Why Learn Higher Math?

I’m not sure which is better, what C.J. Keyser says or how he says it.

Over and above the humbler role of
mathematics as a metrical and computatory art,
over and above her unrivalled value as a standard
of exactitude and as an instrument in every field
of experimental and observational research, even
beyond her justly famed disciplinary and emancipating
power, releasing the faculties from the
fickle dominion of sense by winning their allegiance
to the things of the spirit, inuring them to the
austerities of reason, the stern demands of rigorous
thought, giving the mental enlargement, the
peaceful perspective, the poise and the elevation
that come at length from continued contemplation
of the universe under the aspects of the infinite
and the eternal—my conviction that above and
beyond these services, which by common consent
of the competent are peculiarly her own, mathematics
will yet further demonstrate her human
significance by the shedding of light more and
more copious as the years go by on ultimate problems
of philosophy and theology, is not a passing
fancy, or a momentary whim. ~ circa 1922



Quick Thought from Moses Maimonides

Maimonides writes, “[Man’s] actions are divided as regards their object into four classes: they are either purposeless, unimportant, in vain, or good” (chapter XXV). We’ll see how that idea colors my day today!

Today’s Procrastination Checklist

Um, OK, let’s see what I’ve done today to avoid doing what I need to do for tomorrow.

Online work? Check.

Homemade crackers? Check.

Homemade potato-onion-cheddar peirogi with dough from my library copy of Recipes Remembered (recipe’s not online, but a sample of the book is)? Check.

Grocery store run for 14 more pounds of juicing carrots at $.25/pound? Check.

25-minute layered pressure-cooker Shabbat duck menu plan completed? Check.

18-minute layered pressure-cooker lamb dinner menu plan completed to see if layering in the pressure cooker works? Check.

Hand-scrubbed bathroom tile floor? Check.

Stripped and remade the bed. Check.

Laundry? Check.

Treadmill? Check.

Listen to Ecclesiastes? Check.


So this is the record of my last free Tuesday of the semester.

And now, off to do all the vain work I’ve been given to do under the sun. Or maybe I’ll make dinner first.


How about dog treats and a 1/3 batch of oatmeal cookies -cinnamon, -refined sugars. I think I need to surrender.

What I’ve Been up To, Part I., Apples

No, really, apples. Apple after apple after glorious apple.

Two Bushels and a Peck

MacIntosh, Granny Smith, Cortland, and a peck of Red Delicious. Aren’t they pretty? I think it took me three weeks, working intermittently, of course, to get them all processed into 8 or more quarts of applesauce (thank you for your help, HR!), 3 quarts of sliced apples, and a number of bags of sliced apples that went flat into the freezer.

Only about 2 months later, half the applesauce is gone, the canned slices are used up, and I’ve already made one dip into the freezer for a throw-together pie. I’m tempted to get another bushel, but it was a lot of work and my days off are dwindling. So that’s part of what I was up to during the end of November and beginning of December.

Binding Our Isaacs

Most of us know we need to be ready to give up our own lives in the service of the King of the Universe, but how many of us are ready to bind our Isaacs? Abraham teaches us to be ready to give up something more than our lives: our hope, our joy, our laughter, our calling, our blessing, even our miracles. All that is ours is His. What we secure with our own hand is easier to release, I think, than what we know we received from Him. But we should prepare ourselves to let go of both.

Abraham sent away Ishmael and was deeply troubled and saddened. He pitied him and wanted to know God would be compassionate toward him. Notice the contrast with the binding of Isaac: it doesn’t excite Abraham’s pity because it is worse. Aristotle is right: we feel pity for other people when misfortune hits them (e.g. Abraham for Ishmael), but when tragedy strikes us, we don’t feel pity but pain (e.g. Abraham for Isaac). Pity is excluded. We feel no compassion. The call to bind Isaac is a direct missile strike to Abraham’s heart.

What is your Isaac, the hope that is dearer to you than your own life? I pray the Lord reveals it to us all now so that we may prepare ourselves to bind it and deliver it to His hand, come what may, no questions asked.

Some would say it is oxymoronic that Abraham moves with joy to carry out the request to bind Isaac, but I don’t think so. I learned something from the death of my mother: it takes great joy to move through great pain. Nehemiah knew this when he told the grieving people in chapter 8 of his book “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When the pain is overwhelming, there is no other source of power but joy. Joy is power. Joy isn’t the opposite of pain; it is the power to live and move despite the pain.

May we be prepared to joyfully surrender ourselves and our Isaacs to the Lord of Hosts, may he return speedily in our days, amen.

Delight Yourself in the Lord and…

How many answered prayers can I have in one 24-hour period?
Last year, three adorable children stopped by the house to rake. They came, I think, on a Saturday, so of course, out of respect for me respecting the Sabbath, my husband asked them to come Sunday instead. They did, but we missed them because we were out running an errand at the time.
I was disappointed. I wanted to get to know the young entrepreneurs; I wanted to teach them how to make challah and hire them as little helpers to get everything in order before the Sabbath. But we missed them and it never happened.
Friend, guess who stopped by today. And guess who raked, helped me take down the rest of the sukkah, and helped me make bread for the Sabbath? Yep, the same three children.
Thank you, father in heaven, for giving me the desire of my heart after a year all in one day.

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