There Are No Perfect Families


That’s my initial response to the barrage of stories and blog posts second guessing Sarah Palin’s life as a working mother. I’m not defending her here, frankly I don’t care about her. If she ever runs for President, i Might. What I care about is the sense of entitlement that leads people to pass judgment on the lives and families of women they have never met, whose kitchen tables they have never sat at, whose families grow up thousands of miles away from them.

The nomination of Sarah Palin as VP has served as an excuse for a bunch of the usual types to drag out their rhetoric against working mothers.

First up is Mother of the Year, Dr. Laura, who let her own mother’s corpse rot in her apartment for weeks, followed by a whole lot of other folks who think that they get veto power over someone else’s life.

We live in a sick celebrity centered culture, a global gossip village that makes people feel entitled to judge someone else’s personal life, just because they’ve seen her on television. A narcissistic celebrity centered culture lets an overstimulated public project their own egos on famous people, root for them and then destroy them.

It’s part of the Palin phenomenon, but not the whole of it. It’s part of why people feel entitled to judge someone else’s family they never even met, whose living room they never sat in, whose ups and downs they have never been a part of.

The whole of it is gossip. It’s the same old snide whispers and judgementalism masquerading under a self-righteous facade of concern for the traditional family. But they don’t mean a “traditional family”, they mean a perfect family, a family where nothing ever goes wrong, where no one ever has sex before marriage and mistakes are never made. But I’ve got news for you, that family doesn’t exist.

Every family has things wrong. Yes even the traditional families. Even the ones with white tableclothes and perfect family photographs. Perfect families try to maintain the illusion so they won’t be judged. And that’s where we get the traditional family, some perfect beacon that’s supposed to uphold that standard we can all be bowed under and gossiped about when we slip.

None of what I’m saying is an open door to do what you like, it’s a realistic assessment of the imperfect family. We all fall down. We all have to try and get up again, as well as we can, which is tough as hell to do in public.

It’s up to the family to make it work. It’s not up to any of us to pass judgement on how they make it work.

Wickedness, Food Prices and Hasgachas

We learn in Gemara Megillah 17B that the ninth bracha of Shmone Esre, Birchat Hashanim, was instituted in interpretation of David Hamelech’s tefila in Tehilim to break the power of the wicked by providing a generous harvest so that food prices cannot be raised by the wealthy over the poor.

Birchat Hashanim is really a Tefilla against high food prices. An idea that might seem silly to some people, but shouldn’t seem silly now.

The idea was that if you had a large bountiful harvest that price gouging would become impossible. The problem was that David Hamelech never had to deal with Hasgachas. Breaking the power of the wicked is a lot tougher, because no matter how plentiful food is, you can always raise prices in the frum world.

As I wrote not long ago Gefilte fish has passed 7 dollars. Now that’s junk fish scraps. Anything with beef in it is sky high, even if it’s beef patties which run anywhere from between 5 to 8 dollars a pound. Again junk meat and scraps. Beef franks are somewhere in the half of that range at 2.50 to 5 bucks.

Are those real prices or are they jacked up prices? I don’t work in the industry so I have no idea, but I have my doubts.

The problem is that the days when the Rabbis viewed economic fairness as part of their role are done. They ended some time in Europe. Today’s Rabbis don’t interfere in business or in price gouging. After all the rich make money, they give tzedaka and that’s supposed to even everything out. Except it doesn’t.

Tzedaka was never the ideal. Tzedaka serves to correct a problem that exists, but the ideal is to help lift up the burden on the donkey before the donkey falls under it. Which was why Chazal stepped in against economic exploitation. When the Kohanim jacked up the prices of Korbanot, Chazal reduced the number of required Korbanot. The Kohanim folded. The people won.

Using Birchat Hashanim as a prayer against economic exploitation in food prices is part and parcel of what Chazal stood for. Hasgachas, particularly chumras in Hasgachas, mean you can expect to pay higher prices no matter how plentiful the food is.

I’m all for Hasgachas when necessary. I’m all for buying from fellow Jews first, but not at the cost of lining some bigshot’s pockets so he can then give a fraction of that money to some Yeshiva and get a plaque for it. That is not how Chazal wanted a Jewish society to work.

They wanted a just society in which you had to give less Tzedaka because there were less people who needed it, not a society where the rich could squeeze people and then dole out a fraction of that money to Yeshivas and the poor. That’s a hypocritical system and it’s a bad one. It’s the Christian order we lived among for too long, the one that venerates the “poor” by keeping them poor while the clergy and the rich make the occasional gesture and benefit. It’s not a Jewish system.

HYPOCRISY ALERT: Dr. Laura Bashes Sarah Palin

Gym Teacher and Radio Yakker Dr. Laura has done her part by putting up an article bashing Sarah Palin for being a working mother.

I am extremely disappointed in the choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party….

Children and young adults look to those who are visible and successful as a road map of what is acceptable behavior and emulate those actions over the morals and values their parents and churches have taught and tried to reinforce….

I’m stunned – couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?

So all that being the case shouldn’t Dr. Laura have taken her millions and retired early to be an “At Home Mom”? Yeah right.

Sarah Palin has raised 5 kids. Dr. Laura barely raised one and he made headlines for posting graphic and violent threats to his MySpace page that included brutal depictions of rape. But who can really be surprised from a son raised by Nurse Ratchett herself would have some major issues.

Here’s what Dr. Laura told a caller back in 1999

DENISE: My father’s birthday is today and he’s having a birthday party tomorrow, and he has invited all the family to a very nice restaurant where right now its just not feasible and they know that, and they want . . .

DR. LAURA: Yes, I know. I can hear that. You have to give yourself permission to have a life apart from that. And you know, Denise, this may not be fixable

DENISE: What’s that?

DR. LAURA: Your son may not be fixable. In which case you’re going to have to think of some kind of placement. He might even become dangerous to himself or somebody else — and that’s not going to be unreasonable either because he would be in a more controlled environment where there are experts in dealing with him.

And that’s the real deal. Sarah Palin will raise her son with Down’s Syndrome while talk radio’s biggest gym teacher told a mother she’d have to stick her autistic son in an institution so she can have a life. Anyone seriously believe that if Dr. Laura discovered she was pregnant with a less than perfect child, she wouldn’t be at the abortion clinic in 5 minutes? I don’t. This is after all the woman who switched religions because Jews weren’t making enough supportive calls to her show.

And considering that Dr. Laura slept her way into broadcasting, her son is an amateur sociopath, she claimed to be an only child when she actually has a sister, and her mother spent weeks rotting in her apartment before anyone discovered she was dead, maybe she should shut the hell up about role models and stop passing judgement on someone she’s only seen on television.

None of us are perfect, God knows, which means that being passing judgement on someone’s family life, they might want to use their heads first or take a look in the mirror.