Heart to Heart

The original article can be found here.

“Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” — Leviticus 19:17

The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1—20:27. Acharei Mot means “after the death,” and Kedoshim means “holy.” The Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.

I once heard a rabbi give a young couple some advice as they began their married life together. He said: “When you are upset with each other, make sure that you talk things out. Sometimes you will be tempted to shove your feelings away and pretend that nothing happened. But every time you do that, it is as if you place a brick between you. One or two bricks aren’t a big deal, but if you keep doing that, you end up building a wall.”

I have often thought how that advice applies to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues as well. We may think that we are helping our relationships by ignoring hurt feelings, but sometimes we end up harming not only our relationships, but also ourselves.

Scripture warns us: “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart . . .” The Sages ask the obvious question: Why does the verse need to specify “in your heart?” Where else would we hate a person?

The Jewish sages explain that there are two ways to hate someone. One is by expressing our feelings externally with words or actions. The other is by keeping our feelings on the inside, in our hearts. This verse is talking specifically about the second type of hating – the kind that seems innocuous at first, but can ultimately be the poison that kills a relationship in the end.

Yet, don’t make the mistake thinking that the Bible is advocating verbal or physical abuse either. God is not in favor of expressing our feelings in destructive and hateful ways. Rather, the very next verse advises us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). When we express our feelings of hurt, we must do so by coming from a place of love. This means waiting for the right time to discuss our feelings – never when we are feeling emotional or out of control, but only once we have regained our composure and come back to a place of love.

These instructions are invaluable when it comes to having healthy and fulfilling relationships that enrich our lives. Whether we are dealing with a spouse or a co-worker, it’s how we deal with our disagreements that will determine the quality of our relationships. So let’s take God’s advice to heart! Let’s fill our hearts with love and empty them of hate, so that within us will be a place suitable for the spirit of the Lord. As it says in Exodus 25:8. “I will dwell among them.” The sages teach: Fill your heart with love and God will dwell there, too.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

Maybe "The Fold" Will Be Better

[A cleaned-up version of my text message rant to my husband last week.]

Problems with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline:

  • One-dimensional villain - The bad guys exist just as bad guys with no depth, and everyone already hates them.

  • Spoonfeeding - Plot twists are narrated instead of allowing the reader to solve the mystery for themselves.

  • Silver platter solutions - There's a "black market" where the protagonist easily acquires key information not once, but twice so far in the story, conveniently allowing him to skirt around significant obstacles with money.

  • Promoting idolatry - Everyone who's winning in the story's competition is unhealthily obsessed with James Halliday and the 80s pop culture he grew up in, which gives them a huge advantage over other more well-adjusted competitors.

I'm near the end of the book and I've been holding in all this pent-up annoyance with the storytelling since the first few chapters. I got so fed up while reading on the bus, I slammed the book shut to type this rant. I mean I've been waiting for it to get better, but I'm 3/4 of the way through and I've just had the plot twist spoonfed to me like I'm a little baby who can't put two and two together on her own. That was the last straw I guess.

Seriously, Ready Player One reads like a more complex version of the stories I used to come up with as a nooby kid, where the bad guys always totally suck and everyone absolutely hates them, and the good guys always seem to have a magical get-out-of-pickle-free card up their sleeve.

Problems aside, though, I suppose it was still a pretty interesting read.

Flag The Bus Early If You Want It To Stop

It's like the people of Singapore forgot how to flag a bus today.

While I was waiting for the bus this morning, there was a guy in a blue shirt strolling towards the bus stop, his back facing traffic. He hadn't quite reached when a bus drove by. Noticing it belatedly, he barely lifted his arm out in a meager attempt to flag it down. It looked like he could have been simply tossing something on the ground. The bus was already zooming past him and didn't stop. He got so mad he started waving his middle finger about indignantly, trying to make sure the driver could see him.

Right after that, as he arrived at the bus stop, another bus came. Once again he didn't see it until it was too late, and made another half-assed attempt to flag it down, his arm not even rising above his hip. And once again, either the driver didn't notice him, or wasn't able to stop safely at that point, and drove off. The guy threw his hands up in exasperation, a bitter scowl on his face, and I was left to marvel at his impressive sense of entitlement.

Next, a bunch of aunties arrived at the bus stop, chit-chatting. Two buses approached, 67 followed by 854. As I walked forward to flag down the 854, I heard the aunties announcing to each other, "The bus is here! The bus is here!" Seeing as no one was flagging him down, the driver of bus 67 kept going.

A moment of bewildered silence from the aunties. Then they all started announcing to each other, "It didn't stop! It didn't stop!" I boarded bus 854 contemplating the odds of witnessing so many fails first thing in the morning.

Suckiest Girl Alive

Ever get that feeling where you have so many things on your mind to do that you just freeze and end up not doing anything?

I finished reading Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll today, and all I can say is the whole book just reeks of self-justification, of the author trying very hard to convince everyone, including herself, that she should be absolved of any guilt that haunts her from the past.

[SPOILERS][The Girl Who Cried Rape]

Seriously, every other time the rape is mentioned in the book, it's like she can't resist making some snarky remark about how people had the audacity to even question her innocence and helplessness in the situation.

Now, let me make it clear that I am 100% against victim blaming/shaming. If a person is too intoxicated to give or revoke consent, or too incapacitated to participate in any way, then yes, it should be considered rape. The first two scenarios in the book are consistent with this.

However, let's not confuse blaming the victim with playing the victim.

The third scenario and the recurring message throughout the book are irresponsibly misleading. "Is it rape if you can't remember what happened?" (p126) The young and naive protagonist (TifAni) inquired, and the Planned Parenthood doctor had the gall to deprive her of a resounding "YES". Oh, the travesty!

Well I'm sorry, but this wisp of an Asian shark (p6, 217), with fat-rippled, winking belly buttons for eyes (p38), cannot in good conscience agree that a girl who simply doesn't remember engaging in sexual activity while drunk was raped, any more than I can agree that a boy who doesn't remember raping a girl while drunk is innocent.

Just because she doesn't remember doing it doesn't mean she wasn't aware of her actions at the time. The boy himself had been drinking as well, but I guess only girls are allowed to use alcohol intoxication as a free pass to do whatever the hell they want and then blame it on someone else.

I actually felt sorry for nearly every other character in the book. Because apparently, just as suffering a blackout excuses TifAni for giving Dean a blow job, suffering a tragic past entitles her to constantly disrespect her mother, exploit her fiancé's wealth, seduce a married man, and basically treat everyone around her like dirt without any significant consequences. Behold, the antiheroic Mary Sue!

Aside from the author shoving her bitter indignation down your throat, her rambling narrative is also riddled with awkward similes (p247 for a prime example) and disorienting flashbacks, unceremoniously interjected in the middle of dialogues or climatic moments in the story. The ending left much to be desired as well, but perhaps I was too put off by the time I reached it to enjoy anything about the book.

Oh, and one more thing. TifAni FaNelli can never hold a candle to Amy Dunne, or Jessica Knoll to Gillian Flynn for that matter, and making such comparisons is a gross insult to the latter.

Never Forget Where We Came From

People have to understand that Lee Kuan Yew wasn't just another government official of Singapore. He was our founding father. He fought for our independence and even went on to build us up from a third world country to first. And yes, of course he did it with a team, how else would he have done it? That doesn't mean we should downplay the significance of his contributions as opposed to lifting up those who worked with him. Look at where we were when he started and where we are now. People are so quick to forget, and our pampered generation can sometimes be a bunch of ungrateful, spoiled brats.

There are pros and cons of living in every country, and if we're being honest, Singapore really does have a lot of pros. Housing and vehicle prices are pretty damn high due to lack of land space, but our streets are clean and safe, our children can attend school without fear of being gunned down, our public transportation is frequent, efficient (breakdowns happen now and then everywhere in the world, get over it) and fairly cheap compared to other developed cities. We have high-tech amenities, clean tap water, a world-class healthcare system (ranked 1st most efficient in the world by Bloomberg just last year), a wide selection of shopping, entertainment and leisure activities that, let's face it, if you're reading this while happily surfing the Net on your computer/ mobile device right now, you can probably afford, and so on.

We are overcrowded, yes, but again our land is so small and our population ever-growing. We are like the USA of South East Asia. Many aspire to flock here and live the Singapore dream, people from all over the world and especially from our neighbouring countries. They come to work even as maids and cleaners and construction workers, jobs that most Singaporeans have the means to avoid and often feel is "beneath us". Typing it makes me cringe, but it's the truth. We are pretty damn privileged and sometimes that breeds ignorance.

And still those frogs in a well continue to croak incessantly, blaming the government for every little thing that goes wrong in their lives, refusing to be adults and take responsibility for their own problems, making unfounded accusations against the PAP and the Lee family of corruption and nepotism, hating on our culture and laws and demanding that we conform to the ways of the Western society because apparently there's only one correct method to run a developed country, thinking they know so much, their sense of superiority grossly inflated from a short stint overseas or a handful of biased articles they pored over online. The grass is always greener on the other side.

There's nothing wrong with questioning our government and holding them accountable, and of course there's always room for improvement, no matter how well a country is doing, but this isn't about that. This is about showing respect for a great man who has contributed so much, spent a good portion of his life working to provide us with a thriving metropolis and a comfortable lifestyle that we all take for granted. He, like every human being in this world, didn't always get it right and couldn't please everyone, but in his lifetime he has achieved a great deal more than most. And now as we reap the benefits of his toil and sweat, it is only decent to pay homage to Lee Kuan Yew and acknowledge his efforts.

As Singaporean Lawyer Chia Boon Teck aptly put it with regards to the Amos Yee case, "Mr Lee spent his life helping Singaporeans to put food on the table and build roofs over our heads. Since we need not worry about food and shelter, we can indulge in contemplating our right to hurt others with our words in the name of freedom of speech."

Aztech HomePlug

Sick and tired of a spotty Wi-Fi connection? Is connecting directly to the router impossible or inconvenient for you?



Aztech HomePlug - Powerline networking for all your Internet connection needs!

Behold, firsthand, documented evidence of its awesomeness:
(Using Aztech HomePlug 200Mbps)

Before Aztech HomePlug:



After Aztech HomePlug:



And there you have it! Get your Aztech HomePlug today and say goodbye to unreliable Wi-Fi connection!
Still not convinced? Try it out for yourself with our special 60-day free trial!

A testimony from one of Aztech HomePlug's satisfied customers:

"I used to suffer from ridiculously horrendous net. Sometimes it got really, really, REALLY BAD, and I'm ashamed (and slightly embarrassed) to say I had reached a raging point where I would resort to physically abusing my router whenever I disconnected for prolonged periods. However, since Aztech HomePlug came into my life my Internet woes have miraculously vanished! It's as though my computer is connected directly to the router, even though it really isn't! All I needed to do was get two HomePlug devices, plug them into wall sockets near the router and my computer, and connect each respectively with an ethernet cable. Problem solved! No more spotty Wi-Fi, no more infuriating lag spikes during crucial raid moments, no more random, rage-inducing disconnection! I can now play FFXIV and stream movies at the same time with no trouble AT ALL! Thank you, Aztech HomePlug, for saving my Internet! And a special shout-out to my fiancé for discovering this connection alternative for me!" —Liesl Tan, avid Internet user

The Miniaturist

Stayed up till 4am reading The Miniaturist.

Jessie Burton paints vivid visuals with her words but doesn't seem to be very good at stringing her characters' emotional tones together. She'll have two characters in the middle of a conversation, and it'll sound like a perfectly calm, reasonable conversation until suddenly one of them furiously slaps the other across the face and you realise they're supposed to be having this conversation in escalating anger.

Interesting read though. It had a pleasant bit of that Sharp Objects trickery. I had suspected certain outcomes during the earlier parts of the novel, then became distracted by the rest of the story and forgot about my fleeting speculations until they finally manifested towards the end.

Classic Mystery

Hmm... Not as impressed by the plot twist in Dark Places as the other two Gillian Flynn Novels. But still an interesting read. I guess it's the best I could hope for, given the build-up. Every character was equally suspicious right up to the reveal so I wasn't very surprised. In fact I kind of figured who it would be. There was another surprise though, it wasn't really a big shocking twist, but more like an interesting revelation.

I still think Sharp Objects is the best. It's a classic mystery. I established my first suspect right from the start, then as the story progressed I started to sympathize with that person while shifting my suspicion onto someone else. And just when I was certain I knew how the story would end, the tables suddenly turned and the person whom I first suspected but gradually forgot all about, and even accepted as a fellow victim of the situation, turned out to be the culprit after all. Genius writing! It's hard to pull something like that off. I'm usually pretty on point with predicting the plot based on how the story is told, like I did for Gone Girl and now Dark Places. But the twist in Sharp Objects completely took me by surprise.

The sign of a good mystery is when all the cards are laid out on the table, but your attention is deliberately drawn away from a few key cards until the crucial moment. Sharp Objects was like that. The cards were all on the table, the characters and their queer habits had all been introduced, and yet Gillian Flynn concealed the culprit so well, lured the readers into obsessing over a different suspect without making it too obvious that she was trying to distract us.

I say this because I'm now comparing the novels to the TV series I very recently binge-watched, How To Get Away With Murder, which is also a mystery story. And I realised that as exciting as the series may be, they actually withhold facts until it's time to introduce the twist. They keep some of the events a secret until the big reveal, which is kind of cheating in a way. It's like you're not allowing your viewers to do the detective work because you're withholding key information, only spoonfeeding us what you want us to see for now to FORCE us into a limited spectrum of speculation, which is unfair.

Gillian Flynn lays everything out in the open, take your pick, choose your suspect. Then with careful storytelling she maneuvers your train of thought around without cheating you of the facts, besides what the main character doesn't already know. Everything is told chronologically, as and when it happens, as the main character experiences it, and you are witnessing everything with the main character, solving the mystery alongside this person. You're not some third-party viewer who's only being fed half-truths, a fraction of the story at a time. Of course you wouldn't be able to solve it then. Of course the character would come to a conclusion before you did.

I give you an example. In one of the earlier episodes, we see one of the main characters standing over a dead body. He picks up the murder weapon, planning to hide it, and mutters "I'm sorry." Then the scene cuts and we carry on with the story. And then all of a sudden, to introduce a new twist in the plot, they replay that same scene. But this time, instead of cutting off after he says sorry, they conveniently inject an extra part, a convenient continuation, and you hear someone else say "Don't be." and it's suddenly revealed that another character was there all along. -_-

Another earlier example would be when the same main character suddenly and conveniently remembers witnessing a suspect hiding something in his toilet, a shot that had once again been conveniently withheld when the scene first played out, and conveniently slipped back in during a replay when it was time for the reveal. -_- It's like, ok, of course I didn't see that coming, I wasn't even given a chance to. It's like there's no point in speculating at all because they don't even allow you the possibility of getting it right.

It's a mystery dictatorship!!!! >=[

Ok end of rant. I suppose one could say it's just different ways of telling a mystery story. Well I just think more respect should be given to the storytellers who don't keep secrets from you, and yet still manage to surprise in the end.

It's The Internet, So What?

Being on the Internet is not an excuse to disregard common courtesy, morals and tact, nor is it a reason to be an enabler of such behaviour.

Just because "it's the Internet" doesn't mean we're any less accountable for our actions and choice of words.