Monday, December 29, 2008
Each year at Temple Emanu-El, staff members are assigned to facilitate the lighting of our outside menorah on all eight nights. The final night happened to be mine, as I was returning from vacation that day. Right after we finished singing a few songs and lighting the last candles, a videographer for one of our local news stations approached. Though he initially asked about the meaning of Hanukkah, his real question for the nightly news was about operation Cast Lead, Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
The name Cast Lead is a reference to Hanukkah because in preparation for Hanukkah molten hot lead was poured into molds to make dreidels. Of course this is a double entendre in a way because bullets are often manufactured using the same technique.
I think the videographer might have been caught slightly off-guard by my response. Instead of the usual, we pray for an end to the violence, I basically articulated the argument that Israel has the absolute right to defend herself from outside attacks.
When people look at the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they often think of it in terms of David and Goliath, with Israel somehow being Goliath, and her attacks against terrorists as being disproportionate. Yet those who make these comparisons almost invariably fail to mention that this attack was not instigated by Israel, and the last time we in the United States were attacked by a foreign threat, we invaded not one country, but two. People are also quick to forget that Israel peacefully gave up sections of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to establish more peaceful relations with the Palestinians. The result: kidnappings and more violence.
Israel’s goals in this operation are straightforward as indicated in an opinion piece on ynetnews.com by Ron Ben-Yishai http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3645007,00.html Israel wants to establish a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, end the rocket attacks, stop the military escalation, hopefully be able to finally bring Gilad Shalit home, and end the terror attacks near the border. Israel, as it has demonstrated in the past, will attack when provoked. But the only way for the violence to truly end is if Hamas and the Palestinians renounce it as a form of conflict resolution. Until then, sadly, Israel probably has no other recourse that is accepted in the Middle East no matter what the U.N. might say.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Jewishly speaking, our New Year occurs on Rosh Hashana. It is during that time especially from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur that we as Jews strive to return to God and our truer selves through the process of teshuvah.
Yet the impulse to make resolutions around this particular time of year is part of our innate nature as well, especially because it is so pervasive in the English speaking world. Even in
Thus the secular New Year is very much in our consciousness, and when it approaches, we often make promises to ourselves. Some of the most popular include: losing weight, stop smoking, spend less money (especially since the credit card bills are arriving in the mail), or even to finally sit down and write that great American novel.
But by February or March, with the year’s gym membership paid up, we fall off the horse and return to our old patterns.
I have spent a lot of time pondering why we fail at so many of our resolutions, even though they are filled with good intentions. I think there are really three major reasons. The first is because it is natural for us to return to our normal patterns. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to break out of habits, because they are in fact habits. The second is, I think, because we tend to be very ambitious in our resolutions. We don’t resolve to lose three or four pounds, no, we resolve to lose twenty pounds in two months. It is just simply too unrealistic. And the third reason is because we focus on just one area of ourselves. Stopping smoking while not finding something else to fill in the void, just leaves one not only empty but tempted as well.
In response to this, I have come up with a proposal for myself and maybe for you as well. First of all, I think one needs to set reasonable achievable goals. As any psychologist will tell you, success builds upon success. Secondly one needs to set up resolutions that are not only physical in nature, but also spiritual, emotionally satisfying, and intellectual as well. The more we wish to improve, the more opportunities should come our way everyday.
With this in mind, this coming New Year, I have decided rather than be ambitious in scope, to be ambitious in quantity. And being a list person, here they are in no particular order:
1. To be able to run a 10K. After watching ‘Run Fatboy Run,’ I thought, why not me. But running a marathon is not only incredibly arduous, but also extremely ambitious. Maybe I should start with a small distance and see how my body holds up. Plus I wouldn’t mind losing a few of these Rabbi pounds that seem to have come my way.
2. Be more patient.
3. Be more loving and appreciative especially of my wife and daughter.
4. Keep in touch regularly with my friends. Hopefully Facebook will be helpful in this. Besides, it is wonderfully addictive.
5. Learn something new everyday.
6. Become a better guitarist. I know, this means I will actually have to take time to practice.
7. And my personal favorite: engage in a creative endeavor everyday. I find when I have created something new, I just feel better throughout the rest of the day.
Good luck with your resolutions, and I will keep you posted as to how mine are going. And to all, a very Happy Sylvester.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
With Thanksgiving, a Jewish holiday by the way, already consumed, I am worried that many fall celebrations are going to fall prey to this voracious beast of winter consumerism. It will not be long until the winter shopping season begins not in November, but just past Labor Day. This means the Christmas shopping season could engulf Columbus Day, Diwali, United Nations Day, Boss’ Day, Grandparents’ Day, Veteran's Day. Most concerning though, if this happens our secular-religious calendar could swallow whole the Jewish fall observances of Rosh Hashana, Tzom Gedaliah, the 10 Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah in the similar fashion to how Hanukkah has now become inexorably tied to Christmas.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
But look at the ratings ahead of time. And please if you are easily offended, don’t say you weren’t warned.
1. Like Father, Like Clown (Season 3)
The story of what happens when Lisa and Bart attempt to reconcile
Krusty, a self described lapsed Jew, and his father Rabbi Hyman Krustofski. My favorite part is Lisa’s description of what rabbis desire above all else.
See what happens when Krusty discovers he is not considered a
member of the Jewish community, and the lengths he goes to become a
A modern twist on an ancient Jewish myth. Plus Fran Drescher makes an
1. The Passion of the Jew (Season 8)
Probably the best, most thoughtful response to the Passion of the Christ
that I have seen
A brilliant retelling of the story of Job
1. When You Wish Upon a Weinstein (Season 2)
Peter’s prejudices about Jews ain’t so bad. Too bad it deemed so inappropriate by Fox that it was not aired on its original date, and did not appear until 3 years later.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Here are some classic articles from my own campaign for president. Oh well there is always 2012.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Maybe it is because of its prose. Dan Brown certainly writes in a very engaging way to say the least. He gets you hooked with very short chapters where it seems that the main characters are always in a state of extreme peril. But other writers have written this way for many years as well, without the same degree of success. So maybe it is not the prose. Could there be another possibility for why the book is so popular?
Perhaps it has to do with historical reality when the book first appeared. Think about what was going on when the novel first came out. At the time this thrilling novel first appeared on bookshelves, we were being inundated by the media about the ever-growing abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.
It seemed as if every day new men and women were coming out of the wood work making statements and suing the church over abuses that had occurred over the past several decades. This in and of itself was quite disturbing. But what made the story all the more incredible were the assertions that the Church covered it up. People claimed that the Church knew about what was going on and instead of dealing with it, they would instead quietly move priests from community to community, never formally acknowledging that there was a problem.
And while this was going on, the Da Vinci Code came out, asserting that the Church was involved in the greatest historical cover-up of all time. No wonder why it captured the imagination of a world audience. The abuse scandal made it seem plausible that if the church could cover that up, what else could it be hiding? Now anything seems possible, even the divinity and bloodline of Christianity’s Lord and Savior.
But the Catholic Church is only one of many organizations targeted with conspiracy theories. Often times these theories come out of a belief that there is an insidious power seeking to undermine one’s best efforts. Or because of a lack of conclusive evidence or sometimes in spite of conclusive evidence, there are those who believe that there is a worldly cabal of some sort hiding secrets and arranging world events. We saw this with the assassination of JFK, with Area 51, and more recently with 9/11.
The problem with these theories, aside from their ability to grossly distort the historical truth, is that they often generate tremendous amounts of attention, and mask our ability to deal with actual substantive issues. This is in part because it is easier to focus on supposed cover-ups and conspiracies because they capture the imagination. This is what helps makes television shows like the X-Files and 24 so very popular.
Just ask yourself, which is more interesting, the notion that we need to become more aware of how much energy we consume, or the idea that the automotive industry in collusion with oil companies, is hiding a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? What is more fascinating: the notion that the Airforce is constantly testing new aircraft designs, or that the pieces falling from the sky are actually UFO’s? Or what is more enticing, the notion that Germans systematically slaughtered 11 million people, or that only a few hundred thousand Jews died from typhus, but played it up to get world sympathy in order to justify their conquering of the land of Palestine?
Conspiracies abound - but the Truth is out There - just waiting to be uncovered rather than made up.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
That being said, it can be just a bit overwhelming with so many sacred and wonderful experiences all crammed in together. Whoever came up with the idea of taking a month off from sacred celebrations (excluding Shabbat of course), was actually a fairly brilliant person (or God). They rank up there in my book with those who invented frying just about any type of food, as well as those who came up with the idea of mixing chocolate with peanut butter, or chocolate with almonds, or chocolate with wafers, or chocolate with more chocolate. You get the idea.
So for me personally, there are no Cheshvan blues. Besides who has the time to think about it anyway? And as an added bonus, its sweeps, so a month of Heroes and Simpsons uninterrupted.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
This is a somewhat limited list of Jewish films that are worth seeing. Many are quite good, though some are better than others. You can use this as a starting point…
Fiddler on the Roof
The Jazz Singer (any of three versions)
Fiddler on the Roof
West Bank Story
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Hiding Place
Voyage of the Damned
Au Revoir, les Enfants
The Nasty Girl
The Great Dictator
God on Trial
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Lost in Yonkers
A Walk on the Moon
Keeping up with the Steins
Chariots of Fire
Protocols of Zion
Old Jewish Neighborhoods
King of the Roaring Twenties
Once Upon a Time in America
A Stranger Among Us
Price Above Rubies
Life is Beautiful
The Great Dictator
Keeping the Faith
The Producers (either version)
Sword in the Desert
Cast A Giant Shadow
The Band’s Visit
Waltz with Bashir
David and Bathsheba
The Ten Commandments
Solomon and Sheba
The Prince of Egypt
Walk on Water
Everything is Illuminated
King of the Corner
Crimes and Midemeanors
God on Trial
Others of Note:
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
The Benny Goodman Story
If you have any other recommendations, please let me know and I will gladly add them to the list.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Give me lobbyists run amuck. Give me low flow toilets. Give me bridges to nowhere. Heck, even give me pork … barrel spending that is, not the other kind. With this platform, I am sure to win. With everyone else for Change, my name will be memorable, at least according to my campaign manager Peanut the cat.
With that in mind, as I do each year right before Purim, here is a new list of my campaign promises to you.
First of all I promise to make the express lanes at grocery stores mandatory under the penalty of death. Ten items or less, means ten items or less. What is so hard about that concept to grasp?
As your president, I will also end this diet, carb, no-carb, low-carb, exercise, no exercise, fish, no fish, count calories, don’t count calories, transfats, trans-solids, Trans Am, debate once and for all. I will have the newly formed Department of Frozen Pizza declare all foods that are fatty, deep-fried, salty, and tasty as completely and utterly healthy in all forms at all times. Fruits and vegetables will be outlawed, except when they can be produced through the aforementioned process. For further information see the Supreme Court’s recent ruling: latkes v. my waistline.
And last but certainly not least, I plan to declare illegal all ‘reality’ television shows. Some may say this is in direct contradiction to the First Amendment. To them I say, “Well la-de-dah,” or is it “doo-wah-diddy?” With the writer’s strike over, we are guaranteed to have fresh original dramas that are never recycled police procedures, courtroom dramas, or medical emergency shows. We will also have sit-coms that are always side-splittingly funny. So who needs yet another show of people competing against one another for America’s love, like siblings wrestling for a pat on the back from a neglectful parent? Speaking of which, I think I’ve got an idea for a new reality show. Can someone get Fox on the line?
So a vote for me means a vote not for someone else. And with your support we will absolutely not change anything, ever. Well except maybe our socks, because otherwise that could be kind of gross.
Chag Purim Sameach