Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Jacket

The story is told of my grandfather (and it is a true story) that when he was a young teenage boy, he had a fight with his parents and left to be on his own. He found himself a job and earned some money. Every week he would buy himself a herring and a loaf of bread. That hearing and bread lasted him for all his meals for the week. The rest of the money he saved up.

When it was getting close to Passover, my Zeide went and bought himself the fanciest suit he could find. He then went to his parents for the Passover Seder and showed off his new suit. “Look how well I am doing,” was his comment to his father.

Suits are so much a part of significant religious events. My son for a long period of time would not wear a jacket or tie. Now, as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach, he has informed me and my wife that he wants to have a jacket to wear for the High Holidays. Wonderful!

Not so simple.

My son is very rough on clothes so my wife and I do not want to spend a lot of money on a jacket. We are not looking for anything cheap but on the other hand, we do not want to go to a store that specializes in suits as you will pay more. If we believed he would keep it nice and get some usage out of it, we would consider this but we know our son and that won’t happen.

My wife has taken the little guy to a few department stores and thus far they do not have anything in his size. It is a little surprising to me, but it is the reality of the situation. Hopefully, we will be able to find a store that has something which will fit, otherwise he maybe going jacket-less again this holiday season.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

History Through Music

As it turns out, one of the days when I am teaching in the computer lab, I will also be subbing for the teacher who is bringing her students to the lab. The teacher who will be working with them about Jewish music will not be able to be there on the day her students are in the lab. The principal of the religious school asked me if I could handle that class. I would just bring them to the lab and go over the material. Normally I do this, but the teacher stays and provides some guidance and works with his or her students as I do not know them as well (if at all) as their regular teacher. Still, I know I can handle this.

The subject is going to be teaching them Jewish history through music. I find this idea to be fascinating. After all, music has played a large part in Judaism. The early idea of most of the Hasidic sects was based on the idea you did not need to know how to pray, you could express yourself through humming and melodies. The Hasidic influence certainly had an impact on Orthodoxy, when it came to music.

The early Israelis working the land, the Holocaust and every period of Judaism all had music associated with it. There are many different types of music and I am curious to see how this session will play out. I am also curious to know how the whole course will play out but I will not be able to witness much of it first hand as I will be busy with other classes in the computer lab. Still, I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Joys Of Moving

We are busy packing and getting set to move. The movers are coming the weekend of September 7. I personally would have taken more time to get our apartment packed up and got set moving into our house. Our lease for the apartment does not expire until January 31, 2008 so we certainly have time.

My wife looked around the apartment this evening and said she did not see how we were going to be ready to move by next weekend. I agree. It certainly was not my idea.

My wife said, however, she wanted to be in the house by Yontiff, by the time the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) roll around. I can understand that. It will be exhausting but it will be great to sit down to the holiday meals in our new home.

The holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is said to set the tone for the entire year. I guess it would be a great time to be in our new home, to start the year off correctly.

I still do not know that we will have everything out of our apartment by then. I doubt we will have the house set up. I do think it can be livable by then and we can have the major stuff out of our apartment (I hope). We do not need to have everything out of our apartment by the holidays. We do, however, need to have everything accessible for the movers and that will be a task unto itself. Still, we are currently working on it and hopefully, it will all be worthwhile.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Led By The Youth

I mentioned yesterday that I read Haftorah and chanted two of the aliyot from the Torah. The truth is, I was able to do this, in large part, due to a friend’s 14 year old. As Jewish sources point out, “And they shall be lead by the youth”.

Last year I spent a good portion of the time, approximately one hour a week, tutoring a friend’s daughter for Bat Mitzvah. While I worked with her, I also learned. In fact, she wanted to be able to read the entire sedrah on her own (the go with the triennial cycle) and ultimately she was able, she did just that. Still, I felt since it was a bit ambitious (especially for their shul), she should have someone ready to back her up, just in case. She did not need it (and I am not surprised), but I figured I would back her up.

As a result, I learned what she was reading fairly well. Yes, I was out of practice as this year rolled around, since I had not read any of it since I worked with her, but I started looking it over and a lot came back.

So, I really need to praise my friend and his daughter for helping me learn the Torah reading and the Haftorah reading. It is the drive and determination of the youth, it is their ability and desire, that certainly is one of the most exciting aspects about Judaism.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An Exhausting Day At Shul

I found this past week at shul absolutely exhausting. As it was my mom’s yahrzeit, I looked to get there early (for me) and wanted to say as many of the memorial kaddishes (prayers for the deceased) as I could. I chanted two of the aliyot from the Torah. At my synagogue, we have members read different portions of the Torah, instead of paying someone to do it.

I read the fourth aliyah which was fairly lengthy (I have done longer, but it is a decent size reading. I also read the seventh aliyah. Under normal circumstances this would be fairly long but at my synagogue, they break this one down into four aliyot (as they do 10 instead of the traditional seven). As a result, it was not that long, but it still took some practice and review.

In addition, I received the Maftir Aliyah and read Haftorah. This is the second shortest Haftorah that exists. Still, I found myself exhausted after doing all of it. I am glad I did it, as I did it in my mother’s memory, but now I am glad it is over. I am still not fully back to myself, but I am close.

It is amazing the sense of obligation and responsibility (and I mean this in a positive way) one can have to parents even after they have died. My parents were very big on doing for people while they are alive so those individuals can appreciate it. I certainly tried to do that (I think I did a pretty good job but am sure I fell short at times). Still, the urge to do, that sense to responsibility still remains. Hopefully it will remain for many years and hopefully I will be able to pass it on to my son, not by what I say, but by what I do.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Life Is The Blessing!

Tonight is my mother’s yahrzeit. It hard to believe it has been five years on the Jewish calendar since my mother died. I still find it difficult at times, but obviously have accepted this fact. In talking with psychologists, I have learned it is common for some people to feel emotional and physical pain around the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

Honestly, I think in this sense, Judaism has it right. There are things we do to mark the anniversary. I believe these items help individuals to deal with their lose. I will be at services tonight and tomorrow and will recite the memorial prayer that is said on the anniversary of the death. I will receive an aliyah (being called to the Torah), which is often an honor bestowed upon those who have yahrzeit. Actually, I will be chanting Haftorah. I will also be chanting two of the aliyot from the Torah in honor of my mother’s life. (Most synagogues have seven aliyot and maftir (the repetition of part of the last aliyah and haftorah. At my congregation they actually break the reading into ten).

I will also be following the custom of lighting a yahrzeit candle tonight, the candle that burns for 24 hours (or more) that is lit in the evening on the day the person died (The evening before as a 24 hour period in Judaism goes from sundown to sundown. Unlike most things in Judaism, this candle is lit without saying a blessing.

It never struck me as odd or unusual, I just accepted it. Then, when my mother passed away, after returning from the cemetery, as my father was lighting the candle (When someone passes away, you light a candle that burns for a week), my father explained to those assembled that you do not recite a blessing because the life was the blessing. (My father was always looking to teach others).

I had never thought of that. It never occurred to me. Still, I took a lot of comfort in this. What a great explanation (I do not think it was one of his own). We as Jews, we as human beings, need to remember that the lives of others is a gift, a blessing to us, and we should always appreciate it.

So tonight, as I light the candle, no blessing will be said, but I will take a moment to reflect on the blessing which was my mother’s life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cult Busting

I do not know how many of you saw the response from Confessions from the Sandwich Generation to my post this past Sunday, 8/19. (By the way, do yourself a favor and check out her BLOG about caring for both children and aging parents, it is well worth the visit).

In her response she talks about sponsoring a “Cult Buster” to come to their Hebrew High School. The speaker was a Rabbi but when he was first introduced to the students, he was introduced as a speaker from Jew for Jesus. Only after making his presentation from that side and leaving was the Rabbi introduced, to give the kids a different perspective and they were shocked to see the same speaker come out. This is when they learned he was not really a member of J-F-J.

I think a presentation like this is wonderful and there are a number of things about her response that I like. I like the fact that the students got worked up when the speaker came out (when they thought he was a member of J-F-J). I like the fact that they tried to counter some of his “outrageous and false” claims. I even like the fact that when he came out in his suit and let them know he was a Rabbi and a deprogrammer that the kids felt angry. It is more the indifference and ignorance that scares me and here the students had very strong feelings.

Years ago, when I was in college, the Newman Center had a table set up in the student union, trying to make students more aware of the organization. I have no problem with that. I was involved with Jewish organizations on campus and would sometimes sit at “our” tables. We had interesting dialogue with the students representing Newman Center and even talked about doing a joint program.

One day, however, I noticed on their table some literature that had a Star of David. Thinking it was something promoting inter-religious discussions and respect, I picked it up. It was put out by Jews for Jesus. One of the students at the Newman Center table told me how this was an interesting group as they were a group of Jews that had found the Messiah, had found Jesus. The lack of knowledge and understanding they had for what this group was, frightened me. My dealings with the Newman Center were greatly diminished after this.

I have always tried to teach my son (now nine years old) that we, as Jews, should enjoy our customs and traditions and we should enjoy sharing them with others (Jews and non-Jews) but not look to force them on others or think any less of others who do not follow our customs. We should help others enjoy the fact that we enjoy our traditions. Likewise, we should enjoy other people (Jews and non-Jews) enjoying their customs and traditions. It is fun watch, to be an outsider, but just because we enjoy seeing others perform them, it does not mean it is the right thing for us.

To bring this down to its lowest common denominator, we can go out and look at other people who have put up Christmas lights and decorations. We can enjoy how important these customs are to them. But, these are not our customs and traditions. We should be respectful of them and they should be respectful of us.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cults, they are not respectful of others and we need to be very careful and cautious of them.

A big Thank You to Confessions from the Sandwich Generation for getting me to blog on this topic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Birthday Present

I mentioned in a recent post how my wife and I closed on our house (a week ago). Today I celebrate my birthday. I think how my parents always tried there best to treat us fairly. As we children got older, instead of gifts, Mom and Dad would write us a check. They were always careful that each of us would get the same amount.

When each of the children got married, the spouses would get a check as well, also for the same amount. They were very careful to make sure that in-laws were treated the same as children. I was always amazed (in a positive sense) as to the way they treated extended family, including children in-law, always careful not to show any favoritism. Most other families I know make some kind of distinction between a child and that child’s spouse.

After Mom died (and Mom was the one who handled the money), Dad was thrilled to be able to carry on the tradition. Sometimes he would tell me he was going to try but he was not sure if he would be able to do it as he was concerned about his living expenses. I tried letting him know that as far as I was concerned he needed to take care of himself and his needs first. It was important to him, however, to do whatever he could to keep Mom’s minhag (tradition) alive, and even after Mom passed away, Dad always managed to be able to write a check. The Birthday checks kept coming.

Obviously, after both Mom and Dad passed away, the birthday checks (from them) stopped. Having now sold their house (which was their wish) and settled up on most of the funds between the three children (no disagreement or hard feelings, just a few additional things with their account need to be settled before we split the rest of the money, my wife and I took our portion of the money and bought a house (exactly, I know, what my parents would have wanted us to do).

The money from the house, from the estate, in effect, served as this years Birthday check. Therefore, it is important for me to take this time, this moment, and say “Thank you” to my parents for this year’s birthday gift, the house my wife and I have bought for our family.

“Mom and Dad, Thank You!”

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Like Ephraim And Maneseh

This past Friday Night, as I have done for almost nine years now, I blessed my son with the Parental blessing at the Shabbat table. “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manaseh. May the Lord bless you and keep you… “. It always means a lot to me to be able to do this but this particular Shabbos, it meant more.

My son was born early on a Friday morning. The sedrah that was being read that week in shul was Shoftim. That means that the first time I had the opportunity to bless him was that Friday evening when we were reading Shoftim the next day. This past Friday, when I had the occasion to bless my son, it was the night before the reading of Shoftim. It was the anniversary of the first time I could perform this task.

Considering my son was born six weeks early and spent the first week of his life in the neonatal unit of the hospital because he was premature, the anniversary of this Shabbat is just a reminder of how far he has come. It also serves as a reminder of how much my wife and I have taught him, as well as the failures we have experienced as parents (as all parents do experience them) and a reminder of the lesson yet to come that we will have to teach him.

As I said, it is always special to have the opportunity to bless my son and it is one I always enjoy but this past Shabbos it was just a little more special and a little more enjoyable.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kindness To Animals

In Judaism, there is a concept of being kind to animals. It is an interesting concept that even goes as far as saying you do not eat yourself until after you have fed your animals. This is a very humane concept and I find it quite beautiful and uplifting. It is not just the issue of feeding them but overall of being humane. Judaism does not prohibit the eating of animals (as long as it is a kosher animal) and proper procedures have been followed. Those procedures are designed to treat the animal as humanely as possible. Other rules also apply.

Having recently moved into a house, I (as many people will tell you), begin to hear every sound in the house. It turns out that one of those sounds was animals in the chimney. I made some calls and am in the process of having professionals take care of the raccoons that are currently in there.

One of the things that was important to me was that they treat the animals humanely. If they animals are caught, I want them set free. If the animals do not need to be killed, I do not want them to be. Of course, I do want them out of the chimney, for my family’s protection as well as the protection of the house. If the animals become vicious and the only way to remove them is to kill them for the safety of the professionals who are doing it, I understand (and so does Judaism). But, as a home owner, I actually now have the chance to practice being kind to animals and I hope for their safe removal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shalom Bayit

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that understood the meaning and importance of Shalom Bayit. I saw all of my family members make sacrifices to keep peace in the house, to do their best to avoid aggravating other members. It is important to have peace in the house. It is where we go to relax. It is where we live and reside, work and play, relax and reflect. The house means so much, especially when it becomes a home.

The concept of Shalom Bayit now takes on additional significance for me. I am now, for the first time in my life, a home owner. It will take a lot of time and effort and energy to move stuff from our over cramped apartment into our house, but I plan on smiling the whole time.

Of course, the purchase of a house is slightly bitter sweet. I would have loved to have been able to show off the house to my parents, the ones who taught me so much, who led by example, when it came to Shalom Bayit. Unfortunately, they have both passed away (Mom about five years ago and Dad not quite two years) and, obviously, I will not be able to do that.

I have heard the sentiment that my parents are able to see the house and now of my joy. (My Dad would have even been one to say that). I understand that, appreciate it and even, to an extent, agree with it, but it is still not the same.

Still, I am thrilled to be moving in and to hopefully teach to my son the importance of Shalom Bayit with the same value it was taught to me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lesson Plams

It is time to start working on my computer lesson plans. The truth is I am behind schedule as the religious school where I am teaching wants three lesson plans in advance. This certainly is fair and I had hoped to have it done by now, but I will shortly.

I have been in touch with the teachers who are bringing their students into the computer lab and have a game plan as to how I want to proceed. As I have mentioned previously, one thing I enjoy about working in the computer lab is how it is always something different, yet still the same.

The first session I will be working with the youngest students and the teachers will be covering the fall holidays with the concentration on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I know there is a lot of material on the web related to the holidays and some things which are age appropriated.

The second session will be a fourth grade Hebrew class. This teacher is creative in that when she brings the class to the lab, rather than just working with the textbook on-line (which does exist), she likes to work with websites that teach the vocabulary for the upcoming holidays. Again, I will look to find some games related to the holidays that teach vocabulary.

The third session is a new class that is being offered and will focus on Jewish Music. I know there are a number of websites that play many different types of Jewish music, as well as ones that give a little of the history of them. Something else which is interesting is how the web radio, where you can enter different kinds of music, includes Jewish Music (and news).

I definitely have some ideas as to what I want to do. I am excited about putting the lessons together and look forward to working with the students and teachers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Compromise And No Compromise

This past weekend we did the walk-through of the house we hope to buy. We ran into a couple of issues. Most noticeably there was a problem with the furnace. The owner paid for an inspection of the furnace and the warranty. The problem was the inspection turned up a problem with the furnace and the owners did not feel they should have to put any money into fixing it, if it is beyond the amount of money the warranty covers.

We felt, as did our agent, that this is a pre-existing problem and they should take care of the whole thing. In the end, we agreed to split any cost beyond the warranty. While neither side got exactly what they wanted, in the end the art of compromise won out.

Just like buying a house, there are times, when it comes to religion, that the art of comprise is important and keeps everyone happy. There are other times, just like when you are buying a house, that there is no room for compromise, it has to be your way, or there is no deal.

There are a number of things where I let my son call the shots. Some of them even revolve around religion. For instance, if he occasionally tells me he needs a week off from shul, he can make that decision. Still, there are other decisions involving Judaism, where he has learned, there is no compromise, things have to be done our way.

Most of the time this does not become a major issue. Hopefully as he gets older, it still will not become a major problem. Who ever said parenting was easy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I recently read an article in the newspaper about a restaurant owner who is putting on a fund raiser to help a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer. The woman needed to move away from the area for treatment and that meant being away from her four-year-old and six-year old children. The restaurant owner is sponsoring a raffle to help raise money for spinal cancer research, as well as help be able to send her children to spend time with her. Check out the website at ..

As it turns out, this women was at this restaurant fairly frequently and was always looking to find a way to help other people in need and see if she could get local businesses to contribute to the cause. According to the article, the owner saw her come in and noticed she was not her usual self, so he asked her what was wrong. He decided to help out.

As I was reading this, I thought about the different levels of tzedakah, charity, the exist in Judaism. The lowest level is when the donor knows who got the donation and the person who got the donation knows who gave it. This leads to a feeling of having to pay it back.

In the news story, I do not know if the people this woman tried to help know about it. Obviously, it was not completely anonymous, because the restaurant owner knew how she had helped others. Still, it reminded me of the movie, and the book, Pay It Forward. This is about a teacher who gives his class an assignment to help three people. The idea that when doing a favor for someone, you do not expect someone to pay you back, but you want them to pay it forward, to help someone else in need when possible.

This strikes me as very much a Jewish Concept. I think, especially as we head towards the High Holidays, we need to remember the importance of helping others and hope and believe that by us helping others, the people helped will help yet other individuals in need.

We are taught that when someone saves a life, it is as if saving the entire world. To take that a step further, as many of us may not be in a position to save a life, when helping a person, it is as if you are helping the entire world.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Supplement, Not A Substitue

Well, it looks like I will not be able to get to shul tomorrow. Most of the time I am there and it really seems to help me get through the upcoming week. Saturday, however, I need to meet with someone at my home. Most of the time I can avoid a Saturday meeting, but not tomorrow.

I have been to minyan, to services, a few times this week and that does help fill the void, but for me, it is not the same. Why is it that the longest service of the week is the one that also gets the largest crowd? That has been a question that has interested me for quite some time.

Still, I will be preparing for the aliyot I will be laining in a couple of weeks, as well as the Haftorah. Hopefully practicing that, as well as looking over the weekly Torah portion will also help give me my weekly “fix” of shul.

Truth is, in this era of the internet, I can also hop on line and do a Google search (and the search engine of your choice) and find some words of Torah to take the place of a sermon. This will make a difference, but in a real sense, I am glad it does not fill the void. If it did, then this would become just another reason to become more and more removed from being directly involved.

I actually do think that is one of the challenges we have to face today. We need to make sure, with so much out there (at our fingertips) and available to us, we need to make sure people do not step away, or try to remove themselves from being directly involved with the community. This has to be used as a supplement, not a substitute to the way we currently practice out religion.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Blessing And A Curse

So, this coming week we will read Re’eh. We read about G-d setting a blessing and a curse before us. As has been commented on, this starts with the word, “See”. How often do we have blessings put in front of us and we are unaware? How often do we choose not to see the curse that is in front of us, to ignore it and just continue on? There are a lot of good things for which we should be thankful and often times we do not stop to appreciate them.

The opening sentence also switches tenses. It moves from the singular into the verbal, thus breaking the rules of grammar. It is as if G-d is making it sound as though he is talking to each one of us about the blessings and curses put before the entire community. To me, this helps drive home the message that we are all in the same boat together and need to work together.

Each one of us has a separate relation with G-d and relates differently. Each one of us, we are told, is judged on the merits of his or her own actions and ability. This is why Moses can be punished for something so seemingly innocent as striking a rock instead of talking to it (I still have major problems with this one but that is a topic for another day). Still, we are a community who needs to help each other out. Still, we are a community that suffers when just one individual sins.

Years ago I heard the story about a man on a boat who took out a drill and started to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat. One of the other passengers asked, “Hey, what are you doing”?

“Don’t worry about it,” came the reply, “I am only drilling the hole under my seat”. All passengers would still suffer the consequences.

Yes, when we are told to “See” the blessing and the curse, G-d wants it to seem as though each person is being talked to one-on-one. Still, it switches to the plural because G-d is reminding us that, while we are each judged individually, a blessing effects the entire community as does a curse.

Certainly that is what I take away from this.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jews For Jesus And Other Cults

This past weekend I took my son to one of the area street festivals. We spent a few hours there on Sunday. As we were leaving, my son pointed out a shirt that was all in Hebrew. He was very excited to see it. I did not get a close enough, or long enough look, but I was under the impression it was a shirt supporting Jews for Jesus, or some other cult organization.

I find this scary and dangerous. Here my son is proud of his Jewish identity and all excited that he found someone wearing a “Hebrew Shirt”. To think that it could be someone looking to twist things around and try to get him to believe in things that are not “Jewish” is very frustrating.

Since I was not sure about the shirt, I simply did not say anything about it. Still, at some point in the future, we will certainly have the discussion about cults. At this point of his life, he knows to appreciate our religion and to enjoy it and also to enjoy other people enjoying their religion (Jewish or not). I firmly believe this is how must adults should view things.

Since, however, not everyone shares my philosophy, and there are those who do try to proselytize, and convert others, I cannot just ignore what does happen in society.

As I said, I find it scary and even sickening when others are going to try and convince my son that “Pure Judaism” is not the answer, and whether this individual was a member of a cult or not, at some point he will end up meeting someone trying to convert him.

It is important to ground today’s youngster strongly in Judaism, to give them a Jewish identity so they have a better chance of being able to ignore those who would try to convert them

Monday, August 6, 2007

Holidays Fast Approaching

Is it too early to be thinking about the High Holidays? Why does it always seem like we have either just gotten past them or they are rapidly approaching? I guess from my perspective, once we get past Tisha B’Av, it is time to start focusing on the holidays. Now, with Rosh Hashanah a little more than a month away, I guess we can honestly say they are rapidly approaching.

While preparing for the Holidays can be time consuming and difficult in terms of figuring the time needed to take off from work, it is also exciting. I enjoy all the holidays. I remember one time making a comment to a friend, as a teenager, about how each holiday had its own flavor and was enjoyable. The friend ask, "Even Yom Kippur"?

The truth is, as far as I am concerned, "Yes, even Yom Kippur". If in the proper frame of mind, it is truly awe inspiring and even enjoyable. As was once pointed out to me, the day is actually meant to be a joyous day. The fact is we only say the She-che-che-yanu prayer on joyous occasions. It is not said on Tisha B’av, it is not said at a funeral or upon hearing that someone has passed away. On Yom Kippur, we thank G-d for enabling us to see this time.

Yes, the day can be difficult. Yes it is tiring. Yes, it is difficult getting ready for the holidays, all of them, especially for me, if they fall during the work week. Still, each holiday does have a special feel, a special flavor and excitement about it. I do look forward to experiencing each one of the upcoming holidays.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Visiting The Sick

Normally on a Sunday I take my son over to see his grandmother, my wife’s mother. Following a stroke and concern that she was no longer able to take care of herself, we moved her into an assisted living program. We wanted to make sure she was moved to an area where she had family and since there is a Jewish facility up here (Kosher Food, Jewish Events, etc) we decided to move her by us.

She still fights being there and resents it but my son is great with his grandmother and she likes seeing him most chances she gets. Just about every Sunday, I take him over to see her and she is happy to see him, he makes her day.

As far as I am concerned, this is a real mitzvah, both literally and figuratively. Visiting the sick is an important mitzvah and one we learn directly from G-d as he visits Abraham, following the circumcision,. I do not know if someone in a nursing home is truly considered being a sick individual, but to my mind, it is one in the same.

In the more general term, and less accurate, viewing a Mitzvah as a good deed, certainly my son is engaging in that and this is a very important lesson for us to teach our youngsters. I hope that this is a lesson he passes on.

Today, my son did not feeling like going over to Grandma’s. Since we are there just about all the time, I was certainly willing to give him a pass. We did call and I made sure he spoke with her. She even said to me, as per her usual routine on those rare occasions when he does not want to visit, I should not force him. How she will view this later in the week, or how she will recall it, I do not know. Still, I appreciate all he does and how he usually goes over.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


I recently met up with a friend of mine at shul the other afternoon. He was at minyan saying Kaddish for his father. Afterwards he asked me if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee and I agreed. I had a feeling he just needed to get away for a little bit and that he was having a little bit of a tough time with the yahrzeit. I agreed as I enjoy spending time with him and I thought he might need the time out.

My buddy told me he thought he did not have any trouble handling yahrzeit but his wife told him that was not the case. I began thinking how we all handle this differently. Of course there is the custom of celebrating the person’s life on the yahrziet; the reason for getting an aliyah, reading Haftorah or sponsoring a Kiddush or siyum.

When I first learned of this custom, it seemed foreign to me. I thought the Yahrzeit should be a quiet time for introspection. I think that it would probably be a tough time and not the proper time to celebrate.

While I know we all handle it differently, and I like my buddy usually have a difficult time of it, the more I think about the custom, the more I like it. It really is a wonderful idea to celebrate a person’s life. And, just like during the shivah period, when the mourner is not alone, on the Yahrziet, if you are celebrating the accomplishments of the individual who passed away, you are not alone either.

It has been my custom to read Torah on the Yahrzeit of my parents. This year, as my mother’s is approaching, I actually will be doing a little more. I will be chanting to Aliyot from Torah and I will be reading Haftorah as well. At least that is the game plan right now, so I should get started practicing.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Reaching More People

This is a paid post, sponsored by Video Conference

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy listening to sermons. The truth is the are conferences and presentations I would enjoy attending, but often time they are just to far out of the area. There is a possibility that it maybe more of a reality than one would think for me to e able to attend, without leaving my own home, thanks to video conference.

One of the nice things about this program is, only one individual needs to be running the program. If a speaker, for instance, has the video conference technology set up on his or her computer, other invited people can attend the conference or webinar. If the speaker is referring to pictures on the computer, or any other material on the computer, everyone who is invited sees it on their computer as well. While the software looks to be helpful and open up new avenues, I felt it was not so easy to find out information about the cost of such a product, just by visiting the site (although that information can ultimately be found on the site). A lot of it has to do with the version you want and can be as low as $29 a month (you decide the number of months) but the private branded version can cost around $15,000.

Video conference does provide a free trail for the personal version. It also has a live demonstration option. A little box with the picture of the person I was talking to appeared on my screen. I was able to hear him through the speakers on my computer and he could hear me through the computer’s microphone. He opened up different documents on his computer that I could see and he answered my questions. Purchasing the program includes an hour to an hour-and-a-half training. He did end the conversation asking when he could follow-up with me and I did need to enter my name, phone number and e-mail address before I could take advantage of the live demo (so if you want to remain anonymous or not get calls asking you to purchase the product, you might not want to run this). Still, it appears as though this could be a relatively inexpensive way to open up sermons, speeches and discussions to other individuals.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Hang In There, Shabbos Is Coming

It has been a long week. It just feels like I have been beating my head against a wall and fighting with everyone and everything (Not real fighting, but enough to make me exhausted). I have been fighting with my computer, fighting to meet some deadlines, and fighting with some co-workers. Nothing major and I know it will all get worked out but, I am exhausted. That is the beauty of Friday night.

I look forward to the start of Shabbat. I look forward to sitting down with my family and having an enjoyable meal. I look forward to blessing my son (something that from day one, literally, has meant a lot to me). It is all of these things, the important things, the time together, that allows me to put the current week in the past.

I still have one more day to go (one more day and a few hours technically), but it is time now to start looking ahead. I truly find Shabbat a chance to recharge the batteries and help me relax as well as get ready to face the challenges of the coming week. It would be nice if those challenges never come, but that is not realistic, so I will just take advantage of the time when it comes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A House

My wife and I are close to closing on our house. Since we have been married, we have been living in an apartment complex. I am thrilled to be moving out and think it will be good all around, for a number of reasons. Sometimes I can even surprise myself as to my thoughts.

When we started looking at houses, one thing I told my wife was, I was thrilled we would be able to build a sukkah this year, or at least put one up. It is not so easy in an apartment complex. My wife can tell you thousands of things that need to happen first, other priorities, etc., etc., etc.

For me, however, having a house signifies the ability to perform various mitzvot. I truly am looking forward to having a sukkah. We easily outgrew our apartment and thus had no room for guests. Now, with a house, shabbat guests, as well as large Passover seders are a very real possibility.

For the past few years I have thought how nice it would be to go to the Rabbi of my shul and let him know that if he was aware of a person who wanted to be somewhere for a Passover Seder, but had no where to go, my wife and I would be glad to take them in. This could be an elderly couple, a college student who had no place to go, any one of a number of different situations. Now, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching.