Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Art of the Silent Thank-You

thank-youLongterm readers of this email/blog know that I have written almost every year about the numerous Jewish connections to Thanksgiving.

Brush up on the connection to Columbus and turkey with my 2012 message.

Last year T'giving happened to occur on Channuka so I wrote "The Channuka-Thanksgiving Myth".)

For this year, let's begin with this question for your table:

Question 1: What is the etymology of "Jewish"?

Answer: "Jewish" comes from "Judah" which comes from "Yehuda" which means "be thankful".

The essence of Jewishness is thankfulness.

Every day.

Isn't it wonderful that there is a country — not just any country, but the world's richest, most cuturally influential country and moreover home to half the Jewish People — that has made a national holiday of being thankful?

I'm thankful for that, how about you?

Question #2 for the table: How can you show gratitude to someone without saying or writing a single word?

(Hint - refer to the graphic above!)

Happy Thanksgiving and

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Have you thanked your children's current or past teachers lately? Show your gratitude by sending them a subscription to the Amazing Nature for Teachers program - Or using our searchable index to find a meaningful Hannuka present for your favorite teachers - includes a section for adults.

PPS - You will enjoy this extremely creative use of those leftover Thanksgiving vegetables:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Can You Kill an Angel?

The goal of this blog is to bring a bit of comfort and hope to your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

Untitled-1_bBy now I have had several days to struggle to find the words to respond to this week's news. The enormity of the tragedy risks overshadowing last week, and Dahlia does not deserve to be overshadowed.

The five precious lives destroyed on Tuesday in Jerusalem left 25 children without a father.

It left Eitan ben Sarah fighting for his life after being chopped in the head with an axe. The names of the other wounded survivors are Shmuel Yerucham ben Bayla, Chaim Yechiel ben Malka and Yitzchak ben Chaya.

(To help the families of the victims, click here.

First and foremost, I just want to make it clear, this was not an act of terror. Terror is a badge of honor for the terrorist. Murder, on the other hand, is a badge of shame.

Every society since the beginning of history has outlawed murder — the intentional killing of an innocent person.

There have been different definitions of "intentional", "innocent" and "person". For example, Nazi Germany classified certain races as "sub-human", enabling them to be killed without resorting to murder.

But the broad concept is universal: "murder" is immoral, even ev

Mass-murderer Ramzi Yousef said in court: ""Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it."

Al-Qaida trainer Shehada Jawhar said, "Yes, [I'm] a terrorist. What's the problem with that? If I want to terrorize the enemies of Allah, what's the problem with that?"

Murderer Ibrahim al-Aqari's community declared a day of mourning to celebrate his crime.

When you and I call it "terror" we are actually subtley encouraging them.

This week's first question for your table: Should we call these perpetrators "terrorists" or "murderers"?

Regarding the one gentile man pictured above, someone asked me this week's second question for your table:

Do you think those religious Jews from Har Nof will attend the Druze police officer's funeral?

???? The man who gave his life to save others ????

I predicted that many would, without a doubt.

What do you think? Click here to find out.

The sister of police officer Zidan Saif said, "Zidan was full of joy at life, always laughing and creating a good atmosphere.”

A cousin of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg (born in Liverpool) said, "He was a peacemaker. If there was an argument he always tried to sort things out. He was just a nice guy."

Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky (grew up in Detroit) was described as "known to never refuse anyone seeking assistance in any form, always seeking ways to assist others."

The sister or Rabbi Kalman Levine (grew up in Kansas City) said, "“He would do whatever he could to fulfill all the kindnesses of us as humans. His essence was that he was a man of great wisdom and prayer.”

RavMosheTwerskyBy accounts of all who knew him, Rav Moshe Twersky was a bona fide holy man.

He was so pure, so humble, so unwilling to take credit for himself.
So single-mindedly dedicated to the principle of love your neighbor and all of the details of thought and practice that flow from that.

Someone described him as "the gentlest, most affable, most loving and tolerant person you would ever meet. It’s just such a terrible contrast between such sublime gentleness and such horrible brutality.”

You know why he was one of the first to be slaughtered Tuesday? Because he always stood at the back of the shul, even though by merit he should have been in the front.

He knew, he held in his mind - all of the Torah. All of it! The written Torah, the oral Torah, the hidden (Kabbala) Torah, all of the Torah.

He received his Torah from his famous grandfather, HaRav Yoseph B. Soloveitchik

Rav Soloveitchik was quoted as saying that of his thousands of students, he had only four close disciples.

And then he had Rav Moshe Twersky, in a class of his own.

That his grandson's single-minded dedication to Torah was a throwback not one or two generations, but several centuries.

Harvard was a cakewalk.

Yet at his Jerusalem yeshiva, this supernal genius was no ivory-tower sage. He had personal relationships with his students. For instance, he never went to lunch, using the time instead to engage with a student.

Every one of his students felt that their rebbe was an angel in their midst. That's how they felt.

The third question for your table is simply, How can a person not react to such a loss? What can we do? What should we do?

I'm not going to give you a difinitive answer, but would like to share with you some thoughts I heard from others.

  • Some are moved by the manner in which these men were murdered - in the midst of prayer - to try to pray better.
  • Some are moved by the holiness of these men to try to be more holy, at least on Friday night.
  • The widows issued a statement asking each one of us worldwide to dedicate this Shabbat to love your neighbor - to avoiding arguments, lashon hara, insults etc. 
Their statement ends:

And may this serve as to elevate the neshamos of our husbands, who were slaughtered al kiddush Hashem.
May God look down from on high and see our pitiful state, wipe away our tears and put an end to our pain.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Loving your neighbor surely includes telling your favorite teacher or school about the Amazing Nature for Teachers program -
Or using our searchable index to find a meaningful Hannuka present for your favorite teachers - includes a huge section for adults.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Dahlia's Hand

In memory of Dalia Lemkus and Almog Shiloni, murdered this week because they were Jews who dared living in the Land of Israel.
The goal of this blog is to bring a bit of contemplation to your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

Dalia headshot 2According to accounts, Dalia Lemkus was a normal young woman.

When she was murdered this week, she was hitchhiking to her volunteer job at Yad Sarah.

Yad Sarah means "Sarah's Hand". The name is a nod to the great Matriarch who ran (with her husband Avraham) an enormous free hospitality enterprise some 3,700 years ago.

Incidentally, in the vicinity of Dahlia's home.

(And, ironically, in the vicinity of the murderer, who murdered in order to market the idea that his people are the more authentic heirs to the legacy of Abraham. How do you say "confused" in Arabic again?)
Yad Sarah is one of the biggest charity organizations in the Land of Israel. They serve without discrimination Jews, Arabs, Druze, Christians - namely everyone. With 6,000 volunteers and only 150 paid staff, they lend for free over 244,000 pieces of medical equipment every year.

Someone broke their leg and needs crutches? Call Yad Sarah.
Need a wheel chair? Call Yad Sarah.
How about an oxygen concentrator, apnea monitor, infant scale, hospital bed, shower chair, high-tech or assistive device? Call Yad Sarah.

Someone in a wheelchair needs a ride to a medical appointment? Call Yad Sarah.
Someone needs to make a decision on medical devices, needs advice, needs training? Call Yad Sarah.

And this is only a partial list! Learn about the extent of their services here.

Even tourists enjoy the free services of Yad Sarah.

(Yad Sarah's entire $23 million budget comes from private donations. Their main website is here; their American site is here.)

This background tells us a lot about Miss Lemkus. But there's more.

She was just completing her training as an occupational therapist.

She spoke English with a South African accent, thanks to her parents who made aliyah thirty years ago.

When she went to synagogue on Shabbat she made a point to smile at everyone in her row before anything else.

She was sought after by brides to do their makeup on wedding day because she loved doing that chesed and was good at it

When Yad Sarah needed a volunteer to cover the evening shift, what would they do? Call Dahlia.

We know where she got it from. Her father, an optometrist, serves as a volunteer ambulance driver. Her mother, an international sales rep, cares for the elderly. When her brother Chaggai celebrated his bar mitzvah a month ago, guess who cooked all the food?

When a neighbor had to go to the hospital with a sick child, guess who stayed with the other young children all night and refused to be paid?

In other words, she was a normal Jewish girl from a normal Jewish family.


She couldn't afford a car, so she had to hitchhike: to get to her job in a Kiryat Gat kindergarten and to her volunteer work at Yad Sarah.

attack sceneShe was murdered at the bus stop / hitchhiking post of Alon Shevut.

The town stands on the site of the Battle of Beit Zechariah, fought between the Maccabees and the Seleucid army after the defeat of the Seleucids in Jerusalem.

That modern road is in fact an ancient road to Jerusalem, still marked by Roman milestones. Many ancient mikvaot have been found in the surrounding hills, presumably used by pilgrims heading up to Jerusalem.

Dahlia was trying to head up that road when she was brutally run over then stabbed. Oh, I forgot to mention that she survived a knife attack at that exact spot in 2006. I guess she didn't get the message then.

The murderer first tried to run her over with his Subaru minivan. When he saw that she was still writhing with life, he jumped out and stabbed her in the neck, over and again. Two others were wounded before the murderer was immobilized by a security guard.

“Dalia! Dalia!” wailed her mother as her daughter was lowered into her final resting place.

Her uncle described her as "the angel of our family."

This week's questions for your table:

1. Do you agree with me that Dalia was a "normal Jewish girl from a normal Jewish family"?
2. Did Dalia live a full life?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - What, you haven't told your favorite teacher or school about the Amazing Nature for Teachers ? Just highlight this paragraph and click "forward".


(Or better yet, send them a gift subscription.)

Note: some subscribers are parents who sign up to inspire their families!

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Fellow the Leader

The goal of this blog is to bring out the great leader in you at your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share
mgt100This week's horse race has distracted many of us from horrendous and scary events in Jerusalem.

But wherever you look, there is this common thread:
wildly different visions of leadership.

First question for your table: What is great leadership?

How about answering rom a Jewish perspective?

Maybe I should just leave it there.

But I'll make it a little easier for you.

Let's make this a multiple-choice quiz: Which of the following traits would you guess the Torah teaches as vital to great leadership?

1. Honesty.
2. Compassion.
3. Self-discipline.
4. Vision.
5. Communication skills.
6. Decisiveness.
7. Teamwork.
8. Creativity.
9. Piety.
10. Commitment.
11. Intelligence.
12. Wealth.

After you've made your list, put them in order from most to least important.

After that, ask everyone at your table today's 2nd question: Would you rather be a good leader or a great follower?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - I'm happy to report that we're continuing to sign up new subscribers to Amazing Nature for Teachers -  Please let your favorite educator or school know about it. Just highlight this paragraph and click "forward". We've even had parents sign up who want to inspire their families with these amazing photos and facts.

(Or better yet, send them a gift subscription.)

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