Friday, December 28, 2007

Behind the Scenes

Dedicated to the loving memory of Bert Walker, whose Yarzeit falls this month. He was a man of the highest moral character, fearless, lived his life according to the motto that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and above all, devoted himself to his family.

For the first time in two years of sending these Table Talks, I would like to invite you to a behind-the-scenes look at what Jewish Spiritual Literacy is doing.

In addition to spending my Friday morning conjuring up “great”, “thought-provoking” “ really nice”, “enjoyable”, “beautiful and touching” stories and questions [actual reader comments] for your spiritual nourishment, I spend the rest of the week bringing Art-of-Amazement type of Judaism to individuals and groups around the country.

Some pay their way and others – notably college students – don’t have the funds to cover our costs. We also train teachers both live and via our website, jewishspirituality.net, to teach the Art-of-Amazement style Judaism. AND we give away thousands of books every year. Technically, we sell them at a loss, otherwise they don’t have a budget for them. You should see the kind of feedback we’re getting from readers! We are enabling teachers to inspire their students of all ages and parents to transmit a Judaism that works.

By reading this weekly blog, you are part of a national effort to uncover and promote this kind of engaging, down-to-earth, spiritual Judaism.

To close out 2007, I would like to ask you to become my partner in this national effort for 25¢ per week.

There’s your question of the week: Is the thought-provoking Table Talk worth a quarter to you?

If so, please use the info below to send in your 2-bits. But if you want, I’ll offer you something on top of partnership just to sweeten the relationship. 25¢ a week comes to 13 bucks a year. If you are willing to double that – 50¢ a week or $26 for the year, I’ll send you a thank you gift that I know you’re going to enjoy. I’ll send you an audio CD of a new class that premiered this week: A Jewish View of the Messianic Age. The audience feedback was tremendous.

I appreciate your occasional feedback (both enthusiastic and critical) and generosity. But whether or not this is a good time for you, please help me by completing a one-minute anonymous on-line survey about the Table Talk blog. All those who complete the survey will receive an additional free gift. Here’s the link to the survey. (note – survey site will be down for maintenance Friday night)

Please send your tax-deductible donation to:

Jewish Spiritual Literacy, Inc.
3700 Menlo Drive
Baltimore, MD 21215-3620
A 501(c)3 organization.

On-line: http://www.jewishspirituality.net/elearning/cart/donation.php
Paypal: donate@jsli.org

If there is an honoree or dedication, please let me know. All gifts will be gratefully acknowledged.

Shabbat Shalom

PS – want to give without spending a dime? This video will show you how to support your favorite non-profit just by searching the web:



Or go straight to their site: http://www.goodsearch.com/

Friday, December 21, 2007

Immortality

How are you going to live forever?

If you google the phrase “Santa doesn’t come down my chimney” you will find several interesting sites.

One is a forum where someone asks, “So what's your story as to how you found out Santa didn't exist as a kid?”

My favorite answer: “I found my presents early. That's when I knew the horrible secret. The world then started to collapse.”

Do parents who tell their kids about Santa Claus realize that they are setting them up for disillusionment?

If you read some of the responses on that forum, you’ll see many stories of disillusionment, people who were seriously led to believe in Santa Claus, up to the point where their parents outright lied in order to cover up the fact that the presents had arrived early.

2 questions for your table:

1. What’s the greatest piece of wisdom your parents taught you?
2. What’s the greatest piece of wisdom you would hope the next generation will remember you for?


The top hit for the Santa phrase is this blog from a year ago, when we exclusively published the lyrics from the new hit song, “Chinese Food On Christmas”.

Last year, you could watch the song as a piano solo:

This year, if you hurry, you could be one of the first 1,000,000 people to watch the new video:


Judging from viewer comments, the video contains one or two controversial scenes. I’m curious to know what you think – witty satire or offensive?


Regardless of the stories you tell to the children in your life, there is an ancient, ancient Jewish custom to give them a blessing on Friday night and holidays.

You can make this into an enjoyable family tradition. Here’s how: have the children line up from oldest to youngest, put your right hand on each one’s head or shoulder and say:

For girls: “May you become like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”

(i.e., wise, generous, spiritual, discerning)

For boys: “May you become like Ephraim and Menasheh.”

(Not exactly on the caliber of the women? Why not bless them to be like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Moses? David and Solomon? Ephraim and Menasheh felt no rivalry and knew who they were and where they came from despite growing up in a challenging culture.)


Shabbat Shalom


PS - You’re running out of time to support Table Talk and JSL’s work with a tax-deductible contribution for 2007. Is this message worth 50¢ a week? Even that will help make get this message out, as well as book distribution, seminars for college students, and other under-funded programs.


> On-line: http://www.jewishspirituality.net/elearning/cart/donation.php
> Donate your used car, boat, etc: http://www.donatecarusa.com/application.php?temp_charity=302
> Stock transfer: send email for directions
> Paypal: donate@jsli.org
> Snail mail: 3700 Menlo Drive, Baltimore MD, 21215

Friday, December 14, 2007

Who's on?

This week I found myself in San Francisco having great coffee shop conversation with a thoughtful friend. I'll call him Mike.

Mike said, “The way of religions to try to motivate with fear just doesn’t appeal to me.”

“I feel the same way. But here’s a problem: people are mostly motivated by fear.”

Mike looked at me skeptically, so I gave evidence: “Take drivers, for example. How many people obey the speed limit because they want to be safe drivers versus avoiding a ticket?”

He admitted that I had a good point. People tend to change their behavior out of fear more than the desire to do what is right. There are countless examples of this.

But then we’re stuck with that aversion we have to scare-tactics.

“Fortunately, Mike,” I offered, "There is third way. The Hebrew word that is usually translated as ‘fear’, as in ‘fear of Heaven’, really doesn’t mean fear. It means awe. Awe means that I recognize that I am not the be-all and end-all of existence, that there is something much bigger than me, and that my actions and choices do have consequences.”

Mike’s face lit up, almost like a light bulb turning on. “That could work for me."

“Now, let’s think for a minute. Where does awe come from?”

“Well, it can come from observing something really big and powerful, like a thunderstorm. Or from observing a person who is really powerful at something they do, like a professional athlete or musician.”

“How about learning about how the human body works, it’s incredible! Or simply contemplating the fact that I’m sitting here contemplating...!”

Question for your table: Is this week’s baseball-on-steroids story good news or bad news?

Wait, before you answer that, let’s try to put this in perspective....

Baseball is a game.
Baseball is a business.
Baseball is not a religion (although for many it is spiritual)
Baseball is not helping solve problems like war and global warming and cancer.

Oh, by the way, today, Google found
- over 17,000 news articles on steroids in baseball
- about 7,000 articles refer to a player or players who deny their guilt
- Only find a handful of players who admitted their guilt or apologized

At the end of the day, is it true that how you play the game is more important than winning or losing? What if you own the team?

Would it be possible to change the scoring of sports to give a team extra points for playing fair, instead of penalties for playing unfair?

Too many questions, too many questions. Are we moving toward or way from a more truthful culture of love and awe?

Here’s my contribution to the effort, sharing with you something that simultaneously inspires both love and awe, and it’s about baseball:


Shabbat Shalom

PS – to hear my Tuesday night class on “the Secret of the 36”, click here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

HH

Dedicated to the memory of Yeudel ben Fruma who passed away this week – may his inner inspiration and optimism be a light for all of us.
(to dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email)



“HAPPY HANNUKAH!”

Question for you and your table: What does that expression mean? How is “Happy Hannukah” different from “Happy Passover” or “Happy birthday”? Is it the same kind of happiness that we are wishing each other? Are there different kinds of happiness, or is happiness one-size-fits-all?

Two stories for you this week.

The first is from a reader of Table Talk, short and very sweet:

My favorite Chanukah story: I got engaged on the last night of Chanukah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. My husband-to-be told me that night that the time period of Chanukah contains tremendous power for dedication, and the eighth night contains the greatest potential for dedication of all. So, thank God, almost twenty-nine years ago we dedicated ourselves to each other, and we’ve been on an awesome journey together ever since.

Story number two is a legendary tale that has been around for years but getting more attention in the past year since a children’s book came out called “Hannukkah at Valley Forge”. Some wonder whether or not the story is true. The author himself notes:

"This story of George Washington and Hanukkah is based on facts, but the tale itself must be taken on faith. It is known that in December 1778, Washington had lunch at the home of Michael Hart, a Jewish Merchant in Easton, Pennsylvania (cited in Jacob Rader Marcus's United States Jewry 1776-1785). It was the middle of Hanukkah, and when Hart began to explain the holiday to the general, Washington replied that he knew it already. He then told the merchant and his family of meeting a Polish soldier at Valley Forge the year before. It was Hart's daughter Louisa who reportedly committed the story to her diary (which was later recounted in Rabbi I. Harold Sharfman's book Jews on the Frontier).

Since Washington himself kept no diary during the war years, he left no personal record of the event. Certainly, though, the story fits in with the curiosity and reactions Washington displayed on later occasions. In that spirit, some of Washington's dialogue here has been borrowed from his later writings in the hope of echoing his real voice."


Once source told me that the story is sourced in an actual letter or diary from this Jewish Polish immigrant solider in the Smithsonian; however, I have not yet been able to verify it. There are several versions circulating around, but they all agree on most of the details. Here is one version, written as the journal of one Jeremiah Greenman.

Chanukah 5538 (1777)

A difficult winter. Terrible cold. We are sitting in Valley Forge and waiting. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps for better days than these. I am the only Jew here. Perhaps there are other Jews among us, but I haven’t seen any. We hunger for bread. We have no warm clothing or shoes to protect our feet. Most of the soldiers curse George Washington for going to war against Britain.

There are those who hope for his downfall, but I believe that his cause is just. We must expel Britain from America. She wants to put her hands in everything her eyes see. Although we are suffering here terribly, I am loyal with all my heart to George Washington. More than once I see him at night, passing through the camp, between the rows of sleeping soldiers. He gazes with compassion upon the soldiers who are suffering from the cold. And sometimes he approaches one of the sleeping soldiers and covers him, as a father would cover his son.

There are times when the hunger and the freezing cold torture me to death. But I don’t curse General Washington who is fighting for the freedom of America. At moments like this I think of my father in Poland. I think about all that he suffers at the hand of the cruel "Poritz". I remember: I was a child then and I saw my father dancing before the Poritz. What an awful thing to see! My father was wearing the skin of a Polar bear - and danced like a bear before the Poritz and his guests.

What terrible pain! What great shame! My father dancing like a bear - and the "Poritzim" laughing and rejoicing at the sight. I decided then and there that I will never dance like my father before the Poritz. Afterwards, I escaped to America.

And now I am lying in Valley Forge and shivering from cold. They say that Washington is losing and that he can’t win this war. But I don’t believe all that. I lie at night and pray for him.

The first night of Chanukah arrives. On this night, years ago, I left my father’s house. My father gave us this Chanukah menorah and said to me, "My son, when you light the Chanukah candles, they will illuminate the way for you".

Since then, the Menorah has been like a charm for me. Wherever I go, I take it with me. I didn’t know what to do - to light the Chanukah candles here, among the goyim, or not. I decided to wait until they were all asleep, and then I took out my father’s Menorah. I made the brocha and lit the first candle. I gazed at the light and remembered my parents’ home. I saw my father dancing like a bear before the Poritz and I saw my mother’s eyes filled with tears. My heart was filled with pain and I burst out crying like a small child. And I decided then in my heart, that for the sake of my father and mother, for my brothers and sisters in Poland. I must help George Washington make America a free country, a land of refuge for my parents and brothers who are subjected to the cruelty of the Poritz.

Suddenly I felt a gentle hand touching my head. I lifted my eyes and it was he - he himself was standing over me and he asked, "Why are you crying, soldier? Are you cold? ".

Pain and compassion were in his voice. I couldn’t bear to see him suffer. I jumped up, forgot that I was a soldier standing before a General, and said what came from my heart, like a son speaking to his father:

"General Washington," I said, "I am crying and praying for your victory. And I know that with the help of G-d we will win. Today they are strong, but tomorrow they will fall because justice is with us. We want to be free in this land. We want to build a home here for all those who flee from the hands of "Poritzim", for all who suffer across the ocean. The "Poritzim" will not rule over us! They will fall and you will rise!" General Washington pressed my hand.

"Thank you, soldier," he said. He sat next to me on the ground, in front of the Menorah.

"What is this candlestick?", he asked.

I told him, "I brought it from my father’s house. The Jews all over the world light candles tonight, on Chanukah, the holiday of the great miracle".

The Chanukah candles lit up Washington’s eyes, and he asked, "You are a Jew from the nation of Prophets and you say we will be victorious?!"

"Yes sir," I answered with conviction. "We will win just like the Maccabees won, for ourselves and for all those who come here after us to build a new land and new lives."

The General got up and his face was shining. He shook my hand and disappeared in the darkness.

My faith prevailed. Washington’s victory was complete. The land was quiet. My General became the first President of the United States and I was one of its citizens. I soon forgot the terrible days and nights in Valley Forge. But I kept the memory of that first night of Chanukah in my heart like a precious dream. I did not relate it to anyone because I said to myself: Who will believe me? I was certain that the General forgot it completely. But that was not the case. He didn’t forget.

The first night of Chanukah 5549 (1788)


I was sitting in my apartment in New York, on Broome Street, and the Chanukah candles were burning in my window. Suddenly, I heard a knock at my door. I opened the door and was shocked: my General, President George Washington, was standing in the doorway (there himself), in all his glory. "Behold the wonderful candle. The candle of hope of the Jewish People," he proclaimed joyously when he saw the Chanukah candles in my window.

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "This candle and your beautiful words ignited a light in my heart that night. It was a bleak time for our army and for our country, and your candle gave me knew hope and courage. Soon you will receive a Medal of Honor from the United States of America, together with all of the brave men of Valley Forge. But tonight, please accept my wishes for a Happy Hannukah."

Happy Hannukah and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Channuka Presence

Dedicated to Yeudel ben Fruma – may he have a speedy and complete recovery!

(to dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email)



What is the greatest threat to Judaism today? Is it Iranian nukes?

I would argue that we are facing a far more dangerous threat. So perilous, in fact, that we need an entire holiday to remind us how to avoid it.....

This Hannuka thought was just published as an article in the World Jewish Digest; for copyright reasons I need to ask you to go there to read or download the text

For the full audio version, try these links online or for download:
Part1 – intro (10 min)
Part2 - (51 min)
Part3 – the deeper stuff (30 min)

Since Hannuka begins next Tuesday night, here’s one idea to enhance your celebration. On the one hand, if you do presents, keep them separate from the candles and dreidels and so on. Do them during the day, maybe in the morning, or before sunset, or an hour or two after candles. Let the candles and story-telling become associated with presence and not presents. On the other hand, if you want to give out a little gelt, this is an ancient custom (evolved or devolved into chocolate coins) for children that, if done sparingly, can increase their simcha without becoming a materialistic distraction. How about 1 coin (amount varies with age) the first night, 2 the second night, etc?

For next week’s Table Talk I have cued-up an amazing Hannuka story, so stay tuned.... In the meantime, here’s a Hannuka themed comic book.

I was also told that in the Marvel Holiday Special from January 1993, superhero Doc Samson visits a Hebrew school to talk to the kids about Hanukkah. When they find the story too dull, he spices it up by inserting contemporary references and super-powered characters (e.g. Hulk, Wolverine, Elvis).


Finally today’s question for your table: If you were stuck on a desert island and had only 8 candles for the entire festival of Hannuka, how many would you light each night?


Shabbat Shalom and a freilichen Hannuka,


Alexander Seinfeld

PS – send me YOUR favorite Hannuka story to share in next week’s Table Talk.

Yiddish of the week:

freilichen – happy

Israel fact-of-the-week:
Israeli male lifespan among highest in developed countries. Men in only five countries have longer lifespans than Israeli males, who live an average of 78 years: Iceland (79.2), Japan (78.6), Switzerland (78.6), Sweden (78.4), and Australia (78.1). The average lifespan is one measure for defining quality of life and differentiating between developed and undeveloped countries.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks

A few weeks ago we dedicated a Table Talk to the recovery of Mindel Sara bat Chaya Nechama Sheindel. Since she is in Israel, it’s hard for most of us to do “bikkur cholim”, but we can have her in our thoughts. Here is her latest report:

I had a parasinal tumor that had pushed into my frontal lobe. It is/was malignant. And tomorrow we go to Tel Hashomer/Sheba Medical Center to begin the set up prior to radiation therapy. The therapy will take 6 wks of 5x/wk. I'm assuming we will begin on the 25th.

Due to the extent of the tumor and it's invasiveness I will not be able to smell again (small price for life, thank G-D!!) and had to have my eye sockets rebuilt. They took out punches of bones and stuff, but you'd never know it to see me!! Thank God - no sinking face syndrome!

Through most of the procedures and hospitalization I maintained a fairly positive attitude, humming when the procedures took a long time or singing in key with the beeps of ICU that drove me bonkers!

But it took a low point when they were preparing to give me a unit of blood, when my veins had had enough and the pain of the IV was excruciating for me to have my epiphany of why during most of this I had been positive. As they were comparing the details of the unit of blood the doctor said to the nurse: B positive? And the nurse responded: B positive. And I started to giggle. "What's up?" they asked.

"Well," says I, "I suppose I have no choice but to look at the good side of everything. I have 'Be Positive' blood! I'm stuck with being positive!!” It took them a second to understand, but when they did they laughed with me!


Question for your table: Is it possible always to be positive whenever the chips are down?


Shabbat Shalom


Yiddish of the week:
Bikkur cholim – the mitzvah of visiting the sick

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jerusalem

Dedicated to my friend Harry, a great soul. To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.


My friend Harry, a “Persian” Jew from California (i.e., he was born in Iran), was in Jerusalem recently with his family and taking a cab with two of his sons to the Western Wall. They settled on a fare of twenty shekels.

The driver heard his accent and asked him, “Are you Iranian?”

“Yeah, sure,” Harry said. “Are you?”

“No, but I love Iran! I love Ahamdinejad!”

Harry couldn’t believe his ears. “You love Ahamdinejad? How could you? He wants to start a war to destroy Israel!”

“Yes, destroy! Jihad, jihad, jihad!”

By now Harry’s sons were really nervous. They were hoping to make it home in one piece.

But Harry could not contain himself. He was incredulous. “How can you say that! Here you are, driving us in a cab in Yerushalayim! We are Jews! You are driving us to the Wall! How can you talk like that?

“Yes,” said the driver, “jihad, kill the Americans and Israelis to avenge my brothers in Iraq.”

For Harry, the most incredible had become even more incredible: “You are so bothered by your brothers in Iraq? It’s not Americans killing them, they’re killing each other!”

He had pushed too far: “Get out here,” the driver demanded.

“But we’re not at the Wall yet?”

Taxicabs are not allowed to the Wall anymore, security restrictions.

But Harry was not finished. “Are you Sunni or Shia?”

“I am Sunni!”

“Then you’re a fool. Don’t you know that Ahmnadijab is a Shia. That means that he’s coming to kill YOU too!”

The driver fell silent and waited for his passengers to exit the cab.

Outside, Harry told his visibly relieved sons, “You see boys, for only a few dollars we got a valuable lesson....”

Question for your table>: What was the lesson?

A related disturbing video:



Shabbat Shalom.

Speaking schedule – save the dates:
December 5 – Beverly Hills - Hannuka party for singles - with all-you-can-eat sushi, open bar, casino, music and “Persian” auction. Super prizes, including an iPhone. For tickets for yourself or to give a friend as a meaningful Hannuka present, phone 310-785-0440

Friday, November 09, 2007

Litmus Test

This Table Talk is in honor of Yaakov Felson and Ariel Yoseph Pollock, both of whom joined the world in the past couple weeks on opposite ends of the country (Ariel Yoseph entered the Covenant this morning in Miami). Mazal tov!


Have you ever noticed how children’s honesty challenges develop as they grow up?

Our youngest, Devorah (nearly 2), is the most straightforward of all. When she’s happy to see you she smiles. When she’s hungry or tired, she cries. When she wants something she points and when she doesn’t want it she waves her hand.

One of her older siblings is honesty-challenged when it comes to personal hygiene: “Did you remember to wash your hands?” She hates to wash those hands, but we saw her starting to lie about it. So instead of asking her a yes-no question like above, I started simply assuming that she didn’t - “Please go back and wash your hands” - and she does; if she tells me that she did already, I believe her.

One of her older siblings has overcome the honesty challenge at school. I’ve let them know that I expect them to learn in school, but that I love them the same regardless of how they do, because I don’t want them ever to hide their failures from me. When this child recently failed a vocabulary test, s/he didn’t try to hide it from me, but announced with some embarrassment, “You’re not going to like the score I got on my test.” But then s/he immediately plunged into the well-known consequence in our household: go look up all the words you missed and study them, because you’re going to take the test again, whether or not your teacher agrees to re-mark it, because you are responsible for learning those words.

And then there’s us adults.

It’s one thing to be considerate of other people’s feelings and needs.

It’s another thing to be scheming strategizing and politicking in order to manipulate other people’s feelings and needs to achieve our own goals. Do you know anyone who is completely non-manipulative, not scheming, purely genuine? How about yourself? How is it possible to know?

The problem is that we’re so caught up in outer appearances that only one in ten people are able to judge themselves critically and honestly.

But the modern world has given us a great tool, and the wonderful expression, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Money is a great measure of value and values.

You want to know objectively if you’re being genuine?

Step 1:

On a scale of one to five (five being the highest), how important are the following to you? You cannot have more than three 5s or three 4s, and you must have at least two 3s, two 2s and two 1s.

Nurture my relationships with my family
Being well educated
Making a contribution to my community
Having a happy and fulfilling marriage
Spirituality
Being well-liked
Having a good reputation
Financial success
Getting all the latest and greatest gadgets
Peer recognition in my career or profession.
Personal fulfillment
Helping other people
Giving myself and/or family a good Jewish education
Making a contribution to humanity
Achieving peace of mind
Having children
Living in the home of my dreams
Acquiring self-knowledge
Seeing as much of the world as possible
Living a long, healthy life.


Step 2:


Sit down and figure out how and what you’ve spent your discretionary dollars on the past year. 50% on gadgets? Figure it out. Be honest.

Step 3:

Compare your two lists. How would you grade yourself - are you living according to your values? Give yourself a grade, A through F.

Step 4:

This is the hardest one: send me an email with your grade, and if you’re earning less than an A+, tell me how you’re going to make it up.

Shabbat Shalom

Speaking schedule – save the dates:
November 13-14 - California
November 17 – Washington, DC. and Baltimore
December 5 – Los Angeles (Hannuka party)

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:

emes - truth
sheker - falsehood


Yiddish review – how many do you remember?

anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal — (MAH-z'l) luck or fortune, as in, "It was good mazal that...."
beshert — (b'shairt) - meant to be, as in "It was beshert that..."
mine eltern — my parents
mine lair-er — my teacher
hamantashen — Haman-pockets
zeigezunt — all the best (said upon parting)
kesher — connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. — I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. — ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. — ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. — ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes — The Four Questions
Oy vey! — Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
hishtadlus – effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf – Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!
Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)
yarmulke – skull cap
tikkun – repair
tikkun olam – rapairing the World
noodge - a whiner (rhymes with "would")
to noodge - to whine or nag

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Definition of Torture

This week’s Table Talk is dedicated to Esther Bas Devorah and Hendel Chaya bas Hinda Sara, both of whom are suffering from terrible cancer. May they and all the ill have a speedy recovery. To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.



You know, all this news about waterboarding and torture has raised an important question: What exactly is torture?

Some people have pointed out that torture is relative – what’s torture for me may not be for you. Or what used to be torture for me may not be anymore, or vice-versa.

For instance, I used to think it was absolutely torture to go to shopping at any kind of mall or clothing store. Absolute torture! You had to drag me there kicking and screaming! My clothes would be threadbare – you were actually seeing skin – not because I was trying to make a counter-culture fashion statement but because I really, really, really, really, really hated going shopping for clothes.

But that was all before I met my wife.

At first, I let her simply shop for me. That approach resulted in some exceedingly good choices in clothes. There was of course one catch – I still had to go in for alterations. But I was always determined to limit myself to one trip to the mall per decade. So what we worked out was that we would buy slacks from Nordstrom because their seamstress is so good, I could skip the return trip and let my wife pick them up for me because there was no possibility that the pants wouldn’t fit perfectly.

Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

When the pants came back, they mis-fit on two counts – too wide at the waist and too short at the cuff. I may have lost weight, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t grown an inch taller in two weeks.

The problem is that I couldn’t get myself to go back to the mall. So those pants hung there in my closet, a daily reminder of Murphy’s Law and my own personal failure.

Months passed.

I looked at those pants. I even tried them on again – maybe I was wrong, maybe they do fit after all?

Not a chance.

More months passed.

I considered psychoanalysis. What is the source of my aversion to the mall? Is it possible that I had a childhood trauma at the Tacoma Mall (the site of one of the world’s first Nordstrom stores – I remember the days before it was all fancy but I’m not so old that I remember when they only sold shoes...)?

Finally, I spoke to my wise wife about it. She spoke with an uncharacteristic lack of empathy: “Don't be such a noodge. It’s not a mystery why you don’t like shopping. You’re a man.”

Could that be it? Is that all it is, just my hormonal programming?

Armed with that insight, the solution to the pants problem became so obvious that if I could have kicked myself, I would have.

You see, I didn’t marry my wife so that I could have a partner to do the chores that I find unpleasant or to pick up the slack when I’m busy.

I married her to have a partner to share my life with. Well, we can’t do everything together, but we do have a “date night” every week when we do something together. The key to date night is that we take turns deciding what to do. And whatever one of us decides, the other one LOVES it, because after all, we’re doing it together, right? So when my wife says, “this week we’re going to the mall”, I’m not really going to the mall – because I hate going to the mall. What I’m doing is spending time with my wife doing something she wants to do, which makes it something I want to do.

We went to the mall, we got the pants altered again. They got it wrong again, but I didn’t mind the return trip this time.

And the next week?

Ace Hardware. And she loves it!

And here’s Everyman’s shopping video:


Here’s one that Everyman will hate:


And finally, here's a solution for the whole family:


And finally, the question for your table: What’s your loved one’s pleasure that is your torture?

Shabbat Shalom.

Speaking schedule – save the dates:
November 13-14 - California
November 17 – Washington, DC. and Baltimore
December 5 – Los Angeles (Hannuka party)

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:

noodge - a whiner (rhymes with "would")
to noodge - to whine or nag


Yiddish review – how many do you remember?

anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal — (MAH-z'l) luck or fortune, as in, "It was good mazal that...."
beshert — (b'shairt) - meant to be, as in "It was beshert that..."
mine eltern — my parents
mine lair-er — my teacher
hamantashen — Haman-pockets
zeigezunt — all the best (said upon parting)
kesher — connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. — I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. — ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. — ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. — ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes — The Four Questions
Oy vey! — Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
hishtadlus – effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf – Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!
Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)
yarmulke – skull cap
tikkun – repair
tikkun olam – rapairing the World

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fired

This Table Talk is dedicated to the complete recovery of Mindel Sara bat Chaya Nechama Sheindel who had cancer removed from her brain this week.
To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.




Do try this at home.

Pretend that this world is a virtual reality game. It was created just for you. Everything that happens in the world is customized to maximize YOUR experience. But not just the things that happen to you directly, even the indirect things.

For example, today’s weather is happening to you directly. This weather is for you (like it or not)! For some reason, you needed to experience this weather, in order to react to it.

But what about the weather in another city? What if, for example, you hear about a storm or a wildfire etc. that is happening to someone else?

Well, that’s happening to you to – but what’s happening to you is that you are hearing about it. For some reason, you needed to hear about that event, in order to react to it.

In the old days, we had prophets to tell us that a storm’s a-comin’. Nowadays, we have the National Weather Service.

Three questions:

How did you react when you heard about the San Diego fires?

If you were living there, how would you want people far away to react?

What are you doing about it now?

+ + + + + + +

1. Chabad is providing food parcels to people who were evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium and other areas. They had trucks packed with kosher food drive down from Los Angeles (food was provided by Kosher Club and Jeff's Gourmet Sausage in L.A.). They are also procuring food from local caterers in San Diego. This food is being distributed to evacuated individuals throughout the area.

2. Chabad had experience in fire disasters based on a San Diego fire a few years ago, and has therefore set up a relief center that helps those evacuated fill out the proper forms and go through the process of getting their lives back on track.

3. Finally, they are providing small cash donations to individuals who have been evacuated and need some money for the immediate future.

You can learn more about their work by going to the Chabad Day School web site.

The web site also enables you to contribute via PayPal to their relief effort. Every dollar collected for relief will go toward relief.

Alternatively, you can send a check to:

Chabad of San Diego
ATTN: Rabbi Yonah Fradkin – Fire Fund
10785 Pomerado Road
San Diego, CA 92131



+ + + + + + +

And what does all this have to do with the big picture?

The Big Picture:


Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tikkun


This week a question, a story, and a question.


Question for your table: What does the word “mitzvah” mean to you?

I was always bothered by the translation “commandment”. It sounds so un-subtle, and I have this preconception that a great spiritual tradition should be sublime.

Then I encountered the Chassidic idea that the etymology of “mitzvah” points towards a different translation: a “connection”. More precisely, a mitzvah is an opportunity to create a certain connection between this world and the higher world. When a person does or performs a mitzvah, they create such a connection. If a person fails to perform a potential mitzvah, then there is a waste of one potential connection. The true meaning of “tikkun olam” is to create such a connection between various parts of this world, little by little, until the entire world is connected to the higher world.

More precisely, the connections are already there, but our performing of mitzvah-actions reveals the connections.

Each one of us has a mission to uncover a certain number and type of connections. Those who do not fulfill their mission are – tradition says – often reincarnated to have another chance, not only for themselves but for the world which needs that tikkun.

Now the story... In the 16th Century a blazing light shown for two years in the city of Tsfat (Safed) in the personage of Kabbalist R. Yitzchok Luria. He was a Teacher’s Teacher, or even a Teacher’s Teacher’s Teacher. Our understanding of the Kabbalah today is largely due to his influence. There is a legend that he died young because he was revealing too much too soon to the world.

Once, R. Luria attended a bris after which the baby died. The parents and many others were obviously and understandably beside themselves with grief. But R. Luria challenged the mother: Why do you grieve? You were zochah to bring the soul of the holy R. Cordovero into the world. You see, when he was born the first time, he was a sick baby and therefore could not have his bris on the eigth day. His entire life he rued the lack of that mitzvah. You have enabled him to complete his tikkun.

Question: How can a person today figure out what mitzvahs they should be doing to complete their own tikkun?


Shabbat Shalom.


Speaking schedule – save the dates:
October 21 – Codes Seminar, Baltimore
November 13 – San Francisco
November 14 – Los Angeles
November 17 – Washington, DC. and Baltimore
December 5 – Los Angeles (Hannuka party)

(For details, send an email)


Einstein quote of the week:
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein


Yiddish of the week:

tikkun – repair
tikkun olam – rapairing the World

Yiddish review – how many do you remember?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal — (MAH-z'l) luck or fortune, as in, "It was good mazal that...."
beshert — (b'shairt) - meant to be, as in "It was beshert that..."
mine eltern — my parents
mine lair-er — my teacher
hamantashen — Haman-pockets
zeigezunt — all the best (said upon parting)
kesher — connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. — I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. — ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. — ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. — ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes — The Four Questions
Oy vey! — Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
hishtadlus – effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf – Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!
Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)
yarmulke – skull cap

Tikkun

This should have been posted on Friday - technical glitch.

This week a question, a story, and a question.

Question for your table: What does the word “mitzvah” mean to you?

I was always bothered by the translation “commandment”. It sounds so un-subtle, and I have this preconception that a great spiritual tradition should be sublime.

Then I encountered the Chassidic idea that the etymology of “mitzvah” points towards a different translation: a “connection”. More precisely, a mitzvah is an opportunity to create a certain connection between this world and the higher world. When a person does or performs a mitzvah, they create such a connection. If a person fails to perform a potential mitzvah, then there is a waste of one potential connection. The true meaning of “tikkun olam” is to create such a connection between various parts of this world, little by little, until the entire world is connected to the higher world.

More precisely, the connections are already there, but our performing of mitzvah-actions reveals the connections.

Each one of us has a mission to uncover a certain number and type of connections. Those who do not fulfill their mission are – tradition says – often reincarnated to have another chance, not only for themselves but for the world which needs that tikkun.

Now the story... In the 16th Century a blazing light shown for two years in the city of Tsfat (Safed) in the personage of Kabbalist R. Yitzchok Luria. He was a Teacher’s Teacher, or even a Teacher’s Teacher’s Teacher. Our understanding of the Kabbalah today is largely due to his influence. There is a legend that he died young because he was revealing too much too soon to the world.

Once, R. Luria attended a bris after which the baby died. The parents and many others were obviously and understandably beside themselves with grief. But R. Luria challenged the mother: Why do you grieve? You were zochah to bring the soul of the holy R. Cordovero into the world. You see, when he was born the first time, he was a sick baby and therefore could not have his bris on the eigth day. His entire life he rued the lack of that mitzvah. You have enabled him to complete his tikkun.

Question: How can a person today figure out what mitzvahs they should be doing to complete their own tikkun?


Shabbat Shalom.


Speaking schedule – save the dates:
October 21 – Codes Seminar, Baltimore
November 13 – San Francisco
November 14 – Los Angeles
November 17 – Washington, DC. and Baltimore
December 5 – Los Angeles (Hannuka party)

(For details, send an email)


Einstein quote of the week:
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein


Yiddish of the week:

tikkun – repair
tikkun olam – rapairing the World

Yiddish review – how many do you remember?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal — (MAH-z'l) luck or fortune, as in, "It was good mazal that...."
beshert — (b'shairt) - meant to be, as in "It was beshert that..."
mine eltern — my parents
mine lair-er — my teacher
hamantashen — Haman-pockets
zeigezunt — all the best (said upon parting)
kesher — connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. — I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. — ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. — ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. — ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes — The Four Questions
Oy vey! — Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
hishtadlus – effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf – Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!
Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)
yarmulke – skull cap

Friday, October 12, 2007

Empty Quiver


This Table Talk is dedicated to the recovery of Rochel Leah bas Chaya Sara, a 4 1/2 year old girl who was just diagnosed with leukemia, among all the other ill among us.


If you have children at the table, this is the week to engage them in the story of Noah's ark - "there's gonna be a floody-floody”). Question for them: Why on Earth would God would save Noah and his family and no one else?

The rest of this Table Talk is definitely not for children....


How would you like your end-of-the-world served?

With a sunny blue-sky morning, like September 11, 2001? Or a tempest of rolling thunder...? Mushroom cloud, anyone?

I have tried very hard to steer clear of the conspiracy-theory area of my brain. But the B-52 incident is just too juicy to ignore.

Here are some facts:

1 - On August 30, 2007, a B-52 bomber flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Base in Louisiana with 6 armed nuclear missiles in the left bomb bay. This fact was leaked to the media and confirmed by the Air Force.
2 - Notice in the story linked above, the original report (based on a leak from someone at Barksdale) reported that only 5 nukes were found.
3 - Nukes cannot be moved around without tons of authorizations and sophisticated tracking.
4 - Once the story was out on September 10, the Air Force admitted that it had happened in “error” but the official story is that 6 nukes were transported, and that is the number reported by the AP and all media since.
5 - The plane sat unguarded (except for a chain link fence) on the Barksdale runway for about 10 hours before someone there noticed what the payload was.
6 Several of the personnel affiliated with Minot and Barksdale at the time and over the summer are now dead:

- Adam Barrs, July 3, crashed into a tree outside the base
- 1st Lt. Weston Kissel, B-52 Pilot, July 17, motorcycle accident while on leave to Tennessee
- Airman 1st Class Todd Blue, assigned to B-52 security, Sept 10, found dead while on leave in Virginia
- An officer from Barksdale Base and his wife, Sept 15, motorcycle accident in Shreveport

7. An additional mysterious Air Force death occurred on August 30 (the day of the flight) when Special Forces Major John Frueh, father of 2 young children in Florida, after a friend's wedding in Portland was found dead a week later near Mt. St. Helens.
8. Master Sgt. Melvin Peele, Sept 12, killed by a forklift in a parking lot, at
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (location of missile decommissioning).

I have verified these facts via local media sources and correspondence with investigative reporters.

In nuke-speak, an “incident” is nicknamed “broken arrow”. A missing nuke is called an “empty quiver”.

I’m not starting to quiver yet, but I would really like to be reassured that nothing is going on and that the air force is in control of our WMDs. Because it is hard to avoid the conclusion that at least one of these options must be true: either the air force has become incompetent, or we've only seen the tip of the iceberg here.

What, me worry?

One more question – if it were the end of the world, what soundtrack would you choose?

In honor of the 90th anniversary of the birth of Thelonious Monk this week, I nominate this track:

(that’s him in the yarmulke on the piano)

Hmm...that was so good. Let's do another:


Shabbat Shalom.

Sukkot in Iraq:




Speaking schedule:
October 15 – Burlingame, Calif., Peninsula Temple Sholom, “The Art of Amazement”
October 16 – Mill Valley: “The Kabbala of Jewish History”
October 17 – Los Angeles: “The Kabbala of Jewish History” (for singles)
October 18 – Los Angeles: “Art of Amazing Marriage Pt 2 – How to Have a Good Fight”

(For details, send an email)


Einstein quote of the week:
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein

Yiddish of the week:
yarmulke – skull cap

Yiddish review – how many do you remember?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal — (MAH-z'l) luck or fortune, as in, "It was good mazal that...."
beshert — (b'shairt) - meant to be, as in "It was beshert that..."
mine eltern — my parents
mine lair-er — my teacher
hamantashen — Haman-pockets
zeigezunt — all the best (said upon parting)
kesher — connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. — I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. — ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. — ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. — ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes — The Four Questions
Oy vey! — Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
hishtadlus – effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf – Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!
Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Significance

If you are a regular reader of this blog, please note that starting tonight through next week I will be sitting in my Sukka and have very little access to the web, and there will be no post next week.

For this week, I submit to you one question and two gripping videos for your enjoyment.


Question for your table: What is more amazing, the universe or the mind that contemplates it?


(not my favorite choice of background music, but it works)




Chag Sameach – gut yontiv – happy holiday.

And if you are in our neck of the woods, please stop by and sip a cold drink with me and my family.

Alexander Seinfeld

Speaking schedule
October 15-16 – San Francisco area
October 17-18 – Los Angeles

(For details, send an email)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Save This!

Question: What can you do in ten minutes to have the biggest impact on your Yom Kippur tomorrow?

A. Examine your past and take responsibility for your mistakes
B. Introspect and/or pray
C. Give tzedaka
E. All of the above
F. None of the above

It seems to me that a lot of people are pretty good at #1 and #2 but we are collectively falling short on #3. This past year you were given 10 percent more net income than you need for yourself in order to enable you to give to others. Have you given them their due or are you spending it on yourself?

If you have ten minutes, please try these three steps to a home-run Yom Kippur.

1. Watch this short clip:



2. Ponder these stats:


Some 1.6 million Israelis lived under the poverty line in 2006, according to a report released on Tuesday by the National Insurance Institute...the percentage of children who suffered from poverty rose from 35.2% to 35.8%...According to the report, an estimated 404,000 families - 1.65 million people and 796,000 children - lived under the poverty line.
-- THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 4, 2007






3. Give generously:

There are many good organizations helping the poor. I have chosen a couple to promote that do not carry any overhead. They are run by volunteers and every penny you give goes to the needy. Remember that for Israeli children and families, Sukkot (next week) is analagous to Thanksgiving-Xmas here: it’s a festive time and those in poverty can feel particularly left out.


Meir Panim
1-877-7-DONATE (1-877-736-6283)
www.meirpanim.org

TorahLab Tzedaka Fund
212-561-5131
www.torahlab.org/tzedaka

Keren Y+Y
www.kerenyehoshuavyisroel.com/
Checks: Keren Y&Y, 805-A Roosevelt Ct., Far Rockaway, NY 11691

From their website:
Small family - $180, Medium family - $360, Large family - $ 540
6 small families - $ 1080, 4 medium families - $ 1440
5 medium families - $ 1800, 4 large families - $ 2160.
Any amount will help.
What We Do:
* To each family we give cash coupons that are redeemable at one of 2 large full-service supermarkets.
* They can use these coupons to buy food and other such items only from these stores.
* The stores give us a discount of 7 1/2% to 10%, therefore making the donor's dollar that much more helpful.
* The stores will not give change, only credit for another purchase.
Checks and Balances
* Each Coupon has a serial number and expiration date.
* After the expiration date, we collect and collate all coupons according to serial number to check if the coupons were redeemed. If not then we contact that family to find out the reason.
Key Points
* We offer the coupons only to those in grave need.
* Coupons can only be used at these stores, and are non-transferable.
* Coupons can not be exchanged for cash- to make sure they're used the right way.
* Nobody knocks on our door. The Individuals responsible for determining who will receive assistance - and how much assistance - are kept anonymous. In other words, the families do not come to us- we go to them.
* Collectively the 3 Rabbis on the board know most of the families personally, and the ones we don't know, we inquire about.

+ + +

After you do this, you will be almost ready for Yom Kippur. Make a big festive meal Friday afternoon, eat the kinds of foods that make it easy to fast – not too spicy, no alcohol. You will be hungry for most of Saturday, but then by about 5:00 Saturday afternoon, you’ll get beyond the hunger – you will transcend the hunger, and thereby transcend your body. That’s when you’ll be ready to really connect to #1 and #2 on the list above.

Please save this info for future reference.

Wishing you and yours a gut yontiv.



Einstein quote of the week:
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

Speaking schedule:
September 20 – Beverly Hills, private home (“The Happiest Yom Kippur of Your Life”, with Helkeinu)
September 21-22 – Yom Kippur – The Helkeinu program • I will be running workshops throughout the day
September 27-Oct 4 – Sukkot – if you are in town, please join us in our Sukka. Good time guaranteed.
October 15 – Burlingame, Calif., Peninsula Temple Sholom, “The Art of Amazement”
October 16 – Mill Valley
October 17-18 – Los Angeles

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:

Gut yontiv – Happy Holiday (chag sameach)

Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen — mother tongue
bentch — make a bracha
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
kvetch — complain
kvell — burst with pride
hishtadlus — effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf — Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dessert

Dedicated to Yiddel ben Fruma for a complete and speedy recovery.
To dedicate a future Table Talk, please send an email.


This is it, the last Table Talk of the year. How do I make up for all the less-than-amazing Table Talks of the past year?

One of the best sources of stories in this space is our daughter Emuna. Born five and a half years ago in Palo Alto, she started kindergarten this week. That means that she’s now wearing the plaid uniform that she envied her sister over the past 2 years. On Tuesday morning, she was up and dressed an hour early, racing down the stairs with such joyous anticipation in her eyes.

“Abba,” she informed me, “I’m going to kindergarten today!”

“Are you really? That’s wonderful. And is that your new kindergarten uniform?”

She beamed and nodded her head. She couldn’t even speak.

In contrast, her older sister Goldie was more serious, a bit apprehensive about entering third grade. She didn’t want to tell me why, but after school she revealed what was going on: “It wasn’t as hard as I thought,” she said. “I saw that whole long list of supplies we needed and thought it was going to be really hard.”

+ + +

A transition into a higher level, a new job, a new relationship is always a wonderful moment of anticipation, maybe a little apprehension.

That’s what’s happening to all of us next Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday. It’s a chance to start anew. But you’ve got to get your uniform and supplies ready.

Then you have two jobs:

1. End this year well
2. Start next year right

Did you ever go to a movie or read a book that was pretty good or even great until the end, and the ending was bad and it soured the entire story for you?

I remember thinking that about Born on the 4th of July. Great story, weak ending. That’s how I’ll always remember it.

On the other hand, did you ever have a humdrum meal that ended with an awesome dessert, leaving quite literally a good taste in your mouth?

How to end the year well: Look back on the past twelve months. Where did you fall short that you kind of regret? This is the last chance for this year to leave a good taste in your mouth. How you experience this Shabbat will “fix” the past year’s worth of Shabbats. How you treat your loved ones these next few days will “fix” a year’s worth of relationships. Make this last Shabbat and last few days of the year the kind of spiritually-connected uplifting, serene existence that you know you have in you, if you only would make a little more effort. Apologize to everyone you need to. Say I love you a few extra times. Go out with a bang, have a strong finish, a great ending.

How to start next year right: Is it really so easy to “fix” the past? Join me for a national call-in class on “How to use the holidays to repair the past and become the kind of person I want to become, (including how to run an amazing Rosh Hashana feast for the entire family)” this Monday night September 10 at 7pm PDT/10pmEDT. Cost will be $10 ($5 for teachers and students, free for Helkeinu members and JSL members). Registration required; to register, please send an email to RH2007@jsli.org.

Writing this Table Talk blog is a particular challenge because the audience is as diverse as can be. If I have written anything in the past that has offended you, bored you, irritated you, annoyed you or in any way failed to inspire you; if you have emailed me and not received a reply fast enough, please forgive me!

Wishing you and your family a sweet, healthy, prosperous and amazing 5768!

L’Shana Tova u’Metuka. May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

Shabbat Shalom.

(with thanks to Michael Lipson)

Einstein quote of the week:
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
- Albert Einstein


Israel fact of the week:
Israel has the highest per capita high tech investment in the world.

Announcements:
New Amazement website launching – sneak preview: http://jewishspirituality.net – please send your feedback!

Speaking schedule:
September 12-14 - Rosh Hashana – Baltimore/Etz Chaim (“The Un-Shul” for those who want to connect but don’t connect to shul)
September 21-22 – Yom Kippur - Los Angeles/Helkeinu (“The Happiest Yom Kippur of Your Life”)
September 27-Oct 4 – Sukkot – if you are in town, please join us in our Sukka. Good time guaranteed.
October 14-16 – San Francisco area
October 17-18 – Los Angeles

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:
Gut yahr! – Happy New Year!


Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen — mother tongue
bentch — make a bracha
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
kvetch — complain
kvell — burst with pride
hishtadlus — effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”
Yiddishe kopf — Jewish knowledge and perspective (lit., Jewish head)

Friday, August 31, 2007

It Ain't Bliss

In honor of Harmon and Jorun Shragge, who have rounded the last turn on a seven year effort to learn all of Tanach. It’s the home stretch!

This six-minute video says about all that I want to say this week (Warning: It may make you feel ignorant!):

(By the way, I disagree with what it says about Yom Kippur - I’ll explain in a couple weeks.)


After you see the film, try this Question for your table:

What’s wrong with this statement: “I envy those who believe in something.”


Do you ever hear this?

This summer, I created a class that compares and contrasts what Jews, Christians and Moslems believe about themselves and about each other. I gave it to a group of Jewish teachers. The hardest thing for some of them to grasp is that unlike them, Judaism does not and never has asked us to take a leap of faith. A leap of faith is required by other traditions. Not by Judaism. It’s all about study and philosophy. The problem with our approach, however, is it takes more effort to study to get a Yiddishe kopf than to take a leap of faith.

If you don’t want to make the effort, don’t complain that you’re not connecting Jewishly.

If that film doesn’t inspire you to get off your duff and learn something about the world’s oldest wisdom tradition, that happens to be yours, then nothing will.

If, on the other hand, you want to start a small but meaningful study program at home or in your area, send me an email.


Shabbat Shalom



Einstein quote of the week:
"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."
-Albert Einstein


Israel fact of the week:
Israel has the highest per-capita book sales in teh world.

Announcements:
New Amazement website about to launch – sneak preview: http://jewishspirituality.net – please send your feedback!


Speaking schedule:
September 12-14 - Rosh Hashana - Baltimore (“The Un-Shul” for people who want to connect but don’t connect to shul)
September 21-22 – Yom Kippur - Los Angeles (“The Happiest Yom Kippur of Your Life”)

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:
Yiddishe kopf — Jewish perspective (lit., Jewish head)

Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen — mother tongue
bentch — make a bracha
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
kvetch — complain
kvell — burst with pride
hishtadlus — effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

This Just In Talk

Dedicated to the speedy and complete recovery of Rabbi Tzvi Shur, who has a scheduled heart surgery this coming Tuesday - he had had a routine test for a minor treatment two weeks ago and the doctors discovered a major problem in his heart. We are grateful for the gift of modern medicine. (Tzvi Gershon ben Shaindel Shaina Raizel)


Question for your table: What’s the most significant news of the summer?

Summer’s almost over, time for a roundup.

First, do you remember the family who had the terrible accident last October? I wrote about it here:

http://tinyurl.com/ynuz62 ....

Most of the children have recovered 99%. The youngest victim, seven-year-old Rafoel Dovid ben Brocha, has been making the slowest progress. He had severe brain trauma, but slowly, slowly is getting better. Here is a summary of what his father wrote three weeks ago:

Dovid was discharged from the hospital on February 16 and on the 19th he began his day care therapies at Ranken Jordon Children’s Rehab Hospital. After a month ,he returned to school for an hour in the morning to daven with his class and then proceeded to his therapies. Since school has ended, he has been attending a day camp along with a personal shadow/tutor and is going for out patient therapies 3 times a week.
It’s hard to describe his mental status. He is not what or who he was and his brain is still in need of much healing. His abilities are compromised due to the severity of the brain trauma and injury. Nevertheless, he has made and continues to make tremendous strides. His long term memory is better than his short term memory. His short term memory which was of the greatest concern seems to be getting stronger. He is remembering things that happened yesterday or in the recent past more than the doctors would believe possible. It’s not always on target or lucid, but we see continued improvements and are grateful for this and daven that he’ll come back all the way.
Every doctor and therapist who sees him, especially those who don’t see him regularly, has been wowed by his remarkable progress, albeit he has a very long way to go. Dovid’s left side of his body has made significant improvements. He still doesn’t move his left hand or fingers voluntarily, but we are hopeful and optimistic that it’s a matter of time when this function will return. His vision is basically good. He sees near and far and recognizes everything.
Dovid’s swallowing has been like a roller coaster. During Pesach his eating was great. After Pesach he had some setbacks, and it was a painstaking 20-40 minutes between each bite.
Dovid has been walking slowly with someone holding on to him. It’s a slow process like teaching a child how to walk. Yesterday and today I’ve been encouraging him to stand by himself. This morning we got up to 15 seconds, he then takes one step before falling over. He traditionally says after someone catches him, “nice catch”.
Since May I have been taking Dovid swimming as much as possible.
Dovid is in great spirits. He often asks me, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I ask him, “Dovid, what are you thinking?” He responds, “About me getting much better”.
This Wednesday, my wife and I are taking Dovid to New York where he was accepted into Camp Simcha. On August 14th we are taking Dovid to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he will be evaluated and enrolled in an intensive rehab program for approximately 5 hours each day for a minimum of 2 weeks.

If that heart-wrenching saga of faith and hishtadlus isn’t enough to wow you, try this awesome animated video from Harvard, based on current knowledge of cellular biology:



Second Question for your Table: What’s more awesome, the human being or the universe?


On the BBC this morning, after rattling off the usual humdrum news, the announcer concluded with this:

“...and Scientists in the United States have found a giant hole in the universe, far bigger than any that has previously been found.”

That’s all she said – no elaboration. Try reading that with a British accent and see how odd it sounds.

What does it mean? Who knows?


Shabbat Shalom.


Einstein quote of the week:
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious."
-Albert Einstein


Israel fact of the week:
ISRAEL LEADS THE GLOBE IN R&D INVESTMENTS, 4.4% of GDP (77% by the business sector), ahead of Sweden - 3.7%, Finland - 3.5%, Japan - 3.3%, US - 2.2% and Canada - 1.7% (The Marker, Aug. 2, 2007).

Announcements:
New Amazement website about to launch – sneak preview: http://jewishspirituality.net – please send your feedback!


Speaking schedule:
Monday, August 27 – Baltimore: “In the Beginning”
Tuesday, August 28 – Baltimore: “Let There be Light”
September 12-14 - Rosh Hashana - Baltimore (“The Un-Shul” for people who want to connect but don’t connect to shul)
September 21-22 – Yom Kippur - Los Angeles (“The Happiest Yom Kippur of Your Life”)

(For details, send an email)


Yiddish of the week:
hishtadlus — effort, due diligence; as in, “Do your hishtadlus and let Hashem worry about it.”

Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz — sweat
shanda — shame
Lechayim! — Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid — the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus — zeal
Mkohm — place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen — mother tongue
bentch — make a bracha
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”
kvetch — complain
kvell — burst with pride