Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Asking for Forgiveness After Yom Kippur

I don't like being forced into things spiritually. I don't know if other people can relate to what I'm saying. If you do then please tell me, I'd love to know someone else feels like I do. It's possible that it's all part of a larger issue I have, which is not liking to be told what to do. Problem with authority I think they call it. It's not that I'm a disrespectful person. I have tremendous respect for people, but usually only people who have earned that respect.

When I was in high school I didn't automatically respect my teacher or principal. I needed to see that they were worthy of respect. I needed to see that they were good people and fair people. I needed to see that I would be getting something in return for that respect.

When it comes to my frumkeit I believe I have trouble moving away from that philosophy. Hashem should get my respect no matter what. He doesn't have to earn it, and even if he did, by all means, he created me and gave me so much, that in it itself should deserve respect.

But no matter how hard I try when it comes to certain things I still don't like to be forced into it. I don't like to do something just because we are told to, or because everyone else is doing it. When Erev Yom Kippur came around people were coming over to me with the same typical lines I hear every year. "I hope you will forgive me if I didn't anything wrong to you or offended or upset you in any way" Ya ya, wonderful, where is that will to make up 6 months from now.

Do these robotic trading of words actually mean anything? Aren't we saying them just because "it's that time of the year" and how insincere is that. I know most people mean it, and I know that even though it is "that" time of the year still people take it as a jump start to make amends with people they have wronged. But for me its just so hard to penetrate me.

I find it so hard to take these things seriously. Then Yom Kippur comes and goes and just like that we move from two incredibly holy and meaningful days to 8 days where the big tradition is eating in an outdoor hut and shaking palm branches and lemons.

It's like we turn off the switch so fast between Yom Kippur and Succos.

So here we are, and here I am. Still fighting the internal struggle of forcing myself to atone for my sins and make amends with those who I haven't got along with even though Yom Kippur is over and in a few days I'll be shaking a palm branch.

Do other people think about the spiritual efforts we underwent a few days ago today? How do we carry our determination to change into a holiday that seems to be so different yet so close in time.

Maybe the lesson to learn here is that Hashem is teaching us that we can't hold on to things. We have to teach ourselves to move on. Yom Kippur is as good a time as any to push ourselves to make up for our wrongs. Not because "were told we have to" but because why not, it doesn't hurt to have a designated time to let go of any grudged or disagreements.

Look at Hashem, he goes from a serious time when he judges all of his creations to a few days later when he wants us to just dance and be happy for what we have. Simchas Torah is so close to Yom Kippur but it couldn't be any different in terms of it's seriousness.

So I once again ask that if I upset or wronged anyone, I hope you will forgive me. Not because you have to, in fact Yom Kippur is over so you have 11 months and change not to forgive me. But because I don't want to hold on to anything.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another Yom Kippur

So here we are on the verge of yet another Yom Kippur. I don't mean that to sound negative, it is just hard to believe that yet another year has come and gone. Time moves at an unreal pace. Sometimes it feels like the good is a blink and the bad is eternal and then again it feels like the exact opposite.

Today I will spend large chunks of time preparing myself mentally for the day to come. It is both sad and somber, happy and joyful. It is a time in which I feel crazed and calm. My heart aches and my soul is singing.

The contradictions of life and death lie before me and I do what I can to reconcile it all. I'll not make this a long post. Let's pray that this is the year in which no children go hungry and we find cures for the diseases that rob us of our loved ones.

Let's pray that for an end to the bloodshed and the promotion of hate and look for a better world.

And should none of that come on a global scale I'll ask that Ha-Kodesh Baruch Hu give these blessings to some, if not all.

G'mar Chatima Tova.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Incredible Power of Tehillim: Parts 1 & 2

I hope to have more in this series coming later this week. For now I wanted to repost them here as they probably belong here in the first place.

One of the things that we can do to help the situation in Israel is to say Tehillim. Despite what you may have read today elsewhere, there should be no doubt as to the incredible powers that our Tehillim posess. Over the next couple days I will post stories about Tehillim and selected chapters from Tehillim that pertain to the current situation in Eretz Yisroel.

If you know of a power of Tehillim story and would like me to post it, please e-mail me at

The 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda "Whatever Dovid Hamelech say’s in his book pertains to himself, to all of Israel and to all times.”

“If one would only know the power of verses in Tehillim, and their effect on high, one would recite them continually. The verse of Tehillim transcend all barriers and ascend higher and higher, imploring the Master of the Universe, until they achieve results of kindness and mercy.” (Hayom Yom)

In the times of the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) Tehillim had a formal, designated purpose, as they were sung by the Levi’im to the music of the lyre while the Kohanim offered up sacrifices. After the destruction of the second temple, many of the Psalm were incorporated into standardized liturgies to be recited as part of formal prayers. (Taken from the introduction to Ohel Yosef Yitzchok)

The first Kapitol (Chapter) I want to present to you is a beautiful and timely piece composed by Dovid Hamelech after triumphing in all his wars. He composed this to praise Hashem for his victories. Read through the English and take from it what you will. Here is the same Kapitol in Hebrew if you wish to say it along.

"Chapter 144

1. By David. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for battle and my fingers for war. 2. My source of kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my rescuer, my shield, in Whom I take refuge; it is He Who makes my people submit to me. 3. O Lord, what is man that You have recognized him; the son of a mortal, that You are mindful of him? 4. Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. 5. O Lord, incline Your heavens and descend; touch the mountains and they will become vapor. 6. Flash one bolt of lightning and You will scatter them; send out Your arrows and You will confound them. 7. Stretch forth Your hands from on high, rescue me and deliver me out of many waters, from the hand of strangers, 8. whose mouth speaks deceit and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 9. God, I will sing a new song to You, I will play to You upon a harp of ten strings. 10. He who gives victory to kings, He will rescue David, His servant, from the evil sword. 11. Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of strangers, whose mouth speaks deceit and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 12. For our sons are like plants, brought up to manliness in their youth; our daughters are like cornerstones, fashioned after the fashion of a palace. 13. Our storehouses are full, overflowing with all manner of food; our sheep increase by the thousands, growing by the tens of thousands in our open fields. 14. Our leaders bear the heaviest burden; there is none who break through, nor is there bad report, nor outcry in our streets. 15. Happy is the nation for whom this is so. Happy is that nation whose God is the Lord."

(PART 2)

First of all, I just wanted to mention that Artscroll is offering those specific chapters of Tehillim that Rabbanim around the world have asked that we say for Israel. You can download them all here. Scroll down and either click the thumbnail to see a larger image or download the PDF's here, here, here, here and here.

Yesterday I posted Kapitol 142, which was composed after Dovid Hamelech came out victorious from his wars. Today I am posting Kapitol 83. This is one of the chapters that Rabbonim have recommended us reading. Via, they have made available Rashi's commentary on Tehillim. Click here for the Hebrew if you wish to say it along.

It's also incredibly interesting to note that this week in Ireland an archaeological dig team found a Tehillim which they have dated to be at least 800 years old. It was opened up to this page, Chapter 83. Still don't believe in the power of Tehillim?

A prayer regarding the wars against Israel in the days of Jehoshaphat, when the nations plotted against Israel.

1. A psalm, a song of Asaph.

O God, have no silence, do not be silent and do not be still, O God.
Rashi: have no silence Do not give silence to our wrongs, with which our enemies harm us.

For behold, Your enemies stir, and those who hate You raise their heads.

Against Your people they plot cunningly, and they take counsel against Your protected ones.

They said, "Come, let us destroy them from [being] a nation, and the name of Israel will no longer be remembered."

For they have taken counsel with one accord; against You they form a pact.
Rashi: against You they form a pact This pact is only against You, to cause Your name to be forgotten, for You are called the God of Israel, and since Israel
will not be remembered, even Your great name is not remembered. I found this.

The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites.

Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre.

. Also Assyria joined them; they were the arm of the children of Lot forever.
Rashi: Also Assyria Even Assyria, which until that day was careful of other foolish counsels and would not join evildoers, as it says (Gen. 10: 11): “From that
land Asshur went forth,” that he left the counsel of the generation of dispersion [which built the tower], joined them here and assisted them for evil. (In other
commentaries I found this:) Also Assyria joined them, etc. Also this one, who initially loved good deedsfor he separated from Nimrod’s counsel, as it is said:
“From that land Asshur went forth” he too reverted to wickedness. Therefore, he participated in destroying Your temple. Genesis Rabbah 37:4.
Rashi: they were the arm All these gave strength and aid to Moab and Ammon, our neighbors, to come upon us.

Do to them as [to] Midian; as [to] Sisera, as [to] Jabin in the brook Kishon.
Rashi: Do to them as [to] Midian through [to] Sisera through Barak.

They were destroyed in En-Dor; they were [as] dung on the ground.
Rashi: They were destroyed in En-Dor I do not know which of the wars took place in En-Dor, that of Gideon or that of Barak.dung Heb. דמן, scattered dung, as translated by Jonathan.

Make them, their nobles, as Oreb and as Zeeb, and as Zebah and as Zalmuna all their princes.

Who said, "Let us inherit for ourselves the dwellings of God."
Rashi: Who said These nations mentioned above: Edom, Ishmael, and all their allies. “Let us inherit for ourselves the dwellings of God” The dwelling of the house of God.

My God, make them like thistles, like stubble before the wind.
Rashi: My God, make them like thistles, like stubble which are driven away by the wind. Now what is גלגל ? It is the tips of the thorns of the field, which are
called chardons in French, thistles. When winter arrives, they are plucked out and disintegrate, and little by little they fly [away]. The part that is plucked out
of them resembles the wheels of a wagon, and the wind carries them.

. As a fire that burns in a forest and as a flame that burns mountains.

So will You pursue them with Your tempest, and with Your whirlwind You will terrify them.
Rashi: and with Your whirlwind Tourbillon in French, whirlwind.

Fill their faces with shame, and they will seek Your countenance, O Lord.

Let them be ashamed and terrified forever; let them be disgraced and perish.

Let them know that You-Your name alone is the Lord, Most High over all the earth."

Monday, July 24, 2006


I am increasingly finding it difficult to separate myself from the plight of Israel and the decisions and choices of her leaders this summer. I ride to work with NPR blaring away, telling me how sad and tragic the situation is for the Lebanese and you know what? I couldn't give a damn. I really couldn't. Because all I can think about are the people on the busses that blew sky high when a terrorist dressed as a religious Jew boarded the bus and detonated himself. Or the folks sitting at their seder table who suddenly were blown to bits when a woman in a thick coat walked into the hotel where they were celebrating.

I think of all of them and of the thousands more who lived, terrorized, all these years and no one outside of Israel did a thing.

And as I listen to this drivel about how cruel and inhuman the Israelis are and how since 300 and some civilians have been killed on one side, that makes the 200 and some killed on the other side irrelevent because they belonged to the AGGRESSOR...I can't help but be mad.

In my head I think that bombing a people really not directly involved isn't a necessarily a right or just thing...but in my heart, I know that they're just as responsible as the closest Hezbollah member is...because they allow them to live among them, to seek shelter, to use them as a shield.

If everyone can run away and say, "It isn't my fault because I didn't launch the rocket even though I allowed the rocket launcher to sleep in my house," then no one is responsible and everyone is responsible.

Me? I find it hard to separate my identity as a Jew from my feelings about Israel and her right to a peaceful existence. I feel like because I AM a Jew, I am in for a penny and in for a pound regardless of the outcome.

I don't want to watch the news...not that I don't want to know what's going on, but because I cannot stand the slanted, pro-Palestinian western media. "Look at the big, bad Jews and what they do to the poor little, hut-living Palestinians!" They don't talk about all the concessions that were made for them or how freely they come and go in Israeli society for the most part - no, it is best to show the downtrodden underdog being bullied around by the Jew in the tank who has no soul.

Well, MY Jewish soul cannot stand that. It rips me apart. So...right or wrong, I am tied to my homeland and to the hope that THIS will finally work.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Making Kiddush in Venice

The streets are winding, narrow. No cars can navigate through here. It’s hardly a stretch to imagine yourself in the 17th century as you walk through the Jewish Ghetto after sunset. To imagine that the gates have shut, shutting you out from the rest of the city, shutting the rest of the city away from you.

In the lengthening shadows, we stop to look through a window at tables set for Shabbos with white tablecloths. We hesitate there a moment, and a boy bursts out of the door, careens into us. “Have you made Kiddush yet? Come in and make Kiddush!” No, we... oh, well...OK, why not? So we go inside and say the two brachas, for the fruit of the vine and for the sanctity of Shabbat, and drink some wine. The boy, really a teenager, has an Israeli accent. He is with Chabad here in Venice. There is a Jewish community here; it’s not just a museum. “Stay, stay for dinner. Have you had dinner?” No thank you....We’re going back to the hotel.... Maybe tomorrow...,

A few days later, we stand on the deck of a boat, watching the sun, a perfect blazing circle, sink into the sea at the horizon line. It is a bracha-inducing sunset, astounding, beauty that catches your breath and makes you say thank You for this life we take for granted. A life of unexpected intersections, light and dark, the familiar amidst the unknown, ancient and new, Kiddush in a foreign land.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Feeling Helpless To Tragedy in the Summer Months

Every year around this time we see a spike in tragedies. Less superstitious people would claim that that we have these tragedies all year round. We only notice them because we’re trained to think that during the months of Tammuz and Av we suffer more. I’ve never believed that, I truly do believe that we go through so many more tragedies during the summer. Of course we have tragedies all year round, but during these months, they are sadly that much more frequent.

Just in the last week, off hand, just in NY I can think of three young kids who passed away. Even typing those words makes me pause. Three, in just the last week. A young boy, only 17 years old, a 5 year old girl and an 11 year old girl.

Then we have the horrible murder of another very young man in Israel, the capture and holding hostage of another 18 year old boy, a soldier yes, but still a boy. The summer months bring pain and suffering, there is no doubt in my mind about that.

I recall being taught at some point growing up that the world is Kabalisticly different during these summer months. If you would draw a line and at one end you could put Adar, a time of good Mazel and joy. M’shenichnas Adar, Marbim Bsimcha. At the other end of the line would be Av. Tisha B’Av precisely. The low point of the year, spiritually speaking. M’shenichnas Av, Mimatim Bsimcha (we lessen in the Simcha.)

nowing all of this, I've come to feel helpless. Is there anything we can do to prevent any of these tragedies? Don’t we have free will? How is that it’s just predetermined that every year at this time, horrible tragedies will happen. Is there nothing we can do to change this?

We learn in Tanya that it is ok to feel depression or to be sad. It’s just not ok to linger there. Sadness can lead to two paths. If you linger in sadness it can weaken your resolve to move past it and it will become easier to not want to do good. On the other hand, if you learn from the sadness and use it as a strength to change the world, that is obviously good.

I think that is ultimately what we are supposed to be learning from these tragic events, which occur every year during these times. It’s a fissure in space and time. Hashem had pre-installed this low point in our year, in which at these times we must wake ourselves up and learn from the tragic events that occur. We have to remind ourselves that we are in exile and that we were all put on this earth to make this world a better place.

It’s our job to change the world.

Somehow, through these events, we are supposed to gather ourselves, and resolve to be strong. Resolve to do good things, and be good to our fellow man.

Through these actions, we change the world, and bring ourselves that much close to Moshiach. A time in which we will no longer know these types of pains. A time when we will no longer feel tears on our faces.

These summer months, in which we all see so much pain and suffering will go by in vain, if we don’t pick ourselves up and resolve to change the world.

Please, especially during these summer months, when we see so much sorrow. We need to do extra good. Especially in the area of V'ohavta Leraieche Komacho. Love your fellow man like yourself. We need to be more respectful of everyone. We should all resolve that to combat these tragic events, we will be kinder, gentler, more understanding and more loving.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


This post is culled from an email I sent to the prestigious and well-dressed PT:

One of my biggest pet peeves is talking in shul. I'm not saying I never do it, but it annoys me nonetheless, on general principle. So when people do it at especially obnoxious times, like when they are finished with shmonei esrei but not everyone else is (and the repetition has not started), it really, really bugs me. These people are trying to daven! You are distracting them! And the people I sit near talk a whole lot. But I don't do anything about it. I have been known to shush at times, but I don't want to be a "shusher." And I've never moved to another seat because I don't want to insult anyone (in general these are really nice guys) and besides, I really like my seat. It's a good seat. So I just kind of stew. After all, these guys should know better!

Anyway, one shabbat a couple of weeks ago, the talking was especially galling. I don't recall why exactly. But after davening is done, after adom olam and the whole bit, the rabbi goes onto the middle bima to make kiddush as usual. But it is just too noisy. He's waiting. And waiting. Everybody is talking, doing their own thing, barely even looking at the rabbi. That was it. I got up on the bima and slammed the shulchan a few times. That's usually all it takes, but I was really angry and found myself screaming, "Kiddush!" The noise settled down to a dull roar, and the rabbi thanked me and made kiddush.

At kiddush everyone asked my wife what was wrong with me, am I going crazy, etc. Someone came up to me and nicely asked if I had yelled, "Shut up!" Apparently someone thought I'd said that and this woman, who knows me (sort of), said I would never do that. She's right, but just barely.

If I had said something nicely to the talkers earlier, would I have cooled down and ultimately saved myself some embarassment? Possibly. But I'm getting worked up now just writing aobut it. Will I say something the next time? Probably not. Because I'm a ninny. A self-righteous ninny. A self-righteous, fishing-for-compliments ninny.

Cross-posted at Kerckhoff Coffeehouse.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Keeping Shabbos In Hollywood: My Name is David Sacks and I am a sitcom writer

I read this article recently in the Algemeiner Journal english section. I insitinantly thought of this blog. This is a wonderful story of faith and love for what you beleive in. I really hate that I've ignored this blog, but there are only 24 hours in a day and a guys gotta sleep at some point.

So if I can't write a long meanigful post, the least I could do is show you someone who can. If you don't have the time to read this story, I strongly suggest you keep it in your favotires of print it out here. Read it later if you must, but it's a really wonderful story.

"Shortly after I first started keeping Shabbos, I got my first job as a staff writer on a sit-com. It was the ninety-ninth rated show out of ninety-nine in prime time. Not that this has anything to do with the story, I’ve just always thought that was cool.

There wasn’t much to do the first week, and it was August when the sun sets relatively late, so we finished work before there was any conflict. The second week was different. Friday rolled around and we were finishing just in time for me to be able to make it home for candle lighting. I lived close to the studio, so as long as we wrapped it up quickly, I’d make it home by the skin of my teeth.
It was one of those meetings that wanted desperately to end. However, each time it was about to, someone invariably raised another point. And then another. I was sitting in front of a large picture window watching the sun get lower and lower in the sky. It finally came to the point that if I didn’t leave right away I wasn’t going to make it.

I didn’t know what to say or do. Having had no previous experience keeping Shabbos in the work place, I hadn’t thought of raising it with my Executive Producers earlier. This much I knew, several minutes before sundown was not the time to launch into a discourse about my religious beliefs. In other words, I was stuck. So, I did the only thing I could think of. I got up, and without any ceremony, I left. They must have thought I was going to the bathroom. But I never came back. Running to the car, I remember thinking that for a day of rest, this was causing a lot of anxiety. I had to talk to my Executive Producers, explain my situation, and hope they’d be supportive.

After the weekend, I went in with my partner, and asked if I could leave a few hours early Friday night so that I could keep the Sabbath. They said, “No”. Then they asked if I still wanted to do this, because if I did, they were going to replace me. In other words, work on Shabbos, or you’re fired.

When I got home, I called my agent. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that I wasn’t going to work on Shabbos. He told me that if that was the case then I wasn’t going to work in television again.

This was an amazing moment. Hollywood moguls are famous for saying, “You’ll never work in this town again!” – but I thought that only happened in old movies. Now, here I was, and not only was someone actually saying it -- they were saying it to me!

The next day I told my partner I wasn’t going to work. He understood, but he told me that he was going to try and stay on the show without me. I didn’t blame him. After all, he wasn’t even Jewish. Not only that, but people try for years to break into sitcom. This was a big break for him too, and he had every right to see what it might lead to.

In many respects this was the most critical moment of my life. I had been extraordinarily blessed. I had achieved my goal of going to Harvard College, writing for the Lampoon, and breaking into Hollywood. But despite all this, something was missing.

Relating to this, I heard a teaching that for years I thought came from a great nineteenth century Hassidic Master. Later I learned it was from a tattooed biker in recovery. Not only doesn’t that take anything away from the insight, I think it makes it even more relatable.

He said, “all of us are created with a G-d shaped hole inside of us”. We try to fill it with career achievements, drugs, relationships, money, but none of these things fill it except G-d, precisely because it’s a G-d shaped hole.

Modern society cynically views religion as a crutch, but nothing could be further from the truth. The quest for spirituality is an expression of a longing built into us by G-d Himself. For some us that inner voice becomes loudest during tragic times. For others, me included, it becomes clearest during times of plenty. It says, all these opportunities are great – but there has to be something more to life!

I no longer had confidence that blindly climbing the ladder of success was going to lead me to better and better places. I needed to know where “success” was taking me, and perhaps even more importantly, where it was stopping me from going. I realized then that if I couldn’t take my soul along on the journey, then no matter how far I got, it was ultimately a dead end.

The pressure was definitely building. I was about to lose my job, my partner, and I was told that I wouldn’t work in television again. But somehow, despite this I remained calm. Maybe I wouldn’t work in my chosen field, but in my heart, I knew that nothing bad was going to come from keeping Shabbos.

My agents marched in, and met with the studio head, and the Executive Producers. To my amazement, behind closed doors, all of the parties actually turned out to be respectful and supportive.

Now before I accept a job I always discuss Shabbos. Despite the stereotypes people have of the entertainment industry, I’ve been consistently touched by how positively both Jews and non-Jews alike respond.

Judaism teaches that when you’re in the middle of a hardship you’d give anything to have it go away. But if you get through it successfully, you wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything. G-d gave me a great gift. He could have made the entire process easy for me. But instead, He gave me the opportunity to take a stand for what I believe in. Perhaps for this reason, this remains for me the proudest moment of my life.

Since then, life has never been the same. Come sundown Friday, no matter what’s going on, no matter how busy I am, everything disappears and the only thing that remains is Shabbos. Holy Shabbos."


David Sacks Bio:

Born and raised in New York City, David Sacks attended Harvard College, graduating with a degree in Government in 1984. While there he began his comedy writing career as an editor of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon. Upon graduating, David moved to Los Angeles and began writing for television.

Among the shows he's worked for are "The Simpsons", where he won an Emmy Award, and "Third Rock from the Sun" for which he won a Golden Globe Award. He is currently a producer on "Malcolm in the Middle". David is the co-founder and Senior Lecturer of The Happy Minyan of Los Angeles. David is married and raises his family in Beverly Hills, CA.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Is Judaism Relevant To You?

The Jewish Atheist has a post that gives good food for thought. It is called:

Intermarriage and Interdating, Part II: or, Jewish Guilt

There were a couple of comments that caught my attention:
"I want to speak to the question of Jewish survival, since this comes up all the time as the key reason not to intermarry. My question is why is Jewish survival so important? I think there's a significant difference that tends to be lost on some between the horribleness of the destruction of the Jewish people through genocide and the gradual waning of a faith because it is no longer as relevant to the lives of some people today as it was to their ancestors."

I think you hit on an important point. That Judaism seems no longer relevant now. That is the failure of our religion, that it hasn't sufficiently adapted to the changing needs of our society."
So here are a few questions to consider. Would you be able to respond to these comments? Can you provide an answer based upon logic and reason? Why is Judaism important to you?

The floor is open. I am interested in hearing what you have to say.

(crossposted here)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Learning About Faith From a Television Show

If you are a fan of the TV show LOST on ABC and haven't yet watched last night (May 10th) episode then you will not want to read this post past the warning further down. This post contains major spoiler information.

You don't have to watch the show to read this post.

On ABC's Lost we have a show about a large group of people who mysteriously end up on an uncharted island. Strange things happen which force the survivors to deal with emotional times in their pasts. Many times these are instances that proved to be trying times in their lives. Through whatever is happening on the Island the survivors are forced to reconcile their troubled pasts and most times they come out for the better. In a few cases when a person has worked out their issues the character had died on the show. Many fans believe that this is analogous to completing your mission on Earth and therefore passing on.

The show has had a spiritual overtone since the beginning. For all of the first season and a half the shows main two leaders were two men. One by the name of John Locke, billed as a Man of Faith. Another man by the name of Jack Shepard. A Man of Science. A doctor who doesn't believe in fate, he only believes in what he can see. He goes on the facts and then makes decisions.

These two men have clashed many times, as would two men coming from such polar ideological opposites. The shows creator a man by the name of J.J. Abrams is Jewish, as is one of the two main producers, Damon Lindeloff. The show's other main producer is a man from a christian background whose name is Carlton Cuse. It's safe to assume that many of the shows creators religious backgrounds have gone into this show.

The concept of faith vs. science is something that permeates throughout all of religion. I want to address it's place in Judaism.

Every day that a Jewish man wakes up he is supposed to pray, put on leather straps with boxes filled with parchment containing verses from the Torah. Every day Jewish men and women eat kosher which does not allow us to eat fish that do not have both fins and scales and animals that do not chew their cud and have split feet. Every Friday night we stop using all forms of electric and we cease working.

Many of these things are based on faith. Being a religious person is something that requires lots faith. Sure there are many laws from the Torah that make sense, but there are just as many if not more that are impossible to really understand. Believing in something simply because we are told to is very hard. To do something simply because "it says so" is something that every Jewish person has to internalize.

On the show there is a hatch, in this hatch is a computer. At the beginning of this season a man left them there and told them that they have to press specific numbers into the computer and press enter every 108 minutes. If they don't do it, it could mean the end of the world. Why was the man doing this? Because when he came to the hatch a man before him told him the same thing. Our main characters John Locke and Jack Shepard argued over whether to press the button. Jack Shepard, the man of science believed this made no sense and was probably part of some experiment. Locke on the other believed there was a higher meaning to all of this and decided to trust the original occupant of the hatch and press the button.

Every 108 minutes Locke made sure that the button was pressed. Why? Because he had faith he was doing the right thing.

This season on Lost a new character was introduced. This was a man by the name of Mr. Eko. Mr. Eko, like John Locke was also a man of faith. Mr. Eko was a priest, well, he became a priest after being a drug l-rd, but that's a different story.

(Spoiler starts here, this is your last chance to stop reading)




Last night Mr. Eko and John Locke, two men of faith showed us how there are different levels of faith. They discovered the location of a new hatch. In this hatch we learn that this really is all part of an experiment. We're told that the people in the other hatch were "told" that they are doing something of the "utmost" importance. Locke takes this to mean that now that we know the reason for pushing the button, its obvious that there is no true need to push the button. Mr. Eko on the other hand takes this to mean that now there is more reason to push the button then ever.

I found this to be very interesting. For many years Jewish people followed the mitzvahs in the Torah simply because it said so. Later we learned that some things did in fact have logical explanations. Kosher dietary laws helped keep us healthy, psychiatrists will tell you that taking a "break" once a week is great for the mind and also great for strengthening the family bond.

The problem with this is that then we turn into John Locke's. Now that we know the reason for something, our faith is tested. Faith is really believing in something - just because. When we know why we are supposed to do something we can then come up with reasons why they shouldn't be done. Mr Eko believes that even though we think we know the reason why they were supposed to push the button, that doesn't take away from the faith he had in the button and its purpose.

It's a very interesting turn and it really is something that speaks to any religious person.

So why do we push the button? By button I mean remain religious. Are we doing it because we have true faith or because we think we know the reasons. What if we found out that the reason for something didn't make sense.

Would you still do it?

Tell me, why do you push the button?

(Cross-Posted on Life-of-Rubin)

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Real SEDER of Pesach!

I must admit, this is probaby our strangest holiday. I think Succos is a close second though. Waving greenery and lemons in the air and eating in huts outside is pretty interesting and deserves at least a close second.

Now that our house is 100 percent “turned over” for Pesach I can honestly say, it’s a strange one. Tinfoil everywhere, everything covered, closing up cabinets, packing up microwaves, self cleaning ovens, shlepping entire sets of dishes, pots and pans to unpack, and then pack up again a week later.

Admit it, it’s odd. We all know it.

No one is looking at you. You can say it, we’re funny people.

The amounts of money we spend on these holidays is also out of this world. Just like Succos we spend a lot of money on holiday items. Shmurah Matzah is very expensive. But because Pesach is so food oriented, especially when it's a 3-Day Chag, we spend tons of money on food.

We are starting off the Chag this year with 6 meals.

The three day Yom Tov is especially tough, this year everyone’s days will pretty much go like this

Prepare for Seder
Go to Shul
Conduct the Seder
Eat Dinner
Finish the Seder
Go to sleep
Wake up
Go to Shul
Talk about whose Seder ended latest.
Eat Lunch
Prepare for Seder
Go to Shul
Talk about whose Seder ended latest.
Conduct the Seder
Eat Dinner
Finish Seder
Go to sleep
Wake up
Go to Shul
Talk in shul about how we keep eating, sleeping, davening, etc ….
Eat Lunch
Go to Shul
Make Kiddush
Eat Dinner(“leftovers”)
Go to sleep
Wake up
Go to Shul
Talk about how LONG this Yom Tov has been so far.
Make Kiddush
Eat Lunch (more “leftovers”)
Go to Shul
Make Havdallah

Wow, that was exhausting even writing it. So yes, we’re strange, and yes we do funny things, and yes, we spend lots of money on unleavened flat bread. You know what? The best part of Pesach every year is that we get to spend it with our families. We may want to hurt a couple of them by the end of this 3-Day Chag, but we’re together none the less.

So while we will all be kvetching a lot, which is our Judeao (sp?) genetic right, let’s all also remember the amazing miracles that Hashem performed for us, and of course be thankful that we are able to be together with our loved ones to celebrate this festival of the spring.

(Cross Posted at Life-of-Rubin)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Woman reading from the Torah

A blog that calls itself Jewish Answers asks and answers the question:

Why don’t Orthodox women read from the Torah?

Rav Tendler takes time to provide a response that I have trouble buying into. Allow me to take some selections from his response.
"The Talmud, in Megillah 23a states that “even a woman may read from the Torah,"
Ok, so the initial response is that a woman can read from the Torah, so the question is why wouldn't or shouldn't she. Rav Tendler goes on to explain that the purpose of reading Torah is for the person reading to teach it to the congregation. He then offers the following:
"The Talmud is stating that although there is technically nothing wrong with a woman teaching Torah to men, since men have a Mitzvah to study Torah and not women, by calling up a woman you are essentially making a statement that there are no men present capable of teaching the Torah- despite the fact that it is their Mitzvah, and here is a woman who does not have this Mitzvah and she is more proficient in reading and teaching the Torah. This reflects badly on the congregation who is present and their level of Mitzvah observance and Torah proficiency. Therefore, our Rabbis said that this is inappropriate."
I have a problem with this as IMO it takes a great leap to get to the position that they are at. To suggest that because a woman is reading Torah it might mean that all of the congregants, especially those who are male are not as well educated is just silly. To me this sounds more like a case of pride, of ego over practicality.

There are most definitely times in which a woman will know more than the men around her and in the interest of getting the best education possible the men should listen to her.

From a slightly different perspective I ask when do we recognize that there are minhagim that are not halacha and that there is legitimate reason to reconsider their role and need in our lives.

I do not believe in ignoring and or changing minhag strictly because it is minhag, but at the same time to refuse to change simply because it is minhag is somewhat provincial and quite limiting.

There are reasons to reconsider why we do what we do. This may be one of those occasions.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

To Love Your Fellow Jew ....

V'Ohavta L'Rayecha Kamocha

One of the first songs I remember learning in Day Camp had to be the "V'ohavta" song. Do any of you know it? It goes like this:

To love a fellow Jew, just the same as you, is the basis of our holy Torah. He may be far from me, across the widened sea. Still I'll always love him just same. For 70, 80 years. Our Neshama wears and tears, just to do a favor for another. Love him with all your heart ...

[UPDATE: I remembered the ending. ...the heavens spread apart, cause every Jew is really our brother.]

I can't remember the rest. Sorry, it's been a long time since camp. Treating people with dignity and respect is harder than it sounds. It's probably one of the hardest things to do. We were all created with such different personalities that so many times do we clash with each other. We all know someone who we can't stand. We all know someone who makes so irritated that we want to go off on them.

When I was in Yeshiva I remember learning that any bad that you see in someone else usually means you have a level of the same bad thing within you. I was never really sure that I agreed with that. There are many discussions that can be had on that statement. But there is a certain level of truth to it. We see things in other people that bother us, and in some way, it bothers us because we know we can be the same way sometimes.

It doesn't matter what we do in our lives with regards to our different approaches to Judaism. The most important thing is to learn to respect the other person. We may think we know everything, we may think we are the right one. We may wonder how someone else could be so blind. Still, the first step to loving your fellow Jews, is to respect them.

Without respect, there is no platform for debate.

There is another "Vohavta" song. I think it goes like this:

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the way of Hashem.

Monday, March 06, 2006

March Madness has Begun

And I ain't talking basketball!

It's Adar fun at The Muqata. The Purim blog parodies are "spot on" and, in an interesting twist, also demonstrative of the sense of community that has evolved in the J-Blogosphere.

So if you want to see the "real" RenReb, OrthoMom, Ezzie, Mirty, etc., check out the Purim Blogs!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Chabad Stamp

I know Chabad can be controversial, especially lately, but I credit them with showing me that Judaism could be really joyous and fun. The wedding of a friend of mine in Crown Heights was an event I'll never forget. And when I was just a kid in the suburbs, the annual Chabad Chanukah parties were where I learned about "ru'ach."

I think there is a balance in Judaism and it's OK to have people on either side of that balance. I come from a very, very "Misnagid" family. So I always treasured my glimpses into the Chasidic way of life. There is, most likely, a happy medium there somewhere.

So, all in all, I like Chabad. I like what they do. So "good for them" -- they have their own Israeli stamp now! Read all about it here.

As for the image, if they had asked me (though why they would I sure don't know), I would have said to put people on it, not 770 Eastern Parkway, which is, after all, just a building. ("What? Just a building? Is the White House just a house?") But I do like it overall. Yasher Ko'ach.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Discussing Divine Punishment With a Child

Earlier today I engaged in a hit-and-run post in which I asked who was Moshe Rabbeinu's father. The impetus for this was in part a fragmented memory and in part the impact of having watched a movie with my son.

The two of us watched Prince of Egypt. The film has some issues but I wasn't going to engage a five-year-old in a discussion of how the filmmakers might have taken some liberties with the movie.

Anyway, we watched a watered down version of the Exodus and it generated some tough questions. As the title of the post suggests one of the questions was in relation to divine punishment. It wasn't the easiest topic to discuss as it really is quite involved.

There is the question of why people enslave others. That is a pretty serious talk in itself as it incorporates many elements such as prejudice. It actually ties in well with the M.L.K. discussion he and I had last month, but at the same time I try not to throw too many things at him at once.

So there we were with the question of what happened to the Egyptians who were in the Red Sea. He wanted to know what happened to them and why. And for a moment I was unsure of how to respond because I didn't want to make G-d look bad.

That sounds kind of funny, doesn't it. The atheists who read this probably got a kick out of that one. But it is true, I do believe and G-d and my personal belief is not a G-d of fire and brimstone.

Part of the question is why kill all of those Egyptians. Why not come up with some other miracle. You can part the Red Sea, surely you can make them go blind for a few minutes or make them take the wrong turn and end up in cleveland. Why kill.

I am not the first person to ask those questions and I have been part of discussions that dealt with that very topic, but they are a little too sophisticated for a five-year-old.

So we meandered around a bit and talked about how some people don't like others and why it is important to judge people based upon what they do and how they behave. But I can't say that we came to a conclusion that was satisfactory to me.

But I was rescued from this awkward place as we had to run to a birthday party. I still have to come up with some answers, but I have more time to do it.