Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Is Israel's Fault!

Over the last several weeks, we have been privileged to watch what happens when despots keep their citizens living with no freedom whatsoever. There comes a point when people realize that they do not have to suffer oppression. It started in Tunisia. It went to Egypt. Libya is exploding. I cannot help but cheer the Libyan people in particular. They are brave and resilient.

Over the last couple of years, many have tried to convince us that if the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians could just find a solution, all of the other challenges in the region would simply disappear. More recently, numerous commentators have noted the folly of that belief. They have told us that the protestors in these nations have not declared that Israel is the problem. One retired Saudi military officer even went so far as to say that Israel did not put away the billions of dollars stolen from the nations in question.

I am offended. I believe that the goings-on in the Middle East are entirely Israel's fault. Israel does not suppress its internet. Israel does not restrict its press. The IDF answers to civilian authority. The judiciary is respected around the world, and has recently brought down a president. The results of the next Knesset elections are not known well in advance, and are not decreed from God. Wealth is not restricted to the hands of a few. The citizens of Israel's neighbours know this. They know that a vibrant society in which people have opportunity can exist in the region. Israel places that reality squarely in everyone's face.

It is nothing more than a continuation of the double standard from which Israel constantly suffers to deny Israel's role in bringing about the end of megalomaniac theocrats.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miss Maurelli's Composition Class

Good evening everyone.

I am feeling grumpy this evening. Due to a series of mistakes, the Gorman family's immigration file never made it to Immigration Canada. The result of that is that we must submit it a second time. The problem is that the rules have changed since a year ago. Now, Jennifer and I must have certification of our ability to communicate in either English or French. That is right. Two native English speakers, born in an English-speaking country, who attended American universities and received multiple degrees, must prove the ability to speak, read, write, and understand one of Canada's two languages. I will further add that I am a United States Naval officer. I must be able to communicate in English. Did I mention that Jennifer had an article published in a book? Did I mention that I came in 3rd place in an international sermon contest with 48 entries?

On some level, I am okay with the requirement. Every potential immigrant starts with the same blank slate.

Immigration Canada allows only two certifying agencies. One of them is I went to the organization's website. We will ignore for now that the Toronto office has a Thursday test tomorrow and next month, and nothing else until at least June. The two Thursday tests are booked. All other tests are on Shabbat. What we will not ignore is the sample test that the organization has on the website.

I will pick out a couple of quotes from the sample general training reading sample.

"All the excursions in this brochure will be operated by Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches."

This sentence is in passive voice. While technically proper grammar, passive voice is poor writing style. Competent writers avoid it. Better would be to say "Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches will operate all the excursions in this brochure."

We continue:

"Now our fleet of 50 modern coaches (few are more than five years old) operate throughout Britain and Europe but we're pleased to maintain the high standards of quality and service that were the trademark of our founders nearly sixty years ago."

Take note of the words in bold print. What we have here is a grammatical mess. Subject and verb must always agree with each other in gender, number, and case. "Fleet" is singular. "Operate" belongs with a plural noun. My suspicion is that the writer here had the word "coaches" in mind when writing "operate." However, "coaches" is the object of a preposition. It cannot be the subject of the sentence. As well, I am not certain of the word "but" in this sentence. It is a disjunctive, implying contrast with what comes before it. It is not necessary here, particularly since the point of contrast is not clear. Better would be to end the sentence prior to 'but.' The next sentence would begin with "we're" and continue. Even better would be to remember that the use of contractions in formal writing is also not correct.

I have only noted the first two paragraphs on this page. The rest of the page is replete with problems. Below is the link. Have a look for yourselves.

The title of this entry is "Miss Maurelli's Composition Class." Miss Maurelli taught composition in grade 10. She made it clear on the first day of class that more than three mistakes of the kind we see throughout this page would earn a failing grade for a paper. It is more than a little insulting to know that an organization with demonstrated grammar and writing deficiencies will determine whether or not Jennifer and I write, speak, and understand English well enough to live here. It is my sincere hope that whoever grades my test can meet my standards. Thus far, I am not impressed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coming Home

I have been home now approximately two weeks. In that time, Gavi has ambushed me with some flying stuffed thing at every opportunity. Jesse has really gone from being a big boy to a small man. Keren is..well..Keren.

Since being home, Gavi has been home from school with a headache. I think he threw up once too. Keren is home today with strep. She did throw up. Jennifer and I have been to their school once to teach, and then went back today for a meeting. We have twice rescheduled Jesse's interview for CHAT (Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto). There was an optometrist appointment for Gavi. There was a doctor appointment for Jesse. I have done one funeral. I have another one on Sunday. Jennifer had a meeting Monday evening. We are both donating blood next week. Jennifer and I spent Tuesday taking care of some paperwork that was dependent on immigration status for both of us. It is all done, but she does not have OHIP, and I do not have a SIN card. OHIP is the socialized medicine up here. SIN (Social Insurance) is Canada's equivalent of a Social Security number.

"They" always tell the spouses of deployed family members not to do anything radical while the spouse is gone. There should be no radical changes to hairstyles. The house should look the same when the Sailor comes back in the door. Do not buy a new car.

Now for the Gorman perspective: if Jennifer purchased a Porsche while I was gone, I would regard it as a small price to pay for a happy wife. If she changed her hair, I am a guy. It is unlikely I would notice. As far as changing the house around, Jennifer rearranges furniture. If I came home after however long, and the furniture had not shifted, I would be concerned about her. She also painted the ensuite, the kids' bathroom, and the master bedroom. Again, this is what she does.

My life is primarily in the second paragraph of this entry. The other stuff - hairstyle, car, house - is minor. These are the things that Jennifer must do to continue living. I would never want her to avoid them. Jennifer is not going to move and forget to tell me the address. Short of that, I expect her to live the way she wants and needs to live.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reasons to Have Children

I had promised everyone that I would publish my list of reasons to have children. You may remember a couple of years ago that a therapist and mother of two published a book in Europe entitled "No Kids: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children." I would like to congratulate her on helping her colleagues. I am certain that her children, roughly the age of my older two, will certainly not think she meant them specifically. And just think - she was on the bestseller list too. I bet she made lots of money. I wonder what her name was.

Over summer 2009, the book "No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children" was a bestseller in North America. The author wastes over 100 pages of ink to give all of the reasons - her reasons - we should avoid having children.

This decision is very personal for most couples, and has numerous factors involved - economy, past experiences, fertility, etc. In no way do I criticize those who have chosen a different path. Neither do I mean any insult towards those who have had such a different path thrust upon them.

After reading this book, I spent some time on line finding lists of reasons that people should have children. Many websites exist, each giving numerous reasons, and each castigating the author of the book in question. The lists on these websites were all very good. However, virtually every website I found was Catholic.

Jewish families are not Catholic families. Some of our reasons as Jews are different from those of our Catholic neighbors. I thus present to you 40 reasons that Jewish families should have children. Please note that some of the reasons are in direct response to the spurious waste of paper mentioned in the first paragraph.

1. I do not require a reason. Some truths are self-evident, with no need for justification.
2. Very often, the phrase "I do not want to have children" really means "I do not want to have children with you."
3. A large part of the marital counseling I do centers around the inability to do so.
4. I live with the constant reminder that there is more to the world than the ability to be spontaneous with my spouse.
5. Biblical obligation (Genesis 1:28).
6. I remember with clarity my son staring at me endlessly on the day he was born.
7. I remember with clarity my second son coming out to join me for breakfast at 6:30 every morning when he was a toddler.
8. I remember with clarity my just-learning-to-walk daughter turning on the radio and dancing in the living room. You cannot get such memories from the cat. You also cannot get them from having the author's suggested "overnight guests" just because there are no kids in the way.
9. The requirement of the morning wrestling match to get one of them out of bed.
10. It has certainly made my wife and me much closer, if not a little more exhausted.
11. Watching my children's triumphs with joy, pride, and even a little jealousy.
12. Knowing that my children could write this list.
13. I regard replacing 6,000,000 of my immediate ancestors as a personal obligation.
14. Advancing professionally is not on the same scale as advancing personally.
15. My children will always know how to care for others.
16. Making the special "cupcake hallah" with my kids.
17. Watching the delight of learning something new.
18. Trips to the ice cream parlor are much more fun with them than they are solo.
19. Who knew that macaroni and cheese is its own food group?
20. Calzone night
21. Losing at chess and Othello to kids I should defeat.
22. Shabbat afternoon Monopoly games
23. Wintertime and the wooden trains (which are mostly mine)
24. Listening in wonder and amazement while someone talks for so long without taking a breath.
25. Trying to deliver a sermon with a kid standing between me and a bimah.
26. My wife and I go out as adults way more now than we ever did before we had kids.
27. One child has asked for his own candle-sticks, because his sister has them, and he does not want to be left out.
28. The raucous Shabbat table.
29. My kids will go to the book store over the movie theater.
30. I have no clue what the problem is for the author of the book. Our sex life is fine thank you very much. That is how Jennifer and I had these children. By the way, get a lock for the bedroom door.
31. We have plenty of friends. They all have children about the age of our own.
32. Watching one of the kids do a 20-kilometer charity ride on a bicycle with one training wheel.
33. Watching one of my kids teach two friends to read Torah, and then organize the Torah readers for the family service.
34. Gaining respect for my parents, as well as a sense of relief that I never said "I will never say that to my kids."
35. Being aware of their needs helps me to be aware of the needs of others as well, and not to focus only on my own.
36. Having a world-renowned expert on dinosaurs living in my basement.
37. The first frog they brought home.
38. Learning a fair amount about myself.
39. Hearing the story of how my eldest organized his brother and sister for their first bus ride from karate to home.
40. The pocketful of acorns that I put through the laundry.

I am adding in one more reason, as I believe that this is not an equal choice. The reasons to have children not only outweigh the author's reasons not to have children. They also outnumber the author's reasons.

41. Marital intimacy is far more fun and spontaneous when one is hopeful about the results instead of worried about the results.

Rav Sean Gorman, with help from Rav Jennifer Gorman

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah

Jennifer's favourite mitzvah is mikveh, as you saw in her posting today. She sees it as spiritual. I always refer my female conversion students to her to talk about it. I can tell you how to build one. I have never been able to get into the spiritual side of it.

Before I comment on my personal feelings, I need to be the Rabbi. Given that the mikveh is essentially a secret sorority, it should be many things. Above and beyond the questions of spiritual health, it should also be a place of physical health. As such, the dressing rooms should have posters with proper instructions for a monthly breast exam. There should be phone numbers for shelters and abuse counseling.

On a macro level, mikveh attendants should meet once a month in cities where there are multiple mikvaot. They should discuss different procedures for helping someone with physical challenges in and out of the mikveh. They should discuss Mrs. Schwartz, who goes to a different mikveh every night. They should learn to ask the simple question of whether it is the right night to be there. Being forced to go to mikveh early is prevalent in abusive relationships. By the way, there is a different method of counting the days of menstruation amongst the Sephardim as opposed to the Ashkenazim. A question to the mikveh attendant about that counting might be a question about personal custom. It might also be a sign of a much deeper marital problem.

On a personal level, mikveh for me is very erotic. In the week prior, I am already thinking about 'mikveh night.' I plan the evening. I shower also. I put the kids to bed as early as I can get away with.

One of my teachers pointed out that if the point of mikveh is for the monthly honeymoon that Jennifer mentioned, men should go too. It is not only incumbent on the women to maintain the romance in a relationship. I should go monthly. I do not. I will start at some point.

Home for a Week

I have been home for a week. I suppose I should write something. I'm ho-oooome. What's for dinner?

My luggage did finally come a couple of hours before Shabbat. I must have a chat with the airline. They damaged my suitcase. I am not sure whether to be upset or happy. The suitcase was showing its age.

I was ambushed at the door. Gavi organized it, complete with a barrage of stuffed animals and everyone in his/her proper spot for maximum effect. Gavi's rough side has since come through. He has a beautiful black eye to show for it, courtesy of the bedroom door.

Jesse read Torah last Shabbat morning. He read one aliyah. If he would slow down just a touch, it would have been absolutely perfect. It seemed like his eyes moved faster than his mouth. That being said, I was utterly floored listening to him. I left a boy here. He is certainly a young man. His voice is deeper. There is a confidence and maturity to his reading that he did not have in October, despite a skill level in this regard that goes beyond anyone his age, or several years older.

Keren planned a return party. She invited people. When they asked her what to bring, she thought about it and answered the question. People brought cake and other assorted sundries.

I put the cheque in the mail today to the taxi driver in Okinawa. I hope he gets it.