Thursday, November 23, 2017

5 Thanksgiving Questions

The purpose of this BLOG is to appreciate the Friday night dinner table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Thank-you-word-cloudHere are a five questions for your thanksgiving table:

Q1. Why is it that every year, someone asks me, "Do you guys do Thanksgiving?"

What I think they mean is, "Do you guys eat turkey on the 4th Thursday of November?"

Well no, we don't. But just saying "No," sounds sour, even dour — not to do Thanksgiving? That's more austere than not doing the 4th of July.

I don't want to be a spoil-sport, so I asnwer the question that I wish they were asking: "Do you guys ever pause as a family to eat a special meal and talk about what you're thankful for?"

And the truthful answer to that is of course, "Yes, every Friday night!"

Q2. Is there any way to answer that without (a) giving a speech and (b) sounding smart-alecky (c) just saying "no"?

Because I actually mean it. We really do eat a special meal every Friday night and talk about (among other things) what we're grateful for.

Oops, I said "grateful" not "thankful".

Q3 - Is there a difference?

Q4 - Why turkey? They ate turkey so we have to eat turkey?

Would it be so bad to have a Thanksgiving pizza? Or Thanksgiving hamburgers? Or a red beans and rice Thanksgiving? How about a Chinese Thanksgiving? Or in the spirit of the times, an African Thanksgiving?

This is a serious question: Why do Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving like Jews eating matzah on Pesach?

The answer goes like this....

First of all, they probably didn't eat much turkey. At that original Thanksgiving in 1621, they apparently ate mostly venison.

Imagine you are on the boat with Columbus.

(Maybe you're even a Jewish refugee
from the Spanish Inquisition.)

Of course, you and all your geographically-challenged buddies think you're in Asia.

It's a strange world! Strange people, fauna and flora.

And you see this funky chicken.

The Wampanoag Indians call it neyhom.

What do you, O Spanish sailor, call it?

Remember, it looks vaguely like a chicken and you think you're in India, so you call it "Indian chicken."

Are you with me so far?

French explorers agree that it looks like a chicken and they call poulet d'Inde (Indian chicken), later shortened to dinde (pronounced "dand").

English settlers think it looks more like a Turkey pheasant than a chicken, so they call the bird turkey.

Jewish explorers side with the French and call it tarnegol hodu — "Hindu chicken" — later shortened to hodu.

What's interesting for us is that the Hebrew word HODU also just happens to mean "give thanks."

So back to our question: What food should you eat on hodu-day? Hodu, of course.

Now ask somebody Jewish: You're Jewish? Can you explain what "Jewish" means?

I don't mean the religious or cultural meaning; I mean the etymological meaning of "Jewish".

Look it up. It means "a state of being thankful".

If you're living up to the name "Jewish" then you are living in a state of being thankful.

I assume that means every day. Make that every moment.

That's a lot of hodu to stuff yourself with.

Question for the table: How do you do it? Every day, every moment?

Say the rabbis: every moment is too hard, but once a day is not enough.

Try this compromise: try to pause 10 times a
day and say, "Wow, thank you."

Q5 - Could it be that simple?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - I'm sure you're still counting down the days to Channuka.... Have you seen our recommended books and toys for kids of all ages?
PPS - Yes, once again this week this message contains a new easter egg....

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Fool me 30 times, shame on?

The purpose of this blog is to wisen up the Friday night dinner table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward)
Dedicated by friends in San Francsico to the memory of Yermiyahu Matan (Jeremy Dossetter),
alav hashalom whose Shloshim ends today.
Einstein quoteFirst question for your table: Should this email be used for commenting on current events?

I'm sad to admit that scandalous, horrid human behavior doesn't shock me. I'm guessing you may agree.

Saddens, disappoints, but does not shock.

Personally, the biggest shock I received recently was the email last week from a subscriber to this very list.

If you recall, last week I eulogized Rabbi Mendel Freedman, contrasting his outstanding character with men in recent news.

My comparison displeased a certain reader. Here is her reply, in full:

Where was this chat when a man who is NOW PRESIDENT was accused by more women?
When FOX News elite were ousted?
Why are you not mentioning the GOP politician in Alabama?
Is your bias showing?
I work in Hollywood and it has always been a “boys will be boys” land or horror.
But I have also worked for Jewish Federations that were JUSt as horrific for me, as a woman!
But when members of the tribe VOTED FOR THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD despite his atrocities, they lost ALL RIGHTS to this discussion.
And your silence on THAT side of the issue is making me ask you to unsubscribe me!

I am disappointed and disgusted!

First question for your table: How would you respond to her?

Acknowledge her pain? Check.

Sympathize with her mistrust? Check.

Agree with her analysis? No way.

Check the archives — this blog usually steers clear of politics and other over-reported current events.

But bias is a serious accusation, especially within the realm of news and education ,it better be backed up with a modicum of invetor. Here is some of the evidence:

Question for your table: Is there a pattern?

Maybe the pattern depends on how you answer this question:

What gets you out of bed in the morning — t
o feed your desires, or to leave a legacy?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Rock of a Role Model

The purpose of this blog is to shake up the Friday night dinner table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward)
Dedicated by friends in San Francsico to the memory of Yermiyahu Matan (Jeremy Dossetter),
alav hashalom.

Dedicated also to the memory of Rabbi Mendel Freedman, a mentor-colleague-friend who passed away this week.
Dedicated also in honor of Yehuda Simcha, a great soul who just joined the Tribe.
Happy Birthday to Stuart in California, and Harmon on a clipper racing across the South Pacific.

(To dedicate a future Table Talk, send me an email.)

DiamondMy relationship with Rabbi Mendel Freedman was formed and nutured entirely within a few square cubits in the JCC locker room.

By luck or fate, we both preferred a specific row of lockers and a specific time slot on Sunday mornings.

How meaningful can a locker-room relationship possibly be?

"How're ya doin? How's the family? Nice weather we're having."

But Rabbi Freedman was different. I can't recall one time that he chatted. No small talk, no gossip. Not only was he focused on substance ("tell me what projects you're working on right now"), he always went straight to the point, and picked up the conversation from where it left off last time.

If he could think of a connection for you, or any other advice, he would offer it on the spot. And you had better follow-up, because the next week he would ask you, "Did you contact so-and-so?"

(He was also an extremely refined person, who somehow blended a great dignity with great humility. His soft speech masked a tack-sharp mind. And through the years, after a surgery, and then the onset of his final illness, I never saw him appear other than happy.)

May his memory be for a blessing.

The contrast between him and men in the news lately is like that proverbial diamond in the rough.

In light of recent scandals, someone posted this comment on a social media website:

"Maybe little kids have it right when they worship the garbage man, the postman, the guy who drives the semi and cranes, instead of admiring the cesspool of Hollywood that we adults seem to."

I don't know about you, but my first reaction to such a statement is, "Maybe?!!"

Question for your table: What kind of person would have any doubt in their mind?

Maybe someone described by Professor Bloom's famous/infamous book?

(Yes, that's 2 separate links.)

When it was the talk of the town 30 years ago, we laughed at his caricature of youth and young adults.

But I loved his love of wisdom.

But (question #2 for your table) — what about his conclusion:

"One should never forget that Socrates was not a professor, that he was put to death, and that the love of wisdom survived, partly because of his individual example. The gravity of our given task is great, and it is very much in doubt how the future will judge our stewardship."

Is it such a grave task? Is it so much in doubt?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, November 03, 2017


IcelandIf you read this email last week or the week before then you know about Jeremy.

This week, hundreds of family & friends gathered on Sunday for his Memorial Service. Among the uplifting eulogies, the quote that sticks with me is his mother's comment about his flying helicopters:

"If we had tried to stop him from flying, it would have been like caging a bird. He had to fly."

I mentioned that he had been interested in touring Israel as an adult. His last trip there had been when he was 13. Similarly, there was a man at the Memorial who told me that he hadn't been to Israel for 40 years, but now cannot go because it's too expensive.

Too bad I didn't know on Sunday what I know now — I'll make this a trivia riddle for your table:
What's the hottest cold way to get to Israel right now?

Hint: Name the country in the above photo.

Hint: Airport code KEF.

Still not sure?

Here's another image, maybe this will help:

AuroraIf you're protesting, "But I've never been to Iceland!" - neither have I. But where else in the world could look like that?

Second question: Did you ever think about going?

Too cold, right? Low on your list right?

There's a reason why the median home value in Los Angeles is $500,000. Someone I know was visiting LA this week. He said, the weather is so beautiful, he feels sorry for Angelenos who have to move to the East Coast.

But don't feel too bad for the Icelanders. They are (along with their Nordic cousins) at the top of the world happiness index. California doesn't do too shabby, but not as well as Minnesota. What's going on here?

Well, I suppose it means that happiness doesn't have as much to do with the weather as previously reported. In fact, psychologists have studied this alleged correlation and found it either weak or even negative.

So why isn't the world beating a new path to Reykjavik?

Maybe we are: on Wow Airlines, it is now possible to get to Iceland from most corners of the US for a hundred bucks.

More important, they also fly nonstop
Reykjavik-Tel Aviv and it turns out that traveling to Tel Aviv via Reykjavik is cheaper than flying to Mexico.

Bottom-line: go. Don't wait for an occasion. Book it now.

Question for your table: When you go to a new place, is it better to get a general overview at the expense of depth, or an in-depth encounter, at the expense of breadth?

Shabbat Shalom

The purpose of this email is to set loose the conversation at the Shabbat table. Please like it, tweet it, forward ....
Dedicated by friends in San Francsico to the memory of Yermiyahu Matan (Jeremy Dossetter), alav hashalom.
To dedicate a future Table Talk, send me an email.