Friday, December 27, 2013

When Is It Too Late?

The purpose of this blog is to help foster some great talk at your Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Rabbi Akiva's TombThe main question for this week is: When is it too late?

A little story to set the scene:

The year: Around 90 CE, a decade after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The location: Lod, Israel.

There is this man named Mr. Kalva-Savua. He's a wealthy businessman.

Much of his wealth is in livestock.

He has a daughter named Rachel. She comes of age and it's time to find her a husband.

But she rejects every match suggested to her (no, Judaism never allowed parents to coerce their children into a marriage).

"What's wrong with these men you keep rejecting?" we can imagine her mother saying. "They are scholars. They come from good families!"

Rachel isn't impressed by breeding. She has something entirely different in mind.

"I want to marry Akiva."

"Akiva who?"

"Akiva the shepherd."

"Akiva the shepherd? On our staff? Are you out of your mind? If you married someone with learning but no breeding, that we'd understand. If you married someone with breeding but no learning, that we'd understand. But he has neither learning nor breeding! How could you even consider an illiterate shepherd who comes from a poor, illiterate family? What are you thinking?"

"I see something in him. I see greatness in him. He just needs the right woman to help him bring it out."

"You are out of your mind. Do not think about it any more. And should you go and marry him behind our backs, you will be disinherited. Keep that in mind!"

But she does.

And so do they.

And Rachel and Akiva live in poverty.

They sleep on straw.

But they are happy.

Once, someone comes to the door asking for charity.

Akiva looks at him and thinks, "He has even less than we do," and gives the beggar their straw.

That's the kind of man he is.

After some time, Rachel says to him, "I want to remind you that I only married you on condition that you go study. Now it's time to go. By my estimate, it's going to take you twelve years, so I don't want you to return for twelve years. Got that?"

So off he kindergarten.

There he is sitting with the five-year-olds. Feeling out of place.

"What am I doing here in kindergarten? I'm a forty-year-old man! I feel like such a chump!"

He goes outside for some fresh air. "I can't take it in there! I'm a big oaf. But I can't go home, Rachel will clobber me, and besides, I promised. Oy!"

He sits down by a stream, watching the water trickle, listening to it gurgle.

At a certain spot the water has carved out a niche in a rock.

"How could that happen? Water is soft, the rock is hard...."

Suddenly inspiration hits him like a splash of water. "If soft water could make a dent in a hard rock, surely the Torah, which is like fire, could make a dent in my hard heart!"

So he gets himself up and goes back to kindergarten.

Flash forward twelve years. Akiva returns home. Before he opens the door, he overhears Rachel in the garden talking to a neighbor.

The neighbor says, "You're living like a widow! Your husband has been gone for twelve years!"

"If he'd listen to me, he'd go for another twelve years!"

"Aha!" he decides on the spot, "She's giving me permission!" He about-faces and returns to the yeshiva.

Twelve years later he returns a second time.

This time he has 24 thousand students with him. He has become the greatest sage in Israel.

When he arrives to town, everyone turns out to see the great Rebbe Akiva.

Rachel pushes her way through the crowd to find her husband.

She is in rags and his students try to shield him from her.

"Leave her be! Every one of you owes all of your Torah to her!"
Questions for your table:

When is it too late to study?
When is it too late to change careers?
When is it too late to change your life?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Read more about Rabbi Akiva - including what his father-in-law did when he found out whom he'd become, click here or here.

PPS - If you were thinking of making a tax-deductible contribution before the end of 2013, please click here.

PPPS -  Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.

PPPPS - the photo above is Rabbi Akiva's tomb in Tiberius.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Face 2 Face

The purpose of this email is to help create some great face time at your Shabbat table. Please print and share.
Face 2 Face

Jerusalem snow scene 2OK, so I'm back from Yerushalayim.

The first thing I did in the airport in New York was to get a professional New York shoe shine for my poor Oxfords, blanched by the Jerusalem blizzard.

How was your trip?

I didn't visit any "sites".

I didn't eat any falafel.

I did drink a lot of coffee.

(Peet's best flavor, that I brought with me. Guess I'm a little spoiled.)

The highlight of the trip?

Surely watching children gleefully, exuberantly reveling in the snow was, hands-down, the greatest joy.

Some kids used baking pans as sleds.

One 13-year-old, who has never left the Land of Israel, told me wide-eyed, "It's like being in Switzerland!"

What is it about connecting with people?

What is it about connecting with people face-to-face?

In eight days I connected meaningfully with eight people/families, any one of whom would have been worth the effort.

Six were old relationships, two were new.

They all have phones. Most have email.

I have asked this question before, but this trip gave me a new way of asking it.

With all this great video technology, why does a face-to-face meeting still matter so much?

You probably know that I'm a big fan of long-distance relationships:

- A live class in San Francisco every Friday morning, while sitting at my desk in Baltimore.
- Studying with individuals and couples via video and phone most days of the week
- Tweeting
- Posting
- (anything new I'm missing?)

Yet... there's something missing, right?

A Forbes survey agrees.

I was pondering this yesterday when I struck up a conversation with a United Airlines pilot. He said, "It's a great truth that is the only thing that keeps airlines in business!"

In other words, in the business world, it's no secret.

This Hilton Hotels report explores some of the psychological reasons.

But I'm not sure they get to the very heart of the question.

So I'll leave it to you and your table tonight:

Why does face-to-face matter so much? Is it merely because our technology isn't good enough to make the other person seem like they're in the room? Can you imagine a day when the video is so realistic that face-to-face won't matter anymore?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - If you want to know the real reason I went to Jerusalem, watch  this ... or this.

PPS - Want to make your Table Talk rabbi happy? Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.  

Even better, come visit us in Baltimore for some face-to-face time over some great coffee.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Call Me Sheleg

The goal of this email is foster a warm + cozy conversation at your Shabbat table. Please print and share...

Jerusalem snow-covered palmsGreetings from snowy Jerusalem.

After a decade of saving credit card points, I was privileged to come on a free flight.

The snowstorm on the East Coast was so fun that I decided to bring it with me to Israel.

Last year's blog about snow was so popular that in honor of the moment, I'm going to run it again today.

The question for your table is:

Why is a fresh snowfall so magical?

Think about it for a moment.

Is it because snow softens the sounds, slows the pace?

Is it because snow closes schools and is fun to play in?

The Hebrew word for snow is sheleg.

Normally, we look for significance of a word by how it's used in the Torah.

Sheleg is not used qua snow, rather to describe a perfect whiteness, as in "your sins will be made white as snow."

But the word sheleg has a peculiar quality.

Peculiar, that is, to those who study gematria (numerology). It's numerical value is 333.

Numerologists read that as: "The number three expanded to the utmost."

Or, "the ulimate in three-ness."

But what  is "three-ness"?

The number 3 in Jewish thought represents something foundational about humanity: "The world stands on 3 pillars: Torah, Avodah and Chesed" (Pirkei Avot).

(Loose translation: wisdom, spirituality, kindness)

These three qualities are exemplified by the three Patriarchs: Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac), Yaakov (Jacob).

Perhaps this numerology is the key to the lesson of snow.

We need those 3 pillars - Torah, Avodah and Chesed - to have a stable world. Snow shows us what the world would look like when we get the right balance of those three.

It's magical - blanketing the world with a clean whiteness, smoothing over all the bumps, hiding all the dirt.

snow-jerusalem-01-10-2012-12Yes, we know the dirt is there, and will be back soon enough.

But isn't it fun for a few minutes to pretend that it isn't?

But it's more than pretending. That magic is teaching us something.

It's reminding us what the world could look like all the time, if each of us worked on the area(s) where we are deficient in our own triangle.

Final question for your table: What's lacking most in the world - Torah, Avodah or Chesed?

Shabbat Shalom 

If you enjoyed this email, please "like" it, "tweet" it, or simply forward it or the online link to others who may enjoy it.

Friday, December 06, 2013

How to be Miserable

The purpose of this blog is to decrease misery at your Friday night dinner table and beyond. Please print and share.

Misery badge2 questions for your table:

1. Who's responsible for your happiness?

Most people will answer, "I am, of course!"

Let's see if that's true....

Question 2: What are the secrets to being miserable?

I.e., what are the habits of miserable people?

There are so many lists of habits of successful people, of happy people, of successful investors, of successful marriages etc.

What about the opposite?

Maybe this is hard for you to answer because you don't know any miserable people?

But if you do, think about habits they have that strengthen or increase their misery.

This is what psychotherapist Cloe Madanes did. Here's her list (abridged):

1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears, even when there’s little risk that you’ll actually suffer such losses. Concentrate on this fear, make it a priority in your life, moan continuously that you could go broke any day now, and complain about how much everything costs, particularly if someone else is buying. Try to initiate quarrels about other people’s feckless, spendthrift ways, and suggest that the recession has resulted from irresponsible fiscal behavior like theirs.

Fearing economic loss has several advantages. First, it’ll keep you working forever at a job you hate. Second, it balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!

2. Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain a lot about how bored you are. Go on repeated shopping sprees for clothes, cars, fancy appliances, sporting equipment (take several credit cards, in case one maxes out); start pointless fights with your spouse, boss, children, friends, neighbors; have another child; quit your job, clean out your savings account, and move to a state you know nothing about.
A side benefit of being bored is that you inevitably become boring. Friends and relatives will avoid you. You won’t be invited anywhere; nobody will want to call you, much less actually see you. As this happens, you’ll feel lonely and even more bored and miserable.

3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life. Talk about it to everybody, and make sure to read up on the symptoms so you can speak about them knowledgeably and endlessly. Practice the behaviors most associated with that condition, particularly when it’ll interfere with regular activities and relationships. Focus on how depressed you are and become weepy, if that’s your identity of choice. Refuse to go places or try new things because they make you too anxious. Work yourself into panic attacks in places it’ll cause the most commotion. It’s important to show that you don’t enjoy these states or behaviors, but that there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.
Practice putting yourself in the physiological state that represents your negative identity. For example, if your negative identity is Depressed Person, hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, breathe shallowly. It’s important to condition your body to help you reach your negative peak as quickly as possible.

4. Pick fights. This is an excellent way of ruining a relationship with a romantic partner. Once in a while, unpredictably, pick a fight or have a crying spell over something trivial and make unwarranted accusations. The interaction should last for at least 15 minutes and ideally occur in public. During the tantrum, expect your partner to be kind and sympathetic, but should he or she mention it later, insist that you never did such a thing and that he or she must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. Act injured and hurt that your partner somehow implied you weren’t behaving well.

Another way of doing this is to say unexpectedly, “We need to talk,” and then to barrage your partner with statements about how disappointed you are with the relationship. Make sure to begin this barrage just as your partner is about to leave for some engagement or activity, and refuse to end it for at least an hour. Another variation is to text or phone your partner at work to express your issues and disappointments. Do the same if your partner is out with friends.

5. Attribute bad intentions. Whenever you can, attribute the worst possible intentions to your partner, friends, and coworkers. Take any innocent remark and turn it into an insult or attempt to humiliate you. For example, if someone asks, “How did you like such and such movie?” you should immediately think, He’s trying to humiliate me by proving that I didn’t understand the movie, or He’s preparing to tell me that I have poor taste in movies. The idea is to always expect the worst from people. If someone is late to meet you for dinner, while you wait for them, remind yourself of all the other times the person was late, and tell yourself that he or she is doing this deliberately to slight you. Make sure that by the time the person arrives, you’re either seething or so despondent that the evening is ruined. If the person asks what’s wrong, don’t say a word: let him or her suffer.

6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.

7. Avoid gratitude. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?

Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all. Such attempts to encourage gratitude and cheerfulness are common and easily deflected. Simply point out that the things you should be grateful for aren’t perfect—which frees you to find as much fault with them as you like.

8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.

9. Blame your parents. Blaming your parents for your defects, shortcomings, and failures is among the most important steps you can take. After all, your parents made you who you are today; you had nothing to do with it. If you happen to have any good qualities or successes, don’t give your parents credit. Those are flukes.

Extend the blame to other people from your past: the second-grade teacher who yelled at you in the cafeteria, the boy who bullied you when you were 9, the college professor who gave you a D on your paper, your first boyfriend, even the hick town you grew up in—the possibilities are limitless. Blame is essential in the art of being miserable.

10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. If you inadvertently find yourself enjoying some flavor, song, or work of art, remind yourself immediately that these are transitory pleasures, which can’t compensate for the miserable state of the world. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through a forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception.

11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.

You can ruminate on the problems of others or the world, but make them about you. Your child is sick? Ruminate on what a burden it is for you to take time off from work to care for her. Your spouse is hurt by your behavior? Focus on how terrible it makes you feel when he points out how you make him feel. By ruminating not only on your own problems but also those of others, you’ll come across as a deep, sensitive thinker who holds the weight of the world on your shoulders.

12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.

Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.

13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.

14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.

Madanes's full list includes tongue-in-cheek "exercises" to help you increase your misery.

Here's my suggested exercise: give everyone at the table a copy of this list and suggest that they use it like a mirror on the wall.

Read it carefully.

Do you habitually do any of the above?

Back to Question 1: Who's responsible for your happiness?

Your spouse? Your boss? The stock market? God?

PS - I never do any of these things, right?


Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Channuka-Thanksgiving Myth

The purpose of this blog is to help you turn Thanksgiving into thanksgiving. Please share at the table and forward to everyone you know.... If you are still scrambling for Channuka gifts, you might look at our suggestions.

Stephen-Colbert-Report-Thanksgiving-HannukahQuestion for your table:

Why so much to-do about the intersection of Channuka and Thanksgiving today?

One email going around claims that "it has never happened before...and it will never happen again."

Others have claimed that there is no connection between Channuka and Thanksgiving.

In fact, they're both wrong.

As always, we will try to dispel myths and to tell you the full truth.

First, Thanksgiving wasn't always in November.

The first official American Thanksgiving was celebrated in December.

It was proclaimed by President Henry Laurens as his first official act as President of the Continental Congress of the United States of America.

George Washington was the first president under the Constitution, and he too issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation, but he wasn't the first (unlike this Wikipedia article).

Washington began his first term in 1789. Who do you think ran the country before that?

When the United States of America was born on July 4, 1776, John Hancock was at the helm. Then Laurens began his term on November 1, 1777.

He was a veteran, a farmer and a wealthy slave trader. He was also a free-thinking .

His first act as President was to declare a national Day of Thanksgiving on December 18, 1777.

According to the Proclamation, Thanksgiving should be a solemn day: "Servile labor and such recreations (although at other times innocent) may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment [and should] be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”

(Presidents like to issue proclamations, by the way. Back then, in times of war, they even declared days of "humiliation, fasting and prayer".)

Laurens was succeed by John Jay, Samuel Huntington, Thomas McKean and finally Maryland's own John Hanson.

200px-John_Hanson_Portrait_1770 Hanson proclaimed that December 13, 1781 should be a national Day of Thanksgiving.

Guess what, that was the 2nd night of Channuka.

Happened again in the 1800s.

And to those who say it won't happen again for 70,000 years?

That depends - will Thanksgiving always be on the 4th Thursday in November? I doubt it.

But there is a much more interesting connection between Channuka and Thanksgiving than merely the date.

On Channuka, there is a custom of saying Hallel - the song of praise, which emphasizes the Hebrew word HODU.

To understand this deeply, try to imagine you are the first European to visit America.

Of course, you think you're in India.

It's an amazing New World! Strange people, strange foliage, strange animals.

And you see this gobbly chicken-like bird.

What do you call it?

Remember, you think you're in India, so 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 is prominent in Hallel (mentioned above) because it also happens to mean "give thanks."

So from a Jewish perspective, you could say it's very appropriate to eat hodu on "hodu"-day.

But does that make Thanksgiving Jewish?

Look up the word "Jewish".

It means from the tribe of Judah.

Look up the word Judah.

It means, you guessed it: "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....)

Wait a second (I know you're thinking this)... Did he say "Jewish explorers"??

He did.

In fact - and this is a juicy one for your table - when Columbus famously came to the New World, who among his crew was the very first to spot land? Obviously, it must have been the man working in the upper mast on the front ship, right? And we know who this was: Roderigo De Triana, a Jewish sailor.

So for your table: How Jewish is Thanksgiving?

One last thought:

Jews on this side of the pond should consider ourselves lucky to live in a country that has a national day of Thanksgiving.

Think about it.

I will just leave you with one question for your table and my own answer.

If Channuka and Thanksgiving are both about thanksgiving, what's the difference?

It might be interesting to pose that to the table before reading them the rabbi's answer.

The rabbi says:

Thanksgiving has traditionally - since the Pilgrims - been about gratitude for our material blessings.

Channuka has always been about gratitude for our spiritual blessings, and our membership in a Tribe that takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. Then and now.

Happy Hannuka

Happy Thanksgiving

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Audio class on cultivating gratitude by the inimitable R. Rietti

PPS - Some of the above is quoted from the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle etc. Isn't it about time you forwarded a nugget like this to all your friends?

iPhone/iPad app

Android (Google) app

Android/Kindle (Amazon) version

Friday, November 22, 2013


Hannuka is next week.... here is the web's best list of the best Hannuka books, toys and gifts.

 embarrassed-300x300This week: a question for your table and an anti-question.

The question: What would you do if you realized that you had harmed someone?

(I hope the answers you get will be at the very least "I'd apologize.")

Now for the anti-question (meaning - don't answer it out loud!):

Have you ever embarrassed someone?

How about in public?The rabbis say that embarrassing someone in public is just about the worst thing you could do to someone. (Talmud Baba Metzia 59a).

Worse than murder!

It's so bad we should rather die a painful death than to do it!

It's so bad that if one does it and fails to get the victim's forgiveness, one "loses one's share in the World to Come" (ibid.).


Here's a true story told in the Art of Amazement (p. 174):

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the greatest of twentieth century sages, always attracted a crowd when he went outside his home in New York. Once, a particularly eager student rushed to help the Rav get into his car, and in doing so, slammed the door shut on Rav Moshe’s finger. Yet the Rav did not cry out—indeed, he did not react at all and the other occupants of the car did not realize what had happened until the car had driven several blocks and Rav Moshe opened the door to relieve his finger.

While a doctor treated the wound, an astonished student asked how it could be that Rav Moshe uttered no expression
of pain when the door was closed on his hand. Rav Moshe was reportedly taken aback with the question: “What? And embarrass that young man in public? God forbid!”

Can you name some common situations when this happens?

How about:
  • Embarrassing a child in front of other children
  • Embarrassing a spouse in front of children
  • A teacher embarrassing a student in class
  • Teasing someone when it ends up embarrassing them
So what's the remedy?

As you know by now, Channuka begins next week. If you'd like to hear one of my two Channuka classes (mp3 download), shoot me an email.

But I'd like to leave you with a pre-Channuka challenge. See if you can go 8 days in a row without embarrassing anyone.

It sounds easy, but it ain't.

Anyone who succeeds, let me know the dates you were embarrassment-free (honor system) and I'll send you a special Channuka present.

(Please share this challenge with any kids in your life so I can send them a special Hannuka present too!)

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Channuka

"The mouth is like a loaded gun. Before one shoots, he can aim the gun harmlessly at a target. However, once he fires the bullet, he loses control, and the bullet will hit anything in its path." - Rabbi Moshe Aharon Stern

PS - Please follow me on Twitter, or tweet this week's blog, or like it, or just send it to someone you love...

Friday, November 15, 2013

LIfe is a Pyramid

Looking for a Channuka gift, book or activity? Here's the web's best list of the best.

Life is a Pyramid
Three questions for your table: jewishspirituality.net_lifepyramid

1. Raise your hand if you ever felt like you just wasted a lot of time.

2. Why does this happen?

3. What's the solution?

Recently I joined Quora and have been asking myself if it is a good or poor use of my time.

In asking the question, I noticed that I'm able to rationalize just about anything.

Ever have that problem?

So someone on Quora recently asked:

What's the best way to manage your time?

The answers were quite interesting and if you'd like to see my compendium of the best ones, send me an email.

One of the answers included a pyramid similar to the one above.

I took one look at his pyramid and felt like I was having déjà vu all over again.

It's uncannily similar to the structure of Chapter 3 of my book (The Art of Amazement).

I borrowed his idea for the colored pyramid and tweaked the words to match my own orientation, and now present it to you as a self-assessment.

Color version
Black-and-white version

(Note the point system!)

Please print a copy for everyone at your Shabbat table and let me know if they agree or disagree that this is the surest path to living every day to the fullest.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Please follow me on Twitter, or tweet this week's message, or like it, or just forward it to someone you love...

Friday, November 08, 2013

Everyday Greatness

Looking for a Channuka book, gift or activity? 
We don't sell them, but we have an exclusive list of the best.

Have you heard of Alan Morinis?

Easily one of the nicest guys I've met.

Having done time in Marin, California, he now lives in Vancouver and has started a Jewish movement.

Alan has this great personal story.

By profession, he was an anthropologist, specializing in pilgrimmages.

And as a middle-aged Jewish male, Alan was looking up and down for meaning.

He tried everything.

Then he stumbled upon an obscure Jewish book that talked about something called "mussar". He loved what he read, and wanted to know more.

But he didn't know where to go.

He noticed that the book had been endorsed by a certain rabbi in Brooklyn. There was no information about this rabbi, but there was a phone book. Alan found him and asked if he could visit.

Over the next several years, Alan commuted from Vancouver to New York. He sat at the proverbial feet of his mentor - his rebbe - in order to absorb what he could and change his life.

From this learning came:

• Three books: Climbing Jacob's Ladder (partly a memoir of his journey), Everyday Holiness, and Every Day Holy Day.
• An organization with a mission to educate the world about mussar.
• Thousands of lives changed for the better.

So this all leads to two questions for your table:

1. Does spiritual greatness require a pilgrimage or quest, or can it be done at home?
2. What would get you to fly across the country to study with a rabbi?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Please follow me on Twitter, or tweet this week's email, or like it, or just forward it to someone you love...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Luck, Fate or Karma?

The purpose of this blog is to get kids of all ages talking at the Friday night dinner table. Print and share.

image001 Here's a true story for your table tonight, followed by an inescapable question.

Take a look at this photo, to the left.

Take your time to study it carefully.

Notice the position of the white pickup truck. How do you think it got there?

Notice where the guardrail is broken where the people are standing?

Notice how the breach is on the other side of the culvert (tunnel)?

According to police, the pickup was traveling about 80 mph when it crashed through the guardrail.

It flipped end-over-end bounced off and across the culvert and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, now facing the opposite direction from which the driver was traveling.

The 22-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger were unhurt except for minor cuts and bruises.

This occurred near Hurricane, Utah on Highway 59, on December 30, 2006.

Here's one speculation of how the accident occurred:


Now look at this perspective on the same scene:


Think it's a photoshop hoax?

I thought so too, but Snopes doesn't think so.

Snopes' research goes so far as to give us an arial photo of the same spot:


So now the obvious question for your dinner table:

Luck, fate or karma?

As I often tell the seniors in a local assisted-living home where many are mobility-challenged: If you're here today, that means you have something to contribute to the world. Even something as "small" as a smile can change the world.

(Even if your answer to the question is "luck", doesn't this attitude make life more liveable?)

Think about it.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - the locals want you to know that they call their town “Her-ah-kun”. Don't want you to sound like a tourist, they say.

PPS - IMHO, the idea of karma relates to the Jewish idea of hashgacha.
PPPS - Follow me on Twitter, or tweet this week's email, or like it, or just forward it on...

Friday, October 25, 2013

If Not Now, When?

The purpose of this blog is to convert your Friday night dinner table into a Shabbat table. Please print and share. (To dedicate a weekly message in honor or memory of a loved one, send an email.)

harbin smog china Here's a conversation-starter for your table tonight:

"So what do China's smog, the smell of coral, and the US Mail have in common?"

Answer: They all remind us how interconnected we all are (no more privacy and local problems easily become global), and geography matters more than ever before.

By hook or by crook.

Question 2: What's the solution?

I'm interested in your table's answers, please send.

I propose leadership-by-example.

For example, in this remarkable, true tear-jerker about an "ordinary" guy named Gershon who somehow managed to embrace globalization and exemplify selflessness while maintaining privacy.

A 3rd question for your dinner table:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
“My great concern is not whether you failed but if you are content with your failure.”
“That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”

OK, now let's put the two together. Instead of "happy", substitute your own emotional challenge:

"Most folks are as _______ as they make up their minds to be."

And then read the other 3 lines.

Now try out your new mantra every morning and once an hour. Try it for a week.

(Unless you disagree.)

But to quote the great rabbi, Hillel:

If I'm not for myself, why should anyone else be for me?
Yet if I'm only for myself, what value am I?
And what's my excuse not to start (having some self-esteem and start thinking beyond myself) right now?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - If you agree with those four quotes, you are in the company of Abe Lincoln.

PPS - Want to make your Table Talk rabbi happy? Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Happy People Do (and So Can You)

Happy Birthday Lisa - wishing you a year - and many more - of daily happiness! Love, Joel
(To dedicate a table talk in honor or memory of a loved one, send an email.)

If the title of this week's blog caught your attention, you're either a happy person or an unhappy person.

Or maybe a little of each?

(What sort do you suppose call or email their rabbi the most often? Sometimes the phone rings off the hook. Other times it's quiet. No news is good news? Or are they too stressed to call?)

 I don't know if it's a trend, or maybe we've entered a particularly unhappy period of human history, but happiness courses are now packed at Harvard and Stanford.

But I'm sure you know some people who are "happy people" and others who are "unhappy people".

Here's the first question for your table:

What do happy people do (differently from unhappy people)?
After everyone has a chance to answer, you might want to share with them this excellent post by blogger Jacob Sokol. Worth printing the entire thing, but here is my abridgement of his main points, called "12 Things Happy People Do Differently — And Why I Started Doing Them":

  1. Express gratitude. -- When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. We're gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren't thankful for what we already have.
  2. Cultivate optimism. -- People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. -- Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
  4. Practice acts of kindness. -- Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. (The job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.)
  5. Nurture social relationships. -- The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people's mortality rates are DOUBLED when they're lonely? We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
  6. Develop strategies for coping. -- How you respond to the tough moments is what shapes your character. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
  7. Learn to forgive. -- Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. Your mind doesn't know the difference between past and present emotion. When you "hate" someone, and you're continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are toxic for your well-being.
  8. Increase flow experiences. -- Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It's when you're so focused on what you're doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You're not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You're just completely engaged in the activity that you're doing.
  9. Savor life's joys. -- Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It's the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
  10. Commit to your goals. -- Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. Counter-intuitively, having no option -- where you can't change your mind -- subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
  11. Practice spirituality. -- When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.
  12. Take care of your body. -- Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don't have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here's the double whammy... Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
Wow - awesome blog. It makes me happy just to read it (#2) and happier to share it with you (#4).

2nd Question for your table - Is happiness a matter of nature or nurture?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Want to join a Happiness Club? Send me an email.

PPS - Want to make your Table Talk rabbi happy? Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

In memory of HaRav Ovadia Yosef, ztz'l. While he made occasional inflammatory remarks (sometimes misquoted sometimes flat-out wrong), he was undeniably an historic figure, a meteoric scholar, a transcendent and yet utterly compassionate Jewish leader. To give you a small idea of his enormous impact, one in seven Israelis, including untold thousands of secular Jews, attended his funeral on Monday (and I assume that most of the others who couldn't possibly fit into the streets of Jerusalem listened to it on the radio).

Dedicated to Mom in honor of her birthday - Happy Birthday, Mom!

In response to last week's post, at least one reader actually wondered, "Is that really what Judaism says, or his he making that up?"

I assure you, Dear Reader, I don't make this stuff up.

Like the story I'm about to tell you. It's a true story, believe it or not.

But first, a question:

Who is greater: one who never sins, or one who does wrong but then comes clean?

Here's the story:

Dan is a guy who lives in a pretty average American town.

He's employed. He has money. He is not having trouble making ends meet.

Let me mention as well that he's a married man, with children.

He gives to his local Jewish Federation. People know him.

So the other day he's shopping at a Whole Foods Market. He walks past the bulk sugar cookie bin and feels a wormhole  opening up, transporting him back in time.

Suddenly Dan is a teenager again. He feels an uncontrollable urge to do something risky. To do something illicit. To do something wild.

He snatches and stuffs not one but two cookies into his mouth.

These are not free samples.

For the next sixty seconds, Dan's mouth is so full that he can't even speak when greeted by one of the staff.

Can you picture this?

Not exactly your poster-child for human greatness, is it?

So the next day, Dan calls me to tell me about it. He's not proud. He is very matter-of-fact: "I knew what I was doing was wrong, I was just a kid again."

And the day after that, Dan is back in the store, insisting that the manager accept payment for the two cookies and apologizing.

True story.

Now I ask you again:

Who is greater: someone who would never stoop so low? Or someone like Dan, who does stoop low, but then comes clean, rights the wrong and apologizes?

As I told Dan, there ain't no one who never sinned, but the world is full of people who cannot - will not - own up to their wrongs.

Because they're more worried about looking good than being good.

Think about it.

(And there are also those who worry more about money than either looking good or being good. Oy.)

All right, one last question for you table:  
If you were the store manager, how would you respond to the apology? What if you caught someone like that with his hand in the cookie jar?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - A few weeks ago I sent out the following quote. Please forgive me for resending it:

"Apology is a lovely perfume - it can transform the clumsiest moment into the most gracious gift." - Margaret Runbeck

PPS - Want to make your Table Talk rabbi happy? Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Better Late Than Never?

The purpose of this email is to help you turn Friday night dinner banter into a thoughtful discussion. Please print and share.

In memory of Andrew Sarosi - Aharon ben Chaim - whose first yahrzeit was observed this week. May his memory be for a blessing.

Better Late Than Never?

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQAOvfwk8cPmW3symC96kyHj6UavsaFmBtnQUL9On5v0XEWVUoYThe other day I dropped our teenager off at the barbershop with a word of fatherly wisdom.

As I handed my son the tenspot, I said, "Don't forget to have in mind when you pay the barber that you're doing a mitzvah."

First question for your table: What mitzvah are you doing when you pay the barber?

Here's a clue in the form of a riddle:

What mitzvah is a chesed (kindness) if you do it and tantamount to murder if you don't do it?

Still don't get it? Alright I'll tell you.

Answer: "Thou shalt pay your worker on time."

Does the Torah really say that?

Sure does - Deuteronomy 24:14.

OK, if you read the actual verse, you might think it only means a poor person. (And I suppose that those people who read it casually or don't know about Judaism's Oral Tradition can interpret it in many ways, such as this and this and this.)

But the rabbis teach that this mitzvah:

1. Applies to any sort of wage earner, poor, rich or even middle-class
2. Is fulfilled if and only if you pay them before the end of the day that payment is due
3. Is only a spiritually-meaningful act ("mitzvah") if you have in mind that you're doing a mitzvah
4. In addition to the obvious benefit to the worker, has two benefits to the one who is paying

Second question for your table: What are the two benefits to the employer (including, in this case, my son)?

Shabbat Shalom

PS: This discussion is based on the idea that the Torah's essence, its fundamental principles, can be summed up in three words. Know what they are?

If you don't already know, watch this:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Can You Be Sorry But Happy?

The purpose of this blog is to make sure your Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur don't go to waste. Please print and share.

Can You Be Sorry But Happy?

Full mailboxSomeone read last week's Fiat email and wondered, "why did he write 'Happy Yom Kippur' - was that an error?"

Now that Yom K ippur is in the rearview mirror, and we've been cleansed of all our sins...

I have a big apology to make. I did make a big error (and many small ones).

But writing "Happy Yom Kippur" was not one of them.

The big one was that last week, some people received this message on Saturday morning instead of Friday.


For those who enjoy reading it on Friday, please forgive me.

And maybe this is a good reminder that the cleansing of Yom Kippur is only temporary.

If we're not saying "I'm sorry" at least once a day, we're probably not being honest.

(As I tell some of the men who study with me, "An apology a day keeps the rabbi away.")

I called this email "Happy Apologies" because a sincere apology is a happy moment. It's cleansing.

Isn't it?

No error, I meant it.

So...if you read the story about the Fiat, did you enjoy it?

Did you make a commitment for change this year? (You could ask this question at your table...)

Some people like to keep their commitments private, but telling others can sometimes help you keep them.

So I'd like to share with you my four commiments.

I figure the more people who know, the more focused I'll be on keeping them. All of these are a 6-week commitment:

Physical - Going to bed on time (so much to do, so hard to shut down).
Relationships - Phoning my sister once a week (the time difference makes it challenging).
Society - 10 fundraising meetings for JSL's amazing new project (I hate asking people for money).
Spiritual - 3 hours of Torah study every day (who has time?)

There you have it. I've bared my soul.

(The last one has been the most interesting. It's amazing how many unused minutes you can find in the day, if you try.)

What did you commit to?

Didn't make a commitment? Didn't make one that you feel you can keep? Made one but already screwed up?

Tonight starts the last 8 days of the High Holidays (Sukkot).

Eight more days to set your course straight for the year.

Good luck.

Happy Sukkot.

(no email next week)

"Apology is a lovely perfume - it can transform the clumsiest moment into the most gracious gift." - Margaret Runbeck
"Maturity is the ability to reap without apology and not complain when things don’t go well." -
Jim Rohn

PS:  At this time of year, many people try to give extra tzedaka. If you're that type, please help aleviate hunger or support Jewish education. This blog is supported exclusively by tax-deductible contributions from readers like you. This is one of two times each year we invite you to become a paid subscriber. If you're not a  subscriber/member/supporter, someone else is paying for you to enjoy this. If it's worth a nickel to you or more, please do the math and click here. It only takes a minute or so and any amount helps.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Change By Fiat?

Dedicated to the memory of Chana Leah (Jaqueline) Meyeri of San Francisco, who passed away this week after a long battle with breast cancer. May her husband, daughter and extended family be comforted. 

The purpose of this email is to change your life on Yom Kippur and beyond. Please print and share.

Full mailboxA riddle for your Yom Kippur table:

When is something small something big?

See how many answers you can come up with. I'll give you two, one is a story and the other is a Yom Kippur idea.

The story is something happened to me in San Francisco this week. When I went to get the rental car, the "midsized" cars were all gone. Never mind that when I paid for the car at the counter they forgot to mention that all they had were Fiat Minis.

The couple in front of me were not pleased.

They squinted in the bright September sunlight, surveying the lot.

"You don't have anything else, only Fiats?"

"Well, sir, we do have that Mustang over there which I could give you."

His face lit up. "Would there be an extra charge?"

"No, sir, I will give you the same price."

"That'll work!" All three were quite pleased - the couple and the agent.

But yours, truly, I'm thinking to myself, "Too bad I wasn't here a minute earlier, I could've had that Mustang. That would have been fun to drive."

The other travelers who didn't get the Mustang were not so pleased. Some of them even decided to wait for a larger car rather than drive the dreaded Fiat!

In the end, I was very fortunate that I didn't have the Mustang or any larger car.

Because.... I had to park in San Francisco.

And for the first time in 13 years Bay Area driving, parking was a breeze!

Check this out:

Easy Parking
    Easy parking with room to spare

To Americans, that ain’t a lot of car.

But so right for that city.

Speaking of paring down, last week's Rosh Hashana blog, "If I Can Do It, So Can You", resonated with a lot of readers.

(It turns out that not only has Zero Inbox already been discovered, someone even wrote a book about it. And here I thought I'd invented something.)

Does an empty Inbox at the end of the day appeal to you?

Does a clean desk appeal to you?

What about a clear head? A clear conscience?

Clutter outside leads to clutter inside. And vice-versa.

Order outside leads to order inside. And vice-versa.

Zero Inbox is the vision.

How do you get there?

“Just do it.”

In the age of liposuction, we all want to trim by FIAT.

It doesn’t work.

But there are two things the Fiat story can teach us:

1. Things really do happen for good reasons. Even though we don’t always see that right away.

2. Small is big. When you need to park in SF, small is huge. When you want to change yourself, a big commitment is worthless because you won’t be able to keep it, but a small step is a huge stride.

On Yom Kippur, after you finish counting all of your flaws, don’t promise yourself you’ll now be perfect. But DO commit to making one small change towards that new you. For example:

“I hereby commit to exercising once a week until Channuka.”
“…to eating no cookies for the month of October.”
“…to drinking no alcohol for 1 week.”
“….to smiling at my wife once a day for two weeks.”
“…to hugging my husband once a day until Thanksgiving.”
“…to pausing to say ‘Wow, thank You” every time I drink a glass of water for 4 weeks.”
“…to turning off the cell phone from 6-8 pm for 6 weeks.”
“…to turning off the TV and Internet every Friday night for 4 weeks.”
“…to giving 10 percent of my September income to tzedaka.”

Think about it. Plan it. Make the declaration out loud at sunset on Saturday, just before the end of Yom Kippur.

Then do it.

Someone in San Francisco asked me yesterday, “What if we don’t succeed?”

Answer: Not an option!

If you can even think that you might not succeed, then you are not committed, or you are over-reaching. Gotta be real, and gotta be 100% committed.

Now you know my answer to the riddle, When is something small something big?

When it's real.
May we all be sealed for life and peace, health and wealth, holiness and simcha; a zero inbox, easy parking, and a small but very real change for the better.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Yom Kippur

PS – Sukkot is next week and our recommended books and supplies, including the no-tools-snap-together Sukka, are at

PPS:  At this time of year, many people try to give extra tzedaka. If you're that type, please help aleviate hunger or support Jewish education. This blog is supported exclusively by tax-deductible contributions from readers like you. This is one of two times each year we invite you to become a paid subscriber. Nothing is free, so if you're not a supporter, someone else is paying for you to enjoy this. If it's worth a nickel to you or more, please do the math and click here. It only takes a minute or so and any amount helps.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

If I Can Do It, So Can You

The purpose of this email is to stimulate the cerebral cortex of those at your Rosh Hashana table. Please print and share.
Please see below for an important announcement.

Full mailboxWhen is losing gaining, and gaining losing?

Today, erev Rosh Hashana, I have a story for you to share at your table.

A true story of grit, sweat and determination.

It is the dramatic and ultimately cathartic tale of my...


Yes, it's true. The last Table Talk of the year (and the first, if you share it tonight) is a blog about the inbox.

Most of the time we are in such denial about our inbox that we pretend that it's not worthy of conversation.

But if you think about it, the inbox is an excellent indicator of a person's inner health.

Show me your inbox and I'll know what kind of person you are.

Show me a person with an endless inbox, and I'll show you a person who never seems to get projects finished, is always running from one thing to another and feeling quite overwhelmed by life.

(Or perhaps it's just a person who is using gmail. For some reason.)

Show me a person with an empty inbox, and I'll show you someone who is in charge of their life.

But (aside from those who suffer from gmail-itis) is an empty inbox even possible? And if it is possible, is it a goal worth striving for?

My personal story begins two years ago when I saw my inbox surge - after deleting spam and all low-hanging fruit - to over 900 messages. To some of you that probably seems petty, like someone bemoaning gaining five pounds.

It was indeed similar to the feeling I had around the same time when I noticed my waistline exceed 36 inches.

I could see the direction this was going.

And I didn't like it.

I knew it was going to be an epic battle, a clash of wills between me and.... myself.

Who was going to win?

There are multiple roads to success on trimming down. But what's the value if you lose but regain?

So the first step is setting up some new habits. Like folders to file away any email that doesn't get a reply within 1 week. For any reason. If it didn't get a reply in a week, it must not have been that urgent.

Well, like my weight loss, I was able to trim significant fat in the first year. But when I got to around 100 messages, it seemed like I just couldn't cut more. That inbox bounced up and down from about 75-125 for this past year.

It was crazy. And a bit frustrating.

Maybe a sane person would just give up and learn to live with himself.

Maybe I'm insane, but last Rosh Hashana I decided to dream big.

I dreamed of what I wanted to become, my greatest vision for myself.

And that was someone with an empty INBOX.

Frankly, it has been a brutal year. Up and down, up and down, more down than up, but then you go out of town and look what happens, you end up bloated... What kept me hopeful through it all was that vision.

And of course I had a plan, a system.

Well, today I'm happy to say, on the very last day of the year I did it.

I surely had a lot of help from Above, but the first thing I had was a vision, a dream.

What's your dream? What kind of person would you like to become?

Organized? Patient? Punctual? Calm?


Visualize that potential you on Rosh Hashana. Ask for it when you hear the shofar.

Then on Sunday morning, write down on low-tech paper three steps you need to take to get there.

Tonight and over the next 2 days is our annual chance to  push RESET.

How is this year going to be differerent for you? Is it going to be the same old patterns and bad habits, or something new.

Think about what it would be like to have an EMPTY inbox.

Down to ZERO messages.

It feels great.

I recommend you do it to.

Not only with your email. With any clutter in your life.

If you knew you could absolutely accomplish one personal goal in the coming year, what would it be? Think about that yearning dream when you listen to the shofar tomorrow.

That vision is what will justify another year of life.

Important Announcement: At this time of year, many people try to give extra tzedaka. If you're that type, please help eleviate hunger or support Jewish education. This blog is supported exclusively by tax-deductible contributions from readers like you. This is one of two times each year we invite you to become a paid subscriber. Nothing is free, so if you're not a supporter, someone else is paying for you to enjoy this. If it's worth a nickel to you or more, please do the math and click here. It only takes a minute or so and any amount helps.

May you be inscribed and sealed for life, joy, health, wealth and peace...and an empty inbox.


PS - I've created a downloadable sheet of "significant omens" that are traditionally said at the Rosh Hashana meal. I've added a few jocular modern ones. Try adding your own, and encourage anyone you're with to do the same. The public sample is here, you can download the full one here (requires free logon if you don't already have one).

Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Daze of Awe

Looking for a Rosh Hashana gift? Here are our recommendations (order today to arrive in time).
Looking for a gift for your child's new teacher? Try these. 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTv8QQx2DKXMiDyNPPDJX34FHFF4kp5eRkyYidn7IH6caIJC_glWell, it's that time of year again....

Back to school....

Cooler weather...

Apple season, wine season...the county fair...


Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur...

Doh! Why did you have to bring that up!

Let me keep dozing through Labor Day, then I'll start to wake up!

The first question for your table is: Why are these called the "Days of Awe"???

Now, we've been talking about this for 7+ years.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are the eight most popular Rosh Hashana Table Talks, please take your pick:

2007 - Dessert
2008 - Rosh Hashana for the Rest of Us
2008b - Top Ten
2009 - Higher
2009b - You're Late, You're Late, For a Very Important Date
2010 - What Do You Want to Fix?
2011 - Staying Awake on Rosh Hashana
2012 - What Matters Most

2nd question for your table....

The last week of the year can fix the entire past year. Like tonight - make it a "perfect" Friday night and it will correct all of the imperfect Friday nights of the year. Be happy tomorrow and all the sad/grumpy/angry Saturdays of the year will vanish.

So.... if you could undo or redo one decision or one action or one day of this past year, what would it be?

While you're pondering that, I'd like to wish you and yours a sweet, healthy, happy, holy, uplifting, beautiful, interesting, stimulating, amazing 5774. L'shana tova. May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Want to make your Table Talk rabbi happy? Like it, tweet it, or just forward it to someone who might enjoy it.

PPS - If you are the type who looks for extra ways to give tzedaka at this time of year, please help eleviate hunger or support Jewish education.