Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I am a member of a toastmaster’s club. This is an organization that helps people improve their speaking skill. I have been involved with the club I am affiliated with for twelve years and enjoy it very much. I was a little surprised at our last meeting to see the Rabbi of the congregation I belong to, in attendance as a guest.

The Rabbi is relatively new to the shul and he does speak fairly well. I do enjoy most of his sermons. When I stopped to think about it, it occurred to me that this is not a bad organization with which clergy to get involved. It helps people learn to get a message across. It helps people learn how to get to the point, tell stories and how to effectively deliver presentations.

I am a firm believer that this is a very important skill for anyone (and everyone) and if you are not constantly working on it, it is deteriorating. Beyond anyone, I have heard a number of clergy, from all different denominations, who would benefit substantially from the club. If it does nothing else, it will help a speaker cut down on word fillers. Next time you are out in public, listening to someone speak live, listening to a member of the clergy, stop and count “Ah’s”, “Uh’s” and “Um’s”. You might just be surprised how many year hear. If you are really brave, have someone count yours and see how many you use in everyday conversation.

Certainly Judaism has prided itself on the ability of people to teach, to be effective speakers and communicators. Toastmasters helps!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Keeping It Fresh

Last summer at this time I was tutoring a friend’s daughter for her Bat Mitzvah. She did a very nice job with both the Torah and Haftorah reading. I recently spoke with her and was teasing her about whether or not she had plans to read it again this year. She informed me that there is another Simcha taking place this year on that shabbat, so she would not be able to do so. (She did not sound particularly disappointed). I suggested that even if she is not doing it for the congregation, she should still look it over and she said she would. I hope she does.

It has always seemed unfair that for all the work and effort put into getting ready for a bar or bat mitzvah, in one day, really in less than one hour (longer if you are leading the entire service), it is done. I am not talking about the responsibility of being a bar mitzvah, or a bat mitzvah, as this is just starting and many people do not even understand what it means. I am talking about the actual time put into learning the Torah portion and/or the Haftorah portion.

I strongly suggest that people look over what they have prepared after they have read it, keep it fresh and be able to do it again at some point in the future. Even if you never do, I truly believe you will be glad you kept it (semi-) fresh.

The truth is, I am following my own advice. I helped prepare my friend’s daughter for her bat mitzvah. As a result, I too learned the Haftorah, I too learned parts of the Torah reading. I am currently in the process of reviewing what we learned so that it stays fresh for me as well and that I will be able to read this at some point in the future.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Destroying And Repairing

This week’s sermon, delivered by the Rabbi where I attend synagogue, was about how much easier it is to destroy something than to fix it. I found it very interesting and it was the Rabbi’s take on the reason why there are three Haftorot of rebuke and seven of conciliation.

The rabbi explained that just like G-d, just like the prophets bring us down and tell us what we have done to warrant the wrath and ire, once it is time to mend, it takes more work. His point was when we do anything to damage a relationship, yes it can be repaired but it takes a lot of work, more work than it took to damage it in the first place.

If we watch what we do, if we guard ourselves and others, so we do not destroy, than we will not need to rebuild. If we had guarded ourselves, if we had protected ourselves when G-d was rebuking us, than it could have prevented the Temple in Jerusalem from being destroyed and it takes a lot more to rebuild it. It is easier if it is never destroyed in the first place.

For me, a sermon like this works. It takes a concept, ties it in to what is happening in Judaism that week and then applies to how we should live our daily lives and interact with each other. This may seem like a simple formula but I have seen and hear a number of clergymen who are not able to do that.

Hopefully I will be able to take this message to make myself a better Jew and a better person.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Comfort, Oh Comfort My People

It has always fascinated me when a word is repeated more than once in the Torah or in the Haftorah. Certainly it is more interesting when it occurs in the Torah as we are told that there are no extra words in the Torah. Perhaps most interesting is when we see it with a name. When G-d calls to Moses at the burning bush he says, “Moshe, Moshe!” When G-d speaks to Jacob telling him it is okay to move to Egypt he says, “Yakov, Yakov!” Of course, with the Akedah and Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, the call is “Avraham, Avraham!”

We do see examples in the Torah where a word, other than a name, is repeated. “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdoff,” comes to mind, but I will probably post on that in a few weeks when we get to Shabbat Shoftim.

I believe we see words repeated in the Haftorah more often. It is a speaking style that Isaiah uses. Certainly in the Haftorah we just read this past Shabbat he uses that approach with the word Nachamu. “Comfort, oh comfort my people”. Why is there a need for the word to be repeated. There are a number of interpretations and commentaries on this but I like the simplest one of all. Isaiah is stressing the need for us to be comforted. We have just finished with Tisha B’Av and the three preceding weeks. It is a difficult time for us. Now it is time for us to be comforted.

I hope everyone find the necessary comfort in Nachamu, Nachamu.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nachamu, Nachamu

Nachamu, Nachamu, no pun intended, but these are words that I have always found comforting. We have come through a difficult time in Jewish history and now it is time to be consoled. It is interesting tome that there are three haftorot of admonition and rebuke, yet there are seven of conciliation.

First of all, this suggest to me that it is more important to console than to rebuke. While there is a time to admonish in Judaism, so much more of the religion centers on helping and consoling. The idea of sitting Shivah and the lessons we learn from the book of Job about the importance of just being there, is crucial. There is no need to speak, unless the one who is grieving wants to talk.

The idea of a Mishabarach (a prayer asking that individuals be returned to full health; a spiritual and physical healing) is another common time when we see the importance of consoling and helping. In fact, I have seen a number of shuls, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox change the procedure for a Mishabarach. When it is recited, they simply ask those people who have a family or friend in need of healing to stand and insert the name at the appropriate place. I DO NOT like this approach at all.

It is important to be there for people when they have a loved one who is sick (Visiting the sick is another value stressed in Judaism that seeks to console). Rather than be so interested in saving time, or concerned with how it might look to others to see people line up to give the shaliach tzibor the name of a person, take the time to show that we are a compassionate religion (which we are).

Unfortunately my synagogue is one that uses the insert name here approach. It is a battle I have taken up with people and I did get the Rabbi to make a change. If he is given a name ahead of time, he will recite it, instead of making a congregant insert the name. I am pleased with this change but would still like to see them go further.

Maybe other congregants who have sick friends and family members feel differently but if I wanted to do a Mishabarach for someone, emotionally it would do little for me to need to insert the name myself. I hope that shuls get away from this approach and return to the vision of Nachamu, Nachamu!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Leading Services

Yesterday I showed up for services in the afternoon and I was asked, or more appropriately told by the gabbai, to lead services. It is interesting, I usually show up to daven, not to lead services, I am perfectly content to just be one of the members in the congregation. Of course I could turn them down, but the truth is, it is easier just to say yes.

I led Mincha, the afternoon service. Often times when I lead mincha, I found that people feel I am too fast. I will wait for them, but they feel the part I say out loud is too fast. It is not always easy to slow down. It is funny how when you first start, you get into a groove, and whatever that groove, it is difficult to break out of it. If I start fast, I have a hard time slowing down.

Yesterday I had a feeling I was right on pace. It usually does not work out this way but somehow it did yesterday. No one came up to me afterwards and told me I was at the right speed, but no one complained about being too fast. Unfortunately the person who I usually check with to find out was not at services. Still, what is most important is, I felt I was on.

That having been said, I still would rather just be a member in the congregation as opposed to leading the service. There are those rare times I like to lead, but those are few and far between and often correspond with Yahrzeit.

I do find, however, that by listening to different people lead, I pick up on different ways some things can be done and I have adopted them into my style (if you can call it a style). As a result, if by me leading, it helps other people learn things, and develop their style, than I am happy to help out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Appreciating Judaism

It is amazing the way the mind works. We are not even out of the month of July yet and I am already thinking about the upcoming Jewish Holidays in the fall. I know I once heard a sermon where a rabbi broke the summer down on the Jewish calendar explaining there are two parts to summer; from Shavout to Tisha B’Av and from Tisha B’Av to Rosh Hashanah. I actually understand that and my mind works the same way. Now that Tisha B’Av is over, it is time to be thinking about the High Holidays.

Rosh Hashanah, of course, means the start of the busy season, the start of the school year. I will start teaching my adjunct classes at the college, I will start teaching in the computer lab at the religious school and as for my day job, that is usually hectic around September time as well.

One year I am going to learn how to relax. I will not start thinking about the Holidays until, at least, the beginning of Elul. I will not gear up for everything in July. I guess, though, in one sense, that is good. As a Jew, there should always be a life cycle event, a happening, that to which I am looking forward. These events have always kept us grounded in our faith, have always helped us set our calendar and know where we are at. Maybe next year, I will not start thinking about the Holidays until the start of Elul.

In thinking about the calendar, I like the fact that we have all different kinds of events. We have those which enable us to celebrate and be joyous. We have those that require us to be solemn. Many of the events remind us of things in the past. Other happening remind us to look towards the future.

It is a wonderful religion that has so much to offer and that is why I find it frustrating when I hear people look to get away from it, or ignore all of it wonders. I remember a number of years ago I was tutoring a child for bar mitzvah. After the event, his mother made a comment about never having to sit in a synagogue again.

One of her friends responded, “Except for when your son gets married”.

“If he marries a Jew,” she responded, “Otherwise I’ll sit in a church,” she added nonchalantly.

It is that type of attitude that just infuriates me. I wish she was able to understand and appreciate her religion, to get as much out of it as I do. Unfortunately that did not happen but maybe that is why I enjoy working in the computer lab so much, to show others the love I have of my religion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Identifying With Tisha B'Av

Whenever Tisha B’Av comes around, I always find the routine surprising. It is not a day I need to take off from work. Certainly with so many Jewish Holidays that I do take off (No complaints about that), it makes my life a little easier knowing I do not have to make arrangements for this one.

I had hoped to get to services this morning, or last night, but that did not happen. Some years I am able to make it to services while other years I am not. I have never considered it terrible if I am not able to get to services but, honestly, not going to services on such a day always seems a little strange. I realize it is not a Biblical Holiday, but it does feel strange.

Personally, I like the idea of a national day of mourning. In a real sense, this fast makes a lot of sense to me, perhaps more than any other. While I understand the historical significance of this day and all the negative things that are tied to this day, while I understand the context of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, this day means even more.

We as a Jewish people have suffered a number of setbacks and tragedies. I do not subscribe to the philosophy that says we need to maintain our Jewish identify because of all the terrible things that happened to us. That is almost a reason to do the opposite. There are many reasons why we should, and need to keep our Jewish identity, but that is a post for another time. While the setbacks and misfortunes should not run our daily lives though, it is important to acknowledge them. The idea of saying that on this one day, we recall all the evil, negative and bad things that occurred makes a lot of sense.

While it should not be the reason we keep our Jewish identity, we should remember the tragedy we as a nation, we as a people, we as a religion have experienced. To me, that is what Tisha B’Av helps us do. We remember the past and the difficulties and problems we have had and it helps us live a brighter future.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I enjoy listening to Rabbis give sermons. Sometimes I think they are well done and other times not. This is not surprising and probably true of most members of any given congregation. Still, I think that sometime we lose sight of the fact that we, as listeners, also have a responsibility.

My father was a congregational Rabbi for 50 years. He told me that there was always one congregant who would greet him by telling him what a wonderful sermon he gave. Dad knew that there were times this was not the case but this individual would say otherwise. He was not trying to make fun of my dad. He was making the comment in all seriousness. This man also was a very intelligent man, so it was not as if it had to be a simplistic sermon either.

The individual in question had a knack to listen to a sermon and always find something in it that applied to him, that he could use. My father’s sermons actually helped make this individual a better man because he was always able to come away with a lesson that applied to him.

This is really the challenge that each one of us has. It is often to easy to decide a message does not apply to you, or does not make sense. It is too easy to criticize the construction of a sermon or the delivery of one. There are so many places where we can be critical. Our challenge is to find a way to make every sermon speak to us. It can be done.

I am not as talented as my father’s congregant but I do always try to take something away from a sermon, something that will make me a better person. Most days I think I do find important messages to use.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Appreciating Each Other

I mentioned in a post a few days ago about going back to teach in the computer lab at the religious school where I taught last year. I was given a copy of the calendar and I noticed it listed the Jewish Holidays as “Reform” and “Orthodox and Conservative”. I was a little confused until I took a closer look and noticed that what was done here was the second day of the Holidays was listed as “Orthodox and Conservative”.

I made some comment to the Rabbi who heads up the religious school and she told me that even though this is a reform congregation, she lists it this way on the schedule because she will not have school on the first OR second day of the Holiday.

“Even though we are a reform synagogue we have a number of teachers from all different backgrounds,” she explained,” and I refuse to make anyone take off a day from a religious school because of a Jewish Holiday”. She explained that there were people there who disagreed with her, telling her that as long as the synagogue was reform, they should just follow that schedule. Again, the Rabbi reiterated, “I won’t do that”.

I applaud her for that decision. Not only does it make my life easier because I do not need to make alternate arrangements, it is the right thing to do. Sometimes there is too much tension between Jews and different segments of Jews (or even same) and it is refreshing to see this attitude.

My father used to say, “You know, the Orthodox don’t want to talk to the Conservatives, the Conservatives don’t want to talk to the Reform, maybe G-d isn’t ready to talk to the Jewish people. I, personally, have been fortunate that a number of people I associate with, from all different walks of life, actually do not follow this approach.

Certainly the Rabbi where I teach was willing to recognize all branches of Judaism. After I graduated from college, I found a synagogue that I liked and the Orthodox Rabbi there, along with the Reform Rabbi in the same area used to hold a joint Tashlich service on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. There is another Rabbi in the community, an Orthodox one, who also falls right in with this group.

I went to pay a shivah call after his mother passed away. He talked for a bit about his mother and then started telling a story about his travels. He explained that when he travels, on Shabbos, he likes to be with Jews. If he cannot find an Orthodox community, he will look for any Jewish community. One time, he found an egalitarian service. He said that they politely invited him to daven but since there was no separation between men and women, he politely declined. They offered to separate the seating but he told them he did not want them to change their policy on his account. The insisted and accommodated him. This, to me, shows the best of everyone on all sides.

The only thing that was unfortunate about this story was before he told it he looked around and said, “I have to be careful who I tell this story to”. In other words, there are people in his congregation that would not approve of the method he used. I think that is unfortunate. However, I seem to be seeing more and more of the accepting mannerisms taking place. I hope that is not just my perception but reality. Once we learn to accept each other, we will be able to create a better world.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Up For The Challenge

Well, I completed Haftorah this morning. It is interesting. While I know that I know this one, and while I practice it anyway, I always feel that I do a better job when I do it for real than in practice. It is interesting, this Haftorah speaks to me. I sense someone losing all patience and just telling a person all that they have done wrong and all the bad things that what will happen if things do not change. As a parent, I know that feeling. Somehow, when I am actually chanting that Haftorah for real, I can feel those emotions more so that when I practice.

After I finished, there was one person who indicated that I was slightly off with the word ‘Hazon’, the first word of the Haftorah. I am not sure if he was kidding or not. Still, my response was, “Show me what I did wrong and how I can improve”. I said that and I meant that.

Although I have done the Haftorah for a number of years, I can, and should still improve. If someone can help me to that end, I am interested. I think sometimes we are all too quick to take such comments in a negative light. We should all try to lighten up a little and see if others can help us improve.

So, now I can relax knowing the chanting of this Haftorah is behind me. Now all I have to do is fast, which in comparison should be a piece of cake. Just kidding. I do find this time to be very tough and the fast to be tough, but just like chanting Haftorah, I am up for the challenge.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Strange Dream

I had a strange dream last night and I do not understand it. Let me state up front, I am not one who knows how to interpret dreams. I do understand that sometimes the message of a dream can be very different than what is seen on the surface. Still, I have not done any studying of dreams.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be chanting Haftorah Tomorrow. This is the one that switches back and forth between the standard trope and the Aicha trope. I have done this Haftorah four years in a row, so after tomorrow, it will be five. I know it, I know the changes and I have looked it over. It is true I haven’t looked it over as much as I would have liked, but I am confident.

Last night, I dreamt for some reason that someone else started the first two lines of this Haftorah and I took over afterwards. Rather than waiting for the person to move out of the way, I started chanting from memory. After the person moved out of the way and I was in front of the book, my Tikkun, I couldn’t find the place. I kept going for a little bit but then just drew a complete blank. I tried coming up with any line but could not think of anything. Then I just started humming the melody, hoping something would come back to me, but it never did. Eventually I just announced to the congregation that it was pretty obvious, I had lost my place and couldn’t find it.

I felt a little embarrassed for a moment and then I woke up. I’m still not sure what the dream means, if anything, but it was enough to give me an uncomfortable feeling. I did look it over a few times today, just in case, however.

I am guessing everything tomorrow will go fine, but it was just a very strange dream.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Back

Well, I will be back at the religious school where I teach next year. I certainly did not expect there to be any problem at the meeting today, and there was not. It was nice to hear those who do the hiring sing my praises.

As a computer teacher, my flexibility, my willingness to work with people, and more relationship with the other teachers all were positive factors. What was nice was to hear the comments they made about the tutoring I did.

When I first applied, they wanted to know about the possibility of teaching a mid-week hebrew class. Based on my work schedule, I could not commit to being there on-time, every session. They asked me if I would be willing to do some tutoring, special needs work and I agreed.

Sometimes I am in the classroom, helping a teacher out. This is usually with one particular student. Still, the teacher can use me as he or she sees fit. For instance, if the teacher needs to listen to everyone one-on-one, I might be asked to do something with the ones who have finished, to keep them busy, and have them learn. Sometimes I am asked to go from classroom to classroom to work on students who may be getting ready for a service or some other program. Whatever it is, it is the same, yet it is different, and I enjoy that.

There are a number of students there who have special needs, some more than others, and some have some significant issues. Still, most are good, enjoyable and polite students. Last year I did some work with some autistic children, working one on one. It so happens that when I was working with one, the director of the Board of Jewish Education for the area was visiting and was impressed with the way I was responding and helping.

The two people I met with today made sure to tell me that. It was a nice feeling and I appreciated it. I had wondered last year if I really was helping the teachers and making a difference. I was glad to find out I was. They almost seemed more excited to have me agree to come back in that role as opposed to the computer teacher, not that they were disappointed about that.

All and all, it was a very postive meeting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tisha B'Av

As we come up to Tisha B’Av, I am getting myself ready for the fast, or at least trying. It is interesting, I always go through a whole bunch of steps before the Yom Kippur fast. I cut down on my coffee, I try to get my body accustomed to a little less food, and a few other steps I take.

Tisha B’Av sneaks up on me. It comes without a lot of the fanfare. Many people who, like me, do things to get ready for the Yom Kippur fast do not do anything for this one. Still, it is interesting to note that, at least for me, this fast is tougher than Yom Kippur.

On Yom Kippur, I am at service for most of the day and my focus is on prayers. For Tisha B’Av, there is no restriction on working. Certainly services do not go the whole day. The mind can easily wonder to the fact that you are not eating, wonder more easily, at least for me.

What makes this fast even tougher for me is the time of year. The summer heat makes it tough and while it is a 25 hour fast, just like Yom Kippur, the fact that it ends so much later makes it more difficult. The fact that it starts later, at least for me, does not seem to help too much, certainly it does not offset the disadvantage of finishing later.

Still, there is something nice about this fast. In addition to the historic significance of the day, I have always felt that with all the tragedy that has happened to the Jewish people, it makes sense to have a National Day of Mourning. To me, that is what Tisha B’Av is. It is an opportunity to feel bad about all the tragedies that have historically befallen the Jewish People. This actually has a positive Impact on me and reinvigorates me for the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Computer Lab

Later this week, I will be meeting with the administrators of the religious school where I taught last year. I am looking forward to it. Last year I taught in the computer lab. Each Sunday, a different teacher would bring his or her classes to the lab. I had been in touch with them prior, as to what material they wanted to cover, and I would put a lesson plan together.

I usually found some educational sites, some of which required more reading than the students wanted to do. I also, however, found sites with games, sites where they could make flyers with Hebrew letters, and a whole slew more.

In a previous post I indicated how it is amazing just what you can find on the internet when it comes to Jewish material. It was as a result of teaching this Sunday class that I learned just how much stuff is out there.

The religious school is looking at making some changes to the curriculum and the way certain classes are taught, but they seem dedicated to leaving the computer lab in tact. Still, other changes will impact the lab so they wanted to hold off on meeting with me until after they had things set with other teachers. That should have been finalized last week. Now I get to meet with them and find out just what I will be doing. Once that happens, I can begin to start putting some lesson plans together.

The truth is while I am enjoying the time away, I also miss it and am looking forward to having the opportunity to get back to it.

And they pay me to do this!! I am a happy individual.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Internet

It is amazing how much you can find on line these days. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I am doing the Haftorah for this coming Saturday. I knew this portion switched back and forth between the different tropes but I wasn’t sure exactly where the melody change took place nor was I sure about the Aicha trope.

I found on line a website, www.bible.ort.org . This site has a number of things but one thing it has that I think is great is a link to hear and Torah sedrah chanted, as well as any Haftorah portion. For the Torah portion, I can either choose to listen to all seven aliyot, or I can listen verse by verse.

I do occasionally read Torah and I like to double check things. I do not do it exactly the way the individual who does it for this website does, but it is still very helpful. It was this website where I learned the Aicha trope and learned where the switches take place. It definitely helps and I would urge anyone who reads Torah or Haftorah, but more specifically Torah, to give a listen.

The site also has a D’var Torah for each sedrah, calendar information and just all around helpful information. One additional part of this site, or actually a related site, part of the ORT site, but not part of the navigating the Bible portion, has to do with Yizkor. You can put tributes up there to people who have passed away and sign up to have them send you reminders of Yahrzeits via e-mail.

As I said at the beginning, it is amazing just what you can find on the internet these days. The educational material is wonderful. For those people who do not feel comfortable asking someone to check their trope, or their Hebrew, this website is the answer.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading Haftorah

I woke up yesterday morning and all of a sudden had an awkward feeling. I was wondering if I was supposed to chant Haftorah that morning. For the past four years I have been reading the Haftorah the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av. This Haftorah starts with regular trope for the first sentence, than switches into the melody used for Tisha B'av. About two-thirds of the way through it switches back to the regular Haftorah melody for about four sentences and then back to the Aicha melody afterwards. The last three sentences are done with the regular trope.

I actually enjoy this Haftorah. I like the switch back and forth in the trope, I like the comments and I like the tone it sets for the upcoming fast. While I have done this a number of times in the past, I was not ready last week and was very relieved to look at my calendar and find out that it was the following week that I was slated to do it. Hopefully I will take advantage of the week and look it over and do myself proud.

Before I first chanted it, I remember hearing someone else do it and I was extremely impressed and found it haunting and chilling, in a positive sense. While I do not have a great voice, I have always tried to do it in a similar manner and think, at least in part, I have succeeded. If there are just one or two congregants I can leave with that same feeling I had when I heard it chanted, my job is more than done.

My mother never heard me chant this Haftorah but I know she would have been proud. My father heard me chant it once and enjoyed and I was pleased to have him hear it. And, there was a little bit of an inside joke as growing up, whenever I got the best of my father, he would jokingly respond with the Hebrew phrase, "B'Anim G'Dalti". This is the beginning of a quote that translates to, "Children I have reared and they have forsaken me". That line comes from this Haftorah. Every time I practice, every time I do it for real, that line always brings a smile to my face and probably even more since he passed away.

I am looking forward to chanting this Haftorah.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taking My Son to Shul

This morning, my son and I were at shul together. This is not an unusual occurrence. My wife was not there because she is recovering from some minor foot surgery and needs to stay off of it. While she certainly does go to shul, there are a number of times she does not.

As for me, I am usually there and ever since my son was born, I try to take him with me. Since he was a preemie and his bris was delayed for a few weeks, he probably did not come with me until he was about a month old. Ever since that time, however, he has been with me more often than not.

He is getting to the point now where he does not want to automatically go, as used to be the case a few years ago. Still, frequently he does enjoy going and I enjoy taking him. I like taking him because he enjoys it. I like taking him because I enjoy spending time with him. I like taking him because I like to teach him about Judaism (and other things). now, I also get an added pleasure. I like taking him because I can hear him daven. Sing some prayers, say others, and not surprisingly some he does not know, but he really does like to follow along.

There are some things he seemed to enjoy as an infant when it came to shul more than he does now. He loved watching them lift the Torah for hagbah. He also loved seeing them take it out and enjoyed watching them read it. Now he likes other things about shul; the melodies, participating and following along. Of course, he still does like running around but he is now at the point where if he needs to step out for a moment, he can do so unsupervised.

When I take him to shul, I love all the things I mentioned before and I love the images it recalls of me pushing him in a stroller as an infant to get him there as well. My grandfather used to love watching people walk on Saturday afternoons. He said by the direction they were walking, how many and a bunch of other factors, you could figure out which shul they were at, which were families, which were friends, etc. I know he would have enjoyed watching me walk with my son.

If you have never, or seldom, taken your children to services, I strongly urge you to do it. It is a wonderful feeling, especially when you do it for a while and teach them to grow up with it and enjoy it.

Friday, July 13, 2007


It is amazing to me how shabbos always comes right on time. There has been a lot of stuff going on. I do not need to bore you with stories about problems with family members, surgeries, health issues and the like. Simply take my word, it has been a difficult week.

It amazes me how much I actually enjoy going to services and how much it relaxes me. There are plenty of people who see it as a burden, an unenjoyable event, or just something to be avoided. A three hour service on Saturday, to me, is actually relaxing. I like the service, I enjoy listening to sermons (and people who have known me for years would find that hard to believe) and I enjoy the camaraderie.

I have been to my share of church services where there can be no talking, where decorum is key. I actually like the fact that this usually does not take place at a Jewish service. The running around, the talking, the kibitzing, are all part of the entire event.

Many of my non-Jewish friends are amazed as to the way the service goes (although if you are there for a three hour service, to me, it is understandable). I think this may be one of the biggest cultural differences between the religions. Of course things should be kept relatively quiet so they are not distracting to others but the socialization is still very important.

I think back to a conversation I had with an orthodox rabbi as I was making arrangements to be in his synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The rabbi told me he wanted to make sure my sit was next to someone my own age, someone I could talk with.

I looked at the rabbi and said, "You want that on the High Holidays I should be talking with someone instead of davening (praying)"?
He responded by telling me that, "in either event, I’m still going to pound on the lectern for quiet".

It was humorous but also showed his understanding of the synagogue also serving as a place to socialize.

I have always remember that but I still try to keep the majority of my time at services focused on the prayers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Jewish Thought

In this day and age, when everyone wants to put labels on people and things, I try to avoid them. I am asked by numerous people if I am Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. I hate the question as we are so busy labeling we sometimes forget that we need to get along, all of us, regardless of the branch.

I tell people, when asked this question, “I am an eclectic mix of my surroundings”. My Dad was a reform Rabbi and my Mom published many children’s religious school books with a ‘reform’ slant. I want to a conservative Hebrew school and when I went to college and was looking for a ‘Shabbos’ environment, it was the orthodox community that was most welcoming.

I have a little bit of everything in me and am appreciative of all branches of Judaism. I also have been involved with Jewish education. While I have had various positions over the years, at the current time, I am teaching in the computer lab of a religious school, which is a lot of fun. I also do some tutoring and have always tried to show people just how much the religion has to offer and how new and exciting it is.

Listening to sermons, reading commentary and having my own thoughts about readings and other issues facing the Jewish community, I am looking forward to voicing my thought and opinions about something I hold near and dear.

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