Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of an Era, A New Time

The portion Vayera means "to be chosen". In this portion Moses begins to fulfill his lifelong destiny as liberator of the Israelites. God sends Moses back to Egypt to speak before Pharaoh for freedom. Pharaoh declines seven times in the portion. Each rejection to free Moses and his people results in a place. God strikes Pharaoh and Egypt down with blood on the Nile, frogs, vermin, beasts, cattle disease, boils, and hail. Pharaoh concludes the portion by seemingly releasing the Israelites.

Throughout the week, two things floated in my thoughts: plagues and the New Year. Are they connected? God plagued Egypt because Pharaoh denied God's existence. He believed each of God's "wonders" could be equally created by his magician. 2011 brings uncertainty to us all. We see God's wonders everyday. Why is it that God lets us watch oil burn, crimes unfold, and sickness dwell? Is God against us in this day and age?

I am afraid that we have brought our own plague upon us. Technology now controls our lives. The Internet, Blackberries, I-Phones, everything has imprisoned us to a world of devices that beep. Theaters have lost great deals of respect. Almost every Shabbat service is accompanied by a ring. In 2010, I feel we have entered a new era. In this year, the Internet became bigger than the phones, newspapers, and even television. Eventually, somebody will write a parallel piece to mine. They say how they internet is out of style. There may be no blood in our water or hail in our skies, but technology is a menace.

In my opinion, the plague is a result of instant knowledge. If we have a question, we Google it. If we need to contact someone, we Facebook them. Got a rumor to spread? Go and twitter it. News is always happening and somebody is always telling it. The plague is the end of privacy. As previously stated, God did not bring this plague upon us. Technology is a man made plague.

In this new time we call 2011, we should redeem ourselves. We have the ability to buy a newspaper. Maybe when we have a question, we look it up at the library. We can even shut off our precious cell phones at synagogue. Technology can be stopped, but we have to part the Red Sea to halt it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Do They Eat Chinese Food Too?

Dreams are irregular for me, but last night was remarkable. To start, it was not a dream. Reminiscing about it, makes it more clear how much of a nightmare it was. It all started in a small town, like one we would find in upper New England. In the midst of just a few shops, the family and I were on vacation. This dream was over a two night span. On the first night, we created a hangout. Even all my grandparents came to spend the time. We met great people from the town, and had a great first evening. The next night, we started off in the same fashion. We headed down to the hangout, my dad got me a cone of ice cream. Just as everything and everyone begins to look like the closing of an episode of "Friends", the police come in. They claim the guy with us is a crook. My dad looks around and sees a something that horrifies him on the wall. Although, he would not reveal to me the slur, I could only assume it was towards the Jews. A shooting broke out at the scene, and I told the family we had to get out of here. It turns out that it was all a set-up. The police, this guy, and maybe even the ice cream seller hated Jews and planned to exterminate us. My mother was ravaged by the savages. My sister disappeared. Just as I felt as alone and sunken as the bottom of the sea, I awoke.

To avoid the fact that I may be psychologically disturbed, let us do some clarifying. When people ask, "How do you deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust or situations in Israel?", remember this dream. My brain is always processing the cruelties Jews have faced. In this week's parshat, it was becoming enslaved in Egypt. Seventy years ago, one-third of our population perished in Europe. In the 21st century, we find ourselves catching antisemitic villains. Hate crimes happen, but nearly to the extent of what my dream may tell. To anyone in a panic right now, do not worry our towns will not turn against us. Antisemitism is a lot more subtle. It seems that all antisemites out there just feel like keeping their hatred a secret.

Watching Christmas come among us this year was quite interesting. For the first time, I felt that Hanukkah was a part of the American way. People for the most part wished me a happy Hanukkah that actual 8 days of Hanukkah. "Conan" brought Hanukkah up each day his show appeared on the holiday. We must not let Hanukkah become a "Jewish Christmas", but it got me thinking. What do other people do without Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Kwanzaa?

Just like Jews, Muslims have a lunar calendar. Unlike Jews, Muslims do not have any leap year. Ramadan was once in December. Due to the leap years, Ramadan has ended up in September. My question is; "Do they eat Chinese food too?" Islam is the newest of the Abrahamic religions. Muhammad is the Muslim prophet who spoke the word of God to the people of Mecca. In Mecca, he was at first rejected by most and then accepted by a few followers. Muhammad was banished by Mecca and sent to Yathrib which he renamed Medina. Muhammad reclaimed Mecca, but sadly died two year later in 632 CE. Muslims had an empire that spanned from Iran to Spain. Today, they are dispersed all over the world. "Do they eat Chinese food too?"

In history, we have been studying the rise of Islam. On the first day of the unit, my teacher did a very interesting experiment. Each day we do a warm-up in class. On this particular day, the warm-up was to write on the board three words that come to mind when we think of Islam. Some of the most common were 9/11, oil, and women covered. There were two that stick out in my mind, "no women's rights" and "suicide bomber". After the eyeopening experience, my teacher showed a series of video of Muslims combating stereotypes. He showed us a more comical video. For example, the video below, "Video Blog #4: Muslim While Flying" is a funny way of looking at Muslim stereotypes.
"Video Blog #4: Muslim While Flying" by: ummahfilms

On a more serious note, he showed us a video that showed Muslim extremists committing acts of terror. It said, "If you think all Muslims are like this, then all Christians are like this". The video showed a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. Islam is probably the prominent stereotype of time.

What is our task? As Jews, we know exactly how Muslims feel in America. My dream may be their reality. We must combat their stereotypes. Americans must prevent, the "Islamacaust". We should never have a Muslim persecuted in the home of the free. Jews are finally assimilating without giving up their culture. Let's help the Muslims out. Maybe we can all eat Chinese food together.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How One Tradition Changed Judaism Forever?

Genesis closes with a very powerful statement about Judaism. To start, it is very well written. Besides that Joseph and his father are not madly in love, Jacob's death is a reminder very much of the tomb scene in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". Shakespeare and the Torah capture the same, resonant tone that paints a vivid, moving picture for the reader.

In the portion, Jacob is prepared to move on from the Earth. He knows his life has come to a nice conclusion with the reuniting of his family. Joseph and his brothers get blessed by their father. Of all twelve sons, Joseph receives the family blessing. To Jacob, the family blessing means to carry out the task of being the leader of God's people. The other leaders, Abraham and Issac, have been buried in a very specific location in Canaan. Jacob says, "Behold, I am going to die, and God will be with you, and He will return you to the land of your forefathers" (Gen. 48:21). Jacob believes Joseph will follow in his footsteps into Canaan. On the other hand, Joseph has a different vision. When Joseph moves on, "they embalmed him and he was placed into the coffin in Egypt" (Gen. 50:26). Maybe even to this day, Joseph remains a mummy in Egypt. Did Joseph get the Jews stuck in Egypt? 40 years in the desert? In the Diaspora?

Joseph had his reasons to stay in Egypt. He was pretty much a Pharaoh in this land. In Canaan, he is just a man. His brothers and entire family have food in Egypt. They must have feared returning to once-famished Canaan. Why fix something that is not broken? Joseph probably should have stayed in Egypt, but Joseph and his whole family went to bury Jacob. The Israelites were in Canaan! They could have stayed. Instead, they remained in Egypt. How could Joseph know that a new Pharaoh would force the Israelites into slavery? Perhaps, God intended the entire story of Exodus and on to happen.

Unfortunately, Joseph creates an entirely new dynamic of Judaism. The Israelites completely lost their sense of homeland because Joseph did not bring his family back. He chooses to become more Egyptian than Jewish. Having a leader of the people was just about as dead as Joseph and Jacob. Jacob entrusted Joseph with such a dignified honor. He asked to carry on the traditions of the people and join his forefathers in the Canaan burials ground. Back in Egypt, Jewish culture never was the same.

When trying to think of a non-Jewish concept to demonstrate this theme, the New York Yankees came to mind. Every Yankee win is sounded by the playing of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York". Imagine if the Yankees thought the song was not "hip" or "convenient" enough to be the trumpet of a victory. A win here or there would be missed. Then, the song is not played at all. After that, Yankees fans do not know the song or even who Frank Sinatra is. Finally, Frank Sinatra and his swell Jazz style die out all together. Traditions are powerful. Whether it is a Yankee victory song or section of Torah, enjoy and relish these customs that hopefully keep Jacob's wish alive.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creative Serivce

At my synagogue, the youth group writes a creative service. This year's theme was miracles!

From August 15 to November 1, I struggled to find a miracle. With the High Holy Days coming, it was a struggle for how Jewish I should be. On top of that, Rachel, my sister, was finishing up the college admission process. This eclipsed my life at home. On top of that, I was lost to find who my friends were. With many more issues and pressures of eighth grade, it was a depressing and miserable autumn. Then, one day the light was at the end of the tunnel. Instead of taking the time to focus on the negative aspect, I would like to speak of the triumph.

I was looking for a miracle from the outside. I wanted a friend to reach out and lift this burden off my back. Instead, the depression took over more. Functioning day to day was almost impossible. September was like a few bumps in the rough road. October was the lull of sorrow. Then, out of nowhere November came. With a better sleep and a broader batch of self-confidence, I got through a day. Then, just another week. And now, as one can see a month.

It was certainly a miracle. We find ourselves all at this point. Some go through it at 14, others at 40, and others at 80. Self-confidence is the key to everything. It is the miracle that propelled the Maccabees to victory, the Jews out of Egypt, and a young man through the expedition of his eighth grade year. Having self-confidence is a miracle in itself. When services conclude, go out in the world and find the miracle of self-confidence. It sure does help get us out of the hole.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Genesis Vayigash Verses 44:18-47:27

To start, I would just like to recognize how nice it is to be back in action this week. While Hanukkah and Shabbat were observed, the week felt so empty with a blog and nice Shabbat dinner with the family. Also, I nice mazal tov to all my fellow cast and crew members with two great performances of "Romeo and Juliet".

Jumping back into Torah, we will explore another tale of Joseph and his brothers. As Genesis is heading toward its close, we open this parshat with Benjamin being taken into custody. Joseph has accused his brothers of being spies. Unknowing of their relationship, Judah appears before his brother. He pleads for Benjamin's liberation. Suddenly, Joseph cries out the truth. In shock, Judah goes to tell the others. Vayigash closes with the moving of the Israelites. Joseph successfully appeals to Pharaoh to let his family move into Goshen, Egypt finest portion of land. To conclude a warm and fuzzy family reunion, the Israelites leave their famished land and return to Joseph and his flourishing Egypt.

What if Joseph had not been as accommodating? Perhaps, Joseph would have sentenced all his brothers to imprisonment or worse death. It is their fault that Joseph was a slave and Egypt without even a family to call on for support. In fact, Jacob could have been just as much in a fury. Reuben, Simeon, and all the rest of his sons proclaimed his pride and joy, Joseph, a dead man. Rachel could be equally annoyed. She worked for hours diligently weaving her son's beautiful rainbow coat. Now, she is informed that her son's ruined the gorgeous coat by staining it with blood. Right then and there, the Israelites could have stayed angry and the Jews would not have made it past Joseph's time.

Instead, they forgave each other. Forgiveness is a beautiful aspect of the human mind. Betrayal can presents itself right before our eyes, yet the human mind searches for the good within people's rough exoskeletons of cruelty. Where do we halt forgiving? My mother always tells me not to become a human doormat. She would tell me, "Never let people walk all you!" When is forgiving just not right? When hateful, sorry is not enough for us, yet we despise when someone refuses to accept an apology.

If we are all our own judges, how do we determine who to forgive? Family was obvious for Joseph and still pretty easy for us. Generally, people are a slight bit stingier to forgive with friends. What about a stranger on the street? Do we forgive Joe who bumped into us? I say yes. We never know just what Joe on the street may have to offer. Relentless having a grudge upon him may cause our family to have a famine.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Blog this week

Sorry no writing this week due to my heavy involvement in my production in "Romeo and Juliet". I invite you to share your thoughts on the show, the terrible fires in Israel, or "Romeo and Juliet.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How do Judaism and Shakespeare intersect?

Over the past three months, I have been rehearsing and rehearsing to play the part as Paris in "Romeo and Juliet". Paris has taught me to understand Shakespeare, father of all theater. Then, I thought about Shakespeare and Judaism. They are both fairly old and must be connected somehow. I went onto Google. In approximately .21 seconds, the search engine gave me 98,700 results on if Shakespeare was anti-semetic. However, in .07 seconds, I got 2,930,000 results on if Shakespeare was Jewish. Doing research on both ends of the spectrum was difficult, but I think I have my own theory.

If Shakespeare was clearly Jewish, he would not have lived in Elizabethan English. Before he was even born, Jews were expelled by Edward I in 1290. Until 1655, no Jews lived in England. That bypasses the entire lifespan of Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, and the entire Renaissance. Still, I read an article claiming the William Shakespeare was Jewish. The author states that only a Jew could grasp the pain of antisemitism as we feel in "The Merchant of Venice".

If Shakespeare is not Jewish, is he antisemitic? Shakespeare only knew a Jew as the stereotypes he heard. He never met one. Yet, can you say it is right for an Englishman to be antisemitic, as a Nazi who never met a Jew. Others claim that Shakespeare pleads for tolerance. Can Shylock's short monologue change the entire perception of how to read "The Merchant of Venice"? The monologue states,

"I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that"

Shylock is one of Shakespeare's most mystifying characters. Depending on the actor, Shylock can be a treacherous villain or a sad soul whom was feel sympathy for. Although, a lot of Shakespeare's roles have two sides to them. Romeo is both a sweet, young boy who has fallen in love, yet an insane man who slaughters Paris in the tomb. Shylock is just subjected to the time around him. He represents the Jews of the Middle Ages. The second most oppressed generations of Jews the world has ever seen, after the Holocaust of course. Jews had no home. They were forced into the money lending. From this forced banking, they became known as greedy, cheap, and devious. Shylock is Shakespeare showing his audiences how cruel people can be. Maybe my opinion will change when I write my reflections of "The Merchant of Venice" after reading it myself.

"Romeo and Juliet" is another amazing piece of art. How Jewish is it? A ballet has been performed in Hungary that would say very much so. Romeo represents an Israeli Jew, Juliet a Palestinian. Shakespeare is timeless, just as Judaism. "Romeo and Juliet" is full of killing, jealousy, and rage. Judaism is against all of these attributes. Shakespeare relates to Jews because just like the Torah Shakespeare teaches us through others mistakes. The Torah may say do not kill, but we also read about Cain and Abel. Imagine if the Torah was translated into Shakespearean English.

Finally, Shakespeare and Judaism are both at a point in struggle. Shakespeare is supposedly timeless, so is Judaism. Unfortunately, both has withered through generations that are not religious or artsy as whole. Shakespeare, like religious services, is too confusing. Around the age of 13, students try to read a Shakespeare. Around the age of 13, Jews try to read Torah. And for what? A good grade? A party afterwards? Shakespeare and Judaism must be digested. Where do the king of theater and oldest region collide? "Ah me, Judaism, Judaism, wherefore out thou' Judaism."

-Bohm, Agnes. "In Mideast ‘Romeo and Juliet ' Love Overcomes All Obstacles." All About Jewish Theater. NCM Productions. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

-Verveer, David. "Was Shakespeare Jewish? - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews." Israel News: Ynetnews. Yedioth Internet, 26 Sept. 2006. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

-Hannan, Daniel. "Was Shakespeare Anti-Semitic? – Telegraph Blogs." Telegraph Blogs. The Telegraph, 2 Mar. 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

-Maillbard, Amanda. "Was Shakespeare Anti-Semitic? Jews in Shakespeare's England." Shakespeare Online. 12 Jan. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .

-Shakespeare, William. "Act 3 Scene 5." The Merchant of Venice. Print.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The American Family

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we will examine a major Thanksgiving element. Families vary, but the one around myself could not be better. By better, I mean ideal. I have two parents who would do almost anything for me, and a sister who is my best friend. All four of my grandparents are coming to celebrate the upcoming November holiday with us. Over this long weekend, cousins from both sides will come for a visit. We all have our difficulties, but I am so glad my family has not been corrupted.

Unfortunately, the American family is at a stage of decline or maybe evolution. Parents are career and Blackberry oriented while kids spend a beautiful late Autumn day playing X-Box. In addition, these time wasting video games are violent and geared for kids to be attracted to such brutality. In my opinion, such games could rot our brains just as candy rots our teeth. Families do not talk like they should. I know that if I need something I have three people I can and do go to. Just think what kids think of their parents these. Just for anybody under eighteen's information, parents are not chefs, or maids, or chofers, or butlers, or gift givers, or slaves to that matter. Parents are loving. Parents motivate, and they cook, drive, clean, and serve our every need out of endearment.

At the age of 14, I see two parenting extremes. In one case, parents give freedoms that were not even imaginable at 12. This is the path to independence. The parents are still responsible and do not abandon the child, but the lessons may come through well or poorly made choices. On the other end of the spectrum, parents watch their kid through a microscope. Everything is a crisis. This may not be terrible. As a teen, I love to have parents who watch over me while giving me the freedoms, as in the first situation. Making plans is difficult when dealing with the two extreme abyss.

What is the "ideal" family? Is it impossible? Can anybody be like these families we watch in the "Brady Bunch" and "Happy Days"? No, we are not written for laughs. Families fight, but the fights should never outshine our greatest triumphs. Genesis families were very dysfunctional. Cain killed his own brother! Perhaps, the ideal is not "Happy Days", nor Genesis.

On the other hand, my family may be ideal to me, but not to the people down the street. Families work. From New York to Napa Valley and everywhere in between, I hope your "ideal" family has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Genesis Vayetzei 28:10-32:3

Unfortunately, the Torah did not line up with my high school's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. If they had waited one more week, the stories would have matched up. On this Shabbat, we explore how Jacob and Laban interact. First off, God appears to Jacob in his dream. Jacob sees a ladder to heaven where God promises Jacob and his descendants a land to live in. Next, Laban tricks Jacob into 14 years of labor. He forces him to marry Leah before he could marry his true love, Rachel. Once married, Jacob bears his twelve sons and one daughter. Finally, Jacob leaves Haran and comes back to Canaan with all his family,except for Laban.

Let us examine Laban and Jacob's character. Laban tricks Jacob into twelve years of hard work. He forces Jacob to wait for the love of his life. On the other hand, Jacob steals everything in Laban's possession. He steals his daughters, his maids, and his good sheep. Laban's sheep will probably turn into fortune later on too. Jacob, then takes it while he's hot and leaves for Canaan in the name of God. Who is right in this situation?

Neither. Laban tricks Jacob and Jacob steals from Laban. Did Laban deserve it? Think about it. Laban tricked Jacob first. The Torah explains that he may have been doing it for the right of his own daughter. Leah is sad and alone, while her younger sister has been swept off her feet by a man who crossed the desert just to find her. Jacob was just trying to get away and back to his home. Sure, Jacob could have asked Laban to go, but he did not.

Life is not a trade off. God does not strike every lie we tell with a bolt of lightning. Laban was wrong in the first place, but Jacob deceived his father-in-law. Revenge is no way to go about in life. Matches create fires, but water puts them out. Laban very well could have apologized for what he had done. Apologizing is always right. I tend to over-apologize. I thought it was a way to cover up everything I did. Now, I see that elaborating and dramatizing does not make it better. An apology must be sincere. As in, "You know, Jacob I am sorry for keeping yo here so long. I should have never forced you to marry anyone other than Rachel. I forced labor upon you and I am truly sorry." Perhaps Laban may have been reconsidered for the Promised Land.

Friday, November 05, 2010

My Experience with the Board

For the last three weeks, a small uproar has occurred in my congregation. One night on a Thursday, my dad came home shocked with a email. The president of the temple had just announced that our rabbi would not have his contract renewed. Tension has risen between the board and upset congregants. This is no editorial about how I feel on either side. However, the board held an open session for members of the temple to express how they feel Wednesday night. Attendance was high, even though we had five days notice of the meeting. There were many attendees who handled and expressed their situation with great poise.

In the utter beginning, the rabbi had come in. He told us a little of what had gone on between him and the board. It was nothing unethical or monetary that kept the rabbi from going. He asked for seven years and the board was willing to give him three. Seven years was his proposed amount merely because his age may get in the way of finding a new job in three years. My rabbi openly removed himself from the meeting to allow a more honest opinion flow.

Following the rabbi's exit from the meeting, the president spoke on behalf of the board. Of all the speakers on Wednesday, I believe the president was the most brilliant, yet the calmest. He apologized for all the disturbance. He made it clear that tonight was not a night to find out the why's. The details were not secret, just confidential between the board and the rabbi's family.

Our president brought a mediator from the union to guide the discussion. He stayed calm in a very heated discussion. Before allowing others to speak, he went over rules of conduct. He made it apparent that there was no wrong answer. Everyone was entitled to their opinion. Then, the board opened the floor.

Both sides spoke their opinions. Some audience members demanded answers, yet some just told their stories with our rabbi. As a result of the heated discussion, the board did not make any commitments. One member took notes. If nothing else, the people have spoken. The board listened. Listening is an important skill to have with leadership.

As for the only aspiring rabbi I know of in the room, it gave me a hands-on lesson of how to deal with the board and congregants. I learned that a successful congregation is not a three way divide between the rabbi, board, and congregation. Also, the board can do many things well that progress the temple. I feel that too many modern Jews get tense about the board. They feel the board is the puppeteer to their Jewish experience. Just as in "Inception", people do not like they are being controlled and their sub-conscious will fight back.

In my rabbinic career, I aspire to listen to the board. I will be neither my way or the highway, but not do as the board orders. Moses never had a board of directors. Then again, he did not live in a democracy. By the looks after the meeting, there are three tasks that the Jews have to handle in their synagogues.

First, congregants can not be made second best. All people are created equal. In student council, I have to remember to represent my class, not my opinions. Any elected official must put personal bias aside. Congregants felt like the board had just gone over their head. Voltaire once said, "All the citizens of a state cannot be equally powerful, but they may be equally free."

Second, communication must be stronger in the synagogue. An email the night it has been decided is definitely not how the shul should communicate such a decision. Overall, our congregation must improve making non-active members attracted to the active "tempees". More religious does not mean border line insane. The only way the less attending group will receive information is through better communication. A group of furiously shocked individuals spoke their mind. That is how the meeting on Wednesday came about in the first place.

Third and finally, congregations must come together. Men, women, liberals, and more conservatives must all pray and worship together. Reform Judaism has this burden of being of the "I am Jewish for my parents" to "I will go on Yom Kippur" to "I go every Friday night" spectrum. There is no easy answer to this last one, but I assume the crack will begin to get filled when there is a relationship between the board, rabbi, and congregation. One last question left to filling the crack. Are we ready?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

Is it ethically right for a Jew to celebrate Halloween in America? My family thinks nothing of it, yet a person who I went to camp with may refuse to take part in the festivities of October 31. How far do we go? What is wrong with the holiday anyways? To understand the different opinions, I did some research on the topics. Using ten websites, reoccurring themes started to appear. Most started with the history of Halloween. Some even remarked how it is not even the religious elements that make Halloween displeasing to a Jew. However, Halloween presents "non-Jewish" values. Then, others talked about how Purim is an easy substitute. While adding up the verdict I got: seven no's, two yes's, and one website claimed it is up to personal opinion.

Historically, Halloween is a pagan holiday. Paganism is believing in a non-Abrahamic religion (ie Hinduism, Buddhism, polytheism). Halloween began in Ireland and Great Britain. The holiday was an official end to summer, a harvest festival. It was believed that the dead could rise up on this occasion. Beggars would be traded food to keep away the dead. Indeed, beggars were the first trick-or-treaters. However, paganism declined as Christians dominated the areas around the English channel. Halloween was a remaining element of Pagan culture. The Church decided to incorporate new holidays around the harvest festival. Halloween became the night before All Saint's Day. Like the pagans, Christians felt the dead rose on this holiday. Where do the Jews fall?

When immigration was huge in the early twentieth century, many of these cultures brought Halloween to the New World, particularly the Irish. Halloween became more and more Americanized. By the time the grandparents of today were born, Halloween was more commercial than religious at all. Jews saw the holiday no different than Thanksgiving or July 4th.

Jewish values are quite contrary to the values of Hallow's Eve. Jews value giving and tzedakah (charity). Halloween celebrates demanding and gluttony. Halloween represents death and ghosts. The Torah tells us that believing in magic is a sin against God. Do I sound one-sided? Think about Halloween. We dress up trying to scare people demanding "delights" that destroy our healthy state. Sounds great, right. On the other hand thousands of kids have smiles brought to their faces as candy fills their bags. Why exclude the Jews?

Many websites claimed Jews have a similar holiday. Purim is not the "Jewish Halloween" just as Hanukkah is not the "Jewish Christmas". However, Purim celebrates charity and unmasking ourselves. Esther is proud of who she is, yet we celebrate her triumph by wearing masks, indulging in treats, and watching the spiel. Jews have their fun in March. Does it replace October?

The Torah forbids the celebration of "gentile holidays". Fundamentalists would say that means everything from Halloween to Arbor Day to Boss' Day. Does that mean Jews have to sit out on Turkey Day or sit alone on New Year's Eve? In my opinion, not necessarily. Jews can celebrate the American holidays. We are American after all. Hence, I am going as Waldo this Halloween. To me, Halloween stops at the candy and has nothing to do with Paganism, All-Saints Day, or Death. However, I agree with the one website that said it up to personal opinion. As stated last week, Judaism is a hybrid of beliefs that have morphed over history. As a Jew living in America, I celebrate Halloween. (Share your opinion by voting on the side of the webpage!)

I was very careful about how I said that last sentence. A Jew living in America, not an American who happens to be Jewish. This is my balance. In the diaspora, we must decide where our allegiance belongs. Mine belongs first to God and the Torah, but also to the people of the United States. I am a citizen and a child of Israel. A man of two homelands. Unfortunately, Jews in the Holocaust forgot their religion. They became German or Polish, no Jew. I embrace America and its culture, but also Judaism and its richness.

To conclude, enjoy this weekend. Shabbat Shalom to all who observe the Sabbath and Happy Halloween to all who combine Americanism with their non-Pagan roots.

Works Cited:
"Halloween and Jews?" Being Jewish Web Site. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

"Jews and Halloween." Jewish Virtual Library - Homepage. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Pelaia, Ariela. "Ask the Rabbi: Is It OK for American Jews to Celebrate Halloween?" About Judaism. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Goldwasser, Rabbi Jeffery Wolfson. "Is It Okay for American Jews to Celebrate Halloween." About Judaism. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Chessin, Rabbi Judy. "Halloween Can Remind Jews to Hallow God's Prescence." S.F. Jewish Bay Area, 26 Oct. 2001. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Stahl, Rabbi Shmuel M. "Should Jews Celebrate Halloween?" Temple Beth-El, San Antonio, Texas. 27 Oct. 2006. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

Freeman, Tzvi. "Do Jews Celebrate Halloween? - Miscellaneous." Chabad Lubavitch - Torah, Judaism and Jewish Info. Chabad Lubavitch. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

"Halloween Tradition? - Parenting & Family Issues." Chabad Lubavitch - Torah, Judaism and Jewish Info. Chabad Lubavitch. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Touger, By Malka. "Negative Commandment 30 - Negative - Jewish Kids." Chabad Lubavitch - Torah, Judaism and Jewish Info. Chabad Lubavitch. Web. 30 Oct. 2010. .

Miller, Mark. "Things Jews Find Far Scarier than Halloween." 22 Oct. 2008. Web. 24 Oct. 2010. .

Friday, October 22, 2010

Genesis Vayera Verse 18:1-22:24

Vayera is the portion usually read on Rosh Hashanah. Abraham is in the land. Now, God puts Abraham to his most trying test. God commands Abraham to bring his son, Isaac to the altar. Abraham then must slay and sacrifice Isaac for God. Isaac is Abraham's child. His own skin. Just as Abraham takes up his knife, God sends an angel to stop the madness. Abraham passed the challenge. A ram appears and is sacrificed in place of the boy. God promises Abraham a plentiful and fruitful nation bestowed upon his descendants. In fact, we hear about Rebecca's line at the very end of the chapter. Rebecca will be Isaac's wife.

What a contrast from last week! Last week, Abraham is father of the year. He saves Sodom. He is blessed with his pride, Isaac. This week Isaac is nearly killed! We can only imagine how much tension was between Abraham and Isaac. Especially Abraham! Abraham does not even tell his son what is going on. Luckily, the sacrifice did not go through.

Abraham is a father. Abraham is a man of God. Is it righteous or sinful to sacrifice a child? Abraham believes, like I, that religion trumps all. God is almighty. God knows what is right. Would I sacrifice my son or daughter if I had one? Who knows? We are more modern. Sacrifice is not a daily practice. Family is our support system. Religion is our quest for meaning. Family is our love. Religion is our hope. Family is always there for us. Religion is somewhat there, yet not visible. Genesis has many chaotic families, but religion is keen and clean. Think about what we have had so far with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his sons(Genesis 9:22 or so), and now Abraham and Isaac. Religion has solved every conflict to this point in the Torah.

It makes us think. Which is more important: Judaism at home or Judaism at synagogue? Is it more important to have mezzuzah or a rabbi to go to? Shabbat dinner or services? Should every Jewish family build a Sukkah or can we meet at Shul? It is possibly the very conundrum Abraham faces before heading up the mountain.

In my opinion, Jews must rely on their Jewish homes to have a pleasant experience with the Temple. It is not a mezzuzah or rabbi. The choice does not have to be made. Judaism is not slay Abraham or be sworn evil by God. Jews are a religion. Jews are also a culture. Secular Jews can be expert Israeli dancers and falafel makers. They are Jewish. Orthodox Jews can never take off a yarmulke until the day they die. They too, are Jewish. Jews vary. We are a hybrids of our history. Whether we are in Spain eating chicken by the pyranees en nuestras casas or lighting candles at Congregation B'Nai Shalom in Massachusetts. Jews are dispersed. We like it that way. It allows us to be a people of home, family, synagogue, religion, and culture. A people of God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Genesis Lech Lecha Verses 12:1-17:27

Lech Lecha means "You Go" in Hebrew. That is genuinely the main idea of this parshat. The Torah introduces us to Abram, the patriarch of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic people. In order to be the patriarch, God puts Abram through 4 challenges. Almost as if God is the fraternity president of "Avot V'Emihot" (Fathers and Mothers). To get your name in the prayer, you must do this, this, this, and matter how out there the tasks seem. This week we explore if Abram is ready for House Aleph Bet.

At first, Abram is asked to pack everything up from his home in Haran, and move out to Canaan. Canaan is across the desert, but Abram just says okay. He brings his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. After that, Abram and Sarai head to Egypt to escape brief famine in their land. Abram must think fast. His wife is beautiful and he will be killed if he tells the Pharaoh they are married. Thinking on his toes, Abram claims Sarai is his sister. When the Pharaoh finds out this is false, he is not even mad In facts, he applauds Abram and sends him back to Canaan with people helping him and his wife at his side. Next, our patriarch can not take his nephew any longer. Lot is everything Abram is not. In short, Abram says, "You can go anywhere in the land, but you can't stay here." Lot settles in Sodom, the original sin city. When they are under attack, everybody is caught off guard in their own selfishness. Being self-centered nearly destroys the city and its residents. Suddenly, Abram comes to the rescue. HAVE NO FEAR ABRAM IS HERE! Abram triumphantly saves the city. For his accomplishment, the people offer him all their riches. Wise Abram turns them down! Finally, Abram is put to the test of carrying on his name. He goes to God hoping to have children with Sarai. Unfortunately, Sarai is not able to bare Abram's first child, Ishmael. God appears before Abram. Making a covenant, God promises the land of Canaan to Abram's people and his numerous offspring. Then, God blesses Abraham and Sarah with a beautiful, second child, Isaac. Abraham has passed his way through God's obstacle course.

Abraham, father of fathers, what a great guy! When I imagine raising my children, I will probably refer to my father, of course, but what about Abraham. He is sort of my father. God is my parent, but Abraham is a role model. He is determined to go to Canaan, clever in Egypt, modest in Sodom, and faithful with Sarah. Much like my dad, Abraham supports his wife, is good to other people, and seems to usuallly have an answer. Abraham is not just the leader of our people, but truly our parent.

When God put Abraham to the test, it made me ponder over whether our lives are just a test. There is no answer key or perfect score, but imagine every moment as a question. Should I go to school in shorts or jeans? Should I go for a run today or eat myself silly? Life throws itself at us. God does not always appear to us and say go to the Promised Land. As my dad taught me, some of God is inside all of us. To find God, we must look deep in our hearts and minds. Faith is from a positive attitude and persistence. Faith is the SAT course in life.

So having faith is important, but Abraham found his happiness from being a parent. Abraham wants nothing more, but to be a father. We were all kids, so it is certain that parenting brings us back to youth. I am sure that almost nine out of ten parents would say their children are their pride and joy. Through good or bad times, God will guide us from within. Abraham and Sarah are the young parents who move from hustling,bustling New York, let's call it Haran, to New Jersey, let's call it Israel.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Genesis Noah Verses 6:9-11:32

Most of us know the story of Noah's ark. In the beginning, God is frustrated with the world, so Noah is ordered to build an ark for the great flood God has prepared. Two of each animal gather onto the boat and it rains for forty days and forty nights. Noah sends a dove to see if the land is dry. The dove brings back an olive branch when peace come over the land. God promises that the world will never again be destroyed entirely in all eternity. It is a lovely story, but what happens next is utterly whack.

Over in Babylon, every person on Earth has been brought together. They speak the same language. In fact, every person is equal and in the same domain. As a human race, we built a great city. Our great achievement is the remarkable Tower of Babel. The masterpiece in construction reaches up to God and the heavens. Then, God decides to pop in. Pleased with the progress of the new human race, God mixes everybody's speech up and disperses us across the world.

What is up with God? We were a unified people. Humans helped each other. Is this not what God wanted after the flood wiped out Earth's rough draft? Is this not the real deal? Personal beliefs of mine are that God knows all past, present, and future to the moment. Were humans put on this Earth as a challenge? Are we meant to be a happy people?

We all struggle for happiness. Think about this: no matter where we live, how much money we have, how large our house is, or how much we hate or love one another, we are one people. Go a step further in think about The Lion King II song "We Are One". Every germ, human, animal, and tree is the same. God created us from one person, Adam. (What a great name for the first dude!) God already wiped us out with a flood, once. Adonai promised never to do it again.

Why are we so dispersed then? God shows us that humans succeed together. Obviously, all six billion of us can not fit in the city of Babylon. Well, what if we all tried to achieve a goal?

We just dropped all our guns and ambitions and jealousy to the Earth. It's for sure that God promised not to destroy the Earth. Even if Adonai wanted to, we are doing a pretty nice job screwing the eco-systems ourselves. We built towers to the heavens. The oil rigs are nice and tall, but all that smog is destroying God's sky. The sky was said to be a reflection of the sea. Thanks to greedy oil companies this April the waters are just as gray as the sky is. God does not even need to destroy the human race. No ark is going to save the trees and the air we have destroyed. But if we all came together....the world could be saved.

Did you know a rainbow is the symbol God chose to shows us that we have a covenant with the Lord? A rainbow. Every color coming together as one. After the worst of storms, the sun shines and a bridge from heaven to Earth appears in the sky. Even though it has poured, God knows that there is a promise that no rain will ever destroy our planet again. God shows us that it is possible to have everything come together. After the storms of centuries, where is the human rainbow?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Genesis Bereshit Verses 1:1-6:8

I have now been a Jewish adult for one year. Last year, at this time, Bereshit was being uttered with myself on the Bima. We studied the seven days of creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the Tower of Babel. The story has not changed, but boy has my world.

From 13 to 14, I see the world. I see how God created a beautiful world. With light, so simple, the ocean and sky, the land, the sun and moon, fish and birds, animals and humans. Most of all God created this wonderful day named Shabbat. I think back to my summer on the Moshava. Every star lit the sky and all of God's wonders were present.

Everything God made contains an ineffable beauty. God made us in the Lord's divine image, but we screwed it up. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. They were tempted by sin and could not resist. Humans fault is and has always been self-control. As I started my path of being a man, I got to see the situation. I learned that self-control is hard, but being banished from the garden is harder.

Back in the time of Adam and Eve, their kids were not the best of friends. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy. Not only have I matured, but my adulthood has restored my family values. My sister is my best friend and my parents are very closely tied for second. Also, through Torah I have learned the dangers of jealousy. I resist jealousy so that I never throw that stone.

As for the Tower of Babel, I believe I gained a new intelligence and teamwork this year. I started down my trilingual path to repair the Tower of Babel, but as I learn English, Hebrew, and Spanish I can not help but think why the Tower of Babel could be a punishment. From their mistake, I learned to take at least some responsibility. I take part in housework, so that we can understand each other and not come tumbling down.

Bereshit means creation. I knew that last year too. The difference is I now created my own world.

Friday, September 24, 2010

El Pez to El Pescado

Swimming. A nice day in the ocean. Admiring the pure beauty of which the giant sea provides. What a beautiful day! Everyone is here to swim with me. My aunts, my uncles,my grandparents, my many siblings, and my lovely parents . Being hungry, I decide to grab a quick snack. Suddenly,someone offers me a bite. We do not look like them, but that's ok. It's just a snack. What's this? I'm caught! My mouth is stuck to the treat.

I have no idea what is going on. Oh no, what is happening? Why can't I breath now? Aunts? Uncles? Grandparents? Siblings? Parents? I been abducted and I can not even yelp as I cling on to life. I have been dropped from my snack. I feel different, but that sharp thing is out of my mouth. "That's a relei....."

A fish tale, that has no happy ending.

No this is not usually how we get our white fish salad. Usually entire schools are taken away from the vast ocean at a time. Giant nets cast them up to a poisonous, dry world they have always looked up. These nets even catch dolphins and sharks that nobody would ever eat, but these larger marine animals meet the same fate. At the bottom of the net, there are shreiks that is the process of tearing up the beautiful corral reefs these fish once viewed everyday. All this pain and suffering for a can of tuna.

Vegetarian, you say? Do you eat fish?

No, I do not eat fish.

Why? They are Kosher.

If some alien took me from my home, my family, to space where I can not breath, just to have me for lunch. The horror that we do to these animals. I am no preacher for the vegetarians of the world, but just remember the beautiful day on the ocean next time you get the salmon a la mode at the fancy restaurant.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gimme' Shelter- Sukkot 2010

Happy Sukkot Everybody! Sukkot is the Jewish, fall harvest festival. We celebrate by bringing together the four species (a willow, a myrtle, palm, and an etrog)and eating in our sukkah. In Hebrew, Sukkot is the plural of sukkah. Sukkah translates to shelter. Sukkot celebrates the community coming together after the High Holy Days to observe the fall harvest. What qualifies as a sukkah?

Usually, a holiday sukkah is a flimsy, temporary hut covered in straw or other autumn crops. It is a mitzvah, not only to celebrating in the sukkah, but to build it too. This year, I took part in both mitzvot. Constructing the sukkah was great, the only better part of celebrating in it was spending the time with my sister. It was great how Jews from all over the area came in the mid-point of the week just to sit back, relax, and eat kugel.

What is a shelter to us? We most definitely do not think of the Sukkot sukkah as a home. Is it our house? Our property? Our town? Our state? Our country? Our world? Shelter is a necessity for life, but what is "home, sweet, home"?

Whether I like it or not, I live in suburbia.Houses tower over the streets. I love my house dearly. My room could even be considered my own shelter. Imagine my room like a mini, Yankee Stadium with bursts of Jewish flare!The hallways are spacious, and one room flows into the next. I love how everything from the kitchen to the bathrooms to the living room express my family's vast dynamics and values.

To quote a visitor to the property, "Is it like National Geographic out there?" As you come down the lengthy driveway, there is a little island of trees. Then, a vast elegant hill shows a great valley, my front yard. The tiny hill hugs the beautiful house just described. The outside looks like a typical contemporary house circa. 1984. My sister and I live in a triangle corridor making the house look like a piece of art. Going around to the deck, we uncover a huge, rock wall. Behind the wall is a wilderness. Every creature lives back there. I have seen vultures, snakes, squirrels, deer, foxes, and even once a sheep. These animals are almost provide dinner and show as we watch Sparky the Fox come out to play over pasta. Land is precious, and growing up on this property has shown me how.

Honestly, my town is not for me. Seeing the animals is lovely. The people are pleasant for the most part too. It is just that I believe I am New York bound. I should be heading on the Am-Trak straight out of this small New England town, but instead I am on the commuter train. This tiny town is still my shelter. I get a super education and the crime rate is low. All and all, growing up with excess boredom is a lot better than growing up in the wrong neighborhood.

Where am I from? Which state do I claim allegiance to the most? Massachusetts has been my house for more than half my life. Unfortunately, being a Yankee fan in the suburbs of Boston has driven me bonkers. I was born in Freehold, NJ.(Coincidentally, I write this on the Birthday of a fellow Freeholder. Do you know who is from Freehold and turns 61 on September 23,2010? Comment with your guess!) Even with all of this New Jersey and Massachusetts tension, add New York in the mix. To me it is the second Promised Land. When we exiled, God brought us to a New World. A world flowing in show tunes and apple trees.

As for the United States and the world, I believe they are a sukkah. We are on a planet teaming with life, but so ignorant to come together. God created this sukkah called the world. It is our commandment not only to celebrate and eat in it, but to build it. Tikkun Olam to us Jews. Rebuilding the World. Happy Sukkot!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food and Fast

Ugh! 3:30 on Yom Kippur. Stomach is rumbling like an Earthquake. When does Neilah even start? Soon I hope. Food. I miss food. Why do I even have to be put up to this horrid fast? My stomach hurts, I miss water oh so much, and my breath is so foul from not brushing me teeth. Oh yeah, respecting God. I am atoning for my "sins". What sins? I was perfect this year! I miss not being below Bar Mitzvah age. Looking forward to when I get old or I can not fast for health reasons, maybe then I'll be able to atone my sins. Gosh, you know what I miss more? Food!

A tale of an atoning Jew. Food's the only thing crossing the mind as we are in denial of our sins. We try to flush out why we fast, why we are Jewish. Jewish holidays have become we nearly died, we lived, we eat. No more meaning. High Holy Days have become: we were bad, now we are better, bring on the food. No more meaning. With each generation, it gets worse. Modern world distractions are more "important".

Why is food so great anyways? Humans die without food, but die from too much. Food makes us feel fat and unattractive. Hey, America is having such a problem of obesity, thanks to food. Food can intoxicate us with poison or drugs. Most of the foods we love are made from chemicals. Of all the things in the Torah, you know what has the most laws, food! In general, food is a menace.

Then again, I have a love/hate relationship with food. Of all things my all-time favorite food is ice cream. Once I think about food, I smile. After that, I reminisce. I reminisce how every night at dinner I want more than I should have and I have to run just to make up for the food I consumed. It just tastes so good.

Here's some food for thought. Clever I know. We all make our own choices. Perhaps we choose whether or not to eat too much or too little. Americans everywhere have brains that are much smarter than their stomachs. Humans intoxicate food and fill it with drugs. God creates the fruits of the gardens, but humans fill them with chemicals. Does not sound to me like food is a burden at all. It is humans that are the nuisance.

Humans? God created us, why did the Lord make us with so many flaws? We kill, we destroy, we betray, and worst of all we hate one another. On Yom Kippur, we constantly ask to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Do Jews even know what that means anymore? God handed us a rulebook. You know just that litte, unknown thing called the Torah! All the rules are there. Most of us just do not bother to read them. God created us with flaws as a test. Anything in life requires listening. If we listen and obey the laws of the Torah, even to our own degree, we will actually be able to say, "I have sinned just a speck on this year." If we even take the time to understand the laws of the Torah, hopefully just like I have found I hope you find meaning in life and finally understand why food is just not so bad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Deuteronomy Ha'azinu Verses 32:1 - 32:52

When my buddies at Torah study mentioned that the end of Deuteronomy is complicated, they weren’t kidding. Ha'azinu gave me great difficulty in coming up with a decent interpretation. Moses is living out his last day. He is giving his closing address. In summary, Moses discusses the problems the Israelites have. God is the principal in this school of thought. God's teacher is Moses. Now that Moses is going, God and Moses are afraid the substitute teacher will be mediocre. Moses explains that we blame God for our own destruction, but we are responsible. Then, he praises God. Another main point is how God is the true leader of the Jewish people. Moses expains that even when we forget Adonai, God is the Rock who sustains us and delivered our anscestors from Egypt. Pretty much, Moses condenses the Torah into cliff notes.

Unfortunately, Moses is not permitted to enter the land of Israel. Instead, God allows Moses to see Israel from the border. God commands Moses to climb Mount Nebo to see Israel because Moses sinned in the desert and in Egypt. If you remember in Exodus, Moses smashes the Ten Commandments at the sight of the Golden Calf. Are we worthy of Israel?

As I read the portion today, (actually during a study hall) I could not help, but feel this tension of our worthiness to own Israel. The entire reason we are in Israel is because God and Abraham made a promise. Abraham proved he is worthy, but have any of us?

Israeis have defended their land, and Jews have visited the land. Zionism is a form of proving our worthiness. I feel once I enter the land, I will be a true Jew. If a leaf falls off a tree, say...a tree in Israel, and the wind blows that leaf to Massachusetts. Does that leaf still belong to the tree of Israel?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What is Rosh Hashana?

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. It is the first holiday of the High Holy Days. The other being Yom Kippur. Jews accross the world observe Rosh Hashana with numerous traditions. Some friends ask me why we get off of school for this day and not other holidays, like Hanukah. One major part of Rosh Hashana is going to the synagogue. On the first and second of the month of Tishri, we purify our souls for a great, new year.

One tradition we observe is to dip apples in honey. Honey represents the sweetness of the year to come. The apple has more to offer than just a sweet flavor. It symbolizes the scent which Jacob had when he was blessed by Issac, the scent of an apple orchard. Also, an apple has a star and ten holes when cut in half horizontally. The ten points of the star represent the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet which is a Yod. Five represents a Hey, the fifth letter. Yud Hey Vav Hey is God's name in Hebrew. Why do we dip the apples? I am not quite sure, but my guess is the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life were apple trees in the Garden of Eden. By dipping we are inscribing ourselves in the Tree of Life sweetly. Please comment if you know the true reason. Another reason we eat apples and honey is because they are just in season.

Added to that tradition, we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana. The Shofar is made out of a ram's horn. The instrument dates back to ancient times where it was used for different purposes, like gathering the people for assembly or warning them of an approaching enemy. In modern times, the shofar makes all bad spirits tremble and flee. When these spirits flee, the shofar sounds the new year. The shofar is like when the ball drops in Times Square; the new year has begun.

More foods than just apples and honey are traditional for Rosh Hashana. Challah is eaten every Shabbat, but the challah is round on Rosh Hashana. The roundness symbolizes the cycle of every year. When one year ends, the next begins. Also, new fruits of the season are eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashana. Some Jews avoid these fruits all summer just to have the joy of eating them for the first time this night. The popular fruit to enjoy is a pomegranate. Pomegrantes are one of the seven fruits of Israel and have many seeds. The seeds are the many splendors and good deeds that we will be a part of throughout the year. According to legend, a pomegranate has 613 seeds, just like the Torah has 613 commandments. Just thinking about Rosh Hashana makes me a little hungrier.

After synangogue on the New Year, Jews join together near a body of water. This is called the Tashlich service. Around the water, Jews cast off bread crumbs. The crumbs are the sins we have committed over the year. Even if a seagull or a duck eats the crumb, at least our sins are gone and we are pure again. Today I experienced my first Tashlich. I went with my grandma and father. We all enjoyed it very much. Tashlich is a very symbolic tradition of Rosh Hashana.

To conclude, Rosh Hashana is not just the day off from school. To Jews, it is a very special day. I wish all my readers a good, healthy, happy new year. !שנה טובה לכולםTo a good year everyone.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Deuteronomy Nitzavim-VaYelekh Verses 29:9 - 31:30

"Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. " -Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig uttered these words when he found out he had ALS and could no longer play in Major League Baseball. Moses sort of does the same thing this week. He is leaving the people he has lead through the desert. This double portion contains everything before Moses makes his Lou Gehrig speech. The Israelites arrive at Yankee Stadium. The microphones and television cameras are set up. Just as Moses open his mouth, the portion ends.

All things considered, Moses is 120 years old and nearly leaving his people Israel. God tells Moses to fetch up Joshua to pass down the legacy of the Torah and being a prophet. Everything God says makes sense. Last week, God talked about blessings and curses for observing Torah. This week God went into more detail of how to receive a curse or blessing.

Moses is 120 years old. According to my grandparents, we are old as we hit 80. 120 is ancient. Moses has seen the generation that actually left the land of Egypt weaken and die off. Now, God proclaims it is Moses' time to move on. 120 years of wisdom, and 120 years of smiles, laughs, tears, and just experiences. Do all these elements just disappear as we do?

Death is such a nebulous concept. Surely, it can not be the end! Or is it? I consider the vagueness a pleasure. "Back to Future" teaches us best how we can not know too much about our own destiny. For example, Moses destroyed the original Ten Commandments. God told him that he would never be able to enter the Land of Israel because of the sin he had committed on Mount Sinai. Standing in Moses' shoes in that moment, devastation would overcome my lifetime on this planet.

In the afternoons at Camp Shomria, different activities were given to us to choose. They were called חוגים, clubs. My chug was Chug X. It pertained to older campers sitting in a circle each afternoon discussing texts or issues in the world. Ice coffee was even available some days for scholars in the discussion. One day this very topic was the discussion. What happens after death?

Most of the bunch predicted that dying will be identical of being unconscious, just forever. I tend to hope there is something more. I believe in heaven and hell, but I am not quite sure what deeds get you where. Someone like Albert Einstein. He was a genius, but he was the genius who figured out how to massacre millions very quickly. Where does Moses belong? Where do we?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Deuteronomy Ki Tavo Verses 26:1-29:8

Although I miss the Moshava terribly, I am glad to get back to doing my usual Torah interpretation. Last time we looked at the Book of Life, we were in Numbers. Now we are toward the end of Deuteronomy. Late August and September with Judaism is like October with baseball. The Torah is already a very complicated, beautiful text to figure out. The last few portions are like the post-season. They are intense, difficult, and mean a ton to their domain. Then, Rosh Hashana is the championship series. The path to glory is on the line. Successfully celebrating Rosh Hashana takes us to the World Series. Next, Yom Kippur is the World Series of Judaism. Completing Yom Kippur makes us feel pure, new, and like champions. Maybe the Yankees should go to High Holy Services this year.

Anyways, Parshat Ki Tavo revolves around the idea that the Jews are promising allegiance to God and the commandments they have received in the desert. Then, God officially curses anybody who breaks main points in the Torah. For example, God curses those who do not respect their mother or father. After that, Adonai sends the blessings of following the Torah. Finally, God deciphers the punishments of absolutely disobeying the Torah for the rest of the reading. Let me share that I had shivers after reading the final portion this morning.

Disobeying Torah will lead to pure, personal downfall according to Parshat Ki Tavo. By disobeying, I mean constantly sinning to the point where we are known as a cruel person. Skeptics would say that this is truly not possible. God will not go after us, if we never observe the Sabbath. I like to think maybe this is a mental, personal downfall. In my eyes, Judaism gives me comfort. Faith allows me to take time to reflect and relax. Sitting in a service is like a mental vacation from the politics and pressures of growing up in 2010. Without that comfort, I would have to deal with the stress of life all alone.

As I said I had shivers after reading Parshat Ki Tavo. What makes it controversial is what God states as punishments.

Adultery, plague, sometimes death, and idolization? For instance, "The Lord will bring upon you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you will not understand,a brazen nation, which will not respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young.They will devour the fruit of your livestock and the fruit of your soil, to destroy you. They will not leave over anything for you of the grain, wine, oil, offspring of your cattle or flocks of your sheep, until they annihilate you." (Deuteronomy 28:49-51). God taught us not to do these things while we wandered desert. Why is God breaking the Torah? Maybe this refers to Parshat Emor. Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Deuteronomy is known to refer the past lessons of the Torah.

This past week I was training for the IGNITE program. In my school, 8th graders are given the chance to mentor 6th graders as the enter the middle school. Being an 8th grader, this week was all about leadership. The first lesson in IGNITE we were taught this week was to lead by example. I do not know about the public, but God's example is not one that I think should be followed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Thoughts on Camp Shomria 2010

Camp Shomria was an amazing life-changing experience. Camp Shomria is a lovely camp in the Catskills mountains. It is an American simulation of Kibbutz life along with all the wonderful activities a camp should have. Hashomer Hatzair is a kibbutz youth movement that oversees the activities of Camp Shomria. By going to the camp, I have a new understanding of Israel. Also, my ideas of friendship of developed over the past six weeks. Overall, I feel to have grown as a person.

My first day was nearly impossible to process. When we picture camp, we most definitely do not envision Camp Shomria. Most people think a camp somewhere along the line of the camp in the Parent Trap . Camp Shomria is a little run down. To an outsider, it may even look abandoned. When I was finally settled in, I realized that the smiles of each camper makes Camp Shomria beautiful. The camp has been around longer than my grandparents have after all! Hadracha, or the counselors who run Camp Shomria, are also amazing. They really care for my welfare and my peers. The oldest member of Hadracha was 21, so it really gives the chance to create our own youth village.

Hashomer Hatzair is a worldwide movement that was formed by two merging movements in 1913. Hashomer, the guard, was a scouting movement that worked in and with nature. Hatzair, young/youth, was the intellectual side where we explore philosophy of ourselves and each other. When the two merged they created three pillars for their movement to put forth; Zionism, Socialism, and Judaism. Israelis are welcome onto the Moshava (camp/colony) and encouraged to share what they have experienced living in the Promised Land. Each age group combines all food and money received over the summer. Shabbat is an experience on Camp Shomria that can not be explained, it must be experienced.

As I said, I finally get Israel. For one thing, I know really want to travel there. Hashomer Hatzair hosts a program that brings Arabs and Jews together onto the camp to live and coexist with each other. The program even lead a day teaching us about Israel. I understand both sides of the conflict and the cultures the go with them. We forget that Israel is only 62 years old. That is relatively new for a country. When the United States was 62, there were still slaves of another race, and a large gender gap. Israel has time to work out its tweaks.

Another element that is important is the process of the Kvutza, group. A Kvutza consists of the kids in your grade level. We do activities with each other twice a day. The friends I have made are friends I will keep for a lifetime. By the sixth week, I felt their full compassion and full trust. Any summer camp can not create that environment.

I hope I will be able to push forward with the knowledge I have received over the past year. Thank you Camp Shomria and all the people I have met for the opportunity I have gotten this summer.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Numbers Pinchas Verses 25:10-30:1

Unfortunately, this is my final post before I leave for camp. There will be no blog posts from July 4th to August 15th. I promise to write a blog about all the wonderful things I expect will happen at camp as soon as I can when I return. The camp is a Jewish camp in upstate New York that especially highlights the importance of Israel, teamwork, and friendship.

Anyways our Torah portion begins like many others in the book of Numbers, with Moses talking to God in the desert. In the beginning, God is talking about Aaron's grandson, Phineas (or in Hebrew Pinchas). Phineas chose to show passion to God rather than hostility going against peer pressure like Joshua. As a result, any descendant of Phineas shall be a powerful person in the Israelite nation. Then, the Lord asks Moses and Aaron to take a census of the people. Each tribe is counted. Judah had the largest population and the smallest tribe were the descendants of Simeon. Finally, God describes the different sacrifices necessary for various festive periods.

Although, a census provides decent information it got me thinking, "What is in numbers?" Strength is good in numbers, knowledge collaborates. Unfortunately, delegations is not always easy in large groups. Imagine being Barrack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, or even Michael Bloomberg. Leading has its rewards, but it is a tiring position.

Who is the leader of the Israelites? Some would say Moses, but they would be wrong. Aaron? Nope! Maybe even Joshua? Or even the newly mentioned Phineas? No, no, and no. God is the only leader of the Jewish people. Every person mentioned previously is a messenger of God. As Jews, we are all messengers of God. We show the world what we believe.

Jews are minuscule in numbers compared to Christianity or Islam. This used to bother me. I pictured myself as an ant in a world of people who were different. Not that I did not like the diversity, but I just wished there were more Jews whom I would have a large commonality with. Hitler's answer was to get rid of people in large quantities. Our mission is to add people.

Here is Judaism by the numbers. We have 13.3 million Jewish people. 37% live in Israel. The largest numbers of Jews per country is United States,Israel, and then France. 50.4% of the Jews in the world primarily speak English. Tel Aviv is the largest Jewish city in the world, followed by New York.

I thank for providing me with very detailed statistics.

Now that we know the numbers, I say who cares? Numbers are for adding, subtracting, and doing taxes. The only Numbers I care about is the book in the Torah. I said we should add people. Add people? It is true! People do not even reveal their Jewish side to the world. Imagine a world where Jews flock to synagogue or fill their homes with prayer. Then maybe Jacob's big football game or Sarah's dance, won't be scheduled on a Friday night. It is a dream, but only we, the Jews can show passion for God rather than hostility.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Numbers Balak Verses 22:2-25:9

Balak is probably my favorite story outside of Genesis and Exodus. Mostly because it is an actual story. It has the same kind of spirit that the first two books are full of. Also, it is understandable, yet complicated.

Our story starts off away from the Israelites for a change. We are hearing the news of another Israelite victory. Last year, I talked about the very opposite main characters. Balak is a king who is out to destroy the Israelites. Balaam is an average Joe who believes in God. Balak is worried that the 12 tribes will attack his land. He asks Balaam to ask God to curse the Israelite nation.

There is another scene that is a little random in the Parshat. Balaam is with the donkey he has always ridden. The donkey sees an angel. Suddenly, the donkey begins to talk and try to tell Balaam of the angel. Balaam can not see the angel, so he beats the donkey. After three beatings, God reveals the angel to Balaam. Some may call it a symbol of how humans get angry too easily, but others may call it the Torah's only instance of comic relief.

Anyways, Balak is furious at Balaam. Each time Balak has sent Balaam to ask the Lord for the curse, God rejects him. Even when Balak offers Balaam a world of riches and luxuries, Balaam simply says he can not control the decisions of God. In the end, Balaam gets God to bless Israel three times.

Let us return to why Balak did this in the first place. He feared the power of the Israelites. In the fear of his own downfall, Balak tries to curse them into their downfall. Why do we fear anything that is different?

Balak illustrates the savage result of ignorance. We think Balak is just a villain in a story, but our antagonist is not far fetched from a modern day person. Anything new is bad. Different is dangerous. Eccentric is evil! The donkey got a whacked for trying to perform an act of good. Sometimes I feel the world whacks us down when angels appear.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Numbers Korach Verses 16:1-18:32

I am going to be honest with all of my readers and say I have not read one page of the Torah this week. About an hour ago, one of the worst hours of my life began. As I come out of it, I figured, I could do Shabbat or I could take my anger out on what I love the most about my life. I should probably explain.

Geography ended and I was psyched to be running for a Drama Club office. It was the end of the day on a Friday! The second to last Friday of school! Six people are chosen to be drama club officers, a president, a vice president, a treasurer, a secretary, and two sentinels. Prepared with speeches, I had confidence a mile high. I ran for all six offices hoping to have authority on another favorite asset of my life. When the voting began, frankly democracy sometimes sucks.

At 3:45 p.m., I realized I had lost each office. It felt awful. My mind raced. First, I of course blamed it on the people who beat me. That would not have been right. Then, I blamed it on the facilitator of the election. That would not have been right. After that, I blamed God. That was certainly not right. I left the school knowing that there was no one to blame.

Walking home was the most difficult part. 15 minutes of pure torture. Luckily, I had two of my best friends to guide me through. Emma and Cassidy made me feel comfortable. I got out the door and I had to wait. They were still inside. To prevent myself from being envious (Commandment 9), I left the club as soon as elections were over. When they got outside, they gave me a big hug. They made me feel like someone cared. Two someones.

I got home and I still felt like yesterday's trash. The seal of recovery was about to fall asleep on the couch. My dad was the aid to my problem. We talked and by the end of the talk I was not thinking "It's been an hour and I have still lost", I thought "It is getting late and I have not done my blog yet."

Moping around would not do me any good. I am alive, have a healthy family, and hopefully God will forgive me in doubting the Lord. What does this have to do with Numbers Parshat Korach? Probably nothing, but I felt I needed to tell someone. Why not tell the world?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Numbers Sh'lach Verses 13:1-15:41

I apologize for not writing lately. Life in spring is as hectic. Weeks 5,6, and 7 of the Omer have passed. I will continue to write each week until I leave for מןש קיץ (summer camp).

We find ourselves distressed by the choices of the Israelites...again. After about two years in the desert, they reach the Promised Land. Upon entering, men from each tribe are sent to scout the land by Adonai. Everything is splendid in Canaan, but then the Israelites do not think. The men come back and spread news that larger civilizations dwell in the land. Ones that could rise up and destroy them as a nation. That small group turns into all the Israelites. Two of the men do not tell the negative side of the story, Joshua and Caleb. Other than this pair, God's chosen people are doubting the Lord's choice. Why would God choose the wrong "Promised Land"?

The Israelites are so close. They have tasted the grapes, pomegranates, and figs of the Promised Land. Cries go up to God pleading not to go to the land flowing with milk and honey. A trifle want to return to Egypt. God cannot believe what is being spoken. In anger, God does not allow anybody into the Promised Land. Egypt's liberated generation has betrayed their Lord. God sentence them to forty years of wandering in the Middle Eastern deserts. One year for each day the men scouted the beautiful land that they came so close to. Every Israelite from this generation shall perish in wandering, except Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua and Caleb are the Torah's lesson in dealing with peer pressure. They resist the temptation to doubt the word of God. Not even Moses and Aaron were successful in their lifetime. Middle school is like the headquarters of Peer Pressure International. I know that on occasion I have been a Moses or an Aaron. Luckily, I aspire to be Joshua and Caleb. Strong people who know what is right and what is wrong. Contrary to Pinocchio, no cricket is going to tell you what is bad. Just remember giving into peer pressure could lead down the path to forty years of wandering.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sefirat Omer- Week 4

Endurance is an interesting word. When I think of endurance, I think of running. I remember back in fifth grade. We would all run the mile. Four laps around the track. As the race began, about fifteen of the kids went in knowing they would not do a good time. Endurance handles drive and determination. Sprinting the first lap tired them out for the rest of the mile. I think of passing by slow runners when I hear the word endurance.

Is life a race? We are born and we pace ourselves, but there is no sprint at the end. A marathon? Where is the training season for life? Life is like eating fruits and vegetables. It takes determination sometimes. To endure in a healthy life, we love the healthy life. Loving what we do is half the battle, doing it a quarter, and the last quarter is effort.

Effort comes from discipline. Where do our efforts lie? We should benefit the good not the evil. Think of others before ourselves. Determination can come in many forms. The form of waking up in the morning when we feel down. The form of going out for a run when we see potato chips. Discipline focuses endurance.

Yesterday, we focused our endurance. Today we take that focus and put it into action. Caring for a friend takes love for the friend. Compassion for a homeless man on the streets on the Bronx takes endurance. At my cousins Bat Mitzvah, we worked at a homeless shelter. The man in charge of organizing the shelter told us to remember something as we were cleaning up and leaving. Too many times we see homeless people on the street and we look away. He said to just give them a little wave. Have the determination to avoid treating them like the other. 20th Century Jews were treat like the other. That got us nowhere.

The Holocaust was an awful test of humanity. Endurance was the key component. Having the endurance to live when the country around us wants us dead. Hope is a dwindling feeling as hate emerges. As Jews were wared down, a love of endurance may have been lost. Discipline and compassion were gone too. Enduring endurance kept the few, remaining Jews of Europe alive.

Fortitude comes from within us. God gave each one of us determination, yet we all express it in our shape and manner. The unique views come from one's ability to look out at the world. Humility lets us decide where to take a stand. If something makes us upset, we should not let it roll by us. People I know are over dramatic about the unnecessary. In real times of trouble, they are untouched. Humility lacks in their determination.

Bonding with endurance should keep us sticking to our goals. President Obama decided he wanted to be President. He went to law school, studied hard, became a senator, held a good campaign, and now he is in the White House. At law school, homework may have been piled on Barack. Bonding with the dream of being president prevailed him.

As our week ends once more, we examine the dignity of our endurance. Do our goals put in a brighter path for the person we want to be? Am we where we want to be at our age? If we are not, we can think of it this way. A dreamer is always asleep dreaming pleasantly. A go-getter follows the dream they like. I would personally rather be awake than in a permanent sleep.

Four weeks down, three to go. More than half the human heart has already been explored. As of now we have the endurance to handle the rest!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sefirat Omer- Week 3

Of all seven qualities that overlap each other during the Omer, compassion means the most to me. Last week, I talked about how I have written a list of goals. One of those goals was to be considered a nice, caring person. I phrased it this way for a certain reason. I can try to be a nice person, but my nice does not matter. People around me could think my nice, is devious. Compassion is simply not about ourself, but about everyone around us.

To be compassionate, we must love it. A love of compassion is a commandment in the Torah. We are supposed to welcome the stranger into our dwelling. Compassion is never forced on us. The good do good and the wicked remain wicked. Never do a good deed without a love and care. No completion is better than a sloppy completion.

Compassion is everywhere. Holding a door open and saying thank you take compassion. These simple tasks are great, but compassion should be bigger. Fundraising or donating take discipline. The money belongs to the donor. A bit of discipline helps cure the cause.

Compassion of compassion. The quality goes forever. Exceeding new limits. Discipline focuses compassion, but never stops us from expressing it. I attempt to live an everlasting compassionate life. Holding a door yesterday does not benefit anyone today.

Prevailing compassion means anywhere at anytime. My schedule is simple. On Tuesday, I always have Hebrew School. On Thursdays, there are drums lessons. Where does it say, "Be compassionate"? Never do we plan to take a stand. Are we ready to stand up for ourselves and others?

Humility is not always ripping your pants embarrassing. Humility lets us realize that a selfish reign always comes to an end. I feel sometimes we are only compassionate for ourselves. How horrible? Middle school is the perfect example. I see people who are kind and nice, but only when the cameras are rolling. Giving compassion should help the receiver. The giver does it out of the goodness of their humble heart.

Bonding is an important asset of compassion. Although the internet has made this a less significant aspect, kindness is never distant. Holding a door for a stranger can not be done six feet away. For instance, Holocaust victims in concentration camps had every disease imaginable. They stuck together! No one person was better than they other. A bond was formed.

Day seven is always the hardest to write about the Omer. Dignity and humility are opposite. Compassion is meant to make us feel good too. As long as we remember, why we LOVE to be humane. Did you know most bullies have low-self esteem? Their wicked deeds are a slight boost. Dignity really comes from compassion.

I worry today, where compassion has gone? Every day on the news we hear about Iraq and Afghanistan. 9/11 lowered our self-esteem. Instead of making an effort of peace, we bullied these countries. 99% of teenage boys play video games. ( How many play the ones with guns? The "compassion suckers". Violence is something that is common in our world. Compassion is not.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Sefirat Omer- Week 2

What is the purpose of counting 49 days? Why does God even tell us to do this in the Torah? Passover is a time when we commemorate the liberating of our people. Shavuot we celebrate God giving us the Torah and the Ten Commandments. The Omer is seven weeks of self-evaluation.

Unlike Yom Kippur, we are not atoning the sins we have committed. Instead, we look at our moral character and how it compares to the image God had in mind for humans. Each day is a moral fiber. The qualities form a decent being. During the second week, we discover discipline.

On day one, we discover the love of discipline. Now as I said last week, the same seven traits collaborate to make 49 combinations. What is the difference between discipline of love and love of discipline? Discipline of love focuses on how we stay loyal in any relationship. Love of discipline does not necessarily mean in a relationship. God gave us 613 mitzvot to respect in the Torah. Loving discipline is determination to follow them.

Next, we observe the discipline aspect of discipline. Life is not all work. After all, not even God worked a full week. Discipline should be orderly. God created us to be people, not robots. Too much discipline turns us into robotic scraps of humans. Too little discipline turns us into pigs. Although robots are worse than pigs, neither is kosher.

Discipline takes compassion. For example, a teacher needs to be strict, but compassionate. I once had a teacher who no one really liked when they had her. The next year I realized she may have been strict, but she really cared about the students and their education. It is easy to make a batch of cookies, but they are worthless if they are not sweet.

Today we observe how enduring discipline should be. About a year and a half ago, I set a list of goals. Though the path has been tough, I have kept up with those goals and continue in the direction of fulfillment of them. Athletics, academics, music, art,drama or anything else in life really takes practice. Practice comes from enduring discipline.

Too many times in life we make assumptions. Assumptions come from a large amount of discipline and a subordinate amount of humility. Sometimes we put our bad traits into another's personality. For instance, a person calls another a gossiper. The whole student body hears the accusation. The person who started the rumor was the true gossiper. Humility is a major aspect of processing productive discipline.

After that, we take the extra step to bond with others. We try to shed our discipline onto others. Being a student I understand that discipline includes honesty. When testing, the temptation to cheat is always available, but my discipline sets an example. Hopefully, potential cheaters follow the right path.

On our last day focusing on discipline, we explore the dignity it takes to have the trait. We examine how our spirit is weakened by discipline. Do we loose our childlike wonder? I feel that greed is the perfect example. Greed can destroy a person. We aim with our enduring discipline to be rich, but despite our perseverance we loose respect for others. Our dignity is destroyed and on the road another's usually is too.

In fact, the entire Omer takes discipline to count.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sefirat Omer- Week 1

I hope that everyone is enjoying Passover and the beginning of springtime. Did you know that today is a special day in Judaism? And tomorrow is too? Actually the next 42 days are quite significant. There are exactly 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. These 49 days are called Sefirat Ha'omer or Counting of the Omer.

The Torah commands us to the count the Omer. The Omer is just a measurement. It is like a quart or a gallon. Rabbis have interpreted that each week is an attribute of the human heart. There is love, discipline, compassion, endurance, humility, bonding, and leadership. All the topics intertwine each day. Week 1 is all about love. Week 1 Day 1 is "Love; love. Week 1 Day 2 is "Love Discipline". It goes on each day. Week 1 is now coming to a close. By the conclusion of the Omer, the 49 aspects form into one heart.

Starting on Tuesday night, the heart is supposed to realize humans love to love. Our hearts hold the capacity to love as much as we want. There is no quota on the number of people to be friendly and loving to. Every person has their own story. By loving, the stories become a library.

Love then requires discipline. Respect is the basis of a healthy relationship. Knowing boundaries is a way of showing respect. Scandals of ignorance to the second day of the Omer are released constantly. For example, a certain golfer lacked discipline of love. Without discipline there is no love.

An average relationship has two friendly people put together. An extraordinary relationship has two COMPASSIONATE people put together. Love's roots are buried in compassion. To think of a loved one over ourselves is truly a mitzvah.

Love is enduring. We can all love to love, have discipline of love, and be compassionate for love, but to constantly love is a different story. Two friends are together. One is starving. Since they are by the stream, one friend catches a fish for the other friend. Tomorrow that friend will return to a starving state. An enduring love would teach the other how to fish. Love should never be turned on and off like a light switch.

When in love, we are confident. We feel like we are on top of the world. Unfortunately, confidence is the key to arrogance. To stop the path towards arrogance, we remember our humility. No one person in a relationship is always right. Being humble allows us to see that compromise is possible.

Of course, love requires bonding. Never rush into a relationship. Friendship is always the first step. Enjoy getting to know the person. On this day of the Omer, we try to find a new thing we can bond over to strengthen our love.

Finally, dignity. It is obvious a relationship needs two people. Two people can sometimes form into one person. Leaders stand their ground. Although, we are humble, we are strong. When something is wrong, we change it. Figure out what your contribution to the relationship is. True love requires dignity. Actually, true love require all of these qualities.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tulip in the Life

Photo by: Rachel Graubart

Last night, I was reading in the living room, I look at tulips my dad gave as a treat for my mother on her birthday. As I sat, I pondered about these tulips. My mind began to race. All week I had noticed these tulips. Then I had a burst of an idea.

Tulips are life, no the tribe's life. These tulips went through three stages. Tulips look different in these three stages. A Jew can deal with antisemitism three ways.

At first, my dad brought home young tulips. These tulips were new to the world. Drinking water for the first time. The tulips are closed. These Jews are the Jews who watch. Antisemitism is everyone, but if we say nothing, it just keeps happening. A closed tulip is beautiful, but no one remembers a closed tulip.

Then, as days passed, the sun shined on the flowers. The tulips open up. Our eyes could not help, but notice the beauty of the tulips. Being the outgoing person I am, I choose the open-tulip path. Fighting for the Jews is my style, people know I am Jewish. I carry a yarmulke and have a blog all about Judaism. Antisemitism is diminished by the brightness of the vibrant tulip.

Finally, yesterday. A Jew can join in antisemitism. I always relate antisemitism to a fire. People who are Jewish make jokes that do light the fire. Pedals on the drooping tulips looked burn. As the fell off the tulip, I knew the "burnt" tulip was dead.

Any conflict can be taken these three ways. Be a bystander. Be an upstander. Or be a putdowner. It is up to us to decide. Which tulip are you?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bible Through Basketball?

When I thought about writing this, I thought, Adam, are you going insane? Then, my mind said "You're just being yourself." Tonight I felt God's presence through basketball. I learned about Shabbat, God, the Torah, my own faith, and of course how to play the game of basketball. It is a Friday night. Jewish families across the globe are lighting candles, blessing wine, and eating delicious challah. For the first time in the long time, my family was not one to enjoy the pleasure.

It is the playoffs. If we win this game, we advance to the finals. We lose, we go home with nothing. My team had a decent shot this year, but God does not appreciate the game being played on Shabbat. We lost that game. It was over for the team, but a new beginning for me.

The Torah hit me like a ton of bricks. Last week, God tells the Israelites the consequence of breaking the Sabbath laws. God proclaims, "Therefore, keep the Sabbath, for it is a sacred thing for you. Those who desecrate it shall be put to death, for whoever performs work on it, that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people" (Exodus 30:14). Literally, punishment of disobedience is death in this situation. With three minutes left, I the Torah and God spoke to me.

I had made up a blessing for basketball. It goes "Baruch atah Adonai, elohanu melech haolam, asher k'dishanu b'mitzvotav m'sahaek cadoor sal". That translate to "Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctifies us with mitzvot to play basketball." Blessing are a give and take though. I had taken too much.

Today I was lazy. I did not plan to do this blog at a quarter of ten. School gave us the day off for a professional day and I did not bother to do any blog. I ignored Shabbat as the week came to a close. At dinner, no candles, no wine, no challah. The Sabbath is a sacred thing to me. I desecrated it and are part of me was put to death. I performed work on the Sabbath and cut myself off from all the other Jewish people. The Torah finally made sense.

Although the lesson was not pleasant to watch a good team fall hard, I am glad that I can now grow. Grow into a better, faithful, loyal Jew.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Exodus Ki Tisa 30:11-34:35

Moses has finally finished talking to God on top Mount Sinai. God has given him the Ten Commandments and a few extra guidelines to start the Israelites off as they head to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, the people below were impatient. Aaron led them in the construction of the Golden Calf. Of all the commandments, this is the ultimate commandment. There is only one God. Moses is enraged as he smashes the Tablets. Both side lost in the long run.

This parshat troubled me terribly. Idols? Bowing to other than God? Jews do not do that. We look at this as a dark spot on our history. Mistakes happen. How far should God let things slide?

Making mistakes proves that we are humans. Walking away from mistakes unattached is the blank trait a human can possess. When I make a mistake, I try to learn from it. If I were in Aaron's position, I would pray for God's forgiveness. Also, I would teach myself and the people who had followed me how to be loyal to God, the one and only. If I were Moses, I would also pray for forgiveness. I would learn to control my anger. Aaron was forgiven, but Moses had already let his anger get the best of him. In Egypt, he killed a man whipping the slaves. God never forgets, but God learns. People can be the same way.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Exodus Tetzaveh Verses 27:10-30:10

Tetzaveh continues the description of the Tabernacle. This week describes how the lighting and interior of the Tabernacle should appear. I found it peculiar that God kept mentioning 4 colors to be in the Tabernacle. These colors are gold, blue, purple, and crimson. I believe that the Torah has hidden one its many metaphors in Tetzavah. Everyone of us is a painting.

Gold is a regal, polite person. Golden people are confident and classy. For example, Steven Spielberg has the class that is on a golden level. He could live as one of America's greatest Hollywood legend and that only. Instead, Steven has continued to help the community by doing גמיולית חסדם-Acts of Love and Kindness. An eye for an eye makes the world go blind, but giving an eye stops the blindness.

Blue is a the calm side of a worthy character. A temper can spoil someone else's day. Going with the flow is how blue people roll. To be a blue person, we must remember to not be a bystander either. Bruce Springsteen is the perfect example of someone who is blue as a smurf on the inside, yet not another person's beanbag. During a performance, he is a rocker who follows the mood of the show. Bruce also is an active liberal Demacrats. Keep it relaxed, keep it blue.

Purple is the creative side of life. The color resembles that although we are classy and calm, we think outside the box. When I read about the Tabernacle, I had to be purple to interpret the very specific instructions of its construction. Without purple in our personality, music, art drama, and sports would never have existed. Having the color purple is proof all humans are truly unique. Why be someone's clone?

Crimson is the bold color. God turned the Nile red with ambition, ambition to free the Israelites slaves from bondage. Barrack Obama was a crimson person to run for president as an African American. With a purple point of view, a blue attitude, and plenty of gold with his staff and fellow politicians, his painting is forming into a work of art. Without the color red, the world will stop moving. Ambition is the drive, the drive of people.

According to my theory, God filled the Tabernacle with dignity, serenity, creativity, and ambition just as God filled everyone of us. I believes we should shine like the gold frames of the Tabernacle which God commanded were built. On the frames there are tons of red, blue, and purple yarns. Life is your painting. Why not make it look nice?