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Chattering Mind

“What is Oprah, anyway?” asked my youngest as I gathered both boys around the television at four p.m. yesterday.

“It’s–she’s–a popular talk show host and Rabbi Shmuley–remember him?–is on her program today,” I told them, thinking: how hard can it be to get kids to look at a television set? “They’re both going to talk about how families can get along better!” Well, that immediately killed their interest. But in the end, they got into it.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a Beliefnet.com columnist, but is perhaps most famous for being the author of “Kosher Sex,” a Jewish advice tome akin to another brisk seller, “Hot Monoganomy.” Both books advocate doing whatever it takes–sex toys, etc.–to keep a marriage frisky. Boteach was on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” yesterday to promote his Learning Channel (TLC) family therapy program called “Shalom in the Home,” a family fix-it show that appeals to anyone, not just Jewish viewers.

I like it that a rabbi in a yarmulke is seen as a potentially great family therapist, instead of the usual prim and firm British nanny. Boteach’s premise is that too many dads feel broken and detached, night after night, and that too many moms nag since they’re working outside the home and are often exhausted by their own feminine style of micromanaging. The first couple Oprah invited onstage to demonstrate Boteach’s therapeutic prowess was getting no respect from its offspring–despite the fact that the Dad was a chiropractor, and the mom was a yoga instructor! Boteach showed embarrassing video tape of the family’s dysfunctional patterns, and then sent all five out to volunteer at New York City’s Bowery Mission, where they prepared a meal for the homeless before returning to their own house sobered, grateful, and back in love with one another.

The rest of the “Oprah” show featured snippets on why it’s wrong to give your kids everything they want. “You’re creating insatiable needs in your children when you give them too much!” Boteach said. One mother who’d given her five-year-old daughter diamond earrings, seemed in desperate need of more counseling as Oprah was obliged to wrap the hour up. Oh well, you can’t heal everybody.

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