Friday, June 27, 2014

Floating Through Life?

The goal of this email is to help your Friday night dinner float above the first six days of the week. Please print and share.
In memory of my grandmother Yehudis bat Alexander, whose yahrzeit is remembered tonight.

Dead Sea Float

Greetings from Terra Santa!

Here's my take on the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on Planet Earth.

You've heard about how you can't sink?

You wondered if it's true?

OK, so it's true. See the picture? I'm truly not sinking.

But here's the thing.

There's nothing refreshing to me about the Dead Sea. It's called "dead" for a reason.

One wouldn't enjoy swimming there. One ends up quite slimy.

They say it restores health. I'm not convinced.

I'm pretty sure the only reason to go is to get a picture of yourself floating in it.

"Look Ma, no hands!"

"Now where are those showers?"

(I should add here that I'm exaggererating to make a point. For those who are into sunbathing or being slimy, it's a fabulous spot.)

So here's this week's question for your table: How often do you do something just to be able to say you did it, but with no actual cultivation? Is this a problem? If so, what's the solution?

(Hint: it has something to do with this word.)


Shabbat Shalom

PS - Speaking of not floating thru life, check this out

Friday, June 20, 2014

Do you deserve an "A" for effort?

The goal of this blog is to help your Friday night dinner conversation exceed expectations. Please print and share.
effort star

Imagine you hired a contractor who not only did what he promised, he went above and beyond what he had agreed to do.

Would you notice? Would you care very much?

Every happen?

Psychologists Ayelet Gneezy (U.C. San Diego) and Nicholas Epley (University of Chicago) were wondering how much payoff there is for exceeding a promise.

According to their study,
“when companies, friends, or coworkers put forth the effort to keep a promise, their effort is likely to be rewarded. But when they expend extra effort in order to exceed those promises, their effort appears likely to be overlooked.”

Put bluntly: Nobody cares you went the extra mile.

For the sake of discussion, let's assume their research is valid.

If so, here's the obvious question for your table:

Let's think of the many areas we make promises and commitments: marriage, children, parents, jobs, etc.

If exceeding a promise or commitment is likely to be overlooked, is there any reason to do so?

Think about it.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Not too late to stock up on summer-vacation books and toys for kids AND parents....

PPS - The "effort" star image above is a sticker you can get here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Do You Want Knowledge or Wisdom?

The goal of this blog is to foster rewarding Friday night dinner conversation. Please print and share.
In memory of my grandparents, Eliezer ben Zelig and Sima bat Yaakov Mordechai.

The-Enterprise-Needs-Big-KnowledgeWhen you hear the name King Solomon, what's the first thing that comes to mind?



The Good Book calls him wisest person in history.

But what does that mean exactly?

What's wisdom?

He is reported to have known astronomy and other natural sciences, including botany and zoology. He allegedly understood the languages of animals. He mastered statecraft and foreign relations. He composed music, poetry and literature, and under his guidance the Jewish People created architectural and engineering wonders.
Some say he could easily sink a 40-yard putt.
But we call these intellectual and spiritual achievements knowledge, not wisdom.

Knowledge is something that you can put on the internet. Wisdom is something else.

The other day a radio show guest claimed that in the next decade, professionals such as doctors and lawyers will face the same type of obsolescence due to technology that low-wage workers have long experienced. Patients and clients will get many medical and legal answers from apps.

But isn't there an aspect of medicine and law that can't be automated?

That's the wisdom part.

When Solomon became king of Israel, he didn't ask for wealth or fame, or even knowledge. He prayed for one thing only:

" understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad...."

In honor of my grandparents, who knew each other for exactly seventy years and seventy days, I would like to cull one piece of wisdom from their marriage, for myself and for you.

Many people think of a relationship in terms of "what can s/he do for me".

Yet as long as I knew them, it was clear through their actions that "good" in their marriage meant "making my spouse happy" and "bad" meant "not making my spouse happy."

Think about it.

So here is this week's question for your table: Based on King Solomon's definition of wisdom, did my grandparents have a "wise" marriage?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Looking for a summer book? I heard this author interviewed the other day and it sounds like a great read for anyone interested in modern Israeli history.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Is Your Life Random?

The goal of this blog is to foster unpredictable Friday night dinner conversation. Please print and share.

In memory of my grandparents Eliezer ben Zelig and Sima bat Mordechai Yaakov, whose yahrzeits will be observed next week.

dice roll
The other day my wife and I took our four-year-old on a Shavuot walk.

She (4-year-old) asked, "Where are we going?"

"We're just walking."

"You mean we're just going random?"

And without waiting for an answer, she skipped ahead of us, down the block.

My wise wife then said, "You know, if we go too far, one of us is going to end up carrying her."

"Let's wait and see, she's a pretty good walker. Besides, it's nice and cool out."

Sure enough, we wandered, randomly.

Sure enough, we did go "too far". The sun came out and it warmed up about ten degrees.

On the last quarter-mile, we started to hear, "I can't walk anymore!"

The Talmud defines "wisdom" as the ability to foresee an outcome.

My wife is obviously a wise woman.

But this week's question for your table is about randomness.

Jewish wisdom says that the journey we take is actually out of our hands. We may buy the ticket, but could miss the flight. Or the flight might be cancelled.

Random things - out of our control - occur all the time.

So the question is - Let's assume for the sake of discussion that Jewish wisdom is correct, that the outcomes of your choices are out of your control. Then what can you really be held responsible for?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Not too late to stock up on summer-vacation books and toys for kids AND parents....