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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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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