"From Moshe till Moshe, there arose none like Moshe." (famous Jewish folk saying)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

One the road again

East Coast only. Will be back in 10 days. If your interested, join me for all you can eat Sushi at EDEN WOK on 72nd, 7pm this Monday.

A special note to Ittay

In responce to this post: Your question is legitimate and is filled with deep and sincere pain. But if you really want my feelings. I will share them with you. I firmly believe that HaShem does listen and answerers each and every one of our prayers. Yes, each and every one. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get the answers we want. This may be one of those times. Sometimes HaShem says, “No.”

You may also want to read this post. It explains how I personally deal with all of this.

Today is my Grandpa's 8th Yartzeit

This was the hesped I gave at my Grampa's funeral. Its message still resonates with me today. He was a great man.

16th of Av, 5757
Lispod V’Livkosah - we learn from our father Avraham Avinu, that when his wife Sarah died, he cried and he eulogized.
When my grandfather took ill several weeks ago I began to think about him in many different ways. Who was he? What did he accomplish in life? What has he taught us and what will be his legacy? You may think I am being disrespectful, but truthfully I was stumped and I have not been able to put my finger on the answer to these questions. It was in this confusion that I began to realize that my ambivalence to all of these things was really the essence of Grandpa’s greatness.

I realize that many of those here today, who have come to find comfort and give comfort maybe as perplexed as I am. I hope that in these few brief moments I will be able to offer a glimmer of brilliance to what my grandfather meant to each of us.
Medically speaking, Grandpa had it rough. It was not an uncommon occurrence to call home and hear that Grandpa is in - or was in - the hospital. We often joked that he was such a “regular” they were going to name a wing of Mt. Auburn Hospital in his honor. His favorite book was the most current edition of the PDR - Physicians Desk Reference guide. Grandpa knew so much about medicine that for years my sister and I thought he was a doctor.

But his ill health never made him bitter or resentful. He never questioned why G-d had thrown him so many maladies. And if you would ever ask him, “How are you doing Grandpa?”, his response was- And I will always try hard to remember his raspy voice - “I’m Ok.” He was a wonderful patient and many of his gifted and talented physicians, and nurses considered him a friend rather than as a patient.

The Gemara in Sukka comments on the verse in Micha that “Hegecha Lecha Adam MAh Tov - What is good and what does Hashem require of us?” The answer, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Hashem.” Judaism requires us to treat ever individual with dignity and respect because man was created B’Tzelem Elokim - In the image of Hashem. At the core of this are 2 basic Jewish concepts: Dignity of Man and simplicity.

Grandpa was a private, quite, simple, humble and unassuming human being. He never asked for much and was always happy with what ever he was given. Grandpa did not expect things from people and had no expectations of others. This perspective on life that Grandpa taught us allows a person to be happy with whatever he is given. If you don't expect something, he would say, and you get it.... you’ll be happy. If you expected it coming to you..... why be happy when you got it. You expected it.

We never saw Grandpa when he was not “put together.” Even recently, when I went to visit him in the hospital, Grandpa asked me to wait outside his room until he had been given a shave. He was always dapper, with his hat and bow tie. And if no bow tie, then his shirt was always buttoned to the top. Of course as one of his grandchildren, I would always loosen the button - Dov Baer wanted to wear his shirt buttoned to the top today just like Grandpa.

Azehu Chacham - Halomayd Mikol Adam - He who learns from all men. Grandpa never tried or wanted to be the life of the party. Because he was a listener. He was always keenly listening and never really offered his opinion unless he was asked for it. He would often wait for the right moment and then chime in... with just a few words. And then his comments would be discussed well after the day was over.

Grandpa was a gifted mechanical engineer and creative artist. (he never took a lesson and started painting at age 75. This sunset picture was one of his first. SB said she liked it, and he took it off his wall and gave it to her) He had an understanding of how systems worked and he was proud of it. If you ever looked carefully at his paintings you would see the peacefulness of his images and the brilliance of his colors. These were symbolic of the way he captured life. Grandpa was outwardly pride-less, yet inwardly very prideful of his accomplishments. Recently he told my mother and I, that he had done so many things in life. He had done it all, and what ever he did, he was the best. Until recently I had no idea what Grandpa’s profession really was. He never talked about it. He was modest in his privacy.

Grandpa’s relationship with Bobbi was something we often marveled as grandchildren. I am not sure how often Bobbi and Grandpa agreed on things, but in their 56 years of marriage, we always knew Grandpa and Bobbi to agree to disagree - Always in a respectful way. You don't necessarily need to agree with someone - And have the same outlook and view on life to be in love. The art of compromise - and respect - are the ways relationships are fostered developed and held together.

His daughters and his grandchildren, and now his great grandchildren were his life. How proud Grandpa was of their accomplishments, but again, he never bragged. His pride was personal and internal. When he spoke about them, his face would light up and his smile was so beautiful.

As much as we learn that Death is a part of life, Grandpa did not fear his final days. He had no enemies or conflicts to resolve.

Our tradition tells us that Eliyahu Hanavi is the symbol and guarantee of continuity for the Jewish people. That is why
Eliyahu shows up at key points in Jewish tradition: The Seder, circumcision and Havdallah. We know that although in a physical sense the light and brilliance of our Eliyahu ben Aharon Halevi has been extinguished, in a mystical sense, his light continues to burn in our hearts, our mind and our spirit.
In his own special way Grandpa has left us a legacy of how to conduct ourselves in life that will always be cherished and remembered.
This is the legacy of chesed, kindness and humility.
One need not agree with another person to show him respect.
One does not need to be the loudest to be noticed.
Give charity in a quiet way.
Ezehu Ashir - Asamayayach Bechelko - Who is the rich man? The man who is happy with his lot.
Grandpa taught us that good guys always finish.....as long as you are content with yourself ... you can be content with the world.

May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
We miss you Grandpa. Love your favorite oldest grandson

Monday, August 15, 2005

I have been nauseated all day

The sound and sights of soldiers crying. Synagogues being dismantled, men, woman and childern asking why. The unshakable faith and dedication of Your people. Oy, Rebono Shelo Olam. Look down at Your people, see and hear the love they have for You and your Land. Have Mercy on all of us and please deliver us quickly from the terrible pain and anguish we all feel at this time. HaShem Yerachem

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Power of Prayer, reconciliation and dignity

I had a very heavy heart today. Jewish law forbids outward displays of mourning on Shabbat but I felt the impending gloom and doom of Tisha B’Av a little bit to soon. Tisha B’Av is the one-day on the Jewish calendar when we commemorate all Jewish tragedy. Many of us have never lived through a national Jewish tragedy. We have experienced tragic events, death, etc. But for us national tragedy is only a history, depicted in books, movies and stories from our grandparents. A real Jewish tragedy is something many of our generation have been spared from experiencing, until now.

Anyone who has read any of my previous post, and on whose blogs I have commented, know that I am against the disengagement. I believe firmly that leaving Gaza will not accomplish anything. Except for maybe freeing up our brave soldiers from protecting the Jewish residents of Gaza, I have not been convinced of any other legitimate claim. As we have heard, Hamas and the PA are already singing the predictable songs of, we want the entire west bank, we want the right of return and ultimately, we want Jerusalem. Anything less, there will be no peace; the violence will begin again, although we all know that it has really never stopped.

I am not giving up. I don’t want to give up, but I am starting to feel in my heart, that HaShem just may have other plans. Throughout history, Jews have experienced times of darkness. There have been times, recently and in the past where tragedies have happened to friends, our family and in the world that we just could not understand. After all, we’re human and things happen that are beyond our comprehension.

When someone is G-d forbid, diagnosed with a terminal illness, his or her initial approach is to fight. They take a stand. I will beat this cancer! They seek out the greatest specialists; they experiment with aggressive treatments, and sometimes they pray. The determination and will to live is crucial to survival. But unfortunately, sometimes even with all of the fighting, and all the praying, the disease is stronger and overtakes even the greatest and strongest of wills. Sometimes, HaShem hears our prayers and gives us a different answer than we want. And what do we do when this reality sets upon us? We accept what HaShem has decreed and we endeavor to leave this world and go out with dignity.

I am not sure, but this moment of transition may be upon us. We have fought hard. We have protested and we have prayed. But it seems that the time has come to accept that HaShem may have other plans for us, the people of Gaza and Israel. So now what are we to do? My hope is that my bothers and my sisters whose pain I share and identify with can accept that it is time to take control in a different way.

I do not want our beautiful children to see their sisters and mothers, who are modest in every way, handled by men, knocking off their head covering and dragged away. I don’t want children who honor, admire and revere the gevurah/strength of their heroic fathers to witness them being overpowered by a group of officers who are not following their hearts, but only following orders.

My fear is that even if there is resistance, in the end, it seems the result will be the same. For what ever the reasons, that we cannot understand, it seems that this is the way it will be. Yes, it is not me and it’s (sort of) not my family, and I am not living in their shoes but if it were me, I would rather go with my dignity. I realize people do not like holocaust analogies, but in Fiddler on the Roof, when they were told to leave Anatefka, they put on their hats and jackets, swept the floor and walked out with their heads held high. Our people are honorable and dignified. We should never allow ourselves to have these values compromised.

I looked ahead today, to next weeks Torah portion. I wanted to see if there was a message to be gleaned in the week that the disengagement would officially be executed. Once again I was awed by timelessness of Torah is and its eternal message.

We find Moses our teacher, pleading with G-d, to be allowed to enter into the land of Israel. We have learned earlier that it had been decreed that Moses would not enter the land. But Moses did not take this sitting down. He used every opportunity to try and annul this judgment. Moses prayed so many times and with such intensity that G-d himself had to tell Moses that he must stop his prayer and accept the judgment that was upon him. G-d told Moses that something else is was in store for him, something even greater and will someday be perceived as being more precious than the privilege of entering the Holy Land.

My hopes and prayers are with our friends and families in Gush Katif. May HaShem grant them all the wisdom and strength and the needed courage to deliver them through these dark and confusing times. May HaShem bless their families and reward them for their sacrifices and their steadfast faith. May the Jewish people merit that these dark times be a prelude to the ultimate redemption to come, speedily in our days.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The joy to be humbled

This summer, our son DB is learning and playing at the NCSY summer kollel. The Kollel is an amazing program that combines sports, trips and fun with intense Torah learning. Several great rabbis, including Rav Hershel Schechter, Rav Meir Twersky and a bunch of dynamic madrichim/counselors spend their entire summer at the Kollel, just learning hanging out and playing ball with the boys. In my 10 years with NCSY, there was never a kid who we sent on the Kollel that did not love it and gain from this experience.

B”H, it seems that our son is enjoying this same magnificent summer. This past Saturday night, after a beautiful shabbat at home, I drove DB back to beit meir, the home of the kollel.

As I was preparing to leave after dropping him off, my window was open, and I heard DB say to his madrich, that was my father. And his madrich said, that he wanted to meet me. So DB waved, I stopped and DB introduced me to his madrich. A very nice young man who has spent his last 6 summers with the kollel.

Tonight, when I was speaking with DB, I thanked him for introducing me to his madrich. DB said, yeah, it was weird. I asked him why was it weird? DB said that “He was like, that was so cool!” DB said, “what was cool?” “I just met Rabbi S! He is a legend!” I said “DB, what do you think of that, That someone out there actually thinks I’m cool?” To which DB responded, “Abba, he has never seen you at home! Oy, to be humbled by a 16 year old. But you got to love it. I certainly do. I watched cheaper by the dozen with my daughter and her friend and last night, I watch Star Was, something about a syth. I’ll be traveling again in a few weeks so I have to cram in some solid family time. NED came to work with me today. But that is for another story.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Remember when

When I was a little kid, I remember when my parents would go out on a Saturday night. It was the days before VCR’s and renting videos. We used to watch the Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Da Plan, Da plane! and I am Mr. Rourk, you host!! Welcome to Fantasy Island.

But the big thing was popcorn. It was the days before jiffy pop, Microwave ovens and Orville Redenbacher. We used to use a pot on the stove, put oil in it, corn kernels and on a full flame, shake the pot until we would hear the popcorn popping. The smell of fresh popcorn. Not air-popped but real, oily, fresh popcorn.

So I was at the local shuk the other day and I saw a bag of popcorn kernels. And I decided to by it. My kids did not know what they were. So I decided to give them a history lesson. There was a time, when you could not pause your TV or tape a show. There was a time when the only movies you could watch were at a theater or a drive in. My grandfather used to own a drive in theater. There was no such thing as a microwave and popcorn did not come in a bag and take 2 minutes to make.

I said to my children, gather around and watch. The first thing they noticed was the smell. Ahhh, that smell that stinks up the whole house. Then they heard the popping and then, when you take the lid off, that beautiful white and crispy popcorn. Ahh I said, this was a benefit to living in the good old days. Things may have taken a little longer, but boy, did they seem better.

Makes you wonder if we really are better off than we were 35 years ago. Technology has advanced so much but the world seems like its much more screwed up that it used to be. Somehow I got to this from popcorn. To live in my head, what an adventure.

Terrorism or Murder?

Last week, a Jewish soldier, Natan Eden Zeda who was apparently AWOL from his unit boarded a bus in an Shfaram and murdered four Israeli Arabs. Natan Eden Zeda was subsequently lynched by an Arab mob after being handcuffed by police.

I found it very ironic how quickly world press including our own were very quick to call this an act of terrorism, by a “Bloodthirsty Jewish Terrorist.” The sound of it makes me cringe and want to hide in shame. But, putting this in perspective, not many of us have heard this type of a description so often. For the mere fact that it does not happen so often!

In my opinion, what happened was wrong, and these actions would definitely constitute murder. However, I am not sure if his actions should be considered a terrorist act. I looked at the dictionary to find a good definition of terrorism, to see if this act would apply. Most of the definitions were very vague. Incidentally, the UN has a team, lead by an Arab that is also making efforts to define terrorism. Unfortunately a dispute, centered on how to classify Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza has held things up. How convenient.

I would define terrorism as an ongoing organized and premeditated action or actions, that are meant to harm, murder and maim as part of this on-going effort to create fear and intimidation for pursuit of political and religious aims.

There is a lot that we don’t know yet about who Natan Eden Zeda is, was, etc. It seems that on his own, he independently decided to take a bus and murder Israeli Arabs. Was this part of a larger plot? Was there any video tape that was delivered and broadcast to the networks that had a living, Natan Eden Zeda expressing his will and desire to die a martyr for the sake of G-d and his people. Was there dancing in the street and did his family give out candy and deliver sweets to the neighbors? The answer is NO, NO, NO! Because with the information we have today, we only know that Natan Eden Zeda acted alone. He was not furthering any cause. He was an independent soldier who seems to have cracked and went off the deep end and he killed people. He was not part of a larger plot, no jihad, no nothing!

The Arabs are still free to enter the malls, take the bus, and walk the streets freely. Actually, I wonder some times if Arabs feel safer in our shopping centers. They are not afraid that someone will kill them. I doubt you will start seeing check points set up in Arab towns watching out for the Jewish terrorist. There is no intimidation.

The murderous actions of any Jew create a stain on our people. When in a soldieries uniform, with a military issued weapon, it creates a blemish for our military. But when the press and our government equates this isolated act of one individual, with no mandate other than his own warped sense of justice, they demonstrate just how imprecisely they perceive reality and the larger picture, and how willing they are to entertain the notion of apologetics to justify their own existence.

The times we are living in are indeed very sad and difficult to understand.

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