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Showing posts from 2017
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…
Why “Been There, Done That” Has No Place at the Seder*

It seems that they have it all--smarts, wisdom and understanding.  In Sefer Devarim (1:13), when Moshe can’t do it alone, he is told to take  אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבֹנִים, וִידֻעִים, “men of wisdom, understanding and knowledge” to help out.  People with all of that on their side have the goods to make a just society.

Furthermore, when God wanted to appoint artists to design the mishkan, these characteristics were also enough.  We are told that God commanded to take Betsalel, because he was filled with  בְּחָכְמָה וּבִתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.” (Exodus 31:3)

These types of people are ones that already know the ways of Hashem, know the purpose of mitzvot, and also know what is going to come in the next pasuk.  (Avudraham). Their attendance at the Seder could possible be a disaster.  I could just see trying to tell these people the story of Pesach.  I could just imagine asking one of them to recite “Avadi…
Shabbat Zachor 2017-Doubt that Freezes and Doubt that Frees

This year, sadly, there is no shortage of thoughts that come to mind when I think of Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat where we remember our enemy, Amalek.  In a world of increasing hate crimes and finger pointing, the importance of calling out evil is very much alive..  

Yet, for some reason, it is a gematria related to the word Amalek that has me thinking most.  The numerical of the word עמלק which is 240, is the same numerical value as the word ספק, the word for doubt.  It is doubt that we must obliterate this Shabbat.  

R. Steinsaltz, writes in his book   Change and Renewal, that just like the physical enemy of Amalek that threatened the existence of our people, doubt threatens us individually in a different way.  “Amalek seeks to encourage and perpetuate doubt and thus attempts to halt any effort to deal with doubt and resolve it.”  In this way, the evil is the existence of “permanent skepticism.” (pp. 200-201)   Getting rid of d…
Approaching the Bar and Moving it as We Go

It was the season of the High Holidays a few years ago.  After many days of reciting slichot, the special prayers for forgiveness, someone turned to me and paraphrased the famous line from “Love Story” and asked, “I know love is not never having to say I’m sorry, but do I always have to say I’m sorry?”  

The truth is that, even months and months after the High Holidays, we Jews are in a perpetual state of asking for forgiveness and working toward repentance.  Three times daily, we praise God for being open to our change by reciting the bracha of הרוצה בתשובה  and three times daily, we ask for forgiveness when we say סלח לנו .  

How is it that 6 times a day, we cannot get it right?  How can it be that behaving the way we should is so elusive that we have to mention it so often throughout the day?  

The first and most common answer is that no matter how hard we try, we will never hit the standard we want and that God wants from us.  This approach i…
Making our Private School Bubbles Broader Public Squares

I have often heard from teachers, students and parents that Jewish Day School is a “bubble.”  On the one hand, this term is used affectionately in that the bubble is a safe, warm space, with shared values and a shared outlook--a space where we gain strength as a school community.  

But the bubble is also seen by many as dangerous.  It can be a place that perpetuates insularity and can lead to narrow and skewed views.  So much so that students often talk about becoming free and leaving the bubble.

And certainly we need to move beyond our bubbles, or, as some have called them, our silos.  We need to understand that “it’s important to resist the temptation to surround ourselves almost exclusively with like-minded people, those who reinforce our pre-existing views and biases.”(Commentary, “Living in Ideological Silos”)  

The place where we need to go is into more public spaces.  Places where, as Parker Palmer points out, “our relations …