Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A Recipe for Disaster


Disheartened by the discord I see all over the world among past friends I’ve devised this fool-proof recipe for ruining a relationship:

Blame him or her or them for the problem

Tell him or her or them they need to work on themselves, to change, grow up, be less selfish, whatever

Absolve yourself of any responsibility

Sit back and continue to criticize him or her or them

Never examine your own thoughts, motives, and actions

Watch the relationship with your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, or co-worker completely unravel

Console yourself thinking it was all his or her or their fault, not yours

And for a recipe to save a relationship and bring harmony in the world:

Do the opposite!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Praying for the Success of the Vaccination

For the last ten months I’ve been in awe of the heath-care, food-chain, and other necessary workers, who have put their lives on the line to protect and help me continue a semblance of normal life. Meanwhile, except for an occasional supportive phone call or cake, doing my best to follow the health guidelines, and praying a lot, I felt I wasn’t doing much to improve the situation. That changed this week when I went for my Corona vaccine. Finally, I was doing something pro-active to aid in ending the pandemic.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Once Upon a Time

I went to the Kotel every week and it was one of the highlights of my life. With time, though, going there began to be routine and I didn’t want that special place to lose its magic for me. So, I thought long and hard about how I could recapture the enthusiasm I’d always had for the privilege of being able to pray at the site my ancestors had only dreamed about. HaShem sent a solution, a solution I didn’t like, a solution named Corona. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

So Much to Be Thankful For

The following was written six years ago and, although our Shabbat/Thanksgiving plans have been affected by Covid, we still hope to eat a turkey and concetrate on all the good we have been given.
We’ve all been there. Someone we know and love is having a Bar Mitzvah, getting married, graduating, or celebrating some similar milestone that warrants a present. We think carefully about what we’d like to give him and spend time shopping for the perfect present. At last we find it, write a loving note to enclose with it, and wrap it as prettily as possible. The gift is delivered. We wait a week, two weeks, three and there’s no acknowledgement. Finally a month or so later his mother tells us how much her son likes the present and thanks us for him. It doesn’t quite cut it. In Judaism we learn that thanking cannot be done by an intermediary. When we recite the Amidah, the central prayer of praise and blessing for HaShem, we include a prayer of thanks. Then the cantor repeats the Amidah out loud, the congregation listens, and responds Amen to each of the blessings, until they arrive at the thank you. At that point the cantor recites his thanks and the congregation members each recite their own thanks, reinforcing how important it is to personally express our own appreciation. In last week’s Torah portion, Vayetze, we read how our forefather, Yaacov, married and had eleven of his twelve sons from four different mothers. His wives knew that they were building the twelve tribes of Israel. When Leah’s fourth son was born, she realized she had received a fuller portion than the others. Therefore she named this son Yehudah, from the Hebrew word, l’hodot to thank. As Jews, we are called Yehudim after Yehudah, and not any of Yaacov’s other sons, because Jews are supposed to constantly thank HaShem. When I lived in America I loved Thanksgiving. There were those who turned up their noses at the holiday stating that every day we should give thanks, not just once a year. That’s indeed true, but I see nothing wrong with having a special day to focus on our gratitude. Now that I live in Israel there are those who ridicule me for celebrating an American holiday. Again, I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, the root of the aforementioned Hebrew word l’hodot is hodu. Hodu is also the Hebrew word for turkey. Nothing in life is a coincidence. It seems to me that HaShem is telling us to celebrate Hodu Day, with hodu. Of course, Thanksgiving Day is Israel is a normal workday but the following day is erev Shabbat. Through the years we’ve compromised our Thanksgiving celebration and now have our turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce at our Friday night Shabbat meal. Some years we have it a week or two before Thanksgiving and sometimes a week or two after. Thankfully we live in Israel and can be flexible. Our Thanksgiving is when it’s the best time for us. Whenever we do sit down to eat it, though, we are mindful of all the blessings HaShem has given us. And we thank Him, wholeheartedly. No one else can do it for us. A Happy Thanksgiving to all.
My novel, Growing With My Cousin, a good winter read, is available at Jewish bookstores and on line at or or or from my home.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Anti-Semitism: In light of the growing anti-Semitism I'm reposting what I wrote last year

Instead of wasting time and energy on symposiums trying to understand why there’s such a rise in anti-Semitism we should try looking at this week’s Torah portion. There it plainly states that Esav hates Yaakov because of the blessing Yaacov received from Yitzhak, their father (chapter 27, verse 41). In the previous verse Yitzhak tells Esav that Yaacov’s descendants will be subservient to Esav’s offspring whenever Yaacov’s don’t act properly. And how are we supposed to act properly? The Torah, the divine rule book, is full of guidelines for life but the directions don’t end with the five books of Moses. There are more suggestions from the Prophets. Micah (chapter 6, verse 8) tells us that G-d requires us to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with G-d. In the Saying of Our Fathers (chapter 1, verse 2) we’re taught that the world rests on three principles: Torah study, service to G-d, and kind deeds. Verse 18 paraphrases these three as justice, truth, and peace. These are just a tiny taste of the abundant wisdom offered to us from our learned rabbis. Although it sounds simplistic I believe, with all my heart, that the way to beat the hatred to our race is to be better Jews. To be as careful about the laws between G-d and man as we are about the laws between us and G-d. If we can begin to do this we won’t need any more conferences about anti-Semitism. We’ll be able to overcome the hate.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Not a Coincidence


This week holds three special dates, the secular anniversary of the Kristallnacht, American Veterans Day, and, on a personal note, my father’s 13th yahrzeit*.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

From Kansas to the Kotel


At the Kotel 

Recently, as I sat at the Kotel plaza, I marveled for the umpteenth time how I made it all the way from Wichita, Kansas, the heart of the Bible Belt, to live in Shilo, Israel, the heart of the Biblical nation. Many factors contributed to my transition and one of them was Temple Emanu-el, the Reform temple that I grew up in.