Friday, November 25, 2011

Jewish Thanksgiving?

Mazal tov to Asher Dossetter and family on his becoming Bar Mitzvah this week.
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Imagine you are the first European to visit America. It's an amazing New World! Strange people, strange foliage, strange animals. And you see this odd chicken-like bird for the first time. What do you call it?

Since you think you're in India, you naturally call it "Indian chicken."

Are you with me so far?

So French explorers dubbed this new bird poulet d'Inde (Indian chicken) later shortened to dinde (pronounced "dand").

English settlers called the bird turkey because they thought it looked like another type of fowl that was imported from Turkey.

Jewish explorers sided with the French and called it tarnegol hodu which means "hindu chicken" and was later shortened it to simply hodu.

What's interesting for us is that the Hebrew word HODU also happens to mean "give thanks."

Similarly, we ourselves are called "Jews" because most of us descend from the remnant of the 12 Tribes who survived the repeated pounding from Assyria and Babylon 2,500 years ago. The one remaining landed tribe was Yehuda or Judah. And that name - Judah - means "thankful".

Therefore, being "Jewish" means cultivating a Thanksgiving mindset every single day.

(I can hear it already - "Gee honey, I"m watching so much football because the rabbi told me to....)

Below: Two links on cultivating gratitude...

Article by Rabbi Pliskin
Audio by Rabbi Rietti

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 18, 2011

In Woman We Trust

When I returned from Israel last summer, my friend Raffi happened to be in New York, so we arranged to have breakfast.

Guided by google, we chose the Bagel Hole restaurant on Avenue J, in Brooklyn.

We immediately found out why they gave it that name.

Even though Google calls it a restaurant, they don't actually want you to eat there. There's only one tiny table!

But a great spot for a tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte (as long as there are no other customers)....

Indeed, as we were winding down, we noticed a couple attempting to join us in that tiny space.

We were visibly done, so they were probably annoyed that we were still sitting there.

"I'm so sorry," I apologized. "We're really leaving. It's just that I'm from Baltimore and my friend here is from Jerusalem and we haven't seen each other in three years."

I'm not sure why I had to reveal all those intimate details.

Did I think that  they would have any interest in that information? Did it occur to me that my story would somehow justify our hogging (pardon the expression) the counter.

Yet for some reason I said it nonetheless.

The woman just stared at me.


You know what I mean? Think new-york-stare.

Then she blurted out, "You're from Baltimore? What's your name?"

To shorten a long story, it turns out that I had helped her via phone 5 years ago sort out some dating/marriage issues.

Friends and family had been pushing her to marry a guy she knew wasn't right for her, and I had encouraged her to ignore them and to find Mr. Right.

Now here she was with Mr. Right, the fruit of all that effort. We'd never met in person.

Question for your table: Random coincidence, right?

Shabbat Shalom


Today's Amazing Jewish Fact 

November 21, 2011
21 Cheshvan, 5772


"The trust God places in women is greater than the trust God places in men." 

Talmud Brachot 17a

Here is a class given this week by Rebbetzin Esther Baila Schwartz, on one of the greatest Jewish women ever. 

From the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seek the Truth

Dedicated by a subscriber in loving memory of Marcel Will.(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)

Please consider the remarkable story of Israel's newest Nobel laureate.

Shechtman experienced several years of hostility toward his non-periodic interpretation (no less a figure than Linus Pauling said he was "talking nonsense" and "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.")

The head of Shechtman's research group told him to "go back and read the textbook" and then "asked him to leave for 'bringing disgrace' on the team." Shechtman felt rejected.

The Nobel Committee at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that "his discovery was extremely controversial," but that his work "eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter."

And in his own words:

“I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying,” he recalled. “I never took it personally. I knew I was right and they were wrong....If you are a scientist and believe in your results, then fight for them, then fight for the truth. Listen to others, but fight for what you believe in."
— Prof. Dani Shechtman, 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Amazing. Should be on the first page of every science textbook.

Question for your table.... What's more important, fighting for what you believe or having friends?

Today's Amazing Jewish Fact

November 11, 2011
14 Cheshvan, 5772

Star of Whom?

There is no evidence that the six-pointed star was a particularly Jewish symbol prior to the Middle Ages. It can be found in ancient inscriptions all over the world, as can the swastika.

Read more:

From the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar

Android version:
Iphone/ipod/ipad version:

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 04, 2011


Dedicated by a reader in memory of Chana bas Pinchas (Alzbeta Dolanova), one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors in Nitra, Slovakia, who passed away last week. "Her pride in the continuation of the Jewish people was evident in our every conversation with her."

(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)

Today you get an amazing Jewish fact, followed by a question for your table....

November 4, 2011
7 Cheshvan, 5772


In contrast to the country’s stunning natural beauty, Israel currently faces several environmental catastrophes, e.g., low rainfall has depleted the aquifers, risking permanent damage; several of the rivers are so polluted with industrial waste that humans are not allowed in their vicinity; there are few municipal recycling programs and a plethora of desert landfills.

Fortunately, organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) are working hard to strengthen laws and teach people new behaviors.

More info:
R. Becher's great class on the Land of Israel
SPNI website
JNF website


From the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar

Android version:
Iphone/ipod/ipad version:


Question for your table: Is there a difference between "Israel", "The Land of Israel" and "The State of Israel"? And does it matter?

Shabbat Shalom