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Showing posts from August, 2016

Parent's Prayer Before College

For those who may be driving a son or daughter to college for the first time, perhaps you will find this creative prayer meaningful and helpful for that moment of letting go: Adonai Eloheinu, Lord our God, keep my son/daughter safe as they learn more about the world, themselves, and I hope their Jewish inheritance, at college. Open their hearts to different people and their minds to new ideas. Let them acquire wisdom and skills to navigate life’s challenges and struggles without my prodding and help. Indeed, let them grow more independent. Restrain me from texting too often but let them remain certain I am always available to listen, advise and most of all offer words of love and comfort. Even though my sheltered embrace is now distant from their daily lives let them find protection in Your eternal care. Blessed are You, Adonai, who listens to prayer.

Ekev and God's Wealth

As we march through the portions of Deuteronomy, amidst the promises of reward and the threats of punishment in Moses’ lengthy warnings to the Israelites, we discover these words: “Remember it is the Lord your God who gives you the strength to make wealth…” (Deuteronomy 9:18) The religious perspective insists that the foods we eat and the successes we earn are not our own but are instead owed to God. Even though I believe each of us deserves a measure of praise for our own successes I wonder how our world might be improved if we were to adopt this philosophy. If my success is not my own, if my wealth is not because of my own strengths, intelligence and skills, then perhaps I am more willing to share with others and give to my community. I am less inclined to hold this wealth in my own hands because it is not owed to the work of my hands. Everything is a gift. Everything is blessing from God. And that is the goal of the society the Torah wishes to create. It is about fashioning a

What Old School Perspective Can Teach

What Old School Perspective Can Teach the Age of the Smartphone Here is the theory: the people closest to us are actually growing more distant and the events farthest from our homes feel much too near. Two illustrations: A recent phone conversation with my daughter. “I heard from your uncle that you and your cousin had a lengthy conversation.” “Yes. We texted for a while about her summer at camp.” “I thought your uncle said you spoke.” “Abba, for my generation texting is talking.” You could almost hear as well, “You’re so old!” I manage to text, inbox and even tweet. Still I wonder how these technological advances might hurt our relationships with each other and our world.... This post continues on The Wisdom Daily.

Vaetchanan and Swimming Medals

Olympic swimmers break records every year.  Their skills are extraordinary.  Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky amaze.  Swimmers improve their times at every Olympics.  The first medalist in Olympic swimming, in modern history, was Alfred Hajos-Guttmann.  And who was Hajos-Guttman?  A Jew.  In fact he was a Hungarian Jew.  He earned two gold medals at the 1896 games in Athens.  He won the 100-Meter and 1200-Meter Freestyle.  His time for the 100-Meter was 1:22.2.  By the way, this year’s winner touched the wall at 47.58. Granted Hajos-Guttman did not swim in a 50-Meter state of the art pool but instead in the cool waters of the Mediterranean in which there were the occasional 12-foot swells.  There is a big difference between swimming in a pool and an ocean!  Even more noteworthy Hajos-Guttman also earned titles in Hungary’s national competitions in running, hurdles, discus and soccer.  Later he coached Hungary’s national soccer team.  And when he returned to the 1924 Olympi

Devarim and the Weight of Words

Sometimes language offers hints of meaning. Other times it creates challenges to progress. The Hebrew language provides many examples. Let us examine two. The Hebrew word for woman: isha is the same exact word for wife. There are different words for a young woman but not an adult woman. The language suggests that once a woman reaches adulthood her fulfillment can only be found in marriage to a man. The word for husband, by the way, is the same as that for owner: baal. Such are the limitations of an ancient language as it confronts modernity. Hebrew is unable to recognize that a woman can find fulfillment not only in marriage but also as a rabbi (Go Susie!), prime minister (three cheers for Golda!), or even president. A woman can find meaning and fulfillment in a myriad of different ways. Her choices should be as endless as those for a man. She, like a man, should only be limited by intelligence, talents and devotion. (Go Shira and Ari!) She does not serve a husband. Instea

Mattot or Masei and Fraying Threads

Diaspora Jewry and Israel are out of sync. In fact we have been reading different Torah portions. Since the concluding Shabbat of Pesach Israeli Jews have been reading the portion ahead of that in the diaspora. Let me explain. In Israel, Pesach is celebrated for seven days. In the diaspora for eight days. The reason for this is ancient. Millennia ago when the rabbis delineated the calendar they determined that the months and their holidays would be determined in the physical, and later spiritual, center of the Jewish world: Jerusalem. Worried that the message might take too long to communicate from Jerusalem to distant communities they instituted a second holiday day for those living outside of the land of Israel. And thus in the diaspora a one day holiday becomes two days and a seven day holiday becomes eight. This year, in Israel, the first day of Pesach fell on Saturday and the seventh on Friday. There on the Shabbat following the conclusion of the holiday they moved on