Friday, January 29, 2010

State of the You

Dedicated to our neighbor and friend Phil, who is battling cancer. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

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Today, a hard-to-believe true story and a question.

The True Story:

Imagine this scene. Father picks up his daughter after a sleepover. They're driving home. It's a street they've both traveled on hundreds of times. There is nothing remarkable, nothing new, no surprises.

They stop at a traffic light that they've both stopped at thousands of times.

It's a long light - a full minute. In little-girl time, that's like 10 minutes. She's looking around.

On one side of the car, on the sidewalk, she sees a beggar, a homeless person with a cardboard sign asking for food.

On the other side of the car, she sees a fancy black Mercedes.

You can almost hear the gears turning inside her head.

"Dad," she says in her innocent little-girl voice, "If that man had a little less nice car, then he could give the money to that man to get food."

The light turned green and they drive on. The little girl does not forget her idea. She starts to nag her parents about imbalanced access to resources.

Mom finally asks her, "What do you want us to do, sell our house?"

In reading this story, you probably understand that Mom's question is rhetorical.

Little girls don't always get rhetoric.

To make a long, incredible story short and incredible, they do end up selling the house.

They downsize to a house that is so small, the individual members of the family can't easily hide from each other. They're forced to interact.

Which is a good thing, because they have to decide how to spend the tzedaka money.

In the end, they donate a LOT of money to feed hungry people, and inspire others to do the same.

That's the story. I told you it was going to be hard to believe.

They have written a book about it, here's the link.

(use this link and Amazon kicks back a nickel to support this blog)

And they have a site about it here.

So here's the Question for your table: Could you do it? Could you consciously cut back on 1 or more areas of materialism in your life and increase the amount of money or time you give to helping others?

Many people don't give as much as they could because they are afraid of not having enough.

By the way, if you're nice enough to read this blog, I'm assuming that you already the kind of person who is helping others.

I'm talking about an increase of 1% or more.

Shabbat Shalom

“It is more agreeable to have the power to give than to receive.” - Churchill

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wake Up, Wake Up

Occasionally the ground shakes and we wake up.

My kids love to hear the story about my experience in one of California’s earthquakes.

The end of the story goes like this:

“After that, for months, every time someone ran down the hall or a big truck drove by, shaking the house a little bit, I was ready to dive under the table.”

How long do you think that instinct lasted?

A few months.

The bigger the shake-up, the longer the effect.

But most effects fade.

So now let’s look at Haiti.

The world support of Haiti right now is nothing short of amazing.

Question 1 for your table: How many minutes or hours have you spent reading, listening, watching or talking about Haiti in the past week?

Question 2: In the past year, how many minutes or hours have you spent reading, listening, watching or talking about the fact that every day some 16,000 children under age 5 die from starvation and malnutrition. Try to wrap your mind around that (see also here and here).

That was true on 9/11, that was true when the tsunami struck Asia, that was true when the cyclone hit Burma, that was true when the earthquake hit China and that is true today.

That’s about one little kid dropping dead every five seconds in the most painful way.

Think about that.

That's a Haiti-size tragedy every couple weeks.

A totally predictable and preventable tragedy.

What will it take to wake us up from our slumber?

On the other hand, every day there are more people doing thoughtful acts of kindness.... Here is a clip about some people who clearly are not slumbering...Warning – only watch this if you are prepared to be totally inspired.

Shabbat Shalom


“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.” - Churchill

Monday, January 18, 2010


What? A Monday morning post?

I just wanted to share with you 2 things you didn’t know about MLK.

1. What’s the most famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about the Jews?

That’s easy: “...all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles etc.” (from “I Have a Dream”, 1963).

Well, that’s not really about the Jews. What did he actually say about the Jews?

There is a widely-circulated quote that he evidently never said. I myself have circulated it.

For the record, the following appears to the be accurate quote:

"Shortly before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Boston on a fund-raising mission, and I had the good fortune to attend a dinner which was given for him in Cambridge...One of the young men present happened to make some remark against the Zionists. Dr. King snapped at him and said, "Don't talk like that! When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!"

- Prof. Seymour Martin Lipset (George Mason University), "The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel", Encounter magazine, December, 1969, p. 24.

2. If you know any children, and would like to help them connect to MLK day and other American holidays in a meaningful, hands-on way, you might share with them this thoughtful new activity-filled project, called Freedom’s Feast.

Have a great day and great week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are You Sleeping?

Dedicated in honor of the recent birth of Akiva Simcha Rosenstock. Wishing his parents only nachas from him! Mazal tov!

Two Haiti relief funds:

Don’t stop to think about it too much, just give something. They need funds now.

OK, now that you’ve done your good deed of the day, you can get back to the ballgame….

Anything wrong with that last sentence?

Here’s an angle on the quake that you may not have heard.

Patrick Charles, former Professor of the University of Havana, predicted in 2008 that there would be a massive earthquake in Port-au-Prince. The geology of the region is well known. There have been massive earthquakes there before. He sized up the faults and gave a warning.

Don't believe it? Google it, you'll see many references. He made his prediction in September, 2008.

The failure reminds us of the failure to stop the December 25 almost-terrorist. They had the information, but didn’t stop him. Or the 9/11 terrorists who were taking flying lessons but didn't want to learn how to land.

First question for your table: Why isn’t anyone listening to these intelligent warnings?

Question #2 – let’s make it personal. If you read that a credible scientist was warning about an imminent earthquake in your city, and no one was listening, what would you do?

Shabbat Shalom

PS – to read about Israel’s Haiti response, click here.

PPS – in case you missed last week’s repeat of the “Big Announcement”….

I have launched the fourth, revised and expanded edition of the Art of Amazement.

If you have one of the old editions, you’re probably going to enjoy the new. If you know someone who might enjoy it and have been wondering where to get a new copy, search no more. And if you’ve never read it....I, I just don’t know what to say!

Check out the snazzy new cover here.

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. We shall show mercy, but we shall not ask for it. We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us. We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” - Churchill

Friday, January 08, 2010

Good or Bad?

Dedicated to the loving, hard-working mother of my children who is somehow still smiling!

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Sorry this is being posted so late… just got back from the hospital.

I’ll explain, but first a question.

Who would Kobe Bryant rather play 1-on-1, Shaquille O’Neal or…

Alexander Seinfeld?

Why is it that none of these NBA stars want to take me on 1-on-1? It would be such an easy win for them?

OK, here’s the scoop.

Our newborn, Tehila, was admitted last night.

I know what you’re thinking – “That’s terrible!”

On the one hand, it would be a stretch to say my wife is thrilled at the prospect of spending Shabbat in the hospital.

On the other hand, we’re absolutely grateful.

First of all, the tests have found nothing wrong with Tehila. She had a fever, and as a precaution for a newborn, they need to keep her monitored for 48 hours. We’re so grateful that she’s healthy. Without all those wires and tubes, who would have known she was so healthy?

Second of all, we’re so grateful for the first-rate care that we are receiving. Amazing.

Third of all, neighbors and friends have been sending food etc. Overwhelming.

It has been said that the best things in life require effort, even pain, “no pain, no gain.”

If this is true, why do so many people seek an effortless, comfortable life?

Shabbat Shalom

PS – in case you missed last week’s “Big Announcement”….

I have launched the fourth, revised and expanded edition of The Art of Amazement.

If you have one of the old editions, you’re probably going to enjoy the new. If you know someone who might enjoy it and have been wondering where to get a new copy, search no more. And if you’ve never read it....I, I just don’t know what to say!

Check out the snazzy new cover here.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” - Churchill