Friday, July 28, 2006

Everyone Needs Affection

I recently heard Rav Aaron Lopiansky from the Yeshiva of Greater Washington suggest the following analogy.

Imagine a couple who have been married for a few years and are not getting along. They consider divorce, but decide to stay together for the sake of the children. But in order to get along, they draw up a contract, complete with attorneys on each side, to guide their relationship. The contract says all of the obligations and rights of each person: he’ll do the shopping, she’ll do the cooking, he’ll clean the gutters, she’ll sweep the deck, he’ll drive to piano lessons, she’ll drive to Little League....

Sound like a good plan? It should avoid most arguments, right?

Sound like any marriages that you know?

But how long could you live in such a relationship before becoming totally depressed? What is missing here?

What’s obviously missing is affection. Agreements and wedding vows are not enough to make a marriage – or any human relationship for that matter. Agreements are perhaps a starting point. They get us off the ground. But to really soar in a relationship, we want to get to the point where our hearts and minds become so close to the other person that we no longer need the contract – I need to get myself to the point where my beloved’s interest is my interest.

How do I do that? Through acts of affection.

For your table: What are the best acts of affection a person can do for another?

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Below is a picture of 8 Jews who gave their lives for their people this week.

Forget about the geopoltical situation, forget about the morality for a moment. These are 6 Jews who gave their lives for their people There are many more, and still more who find themselves in mortal danger.

What can we do to help?

1. Support the wounded. Here are some links:

2. The Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Simcha Cook and other rabbis have called upon the world-wide Jewish community – men, women, adult and youth, to accept the name of a solider or civilian who finds him or herself in danger, and to bond your heart and mind to that person, to offer your good deeds and prayers every day in that person’s merit. If you wish to spiritually partner with a Jew in Israel, please send an email to or phone to Israel 011-972-2-581-1911. If you know someone who is in danger and needs such a partner, please send their name in as well.

(Alternate USA contacts: 212-929-1525 x100 or

3. Read Psalm 83 once a day. This was selected many months ago to be read in synagogues worldwide. After you read it, you may find this story from the New York Times more meaningful, and may find it generates some interesting Table Talk.

July 27, 2006
Book Buried in Irish Bog Is Called a Major Find
By ALAN COWELL / New York Times

LONDON, July 26 — Ireland’s National Museum said on Wednesday that a 1,200-year-old Book of Psalms found last week by a construction worker in a bog was so archaeologically significant that it could be called an “Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Museum officials said it was remarkable both that the psalter had survived for so long in boggy terrain and that a construction worker had spotted it and halted a mechanical digger just in time to save it from destruction.

“In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this,” Patrick F. Wallace, the director of the National Museum in Dublin, said in a statement. “It testifies to the incredible richness of the early Christian civilization of this island.”

Aoife Demel, a spokeswoman for the museum, said in a telephone interview that several experts had examined the text and that there was no possibility that it was a hoax.

The museum said in a news release that “in discovery terms this Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls is being hailed by the museum’s experts as the greatest find ever from a European bog.” The museum said it could not determine how the manuscript ended up in the bog. “It may have been lost in transit or dumped after a raid, possibly more than a thousand to twelve hundred years ago,” the news release said. Bernard Meehan, a manuscript expert at Trinity College, Dublin, said this was the first discovery of its kind in 200 years.

The manuscript, containing approximately 20 pages, was discovered last Thursday in the Irish Midlands when the construction worker noticed it while excavating for commercial potting soil. Museum officials declined to specify the bog’s location, explaining that archaeologists were still exploring the site.

The museum said that the bound pages had slipped outside the book’s wraparound cover, made of vellum or leather, and that the psalms were written directly on vellum and the book was found open at a page showing Psalm 83 in Latin.

In later English-language versions, Psalm 83 exhorts God to act against conspirator nations plotting to wipe out “the name of Israel.”

Raghnall O Floinn, who is in charge of collections at the museum, said each page of the document contained about 40 lines of script, with around 45 letters per line. “While part of Psalm 83 is legible, the extent to which other psalms or additional texts are preserved will only be determined by painstaking work by a team of invited experts, probably operating over a long time in the museum laboratory,” he said.

The estimated age of the manuscript would place it in the same early medieval period as the Book of Kells (circa A.D. 800), an illuminated manuscript of the Christian Gospels that is on public view in the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin.

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Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Honoring the Fallen

This Table Talk is dedicated to the memory of my father, Dennis Seinfeld (Dovid ben Eliezer), who died suddenly a year ago tomorrow (on the Jewish calendar).

What do you do in memory of a loved one? Well, one of the simplest things to do is to light a 24-hour candle (available at many grocery stores in the kosher section) beginning just before sunset the day before the yartzeit.

But there is something even more important than lighting a yarzeit candle.

My brother Keith, who lives in Seattle, said at the stone-setting ceremony this week:

When we live according to my dad’s values, we are honoring and perpetuating his legacy.
When we go out of our way to help someone, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.
When we forgive someone a minor insult or injury, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.
When we take the extra time to get a project “just right”, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.
When we show respect for all human beings, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.
When we give our time and money charitably, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.
When we enjoy life and help others enjoy life, we honor and perpetuate his legacy.

For your table: Do you have a loved one who passed away? What is something you do to honor and perpetuate their legacy?

I would like to thank everyone who has honored my father and family this past year as we have mourned him (and more recently my maternal grandmother). Having this world-wide community of friends via the internet is something my father, a world-traveler, would have relished and found as uplifting as I do. Thank you for your kindness, love and support.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Zreezus and Public Enemy #1


Have you ever had the opportunity to do a mitzvah, but you tarried, and lost the opportunity?

For example, somebody at the dinner table asks for the salt, but the salt is not on the table. Nobody moves. You're thinking, "I hope someone else gets up to get it..."

Still no one moves.

You're thinking, "I've worked hard this week. I'm tired. Someone else should get up."

Finally the person who asked for the salt gets up and goes to look for it. You feel a mixture of relief that you didn't have to get up and shame that you didn't get up.

"Zreezus" or "zreezut" is the zeal to do a mitzvah. The best way to teach kids to act with zreezus is to praise them massively when they do it.

Public Enemy #1

Speaking of zreezus, sometimes the consequences of not acting are so painful that we are goaded into acting.

Take the example of Public Enemy #1. They are bombarding our cities and Israel tries to stop them. France says, "Show restraint, Israel!" Who is a greater danger to the world, Israel or France?

Regardless of what the world says, Israel will do what any other country would do, that is, everything possible to destroy Lebanon’s and Gaza’s ability to fire deadly missiles at Israelis.

1. The Problem

The photo below (CNN) is a supermarket where our friends in Sefat shop(ped).

It was hit by an explosive rocket fired in an unprovoked attack from Lebanon. In fact, nearly 1,000 missiles have been fired at northern Israel in the past 2 days.

2. The Root of the Problem

As reported in today’s New York Times:

In Beirut’s Shiite-dominated southern suburbs, where residents handed out sweets to celebrate the seizures of the Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, residents supported Hezbollah, a Shiite group with close ties to Iran, and insisted that they were ready to sacrifice for the cause. Many pledged their allegiance to Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. “If things did not escalate to this, nothing would ever be solved,” said Rania al-Faris as she waited for a bus.

But in many other parts of the city, many expressed indignation at having to pay for what they saw as a ruinous escapade. “I’m not anxious because I guess I am just used to war,” admitted Sirine Ahmad, 47, as she stocked up on supplies in the religiously mixed Hamra section. “But this time I feel bitterness, anger and rage because Hezbollah does not have the right to decide to take us back into war.”

3. The Real Problem?

As reported by MS-NBC, the Center for Religious Freedom in Washington has published a study of Saudi textbooks used during the past school year. These textbooks teach that:

* Jews and Christians are "enemies" of Muslims.
* Every religion other than Islam is "false."
* "The hour [of Judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them."
* Jews are "apes" and Christians are "swine."

MS-NBC reports that some of these lessons are finding their way into the Moslem community of Ontario, which may have led to the recent near-attack in Toronto by a group of young people.

These people are acting with zreezus. What do we do about it? Do we sit back and hope someone else will get up from the table and do something?

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Death of a Tzaddik

This table talk is dedicated to the memory of Yehudis bas Alexander Ziskin. To dedicate a future table talk, please send an email.

- 1-

A man and woman are fighting. They are yelling. They are not talking to each other. They are thinking about divorce, but neither really wants a divorce, they just don’t know how to work things out.

A man named Aaron comes along and says to the man, “Are you happy about leaving your wife or unhappy?

The man replies, “Well, I’m unhappy, but there’s no way we can stay together.

“If your wife wanted to make up, would you want to?”

The man agrees.

Then Aaron goes to the woman and says the same thing: “Are you happy about your husband leaving or unhappy?”

She replies, “Well, I’m miserable.”

“If you husband wanted to make up, would you want to?”

“Well, yes, but he’ll never want to. He said he’s leaving me. So Aaron continues: “Well, I already spoke to him, and he says he really wants to make up.”


“Yes, in fact, he said he feels bad about everything that happened.”


Then Aaron returns to the man (before the woman gets there) and reports, “Well, I spoke to your wife and she said she feels very bad about what happened and wants to make up.”

Pretty soon, the two are back together. They just needed someone to help them get past the wounded feelings and egos.

- 2 -

Moses’s brother Aaron was such a peacemaker. Do you think he was liked or disliked among the Israelites?

When he died, “they wept for Aaron thirty days, the entire House of Israel” (Numbers 20:29).

However, when Moses’s sister Miriam dies, the Torah is succinct:“Miriam died there and she was buried there.”

The rabbis of old comment that, although Miriam was not a great peacemaker, she was a great, righteous woman and the Jewish people did not mourn her sufficiently.

The customary mourning period for a parent is 1 year, for any other relative 1 month, and for any righteous person 1 month. Mourning someone who has died pays them and their legacy proper respect. Not to do so is as if to say, “Her legacy is unimportant to me” and brings the karmic consequence of the loss of that legacy.

Thus, as a consequence of our failure to mourn Miriam appropriately, the next verse states: “There was no water for the assembly,” for Miriam’s great merit had brought the water. When we fail to appreciate the legacy, the legacy is removed.

“To everything there is a season...a time to rend and a time to mend.”

When it is your time to rend, don’t run away because it’s uncomfortable. Mourning is an affirmation of the life and legacy of your loved one (and we ourselves - and our ability to continue the good that that person created - are the most important legacy of all).

Shabbat Shalom