Emotional Intimacy: It’s Not In the Cards

Magicians don’t reveal their secrets, but here’s the secret to relationship magic.

Thirty Six Questions

In an article that went viral last year, Mandy Len Catron described how she found love by using research from a scientific study on developing emotional closeness. The study (Aron, et al., 1997), first published nearly two decades ago, used 36 questions and a period of gazing into each other’s eyes to create a connection between two people. They took turns asking each other a probing question, such as: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” and “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” The article that describes how Catron successfully created strong feelings with her friend became one of the most read New York Times articles of the entire 2015, and gave rise to apps, card games, books, and clubs that utilize similar questions.

Similarly, in some Orthodox Jewish circles, it has become popular for women and men to use cards with exploratory questions during their dating process. Toward the beginning of a relationship, daters sometimes try to determine if they are a match for each other by asking questions that address emotional aspects a person. Another way that dating pairs use those questions is if they have been dating already but do not feel that they are developing an emotional connection. They try to jump-start a relationship by using inquisitive questions similar to the ones suggested in the study and printed on cards.

Does It Work?

Most dating couples that use the cards find them to be of little help. Similarly, there are reports of individuals and groups that have tried to use these questions on a large scale, such as in a sizable gathering of potential daters, to no avail. What happened? Were Arthur Aron and his colleagues mistaken? Is the research ancient and no longer applicable?

The answer is a stroke of irony. If you understand how to use the cards, then you don’t need to use them. The cards and questions aim to help people create an emotional connection. An element that leads to creating this connection is for two people to share some of their thoughts about themselves and some of their feelings. If two people are open to sharing in that way, specific cards or questions are not usually necessary.

Not Feeling It

It might be said that facts happen all around us, but feelings are what we live. Facts include the actual experiences that we have, both by ourselves and by interacting with the external world. Feelings are what those experiences mean to us and how we interpret a specific interaction. For example, “the sun is shining” is a fact; “therefore it’s a great day for me to go running” is a feeling. Yet, since feelings involve making your personal meaning out of the facts around you, they can not usually be summarized in a brief sentence.

The key to creating a connected relationship with another person is for each to share both facts and feelings with the other. (In this regard, it is sometimes helpful to separate the term “feeling” from the term “emotion.” Emotions can be understood as mood reactions to the facts and the feelings, “since it is a nice day and I can go running, I will feel happy.”) For example, consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Avi: It’s such nice weather.

Shani: Yes. The weather is really beautiful.

Avi: Look, the sun is shining…

Shani: …and there is barely a cloud in the sky.

Avi: It’s such a pleasant temperature.

Shani: Yeah, and it’s not even humid.

 

Scenario 2:

Avi: It’s such nice weather.

Shani: Yes. It is beautiful. What do you like most about this weather? (reaching for a feeling)

Avi: I enjoy the pleasant temperature outside. It makes me feel like swimming. (expressing a feeling)

Shani: Swimming? That sounds interesting. Do you swim often?

Avi: Only in the summer, but I love going swimming when I can.

Shani: Really? Is there a specific place you like to go?

Avi: I usually swim in my neighbor’s house. He is so generous. He always let me use his pool.

Shani: That sounds so nice of him!

Avi: Yes. It’s one of the things I really like about my community. There is a sense of camaraderie and friendship in the whole neighborhood.

Notice how, in this brief example, when Avi and Shira only stay on the plane of facts, there is very little connection. They merely “swap facts.” If the conversation continued, they might both think, the dreaded “Oh well; nice person, but there just wasn’t any chemistry.” On the other hand, when Shani probes for a feeling, and Avi shares some of his feelings, the conversation takes on a whole new dimension. Instead of the conversation remaining about the weather, it becomes a medium to explore a little bit about who Avi is, including a pastime he enjoys and a bit of his opinion on his neighborhood. If the conversation were to continue, Shani would probably discover more about Avi and feel connected to him. A way to summarize this is:

Fact + Feeling = Emotional Connection

The Cards in Your Hand

The cards and questions that dot the dating horizon have a goal of bringing up subjects for a couple to discuss that are going to induce them to expressing some of their feelings. Yet, unless a person is both aware of the importance of expressing feelings, and ready to express them, the cards will do little good. Many people respond to the probing questions their partner asks them from the cards with simple facts, which leaves the couple with the relationship as flat as things were previously. In sharp contrast, if the couple understands the importance of expressing feelings, then specific questions or cards are usually not important. Once they are disposed to exploring and sharing some feelings, many of their conversations will build an emotional connection without needing the cards altogether.Ordinary topics of conversation provide wonderfully fertile ground for each of them to explore and express feelings. Cards or a list of scripted questions might be helpful or beneficial, but only if the daters are both primed to expressing and discovering feelings.

Consider expressing more of your feelings to a person you want to connect with. We experience facts, but live feelings. When you combine both, F+F, you will find your relationships deeper and more rewarding. Emotional intimacy – it’s not in the cards. It’s in the feeling.

 

References

Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin23(4), 363-377.

Great is the Enemy of Good Enough: The Overextended Parent

Shaindi is not adequately available for her kids and it troubles her.

“Aggghhh!” Shaindi says to herself. Her fourth grade son, Avi, needs help with his homework, and her second grade daughter, Aliza, cut her knee. At the same time, Shaindi is tending to her 6 month old baby, Ephi. She comforts Aliza with one arm as she balances the baby in the other. Then, still holding baby Ephi, she sits down to help Avi, but Aliza keeps on moaning, interrupting them. Shaindi begins to tear.

She isn’t upset at any of the kids. She isn’t even bothered by the tug of several demands on her at the same time. Shaindi explains that her crying is because she feels that she is deficient as a mother. Shaindi knows that children need emotional nourishment to become thriving, successful, well-adjusted adults. She makes sure to show her kids love, care, and concern as often as she can. But she feels it is simply not enough. As much as she tries, she feels like she doesn’t give enough attention, time, or demonstration of her love to any of them.

It’s not only Shaindi that feels this way. The kids seem to feel it, too.

“Mommy. How come we can’t do homework without being interrupted?”

“Mom, why can’t we have supper at a normal time like all my friends?”

“Why can’t you take care of me without holding baby?”

These are common questions she hears from her kids. Shaindi clarifies that she is not concerned about “having it together” or being a supermom. She wishes she could be worrying about that. She has more basic concerns. She is concerned about her kids’ development and future. “Who knows how they will turn out when they grow up?” she asks herself. “I hope they remember my love and they manage to mature OK,” Shaindi thinks. She wants to be the best mother that she can be for her kids…and she is failing.

Or is she? Dr. Donald W. Winnicott (1896 – 1971) was a pediatrician in London who noticed that a baby’s ability to grow and adapt well to the world was correlated with the mother’s love and care for her baby, just as Shaindi believes. Yet, as Winnicott observed this among his patients, he coined the term “good-enough mother.” He observed that if a mother was responsive to her baby’s needs most of the time, and generally held, fed, and cared for the baby, the baby developed properly and matured. The mother did not have to always be responsive, or perfect, or caring. Sometimes she could have been selfish, preoccupied, and/ or ambivalent. As long as she usually showed concern for the baby, the baby was equipped to transition through life’s developmental stages. As Winnicott stated in his seminal paper the mother needs to be “alive and real and good enough (not too persecutory).”

Furthermore, Winnicott explained that a mother’s complete attention to the baby’s needs dissipates. He suggested that, “the good enough ‘mother’ (not necessarily the infant’s own mother) is one who makes active adaptation to the infant’s needs, an active adaptation that gradually lessens, according to the infant’s growing ability to account for failure of adaptation and to tolerate the results of frustration.” That means that a mother does withdraw, and the baby’s ability to tolerate that is a fundamental way that babies grow cognitively. Ironically, the fact that the mother withdraws her constant and absolute care (maybe even a few days out of the baby nursery, as life happens!) is central to the baby developing properly and wholly.

Many have suggested that the power and insight of Winnicott’s approach and phraseology is that mothering is a microcosm of the child’s present and future. The mother’s need and desire to do other things that distract her from her baby is the best preparation for life. As he matures the infant will encounter some situations and relationships where others fulfill his needs, and others where people either don’t or deny that those needs they exist.

The good-enough mother is realistic, both as a mother and as a cultivator of future expectations. “One of Winnicott’s main contributions to psychoanalytic thought was his idea of the “good-enough mother,” the mother who sometimes responded promptly to our needs and sometimes didn’t. The beauty of this concept was that it was so widely applicable—most people had that kind of mother—and also that it bestowed some honor on her. (Those mothers typically had other children to care for, plus dinner to cook.)…[An analyst] regards Winnicott’s good-enough mother as not just good enough but the best, because she tells us the truth: on occasion we’ll get satisfaction and on occasion we won’t. We need understanding sometimes, not every time” (Acocella, 2013).

Shaindi appears to be a “good enough mother.” She spends time with her children and demonstrates her love through her actions and interactions. She is not perfect, but it seems that a mother doesn’t have to be. Furthermore, her imperfection might be beneficial. It helps her kids get ready for life’s ups and downs. Some like saying that “good is the enemy of great.” With parenting, great is sometimes the enemy of good-enough.

 

References

Acocella, J. (2013) http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/02/25/this-is-your-life-2

Winnicott, D. W. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena.The International journal of psycho-analysis34, 89.

Nothing To Pout About: The Kosher Status of Genetically Modified Salmon

AquAdvantage® Salmon has DNA from a non-kosher fish. Is it fighting an upstream battle in the kosher market?

This special post is an iylui neshama (merit for the soul) of my dear mother, Mrs. Joan Maybruch, Yocheved Pesha bas Hillel a”h, on her yahrzeit (date of passing).

What’s Orange and Flavorful and Eaten All Over

The unique, tasty and familiar orange-hued meat of salmon has been an international staple for centuries. In contemporary Jewish cuisine, it is what puts lox on a bagel, puts pizzazz in a salmon roll, and takes the cake as a salmon steak.

Against this backdrop, a company headquartered outside of Boston, named AquaBounty Technologies, came up with a bold invention. It’s a small step for them, but a giant leap for fish production. They discovered a way to combine parts of the DNA of two other fish with a standard Atlantic salmon to make the Atlantic salmon grow at approximately twice the normal rate. Since one of the greatest expenditures salmon producers face is feeding the fish, the rapid growth provides significant savings on feed. Approximately two decades ago, AquaBounty began the process of applying to the Federal Drug Administration for approval of their genetically modified salmon, AquAdvantage. It was finally approved last year.

AquAdvantage salmon (AAS) raises potential kashrus concerns. The genetic material inserted into the Atlantic salmon comes from two fish, the related Pacific Chinook salmon – which is kosher, and the ocean pout – an eel like fish that is not kosher. Does using material extracted from a non-kosher fish render the modified AquAdvantage salmon as non-kosher? A closer examination of scientific and halachic background provides bountiful evidence to suggest that the new salmon has no kashrus concerns at all.

Grafting Two Animals Together

The process of making the new salmon is complex, and will be discussed later. But let’s imagine that the way that they created this innovative fish was by combining some actual material from the ocean pout into the Atlantic salmon. For example, suppose that they actually took some of the ocean pout’s meat and grafted it onto a salmon. Would that provide kashrus concerns on the new fish? Could the original meat of the salmon be consumed? How about the actual ocean pout meat that takes to the salmon and grows as part of it? If both of those would be permissible, there would be strong reason to maintain that the scientific transplanting of a genetic part of the pout into salmon should certainly be OK. Based on similar discussions in contemporary authorities regarding plant and human transplants, one could cogently argue that theoretical animal splicing would yield permissible food.

In 1958, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Y.D. vol. 1, 230/ 8) was asked by Rabbi Isaac Liebes about a conundrum faced by Kohanim. Kohanim are prohibited from contact with a corpse or organ from one because those are ritually impure. Yet, skin grafts or transplants sometimes come from cadavers. May a skin graft or transplant be performed on a Kohen? In a lengthy responsum, Rabbi Feinstein permits the implant. One of the points Rabbi Feinstein raises is based on the Talmud’s ruling removing tumah (ritual impurity) from the skin of a cadaver that one designates for another purpose. Although it is considered inappropriate to use skin as leather, there are tribes who do so. In a case where one begins to tan the skin of a cadaver, it is no longer considered “skin” and is not off limits to be handled by a Kohen. Rabbi Feinstein extends that to a transplant. When the cadaverous skin is readied or attached to the Kohen, it ceases to be considered part of a corpse. Rather, it takes on a new identity once it is designated to be part of the recipient, and is no longer ritually impure.

Likewise, if part of a pig is grafted onto a cow, it should become part of the cow as soon as it is grafted. Logic may dictate the necessity to wait until the graft takes hold and becomes an integral part of the cow for the grafted pig meat to be considered kosher, but it is kosher. Similarly, if one would graft part of an ocean pout onto a salmon, the ocean pout section and, certainly the rest of the salmon, should be kosher. There is a caveat. Rabbi Feinstein is discussing ritual impurity and our case is regarding the permissibility of eating, which is a different area of halacha. It might be difficult to compare the two.

Another discussion that might shed light on the status of non-kosher meat grafted onto a kosher animal is posed by several authorities in the past century, and referred to by Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer vol. 10, 25/26). If one transplants ovaries from one woman to another, who is considered the mother of children then born? Furthermore, if one transplants a heart, does the recipient now acquire a new identity? Rabbi Waldenberg posits definitively that a transplant is considered part of the recipient in all respects. A similar assertion was made by Rabbi Yekusiel Kamelhar in his Hatalmud Umadaei Hatevel, discussed by Rabbi J. David Bleich in Volume 1 of Contemporary Halakhic Problems.

Similarly, one could further their points and maintain that transplanting from one animal to another is no different. Once an organ or flesh from one animal is transplanted to another, it may be considered part of the recipient, and completely kosher. As with the responsum of Rabbi Feinstein, one could also differentiate between people and animals, and kashrus and other areas of Jewish law. Yet, it is an interesting and significant claim to consider.

A related point might be gleaned from a Talmudic ruling regarding orlah (the prohibition of eating or deriving benefit from a new tree for its first three years). The Talmud (Sotah 43b) rules that if one grafts a branch from a new tree, which is currently non-kosher, onto an established tree that is older than three years old, the sapling joins the older tree and no longer has the status of orlah. Similarly, it would stand to reason that if one would add some non-kosher animal to a kosher animal, the result should be a completely kosher animal.

Too Small, That’s All

The previous point deals with grafting and splicing on a macro level. Genetic engineering is done on the microscopic level, which creates several more reasons to be lenient. The most obvious one would seem to be that since Halacha only prohibits things that one can see with the naked eye, the microscopic amount of fish extracted is halachically negligible. However, that leniency doesn’t work. Once something is not kosher in large quantities, one can’t take a minute amount and then ingest it. For example, a person cannot take a really small amount of pork and eat it intentionally. Since it comes from a larger amount that was prohibited, reducing its size doesn’t remove the prohibition. Once it’s forbidden, it’s forbidden, regardless of the size or amount. In contrast, an entity that is entirely microscopic, such as bugs or bacteria that one cannot see without magnification were never prohibited in the first place. Therefore, one need not examine food because of a concern about eating them.

A further point as to why the ocean pout extract is not considered too small is made by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo Tinyana 100, 7). There is a prohibition from grafting two plant species together. Rabbi Auerbach was asked if genetic recombination of the DNA of two species is also restricted, since it is microscopic. Rabbi Auerbach matter-of-factly prohibits it. He explains that genetic engineers purposely maneuver and recombine DNA, so the DNA fragments are considered halachically significant and “visible,” even though they are microscopic.

Nevertheless, the small nature of DNA might still provide a way to permit ocean pout in a salmon, similar to the splicing of two animals that we discussed above. The Talmud discusses (Menachos 69a) that a digested item sometimes loses its independent status and becomes part of the animal that digested it. Tosafos (s.v. dibala) there quotes several opinions regarding how much digestion is necessary and which area or areas of halacha the concept of digestion is relevant to. Yet, it is possible that all opinions in Tosafos would agree that if food is completely digested by the animal and assimilated into its body, the food is permissible. Similarly, since the DNA of the ocean pout is completely absorbed into the host salmon, and might be considered as if it completely digested, posing no halachic problems altogether.

The Culture of Cloning

As we examine the process of creating AAS using genetic engineering, it becomes more evident that potential kashrus problems disappear. To create the part of the DNA that is given to the salmon, DNA is removed from each of the other two fish. Then that DNA has to be copied, or cloned, by being mixed with a medium, in this case bacteria.  These bacteria clone multiple copies of the DNA and create a pool from which to select a DNA sample that best expresses the desired gene or gene fragment. The fact that the DNA is extracted from the ocean pout and then put into bacteria provides us with another potential reason to be lenient. The tiny bit of ocean pout derivative is batel (rendered legally insignificant) in the large volume of the bacterial cloning medium to which it is inserted. The halachically required ratio necessary to permit a non-kosher ingredient that fell into a kosher one is 1:60. Here, presumably, the ratio is much larger, resulting in copious bitul (nullification).

Yet, there is a factor that might undermine halachic nullification here, the rule of davar hama’amid – something that creates substance or volume. An ingredient that is responsible for a significant material change in a mixture is not nullified since its effects are still tangible. An example is rennet, the natural product (containing the enzyme renin) that is used to turn milk into cheese. Rennet is produced in the stomach of ruminating animals, so it used to be common to insert a bit of stomach meat into a large volume of milk to create cheese. The ratio of meat to the milk was less than 1:60, nevertheless the halacha is that if the meat comes from an animal that was not properly shechted (ritually slaughtered), the cheese is prohibited (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 87, 11). The meat is the davar hama’amid – the ingredient that catalyzes the cheese to be in its current state. Similarly, when a bit of ocean pout DNA is inserted into a bacterial cloning medium, the nature of the entire mixture is to clone ocean pout DNA. It is arguable that, in accordance with Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s approach that even small amounts of DNA are scientifically and halachically significant, the ocean pout derivative it is not batel (nullified) in the mixture, even though the amount inserted is negligible.

A related assertion has come up in several volumes (34 and 36) of the recent Journal Techumin (published by Machon Tzomet in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion) regarding laboratory grown meat. Lab grown meat is created from real meat stem cells that are then grown and multiplied in a culture. Some authors have suggested that the meat is nullified in the large amount of culture. Others have retorted that since the goal is to replicate meat, the few stem cells are the davar hama’amid, and would not be nullified.

Even if one would side with the stricter view in the meat dispute, there might still be room to say that the ocean pout DNA is nullified in its medium. In the meat culture, the result is meat, which comes from the stem cells. In contrast, in the bacterial medium, the result is still millions of bacteria. It is just enlightened scientists that know that those bacteria contain replicated DNA.

Recombination

The next stage of the process seems to leave room for nullification without a doubt. The new DNA sequence is created from the combination of the kosher Chinook salmon and the ocean pout. This is termed recombinant DNA, since it combines different genes for a new DNA that does not exist in nature. The ocean pout is a small amount of the entire rDNA or transgene, and an even smaller amount of the entire DNA of the salmon, and an insignificant amount once it is in the fish itself. The ocean pout genetic material is batel (nullified) in the rest of the rDNA, and certainly in the entire strand of DNA, and even more certainly in the entire fish.

Here, the idea of davar hama’amid would not seem to pose a problem. The ocean pout genetic material is not a davar hama’amid. You might wonder why they need to take genetic material from two fish to make the Atlantic salmon grow quicker. The two materials serve different purposes. The Chinook gene codes for the growth hormone which helps salmon grow. The ocean pout genetic material is a promoter sequence – a fragment of DNA that signals to the gene when to be active and when not to be, like a switch that indicates to the gene when to be on and when to be off. Salmon usually stop and start growing during periods of their life, which is why it takes them approximately three years to reach maturity. On the other hand, the promoter sequence from the ocean pout constantly signals the fish to grow, without stopping. The resulting fish reach their mature size much quicker. The ocean pout genetic material merely catalyzes the growth hormone to stay on; it does not cause the growth. Therefore, it does not directly cause any volume or character, so it is not a davar hama’amid, and would be batel.

A Fishy Situation

As we further explore the process of creating AquAdvantage salmon, we will see several more reasons to assuage any kashrus concerns. AquaBounty reports that their current salmon has no ocean pout derivatives. Rather, ocean pout DNA is only used to engineer a salmon founder fish to create a lineage. They began with salmon eggs that had their recombinant DNA transgene injected into it. The fish that hatched from those eggs now had the transgene. The first fish to mature was then bred and crossbred to produce multiple generations of fish that carry the transgene. These offspring, several generations removed from the founder fish, are the ones that are used to breed AAS. Stopping at this point in the story already seems to give clear thumbs up for their kashrus. No commercially marketed AAS has a trace of non-kosher ocean pout in it. All they have are salmon, salmon, salmon. While part of their transgene is from a non-kosher pout,  in the next generations, it is only copied genetic material and there is no ocean pout bodily fluid present.

In a similar situation, Unilever was approved by the FDA to use a derivative of ocean pout blood for ice cream. Ocean pouts have a unique ability to descend to the depths of the ocean into cold water without their blood freezing. Unilever plans to use that antifreeze protein to reduce ice crystals in ice cream. They extracted it from an ocean pout, but grow it through yeast that are genetically modified to produce it. The FDA told Unilever that they do not need to specially label products using that protein as a fish allergen, since it is far removed from fish. Similarly, the genetic material in AAS (a fragment of the same gene that Unilever is using) is just as distant from a real ocean pout.

The ideas of nullification and founder fish also seem to solve an issue raised by several contemporary authorities. The foremost Ashkenazic codifier, Rav Moshe Isserles, (Rema Y. D. 81, 7) quotes a tradition that even though it is permissible for a Jewish child to nurse from a woman who eats non-kosher, the custom is not to do so. He explains that ingesting nourishment indirectly produced from non-kosher substances can have a spiritually negative influence, termed timtum halev (dulling of the heart). It is evident that a spiritually negative influence is possible by ingesting certain foods derived from a non-kosher substance even if eating them is permissible. Therefore, some contemporary authors, such as Rabbi Shlomo Revach (Tenuvos Hasadeh vol. 102, pp. 20 – 25) and Rabbi J. David Bleich, (Genetic Engineering, 2003, pp. 79 – 80) discuss the possibility that negative influence could come from AAS since it does have ocean pout derivative.

It is difficult to make absolute statements when dealing with the esoteric concept of timtum halev. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that a mixture that is permissible based on the rule of nullification would spiritually dull one’s heart. If so, one should refrain from any mixture that a small amount of prohibited substance erroneously entered, and this is not the normative approach in halacha. Furthermore, in the specific case of AAS, there is no actual ocean pout derivative in the fish one eats, so negative spiritual influence is even more unlikely.

Sunny Side Up

Furthermore, AquaBounty explains that the fish they use are not even results of the crossbreeding. Rather, they take eggs from standard, nontransgenic (with no genetic engineering) female Atlantic broodstock (fish used especially for producing other fish) and then add milt (reproductive excretion) from male salmon that have the transgene. They mix the two in their factory to produce salmon that have the transgene.  The Mishna in Bechoros (5b), codified in Shulchan Aruch (Y. D. 79, 2), states that the kashrus of the female parent of an animal is the determining factor in the kashrus of its offspring. Rabbi Nasan Gestetner (Lehoros Nasan 6, 57) explains that the consensus is that the rule applies to mothers who lay eggs, in addition to those that give birth to live offspring. In this case, AAS salmon have perfectly kosher mothers. Like mother, like daughter, the resulting AAS offspring should be kosher, too.

A Finny Finish

Another reason to be lenient is highlighted by many, including Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, when he was interviewed by the New York Times (not to be confused with last month’s New York Times article about another kosher fish topic, the exponential growth and popularity of sushi in Boro Park and in kosher restaurants!). Rabbi Genack explained that if AAS has fins and scales, it should be kosher. This can be buttressed by an intriguing oral ruling issued by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, published posthumously (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim, Arbaas Haminim, p. 189). On Sukkos, the most famous of the four species that is required is the esrog, a specific subspecies of a citrus fruit called citron. A grafted esrog is not suitable. Rabbi Auerbach was asked about the suitability of a genetically engineered esrog. He responded that if the esrog looks different than the standard subspecies looks, it is unacceptable for the mitzvah. (The editor of that book elaborates that the ruling of Rabbi Auerbach is in accordance with his aforementioned written ruling that genetic manipulation is halachically significant, even though it is microscopic.) Here, the opposite is true. The genetically engineered salmon looks just like all other Atlantic salmon, so it should be kosher.

Interestingly, there are others that might argue on Rabbi Auerbach’s ruling regarding the unsuitability of the esrog. Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch (quoted by Rabbi J. David Bleich, ibid., p. 73 ) quotes the Talmudic ruling discussed earlier regarding Orlah. Just like a young sapling grafted onto an older branch becomes part of the older tree, a spliced gene becomes part of the host DNA. If so, it would stand to reason that genetic modification could result in a different looking fruit that is still an esrog, since an esrog was the host.

Fishing It Out

In conclusion, we have suggested several reasons that AquAdvantage salmon does not have any barriers from being kosher.

  • Even grafting actual parts from a non-kosher animal onto a kosher animal would create a fully kosher animal
  • Ocean pout substance is absorbed into the salmon, like digestion
  • Ocean pout substance is a negligible ratio in the bacterial medium
  • Even if it is not negligible in the cloning culture, it is negligible once it becomes part of the new (recombinant) DNA
  • It is negligible once it is in the entire salmon
  • AAS come from kosher salmon eggs
  • AAS’s fathers were already the product of crossbreeding, so there is no ocean pout in their bodies
  • AAS have fins and scales

Even if some of the reasons might be discounted, the nature of the process of creating AAS makes it so removed from any actual ocean pout that it seems evident that it is kosher. This happens to be good news. Aside from permitting us to taste AquAdvantage salmon, it also solves another problem. AquAdvantage salmon is considered so genetically harmless that the FDA ruled that it does not need to be labelled as genetically modified. Which means that your next bagel and lox might just have an AquAdvantage over any other one you’ve had. Enjoy it!

Identity Theft

Will the Real Andrew Please Stand Up?

Andrew was an actuary in a reputable firm. He felt that he found his “dream job.” He was well versed in actuarial science, so his work, although taxing and challenging, was not grueling and stressful. He worked hard, but was happy with his hours. He had time to study Torah in the morning for an hour and half before he had to go to work, and he had a full night seder (scheduled period for Talmud study). He also was able to be home for supper with his family, and his firm was understanding about his Jewish practices, such as yomim tovim (Jewish holidays)including chol hamoed (the intermediate days of Passover or Sukkos where work is permitted in case of necessity) and not shaving during sefirah and the three weeks (times of communal mourning where it is customary not to shave). He was at his firm for eleven years and presumed that he would be there until he retired or decided he wanted a change.

Suddenly, Andrew received news that left him flabbergasted and speechless. Although his work was exemplary, the firm was told by its Board of Directors that it had to cut costs. His direct boss was given the arduous task of figuring out who would be asked to leave. The boss called in Andrew and told him that he had to leave. He was going to be given a generous severance package, but could not return the next day.

Andrew left the firm that day, but the firm did not leave him. He was hurt, stunned, shocked, and insulted. He mourned the injustice he experienced and the unfair calculations that led to his dismissal. Andrew began to feel depressed, anxious, and generally out of sorts. He didn’t know how to make head or tails out of his experiences and his new situation.

Andrew did not want to share the bad news of his dismissal with anyone, but he mentioned it to one friend. That afternoon, his friend showed up at his with a gift – Who Moved My Cheese. Andrew sat down to read it immediately. The more he read, the more he felt that the book spoke to him. He liked it so much that he read it twice. He felt happier, more content, and ready for action. He was so enthused that he reached out to two colleagues he knew in other firms to find out if there were any openings.

By that night, Andrew was back to his doldrums. He kept on verbalizing some of the lessons of Who Moved My Cheese. “Change happens,” he told himself. “I can adapt,” he remembered. But he began to feel worse and worse.

Andrew’s reactions are expected, and are in accordance with years of research. Psychological literature spanning a long period of time has suggested that job loss results in low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Some researchers (Mendolia, 2014) have highlighted that the major blow suffered after job loss is not because of financial setbacks (Andrew had a great severance package), but because of the emotional and psychological hardships that losing one’s job creates. Current research (Mendolia) even highlights that job loss affects one’s spouse’s mental health. Likewise, the spousal reactions are usually not because of the financial hardships that losing a job sometimes creates. Furthermore, the latest research (Solove, Fisher & Kraiger, 2015) demonstrates that when one is able to uphold his self-esteem after job loss, it is not only easier to manage the joblessness phase, it is also easier for him to obtain another job reasonably quickly.

Andrew met with a psychotherapist to help him with his anxiety and depression and sense of loss. Together, they began to explore the meaning Andrew attached to his former job, to his losing his job, and how Andrew internalized those. As they met, Andrew began to understand that he saw the job as a large part of his identity. It was how he defined himself and how he viewed himself in the eyes of others. It also was a large part of how he saw his own religious identity, since his former job had created time for his to study and to take off for yom tov (Jewish holidays). As Andrew met more with his therapist, he understood that he saw his job as a central to who he was. He worked with his therapist to trace the foundation of how his identity developed (they discovered it predated his job at that firm) and alternate ways to see himself. As with many psychotherapeutic cases, the acute situation that caused Andrew to begin appointments with his therapist was unfortunate, but the self-awareness, self- knowledge, and self-understanding that the therapeutic interventions explored and developed was a great gift for Andrew.

Andrew took advantage of his severance to take time off and explore who he was even more. He met with his therapist twice a week and probed the depths of his identity and existence. After the six months, he began to reapply to jobs. Some were in actuarial science, and some were completely unrelated to it. Within a few weeks he found his new “dream Job,” but he realized that it was really just a job. The dream was within him.

 

References

Mendolia, S. (2014). The impact of husband’s job loss on partners’ mental health. Review of Economics of the Household12(2), 277-294.

Solove, E., Fisher, G. G., & Kraiger, K. (2015). Coping with job loss and reemployment: A two-wave study. Journal of business and psychology,30(3), 529-541.

The Density of Destiny

The Powerful Lesson of the Long Neck

We recently discussed different ways one can approach and encounter change. A method of acceptance and adaptation is outlined and illustrated in Who Moved My Cheese. An additional technique is to challenge and actively modify your situation and environment, as highlighted in I Moved Your Cheese. In the most recent post, I discussed that both attitudes might be valuable and complementary. It is integral to consider your specific life situation as you explore which of the models to internalize.

In a related vein, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a foremost contemporary Orthodox scholar and philosopher, addresses this broad issue in his essay entitled “Kol Dodi Dofek” – Listen – My Beloved Knocks. In that beautiful composition, those same concepts take on deep meaning in dealing with suffering and evil. Rabbi Soloveitchik contrasts two approaches to evil, fate and destiny. Rabbi Soloveitchik articulates that the suffering of righteous people has been a question which the greatest of prophets, including Moses himself, queried of G-d.

Rabbi Soloveitchik expounds that Judaism provides an approach, not an answer. The approach urges one to differentiate between man being an object or a subject. An individual who faces a hardship can sometimes see himself as an unfortunate person acted upon by the unpleasant and unsavory events of life- an object. His reaction is to see the evil as his fate, where he is helpless, shocked, pained, and crushed. When one sees negative events as suffering that he is to endure passively, the result can be tremendous mental anguish, which may result in unanswerable theological or philosophical questions, anger, anxiety, or depression.

On the other hand, Rabbi Soloveitchik continues, Judaism advocates a different approach to evil, one which is silently heroic. A man might not be able to alter his situation. Yet, within the confines of his circumstance, he can aim to understand, plan, and regulate his actions and reactions, and perform within his situational boundaries, becoming an active subject. He can master his own behavior, calculate his behavioral responses, and analyze what the situation demands of him, transforming pathetic fate into majestic destiny.

The primary intent of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s philosophy is to explain that Judaism often mandates specific behaviors in response to emotionally difficult experiences. In his view, a Jewish man of destiny does not seek to modify a situation that he cannot, but examines what behavior the Jewish faith demands of him at the time. On occasion it can be introspection so that he improves his behavior, the recitation of the required brachah (blessing) on negative tidings, or observance of rites of mourning. One can rise to majesty by remaining steadfast in his religious beliefs and actions, and creating his own spiritual destiny within a physically immutable situation.

This approach can be broadened outside the realm of halachically (Jewish legally) demanded actions to explain a general response that one can espouse when he is faced with a struggle such as insufficient finances, poor educational opportunities, or difficulties in relationships. If the situation is incontrovertible, he must maneuver within its margins to accept it, deal with it, and create a best case scenario. In other circumstances, his most appropriate effort might be to challenge his circumstances and attempt to change them.

Sometimes, a man’s persistence and optimism demonstrate both his acceptance of change and his defiance of its supposed limitations. Consider this majestic manifestation of destiny, discussed by Dr.Viktor Frankl in a postscript to Man’s Search for Meaning (Postscript 1984 – The Case for a Tragic Optimism):

Jerry Long, to cite an example, is a living testimony to “the defiant power of the human spirit,” as it is called in logotherapy. To quote the Texarkana Gazette, “Jerry Long has been paralyzed from his neck down since a diving accident which rendered him a quadriplegic three years ago. He was seventeen when the accident occurred. Today Long can use his mouth stick to type. He ‘attends’ two courses at Community College via a special telephone. The intercom allows Long to both hear and participate in class discussions. He also occupies his time by reading, watching television and writing.” And in a letter I received from him, he writes: “I view my life as being abundant with meaning and purpose. The attitude that I adopted on that fateful day has become my personal credo for life: I broke my neck, it didn’t break me (note the play on words making a potential object into a subject –SM). I am currently enrolled in my first psychology course in college. I believe that my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others…”

If [suffering] is avoidable, the meaningful thing to do is to remove its cause. For unnecessary suffering is masochistic rather than heroic. If, on the other hand, one cannot change a situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose his attitude. Long had not chosen to break his neck, but he did decide not to let himself be broken by what had happened to him (again the object – subject change – SM).

After reading Frankl’s book and contacting Frankl, Long became a friend and then a colleague, of Frankl. You can see Dr. Jerry Long, Jr. and Dr. Viktor Frankl discussing some of their experiences together in this moving video. Long accepted that his cheese was moved, yet might be considered to have broken free of the maze that the cheese was in altogether, transforming what some might have seen as a confining, miserable fate into a heroic, magnificent, destiny.

A Tale of Two Mazes

How do you navigate life’s changes? Accept them? Modify them?
See what Arielle did.

 

In two recent posts, Can You Spare Some Change and Don’t Be So Amazed, I discussed two approaches to change. Spencer Johnson, MD, in his Who Moved My Cheese, uses a powerful allegory to remind us that change is inevitable. Dr. Johnson maintains that instead of fighting it, it is most beneficial to acknowledge it, accept it, and adapt to it. He uses  a parable of people in a maze, who rely on cheese for their sustenance. Once the cheese is moved from its usual place, it is prudent for them to adapt to that change and search for cheese in another location.

In contrast, Dr. Deepak Malhotra, in his I Moved Your Cheese, argues that it is more helpful to handle change differently. Analyze the change, ask why it happened, and marshal your own strength to create a situation where you are in control of the change instead of being manipulated by others. In his counter-parable, he discusses a mouse that is in a maze and leaves the maze, where he is able to maneuver the cheese around the maze at will. He leaves the confines of his situation and becomes master over his own destiny.

Which approach works for you? Have you noticed that you feel more comfortable with one or the other? Perhaps part of a successful personal and professional life calls for using both approaches and knowing which perspective to apply to which situation.

The maze in Dr. Johnson’s parable might be seen as representing a circumstance where one is faced with change and does not want to exit. Resisting change might lead to anxiety, depression, diminished heath, and reduced functioning. Therefore, it is advisable to accept change as inevitable and adapt to it to survive and succeed.

On the other hand, Dr. Malhotra adds that it is often advisable to examine a situation carefully. Depending on factors such as the timing, one’s resources, or state of mind, one might realize that it is within her ability to approach change differently. She can analyze the change, contest it, or exit those particular circumstances.

Arielle Flumenstein (a pseudonym) discovered how to use both of these approaches while navigating a difficult experience that she faced. Arielle was an Orthodox Jewish woman who started dating for marriage at 19, as is typical in her culture. As she matured, she set her goal as finding a husband who would learn in kollel (an advanced Talmud study program) for at least a decade after their marriage. She did not want to be supported by either of their families, and was assiduous at finding jobs through which she could support her family. When she dated, she discussed her goals with her potential mates. They were impressed both with her dedication to her religious ideals, as well as by her work ethic. Within a few months of dating, she met Shimi. She noticed that he was extremely serious about his Talmud study and that he had life goals that were similar to her. A few weeks after their initial date, they got engaged. A few months later, they were married (these are accepted time frames for their culture). Arielle was content living her life dreams. She was working hard, but she felt satisfied that she partnered with a husband who was attaining their mutual religious goals.

A few months into their marriage, Shimi did not seem to be learning as well as he had been. He started waking up late, did not seem as energetic, and was difficult to have pleasant conversations with. Arielle spoke to an advisor that she was close to who advised her to encourage Shimi to make an appointment with a psychotherapist. After a few meetings with Shimi, the psychotherapist explained to Shimi that he was suffering from a disorder called dysthymia, a mild form of depression. Together with a psychiatrist, the psychotherapist and Shimi created a plan to deal with Shimi’s disorder. The treatment plan included both medicine and psychotherapy.

At first, Arielle found it difficult to swallow her situation. She could not imagine her husband needing to take medicine daily. She also found it hard to believe that he was making weekly psychotherapy meetings. She had not included that in her budget, schedule, or life plan. She made an appointment to speak to Shimi’s psychotherapist. As she talked with him about it he helped her understand that she was suffering from “cheese-itis.” She and Shimi had undergone a life change, which she was finding hard to accept. In several, subsequent meetings, some of which included Shimi, they explored why it was so hard for her to accept the change, and how she could deal with it.

In that scenario, it seems like it was important for Arielle to accept or adapt to the change. It would probably not have been beneficial for Arielle to simply question why Shimi contracted his disorder or leave her marriage. Indeed, Arielle accepted her and Shimi’s new life situation, and they became sources of mutual support together as their marriage flourished.

Fifteen years later, Shimi was still learning in kollel, and his knowledge and understanding of Torah had grown exponentially. He was no longer taking medication, but maintained biweekly appointments with his therapist. He was pursued for a position of Rosh Kollel (dean) in a local community kollel. Based on a response from his posek (rabbinic legal advisor), he discussed his history of a previous mental health disorder during one of his meetings with the board. One member of the board was outspoken about that history undermining Shimi’s candidacy.

Shimi was disappointed and returned home to Arielle to share what happened at the meeting with her. Together, Arielle and Shimi decided that they were going to prepare a presentation for the board about how common dysthymia is, and how it can be diagnosed, maintained, and approached. A theme that they were going to convey was that dysthymia and depression are not weaknesses, but diseases like the flu or heart disease. With professional help, they can be managed, monitored, and sometimes relieved.

Shimi met with the board again. At the beginning of the meeting, a growing number of members of the board were incredulous about Shimi’s candidacy. But, by the time he finished his presentation, he was offered the position on the spot. In this situation, Arielle and Shimi did not merely accept that the cheese moved, they “took the bull by the horns” and became masters over their situation.

Through life’s vicissitudes and psychotherapy, Arielle (and Shimi) learned that sometime one has to move with the cheese, and other times, one has to move the cheese itself!

Don’t Be So Amazed!

Aharon doesn’t like spare change

Not So Moving

In a recent post, we met Aharon and Shabsi. They are chavrusos (study partners) in Yeshivas Torah Lishmah. Their rebbi (rabbinic teacher) had to take an extended absence in the middle of the z’man (semester). Aharon and Shabsi and their entire shiur (class) moved to a different shiur. Aharon and Shabsi both resented the move and their learning and moods suffered. Then Shabsi changed his mindset by reading Who Moved My Cheese, a book that suggests that change is inevitable in life and it should be embraced and dealt with, instead of denied and resisted.

Aharon thought long and hard about Shabsi’s new approach. Although he saw that the lessons of Who Moved My Cheese resonated with Shabsi, it was still hard for him to swallow. Something about accepting change and adapting to it did not sit well with him. He could not elucidate what was bothering him, but he felt an uncertainty within.

The Antithesis

After a few days of thinking about what was concerning him, Shabsi was in the waiting room of his doctor’s office and spied a book with an interesting title. It sounded similar to the book Shabsi had told him about. He inspected it more carefully and saw that this book was called I Moved Your Cheese. He was curious and became even more intrigued when he saw the subtitle – For Those Who Refuse to Live as Mice in Someone Else’s Maze. The author was Deepak Malhotra, a professor at Harvard Business School. Shabsi picked up the book and started reading it. As he read the pages, he noticed that the points of the book resonated with him deeply. Professor Malhotra lucidly stated why Who Moved My Cheese had been hard for Shabsi to swallow. Dr. Malhotra explained that he wrote the book because he had noticed that there were many people that internalized a wrong message from Who Moved My Cheese. They understood that life requires a person to accept change and to adapt to it. Malhotra added that

a key to happiness in life is for a person to have a two part response to change. It is necessary for him to muster internal strength to ask why a change happened and then to ask how he can now conduct his life to master the change –  and his destiny.

These two steps allow him to face change actively instead of being a passive recipient.

Deepak Malhotra used another parable to illustrate his point. He described a mouse named Max who lives in a maze where all the other mice indoctrinated the lesson of not questioning change and accepting it. Max was different. He resolved to figure out who did move the cheese, why they did it, and why the maze was the way it was. Max set out on a journey which took him years and included exiting the confines of the maze. Eventually, Max realized that the maze was a tiny part of a huge research lab where experimenters frequently moved the cheese to measure the reactions of the mice in the maze. Next, Max figured out a way that he could also move the cheese like the experimenters. Max explained that he was then able to redesign the maze and control the other mice by moving their cheese. The next time he heard a mouse exclaim, “Who moved my cheese,” he was going to plainly declare, “I moved your cheese.” Max was able to control the daily activities of his compatriots. But, Max continued, if a single mouse decided that he was going to focus on another goal than cheese or that he was going to leave the maze, Max would have no control over him.

Max’s powerful discovery highlighted the fact that sometimes, people are resistant to change because they feel like prisoners in their life situation. Max would argue that often, the best way to deal with change is to realize that one has the power to change his own circumstances altogether. One might focus on a different goal, or leave the organization or situation that constrains him. Dr. Malhotra’s powerful point is that sometimes it is dangerous to see change as inevitable. Often, it is merely a hurdle that one can muster the internal fortitude to sail over and to succeed.

Shabsi’s Move

I Moved Your Cheese resonated deeply with Shabsi. Although he understood that his chavrusa (study parter) Aharon, was able to adapt to his new shiur, Shabsi felt differently. He reasoned that if he appreciated the specific Talmudic approach of his rebbi, Rav Shlomo Eichenstadt, it might be better for him to find a different arrangement than to adapt to the new learning environment of Rav Leibel Grossbard.

Shabsi began an inquiry among the students of Rav Shlomo that were now in Rav Leibel’s shiur. Nine of them echoed Shabsi’s feelings that it was difficult for them to appreciate the scholastic approach of Rav Leibel. Shabsi asked if they would consider creating their own chaburah (study group). The students were very excited about the idea. First, they approached R’ Elimelch Cohen, a respected man studying in kollel (an advanced Talmud study program), who was one of the foremost students of Rav Shlomo Eichenstadt, and asked him if he would consider being their rosh chaburah (informal study group head) for the month. R’ Elimelech gladly accepted. Next, Shabsi met with Rav Leibel and respectfully explained their situation. Rav Leibel understood that they were only learning in his shiur temporarily and were looking forward to returning to the shiur of Rav  Shlomo. Rav Leibel encouraged them to pursue creating their own chaburah (study group) with R’ Elimelech.

By the end of the week, there were ten students studying in the new chaburah (group) with R’ Elimelech. The energy and excitement was palpable and the hasmadah (intensity of study) was reaching new heights. A few days later, at lunch, one of the talmidim in Yeshiva asked the other about the new group,

“Who moved the chevra (group of students) to the new chaburah (study group)?” Shabsi smiled to himself and thought “I moved the chevra!”

What Moves You?

Which approach to change to do you feel more comfortable with, the ideal of adapting to change, espoused by Aharon, from Who Moved My Cheese, or overcoming change, as accomplished by Shabsi, from I Moved Your Cheese? Perhaps neither works for you, or maybe you feel that both are necessary. What are your thoughts?