(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)
Q for your table: Why do things happen?
I didn't say "bad things" - I said "things".
Are events randomly happening to us? Is there some kind of cosmic harmony to the world?
I tell you my answer below, in the meantime, while you get a conversation going at your table around this question, I'd like to tell you about my friend Andy. Andy was working in a meaningful job in the Jewish community in Boston but felt he could do more for the Jewish People as well as for his family.
So after much deliberation, he became a chaplain for the US Army. He is giving spiritual support to many Jews.
He was supposed to be permanently stationed with his wife and children at Ft. Bragg.
He is now in Iraq. His official title is Chaplain (1LT) Shlomo Shulman, 4th Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Camp Striker, Iraq.
May he be safe and successful.
If you would like to send words of encouragement to Andy and his men, his email address is
Here’s the mailing address:
3rd AVIATION BRIGADE - 3rd ID
4/3 HHC CAB 43408
APO, AE 09322-3408
You can see in the photo below that he has central air in his tent so he can’t be shvitzin too bad...
He sent me a moving set of messages from soldiers under his care. Here is a sample:
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2007
Chaplain Shulman, great to hear from you. Hope you are acclimating well to the warm temperatures we all get to experience here.
I have meetings on Friday that generally run to 1900, which have kept me from being able to travel to Camp Victory for services (minus Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur which I was able to attend).
However I hear we will be having services weekly at 1900 on Friday in the chow hall here, is this true?
If so I intend to attend as much as I can. I am currently the XO of the MICO for 2/10 MTN and have been since mid Sept of last year.
Thanks for contacting me and hope you are doing well.
Take care, LT Frank
So why do things happen?
My personal answer: Because we make ‘em happen.
Everything that happens to you is a result of something you did (either in this lifetime or a previous one).
The rule is that no matter what happens to you – whether painful or pleasant, immediate or distant – ask yourself: “what is the lesson in this? How am I supposed to react?”
Sometimes the lesson is simply to say “thank you”.
Sometimes the lesson is to be more careful, or more diligent.
(PS - you can only apply this answer to things that happen to you - when they happen to someone else, your witnessing it is what is happening to you. But you cannot ask what their lesson is - only what yours is.)
So here’s the follow-up Q for your table: Did something ever happen to you that was particularly painful, and you realized, “I deserve this because...”?
Now apply the same logic to the pleasant things.
Please have Andy and all of our dedicated soldiers in mind when you enjoy your weekend. Whatever you think about the war, if you don't appreciate their self-sacrifice every day, you've got a hole in your soul.
Upcoming speaking schedule:
June 15-16 – San Francisco: Shabbat Scholar-in-Residence (Adath Israel)
June 25-26 – Philadelphia: "Kabbalah of Wine" (Etz Chaim Wine Tasting event)
(For details, send an email)
Yiddish of the week:
shvitz — sweat
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