Friday, August 11, 2017

What's Your Milk and Honey?

The purpose of this blog is a nourishing & pleasing Shabbat table. Please print and share, or forward or...

Mmm FetaDespite my previous post about the quest for falafel, Israel is not called "the land of falafel."

It's well-known that the Torah calls it, "the land of milk and honey."

What is that supposed to mean, really? Abstract bounty?

As you know, I'm always looking for the deeper meaning, so last week I went on a quest to find the holy source of one of my favorite milk-products:

Pastures of Eden Feta.

To the uninitiated, this Trader Joe's staple is one of the best fetas ever.

And I'm not the only one who says so.

And it happens to be kosher.

From Israel.

(And you can even buy it online if your local TJ's is sold out, which they often are.)

All that you will glean from the packaging is that it's made from sheep's milk on a farm .... somewhere in the Land of Israel.

But where?

It was really hard to find information about it. The online info is out of date. After several unanswered emails and phone calls, I was about to give up, when I hit the jackpot. I reached someone named Avi who was indeed the exporter of Pastures of Eden.

Now, he couldn't set up a tour for us on such short notice, but he did reveal to me the region where it is made.

Guess what? It was right where we were staying in Tzippori.

(BTW, this was our guest house - another story for another time), but here's a picture of how we felt when we arrived after a hot day of driving:

Happy campers

See the pool? It's a work of art. Fed by a natural spring, decorated with beds of fragrant mint.)

Mitch, the owner, has a few acres of olive trees which he makes into oil, vines from which he makes his own wine, and so many pomegranate trees he doesn't know what to do with them.

I Mitch if he knows any sheep dairy farmers nearby.

Sure, two doors away.

Picture this - an American family moved to Israel 30 years ago and started their own sheep and goat dairy farm. Selling their wares at farmer's markets. Pretty simple.

No, it wasn't the TJ source. But we tried their feta and it was just as good. (Better, actually - because it was fresh.)

In a word: amazing.

So that's the milk. What about the honey?

We criss-crossed the northern part of the country, throughout the Galil (Galilee) and Golan.

Everyone talks about how small the country is, "about the size of New Jersey."

But when you drive around you get this feeling, "Wow, it feels so spacious."

You see forests and mountains, many small and large towns, countless fertile farms; but even more barren hills awaiting creative Americans to come and build their own towns or sheep farms....

And then there are the endless orchards.

And date palms nearly everywhere you look, such as this one (those are unripe dates he's holding):

Unripe dates
To me, that's the meaning of honey.

It's the sweetness that you don't need to live, but makes life so, well, sweet.

Question for your table:

What's your milk and honey?

Shabbat Shalom

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Feel awful? Felafel!

The purpose of this blog is to provide some comfort at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.
 ComfortFirst question for your table this week:

What do people mean by a "comfort food" and do you have one?

Take a look at the kid in this photo.

That's our 13-year-old enjoying his first Jerusalem felafel.

(If you want to know the secret for finding the best felafel in an Israeli town, send me an email.)

The second question for your table:

Why do so many Jews traveling to Israel make a bee-line for the felafel stand?

Is it just the palate, or is there something Jewishly comforting about felafel?

If you can answer that, maybe you can answer the third question of the week:

The experience of food becomes a mere memory, so how great a comfort can it be?

More comfort?

Some people therefore seek comfort in familiar books of wisdom, because wisdom is forever.

But, wouldn't that get tiresome, to revert to the same books again and again?

Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim

PS -

PPS - I mentioned last week that I was going to try the popular Travelrest on the plane. Thumbs-up - it performed as advertised.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Sticking Your Neck In

The purpose of this blog is to keep them from nodding off at the Shabbat table. Please print and share, or forward or like it or tweet it.

travel-pillowsDo you travel good?

Is that poor grammar?

OK, let's make it the first question for your table:

What's the difference between "traveling well" and "traveling good"?

If you travel well, you bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.

If you travel good, you offer your extra Southwest drink coupons to the people in your row.

So imagine you're on a long flight headed East. You've got to get some rest because you're losing time and in just a few hours it's going to be morning. Oy, just thinking about the jet lag is already making you tired.

If you travel well, you have figured out how to sleep on the plane.

If you travel good, you have figured out how to sleep on the plane without disturbing anyone else.

Big fan of sleeping on the plane here. Nothing like a window seat with a pillow and eyeshades.

But what about the 99% who don't get a window seat?

My father (z'l) used to say that half of jet lag comes from not getting enough sleep while traveling (and the night before).

(Others say that's a myth, but Dad knew all about circadian rhythm, and research suggests he may have been on to something.)

If so, then inventing the perfect vertical sleeping device would help millions of people (not counting college students) and save the economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

(You thought I was joking about college students? Weren't you ever sitting in a long boring lecture and just wishing you could close your eyes inconspicously? I used to fantasize about an L-shaped device that you could sit on and lean back against, giving you a tiny Y-shaped bar to rest your head on. Still looking for that one!)

Here are some contenders for the best vertical sleep tool:

1. The $20 ZZZ-Band (not to be confused with the ZZ-Top band) straps your head to the seat. Sounds funny, but over 2/3 of reviewers think it's great.
2. The $20 Double-Decker inflatable - I'm rather intrigued by this one.
3. I have personally tried this $18 Caldera Releaf neck wrap and like it.
4. Have not tried the somewhat similar $30 Trtl Pillow.

5. Am also intrigued by this interesting $24 Elenker pillow.
6. Moving up to $37, if you don't mind people's stares, try the Cloud Nine.
7. The most highly-engineered is the $56 Kaz Headrest - you have to check this one out.

Well, in the end I decided to try out the popular Travelrest this summer. Will let you know how it goes.

What's your best advice for beating jet-lag?

Finally, for your table:

If you travel well, you ___________________________________.

If you travel good, you __________________________________.

Shabbat Shalom

(PS - yes, the picture above is for real and is clickable if you really must ask)

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Just Say Nu?

The purpose of this blog is synthesis at the Shabbat table. Please print and share, or forward or...

In memory of my father, Dennis Seinfeld, whose 12th yahrzeit was yesterday, a master of the art of friendly negotiation.
and wishing happy birthday to Pinchas in Jerusalem - until 120!

negotiatingLast week's theme ("Yours, Zealously") came with the great Hebrew phrase, bein adam l'chaveiro - anyone remember what that means?*

*Interpersonal ethics.

Here's a follow-up question to stump friends and family.

I like this question not just because it's a stumper - but because the answer teaches you something.

Try asking this question at your table: What's the etymology of "negotiate"?

Here's a clue: the online dictionaries are wrong.

They all say:

Latin for "lack of leisure," from neg- "not"  + otium "ease, leisure."

Lack of leisure? So negotiate means, "work"?

We think not.

Yes, despite what google-translate says.

We think that whoever made that up was guessing and forgot their conjugations.

(Maybe he needed the help of a Roman sentry?)

(That was less random than you think, click the link and you'll see what I mean.)

I'm sure you remember conjugations, despite your heroic attempts to forget all about them.

(And I know you've been wondering for years when you would ever get to use all that high school grammar.)

Conjugations, conjugations, what are conjugations?

Maybe this will jog your memory:

amo, amas, amat (I love, you love, he loves....)

(Yes, that's Latin.)

So the -o ending is first person singular.

What's the neg- in negotiate?

That's easy: negate, negative, etc. — it means "not" or "no".

Ergo, nego means "I say no."

Ergo, negotiation is the art of saying no.

"How much is that hat?"
"200 dollars. But for you, one hundred fifty."
"No, that's too high, would you accept fifty?"
"Fifty? You insult me. This hat is worth far more than that. But maybe I could come down to one hundred thirty, but that's my final price."
"Sorry, still too high for me, beyond my budget, thanks anyway."
"Wait, before you walk away, what is your maximum price?"
"I cannot pay you more than 75."
"75? Are you out of your mind? I might as well pay you to take the hat. Listen, I haven't had a sale all day and I need to make quota. Give me 100 and at least I won't lose too much."
"OK, fine."

The experts say, don't be afraid of a "no" - that's when the fun begins!

How do you succeed at negotiation?

First of all, don't fear it.

Enjoy it.

Great negotiation is a dialectic - thesis, antithesis, and if you stick to it, synthesis.

That's Jewish learning in a nutshell - together we arrive at a closer understanding of the truth.

Second of all, according to Dale Carnegie, there is a rule that most people fail at: know your red lines before you enter the negotiation. Know your bottom dollar, define your limits. If you don't start with your lowest offer in mind, you may end up losing.

Attorneys-at-law are sometimes called counselors. Great ones, like my father of blessed memory, are great counselors. We only see them representing their clients. What we don't see is when they counsel their client. A lot of that counseling has to do with helping their client define that bottom line.

Let's apply these lessons to relationships.

Think about a relationship of yours that's slightly or largely on the rocks.

Chances are, one or both of you are fuzzy about that bottom line.

Which of the following would you judge to be true bottom-line needs as opposed to negotiables?

I need to feel loved.
I need you to be nice to me.
I need you to answer the phone when I call.
I need to feel that home is a safe and nurturing place to be.
I need you to clean your room.
I need you to respect me.
I need to feel respected.

Now, how are you going to get to that synthesis?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Yours, Zealously

The purpose of this blog is to let words fly while keeping elbows in check. Please forward / like / tweet or just print and share.

In memory of my father, whose 12th yahrzeit is next week, named "least likely to elbow his way" in his high school yearbook.
(OK, not really, but had they had such category, he would have surely won it.)

Alex Burmistrov fined for elbowing Jared SpurgeonSeveral friends have been in Israel this summer, and one just gave me this report:

On Shabbat we were walking to the Wall from Jaffa Gate, going down the main path that everyone goes down. At the bottom there is a security checkpoint that made everything bottled up. People were lining up to go through. I was really surprised to see these religious families pushing their way past everyone lined up. I guess they felt it was more important to them to get in than everyone else."

What's the take-home message?

So I sent the anecdote to a rabbi-list I'm a member of. I don't know how many rabbis are on the list, possibly hundreds. The responses were interesting.

Some pointed out that there really are two lines, because religious Jews don't have to go through the scanner on Shabbat, and they were simply following protocol. Therefore, they felt that the take-home lesson is to be dan l'chaf zechut - to judge favorably.

Others said that it's wrong even if it was right because it looks bad.

One responded:

We all know their are Jews who don't behave.  If those were my friends who witnessed that, I would explain to them that those people go every single day and are not tourists they have a tight schedule and security lets them right through. It's accepted practice for the regulars to rush through. They may have done it with too much sabra brutality but let it go. It's not right and they should know better but use this as an opportunity to give another Jew a pass.

For your table:

An opportunity to give another Jew a pass, to judge favorably?

Or an opportunity to look in our collective mirror and remind ourselves, "We have work to do, beginning with bein adam l'chaveiro*."?

*Interpersonal ethics.

And if you say, "work to do" - where do you begin?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, July 07, 2017

Nice Work If You Can Get It

The purpose of this blog is to distract them from the distractions for a day, for an evening, for an hour. Please forward / like / tweet or just print and share.

In memory of R' Meir Zlotowitz and of Aaron Rajman.

Meir-ZlotowitzThank you for all the kind feedback to soft-ground-trail-running-shoes-633x422last week's experimental foray into verse (As Fast as You Can).

(Yes, it was 100% original - so for those who did not enjoy it, seeing that it took me 10 years to write the first one, probably will be another 10 years before the next.....)

Let's begin this week with a rather obvious question for your table:

Why do people run races (and other athletic events)?

Yes, Usain appears comfortable, but is that why he runs?

I suppose we could widen the lens and ask why anybody does anything beyond basic needs and comforts?

We don't usually ask questions like this until after they're gone, and we're left to try to piece together the fragments of a life.

Like Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, who was buried this week.

The fragments of his life were impactful enough to earn a NY Times obituary (but hardly anywhere else).

He left behind a legacy of over 2,000 books, including the famous Siddur, the Chumash and the famous Shottenstein Talmud, enabling anyone to learn.

He may be responsible for more people learning Torah than anyone in history since Moshe (Moses). And he left the world with over 50 grandchildren.

Then there's 25-year-old Aaron Rajman, murdered this week by an intrudor in his Boca home. Not married, no children, no grandchildren. Here are a few of the fragments of his brilliance.Rajman

Do these two have anything in common, other than the timing of the deaths?

Let's see: Jewish, male, religious....

Hmm. That's it?

Here's one: they both chose non-conventional careers, to follow their bliss.

Zlotowitz made it to the NYT because he had a few decades to follow that bliss and change the world.

Rajman didn't make the Times because he was just starting out. Who knows what he could have done?

Zlotowitz has 2,000 books to speak for him. Rajman has very little, so let's devote the rest of this space to giving him a voice.

“I’m most happy and successful when I can help or at least maybe inspire the people around me."

“If you’re a fighter or not, if you want something, stay at it. Dreams come true even if you doubted it once or twice.”

Which leads to this week's burning question for your table: How do you live an extraordinary life, do you have to choose an unconventional career, like publishing or MMA?

(Don't want to spoil your fun, so I'll put my own answer below.)

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The Gershwin original

A Rabbi's answer: No, but you should be ready to!

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Friday, June 30, 2017

As Fast as You Can

The purpose of this blog is to bring zerizut to the Shabbat table. Please forward / like / tweet or just print and share.
In memory of R' Shlomo Gardner who passed away last week.

soft-ground-trail-running-shoes-633x422If you take your five thousand steps
the way I did the other day

in a five-kay race,
and you move those legs
as fast as you can,

You will start in a run
and then shift down to a jog
and then slow to a trot
and you will ask yourself,
"Is this really, truly
as fast as I can?"

Up and up, bend after bend, then
enjoy the long descent
until you realize you've only gone halfway
and now need to do it all again, always
as fast as you can;

And by that second up and up, bend after bend
if you are like me you start to wonder
whyfore are you here
when you could be weeding the garden
or plucking your eyebrows —
anything would be more fun than running in the sun
as fast as you can.

"Isn't it for a good cause? What's the charity again?"
No room for noble rumination
when a tortured body needs full concentration
to reach that finish line
as fast as it can.

Pale youths politely pull ahead (as they should)
but then a bearded old guy in a suit and tie passes you by —
Why the schtick? What's on his sign?
"It doesn't matter how fast you run; it does matter how slowly you eat."
Thanks, Rabbi. Is that a dispensation not to run
as fast as I can?

Your kids are going to wonder
why you pushed yourself so hard
and you merely need explain,
"it was a race," which of course means you go
as fast as you can.

The fitness folks today are on the same page,
distance and duration are on the out and out
but short sprints are on the up and up
and what gets you round the ageing bend
is of course to run (or walk or swim)
as fast as you can.

To the rabbis who didn't run
because "one man's torture is another man's pleasure":
You say good health is a gift
but isn't taking care of your health a mitzvah
rewarded measure-for-measure,
as best as you can?

If you run like this rabbi
then a 5K is the same
as going to work
as loving a wife
as raising a kid
as controlling a temper
as avoiding a temptation
as being happy
when you ask every day
(I do hope you ask),
Am I just trotting through life
or am I doing
the best that I can?

Question for your table: Does the effort bring the reward, or does the reward cause the effort?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, June 23, 2017

You Want a Revolution

The purpose of this email is to bring the Friday-night dinner table full-circle. Please forward / like / tweet ....
In memory of my grandmother, Yehudis bas Alexander, whose yahrzeit is tonight.

Ultimate spinnerHere's a great question for your table tonight:

What do the following all have in common?

Hula-hoops (1950s)
• Frisbees (1960s)
• Yo-yos (1970-80s)
• Spinners (2010s)

If you want to say, "Short-lived fads that made somebody a millionaire", that would be to easy.

Why were they fads? What do they have in common?

Notice how they're all versions of the same basic idea: a round object that can be moved in a circle, used to pass time.

Notice also how they shrink over time.

The hula-hoop was trying to address a problem: How do you get people who don't want to move, to move?

It turns out that hula-hooping takes a lot of effort and practice.

So they said, if you're not going to move your whole body, how about at least your arm?

In comes the frisbee.

But that's a lot of effort, and requires you to actually go outdoors.

In comes the yo-yo.

But that didn't last long - it too takes time and effort to get really good at it.

(And it turns out that yo-yoing is an artform.)

Right about that time, home video games became popular. Beginning of sedentary America.

And finally someone thought, maybe we could at least get them to move a few fingers.

In comes the spinner.

The reason spinners are going to disappear about as quickly as they appeared is because they are too easily lost or forgotten.

But that's OK. Because we can see the trend and predict where it's going.

Notice the progression — hula-hoop, frisbee, yo-yo, spinner — not only are they reducing the amount of your body and effort needing to be involved, they are shrinking in size.

The next fad - you read it here first - is going to be the spinning ring.

Perhaps like the one above (you can click on that) or one of these.

Rhetorical question for your table: Will it solve the problem? (of course not)

I recently participated in an online conversation with a group of people comparing hiking in nature with playing video games.

Question for your table: Is there any comparison?

The video-game fans were annoyed and sometimes livid that anyone would suggest that sitting there gaming for hours and hours is not true happiness.

This problem was raised in 1964 by a couple of Jewish guys:

By 2015, another Jewish guy was declaring that it's still a problem: 
(Yes, believe it or not,  he's really quite Jewish.)
But just last week, some more Jewish guys seem to have found the solution, and guess what? It's really quite old:

(Hope you enjoy that as much as I did.)

Question for your table: Is the latter a true revolution?

Shabbat Shalom

PS -

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Are Two Heads Really Better?

The purpose of this blog is to bring some tête-à-tête to the dinner table. Please forward / like / tweet ....
In honor of 3 anniversaries: Marc & Lily, Joel and Lisa....and ours.
And happy birthday to Elliott in SF.

2-headsToday's lead question for your table: When are two heads better than one and when are they not?

This two-headed porpoise was caught recently in the North Sea.

(And if you think that's weird, you should see
some of truly ghastly mosters living down there.)

Can we agree that this is this is a case of two heads not being better than one?

So when are two heads better than one?

How about solving a problem.

For example, here is a Daniel Kahneman problem that very, very few people can solve on their own. You can try it, but chances are you'll need to talk it out with someone:

Reuven is looking at Sarah, but Sarah is looking at Shimon. Reuven is married, but Shimon is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?
  • A) Yes
  • B) No
  • C) Cannot be determined

+ + + + + + +

On their own, over 70 percent answer C.

On their own, they cannot fathom why A is the correct answer.

Try working together to see if you can understand why the correct answer is A.

Are two heads better?

Moving beyond problem-solving, pop-philosopher Alain de Botton is a big fan of that classic 2-headed arrangement known as marriage.

He argues that marriages are often on the rocks not because we married the wrong person but because we never learned how to love. In his brilliant lecture, he urges married people to do two things:

1. Change the way you respond to imperfection
2. Rather than look at compromise as a necessary evil, embrace the "nobility of compromise"

Speaking of compromise, and speaking of two heads, one of the most noble compromises a couple can make is to eat similar foods, especially when it comes to the pungents.

2 heads of garlicIn other words, if your partner eats garlic, so should you.

The purpose of your marriage is to travel the road together.

If she goes the garlic route, so should you. The evenings will pass so much more happily.

And you will finally understand the deeper meaning of "two heads are better than one."

Question for your table: Is there some wisdom here? Or has the rabbi finally gone mad?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - A book of 2-headed Jewish business wisdom
PPS What you get when talking heads sing

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Thought for Food

The purpose of this blog is to whet mental appetites around the Friday night dinner table. Please forward / like / tweet .... 
In memory of my grandparents, Lester and Sylvia Seinfeld (zichronam livracha) whose yahrzeits were observed this week.
This is something I witnessed this week in my very own home.

(<== no, not this)

Did you ever witness something like the following in your home?

Child is staring into a full fridge.

Child complains: "There's nothing to eat!"

Is something wrong with this picture?

The parent sees this:full-fridge

But somehow the child sees this:

First question for your table: How does this happen?

I think the disconnect may be explained by a related scenario:

Child: "What's for dinner?"

Parent answers.

Child: "Again? I'm so bored of that!"

Second question for your table: What's the difference between hunger and appetite?

Third question for your table: Why is it so hard to lose 10 pounds??????

No food

Shabbat Shalom

PS - There are 4 hidden links in this post. In addition, I recently bought this and recommend it.

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