Friday, April 29, 2011

Lonnnnnnng Perspective

Happy 57th Birthday to cousin Jerry and Happy 21st Birthday to the Hubble Telescope. You can now be admitted into pubs across the universe.

First question for your table - (trivia Q) - How long does the Hubble Space Telescope take to orbit the earth?

A: 97 minutes.

We're talking 7,500 meters per second. How do you take pictures when you're moving that fast? (Really good flash, right?)

Question #2 for your table - Did you ever stop to think where the idea of a telescope came from?

Isn't it a little bizarre? That you could look through a tube and see things more clearly at a distance?

History credits Hans Lippershey with inventing the telescope in 1608 and Galileo with improving it.

I do not know where Lippershey got the idea.

What I do know is that the Talmud (ca. 500 CE) states that "Rabban Gamliel had a tube through which he could see at a distance of two thousand cubits across the land and a corresponding distance across the sea" (Talmud Eruvin 43b). (Rabban Gamliel was a leading sage ca. 1st Century CE.)

(Excerpted and adapted from the Amazing Jewish-Fact-a-Day Calendar, an app for iphone, ipad and ipod.)

Question #3 - How does this amazing Jewish fact change your perspective?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Our Spring 2011 newsletter was published this week. Download it here.
PPS - has new titles added every week - and even some books for parents.
PPS - Here's a private-content video you won't find if you search youtube:

The goal of this blog is to offer conversation-starters for your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Life a Game?

Chinese gamer sentenced to life

A Shanghai online gamer has been given a suspended death sentence for
killing a fellow gamer. Qiu Chengwei stabbed Zhu Caoyuan in the chest when he found out he had sold his virtual sword for 7,200 Yuan (£473). The sword, which Mr Qiu had lent to Mr Zhu, was won in the popular online game Legend of Mir 3. Attempts to take the dispute to the police failed because there is currently no law in China to protect virtual property.

(If you care to read the details of this macabre story, click here.)

Question for your table: What does this story have to do with Passover?

There are probably many answers to the question. You could talk about values, you could talk about the rule of law and the Torah.

I'd like to suggest focusing on a different angle - virtual reality.

Many of us relate to the Passover story like a fantasy. It's a great story, but did it ever happen? And according to these details? And even if it did, why is it so important to tell the story once a year?

Question #2 - have you ever experienced a Pesach story-telling which was so engaging, you got so into it, that you forgot you were sitting in someone's dining room?

That's the goal, even if you are at someone's Seder who is not so engaging, even if you are all alone, to get yourself so into the details of the story, that you empathize with all the characters (even the drowning Egyptians).

To do so let's be frank, requires a bit of preparation. If you haven't got some new books and gadgets, it's still not too late for 2-day shipping, go to and search for "Passover" or "Pesach".

If you have all the gear you need, don't forget to carve out an hour or two on Sunday to read through the Haggada, think about how you're going to make the Seder a vivid virtual reality, whether you be leader or follower.

Shabbat Shalom and wishing you a connected, happy Pesach

PS - if you had trouble downloading my free 2011 Pesach kit, send me an email and I'll send it directly, it's not a large file.

PPS - posted this video last year, it's so good, worth watching every year to get you in the mood.

PPS - here's a new one for this year:

Friday, April 08, 2011

Tis the Season

Uh-oh, Passover is in less than 2 weeks!

Just in time, today we have an important announcement that may help you have a better Pesach, followed by a question for your table.

We have just launched a website for adults seeking ways to engage children in Passover and other Jewish topics.

It's called

It is not a store, we are not selling anything. It is a portal, with links to amazon et al.

Please visit it, bookmark it and then: send me your feedback.

You can search by age or subject.

Every item has been selected by me and my 12-year-old daughter, Goldy. We added her personal review to most of the items. (Notice that there are some non-book items, such as toys and gadgets to enliven the Passover Seder.)

Hmm... You could do your own research, or you could let us do the legwork for you. Which do you prefer?

OK, so here are the questions for your table.

1. What's the reason why a highlight of the Passover Seder is the 4 Questions?
2. By the way, how many 4's can you count at the Seder (I can think of 4...)

Shabbat Shalom

PS - My free editable Art of Amazement Haggada has been updated again this year, it is part of a downloadable Kit with kid activities and adult-level materials too. Find it all here:

Friday, April 01, 2011


Announcement - JSL is now providing amazing improve-your-life tools from Jewish wisdom, including self-esteem and weight-loss. Go to and click on the FEELING CHALLENGED? tab.

So the other day I'm going into the JCC for my annual exercise and there's this guy I know.

We have never seen each other at the JCC. He maybe is surprised, because in my mild-mannered alter-ego, I maybe don't look like the type who would be "working out."

He doesn't say hello. He does't say Shalom. The first words out of his mouth are:

"So tell me, rabbi, what mitzvah are you doing here? And don't tell me 'taking care of the body' because everyone says that."

So as I tread along on the mill, I come up with 5 mitzvahs (in addition to 'caring for the body') that one could be doing while getting exercise.

Question for your table - How many can you think of?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - I was just kidding, I actually go 3x/week