Monday, March 29, 2010


The Rabbi of my shul spoke this past Shabbos about the Haggadah - specifically, about Baruch Hamakom. He said a number of things, one of which was in connection to the four sons. The four sons are written, "echad chacham," "echad rasha," "echad tam," and "echad she'aino yodeah lish'ol." Why was each written with "echad" before his name? The Rabbi said that this showed their individuality - each of the sons had a unique place, a special makom, in his father's heart. And that's how it should be with parents and their children. That's how it should be with family, with close friends. With anyone close to you. It's nice when you can feel that someone has carved out a specific place in their heart for you and only you. That is your place. And although other people also have unique places in someone's heart, theirs does not take away from yours (just like yours does not take away from theirs). It is not a matter of being more or less loved, but of everyone being loved uniquely and individually.

Such attention is rare, but I do believe certain people I know possess the unique ability to make others feel as though they have a special makom with them. Some in their hearts. Some in their home. Some both. It's incredible the way a person can walk into someone else's home and feel as though a part of that place is their home, too, in some way. Or feel like they have a special relationship, even while knowing that many others have special relationships, too.

That is one of the ways one can understand makom, according to the Rabbi of my shul. I only hope that I too learn the ability to make others feel uniquely loved, appreciated, wanted, provide such mekomot for my family and friends within my own heart, the way I know others have provided for me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I think these videos perfectly illustrate the leftist values (not really Liberals per say). The ultimate value being equality. Equality of outcome. It's not a criticism, but a simple description. Redistribution of wealth, for example, is merely a means to an ultimate goal of everyone being the same. Liberty is a value of course, but its not on the highest agenda.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is “Being Orthodox” the same thing as “Being Gay”?

Guest Post by Adam
In the age old debate of nature vs. nurture, no facet of this argument is more heated than when it comes to homosexuals.  Is their attraction inborn, or is it an acquired orientation?  It is a choice?  What about finding ones way to halachic observance?  Nature or nurture?  Inborn or chosen?  I started to think about this after an Internet chat I had with a friend.  This friend describes himself as a Radical Reform Jew. 
We got into a discussion on the idea that one may receive more than one gives, when giving tzedakah.  The following is the transcript, edited for clarity, grammar, and anonymity (RF stands for Reform Friend).  
me: I've seen it many many times, my expenses are somehow lower when I give more tzedakah.
RF: ok
me: there is a cap, 20%, and I don't get anywhere near that yet
RF: mine tend to be much more because I have to pay the donation too
me: just saying, this is the one place where we're told in the Torah to test it out.  So next time you give money, look around your life and see if you either received an unexpected cash increase and/or lower expenses soon after
RF: i will; and then if i do, i will believe
me: lol no you won't :)
RF: ok you are right!
me: even when I had my "wow" moment 12 years ago at the kotel, it still took me another 2 years until I really started keeping Shabbat.  I never expect or even want a Jew to totally flip around based on one good vibe
RF: well i am pretty secure in my belief.  I don't think a single moment at a place that doesn't accept my religious practices is going to change anything.
me: it didn't bother me back then
RF: what didn't bother you?  
me: standing there, as an actively Reform Jew, at the Kotel.  It didn't bother me that men and women had to pray separately
RF: you were never a Reform Jew
me: I wasn't?
RF: you were on your path to where you are.  Perhaps you were practicing as a RJ but you weren't part of the movement like say you are part of the MO movement.
me: I wasn't a twice-a-year RJ, I went to all of the Hebrew school, Sunday schools, Reform and nom-denom youth groups and summer camps
RF: but "something was missing", right?
me: not until high school, but yeah
RF: so once you could start thinking for yourself, when you could actually become a Reform Jews, you did not - that is what i am getting at.
It was the “something was missing” line that really got me thinking.  Something WAS missing in my life.  I really didn’t feel fulfilled there.  It was a relief to find out that there were others like me.  These are all statements that the gay kid makes on the after school special after coming out of the closet.
Which gets back to my opening question:   Is “Being Orthodox” like “Being Gay”?  
What do you say?

Monday, March 15, 2010

This Idea Sounds Really Familiar

I came across this website and its pleasing to see that people are starting to find a way back to shabbos observance. Even if it was done to find a way to connect with family, inner-self, etc. But that which come from tainted intentions, will (hopefully) come to untainted intentions.
Included in their manifesto are:
  • Avoid Technology
  • Avoid Commerce
  • Find Silence

Monday, March 08, 2010

Jewish Jamaica?

(Dedicated to SaraK) Interesting article in the WSJ about Jamaica's new tourism drive:
KINGSTON, Jamaica—This island nation boasts miles of pristine beaches, reggae music and the Western hemisphere's largest butterfly.
Now, it's promoting a new asset to tourists: its Jews.
From the tourism minister on down, Jamaican officialdom has embraced a plan to market the nation's Jewish history as a way of wooing a new segment of travelers.
No matter that Jamaica has just one synagogue and no rabbi, or that its Jewish community is down to around 200 people. It was once home to a Jewish pirate named Moses, according to one account.
Read the whole thing.

Long Distance

Thank God, Serach and I have lots of friends. While this can sometimes place people into situations where they have many friends, but none close enough for when times demand or call for it, we are also blessed with some absolutely incredible close friends whom we can call and rely on whenever and for whatever necessary and who will always do what they can for us just as we would do for them. Even among those friends, however, there are always friends who simply are above and beyond the rest.

Last week, I was forced to think about one such friendship and couldn't help but be saddened. Eight, nine years ago, when I was in Israel, a close friend of mine turned into a rock of friendship that, during one of the most difficult periods of my life, helped keep me sane, positive, religious, and helped turn around my life and direction in ways that even some of the closest people in my life may never really understand.

When I visited this friend about a year later, I was dismayed to find that a difficult accident had completely changed this friend's plans and altered their life in ways they didn't want to acknowledge, yet attacked with a vengeance. As always, though, they simply adapted to yet another difficult circumstance and moved on, acting as if there was nothing in their way and there would be nothing to stop them. My friend is nothing if not tough - perhaps too tough, sometimes - but there is no such thing as giving up and no such thing as giving in.

A year or so later, I finally was able to introduce my friend to Serach - to show her who this great friend who would do whatever was necessary was. Within minutes, they were kindred spirits (perhaps mostly because they could make fun of me together, but kindred nonetheless), and our next task was to return some of the favor by helping this friend plan out the next few years of their life through all of the difficulties they had and would come across. On the flip side, meanwhile, this friend once again became a rock - to me, to Serach, to us, to our kids, to our family... even to some of our friends.

It is hard to put in words what it means to be reliable. Some people don't even bother trying to be; some people say they will be, but too often fail; some try, and sometimes they fail; some try and try and once in a while come up short; and some are just... there. The friend who will run halfway across a neighborhood because someone is outside your door claiming they have a knife with your wife and baby inside and you're not picking up your phone because you're in class - that's reliable. The friend who will (without you knowing) babysit when she's supposed to be going out with friends because she knows you really need it - that's reliable. The one who can walk into your home and make up a whole meal for everyone because people are sick - that's reliable. The one who will stay up all night helping you unpack boxes to move into your new place even though they haven't slept in a day themselves and have class in the morning - that's reliable. The one whom you can trust every damn day no matter what with anything, the one who you can talk to about anything and know that they'll get it and keep it to themselves - that's reliable. The one who knows when you're full of bull and there's something seriously wrong and has no problem calling you on it - plus, they've already figured out what happened and are already doing what they can for you, even though they're moving away that week - that's freaking reliable. (And it's horrifyingly sad to know that you weren't nearly as good of a friend to them as they were to you, to know that you weren't always there for them when they needed it, to know that you were like this even though they would always be there for you even when they really couldn't afford to be. It's so, so bad, and I'm so, so, so sorry.)

Friends like this don't come around often, and when they're there, as much as you might try to avoid it, you start to take them for granted. You take them so for granted and rely on them so much that when they ask your advice again a few years later, you have to force yourself to give the advice that is best for them, and not for you and what would help you. And when they finally decide on their plans, it is all you can do to not burst into tears - both of incredible happiness at what they've accomplished and that they're moving on to the rest of their life, and of intense sadness that they're leaving and how that will impact you, your wife, and your kids and all they rely on and all they feel.

Perhaps the hardest part when a friend leaves is when you know that it might be a while until you see them. You don't want to have a "goodbye", because it's not - and saying so only reinforces that you're not going to see them. When my friend called from the airport, after a tearful goodbye with Serach and the girls while I was at work, I couldn't even bring myself to say goodbye - I didn't even want to talk, knowing that I'm far more likely to keep in touch if I don't. (Of course, I probably came off as rude, uncaring, and distant/not paying attention as always to this friend - sigh.)

Instead of saying goodbye, as I got off the phone, I said simply "Have a safe trip, we'll talk to you soon. And we're really going to miss having you here all the time." As always, nothing else needed to be said - our friend understood just as always.

If you've ever been to our home, you've met our friend, and undoubtedly felt her impact on our lives, and really, on your own. We owe a debt of gratitude which we'll never be able to repay, but have a friendship that we will never fail to appreciate, even if we have sometimes failed to show that appreciation over the years.

Rivka T. - we love you, we miss you, and we better see you soon.