Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Strength in Adversity- Questioning Ourselves and Reliance

Our history is replete with examples of our people overcoming adversity. One of the things that I love about our tradition is not just the fact that we have always overcome but that we have a tradition of that is thoughtful and cerebral.

I love that. I love that we look inwards and outwards. I love that we spend time considering the how, what and why of our place in the world and I think that this is one of our strengths.

One of the things that I think that we must continue to focus upon is community. We must work on achdut, we must work on bringing diverse opinions forward and together. We need to hold on to each other and share in the strength that we can bring to each other.

And on a slightly different tack but still related we need to be aware of the challenges presented by the Information Age. In specific terms this means that there is a wealth of information out there that can be accessed by anyone, but it is important to maintain a critical eye and to not just accept things that are spoonfed to us as being true.

Too many people are in the habit of blindly accepting the word of others. Too many people fall victim to unreal, imbalanced and inaccurate information because it was couched in eloquence. A lie clothed in royal finery is still a lie.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chaim did a small Mitzvah, Chaim did a small Mitzvah today!

First of all, I want to apologize to the other members of this blog for not writing anything in a long time. Life is busy enough at home and the office, throw my busy LOR blogging cycle into it and add another blog and it's very hard.

Last week I told myself I'd start blogging here again, I have many topics I'd like to tackle including Faith, Mezuzahs, Shabbos, and how we individually as humans translate our connection to G-d into a physical concept.

Today's topic is feeling good about doing good.

One of the things I always found fascinating about food, is that almost always, the better it tastes, the worst is it for you. Think of your favorite food, and you'll see that it usually isn't the most healthy thing that could be on your plate. On the other hand, the healthy foods, the kind that are good for you, are usually bland and feel more like a obligation than a pleasure when you are eating them.

Without getting too detailed, most physical things we do, the easier they are to do, usually that means its bad. Coming home, and fixing that drawer, cleaning out the garage, going for a walk, all those things entail time and effort. Sitting on the couch for example, and watching your favorite TV show, takes little effort and is simple (and fun) to do.

Another example I've always drawn is when you have a toddler (or younger), when they bring out all the toys, it takes them mere minutes to throw their toys everywhere and create the mess. Cleaning it up on the other hand, takes time. It's easier to destroy than it is to re-build.

The same usually goes for doing Mitzvos (good deeds) and in fact some of the examples I gave before tie into doing Mitzvos (eating healthy for example is taking care of your body, which is a mitzvah.) Going to your grandfather's nursing home and visiting him might take a lot of time, be a long drive, and may sadden you to see his state, but it's a mitzvah.

The truth is, like anything hard, after you do it, don't you feel good? That's for me at least, where the main difference lays. I actually like doing some of the more "easier" Mitzvos. It's like a quick rush of goodness. I like to go out of my way to do them, I like the feeling. Does that make it wrong? Or less holy? I don't know, I doubt it, some might argue that what makes the Sechar (reward) for doing a Mitzvah big, is the amount of time and effort you put into it. But I never bought into that. Kissing a Mezuzah takes 1 second, yet to me it has to have the same significance as going to Minyan every morning and putting on Tefilin.

Doing a "quick" Mitzvah makes me feel good about myself, I can't imagine that's wrong. Still, when you do something huge, you always feel much better about yourself. When you finish building those shelves, or cleaning out the garage. You like to stand over your accomplishment, and say "I did this, I worked hard, and it looks great"

I remember this story about a guy in Shul, the Shamash, and how he knew nothing in the line of torah learning, he was a simple guy, yet the one thing he was always careful to do was unfold any creases and folds in the pages of the Siddurim and other books in the Shul. When he passed away and entered the heavenly courts, he had little to show for his life. An angel came in and before judgement was passed, he showed the court all the Mitzvos that he had received from this Kavod (honor) that he gave the Seforim in the Shul. It tipped the scales back into his favor.

A lot of "small" Mitzvos can go a long way. So yes, it makes me feel good.

... and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

(for those of you who didn't get it, the title was a song from Uncle Moishy)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

She Plays for the Other Side- A Comment

I received an ever so pleasant comment on the She Plays for the Other side post I did. I debated on providing this troll with more food and decided to mention he/she/it because there are people who really believe what the troll wrote.

But there are many reasons why this comment is inaccurate. And just to be clear I don't believe the Jews/Israel are above criticism, but there are legitimate ways in which to criticize. One of the key requirements is that the criticism be balanced.

For example if you claim to be Pro-Peace and you condemn the separation wall then you also need to be very clear in your condemnation of terrorism. Without balance you lose legitimacy.

That doesn't mean that there need to be an equal number of claims for each side, but you cannot fix all of the blame on one group only.

Live and Let Die

When you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say "live and let live" (you know you did).

But our Muslim friends say otherwise.

Cal Thomas has a great analogy to the current peace process:

In the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die," "007" encounters a nest of crocodiles bent on having him for a meal. Armed only with pieces of chicken, Bond tosses the fowl at the crocs to hold them off until he figures out an escape plan. The crocks quickly consume the chicken, but keep pressing toward their ultimate objective. Which brings us to Israel's forced removal of residents from Gaza. Israel is "Bond." The pieces of chicken represent land. The Palestinian/Arab/Muslim side are crocodiles. Get it? Most Westerners do not. Israel tosses pieces of land at the Palestinian side, but once it is consumed, the Palestinians only want more until their real objective - the consumption of Israel - is reached and their hunger satiated.

Read more here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

She Plays for the Other Side

Today I Googled an old friend from high school. I hadn't thought about her in years, but a friend at the gym brought her up and wanted to know if I had heard anything. I hadn't, but since I had a spare moment today I used the net to find her.

Presto! The first try out of the box and I found her. She is a college professor now for a university in the Midwest. I spent a couple of minutes reading her bio and some additional clips about her and my jaw dropped when I found her blog.

The blog says that she is currently living in Al Quds Palestine Israel. That is it, verbatim. I should add that she is Jewish and was raised in a Jewish home. We went to the same shul and attended many of the same Jewish youth programs.

And now she has a blog in which she sounds like an apologist for terrorists. A blog in which she sounds like she is Saeb Erekat and claims Edward Said as a hero. A blog in which I couldn't find one positive comment about Israel, but many that were just shocking.

She talked about being indoctrinated with racist Zionist views in Hebrew school and beyond. I was there for much of it and I haven't the foggiest idea what she is talking about. We discussed Israel in detail. It wasn't all hearts and roses. We talked about terrorism and the problem Israel faced with territories it had conquered back in '67.

What indoctrination is she talking about. I don't know.

I was horrified to read her comments in which she sounded as racist and bigoted towards Israel and Jews as she claims we are towards Palestinians.

I know that people change. It is 18 years since I last saw or spoke to her, but I am still so suprised by this. It is not like she is part of Shalom Achshav and crying foul. She doesn't even want anything to do with them, they aren't radical enough for her.

And so I sit here and wonder how she ended up playing for the other side. It just makes me wonder.

Jews In the Blogosphere

I have been mulling over a question and haven't come up with a good answer. How many Jews participate in the blogosphere. That is, how many of us are blogging and or reading/commenting on blogs.

Just what kind of reach is there?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

And after all...

In a world where G-d is silent,
we must speak.
In a world without miracles,
we must work hard...
so hard.

In a world without answers,
we have to be humble
and confess that we do not know.
We wander blind.

We are wounded and bleeding.
Torn apart and flung all over the world.
We are the remnants of a people,
crawling back to one other.

Take my hand.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pictures of the Disengagement

(Cross posted on Jack's Shack)

What Does G-d Look Like

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about my question about what G-d looks like. In light of the current state of affairs I have been mulling this over some more.

And the answer is that I am still stumped. In my thoughts and dreams I swear that I can almost make out an image, but it is like squeezing a handful of water. Every time I begin to get close it runs away and I am left with nothing but a damp hand

All I can say is that I feel the presence. I feel the energy and the power but I haven't any sense beyond that. Is it any surprise that I should want to know more or see more than this.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Pay Attention

We hoped for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror.

"I will make Jerusalem heaps (of ruins), a lair of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant."

Who is the man so wise that he can understand this?

Why is the land ruined and withered like a wilderness, without anyone passing through?

"It is because they have forsaken my Law, which I set before them, and have not hearkened to my voice, nor walked by it. But have followed the stubbornness of their own heart, and after the Baalim, which their fathers taught them to worship."

"I will scatter them among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them."

For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion: 'O how we re ruined! We are very much ashamed, because we have left the land, because they have cast down our dwelling!'

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches. But let him that boasts exult in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight."

These words were not spoken by an ultraOrthodox Rabbi in Lakewood, nor by a fanatical settler in Gaza.

They were spoken by Jeremiah, a prophet, 2500 years ago, at the time of the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem. We read them this morning in the Haftarah.

How little has changed in all this time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


"Eicha Yashva Badad Ha'ir Rabati Am"

How is it that the city, once so full of people, sits alone?

Every year I have sat on the floor in Shul, and listened to the Rabbi wail these words. And they have drifted over and past me, and not made an impression.

Yet this year they will have more meaning.

The once-vibrant settlements of Gush Katif are becoming ghost towns before our eyes. Jews are being forced to leave, and their homes destroyed. Yes, this has happened before. This is what we mourn on Tisha B'av.

I always thought of it in an abstract way. I never thought I would see it with my own eyes.

Perhaps once I thought some good would come of it. But I don't believe it anymore. I hear our enemies declare: Jerusalem is next!

On Passover, I too said, "Next year in Jerusalem."

Today is Tisha B'av. Cry for Jerusalem. And cry for Gush Katif as well.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Tisha B'Av

I spent years at Camp Ramah in California. Untold hours roaming the hills of Ojai and living and sharing an incredible experience as part of a Jewish community. It was fabulous and I have many special memories.

And I have many memories regarding Tisha B'Av at camp. But one thing sticks out among all of them. It was a guarantee that the hottest day of summer each year would fall on Tisha B'Av. The day would come and without fail there would be a blue, cloudless sky from which the sun would beat down upon us.

There were a couple of times in which campers burst into flames. They would be walking across the hill and bam! Flames would come shooting right out of their heads. It was not a pleasant sight.

Ok, I am exaggerating, but it was always really hot or as my 4 year-old says really, really, really hot to the moon and the sun.

My campers used to ask if part of the point of the chag was to suffer, it was that hot. But I always managed to find a lot of meaning in it.

One other quick memory to share. When I was a camper we used to have one of the worst meals I can think of to break the fast. It was a tuna casserole, but there was always something foul about it. It never smelled right to me, there was always something not quite right.

So we learned to prepare a post fast meal that we could rely upon. It wasn't incredibly healthy, but it was good. Chips, salsa, chocolate, coke, cookies, licorice and assorted odds and ends.

Sometimes I miss those days.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The J-Blogosphere is Our Community

I spent a few minutes considering what I wanted to write about. There were numerous paths to take, discussions about Rashi's yahrzheit, more about the disengagement, a drash on any number of topics and of course Tisha B'Av.

But the more I think about it the more I want focus on something that I find meaningful and positive. I want to focus on the community that is continuing to develop among the Jewish Blogosphere. I want to celebrate with you the bonds that we are forging among people who we might not ever encounter.

I want to sing about the opportunity to meet and interact with Jews of all backgrounds because I find that to be very special. It is nice to explore and learn with you all. It is so interesting to glimpse pieces of your worlds because some of you live lives that I can only imagine. I don't have any friends who live among the Satmars, the Lubavitch or Chassidus in general.

I can look at Reform, Conservative, MO, and beyond and see people I know. I have been privileged to spend Shabbos with many different groups and it has been fascinating to me. We share so much in common, the roots go back to the same place, but the way in which they branch out provides so many differences.

There are times in which the words from my keyboard in an easy free flowing manner that is simple yet eloquent. I wish that this evening was one of those times because I really do feel strongly about this. However my abba taught me to play the hand that I am dealt and I will continue to speak from my heart, convoluted or not.

What I really want to say is that even in spite of the anguish some of us feel about the disengagement and the uncertainty we feel about this and that there is still much to celebrate. My hope and desire is that in the years to come we are able to use this venue to grow stronger and to continue to learn together.

Please be well and may we all continue on in strength and good health.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Anguish of Disengagement

I have been following the disengagement process for quite some time and really have been torn up about it. If you are interested here are links to some of my thoughts thus far.

At this juncture I think that I have come to the following conclusions:
  1. I think that Gaza is not worth keeping. It overextends and overtaxes valuable resources and doesn't provide the return that it should to keep it.
  2. A unilateral disengagement may create a huge problem if the terrorists are allowed to claim that it happened as a result of their actions. And on that basis alone it is worth reconsidering because if it encourages more terror it does not serve anyone.
  3. The people that are being forced to leave their homes deserve better than this. They deserve more and there is nothing that can be offered that will adequately compensate this sacrifice.
  4. When it comes time to actually remove people I do not believe that we are going to see a miracle. The IDF will come in and do their job and people are going to be hurt. I pray that we see no serious injuries.
  5. Protesters who influence their children to engage in dangerous activities are acting irresponsibily. It is useful and valuable to teach them to stand up for their beliefs and principles but foolhardy to ask them to risk injury or death.

There is more that can be said, but this is a situation in which I feel as if my words are failing me. I am torn and upset by it and in my head I remember chanting Eicha while looking out on the Old City.
"It was Tisha B'AV and we were in the hills overlooking the Old City. We read Eicha and discussed the burning of the Temple, the sack of Jerusalem and the moment made a huge impact upon me. I could look out on the city and picture the flames, in my mind Jerusalem was burning. I could hear the screams of the women and children, smell the fear and feel the greed of the invaders."
G-d help us all.

(crossposted at Jack's Shack)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005