Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

The purpose of this blog is to add something unexpected to your Shabbat meals. Please print and share. 

purimgirls 2This picture is what you get when just before Purim, one daughter turns 7 and her sister turns 11.

The third actor in this drama is, of course, Queen Esther.

Yesterday our little Queen Esther asked, "Is Mordechai bad?"

"No," we reassured her.

"Good, because I love him."

Really getting into her rĂ´le.

Later in the day, someone in California reading the Purim story asked, "What does Queen Vashti have to do with it? It seems pretty random."

"Ahh," answered the rabbi, "That's the key to the entire story."

Randomness....a big topic in math, physics, statistics, philosophy and theology.

Bottom line, the Purim story is about how disparate events over a long period of time can be interconnected.

But you don't get it until you read the "whole megilla".

And then you can laugh when you realize that everything, in the end, makes sense.

galtonIn the Old Days (remember those days?) the Seattle Science Center had a giant glass Galton Box.

It's very simple. Balls drop through a slot at the top and then bounce randomly among pegs until they pile up at the bottom.

On the outside of the glass there is a painted bell curve.

Now, even though each balls bounces randomly, the sum total of balls always fall according to the bell curve.

You could watch that thing for hours, for days, for years - the balls always fall according to that curve.

In other words, while an individual event may appear random, the big picture is not.

That's my interpretation. What's yours?

Shabbat Shalom


Happy Purim

PS - Having trouble laughing at life? Try this "kabbalah" parody, this moral comedy or this Charlie Chaplan classic.

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Popeners and Closures

The purpose of this blog is to add some zest to your Shabbat meals. Please print and share.


Years ago, pre-internet, ownership of a genuine popener was a sign of true worldliness.

It was one of those souvenirs that when your friends saw it in your kitchen, declared, "I - yes I - have been to Rome!"

And it only would have cost you a couple thousand liras.

Nowadays, you can score one for a score from the comfort of your living room.

(They're rumored to be infalliable. Until they get too old and need to

(But you would presumably prefer one of these or these.)

Get 'em while they're hot....

All this Rome talk reminds me of what my grandfather used to ask me when the subject of keeping kosher came up.

"Haven't you ever heard of the expression, 'when in Rome'???"

(In case it isn't clear, what he meant was, when you're around people who don't keep kosher, why do you insist on eating kosher?)

He probably asked me that, with a glimmer in his eye, a dozen times.

And each time he said it, he heard the same retort:

"Yeah, but look what happened to them!"

(i.e., they're gone and we're still around)

Of course, they're not really gone, they're helping the faithful open beer bottles 'round the world.

Which reminds me....last week's Superbowl blog drew a reader's critique:

It is NOT G-dly "sheleimut" to offer pity and condescension to ANYONE (e.g., lobbing the ball softly up into the air for Shaya and pretending that Shaya actually hit a home-run) -- it's exactly the opposite -- it's INSENSITIVE and DEMEANING and SELF-CENTERED

Glurges such as Shaya’s, although well-intentioned, can potentially damage the self-esteem of persons with disabilities and other challenges who do NOT want any pity or handoutsv — they just want a fair chance to do the best they can to the limits of their innate, G-given talents and abilities; they are PERFECT (exactly as they are) for THEIR G-d-ordained Mission and Purpose in this One Life.

Rather than telling you my response, let me pose the question to you, Dear Reader, and your table:

Is the Shaya story (whether true or not) admirable or objectionable? Right or wrong? Holy or profane?

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - My grandfather always chuckled.

If you enjoyed this blog, please like it, tweet it, or just forward it to everyone you know.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Does God Care?

The purpose of this blog is to help the family talk about the most important issues of the day. Please print and share.

gods-linebacker 2

This week, two Superbowl questions for your table.

The first question is one that I know is already on your mind:

Does God care who wins (or won) the Superbowl?

(The answer of course, is yes, which is why He's so happy this week.)
To make it a serious question for serious conversation, here are another couple factors to add to the equation.

1. For the sake of discussion, let's define "God" as "infinite, unlimited being".
2. "Care" is a very human term. But maybe what people mean by that question is "involved".

Looking forward to your family's answers.

This week's second question is no less pressing.

There was a parade in Baltimore and not in San Francisco - are you comfortable with that?

That question leads to a story, followed by the third question.

Here's the story, which has been going around the Jewish world for a few years.

It’s about a boy named Shaya.

Shaya was “special". He was slower than the other boys. His brain worked slower and his body worked slower.

Shaya attended a Jewish boys’ school and he played with his classmates on a Jewish baseball league. Their team was called the Allstars.

Shaya wasn’t very good. He couldn’t hit the ball, he couldn’t catch the ball, he always forgot which way to run.

But his classmates were nice to him, always gave him a high-five and he loved being part of the team, wearing the uniform and getting his turn at bat just like the other boys.

At the end of the sixth-grade season, the Allstars had made it into the championship game against the Whitesox. At the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, the Allstars were down by two points, there was one man on base and guess what....Shaya was up.

If I told you that they put someone else up in his place that would be untrue. His team put Shaya up in the normal batting order (rules are rules after all...). They all realized that they were not going to win the game, but they encouraged Shaya anyway, why shouldn’t he have fun? “Go gettem, Shaya!” Who knows, maybe there would be a miracle?

When the Whitesox pitcher saw who was up to bat, he smiled and walked halfway to home plate. Then he pitched the slowest underhand pitch he could. Shaya swung and missed.

“That’s OK, Shaya,” his teammates shouted. “Keep your eye on that ball!”

The pitcher took a few steps closer and pitched again, as gingerly as he could launch that ball. Shaya swung and missed.

Then one of Shaya’s teammates stepped up behind him and helped him hold the bat. The Whitesox pitcher tossed a third lazy ball, right over the strike zone. With help, Shaya made contact on the ball and it went in a lazy arch right towards the pitcher.

This is when the excitement started. The Whitesox pitcher dodged the ball and let it land on the ground. Seeing that it was a fair ball, Shaya’s teammates yelled, “Run, Shaya, run!!” Shaya started to run the wrong way and his batting-buddy steered him towards first base.

Meanwhile, the Whitesox pitcher picked up the ball and through it towards first base. But he threw it in such a high arc that it went way over the head of the firstbaseman and landed near the edge of the field. Shaya was still running, and his teammates were all yelling, “Run Shaya, run!!” When Shaya got to first, he hesitated but his coach pointed him towards second. Meanwhile, the firstbaseman had retrieved the ball and was throwing it towards second. But he, too, overthrew his teammate by a mile, allowing Shaya to make it to second. Already Shaya’s two teammates who had been on base made it home and the score was tied. By now, everyone, not only the Allstars but even the Whitesox, they were going crazy, yelling “Run, Shaya, run!” Shaya was running for his life!

The same thing happened at third – the outfielder who picked up the ball threw it over the head of the thirdbaseman and Shaya rounded third! He was on his way home and all of the parents in the stands were on their feet, everyone was yelling, “Run, Shaya, run!!”

When Shaya made it home, he was swarmed by both teams, the Allstars and the Whitesox, who lifted him up on their shoulders and chanted, “Shaya, Shaya, Shaya!”

Question for your table - How does the achievement of those boys compare to the achivement of the Ravens?

Those boys reached "sheleimut" that day. Same root as shalom. Maybe you can define it.

But the real home-run question is, can this value be taught? Or does it just happen?

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - To friends in the Bay Area, hoping to see you Monday night.

As always, if you enjoyed this blog, please "like" it, "tweet" it, or simply send the link to others who may enjoy it.

Friday, February 01, 2013

You're a 10

The purpose of this blog is to get the kids and folks talking. Please print and share.


Today's question for your table is something that I know has been bothering you for a long time.

You've probably laid awake at night wondering this.

Maybe you've googled it a few times. Google doesn't know.

Psychologists have discovered that we're wired for the number 7.

But for some reason when listing the "top" of any category, we love 10.

Why is this?

Similarly, when we do a countdown, it's always from ten; we never start at nine or eleven.


Why do weight-lifters do sets of ten?

[pause for discussion around your table]

So here's an experiment I've done numerous times.

Practically everyone in the world has heard of the Ten Commandments.

Some people (anyone at your table?) can actually name them.

There are even a few who can name them in order.

Even some who saw the movie.

Here's the problem - when you look at the text of the Torah - in any language - is it clear that there are exactly ten?

Try it yourself. Here's the text - print it out and pass it around the table - don't tell everyone there are ten - just ask them, how many commandments are there?

(Exodus Ch. 20:1-14)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2  I am the Lord your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for you any engraved image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of those who love me, and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work; 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and made it holy. 12 Honor your father and your mother; that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you. 13 You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 14 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s.

And what's even more interesting is that although we seem to agree that there are supposed to be ten, others count them differently than we do.


Now I'm assuming by now I've convinced you that there could easily be eleven or twelve commandments on that list.

So here's the question:

Does that sit OK with you - "The 12 Commandments" - ??

If not, why not?

And finally - aren't there supposed to be 613 commandments? (proof that we're not addicted to round numbers?)

So what's up with these ten?

Let me know what you and your table-mates come up with, would you please?

Shabbat Shalom 

FebClasses2013_TeleconferenceV3PS - Parenting is a lot harder than a simple to-do list, great parenting needs great coaching.

Simi Yellen is one of the best out there. Here's the info on her new phone-class starting next week.

If you have a 2-15-year-old, this is for you. If you know someone who does, please let them know.

Great parents will benefit too.

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