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…
Holiday Windows, Cups and Scrolls-Chanukkah Lessons from the Miraculous "Big Three"

It’s that time of year again. The time of windows.  People make the trek to Manhattan to look at windows--- Macy’s windows, Bloomingdale’s windows and even pizza shop windows give stores the opportunities to show all passersby that they are in the spirit of the season, whether it be commercially, spiritually, or both.  

And for us, as Chanukkah approaches, windows become central as well.  This is because the central mitzvah of Chanukkah, lighting the Chanukiah, must be done so all who pass by can see, (Shababt 21b) Each night we must either place the Chanukiah by the door or by the window fulfilling the principle of pirsumei nissa, publicizing the miracle. (Megilla 3b, 18a, Pesachim 108b and Brachot 14a)

The obligation to publicize the miracle appears in the Talmud most prominently 3 other times.  It is found when discussing the reading of the Megillah on Purim,, the drinking of the 4 cups on Pe…
We are All Away, We are All Home and We are All Bozos on the Bus

We sometimes talk to people. We sometimes talk to pets and these days we often talk to Siri and Alexa.  And in Judaism, we sometimes talk to books.  Whether it be a tractate of Talmud or an order of the Mishnah, upon completion, we say the hadran. The hadran, is a promise given.  In a sense, we talk to the book and say, “We will return to you.”

It is in these weeks that we return to the story of Avraham and to one of the most profound statements of identity that he makes.  And every year, the more I experience life in the halls of school and beyond,  his statement rings more true.  He identifies himself as a ger v’toshav , both a stranger and a dweller (Gen 32:4).   Even after years of success in the region, he still feels like a stranger.  And while he is saying this to Bnei Chet, I think Avraham, himself, feels like both a ger and a toshav - as it is a deep seeded reality of the human condition.

Our children, our stude…
The Emendation of a Parting Gift
When I moved from Baltimore to New York three years ago, a friend of mine gave me a gift of a plaque that said, “Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.”
This quote was originally coined by George Bernard Shaw and most likely connected to the theme of his play, Pygmalion.
In spending time reflecting on the themes of the chagim this year, and especially on those of Shabbat Shuva, for some reason, this quote kept playing in my mind and I have come to look at it with different lenses.
The Haftarah for Shabbat Shuva comes from the 8th Century prophet, Hosea.  He begins by saying, (14:2)
(ב) שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד ה אֱלֹ-הֶ֑יךָ כִּ֥י כָשַׁ֖לְתָּ בַּעֲוֺנֶֽךָ
Return, O Israel, toward the LORD your God, For you have fallen because of your sin.
We are to return towards the Lord and this return, according to Rabbi Yehuda Kil is a return to our origins--a going back to the roots of our relationship with God.  He says that the messa…
When our Kids “Beat” Us

It has become a summer ritual.  The “Jerusalem Marathon.” Each August on the second Sunday, I visit the summer camp where my wife works and my son attends.  Around that time, the camp holds a camp wide run with official scorers, numbers and timers.

I began running in this run and in others with my son a few years back.  He is now almost 16.  The first few races we did together, I had to slow down significantly just to make sure he was safe.  As the years went on, we ran together, but I still had a faster time.  

And this year, when asked if I was running with him, I told people, “I can no longer run with him, he has far surpassed me.” Just like my other children who have far surpassed me in their acting, singing, learning and moral abilities, in the father son race, he has won.  

In the Talmud there is a famous story about a Torah “father/son” dynamic.  In Bava Metzia 59b, a heated discussion about a technical point of Jewish law is found.  There is one single opi…