Thursday, September 22, 2016

And Again:Sensible Suggestions for High Holy Day Preparations


One of the saddest sounds, in my opinion, is that of a mother irritably shushing her toddler while in the synagogue for High Holiday services. Babies learn communication by gurgling, cooing, and laughing and this should not be inhibited. On the other hand, most women go to services to concentrate on their prayers. Why should they be distracted by adorable, sociable little beings? On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur young mothers feel the need to pray with the community so they bring their children with them. Those youngsters make noise, other women are annoyed, the mothers impatiently quiet the children, the children decide the synagogue is not a welcoming place, and the mothers are not really able to pray. There has to be a better solution.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Obnoxious Little Conscience: A Short Story of Fiction

Leah and I were never what you’d call close friends. It’s just that all our kids were the same age and they were tight. I mean, if they weren’t at my house they were at hers, mostly at mine since she always had so many projects going that she wasn’t home much. That was okay, though. The six of them got along so well together that it kept my three from fighting. Now that they’re big she and I don’t talk that much but we’re still around to help each other out. At least I am.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

For Elul

courtesy of

Our pool in Shilo is segregated. There are separate, but equal, hours for males and for females. These divisions were made out of respect to the Torah laws of modesty and there’s no separation according to race. Those from Ethiopian and Yemenite heritage splash alongside tow-heads from northern European cultures. In between there are swimmers of all shades of  brown, red, and yellow skin.

Recently, while watching the children swim together I remembered a sad incident from my childhood. If my memory is correct I was a pre-teen when The Crystal Plunge in Oklahoma, the public swimming pool where my cousins swam, was closed for the entire summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Who Would Have Thought

When I toured Israel as a college student in 1972 I didn’t have a camera. Even though there are no photos to bear witness that I was on the American Zionist Youth Foundation seven-week tour I think I can safely describe how I looked when we arrived in the old city of Safed.

No doubt I was wearing a tank top with a pair of jeans. My nose was most likely sunburned and my thick, frizzy hair was pulled back into a ponytail courtesy of a special Israeli barrette I’d bought. I certainly was not dressed to visit a synagogue but that is exactly where our tour took us, to the ancient synagogues of Safed. Since they seemed to be museums I don’t remember being the least bit embarrassed by my attire.

lWhat I do remember is the awe I felt at their history and beauty, especially that of the Ari Ashkenazi Beit Knesset.  A simple courtyard and heavy door outside belied the splendor within. The domed ceiling, the ornate Holy Ark with its intricate olive wood carvings, the gold lamps, the paintings, and the ancient wooden pews filled me with awe.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shema Yisroel

In this week's Torah portion we read  Shema Yisroel so I've reposted the article I wrote for my father's yahrzeit five years ago. 

courtesy of mennashedovid1.wordpress

My father grew up in a small village in Germany. All of the twenty Jewish families living there were observant. They took turns chopping wood to heat the mikvah. They set their cholents on the fire before the onset of Shabbat. And they took their cattle to be slaughtered in the nearby village where the shochet lived.
My mother grew up in a small town in Kansas. Most of the twenty Jewish families went to the Reform temple there. Their observances varied but marrying out was not uncommon. For my mother, though, being Jewish, staying Jewish, and raising a Jewish family was important.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Song Heard in Itamar

This year the ninth of Av falls on Shabbat so the fast for mourning the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples will be pushed off to Saturday night and Sunday. That was the way it fell out four years ago when I posted the following article.  

And After Tisha B’AV August 5th, 2012
courtesy of
This year the ninth of Av fell out on Shabbat. That meant that we did not fast and mourn for the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples, and countless other tragedies, as we do every year. Instead we celebrated Shabbat with song, prayer, and joyful meals. The fast and mourning were pushed off until Shabbat ended. Therefore we had a taste of what the Ninth of Av of the future will be like, the Ninth of Av after the Moshiach has come and the Third Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Then, no matter what day the ninth of Av is, there will be no mourning and fasting. Rather it will be a holiday.

Conscious of that we made our Shabbat meals very special. Several of our sons were at the table and they always enjoy singing. There was one song in particular that seemed appropriate. Avraham Fried has taken several verses from the Yom Kippur prayers and set them to a stirring melody.   

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Time to Advise or a Time to Listen

My friend and I were absorbed in an intimate discussion when a knock at the door interrupted us. Holding a blue aerogram my friend’s neighbor was clearly upset. The letter from America contained the news that her mother had diverticulitis.

“That’s nothing to worry about,” I breezily dismissed her concerns. “My father has had it for years. My mother-in-law, too. It means they can’t eat popcorn or nuts.”

“Really?” The neighbor seemed reassured and once she left my friend and I returned to our conversation.

Obviously that was years ago since very few write letters today. Looking back with the wisdom of time I wonder how comforting my words really were. Perhaps the neighbor was far less concerned about medical facts and wanted some emotional support about living so far away from her family