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Says who?

05/06/2021 12:18:49 PM

May6

I have a problem with authority. Nobody does what I tell them! (Cue drum and cymbal). 

We take our American rights and liberties very seriously. Living under a government by the people, for the people, we have a deep sense that the ultimate power and authority in our community comes from individual citizens. As long as our actions don’t harm ourselves nor the people around us, we adopt an attitude of live...Read more...

You, Y'all, All Y'all

04/22/2021 10:31:49 AM

Apr22

One of the more frustrating experiences in elementary school was when the entire class was punished for the rambunctiousness of a handful of individuals. “We’re all going to sit here quietly for five minutes, and if anyone makes a sound the time starts over…” As a well-behaved student who generally followed the rules, I found it a waste of time to sit there quietly while more impulsive kids got their wise-cracks in to test...Read more...

Did you hear about the pork?

04/08/2021 12:33:55 PM

Apr8

There was a rhyme that my Jewish day school peers and I used to chant when we caught wind of some juicy gossip that we wanted to hear, but the owner of the gossip didn’t want to share it because it was Lashon Harah (Literally: “bad tongue/language,” Evil Speech.) We’d chant, “Lashon Harah, Lamed Hay, tell it to me anyway.” (“Lamed” and “Hay” being the first two Hebrew letters of each of these lines.) Of...Read more...

Of Blood and Wine

03/25/2021 07:01:19 PM

Mar25

There are many interactive parts to the seder, but the part that is most hands on is undeniably the dipping of our fingers into our wine during the ten plagues (see what I did there?). As explained by our Sages, we diminish our joy of being free by remembering the cost of such freedom – the suffering and death of the Egyptians. Afterall, what is more sobering than literally decreasing the volume of wine in our...Read more...

Complex Yet Possible

03/11/2021 12:54:04 PM

Mar11

During the early months of the pandemic, and probably as a result of our hyper focus on toilet paper supplies, I set out to create a contraption of sorts with the kiddo where a ball would travel through a complex path through connected toilet paper rolls. Armed with duct-tape, I attached these cylindrical pieces to the wall at gentle slopes, with the hopes that gravity would bring the ball from the top to the base...Read more...

Note to Self

02/25/2021 11:43:08 AM

Feb25

I used to live on a street in New York City that had angled parking. It was obviously a wider street than most New York cross-streets, and these angled parking spots were hot commodities for those with sub-par parallel parking skills. On snowy days, snow plows would come through and clear the street, pushing a mound of snow behind the line of cars parked outside my apartment. This meant that at the end of the...Read more...

Time to Understand Others

02/11/2021 10:52:24 AM

Feb11

A mother once told her son that he was beginning to lack empathy. The son didn’t understand how she could feel that way about him.

If there is a theme in Parshat Mishpatim, it would be empathy. The portion contains a series of laws that ensures that society is more equitable and just. The code of laws begins with laws on how to treat a slave, and continues with laws for accidental manslayers, physical...Read more...

Arrogance leads to forgetfulness

01/28/2021 02:24:15 PM

Jan28

There is a Rabbinic teaching about how anger and arrogance make a person forget their learning (Talmud Pesachim 66a). The truth of such an axiom is apparent wherever one observes the irrational behavior of one whose temper gets the better of them. How many verbal sparring matches have seen words thrown around that were immediately regretted once vocalized? Thus, it isn’t so much of a stretch to understand why our...Read more...

Resolved

01/13/2021 11:53:34 PM

Jan13

Half-buoyant, with muscles heavy,
eyes blinking to cleanse the sea-spray, 
a stable shore, though it rocks to and fro,
a far hope, a naïve “someday.”

More rowing, my body protests.
The current dictates with great force. 
Why bother? Why try? It is all in vain.
I’ve resigned to this hapless course. 

Like the prophet’s words in Egypt,
unheard by the flocks weary ear.
The...Read more...

A Chance To Do Better

12/30/2020 07:40:44 AM

Dec30

I was once taught that when being critical of others, it is better to associate the problem with their actions and not with their entire being. Rather than label them as annoying, one should instead should name the specific act that they are doing as annoying. Instead of calling them a liar, it is better to point out that they chose to lie. What is the practical difference in having such an approach? By labeling the...Read more...

The Bigger Picture

12/17/2020 12:04:34 PM

Dec17

One of the features of human intelligence is our ability to imagine the future and build on our own past experiences and the experiences of others. Our culture continues to evolve and each generation hopes to build upon the wisdom of their ancestors. We better understand the world in which we live and see further down the road that we call the future. On our best days, our models and predictions are accurate. But...Read more...

Little by little

12/03/2020 10:50:04 AM

Dec3

At my childhood synagogue, the Torah was read following the triennial cycle. This would mean that we’d read a third of each parsha every week, rotating which third of the parsha was read each year. Since this meant that the amount to read for each Aliyah is shorter, and with skilled older siblings, I didn’t even need to learn all of my Bar Mitzvah readings myself. As a novice Torah reader, I was content to only...Read more...

Stop, Think, and Choose

11/19/2020 09:44:33 AM

Nov19

There is a short joke about a man whose only plan is to pick up a pair of eyeglasses. After that, he’ll see what happens.

It is tempting to approach life with a “spur of the moment” attitude. Why plan ahead when there are so many contingencies? It is hard work to contemplate what is in our best interests, especially when we might never know for sure if indeed we chose the best path forward. Thus, we...Read more...

Patience, You Must Have

11/05/2020 10:50:59 AM

Nov5

There is a story in Parshat Vayera that many a religious school teacher will gloss over in their review of the book of Genesis, and that is the story of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Aside from our tradition’s imagining of what was particularly so evil about these two cities, the story is also rife with problematic choices and behaviors, including Lot’s offering up his...Read more...

Successfully Joining Hands

10/21/2020 02:46:23 PM

Oct21

I once participated in the full contact sport of riding a bus in Israel, and along with my friends, jostled onto the bus only to notice that there were only two seats left for our party of three. We were riding from Jerusalem to Eilat, a three-and-a-half-hour trip, and didn’t want to waste the day of our vacation waiting for the next bus. So, we devised a plan for each of us to take the seat for a little bit, and then stand for...Read more...

Circling Chairs

10/08/2020 02:23:12 PM

Oct8

I'm going to admit that some of the things we are doing differently this Sukkot as a result of the virus have been amazingly enjoyable to me. Joining virtual services and Zoom meetings from my sukkah? It’s been great! Getting those picnic vibes by eating every meal with your family outside? You betcha! Not getting poked by the lulav of the person behind you during hoshanot? First time unscathed! But not everything...Read more...

Of Pencils and Ropes

09/24/2020 11:51:05 AM

Sep24

I have a bad habit of doing crossword puzzles with pens. This obvious error in judgment means that I invariably am squeezing letters next to scribbles, which themselves are next to scribbles, because of mistakes and new guesses. Third time’s the charm? I think the reason I don’t use a pencil is because pencils are sparse in my house. I know I can buy some, but then you have to sharpen them, and they always...Read more...

Torat Futon

09/09/2020 10:33:02 PM

Sep9

There is a futon in my basement that I’ve had since college. It previously belonged to my parents when they spent a year in New York and when they were leaving, I claimed it for myself. If schlepping it from my parent’s apartment to my dorm was move number one, then after multiple moves within New York City, shipping it to Atlanta would have been move number six. We’ve since relocated within our neighborhood...Read more...

First Flight

08/27/2020 11:25:39 AM

Aug27

At first, I thought it was a chance encounter to see a male and female cardinal outside my kitchen window a few months ago. But as the hours went by and the cardinals lingered, it piqued my interest and I went to investigate their continued presence. It was then that I noticed a baby fledgling in our back-patio. It seemed that the baby bird had fallen from the nest, and was only just stretching out its wings for the...Read more...

Incremental Steps

08/13/2020 11:49:08 AM

Aug13

As we hunkered down for Zoom Passover seders in April, I don’t think many of us really thought that this pandemic could be the reality for High Holidays half a year away. Since then, I think people have more sobering expectations for how prolonged this virus could last. If you would have told me in April that some schools might still be virtual at the end of summer, I don’t think I would have been ready to hear...Read more...

A cellphone mezuzah?

07/28/2020 05:04:50 PM

Jul28

My cellphone kicked the bucket this week, and it’s now that I realized how much mental space my phone takes up in my life. Right now, my mind is focused on worrying about being on the “grid” and being available to answer calls and messages. Instead of falling asleep or doing my part in keeping the household in order, I am spending more time figuring out how I can check my voicemail and whatsapp messages without a physical phone that...Read more...

Redeemable Villains

07/13/2020 12:15:29 AM

Jul13

There’s an old folktale about a village’s grumpy old wealthy man who passes away. Since he would always complain about everything, judge everyone he encountered, and never had a nice thing to say about anything, he didn’t acquire many friends. In fact, the opposite was true. He was miserable to be around, and at his funeral, there was nobody who truly mourned his loss. Yet, as the weeks went on, the village soon...Read more...

The Good Old Days

07/01/2020 04:45:07 PM

Jul1

 

These past few months, my family has been using online grocery shopping. Choosing the comfort and safety of our own living room, we have been placing our orders online, and letting someone else go through the aisles finding everything we need. Except it’s not a perfect situation. If the item we need is not in stock, we can either trust the shopper to choose a good alternative, or we can opt out of...Read more...

It's too late to apologize?

06/17/2020 06:40:34 PM

Jun17

When I get mad, I like to talk about how I am feeling. I like validation, but when my anger is justified, I really appreciate an apology. Yet, if I ask for an apology, then doubt enters my mind whether or not the apology is given because I asked for it, or because it was sincere. Of course, the flip side is true as well. When I am in the wrong, and an apology is asked of me, its important for me to not just apologize, but to show someone that...Read more...

Listening to our neighbors

06/04/2020 09:48:48 AM

Jun4

This week, our attention has turned to the voices of our Black brothers and sisters who are calling for change in our society. And it is a good thing that their voices are in the spotlight because American society often ignores, downplays and dismisses the voices of minorities. More often than not, it’s not a conscious choice. The Implicit Association Test created by psychologists Greenwald, McGhee and Schwartz...Read more...

May the odds be ever in your favor

05/14/2020 10:20:16 AM

May14

Everyone one knows that when you lose a game of rock-paper-scissors, you demand “best out of three,” so that you still have a chance to beat your opponent. You still have to win the next two games, but at least you have a fighting chance. And of course, if you lose any of the subsequent games, there is always “best out of five!” Or seven, or nine… However, with every last ditch effort to keep your hope of winning alive, the chances...Read more...

I Did My Best

04/30/2020 01:10:27 PM

Apr30

While teaching this week, I recalled a memory of a sub-par grade I got on a high school test. I studied the night before in preparation for the test and went into the test feeling confident that I’d do well. However, when I got my grades back, I clearly missed the mark. I complained to my dad that I was upset because I did the best I could do and still got a grade I wasn’t proud of. To which he inquired of me whether or not I truly...Read more...

Listen and Support

04/14/2020 02:04:24 PM

Apr14

“What does one say to mourners?” I often get this question when someone is planning to go to a shiva minyan. Recognizing the inadequacy of words, and the pressure to fill every silent moment with noise, people seek the right words to express their condolences. What I have found is that the best words one can share are those that express a commitment to listen and be a support. “What do you need?” “Tell me about your loved one?”...Read more...

More than Enough

03/18/2020 05:52:15 PM

Mar18

There is a joke that is often told about Parshat Vayahel-Pekudei that it records the only time in history where the Jewish people were told to stop giving money. After conveying God’s instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites eagerly provide all the material and gold for the project. The donations were so great that the workers had to inform Moses that the Israelites had donated more than enough. Moreover, when...Read more...

When you put it that way…

03/05/2020 11:13:42 AM

Mar5

When I became first aware of Covid-19, I heard that it was called Coronavirus. However, I quickly learned that corona means “crown” Latin, and that there are many types of human coronaviruses. This novel coronavirus was a strand that wasn’t seen before, and thus was called Novel Coronavirus. However, diseases don’t respect borders, cultures, or nationalities, and thus instead of naming the virus something relating to geography (as was...Read more...

Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyyar 5781