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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…
A Blogpost Sponsored by the Letter B

While my kids have left the world of daily Sesame Street watching, Sesame videos are still affectionately played at my home.

One of my favorite Sesame Street songs is one modeled after the famous Beatles song, “Let it Be.”  In this skit, four muppet beetles are playing similar chords to the rock classic, singing, “Letter B, letter B...”

The letter B has lots of connotations, but this summer, after reading both Option B by Cheryl Sandberg and Lost at School, by Ross Greene, the following Websters’ definition of this second letter of the alphabet, resonated-- “one designated b especially as the second in order or class --I chose option b.”  Here’s why...

The lesson of “Option B”- Sheryl Sandberg, tech executive and best selling author of Lean In experienced a terrible tragedy when her husband died suddenly at age 47  in a hotel gym in Punta Mita, Mexico in 2015.  Her book, Option B has its roots in a story that she shares in the book and on her web…
The Most Sacred Corner Office: Lessons in Parenting from the Business Shelf

The New York Times “Corner Office” column presents weekly lessons from business leaders on how to lead and succeed. Over the years, this, in addition to leadership books, have helped me in the lifelong quest to become a more reflective and quality leader.

One of the books I read this summer is called Radical Candor which was recommended to me by one of our teachers.  It is a book that is about improving as a boss and a team builder by combining caring for others and directly challenging them to grow at the same time.

Interestingly, while reading it with a professional lens, my lens as a parent kept on creeping in.  This is because so many of the lessons about being a good supervisor equally apply to being a good parent.
-Good supervisors want to guide toward success with care. So do good parents.
-Good supervisors want the constituents to bring out the best in one another. So do good parents. It was in the c…
Critical Yeast-A Message to the Class of 2017

To the class of 2017, if I had to think of one thing that I want to do before you officially graduate, it is to give you a blessing.  Yes, a blessing, not one of a blessed day, or a blessed life but for tonight, I want you to have the blessing of yeast.  Yes, yeast -- the stuff that makes bread rise--I give you the blessing of critical yeast.  
 You see you will be told in life, that in order to truly make an impact, you will need a critical mass--lots of people, big places, big jobs, big bucks--things  on a grand scale.  But waiting for a big stage is a tall order and that may be a wait that can last forever.  
 But theologian and thinker, John Lederbach, points out that to truly make an impact, to make change, we need people to act like yeast.*  Why yeast?
 Yeast has to move and mingle with the dough to have an impact.  It is kneaded and mixed into the mass and has “capacity to generate growth in others.”
Class of 2017, get involved with othe…
Coffee, Wine, Good Friends and the Message of the First Line

For my last birthday, I was given the gift of an evening with Jim Gaffigan.  One of the greatest takeaways from the evening when he said that the older he gets, the more he looks at coffee and wine as his good friends.  

Coffee tells him, “Go get ‘em. You can do it!”   Wine figuratively puts it’s arm around him and says, “It will be ok. Better luck next time.”  

With Gaffigan’s lenses, it is no secret why coffee is most associated with morning and wine is more associated with night time.  In the morning, the day is bright. We begin with a clean slate, Optimism reigns. A new day lies ahead.  

The Shacharit tefilah reflects this tone as well. When we say אלקי נשמה - we thank God for giving our soul back to us after we sleep.  We also recite the praise of God who renews each day with goodness and opportunity, בטובו  מחדש בכל יום תמיד.  The siddur tells us to go out to the world and make a difference.  

And at the end of each “new da…