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How Summer Can Fool You- The Spinning Wheel of Tisha B’Av and Chanukkah

Chanukkah kept coming to my mind.  Even when the rabbi said that, “Tisha B’Av is a a fast day like Yom Kippur and a day of restrictions like shiva,” images of menorahs in the window were in my head.

Yes, in the midst of the most depressing holiday on the Jewish calendar, the concepts of Tisha B’Av’s timing and focus on space hearken me back to Chanukkah.

Time

In the middle of the winter, darkness pervades our lives.  Days are short and it is not unusual to experience some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where moodiness and depression emerge due to the sparse commodity of sunlight. LIke in many other religions, we, as Jews, celebrate a holiday to addresses those doldrums-- Chanukkah. Among the many lessons that Chanukkah, the Festival of Lights, teaches us is that even a little bit of light can chase away the darkness.  In the time of year where we can lose hope, comes Chanukkah to teach us that the spirit of positivity, of hope and of light is always present even when it seems fa…
To Follow the Ari’s Advice--In Conscience and in Direction


R. Isaac Luria, otherwise known as the Ari z’l, used to say that, even before tefila or ritual, every day should be started by accepting upon oneself the mitzvah of
 ואהבת לרעך כמוך -- the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself.

As parents and as educators, we should remind our children -that all of our learning and actions should lead us to that goal of empathy. But how do we get there? What brings us to the realization of this mitzvah?

Sometimes that means to follow the heart and feelings.  Sometimes it means to follow the head and thoughts.  But it always means to follow our moral muscle, to follow our conscience.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he or she must take it because conscience tells her or him that it is right.”

The central path toward the goal of empathy is to follow the conscience --- it will for sure wil…
Makor MiMakor מקור ממקור  A New Lens on My Blog
Shvuot: To Swear on Seven:
A Shavuot Conversation with the Bronx Senior Center

This blog model is called “Makor MiMakor”--the source from the source.  Every month or so, I will share a piece of Torah or a quote or article (the Makor)  that I learned with a member of the Kinneret community-- either a group of students, teachers, parents or senior citizens from our school’s intergenerational learning program (A Makor). I will then share their thoughts and reactions and conclude with a brief takeaway from that conversation.  This blog’s subject is about the mitzvah of tochekah—of giving criticism.

The Makor:
R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch on Gen. 21:23-
'R. Hirsch points out that the word  הִשָּׁבְעָה “seems to be formed from הִשָּׁבְעָ meaning seven and in its reflexive form, would mean literally “to give oneself up to the seven.”  As the world was created in 6 days and on Shabbat, God rested, the number seven refers to God and the holy.  “N…
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A New Lens on the Blog : Makor MiMakor מקור ממקור   Tochekah: To Criticize or Be Criticized:  An 8th Grade Conversation in Room 108

I remember once sitting in a silent classroom, with nothing but  the Tanakah sitting at the front teacher’s desk.  “The Tanakh,” the Professor said half jokingly and half seriously, “says nothing.” This exercise was to teach us that our sources and our Torah speaks to us, only when we engage with them. 
It is in that spirit that I try a new blog model called “Makor MiMakor”--the source from the source.  Every month or so, I will share a piece of Torah or a quote or article (The Makor)  that I learned with a member of the Kinneret community-- either a group of students, teachers, parents or senior citizens from our school’s inter-generational learning program (A Makor). I will then share their thoughts and reactions and conclude with a brief takeaway from that conversation.  This blog’s subject is about the mitzvah of tochekah—of giving criticism.

The Makor:…
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Whipped Cream, Card Games, and Important Lessons from Life and the Aftermath  from our Holy 6th Grade
“If you could have witnessed one miracle from the Pesach Story, what would it have been?” That was this week’s Question of the Week at the famed Cafe Frank.
Yes, this year I have the wonderful opportunity to run a small cafe every Friday out of my office. Our amazing Hebrew teacher, Hanita, sends four students to my office for cookies, hot cocoa, and whipped cream for a discussion all in Hebrew about life.
Expecting to hear answers such as the Ten Plagues, Moses’s stick changing into a snake, or other amazing Passover miracles, two of the answers made me think most as they helped me to frame a central idea of life.
The first student said  that she would have liked to have witnessed “Kryiat Yam Suf”--the great splitting of the sea. This was the moment of such miraculous nature, where, according to the midrash, even “a handmaid saw what [the prophet] Ezekiel, did not see.” – (Mechilta …
Florida Teens, Shushanites and Two-Way Wordlessness:
Two Mini Blogs for Purim

First Blog: Florida Teens and Shushanites: The Power of the Moment is Sometimes Felt by the Most Unlikely

While we were cooking for Shabbat last week, my wife said, “Maybe Emma Gonzalez is the next Rosa Parks.”  And while I sort of laughed that off, maybe I shouldn’t have.

In a world where fighting and bickering among politicians has led to an increasingly frustrating lack of progress, Emma Gonzalez, the survivor of the tragic shooting in Florida, has stood up and said “enough.” Calling out adults and telling them that they are behaving “like children,” this  teenager has been the one that has moved people from both sides of the aisle to realize that we have to make change. She has become representative of the movers of this moment, the youth that has to identified this moment and seized it.

Something similar happened in Shushan.  In his thoughts about Purim, R. Zevin quotes Tehilim 98:3 which states, ,רָאוּ …
The Great Big Sort:
The Wonderful Blessing and Terrifying Danger of the Time in Which We Live


They gave out lettuce.
Yes, one time, someone I know, got lettuce from a neighbor as a trick or treat food.  Not owing to make lots of friends and not the most neighborly thing to do.

There is a Chinese proverb that says that “A good neighbor is like a priceless treasure.”  Well, lettuce on Halloween, may not be so priceless, but we all know how priceless a good neighbor can be.  From the big moments in life, to the day-to-day routine, supportive people who share your life and neighborhood make a big difference.

And Rebbi Yose feels the same.   In Pirkei Avot 2:9 he tells us that the good path of life is being a
 שכן טוב --a good neighbor.  R. Lau, in his commentary, tells us that this means that we should choose where we live  with great care, making sure we are surrounding ourselves with a proper environment. He shares the famous quote: “You can give me gold and silver, but I would not trad…