Friday, January 30, 2015

Who Knows? The Save-a-Life Lottery

Congratulations! You've won the jackpot for your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.
Dedicated this week in memory of R. Meir.

human-embryonic-stem-cell-lineA question for your table, followed by a story, followed by a question.

The first question: In your opinion, what percentage of the news that you read or hear is good news?

It seems to me that it's a very low percentage.

Sometimes I fantasize about starting a news service called GNN - The Good News Network.

What do you think? Would the world beat a path to my door?

Short of that, I have this humble blog, tirelessly delivering you the good(s) every week. (I admit that last week wasn't such good news, but I hope you appreciated the effort.)

So to make up for that, this week is a truly uplifting story.

It starts with a man named Jiang Yonfeng.

Jiang is Chinese, living in Shanghai. He's 36.

He works as a driver for some unnamed company.

At his office one day someone from the Red Cross is signing people up for an international stem cell registry program.

Who knows? Maybe they'll find a match and you could save someone's life?

Not likely. The odds of ever finding a match are longer than winning the lottery.
Donor and recipient must have nearly the exact same genes.

But it doesn't cost anything. Just give them a bit of your saliva.

So Jiang joins the program in March, 2013.

Hey, who knows?

Can you picture yourself in his shoes?

How long would you remember registering? A few days?

Pretty soon you'd forget all about it.

But in November, 2014 Jiang receives a phone call. He's a match for a leukemia patient in the UK.

A seven-year-old boy.


According to the rules of the game, he and the boy will never meet nor even know each other's names.

How do you think that makes him feel?

Oh, by the way, in order to make the actual donation, Jiang has to fly to Beijing, spend five days in the General Hospital of the Airforce of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, receiving daily injections to activate his stem cells, then be hooked up to a transfusion machine for three hours. British doctors on hand will then rush the stem cells back to the UK.

JiangAll this for someone he never met and would never meet.

Jiang says he feels great: "I just want the procedure to be done as soon as possible so they can send my cells back to the UK and help the little kid recover as soon as possible. I hope he can be brave and strong and he can live a good life."

Question for your table: How would that make you feel?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - You too can play the save-a-life "lottery": register your stem cells here or your bone marrow here. Learn more here. Or increase your odds of winning to nearly 100 percent by donating your extra kidney.

PPS - As far as I know, my "letter to the French People" (and here in English) has not yet gone viral in France. Please help it spread by sending the link to everyone you know who knows someone French, or in France, or who took French in high school.

Friday, January 23, 2015

You Asked For It

Food for talk at your Friday night dinner table.

This week dedicated to the memory of R' Dovid Winiarz. who died on Sunday morning while "safely" belted in the back of an SUV that hit black ice. He had left his wife and 10 kids in New York to attend a Jewish education conference which I was personally attending (as a speaker and participant). I first met him a decade ago at that conference, and he and I exchanged emails once or twice a months since then. He was a man who cared for everyone and would help anyone.

J_accuseLast week's message - "J'Accuse" - stymied some readers who could not access the google translation.

The email was inspired by Émile Zola's famous open letter accusing the French government of antisemitism in the Dreyfus Affair.

Here is the full translation.

I will follow it with 2 questions for your table.


the four I accuse the French people.

I accuse them of tolerance. I accuse them of liberty, fraternity, equality.

You practiced tolerance and fraternity even before the French Revolution, when your first son, Mr. Enlightenment - that is to say, Voltaire - wrote that Jews are "an ignorant and barbarous, which have long joined the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition." Maybe your high school teacher forgot to mention this facet of the enlightenment of Voltaire while you struggled with Candide and Micromegas?

Yes, it's true: François-Marie Arouet gave Jew-hatred an air of sophistication, modern cleaning respectability.

It must have felt so good to get rid of the king and his former regime and replace it with the new emperor of the new enlightenment. The day of glory arrived. Napoleon proved that France can tolerate its Jews, as long as they do not stay too Jewish. Or maybe your history book omitted the part about Napoleon's "Great Sanhedrin"? He was being friendly to the Jews, right?

Not really; in private he called us "the most despicable of mankind." But in public he tolerated us.

dreyfus_alfredDo you teach the Dreyfus affair to your children? This isn't a very good idea because it could perhaps give France an atmosphere of intolerance, right?

Do t forget that the French people helped and encouraged Germany to cleanse France of its Jews. It was perhaps a little unpleasant to cooperate with the enimé hated, but your culture of tolerance allowed you to tolerate this much inconvenience for the sake of the greater good.

Of course, one of the expressions of intolerance
the French excel at is against the attempt of the Jewish people to live in peace in their homeland.

France did not flinch when your diplomat Daniel Bernard said "All the current unrest in the world is because of that shitty little country Israel. Why is the world in danger of World War III because of those people ? "In fact, your government and the press all rallied to his defense.

You, the French people are so tolerant that you cried "injustice" when a rabbi and three children were murdered in cold blood in front of their Jewish school, but you don't want to say it had anything to do with Islam!

How many French people can say when and where it happened? How many can name the rabbi and three children? Probably not many, because to dwell sure these things may appear intolerant of the Muslim minority in France.

ilan_halimiYou French people are so tolerant that the evil woman who entrapped Ilan Halimi was released from prison after only a few years.

He is almost unbelievable. Can you really tolerate such injustice?

O French people, I will slightly temper my words.

Let's admit that these displaced tolerance problems are not just French. They are truly European. Take for example the refusal of the London Olympics to give a moment of silence to honor the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich. Why did they refuse? Allegedly because it would "spoil the spirit" of the Games. Never mind that during the 2002 Games a moment of silence was held for victims of the September 11 attacks. Never mind that during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, a dedication was played at a competitor who died in a training accident. No matter that the London Games included a brief prepared for the victims of the terrorist attacks of 2005 in London.

It isn't only in France that Jewish blood is less red. The whole of Europe that the message of Islam to hate the Jews (
yes, read the Koran, or at least excerpts, I said hate) is tolerated.

"Antisemitism is returning!"
"I didn't even know that it had left."
There are only two solutions to all this tolerance and brotherhood:

1. Stop tolerating radical Islam and become intolerant of it. Vocally and vehemently and unambiguously and unequivocally repudiate radical Islam. Not only in France but throughout, including in Gaza, Lebanon and wherever it is. Your intolerance should not stop with verifiable Islamists, but should also include
rogues like Dieudonné and Louis. And it's time to reject your racist heroes like Voltaire and Céline. Give them this big, bombastic unambiguously French "No!"

 You - yes, you! - Allowed the French police to close the Great Synagogue in Paris the Friday night after the murders, as well as other synagogues. For the first time since World War II!

Why were you not there on Friday night - hundreds of you - no, thousands of you - insisting that Jews should pray in safety; insisting that you - yes, you, with your own body - would stand guard for them and ensure their safety? Is the least despicable murder of Jews and the murder of cartoonists?

So the four monsters didn't only kill Jews, they also kept Jews from their prayers. From their community! Do you tolerate this? Do you?

2. Stop tolerating Jews and start hugging them. Tolerance is not enough. Love them, embrace them, wear a Star of David to show your solidarity with them. How come you come to the streets in the millions for Charlie Hebdo, but not for the rabbi and three children were shot in school? What kind of message does that send to French Jews? Be like the Danes and Italians during World War who showed the world that when one embraces his Jewish compatriots, the anti-Semites have no power

Give them a smile, dine in their restaurants, shop in their stores and let them know that you agree with John Adams, Mark Twain and Martin Luther King:


“The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nations. If I were an atheist and believer in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of another sect, who believed or pretended to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should still believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate for all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization… They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison of Jews. They have given religion to three quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind, more and more happily, than any other nation, ancient or modern."
"His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal to the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains."
"When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking antisemitism!"
Think about it.


Let's end with two questions for your table.

1. Since 554 CE, the French have expelled Jews over a dozen times; they publicly burned 24 cartloads of hand-written Talmuds in 1240 CE. Is there any reason we should expect them to start loving Jews in 2015?

2. Is celebrating Voltaire despite his antisemitism any worse than celebrating Jefferson despite his violent slave-holderism?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - You may enjoy this Jerusalem Post op-ed.

PPS - On an unrelated theme, here is an uplifting story about a very different kind of aliya.

Like this post? Why not put your mouse where your mouth is: like it, tweet it, or simply forward it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


For an English translation, click here.

J'accuse le peuple français.

Je leur accuse
de tolérance. Je leur accuse de liberté, de fraternité, de l'égalité.

Vous avez pratiqué la tolérance et de la fraternité même avant la révolution française, lorsque votre premier fils, M. Lumières - c'est-à-dire Voltaire - a écrit que les Juifs sont "un peuple ignorant et barbare, qui pendant longtemps ont rejoint l'avarice la plus sordide à la superstition la plus détestable." Peut-être votre professeur de lycée a oublié de mentionner cette facette de l'illumination de Voltaire pendant que vous luttez par Candide et Micromegas?

Oui, il est vrai:
François-Marie Arouet a donné à la haine du Juif un air de sophistication, un nettoyage moderne, une respectabilité.

Il a dû se sentir si bon de se débarrasser de ce roi et son ancien régime, et de le remplacer par le nouvel empereur de cette nouvelle illumination. Le jour de gloire est arrivé. Napoléon se est avéré que la France peut tolérer ses Juifs, tant qu'ils ne restent pas trop juive. Ou peut-être votre livre d'histoire omis la partie sur le "Grand Sanhédrin" de Napoléon?
Il venait juste d'être convivial pour les Juifs, non?

Non; en privé il nous a appelés "les plus méprisables de l'humanité". Mais en public il nous a toléré.

dreyfus_alfredEst-ce que vous enseignez l'affaire Dreyfus à tous vos enfants? Cela n'est pas un trés bonne idée parçe que il peut-être pourrait donner à la France une atmosphère d'intolérance, n'est-pas?

Ne oublions pas que le peuple français a aidé et encouragé l'Allemagne à nettoyer la France de ses Juifs. Il était peut-être un peu désagréable à coopérer avec l'enimé détesté, mais votre culture de la tolérance vous a permis de tolérer cette chose désagrément pour le plaisir de le plus grand bien.

Bien sûr, les Français sont excellents à au moins une expression de l'intolérance: contre l
a tentative du peuple juif de vivre en paix dans leur patrie.

La France n'a pas bronché lorsque votre diiplomat Daniel Bernard a dit que "Toutes les troubles actuels dans le monde sont à cause de ce petit pays de merde Israël. Pourquoi le monde en danger d'une troisième guerre mondiale à cause de ces gens?" En fait, votre gouvernement et la presse tous ralliés à sa défense.

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQG7HOuP9YS01Inhk4VQ4hSVWXBDc0FvQGBDmderjxRLghc1NpFEt vous, le peuple français, êtes si tolérant que vous avez pleuré "injustice" quand un rabbin et trois enfants ont été assassinés de sang-froid devant leur école juive, mais vous ne voulez pas dire que ce ne avait rien à voir avec l'islam!

Combien de personnes français peut dire quand et où cela se est passé? Combien peuvent nommer le rabbin et les trois enfants? Sûrement pas beaucoup, parce que de s'attarder sûr ces choses peut s'apparaître intolérant de la minorité musulmane de France.

Ilan Halimi, 1982-2006
Vous, o peuple français, êtes si tolérants que la femme maléfique qui piégé Ilan Halimi a été libéré de prison après seulement quelques ans.

Celui est presque incroyable.
Pouvez-vous vraiment tolérer une telle injustice?

O peuple français, je voudrais tempérer légèrement mes mots.

Avouons que ces problèmes de tolérance déplacée sont pas uniquement français. Ils sont vraiment européenne. Prenez par exemple le refus des Jeux olympiques de Londres de donner un hommage moment d'silence pour les athlètes israéliens assassinés à Munich. Pourquoi ont-ils refusé? Prétendument parce qu'il serait «gâter l'esprit» des Jeux. Peu importe que pendant les Jeux de 2002 un moment de silence a été accordée aux victimes des attentats du 11 septembre. Peu importe que lors de la cérémonie d'ouverture des Jeux olympiques d'hiver de 2010 à Vancouver, une dédicace a été joué à un concurrent qui est mort dans un accident de la formation. Peu importe que les Jeux de Londres se comprenait un mémoire élaboré aux victimes des attaques terroristes de 2005 à Londres.

Ce ne est pas seulement en France que le sang juif est moins rouge. Ce est toute l'Europe que le message de l'Islam de haïr les Juifs (oui, lire le Coran, je ai dit la haine) est tolérée.

Il n'y a que deux solutions à tous de cette tolérance et de fraternité:

1. Cesser de tolérer l'islam radical, et devenir intolérante de lui. Vocalement et avec véhémence et sans ambiguïté et sans équivoque répudier l'islam radical. Pas seulement en France, mais partout, y inclus
á Gaza, au Lebanon et á quelle location que il se trouve. Votre intolérance doit pas se arrêter avec les islamistes vérifiables, mais doit également inclure les coquins comme Dieudonné et Louis. Donnez-leur ce grand, emphatique, sans ambiguïté, "Non!" des Français.

Voantisemitisme_revientus - oui, vous! - permis à la police française à fermer la Grande Synagogue de Paris vendredi soir dernier, ainsi que d'autres synagogues. Pour la première fois depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale!

Pourquoi vous ne avez pas été là vendredi soir dernier - des centaines de vous - non, des milliers de vous - en insistant que les Juifs devraient prier dans votre sécurité; insistant que vous - oui, vous, avec votre propre corps - souhaitez monter la garde pour eux et assurer leur sécurité? Est l'assassiner des Juifs moins méprisable que l'assassiner des caricaturistes?

Ainsi, non seulement les bêtes assassinent quatre Juifs, ils ont également conservés Juifs de leurs prières. Non! de leur communauté! Pouvez-vous tolérer cela? Est-ce que ça va?

2. Cesser de tolérer les Juifs, et commencer á les embrasser. Le tolérance n'est pas suffisant. Aimez-les, embrassez-les, portez une étoile de David pour montrer votre solidarité avec eux. Comment ça se fait que vous venez aux rues dans les millions pour Charlie Hebdo, mais pas pour le rabbin et les trois enfants qui ont été abattus à l'école? Quel genre de message cela double norme envoyer aux Juifs français?  

Soyez comme les Danois et les Italiens pendant la Seconde Guerre qui a montré au monde que lors des l'on embrasse ses compatriots Juifs, que les antisémites n'ont aucun pouvoir. Donnez-les un sourire, dînez dans leurs restaurants, magasinez dans leurs magasins et faites-leur savoir que vous êtes d'accord avec les paroles de John AdamsMark Twain et Martin Luther King:


Les Hébreux ont fait plus de civiliser les hommes que les autres nations. Si je étais athée et croyant au destin éternel aveugle, je crois toujours que le destin avait ordonné aux Juifs de l'instrument le plus essentiel pour civiliser les nations. Si je étais un athée d'une autre secte, qui a cru ou feint de croire que tout est ordonné par hasard, je crois toujours que le hasard avait ordonné aux Juifs de préserver et propager à toute l'humanité la doctrine d'un suprême, intelligent, puissant souverain sage de l'univers, que je crois être le grand principe essentiel de toute morale, et par conséquent de toute civilisation ... Ils sont la nation la plus glorieuse qui ait jamais habité cette terre. Les Romains et leur empire ne étaient qu'une babiole en comparaison des Juifs. Ils ont donné la religion pour trois quarts du globe et ont influencé les affaires de l'humanité, de plus en plus heureux, que toute autre nation, ancienne ou moderne.

Ses contributions à la liste du monde de grands noms de la littérature, la science, l'art, la musique, les finances, la médecine et l'apprentissage abstruse sont également accessibles hors de proportion avec la faiblesse de ses numéros. Il a fait un combat merveilleux dans le monde, dans tous les âges; et l'a fait avec ses mains attachées derrière lui. Il pourrait être vain de lui-même, et être excusé pour cela. L'Egyptien, babylonien et perse rose, rempli la planète avec son et la splendeur, alors fané au rêve des choses et est décédé; l'Grecs et les Romains ont suivi, et a fait une grande bruit, et ils sont partis; d'autres peuples ont vu le jour et ont tenu leur oriflamme pour un temps, mais il brûlé, et ils sont assis dans la pénombre maintenant, ou ont disparu. Le Juif vit tous, tous les battre, et maintenant ce qu'il a toujours été, ne présentant pas de décadence, aucun infirmités de l'âge, aucun affaiblissement de ses pièces, sans ralentissement de ses énergies, aucun ternissement de son esprit alerte et agressif. Toutes les choses sont mortels, mais le Juif; toutes les autres forces passent, mais il reste.

Quand les gens critiquent les sionistes, ils signifient Juifs. Vous parlez de l'antisémitisme!


Et puis, l'action.

Et dans l'intervalle,

Shabbat Shalom (un bon week-end).

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Backwards Galosh

The goal of this blog is foster a warm + cozy conversation at your Shabbat table. Please print and share...

Jerusalem snow palmsNow that Jerusalem is enjoying its second snowstorm in as many years it feels like time to dust off the good ol' snow email, which seems to be becoming an annual tradition.

First a short story, then a question for your table, then an answer, followed by a final question.

The story takes place in snowy Jerusalem one year ago.

I had left the USA early enough to reach Jerusalem ahead of the snowstorm, but too early to have packed any snow gear.

When I arrived, in fact, the snowstorm was preceded by unbelievable torrential rain.

In Jerusalem, umbrellas are easy to come by.

Snow boots are not.

I thought, this is such a rainy place. Even without snow, there must be a lot of people who like to wear galoshes.

So I asked around. None of the local shoe stores understood the concept of a rubber shoe that you wear over another shoe.

Finally at about the 7th store the salesman at least had a clue what I was talking about and he even taught me the Hebrew name for it: andalayim (I'm guessing it's a Yiddish word formed from "on the na'alayim" - i.e., "on the shoes").

Anyway, this non-Yiddish-speaking shoe salesman who taught me how to say andalayim had no clue where to buy them, but someone else (maybe as a joke) suggested that I go looking in a Yiddish-speaking neighborhood to find them.

It turns out that the nearby Yiddish neighborhood of Belz had a shoe store and when I phoned up, the salesman told me that the indeed carried andalayim.

"But what size do you need?"


"Sorry, we're all sold out of Medium."

But this was no time to quibble over details. The blizzard of the century was blowing into Jerusalem and I was going to be stuck inside without boots?

So I took a cab to Belz and I managed to get one of his last pairs of small andalayim. They're rubber, so they should stretch over my shoes right?

The snow was already falling and I was pulling and pulling, trying to get these things over my shoes.

Would they tear first?

No way, they went on and I hobbled out of the shop back to the cab. I think the cab ride cost more than the andalayim. The problem was, when I got back to where I was staying, I couldn't get them off.

It became clear that I was going to enjoy snowy Jerusalem wearing galoshes without shoes. It seemed a bit backwards, but galoshes are galoshes, right?

So while the buses and taxis were immobilized, and most of the population either stuck indoors or resorting to plastic bags and rubber bands, I sailed through the white streets of Jerusalem in amazingly strong made-in-Israel rubber and five pairs of socks.

It was magical.

A blanket of snow is always magical.

Leading to the first question for your table:

Why is a fresh snowfall ALWAYS so magical?

Think about it for a moment.

Is it because snow softens the sounds, slows the pace?

Is it because snow closes schools and is fun to play in?

The Hebrew word for snow is sheleg.

Normally, we look for significance of a Hebrew word by how it's used in the Torah.

Sheleg is not used qua snow, rather to describe a perfect whiteness, as in "your sins will be made white as snow."

But the word sheleg has a peculiar quality.

Peculiar, that is, to those who study gematria (numerology). It's numerical value is 333.

Numerologists read that as: "The number three expanded to the utmost."

Or, "the ulimate in three-ness."

But what is "three-ness"?

The number 3 in Jewish thought represents something foundational about humanity: "The world stands on 3 pillars: Torah, Avodah and Chesed" (Pirkei Avot).

(Loose translation: wisdom, spirituality, kindness)

These three qualities are exemplified by the three Patriarchs: Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac), Yaakov (Jacob).

Perhaps this numerology is the key to the lesson of snow.

We need those 3 pillars - Torah, Avodah and Chesed - to have a stable world. Snow shows us what the world would look like when we get the right balance of those three.

Jlem snow boys 2It's magical - blanketing the world with a clean whiteness, smoothing over all the bumps, hiding all the dirt.

Yes, we know the dirt is there, and will be back soon enough.

But isn't it fun for a few minutes to pretend that it isn't?

But it's more than pretending. That magic is teaching us something.

It's reminding us what the world could look like all the time, if each of us worked on the area(s) where we are deficient in our own personal triangle.

Final question for your table: What's most lacking in the world - Torah, Avodah or Chesed?

Shabbat Shalom 

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Music to Your Ears?

The goal of this blog is to add harmony to your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

Headphones-Star-300x274One of my favorite quotes about music comes from the great Wynton Marsalis.

It is told here about the time a young person asked him, "Wynton, how do I break into the music business?"

The reply: "Break into a practice room."

Doesn't that answer really apply to a lot of things in life?

(For your table: Can you name one?)

On this theme of music, this week I have one simple question for your table, followed by an important music-related announcement, followed by my own answer to the question.

The simple question:

What's the most important secret to two or more people making great music together?

Think about it.

While you're pondering that one, here's the important music-related announcement:

We've started to add music to

For kids - try Shmuel Kunda's blend of music and storytelling.
For pre-teens, try Miami Boys Choir.
For teens - try Baruch Levine.
For adults - try Tzvi Gluckin's bluesy album. Or this one.

(Do you have some favorite Jewish or Jewish-inspired music that you think we should add to the site? Please let me know.)

Now, for the rabbi's answer to today's question:

The most important secret to making great music together....

....can be summed up in one word....


If you are listening to each other, you can create a sublime harmony. If you're not, the music will be nothing special.

Great musicians know this secret.

Great orchestras earn their bread by this secret.

Rabbi Cardozo once compared all the complexities of Judaism to all the complexities (and rules) in music. Jewish life has the potential to be a great symphony, but it will only become a beautiful harmony to the extent that:

a. We are all playing the same song.
b. We are listening to each other.

Think about it.

On a scale of 1-10, how important is music in your life?

Shabbat Shalom

Let me guess - you made a resolution to become more generous in 2015? Put your $$ where your ) is with a gift subscription to the Amazing Nature for Teachers program - Great for a teacher, parent or anyone who enjoys a daily dose of inspiration.

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