Thursday, March 25, 2010

Black to the Future

Looking for a new question to stump everyone with at your Passover seder?

Here's the question:

What did ancient Egyptians call their country?

Jews called it "Mitzrayim" - i.e., the land of boundaries, limitations (hence, we re-enact leaving Mitrayim)

Romans called it "Egypt" - which was derived from the local name for Memphis.

What did Egyptians call it?

A: Kemet - the "black land" - perhaps because the Nile-enriched soil was so lusciously dark. Or perhaps for some other reason?

Now, if you or anyone you know are looking for fresh inspiration for Pesach this year...

Look at these two short, entertaining vids. The first one nicely reminds us why we're doing this. The second one will get you pumped up to make it great.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover.

PS - If you would like my free Passover Kit, including a modifiable Art of Amazement Haggada in .doc format, send an email and I'll try to get it to you by Sunday morning.

PPS - This blog will be busy leaving Mitzrayim… see you in 2 weeks.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What We’ve Sacrificed For You

In memory of Phil Saltman, our next door neighbor, who passed away this week. He was an extraordinarily talented, sensitive and giving soul. The salt of the earth.

A short story. . .and 2 questions.

There was a little boy who loved his mother.

Every Friday he would see his father buy his mother beautiful flowers for his mother would place in a large crystal vase.

The little boy thought to himself, "I would like to do that for Mommy also. So he goes out one Friday afternoon and picks some flowers for his mother.

You can imagine what a little boy brings back, a few weeds, some grass, something dripping pollen. The little boy is so proud of himself and marching in he declares, "Look Mommy, I got you flowers just like Daddy!"

Well, the mother would really like to throw them into the garbage, but she understands that they represent the love her son has for her and so she gets a Styrofoam cup and arrange them as nicely as possible and set the little cup next to the crystal vase.

How proud the little boy is!

So every week he would go out and pick his "flowers" for his mother for Shabbat.

But little boys being what they are, after a while the excitement wore off and it began to be another chore he had to perform. One Friday afternoon he’s playing with his friends and he remembered the flowers. He runs and grabs a few weeds and dashes into the house. Tossing them on the table he says slightly annoyed "Here! You want flowers, I brought you flowers".

The question: How should the mother respond?

His mother looks at him sadly and says, "That's all right, Daddy gets me lots of flowers. I don't need you to bring me any." And she scoops up the weeds and drops them into the garbage. Then, realizing there is no more need for the Styrofoam cup, crushes it and tosses it into the garbage can.

A second question: What’s the lesson for the boy?

When the young boy looks at the crushed cup, just maybe he begins to realize that he wasn't doing his mother a favor, rather she was doing him a favor by allowing his weeds to sit next to the beautiful flowers in the crystal vase.

This story is about Judaism. Everything in Judaism, without exception, is for our benefit.

It is therefore only natural that when (throughout history) we’ve lost our desire to participate with enthusiasm, our “flowers” have been thrown into the trash.

On the other hand, when we do participate with enthusiasm, our flowers matter.

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, March 12, 2010


This is a true story that happened to me last week.

I had bought a certain item from a local store that I ended up not needing. After driving around for a few weeks with the item in the trunk of my car, I finally found myself both in the right place and with a few extra minutes to return the item.

You see, it was not a very expensive item, under $10.

Now, I didn't have a lot of time, just about 5 minutes or so, in order to make it to a meeting.

Fortunately, the store wasn't very busy at that time of the morning, only one person in front of me at the register.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten the receipt. Worse, it was evidently this employees first day on the job, as she didn't know what to do.

She called her manager, who came over and taught her how to do a store credit.

The time was ticking away, but I still had a few minutes.

After she rang it up, I suddenly remembered that I had bought this item for JSL, a non-profit oranization, and had not paid tax.

"Wait a minute, I didn't pay tax on this."

Too late, she had already completed the return.

Do you think she knew what to do?

She called the manager again, who came over.

"He bought this tax-free, but I already rang it up, what should I do?"

The manager looked at the receipt. The "tax" that I had been refunded was 54¢.

"Can you ring it up again?"

"No, it's too hard, and it's such a small amount, don't worry about it," the manager decided.

This made me very uncomfortable. It doesn't say, "Thou shalt not steal a large amount of money." This was money that didn't belong to me or the organization.

On the one hand, the Talmud says that one should be extremely careful with other people's money. An ethical person should never want a penny that doesn't rightfully belong to them.

On the other hand, I was in a hurry.

And now I have a store credit for more money than I should.

2 Questions for your table:

1. Am I being neurotic or appropriately ethical sensitive?
2. If the latter, what should I do?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, March 05, 2010


The goal of this blog is to give you a conversation-starter at your dinner table. How about typing “CTRL-P” and taking it home?

Look at this unbelievable headline:

S Korea child 'starves as parents raise virtual baby'.

A South Korean couple who were addicted to the internet let their three-month-old baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online, police said.

Question for your Table: What's wrong with these people?

It's really simple, as tragic as it is:

They didn't know how to stop.

Someone recently asked me, "How can our family make Shabbat more meaningful?"

I answered, "What do you mean, 'Shabbat'?"

"You're asking me?"

"I know what I mean by Shabbat. But what do you mean by Shabbat?"

"I don't know. I guess that's part of the problem. I don't really know what it means."

Step 1: Look at the headlines. Look at your life. Do you sometimes go overboard, putting too much on your plate?

Step 2: Tonight, allow yourself to stop.

Just stop.

Try with the email.

Ooo, I know this is hard. See if you can go one evening (let's say Friday, for the sake of discussion), without doing email or internet.

Can you? Then you can do Shabbat.

Can't you? Then you need Shabbat.


Shabbat Shalom