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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