Learn from the Best

July 28, 2014
https://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/

Image by Tony Alter

Today I attended a funeral for a wonderful woman. It was sad, as all funerals are sad, but it was also a celebration, because Henrietta Garfinkle, or “Hank,” as her friends knew her, had been waiting for this day. She buried her great love, Vic, 18 months ago, and while she was not a person to grieve herself to death, she looked forward to spending eternity with him.

A lot of people avoid funerals. It’s too bad, because at the funeral of a mensch – a deeply good person – you can learn a lot about how to become a mensch yourself. We heard stories from Hank’s children, and her children’s spouses, about how she had been with them. We heard from her rabbi. And as is the case with Jewish funerals, they told the truth about her. That is actually a rule about a Jewish hesped, or eulogy: it has to be true, even when the truth is difficult.

I can’t remember everything that was said. What I know is that I left that funeral with a clearer idea of exactly the sort of mensch that Henrietta was, and that as a result, I know some new things about how to be a good Jew and a good person. I learn not only how the person was good, but I get a sense of what their challenges were in being a good person. This happens every time I attend a funeral.

So the next time you hear of a funeral in your congregation, consider attending. It is a mitzvah to attend a funeral, even if you didn’t know the person well. If they were part of your community, it is a mitzvah to go, period. If they were especially beloved in your community, be SURE to go, because it’s a great opportunity: you’re going to learn from the best.


I don’t know how to be Jewish

July 13, 2014

rabbiadar:

For my readers who are beginners at Judaism: I know that you sometimes wonder when you will “know enough” and that sometimes you feel intimidated by Jews who have generations of experience behind them. This is a wonderful, honest, forthright account by a women who was born Jewish and is very much like many people who will see at synagogue. We never stop learning, even the rabbis, especially the rabbis.

Originally posted on Oy Vey Out Loud:

History is Always Complicated

I was born into a UK Liberal Jewish family. At the time, my Shul was a member of ULPS (United Liberal and Progressive Synagogues), an organisation now known as Liberal Judaism. I think I had a baby blessing – I can’t actually remember:-) I remember going to Shul in North London now and then when I was very young, usually for Passover. The Communal Seder meal has a smell and taste that’s been the same in all the Shuls that I’ve attended:-) Boiled eggs, salt water, salmon of some kind, often cold, and of course matzos.

When I was four, we moved to South Wales, and started attending the ‘local’ Reform Shul in Cardiff – only 15 miles away. I had my Bat Mizvah at Cardiff, and then did it all over again in London in the Liberal Shul because that’s where most of our Jewish…

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10 Ways to Enhance Your Jewish Home

July 12, 2014

 

Shabbat on a card table.

Shabbat on a card table.

I’ve written before about the ways in which the Jewish home is a mikdash me’at, a little sanctuary. Taking care of your home is an important part of Jewish living, whether you live in a tiny studio apartment or a mansion. Here are some simple ways you can make your home more of a sanctuary, a safe, calm place in the world. Choose one or two and see what happens after a month or two:

1. Make your home as safe as possible. Did you know that this is an actual mitzvah? Deuteronomy 22:8 says that when you build a new house, put a railing around the roof, so no one will fall off. The rabbis extended that mitzvah to include fixing all things that are unsafe around your home. Get rid of frayed electrical cords and things that can trip someone. Change that light bulb: it’s a mitzvah!

2. Display whatever Judaica you own. Use your Chanukah menorah to decorate during the 35 weeks a year it isn’t covered in wax! Let your Shabbat candlesticks decorate your bookshelves during the week, instead of sitting in a cabinet. Whatever you do, don’t worry that the room looks “too Jewish” – it’s a Jewish home, after all!

3. Chores: If you can’t get out of them, get into them. In The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, she suggests that one way to be happier at home is to attack those chores that you don’t want to do. Feign enthusiasm until you feel it. Crank up the volume on music from your high school days. Focus on the details you do like. These, too, are a way of making home safer.

4. Display photos of the people and places you love. You will feel happier every time you look at them. Pictures are not just for your computer screen and your phone!

5. Establish routines. Since Friday night is Shabbat, have a Thursday night or Friday morning routine to get ready for Shabbat. It might be preparing to make challah – or it might be something as simple as cleaning the kitchen and setting out the Shabbat candles. Use the post-Shabbat “burst of energy” to get chores or work done. Have Shabbat routines!

6. Make your bed every morning. Speaking of routines: making your bed is a three-minute task that gets your day started with a positive accomplishment, and means that when you come to bed at night, your place of rest is restful. What a concept!

7. Observe Jewish time in your home. Keep Shabbat in some form. Observe the holidays, at least in small ways. Get a Jewish calendar and display it – or import one onto your smartphone.

8. Invite guests over. Hospitality is a mitzvah. It’s called hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests. You don’t have to feed them something fancy, just make them welcome. Get takeout and share it on the kitchen table or a card table. Better yet, invite them for Shabbat dinner.

9. Be mindful about consumption of media. Don’t let upsetting news stories run over and over. If you need “background noise” try music.

10. Kindness spoken here. Think twice about the words you use and allow into the house. Treat words that embarrass and words that spread gossip as a kind of filth – don’t let them in!  Words are part of the atmosphere of your home, part of the furniture. That goes for “helpful” words that hurt feelings, too.

To some of these, you may be thinking, “That’s Jewish?” but seriously, making your home a place of refuge from the world is part of making a Jewish home.

May your home, and the homes of all Israel, be places of light and love!


The Burden of Being Israel

July 8, 2014

rabbiadar:

Eloquent words, and true.

Originally posted on FindingOurselvesInBiblicalNarratives:

Once again the Mideast is in turmoil. Some even claim it is on the brink of war. Predictably, but sadly, much of the world is blaming Israel.

Let’s take a sober look at recent events.  Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and brutally murdered three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel. In retaliation Israeli extremists kidnapped and savagely burned to death a Palestinian teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir.  Furthermore, videos show Israeli police brutally beating Mohammed’s cousin,Tariq Khdeir. The Palestinian crime was met with cheers in the Arab world. The Israeli crime was met with shock and revulsion in the Jewish world.

Why I wonder does the world seem so much more outraged by the crimes perpetrated by Israelis against these Palestinian boys and the crimes perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis? Why does the world not take note that Israel prosecutes and punishes its terrorists, but Palestinians glorify and memorialize theirs…

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Six Things you Can Do when People Say Stupid Sexist Shit To You

July 1, 2014

rabbiadar:

I’m reblogging this brilliant post over to CoffeeShopRabbi.com because it’s smart and sensible and applies to more than just sexist comments. It can also be good advice for people who’ve just had a homophobic comment burped up at them, or for a convert to Judaism who’ve just received a clueless comment from someone. Hope, you ROCK.

Originally posted on #HOPEJAHRENSURECANWRITE:

Part of being a woman in Science is having your male (and, more rarely, female) colleagues bolt off-leash and say crazy shit to you on a regular basis. When I was seventeen I told my Calculus professor that I wanted to major in Math and he asked, “Why? So you can solve integrals in your bikini for dirty old men?” During the years that followed I heard “Probably they just needed a woman on the interview list” and “Why aren’t you home with your baby?” I fully expect to hear “Why aren’t you and your shriveled old uterus dead yet?” before it’s all over. In my old age, I’ve realized that I can’t make the stupid comments stop. I would if I could. I would wave my Good Witch magic wand and about five percent of the guys in the world would shut the f*ck up about ten percent of the…

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Sending a 17 Year-Old Child to Israel

June 30, 2014

rabbiadar:

This father and rabbi vocalized much of what I’ve been thinking today as the news came of the murders of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. “Distress, disappointment anger and despair” describe my feelings, too.

Originally posted on Embodied Torah:

Image

My 17 year old son Solomon arrived in Israel today, about 4 hours before Israeli soldiers found the murdered bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel in a field less than 12 miles from the place from which they had been kidnapped 18 days ago. They had apparently been shot soon after being taken captive. Solomon is participating in the Ramah Israel Seminar, and I should have no worries about his safety in Israel – Ramah is fanatical about the safety of participants on their programs. Nonetheless, I cannot help but feel a twinge of worry. Israel is going to respond, and the response has to punish not only the two Hamas members responsible, but also others involved in covering up their actions and hiding them. I am distressed that Solomon’s Israel experience will be scarred not only by tremendous sadness, but also by the military response that is bound to occur.

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A Note on Comments

May 26, 2014

I’ve had some great comments on this blog lately and I’m delighted with them. Whether it’s a correction or a question, I welcome anything constructive that readers have to say. Feel free to discuss, and don’t worry about pleasing me, please!

That said, recently there have also been a rash of non-constructive comments that are nothing more than spam. “This is a great blog – keep up the great work!” is nice on the face of it, until I realize that the “person” posting it is doing it to leave a link for “American Sewer Service” or “Hot Bodies R Us.” My time is valuable, and so is that of my readers, so I delete all comments that I judge to be primarily a cover for free advertising. I also delete anti-Semitic comments, and anything else that seems to be intended as flamebait.

Please do keep on commenting and asking questions! And I will persist in carrying out the trash, so we can have a nice place to chat.

 

 


Yom Hashoah 2014

April 27, 2014

This article about the power of silence is one of the best pieces I’ve seen about Yom HaShoah.


After Shabbat – What then?

April 5, 2014

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Once I got used to keeping Shabbat, I began noticing a change in my Saturday evenings, after Shabbat was done. During Shabbat, I direct many thoughts to “the back of the stove,” the mindspace where my unconscious may be working on it, but my conscious self is not allowed. When a nagging worry shows up to nag, I push it to the back of the stove. When a possible solution to a work issue shows up, I shove it to a back burner to cook some more. At the time, it’s a relief – I don’t have to do that now. However, it gives the half-baked idea some additional cooking time, and builds a little pressure to get on with it come Saturday night.

Thus Saturday evenings went from a time generally wasted to my most productive night of the week. Havdalah is made, ending with Eliahu HaNavi, and I rise in a ball of energy, pulling the pots to the front of the stove.  Suddenly I’m cooking with gas.

What is Motzei Shabbat (the evening after Shabbat) like for you? Is this “burst of energy” just my little quirk, or is it a common thing?

Image: CC Joyce Cory, Some rights reserved.


Metzora: Shave for the Brave

April 3, 2014

rabbiadar:

Post shave, I am a bit incoherent, but Anita found the truth of the experience in Parashat Metzora. I will never read that parashah in the same way again.

Originally posted on Jewish Gems - Anita Silvert:

superman sammy “On the seventh day, he shall shave off all his hair” (Lev. 17:9)

This is Leviticus, so this instruction is given after someone has been in an “impure” state, and needs to move to a “pure” state.  Impure/pure tamei/tahor/impure/pure.  Disease/health/disease/health.

There’s a whole ritual for the leper, the one who needs to be separated from the camp, so he can be cleansed, cured, brought back into the community.  And it involves shaving all his hair off.  Torah may have thought that the priest could diagnose, treat and cure disease but some diseases don’t work that way.  Some just grab you and separate you and never give you back.  Like cancer.

Last night I witnessed “Shave for the Brave” at the 2014 Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement’s professional rabbinic association.   For those who don’t know, there was a little boy named Sam. Superman Sam

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