Friday, July 26, 2013

Hidden Miracle?

Hidden in Plain SightAs presented a few weeks ago, your Table Talk is in summer L'Chaim mode.

The suggestion is this:

At some point during the Shabbat meal, pour everyone their favorite beverage for a l'chaim.

But ask them not to drink until after you finish the story. Make this a ritual every Friday night, and your family will look forward to it.

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L’Chaim Story
Parshat Eikev

“Hidden Miracles”

Rabbi Shlomo of Bobov heard of a Jew from a distant community who was on his way to Sanz, but had fallen seriously ill.

The man was lying in strange lodgings with no one to care for him, and his life was in danger. Rabbi Shlomo hurried to place the man under the care of the city’s best doctors. The doctors did their utmost to cure the man, whose illness was affecting his lungs, but their efforts did not help. They despaired of the patient’s life.

“He has no lungs left,” one of the doctors said. “There is no hope.”

Upon hearing this, Rabbi Shlomo went to his grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, crying, “The patient is in very bad shape. The doctors have given up on him. Mercy!”

Rabbi Chaim seized Rabbi Shlomo’s coat and said, “Why are you crying to me? The doctors do not decree what God does. If the man has no lungs, God can create a new one for him. Go to the patient and wish him a speedy recovery!”

Rabbi Shlomo returned to the sick man and told him what the tzaddik had said. ....

For copyright reasons, the rest of the story may not be displayed here, but we'll be happy to send it along, just send an email.
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Shabbat Shalom

PS - For a short and sweet philosophical expansion of this topic in free will, click here.

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Excerpted and adapted with permission from Stories My Grandfather Told Me, Vol. 5, © 2001 ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. All rights reserved. Get the book here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A guest blog this week, from Rabbi Steve Baars....I'm on his weekly "BLISS" email list and found this week's message funny and profound. Hope you will enjoy it too.

Married to a Dog

Dog and chewed shoesWoman on the phone to her husband:

“Honey, you remembered my birthday. You are the best. What a great present. A new puppy! He’s so cute. I think I’m going to call him ‘RJ’ after you. It’s the best birthday present you ever got me.”

Husband:  “You know I love you. I’m just happy you’re happy. Now, just remember, you know how they like to chew on shoes and things. And of course, we have to get him house trained and all that stuff.”

Wife:  “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all down. I was going to give him some old slippers, but he already got my new ones. It’s OK though. I’m sure we’ll be having a few of those ‘accidents’ before he gets it right."

Later that day, however …

Wife:  “Honey, something I forgot to mention earlier. I know you can’t have everything, but it’s just a little annoying. You left your socks on the bedroom floor, again. How come you can’t clean up after yourself?”

Husband:  “Just call me ‘RJ’ ---- after the dog.”

Hopefully your spouse is a lot smarter and more responsible than a dog.  And I am not suggesting the wife should put up with RJ (the husband) leaving his socks lying around.  After all, she’s not the maid.

So, telling your spouse what you need and want is important.  But being effective is more important.

With that in mind, don't you think RJ (the husband) would rather be the dog?  Chewing up the new slippers got a far better reaction than leaving the socks on the floor.

It’s clear that the husband’s mistake is not the crime here.

The problem is the expectation.  What the dog did is far worse, but the expectations of the dog are far less.

So, what should you expect from your husband?

The surprising answer is, the same as from the dog.

You want the dog to not chew the slippers, but you expect it’s not going to be that easy.

Same with your husband.

Or, put another way, what is the expectation this wife is living with?


If you expect perfection then you will always, always be disappointed.

Your spouse is not perfect, but if you play your cards right, he will be.

Let’s look at the conversation again.

Notice she said “again,” meaning he’s done this before.  And notice the, “I know you can’t have everything” comment, not to mention the, “it’s just a little annoying” remark.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure this conversation happens both ways.  He’s probably got his things that he calls his wife on too.

But, she’s annoyed that he did it “again.” Well, how about her “again.”  She says the same thing to him again and again, yet her comments don’t work.  Why doesn’t she try a different path instead of repeating herself.  How can you blame your spouse for repeating the same mistake when you do it, too?  You don’t train dogs that way.  If you see you aren’t getting anywhere you need to come up with a better strategy.

Let’s keep going in the conversation:  She says, “I know you can’t have everything.”  Well, he just told her what makes him happy is for her to be happy.  He bought her what she wanted and she ruined the whole experience.  She told him she was happy until she saw the socks.  The net result, after all is said and done, is an unhappy wife.  So from his point of view, the whole thing was a waste of time.

Again, I am not saying he is off the hook – "idiot, don’t leave your socks around!" – but what motivation does he have to do anything right when any small mistake obliterates all the good.  The husband’s takeaway from the whole experience was “Why should I even try if everything always has to be perfect?”

Listen, I have been married long enough to know that the wife in our story doesn’t really mean this.  But don’t count on the husband to get that point.

Back to her phone call: “It’s a little annoying.”  I am sure it is.  And he should pick up his socks.  But, if you want to start complaining to your spouse about everything that is little annoying, then you need to keep in mind that there is no end to that list - on both sides!  When "a little annoying" becomes the standard for complaining, you should appreciate you are giving your spouse permission to do the same.  Is that what you really want?

Do you really want your spouse to complain to you about every little thing you do wrong?

And let’s not forget the final twist: “How come you can’t clean up after yourself?”  She should remember to wash the knife after pulling it out of his back.  How does she want him to answer this?

Take your pick:

• “My mother raised us in a kennel?”
• “I have sub-par IQ?”
• “I am the evil twin of Osama bin Laden?”

If you want your spouse to think through his/her actions, think through your words.  If your words didn’t work last time, then think them through before you use them again.


OK, so what should she have done that would be helpful.  And in truth, this is neither easy nor intuitive for most people.  But it’s important to keep in mind when faced with something annoying. It’s so much easier to be negative and destructive, to criticize and complain.

So, let’s play the second part of the conversation again, but with a little more forethought:

Later that day…

Wife:  “Honey, something I forgot to mention earlier.  I know how busy you are and how much you have on your mind.  And things between us are so good lately, so I hope you don’t mind. ... I need your help.”

Husband:  “Sure, honey, anything for you.”

Wife:  “Listen if this isn’t a good time, then just tell me.  You know how sometimes little things get to me.”

Husband:  “Sure, honey, go ahead.”

Wife:  “It’s no big deal, really, and it’s more my issue than yours, but do you think there is a way we can organize the bedroom so your socks don’t end up on the floor?”Husband:  “Oh, I did that again? I can’t believe it. I’m sorry, honey. I know that bothers you and I’ve been trying to remember. But I was in such a rush this morning. You know, I think if we put a hamper in the bedroom it might help. What do you think?"

Wife:  “I love you so much!"

We don’t always find the right words. Conversations happen and we say what is on our mind, but just like we don’t always think through what we say (a common experience), we similarly, don’t always think through what we do.

When we don’t think through what we say, we are no better than our spouses who didn’t think through what they did. But this is OK, because like dogs, we all need a little training.

Question for your table: Does this story apply to other relationships, or only to a marriage?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Mud on the Scales

In fond memory of Michael Roskin z"l who had so many good deeds he needed no mud on his scales. May his memory be for a blessing.
(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)

Mud on the Scales

Muddy CarpetAs presented a few weeks ago, your Table Talk is now in L'Chaim mode.

The suggestion is this:

At some point during the Shabbat meal, pour everyone their favorite beverage for a l'chaim.

But ask them not to drink until after you finish the story. Make this a ritual every Friday night, and your family will look forward to it.

L’Chaim Story
Parshat Chazon / Devarim

“Mud on the Scales”

Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin once visited a certain town, and he stayed at the home of the town's wealthiest citizen.

Many chassidim came to this big beautiful home in order to see the rebbe.

It was the rainy season and they tracked mud and dirt into the house.

The host was not pleased.

In fact, he was quite furious.

Rabbi Yisrael saw and understood his host's anger and said, "I will tell you a story....

For the rest of this copyrighted story, and this week's question, please send an email.

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Shabbat Shalom

Friday, July 05, 2013

Father's Day

In memory of my father, Dovid ben Eliezer (Dennis Seinfeld).
(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)

Father's Day

Saba and KidsFor you, yesterday was Fireworks Day.

For me, yesterday was Father's Day.

It was eight years - on the Jewish calendar - since my dad passed away in a sudden and tragic way.

He had been healthy - running every day, eating right, yada yada.

And each yahrzeit the past seven years, I have tried to remember one facet of who he was.

A person who continues to inspire us and motivate us is not fully gone.

He was called many things by people who mourned him.

"Champion of Justice" (his epitaph).

"Man of integrity".




This year I would like to share with you what was arguably my father's greatest legacy.

If you and I could skim even a bit of the cream off the top of this one, we would change the world.

He didn't seek the limelight, not even a little bit.

He didn't want attention or awards or any of that stuff.

So you can imagine my surprise when 1,000 people from all walks of life came to pay their respects eight years ago.

What was his secret?

My father understood, deep in his gut, that the greatest happiness in the world was seeing other people succeed.

Get this - every year he attended the community college graduation. For days afterwards, he would tell about these graduates who overcame the odds to graduate from community college.

These were people he didn't even know! He met them for the first time at graduation.

True, he derived immense satisfaction from his own creative projects, especially carpentry.

But his greatest joy was watching someone achieve their potential. He absolutely loved seeing others succeed.

Even if they bested him.

All the more so if they bested him.

In that sense, no one bested him. No one was greater than he at this quality.

Question for your table.... Is that a trait that you're born with, or is it something you can work on?

Shabbat Shalom

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