Gut Yontif, everyone. It’s great to see everyone back in synagogue for the holiday and I want to wish everyone a tzom kal—an easy fast.
So far this New Year, we have yet to play around with the Hebrew letters composing the year 5777—Tav, shin, ayin, zayin. And the reason for this is when we take all these letters and try to read them as a Hebrew word, they come out as total gibberish. On the other hand, dropping the 5000 as so many Kabbalists might and playing only with 777, we can look for a phrase itself whose letters add up to 777 and that phrase I have for you, one with which you are certainly familiar.
I’ve been asking people what they are grateful for this Thanksgiving, and many have been hard-pressed to vocalize their gratitude with specifics. For those of you still searching for some ideas, I offer you the following pathetically incomplete list of 100 of my favorite things. Read More
At a recent family discussion, just after the funeral of a relative, some of my relatives said that it is not proper to visit other graves while at another funeral or unveiling. Is this real Halakhah or just a bubemysah?
Watching the media make excuses for the heinous actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of murdering 13 fellow soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, is reason enough to ask—what is going on? He has, for example, been called “a nut case,” thus exonerating him for crimes committed. Talk of the tremendous pressures combat soldiers presently endure would turn Hasan into a victim, not a perpetrator. And my favorite, Time magazine’s Joe Klein blamed Jewish extremists for suggesting that Hasan’s actions were connected to Islam. And there you have it—when all else fails, blame a Jew. It’s fast, it’s inexpensive, and sadly, for far too many, it’s plausible. Read More
I truly enjoy your pulpit, CyberShul and synagogue news commentaries. They are uniformly insightful, succinct and entertaining (even if I don’t always agree). Your recent comments on the Jewish view of tattoos “spiked” my interest. I am curious about the current Jewish philosophical view of cosmetic plastic surgery. Aren’t all those tummy tucks and facelifts that are not medically necessary also considered defiling the body? I am of course, not referring to reconstructive surgery due to injury, cancer or congenital anomalies.
Or does it fall under the mitzvah of taking care of one’s health, including psychological and emotional health? Read More
Whenever my son is not present, I rise to say a prayer for the sick in his behalf. Am I to stop at some point given that his condition is lifelong? He was recently diagnosed with a disease, which sounds worse than it really is, but what means that he needs to take medication for the rest of his life and have periodic blood tests. His skin will remain blotchy, clear up, and then return to an abnormal state. There is no cure, just hope that one day this condition will go away. He is handling it all so amazingly well! I am convinced that God has definitely given him a wonderful gift--a fabulous, upbeat, positive attitude!! He is so bright and optimistic, good-hearted, etc. I so wish he did not have to endure this! Read More
It’s easy to be a Jew. How about that for a new spin on an old idea! And I mean no disrespect to that old Yiddish saying—Si shver sizein a Yid—it’s difficult to be a Jew. For the first Jew who coined that phrase, living most probably in some European shtetl, impoverished, separated from schools of learning, separated from the trade guilds, exposed to the virulent attacks of a predominantly anti-Semitic society, and living obediently by the minutia of Jewish Law, being a Jew was no picnic. Read More
The Coen Brothers, famous for such block busters as No Country for Old Men, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski, have taken on their most ambitious subject yet: God. Though some characterize A Serious Man as a modern retelling of Job, it deals less with the evil that afflicts the righteous than with the existence of God Himself. The movie is extraordinary for its hutzpah, boldly portraying Jewish life in Minnesota, in the mid-sixties, without apology or explanation, complete with references to the goys, HaShem (God), and olam habah, Hebrew for the “world to come.” Read More
Imagine knowing that some evil is about to happen in the not too distant future and doing nothing about it. Not a pleasant thought is it? And yet, this is precisely what God intimates to Abram when He first establishes a convenant with His first most faithful servant. God says, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years…” (Genesis 15:8). If this is part of the small print of the convenant, would you agree to it? Read More
I hope your weekend with the students was a great one. I have a question for you. Today my husband and son attended a Bar Mitzvah at a Reform synagogue on Long Island. I realize that the Temple is Reform and whenever I attend a Reform service I know that there will be a stark difference. But today was a bit unsettling. We sat through a service primarily composed of quick versions of a limited number of prayers, extremely short Torah and Haftorah portions, untold number of family speeches, an incredible amount of the service in English (the total service was one hour with one hour of family and Bar and Bat Mitzvah speeches) and then the oddest request which resulted in the three of us looking at each other and being confused. Read More
This past week, I ate in a kosher restaurant with a group of people from all
different Jewish backgrounds. Secular, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews all sat around the table. We were all in New York for a seminar on the Middle East conflict. At the end of dinner, the Orthodox men and women took out their benchers to say the Birkat Hamazon. I was torn whether to participate or not. Ultimately, I decided not to join in. Read More
When retelling the biblical stories to our children, we sometimes leave out a few critical details. My Nursery School director, whom I trust in all these matters, reminds me each year that when telling the tale of Esther, nobody dies. When it comes to the story of Noah, our bowdlerized Bible becomes even more extreme. This is a story about the end of the world due to widespread corruption and perversity, and yet we have the kids gleefully singing. Read More
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, just about everyone watching that magical televised moment recalled his famous words, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” It was a beautiful statement, expertly crafted, though with the transmission between moon and earth somewhat broken up by static, not everyone caught it at first. Read More
A couple weeks ago I attended the wedding of a niece whom I love dearly. The wedding was, as I suspected, a real tear-jerker for me, but I was surprised to see her walk down the aisle without a veil. Kosher? I�ve never seen it. When I asked my kid sister about this (bride�s mother), she said her daughter had bristled at the idea of covering her face. She and her friends determined that it was yet another instance of men forcing women to be invisible in the world. The rabbi said, "Lose the veil!" Read More
After schlepping around in the wilderness for 40 years, and the B’nei Yisrael poised to enter the Promised Land, two tribes propose an alternative plan. Reuven and Gad (that’s G-A-D, one of the tribes) propose to Moses that their two tribes not cross the Jordan, but remain in an area which we would presently identify as part of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. These two tribes did not want to cross the Jordan, because that territory was perfect for cattle, of which they owned an abundance. Read More
My son is extremely shy. He is typically quiet in general, but when he gets into a crowd, he shuts down, PERIOD. In school, his teachers know not to call on him to recite anything before the class. He’s not dumb. Thank God—his grades are the best in the class. But he is saddled with a shyness that gets in the way of his socialization. My husband and I are working on it together with a therapist. Read More