Friday, April 11, 2008

The Matzaman Cometh

Dedicated to the memory of Maj. Stuart Wolfer, one of two soldiers felled by an April 6 rocket attack inside Baghdad's Green Zone. Wolfer, a 36-year-old Army reservist from Idaho, had been working out in a gym when the attack occurred. A married father of three, he grew up in south Florida, where his parents, Esther and Leonard Wolfer, still live. Known for his deep commitment to Jewish life, he served as the Jewish lay leader at Kuwait's Camp Buehring during a previous tour of duty.

Looks like this is going to be the last Table Talk before Passover, as the exigencies of the holiday and tax day are slowly but surely taking over every moment of my life, like the way a python slowly but surely swallows and digests its prey. (Who's going to have time to read it anyway for the next couple weeks?)

A lot of people pay attention to statistics like how many Jews are there in American, and how do they affiliate, yada yada yada.

They also say that Passover is often one of the 2 final refuges of a Jew before throwing in the towel altogether.

Even Groucho had a seder. It wasn’t like yours or mine, it was a seder, more or less....

Listen: if you know me, or if you have come to know me via this blog, you know that I’m not into rite or ritual that isn’t meaningful. So since most of us want to have a meaningful or uplifting Passover, what’s the secret?

IMHO (that means “in my humble opinion”) the most important thing to do, whether you are making your own seder or attending someone else’s, is to make sure that the story part is as fun and memorable as possible. In this day and age, I don’t know how to accomplish such a feat without visual aids.

Hence, I strongly advocate getting or creating a “box of plagues”.

Here are a couple places you can get one on-line:

Box of Plagues

Bag of Plagues
Bag of Plagues
Bag of Plagues
Bag of Plagues

Even if you’re attending someone else’s seder, why not volunteer to bring the Plagues? Pull them out, make it dramatic for everyone, even the adults will love it, and want to come back next year.

Finally, the most unreported story from Israel today is how many Israelis are living in poverty. Such a wealthy country, but such disparity. You can help a family or two have food to eat for Passover by donating on-line to one of the several organizations that are providing groceries to the needy, such as this one.

Wishing you a great Passover and Shabbat Shalom. See you in a couple weeks.

PS – What would Table Talk be without a video? Here are two for the season:

Groucho quote of the week:
“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

Friday, April 04, 2008


Dedicated to the memory of Avraham David Moses (16), Ro'i Roth (18), Neria Cohen (15), Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar (16); Bottom row: Yochai Lifshitz (18), Segev Peniel Avihail (15), Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld (19), and Doron Meherete (26).
To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.

Doron Meherete was one of the eight Yeshiva students that were massacred a couple weeks ago in Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Anyone who paid a shiva (condolence) call to Doron's family in Ashdod would have witnessed a phenomenon: every single type of Jew was sitting together, from Ethiopians to Polish Chassidim, from knit kippot to Yerushalmi white kippot, from jeans and sandals to long black frocks. Too bad that it takes a martyr of Doron's magnitude to unite everyone.

Doron’s personal story should be retold in every Jewish home.

Doron wanted to learn Torah in Mercaz HaRav, one of the best of Israel's yeshivas. But, since his early schooling was in Ethiopia, he lacked a strong background in Talmud and the Yeshiva denied him admission.

He wasn't discouraged.

He asked for a job washing dishes in the dining hall, and was accepted.

For a year and a half, Doron washed dishes. But he spent every spare minute in the study hall. Every day, he would ask one of the students what they were learning, and then spend most of the night and all of Shabbat with his head in the Talmud, learning what they learned.

One day, Doron the dishwasher asked the Rosh Yeshiva to test him. The Rosh Yeshiva politely smiled and tried to gently dismiss him, but Doron wouldn't budge. He forced the Rosh Yeshiva into a Torah discussion.

The next day, Doron the dishwasher had become Doron the "yeshiva bachur".

He reminds one of the great Hillel (whose sandwich we eat at the Passover seder), who couldn’t afford tuition to the yeshiva so he climbed up on the roof to listen to the lectures through the skylight, rain or shine (or snow!).

Like Hillel, the promotion did not diminish Doron’s zeal. On weekends, when he visited his family in Ashdod, he would spend the entire Shabbat either in the Melitzer Shul or the neighboring Gerrer shtiebel learning Shulchan Aruch (basically, it’s a re-write of the entire Talmud). Just two weeks before being gunned down, he finished the entire Shulchan Aruch and main commentaries.

Through discipline and hard work, Doron had achieved in his twenty-six years what most don't attain in a lifetime.

His life, like his death, was dedicated to the Jewish People.

Rabbi Lazer Brody commented, “The next time you want to close a book to switch on the TV, think of Doron. The next time a child doesn't want to do their homework, tell them about the price that tzaddikim like Hillel the Elder and Doron Meherete paid to learn Torah. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Doron wasn't a reincarnation of Hillel. May his holy soul beg mercy for the grieving nation he left behind.”

Shabbat Shalom

Travel/speaking schedule:
April 7 – Baltimore
May 14 – Miami
June 4 (tentative) - Chicago

For details, send an email.