Friday, March 09, 2018

Rule #1: Don't Panic

The purpose of this email is to ask and answer ultimate questions at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Pesach-handsAt a certain climax in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we learn that the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is.... "forty-two".

But that begs the question: What's that the answer to?

So in the story, the supercomputer Deep Thought runs an experiment to solve this problem. The experiment is called Earth, another supercomputer, comprised of people who will collectively reveal the answer (meaning, the question whose answer is 42).

Unfortunately, five minutes before the supercomputer-called-Earth is going to finally reveal the solution, the planet is destroyed by the Vogons in order to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Therefore - if you're still with me - the
hyper-intelligent (and rather evil) mice need to quickly invent an answer (which is really the question) because they're about to go on the air on a talk show with everybody watching. So after some debate, they decide that the question (whose answer is 42) would most plausibly be: "How many roads must a man walk down?"

Now why am I telling you all this?

Two days ago, our son was at a Torah class where the rabbi quoted the 20th Century Chassidic classic, Nesivos Shalom. The author - the Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky zt”l - interprets the 42 stages of the Israelites in the wilderness as symbolic of the 42 paths a person walks in a lifetime.


But now for your table: What's more flabbergasting, that Douglas Adams somehow channeled the Nesivos Shalom? Or that we have 42 paths to walk in our lifetime?

It may be hard for you to concentrate right now because you are so preoccupied with preparing for Pesach.

Just in case you are not feeling enough anxiety, your second question for the table is, How many days until Pesach?

I sense that the question makes you uncomfortable, so we have updated the website with a Passover countdown-clock:

Rule #1 in using the clock: Don't panic.

All that you have to do is laugh a bit.

And a little bit more.

And then ask yourself, "How many paths have I walked until now?"

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, March 02, 2018

Happy Windsday (?)

The purpose of this email is to turn things upside-down at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Fallen treeYou may have heard about these tremendous winds on the East Coast today.

Major trees down. Power flickering.

This is a classic case of forest v. trees.

If there's a flood, some people say, "Woe is me!"

Others react, "What a great opportunity to replace that floor!"

When the power goes out in the middle of your work, some people say, "Oy, how am I going to work?"

Others say, "What a great opportunity to take a break!"

Question 1 for your table: When the wind is strong enough to blow trees down, what do you say?

Question 2 for your table: What's your favorite optimist quote?

(Here is one of mine:
"You can't make an omeletet without breaking eggs.")

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Some people make a bracha on strong winds - can you guess which one?

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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Q U Thought U Knew

The purpose of this blog is to turn things over at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Remember last week's bad dad joke, about the fish with no eyes?

The whole idea was that we're now in Purim season, all the way through next week.

See that crown over there on the left?

If you don't relate very much to Purim, that crown is for you.

Because hidden in that crown you will find a link to a book that will as sure as eggs is eggs change your understanding of Purim from a romantic story into a most profound tale of Jewish history, purpose and being.

And like all great Jewish books, it leaves questions unanswered. Much to think about.

In the meantime, here's a question for your table:

What is one thing about the Purim story that never made sense to you?

Here's a quick review of the story..... Here's a quicker video review.

And if you have headspace to learn just one new thing about Purim this year, please watch this (45 min video). 
 Shabbat Shalom


!miruP yppaH

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Did You Hear the One About...

The purpose of this blog is to increase simcha at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Corny joke #3.... the guy who could never remember the punchline of a joke?

Get it?

Remember, the purpose of this email is to read it aloud at your Friday night dinner table.

Here are a few more:

What is brown and sticky?
A stick.

Why do seagulls fly over the sea?
Because if they flew over the bay, they'd be bagels.

What kind of music do planets like?

Why are there gates around cemeteries?
Because people are dyin' to get in.

Don't trust atoms. They make up everything.

A guy walks into a library and says, "Hi, I'll have the fish please."
The librarian says, "Sir, this is a library."
The guy whispers, "Oh, I'm sorry! I'll have the fish."

Survey time for your table - 5 questions....

Which of these is the best? The worst?

Why are "bad" jokes good?

What's the world's best "bad" joke?

(Send it my way and I'll send you a prize.)

You often hear people talk about "Jewish" humor — is there such a thing?
(Hint - click on the image above.)

Shabbat Shalom

A mensch tracht un Got lacht A person plans and God laughs.

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Friday, February 09, 2018


The purpose of this blog is to create some DIY wisdom at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Happy birthday shout-outs this week to Marc in SF and Lily in Mill Valley - ad meah v'esrim.

aluminum-foilWhat do you do when your wife is leaving town for a week and says:

"Sorry to saddle you with this, but the washing machine is broken."

Maybe you would call a repairman?

Personally, I first want to know what "broken" means.

Remember the old days, with the purely analog machine?

I miss that old machine, just had a couple buttons, and anything that broke was mechanical.

Do all the electronics really get our clothes cleaner?

Well, there is a Yiddish expression, "Before God sends the disease, he sends the cure."

The cure in this day and age is of course Dr. G.

As in Google.

The last time around, Dr. G. told me that the problem was probably the thermostat, which was located in the underbelly and the only way to access it would be to remove the entire rubber seal around the washing machine's door.

That seemed too daunting so I asked Dr. G. for a second opinion, which came up as a video of a guy who said, forget that nightmare of trying to remove (and replace) the rubber seal - just tilt the machine back, prop it up on a couple bricks, and pull out the thermostat from below.

That's what I did. And Dr. Google told me how to test it - it was working.

So what was the problem?

I crawled back under the machine and looked at the whole setup and it looked to me like the connector pins were not making a tight connection. Maybe years of vibrations had loosened them.

So I went and got a tiny piece of aluminum foil and shoved it in there.

Solved the problem, has worked perfectly ever since.

Until last week when my wife was leaving.

This time the error was not the thermostat, it was on the LCD, telling me, "Door open" when the door was tightly closed.

So I did the same thing: removed the faulty piece and studied it, looking for what was loose.

I'm pretty sure I found the problem, bent a small piece of metal a bit and put it back in. Sure enough, that fixed it.

Until it stopped again a few minutes later with the same error.

This went back and forth three times until I realized I wasn't going to fix it this way.

Question for your table: What did I do?

Answer: a tiny piece of foil.

Yes, I was overriding the "open door" safety feature, but at least I got the laundry done.

Question #2 for your table: When is the last time that you tried to fix something yourself, why didn't you call an expert, and how did you feel afterwards?

Shabbat Shalom

Ven tsu a krcnk iz do a refueh, iz dos a halbeh krenk - When there’s a cure for an ailment, it’s only half an ailment.
Far an akshen iz kain refueh nito - For the disease of stubbornness there is no cure.

PS - If your inclined to try DYI repairs but don't know where to start, click on the picture above.
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Friday, January 26, 2018

For the Birds

The purpose of this blog is to spark some twitter at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Please (don't) feed the birds Try asking this show-stopper at your table: What's the first day of the week?

If anyone says Monday, ask them: so what day of the week is Shabbat?

Does everyone knows that Shabbat is the seventh day of the week?

But then we're back to square one. How can Monday be Day 1 and Saturday be Day 7?

Maybe we got it all wrong? How do we know when is the seventh day? Maybe it's Sunday? Maybe it's Tuesday? Is there a missing day?

The answer is related to a little-known custom related to birds.

Once a year, on a Friday afternoon, there is a custom to throw bread crumbs to the birds.

We do this the week of Parashat Bishalach - this week's Torah chapter.

The origin of the custom is related to this day-of-the-week puzzle.

In the Exodus, after crossing the Reed Sea, the Israelites find themselves free but hungry.

They complain to Moshe (Moses), he complains to God, God says, no problem, tomorrow I'll send you some miracle food.

(Not to be confused with miracle fruit.)

In the morning they find this magical food on the ground. Mah zeh? - What's this? So they called it mahn.

Then Moshe tells them, you're going to have to collect it and use it up every day.

On the fifth day, Moshe tells them: Tomorrow, Day 6, I want everyone to collect double. That way on the seventh day (Shabbat) you won't have to go to work. "And don't bother going out on Shabbat because there won't be any mahn on the ground."

So the story goes that everyone followed the directions and collected double on Friday.

But some trouble-makers threw some of their mahn on the ground Friday afternoon. They wanted to make Moses look like a liar.

But the birds took care of the problem.

They came in and ate all those crumbs of mahn. Moshe's (and God's) reputation was safe.

So to honor the birds, we throw them some bread crumbs before this parsha every year.

Which leads to Question #2 for your table: Collecting a bit of miracle-food doesn't sound that hard, in fact it sounds like a good bit of exercise. Why take a day off? Even more important: why enforce it?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The coming Tuesday night/Wednesday 4th Day is Tubishvat - the fruity holiday.

PS - I recently learned that Quakers have a custom of calling the days by their Biblical names only, avoiding the pagan names of Sunday, Monday, etc. So today isn't Friday, it's the sixth day. In fact, this is how Israelis speak.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Spreading Good Taste

The purpose of this blog is to cut some mustard at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.
Recent happy birthday shout-outs to Marc in Marin and Jorun in SF - until 120!

GreyPouponRemember Grey Poupon?

As in the guys in the Rolls Royces, sharing "one of life's finer pleasures"?

To understand today's Table Talk, a bit of background.

The brand was created in 1777. That's a lot of charge-discharge cycles ago.

They conqured America in the 1980s with the help of Rolls, but then for decades we didn't hear from them.

Why bother? Their brand had been established.

But then in 2012, Grey Poupon decided it was time to reintroduce their brand to a new generation.

So they of course created a Facebook page.

But unlike every other Facebook page in the universe, Grey Poupon did not go for unlimited "likes".

They called their page, The Society of Good Taste.

They required an application to become a friend of Grey Poupon. Their computer would analyze your own profile and scores you based on your posts, your timeline, your other "likes" and even your grammar.

35 thousand were rejected!

First question for your table: Would you guess that it was good or bad for their brand? Did this exclusiveness help or hurt their image among the Facebook set?

Answer: It was a home run.... Fabulously successful.

But.... question #2 - How would you guess those 35,000 people felt about being rejected

I don't know, but I would guess that most of them felt very good about it. Remember Groucho's line?

"I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member."

If there is no bar to pass, no price to pay, then it ain't worth much.

OK, here's the last question this week for your table:

Does exclusivity work for personal life? What about parenting or teaching? What about dating and marriage?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The one you never saw!

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Mouth of Soap

The purpose of this blog is for some good, clean talk at the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
RAGAD-stage-setGrowing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house.

My grandmother (we called her Gigi) loved to cook and bake, and many of our memorable conversations took place in her kitchen.

One of those conversations took place when I was five (the reason I remember what age I was will become apparent).

We were standing in that kitchen. Linoleum gleamed in every direction, fixed in my memory like a minimalist staging of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (see photo above).

Now, Gigi kept this small crystal dish in the living room full of Hershey's Kisses.

The holy grail for of every child who entered that house was to sneak into the living room and extract a Kiss without being detected.

The problem was that if you were not exceedlingly careful, one slip of your hand and crystal touching crystal would reverberate, giving you away.

But even so, there was always the chance that she didn't hear it.

So that particular day I had, as usual, sought and obtained my prize.

But back in the kitchen the worst of my fears was realized:

"Did you take a candy from the living room?"

"No," I lied.

"I hope you're telling me the truth! You must never tell a lie! When your father was five, he once told a lie. We called it 'fibbing'. And you know what I did? I washed his mouth out with soap! And he never lied after that."

On the spot, I resolved never to fib again, at least not to Gigi.

But she continued: "It's not just lies that are bad, any bad language is bad. You should always say nice things! And truthful things. Don't use bad words or tell lies like you might hear other children do."

I frankly didn't know what she meant by bad words at the time, but the lesson stuck.

Later I learned that her lesson has a source in Torah. The rabbis call it lashon naki - clean language.

The idea is to go out of your way to use terms like "washroom" etc. instead of their more explicit synonyms.

Even if it requires more syllables.

Don't say "dirty", say "unclean".

2 questions for your table:

1. What are some common words that people use that could be said with a lashon naki?
2. What about swearing (cursing) - have swear words become so common that they could be considered lashon naki?

Shabbat Shalom

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Friday, January 05, 2018

I Hearby Resolve...

The purpose of this blog is to bring some inspiration to the Shabbat table. Please print and share (+ like it, tweet it, forward).
Thank you for all the mazal tovs regarding Devorah's bat mitzvah dvar Torah last week.

notebookFirst question for your table: Did you catch the typo in the title?

Someone asked me if making January-first new year's resolutions is "OK" for a Jewish person.

Second question: What do you think was bothering them?

Why not make resolutions?

Well, the thinking goes, because we already had our new year back in September. Remember?

For your table: What do you think the rabbi told them?

Answer: No, it's not OK - if you're just "making a resolution".

What we should be doing is making a resolution every day - not just once or twice a year.

Making a daily resolution and holding yourself accountable for it is a very, very Jewish thing to do.

So if the first week of 2018 inspires you to do so - fabulous.

But how are you going to hold yourself accountable?

Here's a suggestion (and the background to today's title): when you wake up every day and want to make your resolution - or when you go to bed and are making a resolution for tomorrow - make it out loud. Let your ears hear your words. This is a meditative technique to get the idea deeper into your brain.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Thank you to all who sent in their generous support at the end of 2017. If you are interested in starting 2018 with a mitzvah, please consider supporting this email and JSL's overall mission, by clicking here.
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