Friday, December 28, 2018

He Maps Spam, Eh?

The purpose of this blog is to unspam the Shabbat table. Please share.

kosher-spamTry this one at your dinner table tonight:

"Raise your hand if you ever received spam."

Everyone who ever had an email account will, of course, raise their hands.

(By the way, did you ever stop to realize that there are no children anymore who remember a time without cell phones?)

Now that you've got their attention, try this:

Who knows why unwanted bulk email is called spam?

The story of spam begins in 1936.

Back in 1936, in Austin, MN, Hormel Foods profits were plunging. Jay Hormel knew that he needed a new way to market his canned pork shoulders.

American housewives were listening to the radio. He wanted a catchy branding that would make a great jingle.

Competition + Depression = Necessity, the mother of invention.

Jay announced that he would award $100 for a catchy name for his canned ham.

So he spiced up his New Year's Eve party that year, he held a contest: $100 cash for the best new name for Hormel spiced canned ham (that's $1,800 in today's dollars).

You had to submit a suggestion to get a drink at the party.

Hornel observed, "
Along about the third or fourth drink they began showing some imagination.”

The winning entry came from Kenneth Daigneau, a 3-bit New York actor who was there because he was related to a company VP.

The scheme worked: by 1940, seventy percent of American households had spam in their kitchens.

In 1941 the US started shipping it to our allies.

(Question for the table - Who were our Allies in WW2?)

If you guessed the UK and USSR, you would be right.

We sent them so much spam that Kruschev later said, "
Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army."

When the US got into the war our GIs ultimately had to take in (and take on) 150 million pounds of it.

GIs evidently got pretty sick of it and, to everyone's surprise, refused to eat it after they got home.

So why is annoying bulk email called spam?

Because a group of comedians in 1970 created a silly 3-minute spoof of spam.

If you never saw this, or forgot about it, here tis:

The gist is that every item on the restaurant menu contains Spam and this customer is upset because she doesn't like Spam, and every time someone expresses an opinion about Spam (pro or con), a group of Vikings (who are also dining there) start singing a Spam song, that goes like this:

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam,
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam,
Spamity Spam, Spamity Spam!

And so when email was first being used in the 1990s, some culturally-clever emailers started calling overberaring and unwanted email "spam" and the practice of sending such email "spamming".

A meme was born.

It's a cute story, but what does it have to do with anything?

Personal anecdote: I discovered this week that some people I correspond with regularly are not getting my messages because their ISP is flagging them as spam.

Oy. So maybe that's why I never heard back from so-and-so.

It seems so unfair. What am I supposed to do?

A couple final questions for your table:

• What do you personally do when you don't hear back from someone?
• Have you ever found an important message in your spam folder that didn't belong there?
• If you have to take the time and effort to check your spam folder, what's the point of having a spam folder?

And the big one: What does spam have to do with Shabbat?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The above image is Luf, "Israel's Kosher Spam". If you click on it you'll find something equally kosher, "slightly" healthier, immeasurably tastier.

PPS - Did you solve today's title?

PPPS - End-of-the-year pitch time: If you appreciate JSL's mission and programs (and this) (and this) and would like to show your support and partnership, please make a 2018 tax-deductible contribution here. Wishing you and yours a healthy and inspired 2019.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Repair a Helion

The purpose of this blog is to brighten the Shabbat table. Please share.

Healing sunAs some people are heading to sunnier or snowier climates, here's an original riddle for your table tonight:

What's the sunniest time of year?

Hint: since it's a riddle, you know the answer is not going to be at the summer solstice.

Another hint: The correct answer also does not depend on which hemisphere you're in.

Still stumped?

Here's another hint, in the form of a know-thy-planet question:

Why is it colder in the winter and warmer in the summer?

(It always amazes me how many adults can't answer this.)

Before you answer, think about the fact that today it's summertime in Sidney right now.


OK, since most people are by now totally stumped, here is the answer....

The Earth orbits the sun in an elipse, not a circle.

earth's orbitThat means that at times we are closer to the sun (perihelion) and at times farther from the sun (apihelion).

The difference between our perihelion and apihelion is about three million miles.

It happens to be that now, in the alleged start of the winter in the northern hemisphere, we are reaching perihelion. That means we are millions of miles closer to the sun now than we are in June.

These are facts.

So as a planet, now begins the sunniest time of the year - peaking at about January 4.

If the riddle fooled you, it was perhaps because you were thinking locally, not globally?

By the way, here's another fact about our orbit that may be somewhat disconcerting: it isn't constant. This year's exact perihelion is on January 3 at 12:19 am (NY time). Next year it will be on January 5.

Another fact to entertain your table: we're moving faster at perihelion than aphelion. That means that our winters are shorter than our summers.

And another interesting idea - these changes in our orbit plus fluctuations in the sun's output do affect our weather but probably not global warming.

The amount of sunlight reaching the earth varies for other reasons, including sunspots and this eliptical business. The eliptical orbit itself causes a variation over the year of about 100W per square meter.

Final question for your table: What's more amazing, the ways of the heavens and the earth, or the human minds who can measure and predict it with great precision and appreciate it?

Shabbat Shalom
(and Happy Solstice)

PS - Yes, as usual, the pic above contains a surprise link.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Flying Friendly Class

The purpose of this blog is to turn the Shabbat table into a rest stop. Please print and share.

Oakland-sunsetHaving spent much of the past five days traveling by air, car and sailboat....'s on my mind.

So here are three travel-themed stories for your table this week.

Maybe you saw this one:

A baby with an oxygen machine enjoyed the perks of a first-class flight to Philadelphia, thanks to the kindness of a traveler who gave up his seat.

Details, details, details, then the conclusion:

As a result of her post, she subsequently connected with the passenger. “He was thanking me for (giving him) a birthday to remember. It was the best day."

For your table: Is this newsworthy?

Second vignette:

Is there anyone besides myself out there who doesn't use Facebook to keep up with family and friends?

What I'm really getting at is the experience of bumping into someone whom you have not been in touch with or even heard about.

Like for a year, or five or ten.

That happened to me this week and it gives you this wonderful feeling, a joy that is hard to compare with other joys.

The question for your table: Why is it so wonderful to see a familiar face that you haven't seen in years?

Presumably that's why the rabbis of old created a special beracha for such an occasion.

Third vignette:

Someone I know flew across the country this week for the sole purpose of catching up with two or three old friends.

There was no event, no party, no holiday.

When asked why he went, he said, "I've realized over the years that most of the important things that happen to me are because of my relationships to others. So I try to maintain them."

Question for your table: But why did he have to fly accross the country to do so?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The pic above was from my travels this week... click on it for something interesting about trees and travel.

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Friday, December 07, 2018

My Channukah

The purpose of this blog is to add some Channukah to the Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Menorah-SwastikaInsiders read today's headline and smile.

They know that this title is an insider's pun.

It's a play on the Talmudic presentation of Channuka, which begins (in Aramaic): Mai Channuka? - What is Channuka?

OK, so now that you, dear reader, are an insider, here's the first question for your table:

Mai Channuka?

Not "What was Channuka" but "What is Channuka"?

What is it about that Maccabean war, that flask of oil, that menorah, and that destroyed Temple that matters today?

That's for your table, not for me to spoon feed you.

But the photo above has a story that you might want to share.

This has been been published widely, including the NY Times, various blogs, and sites

The scene is Kiel, Germany (north of Hamburg).
The date: December 31, 1932. The 8th night of Channuka, 5693.

It is exactly 30 days before the most infamous act of Herr von Hindenburg and perhaps of the 20th Century.

That last night of Channuka
, Rabbi Dr. Akiva Posner lit the menorah and placed it in the window.

(Ask at your table:) Why in the window?

Publicizing the story is the entire reason for lighting the menorah.

(Ask at your table:) What if publicizing endangers you?

For sure, there is no need to put your family in danger.

Surely a year later, Jews of Kiel were not putting their menorahs in the window

But at this moment, they did.

Not only did they, but Mrs. Posner saw the tremendous symbolism of the juxtaposition, and snapped this photo.

On the back, she wrote:

    "Death to Judah" says the flag
    "Judah will live forever," answers the light.”

The Posners escaped the Vaterland and made it to the Holyland.

With their menorah.

For 51 weeks of the year, the menorah resides at Yad Vashemj.

But for the darkest eight nights of the year, the menorah returns to the family.

The Posner's great-grandson lights it with the entire extended family around.

Once again, for your table: Mai Channukah?

Happy C/han[n]uk[k]a/h (however you spell it)


Shabbat Shalom

PS - By the way, the saga continues....

PPS - Special video link for you if you click on the pic above.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

The Bearable Bareness of Being

The purpose of this blog is to enable some soul-baring at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.

A deep thank you to all those who helped make our "Giving Tuesday" appeal (here) a great success. PS - It's never too late to join the party.

In memory of Marshall Bach, Moshe Topas and others who have recently left us.

And in case you got distracted, here is a reminder of the days, hours and minutes until Channuka.

Medical loveThis morning I paid a shiva call to a family who lost their son a few days ago to an overdose.

With that brief intro, here's the first question for your table:

What mental image do you have of their son at this point?

Frankly, I didn't know their son at all, never even met his mother, only know his father casually. So everything I'm about to tell you I learned just this morning.

First, their son was brilliant. He loved biology, was very good at it, and completed a pre-med degree in under four years.

As an undergraduate, he worked with a professor on biomedical research and co-authored a paper.

He was accepted to the Technion Medical School.

Perhaps due to his brilliance, his chemical addictions did not follow a smoothe, predictable trajectory.

They involved alcoholism rooted in his teenage years, drugs readily available during his gap-year in Israel, pain medication supplied liberally after a motorcycle accident, several stays at rehab centers.

And through it all, an extremely loving and caring family.

At the shiva, his father told about the graduation ceremony from rehab.

Each participant stood and said, "My name is So-and-so, and I'm an addict."

His son stood and said, "My name is Moshe, and I'm an addict, and I'm a Jew."

His father also quoted a Talmudic passage about the famous rabbis healing each other:

R. Hiyya b. Abba fell ill and R. Yohanan went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward.  He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him.

R. Yohanan once fell ill and R. Hanina went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him. Why could not R. Yohanan raise himself? The prisoner cannot free himself from jail.

I see at leats two profound lessons there.

Let's break it down.

First of all, why does the visiting rabbi ask, "Do you want this illness?"

What kind of question is that? Why would anyone want an illness?

You'll probably get some very interesting answers from your table.

In my opinion, think the answer is clear in the patient's reply. The reason a person may want (or at least accept) an illness is due to the concept of tikkun - that ever adversity that we experience is for our own good, to help us in some way.

His question in effect is, "Is the sickness bearable in light of the putative benefits, or is it unbearable?"

It reminds me of another person who died recently, a lifetime San Francisco resident, of lung cancer. Like all lung cancer patients, his last days were of unbearable suffering.

"I want neither the illness nor its benefits!"

A second take-away, it seems to me, is the role of the patient. In many cases - especially addiction - he has to want to recover. And he has to want to every day.

Hopefully we can encourage him and help him find motivations, but the will has to be real.

A third piece of wisdom, it seems to me, comes from the fact that the healing comes by asking him to grasp his hand, and by the analogy to a prisoner.

It seems to me that too many of us want to go it alone - whether it be in recovery, weight-loss, investing, or even home repairs. DIY is praiseworthy but there is no shame - in fact there is tremendous praise - to someone who ignores his or her ego and asks others for help.

If someone helps you climb the mountain, it doesn't make you any less heroic and in fact a shared summit is sweetest.

Shabbat Shalom


Happy Channukah (however you spell it)

PS - If you're still scrambling for Channuka, you may want to click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Matzah with Cranberry Sauce?

The purpose of this blog is to add some Hodu to the Thanksgiving and even Shabbat table. Please print and share.
(Are you counting down the days and hours and minutes to Channuka?)

Matzo-tartineHere are a few questions to stump everyone at the table.

Try this one first:
Why turkey?

Serious question: Why do Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

(I.e., like it's their religious duty, like Jews eating matzah on Pesach.)

If anyone says, "They ate turkey so we have to eat turkey," you can politely let them know they are wrong on 2 accounts.

First of all, would it really 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?

Second, they probably didn't eat much turkey.

At that original Thanksgiving in 1621, they apparently ate mostly venison.

Let's go back in time.

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 naturally 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 main question: What food should you eat on hodu-day?

Hodu, of course.

Now try asking somebody Jewish at the table this stumper:

You're Jewish, right? Can you explain what "Jewish" means?

Forget the religious or cultural meaning; we want to know the etymology of "Jewish".

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

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

Let that sink in before asking the next question: How often?

(Once a year? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day?)

That could be a lot of hodu to stuff yourself with.

Final question for the table: How do you do it?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Special channuka link for you if you click on the pic above.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Tempus Fudge-it

The purpose of this blog is to speed up time at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.
Sending deep sympathy to those suffering in Southern Israel and in Calfornia.

How+To+Make+A+Dali+Inspired+Decorated+Cake?format=1500wMost people we know are generally on-time.

(Most airlines, too.)

Some people we know are notoriously "always late".

Question 1 for your table - Do you know anyone who is always precisely on-time? How about someone who is always early? How does that fact affect your feelings about that person?

Question 2 - How does it feel when you are on time and the person you are meeting is also punctual?

Question 3 - Do always-late people usually miss their flights, or do they manage to be on time when it comes to travel? How do you explain someone being on-time for a plane, but late for every meeting?

When we moved back to the Bay Area in 2000, I started networking and making daily meetings from San Jose to Marin.

(Life lesson learned - don't do this in a leased vehicle.)

The first week on the job, I decided to repent of my past sins, overcome my habit of procrastination, and be punctual.

Life lesson learned: it wasn't that hard.

The outcome? Many people commented. They found it unusual for someone to be so punctual.

More important - it pleased them.

Question 4 - Were you ever embarrassingly late, but the person you were meeting was even later? How did that feel?

Question 5 - Could there be a down-side to being punctual?

Question 6 - What's worse, being late or not showing up at all?

Question 7 - Would a more spiritual person be more punctual (because they are concerned about other people) or less punctual (because their head is full of lofty thoughts and they don't want to be bound by pettiness)?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Want to kick the tardiness habit (or help someone do so)? Click the pic above.

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Friday, November 09, 2018

One-and-t'Others & Skin-and-Blisters

The purpose of this blog is to leverage the dinner table rivalry. Please print and share.

Lisa v BartLast week I suggested asking at your table, Are you a Jew first or an ______ first (pick your nationality).

This week, a similar convsersation-starter, with a twist:

Are you a child first or a sibling first?

Now, before any only-child protests, let's talk for a moment about the word sibling. The modern meaning of "a person who shares one or both parents with me" is actually quite recent - only about a hundred years old.

The older meaning is any relative. But no one knows how it came into the English language and there are competing theories.

I suspect it comes from Hebrew: the SB root (or SV) has something to do with wisdom. The L is probably a truncation of EL which means God. So this person who torments me, who doesn't nourish me like a parent and I can't walk away from like a peer - why am I stuck with this relationship? Chalk it up to God's wisdom.

(Typical of the English to come up with a tongue-in-cheek word. Reminds one of the Cockney slang skin-and-blister for sister.)

So a sibling is basically a peer that you happen to be stuck with. Gotta remember their birthday, gotta invite them to your simchas, no matter how seldom you actually talk.

So back to today's question - are you the person you are primarily due to your parents, or primarily due to your siblings (again, as broadly defined as you want).

And should you wonder why it matters, I can think of two reasons.

1. Appreciation - the good that's in me came from somewhere (someone). I should thank them.
2. Change - my personality imperfections came from somewhere - if I can ID the source, it's so much easier to change myself.

Maybe you can think of more?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 02, 2018

What Are You

Jude badge
The purpose of this blog is to Jew-up the Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

As you know, this weekly space generally avoids current events.

But sometimes they are unavoidable.

And as you know, this email tries to be more about questions than answers.

So.... I would like to suggest four related questions for your table:

Question 1 - What's more shocking:

That there are such hardboiled antisemites among us, or that one of them decided to act on his hatred?

Question #2 - What about you:

Would you call yourself a Jewish American or an American Jew?

[substitute other nationalities as needed, including Israeli]

Question #3 - What's the ideal:

Should we be striving to live as Jewish Americans or American Jews?

Question #4 - What about now:

When an American Amalek hunts down Jewish people with the mindset of an exterminator trying to clear his world of vermin, how does that impact your answer to Q2 and Q3?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, October 26, 2018

What Chesed Did You Do?

The purpose of this blog is to get everyone's 2-bits at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Piece of 8OK, here is a pair of questions for your table that are sure to stir up discussion:

1. Why do parents always ask their kids, "What did you learn in school today?"
2. Why do kids hate this question?

While I eagerly await the results of your own dinner-table poll, here is my 2-bits, as my grandfather would have said.

(By the way, the reason 2-bits became the nickname for 25¢ is a complete tangent, but it's an interesting bit of triva. Don't rely on Google or you'll miss this one. [But you coudl read this and this.] Dollars used to be solid silver, with tremendous purchasing power. The most common silver dollar then is the one pictured here, the Spanish Piece of 8, aka Peso. This coin represented four days' labor for the average worker, not so convenient for small purchases. So they would cut it into 8 pieces or "bits". So 2-bits - a day's wage - meant a quarter-dollar.)

I suspect that the answer to question #1 is both genuine interest in the lives of our children, and a desire for them to appreciate what they accomplished.

And the answer to #2 may be because too often, kids have a hard time recalling what they learned. Learning is often accumulated in such small steps, and unless the teacher posts, discusses, summarizes and reviews a daily "learning objective", it can be hard for a student on her own to articulate it.


I recently discovered with our almost-eight-year-old that a slightly different question can get a consistent daily engagement with her father:

"What chesed did you do today?"

In case she hesitates, I prompt a bit further: "Did you help anyone? Did you play or sit with someone who was all alone?"

Now, the third question for your table is Why does she respond so well to this question?

Again, I can give you my own theory, but feel free to disagree.

My theory is that doing an act of chesed is a complete, self-contained accomplishment, and it feels complete. In contrast, whatever you learned today may be such a small increment toward a long-term mastery that it doesn't feel like such an accomplishment.

Fourth question for your table: Imagine you got a phone call from God. Not a prank call, it's the real thing! The voice on the other end proves itself to be God with all kinds of knowledge that no human could ever know about you.

So you're in the middle of this conversation when the doorbell rings. You peek out the window and see that it's a poor person collecting tzedaka. You can't do both - you cannot stay on the phone and help the poor person. You must decide - talk to God and get all of your questions answered, or hang up and go help the poor person.

What would you do?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, October 19, 2018

How to Lose.... Wait!

The purpose of this blog is to turn Friday night dinner into a valuable asset. Please print and share.
Happy birthday shouts-out to Lisa + Susan in SF!

alarm-clock-with-tight-beltOne of my favorite motivational videos is "The Time You Have (in Jellybeans)".

He starts with 28,835 jellybeans, representing the days in a lifetime of 79 years.

Then he starts removing jellybeans from the pile, to represent the time we spend in childhood, sleeping, eating, shopping, work, commuting, watching TV, chores, taking care of others' needs, etc.

He ends up with a small pile of jellybeans representing free time - time for enjoying life, self-fulfillment etc.

And he asks: What are you going to do with this small bit of time that remains after you have done all those other activities?

In my opinion, there is something very Jewish and yet something very un-Jewish about this message.

First question for your table: What do you think?

Second question: Imagine you were sitting on a bus next to someone with a bag full of dollar bills.

Every minute or so, he reaches into the bag, pulls out a dollar, and drops it out the window.

You are watching this peculiar behavior for awhile, until he appears to run out of money.

Then he turns to you and asks, "May I borrow a dollar?"

What do you say?

In the video, an efficient person may notice something he left out of his jellybean count: time that is wasted.

Wasted not because a person's standing in line at airport security, but because they're standing in line at airport security without a book.


Our life is filled with little time-nuggets of wait-time. These are opportunities to learn and to grow.

But we totally waste most of these .

3rd Q for your table: If someone asked you how to use their wait-time for a purpose, what would you advise?

"If you love life, then love time, for that is the stuff that life is made of." (Ben Franklin)

Shabbat Shalom
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Friday, October 12, 2018

But Are We Awake?

The purpose of this blog is to restore spirited conversation to the Shabbat table. Please print and share.
In honor of someone very special's birthday today.... Happy birthday, Mom!
And a big mazal tov to Shalev and Rocky on your wedding!

two-candles-in-handsA Jew I know just lost his non-Jewish mother.

Unlike the Jewish custom of quick burial, this Catholic family will not have the funeral for several weeks.

First 2 questions for your table - Have you ever been to a wake? Do you know why they call it that?

(No, it isn't because they hope the deceased will wake up.)

Once upon a time, I attended one. It wasn't Catholic, as far as I recall. They just called it that. It was in a funeral home. The deceased was a young man - 18 years old - who had drowned while swimming with friends in a rural swimming hole.

It was incredibly sad. But seeing him there, embalmed with makeup to make him look like he was merely sleeping, somehow made it more painful, to me.

Next 2 questions: Why don't Jews do embalming? Why do we hurry to bury our dead?

We obviously love life, we don't love death.

But we don't ignore it. We even have a beracha to say upon the death of a loved one.

Question 5 for your table - Why don't we like to talk about it? Why does it make us so uncomfortable?

Some say that the answer is because we live in a culture that really does glorify the physical aspect of existence (the human body and its pleasures) and we have all been trained from a very young age to  become deeply attached to that vitality.

Put it this way: the Olympics and Superbowl get a bit more attention than the World Chess Championship.

(Although it's always encouraging to see the media pay attention to the newest Nobel Prizes.)

Others point out that even spiritual people have trouble with death. They argue that we expect God to be good and loving and kind and taking a loved one away is painful and therefore unkind and that's a contradiction so we'd rather ignore it than grapple with the contradiction.

What say you?

According to the Talmud, there are 903 types of death.

(And if anyone cares, it even tells us which are the most and the least painful.)

Question 6 for your table - What would you say are the best and worst ways to die?

Question 7 - If the Talmud is going to talk about 903 ways to die, why doesn't it also tell us how many ways there are to live?

Shabbat Shalom

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As always, this message can be read online at

Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld PhD
Jewish Spiritual Literacy, Inc.
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Friday, October 05, 2018

How to Fly High

The purpose of this blog is to raise spirits at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.
In memory of  Jeremy Dossetter (Yermiyahu Matan), zichrono livracha, whose first yahrzeit is observed tonight and tomorrow.

Jeremy-surfNow that the holidays are officially over, is it back to business-as-usual, or has something changed?

The other night, my driver-in-training daughter and I are out for a spin, trying to get her to her 60 hours.

We decide to make our destination a local drugstore.

There's always something you need at a drugstore.

No lines - looks like we were the only customers.

Now, if we could just avoid the employees, we'd have it made....

So we arrive at the checkout with our items. The employee on duty is a young woman.

As we are stepping up to the counter, this employee is tearing open a package of cookies. As I am reaching to place my items on the counter, she quickly rips two or three cookies from the package and stuffs them all in her mouth at once.

This does not occur while her back is turned to us, nor her side.

She is facing us and is not even three feet away.

Now, this account could remain a tale of mere manners and professionalism.

But it gets worse.

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut, but I feel like I should say something.

So as lighthearted and friendly as possible, with a smile, I say, "You know, those aren't very healthy."

Her answer (once she finishes swallowing, give her credit for that): "I know, but, hey, you gotta die sometime, so who cares if it's a little sooner rather than later."

She has stunned us into silence.

Back in the car, my daughter has a comment.

First question for your table: What would you guess she says?

(She said she was sad for this woman who evidently felt that she had very little to live for.)

Second question: What would you have said (if anything)?

Third question: Is this woman to be praised for 'living in the moment'?

As noted above, tonight is the first yahrzeit of our beloved student and friend Jeremy, whose helicopter went down off the coast of Molokai, Hawaii.

Jeremy exemplified both living in the moment and living with a sense of purpose. He would have been the last person to knowingly endanger his life because he loved life and had big meaningful goals.

I believe he saw this world as both a beautiful artwork and a blank canvas on which to paint the work of art called "My Life".

The best way we can honor him is to be inspired by him. May his memory be for a blessing.

Speaking of Jeremy and painting, here's a final question for your table.

This is the kind of philosophical question he enjoyed discussing when we studied Torah together via Skype.

Imagine a painter makes a picture of a natural scene, with trees and people and so on.

5 minutes after the he completes the painting, you and I look at that person in the picture. I ask you, “How old would you say that man is in the painting?”
You scrutinize it and decide that he looks like he’s 50 years old.
“Wrong! He’s only 5 minutes old!”
Who’s right?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The image above was Jeremy's Skype image, a self-portrait I believe, and yes it is clickable.

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