Friday, October 29, 2010

Little Box of Horrors?

Got a couple interesting replies to my iphone app announcement.

One was from a guy I had met in 2003. I’d forgotten all about him, and he isn’t on this mailing list, so he’d forgotten all about me.

He wrote to tell me that after his flirtations with Judaism in 2003 he got burned out, and moved to Bali, where he produces art and poetry.

But, he writes, “I'm in New York because my mom, z'l, passed away last week. I'm doing Kaddish for the shloshim and them back to Bali. She was a holocaust survivor and inspirational woman. Nu, what's happened to you in the past 8 years besides the gevaldik iPhone app?”

First question of the day – we can understand why he went back to NY for the funeral. But why is he staying there? Why not do the Kaddish and shloshim back in Bali?

This week, Baltimore’s Jewish community hosted a man named Phil Rosenthal.

Phil has a very difficult job: to teach parents and teachers what they don’t know about their kids.

Specifically, he focused on “technologies” – computers and smart phones. These things have infiltrated our lives so quickly that we haven’t really integrated them into our values-system.

Therefore, they are thrusting into our living rooms and pockets the values of those who control the technology.

Most new phones and every ipod touch (and it goes without saying a computer) comes with the ability to surf the web, and if you don’t disable that feature, you’re giving that child the keys to a candy store.

You’re giving yourself the keys to a candy store.

So this leads to my first question: Do you agree that something’s wrong here, that we (many of us) have had our souls over-saturated with not only the best but also the worst of the Web?

My second question is, to the extent that this is true, what’s the antidote?

Probably can’t get rid of it like a TV. It’s getting harder and harder to do certain things without the Web.

So how do you create the right balance for yourself, and how should adults teach kids the right balance?

(As you know, the purpose of this blog is to give you food-for-talk at your Friday night dinner table, i.e., questions, not answers. In this case, I think the answers are obvious, but perhaps not. If you’d like to dialog on this, send me your answers and Ill send you mine.... Hint – it has something to do with roll-modeling.... )

Shabbat Shalom

PS – Here’s Phil’s website:


Friday, October 22, 2010

Hello, World

It's here, and it’s alive, very much alive:

If you have an iphone, ipod-touch or ipad, get yours now!

If you don't have an iphone, ipod-touch or ipad, boy are you a loser... (just kidding, I don't have one either!)

But seriously, click on the link just to see the fabulous screen shots, and please send the link to your friends and family who might enjoy this.

What does the Talmud say about airplanes? What did Louis Armstrong say about the Jews? Where is Hebrew hidden in a Shakespeare play?

And which iphone app keeps Shabbat?

(I believe after extensive testing that this app is bug-free. However, should you find a bug or a typo, kindly let me know and I'll send you a free copy of my CD, "Hannuka and the Secret of the 36".)

Last week I asked you how is it possible that I could have worked on this app for 8 years, given that there were no iphones 8 years ago?

The answer is I first developed it as a page-a-day wall calendar. But it turned out to be economically impossible to do and break even, because paper calendars have such a short sales-window. These new technologies mean it will never go out of date. Whatever day you start using the calendar, that's when it begins.

So here's the question of the week for your table
: What’s worth spending eight years of your life working on? How about eighteen? What about eighty? In other words, what would you be willing to work on for so long if you knew that you could succeed but only after so long?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, October 15, 2010

Climb Out of That Hole

Life underground seems to be a theme of the week.

And patience.

Just as Switzerland completed a 20-year project to build the world’s longest tunnel... (

Just as the Chilean miners were emerging from their 70-day ultra slim-down retreat….

Two patience-required milestones happened in my life that were causes for personal joy. I just wanted to share these with you before I ask this week’s question.

Event #1 – after 12 years of work – yes, that’s not a typo, 12 years – I have in my hands the Hebrew version of the Art of Amazement. It was published just after Rosh Hashana in Jerusalem and it is exactly how I envisioned it. Small, paperback, beautiful cover.

1,000 extra copies were printed to send to Jewish centers around the world where young Israelis are wandering. (15,000 copies were requested, by the way.)

Event #2 – after 8 years of work, yesterday I submitted my very first iphone app to Apple.

How could it be, you ask, since the iphone hasn’t been around for 8 years?

I’ll leave that question unanswered for now. When the app is approved and I can unveil it to the world, then I will tell all.

Now, here’s the stumper for your table:

We live in a time of instant gratification. Food, information, communication, entertainment and you name it – can be enjoyed with the push of a button.

Some of us (including yours, truly) enjoy the slow, delayed gratification of home-grown vegetables.

But let’s face it. We’re all somewhat addicted to instant results. If a computer becomes sluggish, we get impatient, forgetting what computers were like just a few years ago.

One day I imagine our grandchildren are going to ask, “Tell us again that story about how phones used to drop the call…” or “Tell us that story about how you had to push buttons in order to call someone.”

So here’s the question: How can you get instant “spiritual” gratification?

(Remember the rules, there are no wrong answers, but ask at your table

Of course, there is the long-winded answer that I put into a book: (that’s cheaper than you can get it anywhere else)

Here’s a short-winded answer:

Give to someone.

The moment that you give to someone, you are getting outside of your own bubble. That’s the most basic spiritual experience.

We all pay lip-service to becoming more spiritually-connected.

Time to put your mullah where your mouth is.

Our friend Captain Shulman is now on assignment on the US base in Korea. He just sent a list of Jewish soldiers currently serving overseas.

Why don’t we – you and I – try to make sure that every one of these soldiers gets something for Hannuka. A card, some chocolate gelt, a box of small candles, a book, a silly toy. You name it.

If you know any kids, get them to MAKE cards. Hand-made cards are the best.

Email me for the names. Let me know how many you want.

(The cost of mailing is the same as a US address, but needs 10-14 days.)

Think about it.

(But not too hard.)

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, October 08, 2010

Begin Again Now

They were talking on the radio the other day about a new trend to delay retirement, or come out of retirement.

The claim is that not everyone is doing so because they need the money. Evidently, some have chosen to keep working in order to avoid boredom.


Try asking these 3 questions at your table:

Q1. Do you remember Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, or are they already a fading memory?

Q2. On a scale of 1-10, how much would you like this year to be a year of real personal growth (or reduction, for those trying to lose weight)?

Try getting this marvelous book: Begin Again Now, by Rabbi Pliskin.

The book is an encyclopedia of strategies for dealing with adversity, setbacks, frustrations, etc.

Question 3. (For those not yet retired:) If you stopped working today, either because you had enough money to retire or because you were laid off, what would you do with the rest of your life? (For those already retired: On a scale of 1-10, how meaningful is the rest of your life going to be?)

Retiring for leisure is not a Jewish value. A year of life that is not guided by a mission or sense of purpose is a wasted year.

Ran a marathon? Finished your degree? Built a house? Raised a family? Made a fortune? Saved a life? Way to go!

Now get back to work.

Shabbat Shalom

PS – Here is R. Pliskin’s Happiness Club video

One mission we all should have is to “do no harm” or “don’t be evil” as our friends at Google like to say.

This week, Maryland joined the ranks of states requiring hands-free cellphones while driving.

BYAM (that means between you and me), I've been on the bandwagon for a long time now. I know, I know, research has shown that a bluetooth headset only marginally approves safety, that the best practice is not to talk on the phone while driving.

But if you are looking for a bluetooth set, even for comfortable use around the house, I might as well save you the trouble. I did a lot of research. My main criteria were:

1. Sound clarity
2. Comfort
3. Price

I was not looking for any extra features (like the one that lets you listen to mp3s when not on the phone).

Frankly, knowing how easy it is to lose or break these things, I didn't even look at anything over $100. I read a lot of on-line reviews, asked friends for recommendations, tried out a few models. Here's what I found. For the best combination of the above 3 criteria, the Cardo wins hands-down. It's only $20! Just ordered one for my wife. Here's your link.