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What Is It That Makes Men Squirm?

I had dinner with a close friend last week. I know through a mutual friend that he is having marital problems. I wondered whether to broach the subject, but decided not to ask specifically about his personal situation. My thought was that if he wanted to talk about it, he would bring it up, and I didn’t want to be intrusive. He didn’t bring it up. When I got home my wife berated me for being a lousy friend.

— Uncertain about unobtrusiveness

Rather than berate you for being a lousy friend, your wife could have commended you for your unerring masculinity. What is it about an intimate or personal conversation that makes most men squirm? What is the worst thing that could happen if you had broached the subject of your friend’s marriage? Maybe he would have said that he didn’t want to talk about it. No harm done. Or he might have unburdened himself of a weight he has been hauling around for months — particularly if all his “close friends” subscribe to the same philosophy as you. Sorry to say it, but I weigh in with your wife on this one. But you can regain the upper hand. Why don’t you make another dinner date?

* * *|

My son is engaged to be married to one of my dear friends’ daughters. I love the friend, but I have an aversion to the daughter. Do I say as much?

— Not shepping nachas

Say as much to whom: your friend or your son? Either call would be a lose-lose situation. Look at the bright side — you like your in-laws. Life could be so much worse: You could hate your daughter-in-law-to-be and her parents as well. At least you shouldn’t worry about not enjoying the wedding.

* * *|

My daughter Katherine is six months pregnant with my second grandson. She declined to have the first (currently 4 years old) circumcised, and doubtless intends to repeat this halachic felony with the second. Given that one or the other boy might be interested in affirming his Jewishness at some point, this seems like a myopic decision.

— Bubbe on birthright

Most parents want to see that their children make the most of every opportunity in life. What parent doesn’t fantasize that her son may be a concert cellist, an Olympic skier, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize? To slam a door on a child even before he is two weeks old is antithetical to being a parent. But that is exactly what your daughter is doing. To count himself among the Jewish people, a male must be circumcised. Your daughter has made it impossible for her sons to be recognized as Jews, leaving them only one option: a very painful one much later in life. You might want to remind your daughter that, while medical debates over circumcision wax and wane, there is no necessary connection between being circumcised and being Jewish. There is a necessary connection between being a Jewish male and being circumcised. Don’t let your daughter off easy; I urge you to intervene on behalf of your grandson.

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