Friday, October 31, 2014

Who's a Hero?

The goal of this blog is to make you the hero of your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

superjew-434Smack in the middle of the Jewish Book of Ethics (Pirkei Avot), the Rabbi Ben Zoma asks four questions:

Who is "rich"?
Who is "wise"?
Who is "strong"?
Who is "honorable"?

All good stuff for your Shabbat Table.

Now here's your answer key:

1. One who is contented.
2. One who learns from everyone.
3. One who has self-control.
4. One who honors others.

If you don't mind, I'd like to add a 5th question to Ben Zoma's list:

Who's "a hero"?

After everyone at your table contemplates that for a bit, try these:

1. Can you name a well-known person generally treated as rich, wise, strong or honorable but according to Ben Zoma is not? Can you think of anyone who is?

2. I say that a hero is someone who is falling short in one or more of Ben Zoma's ideals but then works on himself and masters it — even just one of the four. If you could become a hero in just one of them in this lifetime,  which would you choose?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, October 24, 2014

What's in a Tongue?

In honor of my mom's 75th birthday this week (on the Hebrew calendar). Happy Birthday Mom! May you live in good health, increasing wisdom and simchat chayim until 120.

TongueThis week for your Shabbat table I have a question followed by two interesting stories, followed by another question, followed by a challenge.

The first question: Can most human relationship problems be healed with better communication?

Think before you answer.

The first story: Yesterday I made a shiva call to someone bereft of his mother. She had been a refugee from Germany. Her parents had fled with her through Italy, then France, then Spain and Portugal, and from there to South America before arriving to the USA.

The girl had the gift of gab, and in each country she picked up the language.

By the time she arrived to the States at age 22, she was fluent in some seven languages. This gift enabled her to land a job in the executive offices of an international toy company.

"The fact that it was a toy company was good for me," said her son at shiva.

The second interesting story was reported in the news yesterday.

Four years ago, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg set himself the goal of learning conversational Mandarin.

I don't know what his daily schedule is like, but it's hard to imagine that he has more free time than you or I. I suspect he may have less.

In any event, he put his proverbial money where is mouth is and began studying at the breakfast table.

This week, he visited China and gave a thirty minute public interview entirely in Mandarin.

These two stories lead me to the second question for your table and the challenge:

Question #2 - What language or "language" would you like to learn? (By "language" with quotation marks I mean various communication skills like empathy, attentiveness, and it may include music theory or even music appreciation. Or even....??)

The Challenge - When are you going to start?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Anyone who is interested in learning to read and understand Biblical Hebrew would be well advised to try this fabulous book. If you would like to learn spoken Hebrew, shoot me an email.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Do you say "rooof" or "ruf"?

In memory of Ronald Fischman, 54, was stabbed to death in his Philadelphia home last week by a man he had tried to help. He was described by his rabbi as "one of the most compassionate people I know - he had an enormous heart."
(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.)

mendel-sukkahToday's title is a serious question - How do you pronounce the word "roof"?

Where I grew up, the top of your house was pronounced "ruf" (rhymes with book) and the horse's foot a "huf".

Then I moved to Mississippi. Down there folks say "reeuf" (sounds better in a phrase, like "cat on a hot tin reeuf").

Then my Mississippi buddy and I drove across the country in his pickup. His name is Billy Joe. I am not making this up.

When we got to California, we happened to arrive in time for my cousins wedding. He didn't want to stay for the whole wedding of distant cousins of mine that I myself hardly knew. But he stayed for the ceremony and reception.

Upon departure, BJ made this observation:

"That wan't no wedding."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm telling you, that wan't no wedding. There ain't no wedding cake!"

(BJ likes cake.)

Here's the deal. The High Holidays are a banquet. Rosh Hashana is the Entrée. Yom Kippur (ironically because we fast) is the First Course. Sukkot is the Main Course. Simchat Torah is Dessert.

Now, if you had your Entrée and First Course but don't have your Main Course, you're going to leave the Banquet a bit hungry.

So first thing to do over the next 8 days is find a Sukka to sit in for a few minutes. Chances are there's one near you.

Now, you could have the Main Course but leave before dessert, but if you do, your soul is gonna say, "That wan't no wedding!"

And if and when you find yourself in a sukkah, here's the question to ask: What's the most important thing to have in a sukkah?

Happy Holidays and Shana Tova and don't forget to enjoy our beautiful new Fall Good News Newsletter.

(This blog will be enjoying the Banquet until October 24)

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Yom Kppur (no, that's no typo)

The goal of this blog is to foster a meeting-of-the minds at your pre- and post-Yom Kippur meals.

In case you missed last week's post, I would like to wish
you and yours a healthy, happy and sweet new year.

Cartoon Source
Q: Why the intentional misspelling of Yom Kippur in today's title?

A: To give you a question for your pre-Yom Kippur dinner table, of course.

The first question for your table is:

Today Rabbi Seinfeld intentionally spelled Yom Kippur K-P-P-U-R. Why do you think he spelled it that way?

Let them guess, then tell them:

Obviously, he spelled it without the "i" to remind us that ego is the root of all evil.

Think about it:

This is not going the way I want it, therefore I'm getting angry.
I want that object, therefore I'm stealing it.
I don't understand God, therefore God cannot exist.

I don't feel like smiling, so I'm not going to smile.

And so on.

Two weeks ago I asked, For you, what's a good life?

Last week, I mentioned the Talmudic warning that news about knife-violence (think ISIS, think White House) and plagues (don't be scared but do be informed) (and this) is a wake up call to increase Torah and giving tzedaka (see PS on this below).

The problem with that message is that it's far too easy to pass the buck — "Let someone else learn Torah, let someone else give tzedaka! I'm too busy!"

This week, the message is less dodgeable: How are you going to change for the better this year?

Rosh Hashana is about dreams. Yom Kippur is about reality: Where are you falling short? What are you going to do about it? Actually do?

For instance, practically everyone says, "I'm going to try to get more exercise."

Don't fall into this trap.

Rather say, "I'm going to take a 10 minute walk every day for a month."

It's got to be real, concrete and realistic. It has to be measurable.

And obviously, it should be a change that will make you a better person.

Use my Yom Kippur Prep Worksheet and narrow your resolutions down to one or two. Then, at the end of the big fast, right at sunset, when you're beyond the pain of hunger make that specific commitment.

cartoon - spiritually empty 

May you and your family be sealed in the Book of Life, health, happiness and peace in 5775. 

Have a sweet and successful year.

Happy Yom Kippur


PS - Thanks to all those who sent contributions last week of all sizes to help keep this Table Talk and other JSL projects going.

For those who would like to get on this particularly meaningful bandwagon, this week we are offering two great downloads to thank you for your one-time or monthly donation to support JSL's teaching of Torah wisdom:

1. 25 Questions to Think About From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur (2014 edition) (sample)
2. Yom Kippur Prep Worksheet (2014 edition) (sample)

Here's the link to learn more about JSL:
Here's the donation link:

Please create or renew your partnership now so we can get you these materials in time for Yom Kippur.

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