Friday, February 27, 2015

High Guise

The purpose of this email is to brainwash your family and friends into believing we live a wonderful world (65 million views!). Please print and share.

Leafy_Seadragon_Phycodurus_eques_2500px_PLW_editWhat do you see in this picture? Seaweed?

If there were a prize for the world’s best camouflage, it would surely go to the sea dragon, a fish in the waters off southern Australia.

Australians call them "leafies". Those leafy things all over its body seem to have no purpose other than to make it look a like a floating piece of seaweed.

It's good enough a disguise to fool bigger fish. These guys rarely rarely get eaten.

To be extra safe, some also change their color, like a chameleon!

But they can’t fool humans! Divers can spot them and were collecting them to near extinction before the Australian government banned all seadragon collecting.

But humanity has created two new ways to threaten them: pollution and habitat destruction.

The babies are particularly fragile. Like their sea horse cousins, the daddy seadragon cares for the babies. The mommy uses a special tube to place 150-250 eggs into special pits on his tail. Each egg gets its own pit. The daddy carries them around for a month or so until they hatch. They let him know they’re ready to be born by turning purple or orange. He then shakes his tail and rubs it against rocks to help them hatch.

Question for your table — We know why sea dragons wear camouflage; but why do people wear masks? Do they want to blend in or do they want to be noticed?

Shabbat Shalom

and Happy Purim....

PS: Speaking of the Purim, the best Purim and Pesach ideas have been gathered at
PPS: Super happy stuff here.
PPPS: Today's email is excerpted and adapted from our Amazing Nature program.

Friday, February 20, 2015

For a Change

The purpose of this blog is to add something happy to your Shabbat table. Please print and share.

change-cartoonThis week: a question, followed by a story, followed by a question, followed by a really good piece of wisdom.

The first question for your table: Are you 100 percent happy with yourself, or is there something that you'd like to change?

I don't know about you, but I pay lip-service all the time to wanting to change — like changing a bad habit to good or to improving a skill — but I don't necessarily do anything about it, for months, for years.

But we weren't always like that.

Here's this week's story: On Sunday, our son Yoseph (5th grade) had a special event at school. The entire grade had a celebratory brunch with parents to receive their first Gamara - i.e., volume of the Talmud.

They were so excited! Everyone was dressed up for the occasion.

A few days before, Yoseph asked me to take him to the store to find a bow tie.

He was inspired by stories about my father - the grandfather he never knew - wearing a bow tie.

When you learn Talmud, you are swimming in a stream of tradition that comes from your ancestors to you, and that will hopefully continue to your children and grandchildren. Yoseph seems to intuit that connection.... that even though his grandfather never learned Talmud, certainly his great-great-(great?)-grandfathers did.

Go far enough back and we all descend from Torah scholars.
My Dad and Yoseph
But learning Talmud is hard - why would anyone want to put themselves through that?

Kids seem to love to learn (i.e., to change) in a way that many adults have lost.

We all know people who are struggling with losing weight, with quitting smoking, with controlling their anger, with even getting out of bed on time.

The obvious Question #2 for your table: Why do you think it's so hard?

(My answer: they haven't listened to this.)

Shabbat Shalom

PS: Speaking of the Talmud, today is the first day of the month of Adar. The Talmud says: "When Adar begins, we increase simcha (joy)." We have Purim and Pesach ideas at
PPS: The Happiest Video on Youtube

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Real Treet

The purpose of this blog is to add something tasty to your Shabbat table. Please print and share.

PomegranatesThe emails are still coming in in reply to my wish for a "good news" news service.

As a reader pointed out, there already is the Someone else has nominated

But then there were the readers who directed me to websites dedicated to good news from Israel, such as this facebook group and Israel's Good News Newsletter and Take A Pen and Israel21c.

On that note, last week marked the greatest Jewish holiday that nobody seems to celebrate. According to the Talmud, it's one of four Rosh Hashanas.

Here's a clue from the Seinfeld celebration:

TubishVat 5775

It's called "Tu Bishvat" - the New Year of the Trees.

Some have spun it as a paen to the Land of Israel. I'm not opposing them, but I see it differently.

Trees are worth celebrating in their own right.

They are a frequent subject of poets.

Remember this one?
I think that I shall never see   
A poem lovely as a tree.   
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest   
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;   
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;   
A tree that may in summer wear   
A nest of robins in her hair;   
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;   
Who intimately lives with rain. 
Poems are made by fools like me,   
But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer 
So in honor of the trees, please allow me to introduce the muricata, from this week's Amazing Nature series.

muricata fruit

Ever seen one of these in the grocery store? Probably not. But it's a pity.

The muricata is a juicy edible fruit cultivated in Central and South America. It has a delicious, tangy taste. Some say it tastes like candy.

One muricata fruit will give you about the same amount of energy as a candy bar, but it’s a different kind of energy — it gives you a sustained energy that doesn’t make your body’s insulin go crazy like processed sugars.

Plus, unlike candy bars, when you eat one of these you also get a lot of protein, fiber and vitamin C, plus vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium and even some copper — all essential vitamins and minerals for good health.

Some people claim that muricata has medicinal value as well. An extract from the leaves has been reportedly successful in lowering elevated blood pressure (by decreasing peripheral vascular resistance).

In laboratory studies, muricata extracts can kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. (But we need more studies to know if it can work as a cancer treatment.)
Ma rabu ma’asecha A-donoy kulam bechachmah asita malah haaretz kinyanecha
How great are Your works, God, all of them you made with wisdom, filling your Earth!
Tehillim/Psalms 104:24

Is the muricata what King David meant when he wrote that?

Photo: © Muhammad Mahdi Karim,

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The muricata is a sample of our Amazing Nature program.
PPS - We are still adding new Purim and Pesach ideas to


Friday, February 06, 2015

Day of Restoning

The purpose of this blog is to turn Friday night dinner into Shabbat. Please print and share.

Hand_4Several readers replied to my fantasy last week about creating a news service dedicated to good news, the Good News Network or GNN.

One wrote that it would be rather boring.

Another pointed out, "It's already there —"!

(Which if you think about it gives us an opportunity to put the first reader's point to the test.)

What do you think? Does it work? Are you going to bookmark it?

Or is it boring?

Here's a story that's neither bad news nor boring. 

I heard last night from someone who heard it from the doctor himself.

This Jewish doctor was preparing to perform a certain surgery on a Gentile patient. The surgery was known to be painful and to help his patient prepare mentally, he wanted to give her something to distract her.

So for some reason this doctor, wearing a yarmulke, mentioned the Jewish idea of Shabbat - Sabbath - a time to rejuvenate and heal.

"Oh, I know about Shabbat," she said. "I kept Shabbat for four years."

Needless to say, the doctor was slightly nonplussed.

She continued, "I come from New York. There I worked in a travel agency where most of the other employees were Jewish. As my kids became teens, I started to have all kinds of conflicts with them, struggles and all that. Yet I noticed that my co-workers all seemed to have happy families. They were always going to celebrations, you know graduations and whatnot, and simchas. So I finally had to ask one of them what it is that Jewish people did to keep their kids close to them. She explained to me about Shabbat, that you all eat together, you talk about the week, what the kids learned in school, sing songs and all that. So I decided that we were going to keep Shabbat."

And so she did.

For four years.

"What about the gefilte fish? Did you make gefilte fish?"

(For some Jews, Shabbat isn't Shabbos without gefilte fish.)

"Everything was 0-U, all the way."

All of her kids went to 
college, and graduated.

After the youngest one was out of the house, she stopped keeping Shabbat.

But then one day she got a phone call from her daughter, who was struggling with her own teenager.

"Mom, what's that thing we used to do, that 'Shabbat'?"

The Midrash calls Shabbat a "precious gift from God's secret vault".

I wonder how many of us appreciate it.

The question this week for your table: What's the difference between "Friday night" and "Shabbat"?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - We have added new Purim and Pesach ideas to

PPS - Please help my "letter to the French People" (here in English) go viral. Send the link(s) to everyone you know who knows someone French, or in France, or who took French in high school, or who at least can say "Oui, oui."