Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Four Children in a Garden

I was listening to a podcast recently where Rabbi Lawrence Kushner was being interviewed by NPR. He related a fascinating story which blew my mind:
I was leading a tour of the sanctuary, of the prayer hall with the children in the congregation’s preschool. [..] I’d have them come onto the bima, or the little prayer stage up in front of the room, where there was an ark where we kept the scroll of the Torah. It was accessible via a big floor-to-ceiling curtain. And I got them up on the stage, and I was about to call them—’Open the ark,’ but I saw the teacher at the back tapping her wristwatch, which as you may know, is an old Talmudic gesture, which means your time is about up, bucko. So, I said, ‘I tell you what, boys and girls. We’ll come back when we get together again in a couple of weeks, we’ll come back here and I’m going to open that curtain there and show you what’s behind it.’ [..]
Well, the next day, the teacher shows up at my office with the following story. Apparently the preceding day’s hastily-concluded lesson has occasioned the fierce debate among the little people as to what is behind the curtain. They didn’t know. And, the following four answers are given, which is I think pretty interesting. One kid obviously destined to become a professor of nihilistic philosophy at a great university opined that behind that curtain was absolutely nothing.  Another kid, less imaginative, thought it had a Jewish holy thing in there. A third kid obviously a devotee of American game show television subculture, guessed that behind that curtain was a brand new car. And the fourth kid, [..] said no, you’re all wrong. Next week when that rabbi man comes and opens that curtain, behind it, there would be a giant mirror. From a four year old. Somehow, that little soul knew that through looking at the words of sacred scripture, he would encounter himself in a new and a heightened and revealing way.
I was completely blown away from this little snippet. I think that very often in life we look at Hashem and the Torah through some of the same lenses that these children saw it. We sometimes view it as if there is nothing there and he doesn't really exist. Sometimes we view Hashem as holy, untouchable and separate from us. We sometimes view Hashem and avodas hashem as the answer to our dreams and desires. And sometimes we see Hashem as a giant mirror of who we are and want we want him to be.

Have a listen for youself here

Friday, July 11, 2014

Heeeeeeeee's Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack

LeBron James has announced his decision on which team he will be signing with. One guess on where:

Friday, May 02, 2014

Donald Sterling and the Power of Gossip

For all those following the news over the past few days, you may have heard about the comments which Donald Sterling made to his girlfriend. The repercussions of  the comments have been swift and harsh and will likely lead to a protracted legal battle. However, it brought to mind a podcast by Freakonomics which i listened to a few weeks ago. (Transcript can be found here)

The podcast looks at the role of gossip in society and who does and for what reasons. Although there is some segmentation as to what people gossip about, what was the most interesting to me about this topic was the comments of Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media:
I’m always astonished by…when I come across someone who actually doesn’t use gossip as a tool in their corporate infighting.[..]The lower class people who are more associated with gossip is simply a matter of class prejudice. It’s simply a matter of saying the things that they talk about, the people that they talk about aren’t important. It doesn’t meet the standard or news so let’s call it gossip. It’s just fishwives, it’s fishwives chattering about their husbands or some infidelity. There’s no difference between that and power gossip, or money gossip, except that the people who decide what is news and what is gossip are the privileged people who look down on lower class. 
I am not insinuating that this was a concerted attempt by someone to take Mr Sterling down. However, whether one gossips intentionally to "take someone out" as Mr Denton describes, to teach a lesson, because they were hurt, or whether they do so unintentionally I do however think that one should look at this story as a way that can teach us a real lesson in the power of gossip/lashon hara.

Just my thoughts