give him too much cause for concern.)

Most people consider aging, and consequently death, to be an inevitable part of life, and therefore are of the opinion that you should live your life to the fullest and not spend too much time worrying about something that you cannot change.  My cousin pretty much corroborated the approach voiced by many about the inevitability of aging, and said that denial is what keeps you sane, and that dwelling on death - or even on how to prolong your life - is unhealthy.

Be that as it may (sanity is over-rated anyway), I have problems  swallowing that attitude, and I will tell you why. In days of old, when there was no medical intervention, and people dropped like flies from a multitude of illnesses, it was understandable that people's expectations for their lifespans were very low. But I don't believe that in this day and age, when we have at our fingertips a wealth of medical information based on extensive scientific research, which is only growing day by day, we can take refuge in that excuse any longer. Furthermore,  it is denial that is holding us back from improving the quality of our lives, and extending the length of our lives.

When you are a teenager, you believe that you are invincible and that death strikes everyone but you, and when you do finally reach a time in your life - normally when you are confronted with your own mortality as you watch your parents age - that the big "D" word comes into focus, you enter a state of denial just so that your sanity can remain intact. No one knows what can happen from one day to the next - any one of us could drop dead at any second (cheery thought, I know) - and you cannot spend and waste your life obsessing about the "what-if's", but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be pro-active about prolonging your life to the best of your ability, and it was the longevity website that fuelled this strong belief.

Anyway, I recommend checking out the longevity website if for no other reason than it can give you hope for the possibilities that exist to prevent the causes of degenerative aging. I end this post with a quote from their website that struck a chord in me:

There are many people in the world who want you and everyone you know to suffer and die on their schedule, far sooner than you might. There are people in the world who would suppress all medical research for increased longevity - exactly the sort of research that has increased the healthy life expectancy of the old over the fifty years, and will accelerate this trend going forward. If everyday folk like you and I go along with these deathists in silence, if we do not loudly point the nature of the Emperor's clothes, then we will get what we deserve - suffering and death for failing to stand up for ourselves, failing to support longevity research, and failing to build a better future for all.

Goodnight moon - total lunar eclipse on Purim

You will have to excuse me if this post lacks coherency. It is 1 am, and I have just come in from the garden where my husband and I were sitting with a shot of whiskey and binoculars, as we witnessed a total lunar eclipse. It was the most strikingly beautiful sight in the world. Just now the earth's shadow covered the moon, and I couldn't think of a more fitting time for this to occur than on Purim night when G-d's face was concealed. This world is filled with so many miracles and wonders if you only look for them.

Goodnight and Happy Purim.

Toddlers posing as stuffed animals

Warning: the rant you are about to read has nothing to do with editing, books, or any observations on the world.

I am blessed to be the mother of two gorgeous little girls, Eliana who is three years old (right) and Tzofia who is 18 months (left).

Kids eating frosting

Both girls attend gan (daycare), and today being their last day in gan before Purim, the children were supposed to come dressed up in costumes. (If you want to find out about the origin of the custom to dress up on Purim, check this out and scroll down to the title, Masquerading.)

My oldest, Eliana, is a princess through and through, so it didn't require much effort on our part to fulfill her dream of dressing up as a princess. Luckily, she fit into last year's princess dress, and thankfully she had no recollection of the fact that she wore this outfit last year. All is calm chez the Weinsteins.

Now we turn to our little one, Tzofia, who is just a year and a half and as well as recovering from a stomach bug is teething terribly at the moment. Now that we are older and wiser(?) as parents, and realize that Purim has absolutely no significance or meaning to an eighteen-month-old toddler, we figured we'd save her the discomfort and annoyance of dressing her up in an uncomfortable outfit - especially since she has no comprehension of what is going on. (She's an extremely bright kid, but I am not going to subject her to wearing a Purim costume until she is able to say, "Purim" and actually be conscious that her friends are wearing Purim costumes.)

When my husband dropped her off at her gan this morning, he was accosted by the sight of twenty toddlers posing as stuffed animals in ridiculous heavy outfits. Tzofia was conspicuously human in her sweat pants and sweater. Josh came out of gan, got back in the car, and said, "I hate it when people make me feel like I am a bad father." Apparently, one of the women at the gan (who, by the way, has no children of her own - I'd like to see her force a teething baby into one of those heavy things) was horrified that Tzofia didn't come to gan dressed up. "You have to dress her up," "What - you didn't even bring the costume with you???"

Now, I ask you, for whose benefit is dressing up a child of that age? Trust me, the kids are not getting a kick out of it - if they were old enough to actually speak, they would be saying, "Save me! Take off this ridiculous outfit so I can actually breathe!" The kids are being dressed up for the parents' amusement and so they can pose in the group picture.

It is a scary thought that even at this extremely young age, when my daughter is still in diapers, that they are trying to make the children conform. I say, it won't be long before my kids are doing all sorts of bizarre things out of peer pressure, so why not try to enjoy these few years of blissful innocence?

Writing on the wall - Jewish school targeted in Germany

I have never been able to understand how, after the atrocities of the Holocaust, any Jew is capable of living in Germany; yet the figures show that the Jewish presence in this country is formidable - over 200,000 Jews have made Germany their home, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

 A few days ago, a smoke bomb was thrown through the window of a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin. The thought of what could have happened if the smoke bomb had successfully been ignited sends shivers down my spine. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt, but the anti-Semitic imprint was left on this kindergarten after its walls were spray-painted with swastikas, anti-Semitic symbols, and Nazi slogans.  This was the first time that a Jewish school in Germany has been the target of anti-Semitism; unfortunately, I don't envisage that it will be the last.

 In today's world of senseless terrorism and hatred, where Jews are so often the target, people are scared to be direct in their obsession with being politically correct. "You can't generalize, not all Arabs are suicide bombers," "the Germans have learned their lesson - you cannot blame them for the sins of a previous generation," but these words ring hollow in my ears.

In this day and age, when it is unsafe to go on a bus in Israel, let alone fly, should I feel guilty about mistrusting each and every Arab I encounter? I definitely feel sadness about the reality of our world, but certainly not guilt. In my mind, I am responsible for keeping my children safe, and if that means that I won't let an Arab step foot into my home to do repair work, out of fear that he will stab me in the back, then so be it. The Arabs who built our apartment in Israel filled our pipes with stones; an Arab who my uncle hired to do odd jobs around his house, and trusted him implicitly, turned out to be an accomplice in a suicide bombing. The man who took money from my uncle and smiled at him deferentially each day was the same man who transported a suicide bomber to his final destination.

Yes, there are countless Arabs out there who are decent and who only want to live in peace, and yes, there are Germans who are shamefaced and are genuinely sorry for the unspeakable acts of cruelty that took place in Nazi Germany, but until Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora stand firm in their fight against anti-Semitism, generalizations and protective measures are the only defense mechanism we have at our disposal.

Beware of Italian teachers with scissors

If you have yet to eat your breakfast, dinner, or lunch, do NOT read on. Save this for a moment when your digestion is sturdier.

A teacher in Milan was suspended for cutting off her seven-year-old student's tongue with a pair of scissors because he was "lively". No, folks, this isn't a Purim joke, you can read more about it here. The understated tone of the article makes it sound as if cutting off a child's tongue is commonplace and happens almost every day. (I shouldn't joke, it probably does.)

The child is apparently scared to go back to school (no kidding, Einstein) and now has a fear of knives. The 22-year-old teacher, who warned the child, "Pull out your tongue. I'll cut it, and you'll no longer talk," has since apologized and claims it was an accident. An accident?

It's a crazy, crazy world we live in. Reading articles like these makes me want to break into my daughters' daycare in the middle of the night, and install webcams EVERYWHERE. I do fully trust the women who take care of my daughters, but then I say to myself, I bet parents who sat down with this female teacher in Milan for parent-teacher evenings would never have guessed that she is the tongue-cutting type.