Smile, and the World Smiles With You

by Rabbi Ze’ev Smason                

Which way does your name lean?  Recent studies of voting records and campaign contributions show that those with certain names tend to vote for certain parties or candidates.  Here are a few interesting findings:

* If you’re a Duane, Billy, Brent or Chad, chances are you vote Republican
* If you’re a Kate, Alison, Jessica or Rachel, chances are you vote Democratic
* Donors named Liz, Juan and Mohammed favor Hillary Clinton
* Donors named Bobby, Curtis and Kent favor Donald Trump

Per campaign contributions, most Dylans are Democrats and most Duanes are Republicans.

* Donors with the highest median campaign contributions are named Akram, Chaim and Chana
* Donors with the lowest median campaign contributions are named Agatha, Alberta and Alfreda

The Talmud asks:  How do we know that a person’s name is a profound influence upon them?  Answer: A person’s name causes certain actions and tendencies.  A name sets perspective, and gives the child something to grow into.  A child named Ya’akov will be affected differently than that same child who might otherwise have been named Attila, Genghis or Nimrod.  What’s in a name?  In the end, it’s what you make of your name that counts. For at the beginning we are given a name, and at the end of our life a “good name” is all we take with us.

Parshas Acharei   Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30
Acharei Mos begins with a lengthy description of the special Yom Kippur service to be performed in the Mishkan by the Kohen Gadol. The service included the lottery selection from among two identical goats, one of which would become a national sin offering and the other which would be pushed off a cliff in the desert as the bearer of the people’s sins (the ‘scapegoat’). We also find described the command that Yom Kippur and its laws of fasting and refraining from work be observed eternally by the Jewish people as a day of atonement. Acharei Mos concludes with a listing of immoral and forbidden sexual relationships, and the command that the Jewish people maintain and ensure the holiness of the land of Israel.

Rabbinic Ruminations
The late great Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra said, “you can observe a lot by just watching.”  It is well known that other peoples’ emotions provide information.   In a recent study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology, the researchers sought to examine the interpersonal ramifications of emotions in the context of baseball.  Do the gaze and body language of the batter influence the pitcher?  The players stand opposite each other, looking each other in the eye; one makes a move, and the other responds to it.  Does the expression of emotions offer clues about the moves both pitcher and batter will make?

In video clips from several Major League baseball games, instances were selected in which it was possible to see the pitcher before the throw.  The clips were edited so that it was only possible to see the pitcher’s preparations before the pitch, and the picture was frozen once the ball left the pitcher’s hand. In the next stage of the study, participants were asked to evaluate the pitcher’s face and body language for signs of anger, happiness, and worry.  The study results showed that when the pitcher showed anger, this led to the prediction of faster and more difficult pitches. The expression of happiness led to predictions of more precise pitches and a higher probability that the batter would attempt to hit the ball. The expression of worry led to predictions of imprecise pitches and fewer attempts to hit the ball.

Our facial expressions provide information. What message does a smile transmit?  Before Jacob died, he blessed his son Judah with the words “His eyes shall be red with wine; and his teeth white with milk.” (Genesis 49:12).  The Talmud states that the phrase ‘his teeth white with milk’ can be understood to mean ‘when one shows his teeth (in a smile) to his fellow man, it’s better than giving him milk to drink.’  Just as milk provides essential nourishment, a smile enters the recipient’s mind and body to nourish their spirit and soul.  We underestimate the power and importance of a smile. A smile isn’t simply a ‘nice thing’; it’s an essential ingredient in the healthy continuity of the world.


Quote of the Week
The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.   — William James


Joke of the Week
When his eyes began to give him trouble, a man went to an ophthalmologist in Prague.

The doctor showed the patient the eye chart, displaying the letters CVKPNWXSCZ.

“Can you read that?” the doctor asked.

“Can I read it?” the Czech replied. “I dated his sister!”


1 Comment

  1. I can’t hear annhtiyg over the sound of how awesome this article is.

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