Friday, October 26, 2012

Exhuming Obama

The purpose of this blog is to help you turn your Friday night table into the talk of the town. Please print & share.

(If you have our iphone/ipad app, The Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar, and it has been malfunctioning the past few weeks, some good news. We have submitted an update to Apple that includes fixing many broken links. If you do not have the app, from now through Sunday we have made it FREE. That's right, that is not an error. The app will be free through Sunday night. All owners of the app (paid or free) will receive the 2.6 upgrade when Apple releases it.)

True story: A woman is just leaving the house on the way to do some really important shopping.... and there's a neighbor whom she always finds so annoying.

"Oh what great timing! My phone is out and I really need to make a call. Do you think I could borrow your cell phone for a few minutes?"

The woman really doesn't want to help. She has a tight schedule and a list of errands. Let her borrow someone else's phone, she's thinking.

This woman is being tested. I will offer my interpretation of her test and how it applies to you and me.

Last week, several astute readers caught an error in this email. I had written that the ghost of Samuel came up feet first. In fact, he the story tells specifically that he came up head first, unlike ordinary ghosts.

The reason is quite simple: he was being called by King Saul, and when being called by a king, you don't come feet-first. See Miss Manners, Chapter 1.

So this leads us to the obvious question: Does the same protocol apply to the president of the United States?

If President Obama were to hold a seance to contact the ghost of, let's say, Jimmy Carter, no wait, technically he's he's still alive. Let's say, the ghost of Dick Cheney....

No, he's technically still alive too.

OK, let's imagine Obama, he's rounding the corner to the final stretch of this horse race, he's got Romney so close behind he can feel his breath on the back of his neck. He's tried everything to get those poll numbers higher, nothing is working. He's into the low 50s, but it's too close for comfort.

So he holds a seance in the Rose Room to see if he can get a little pep talk from the ghost of Ronald Reagan.

Wait a second. Would Obama, a Democrat, turn to Mr. Conservative Revolution for eleventh-hour counsel?

Here's a little presidential secret for you: these presidential guys have a lot more in common than you think.

Anyway, the real question is - does Reagan come up feet first like an ordinary ghost, or does he come up head first in honor of the President?

(Believe it or not, this is actually going somewhere....)

On the one hand, King Saul was a monarch-for-life, while Mr. Obama is an elected, term-limited official.

On the other hand, he's the President. You know, hail-to-the-chief and all that.

Where this is going:

One of the most fundamental of all Jewish values is the concept that every person you meet is created in the same Divine image. (For John Lennon that means, "You better recognize your brother in everyone you meet.")

A person with no Torah but treats others well - especially opponents and adversaries - has a foundation to acquire wisdom, and the wisdom he acquires will stick.

A person who knows the entire Torah but has no respect for others, his Torah has nothing to rest on and he will lose it.

If we Jews were living up to the Torah, we would be so ethical that any non-Jew would do business with us on a handshake.

If we were getting the Torah's core message, we would be so concerned for others that there wouldn't be any hunger.

I think we're on the right track. But we're being tested all the time.

Question for your table: When were you last tested in this area, and how did you do?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ghost App

In memory of Andrew Sarosi - Aharon ben Chaim. May his memory be for a blessing and his family be comforted.

Good news and bad news on the app front this week.

The good news is that the App is now available for the Kindle Fire. If you have any Kindle Fire users in your family, on your Facebook network, or beyond, please let them know about the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar.

The bad news is that Apple's iOS 6 upgrade a few weeks ago seems to have been a bad fit for the app, which is now crashing on many iphones and ipads.

The good news is that our crackerjack programmer has found the bug and we are working on an upgrade.

The bad news is that in the meantime thousands of users around the world are missing out on their daily amazing Jewish fact.

So I thought I'd share today's fact with you, for you to share with your table.

=== October 19, 2012 / 3 Cheshvan 5773 ===

Ghost Story

Do you like a good ghost story?

One of the world's oldest ghost stories is in Tanach, the Bible. King Saul is desperate. He is facing a massive battle with the dastardly Philistines and is not getting any guidance from the usual prophetic channels.

In desperation, he turns to a sorceress, the so-called Witch of Endor.

The king goes incognito and asks her to bring up the prophet Samuel, Saul's mentor, who had died a few months earlier.

To her surprise, the seance works - Samuel's ghost comes up (feet first, by the way).

"What are you disturbing me for? Is that you Saul?"

"Sorry, I just need to know what's going to happen in this battle, I'm quite afraid."

"Well, in that case, I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?"

"Tell me the good news first."

The good news is that you are eventually going to be joining me here" (i.e., despite your many mistakes, you're going to have a share in the World to Come).

"Umm... that's reassuring! What's the bad news?"

"The bad news is that you're going to be joining me tomorrow...."

2 Samuel, Ch. 17

Here is a related link to Rabbi Becher's 'Intro to Kabbalah' class.

From the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar, now downloadable on Amazon.


Question for your table: Do you believe in ghosts? Why? Or, why not?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, October 12, 2012

Begin Again Now

The purpose of this blog is to help you turn your Shabbat table into an vibrant salon. Please share.
In honor of my dear Mother's birthday - Happy Birthday Mom!
(To dedicate a future TT, send an email.)

For a conversation-starter, try showing this photo around the table and ask everyone what they think it depicts:


(If you cannot view the photo in this email, click here.)

Hint: The snap shows a street at Foxconn, the Shenzhen (China) factory that makes our iphones, ipads, ipods and many other gadgets.

So what are those nets for?

They were installed in 2010 in response to the high rate of suicide at the factory that year.

That's the screaming headline.

In fact, even at the peak of its problem, Foxconn (which employs a mind-boggling 400,000 people in Shenzhen) had a lower suicide rate than the national China average.

But I'm re-hashing this topic because it makes an interesting conversation starter and an opener to the bigger question of the week:

What is wrong with suicide?

I'm sorry if that sounds morbid, but it's really a question about life and meaning, and purpose. So now that the High Holidays have passed and Jewish life is "back to normal", I'm challenging you to ask this at your table: Why shouldn't suicide be a moral and legal option?

I hope that the discussion will lead to an affirmation of the value of life, and perhaps greater scrutiny of what makes life itself precious.

Shabbat Shalom

PS -  If you haven't already, please download our (corrected) fall bulletin here.
PPS - This week's title is borrowed from a terrific book by Rabbi Pliskin well worth your time.