Friday, April 27, 2012

Come Sail Away

Check out our new Bar and Bat Mitzvah gift suggestions at

31-year-old Matt Rutherford just returned to Baltimore.

He sailed away 314 days earlier, towards New York. He returned with his bow still pointing north. How is that possible?

A: He circumnavigated the Americas, first person ever to do it solo.

23,000 miles. That's nearly the circumference of the Earth.

WYPR interviewed him the day before his dramatic arrival. He told of some pretty harrowing moments, like when an ocean liner missed him by a couple feet in the middle of the night.

But that kind of danger and treacherousness wasn't the worst part, Matt says. At some point during the trip, he told the Washington Post that he was experiencing a profound lonliness.

“Lonely to the point where anything living is comforting. A bird, a fish, even a barnacle. I think I’m beyond lonely.”

But that's not the Table-Talk reason for telling the story.

When he began, other world-class sailors described his attempt as practically suicidal.

“What Matt is trying to do, I’m absolutely blown away by it,” Herb McCormick said. “He’s doing this in a boat that, frankly, I’d be scared to sail from Newport to Bermuda. I’m in awe of the guy. This is such a mammoth undertaking, and to do it without stopping — alone — is mind-boggling.

Here's what he looked like at the homecoming

Question for your table: What would motivate a person to do this?

Hint: He wasn't looking for a thrill, nor to make the record books, nor to prove himself.

Another hint: What would possibly motivate YOU to spend 314 days alone (never mind the danger)?

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Announcement: We have begun adding suggested Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts to our portal,

In memory of ______ (fill in the blank). My late father's birthday would have been this week. Many Jews worldwide are remembering loved ones, some of them heroes, some of them "regular folk", all of them beloved.

The news media believe that everyone wants to know who won the Megamillions jackpot. Maybe they're right? Is the winner a hero?

First question for your table: If someone offered you $656 million, would you take it?

Heroism is certainly not certain. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. Do you remember Prof. Librescu? Even if you do, you may find this short article worth your time:

From what we read of Prof. Librescu’s life, he was a kind soul, a loving husband and father, an enthusiastic teacher – a mensch, in fact. He put other people’s needs before his own – he had rachmanus. Was his a just fate?

Let’s look at another 2007 news item about fate, fortune and values:

2002 Powerball winner Jack Whittaker wishes he had never won.
The irony of his regret is that he did not use the jackpot to indulge himself. He only wanted to give to others. But the fortune and fame destroyed his family.

“I wish I'd torn that ticket up,” he told ABC News.

You can read why here (warning – it’s not a pleasant story).

Indeed, in reaction to the newest overnight millionnaires, the Chicago Tribune warns them about the "lottery curse".
"Nine out of 10 big prize winners lost their windfall within five years" (full story here).

Question #2 for your table: If someone offered you $656 million (before taxes) - no strings attached - would you take it?

What if, in order to get the money, you had to do one single act of embarrassing another person in public?

OK, let’s keep the no-strings attached. I assume the answer would be yes...

But before we give you the money, we’d like you to make one final choice:

You may keep the $315 million or.... it for a once-in-your-lifetime chance to save one person’s life (if you pass this up, you’ll never have another similar opportunity)?

True wealth is greatness of character - a poor mensch is far wealthier than a rich SOB.

May those who are mourning be comforted, and may you and I receive all the resources we need to achieve our greatest dreams.

Shabbat Shalom.

— a decent person

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Running Out of Time

Dedicated to Steve Goldstein, a great friend of many who knew the true meaning of freedom. May his memory be a blessing.

Our new spring bulletin: Click here

Downloadable Haggada: Click here

Full 2012 Pesach Kit: Click here

The great Google-Exodus spoof (2.2 million views): Click here

(FYI, two people today contacted me asking if they know anyone looking for a place at a Seder. If you know of any such person, including yourself, there are families in every community who would like to host you - please contact me ASAP.)

I suppose you'd like a question for your table.... How is this Seder this year going to be different from all other Seders of past years?

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach - Happy Passover!