Sunday, April 5, 2020

Shopping for Corona or Seder?

Shout out to Rebecca Obedian who shared this with me. It is an excellent question? Do we fill out houses with the storable hametz that will see us through the pandemic or do we clear our houses of leaven and get ready for Passover.

My Three Thoughts

  1. Get Corona supplies! Now is not the time to focus on the strictures of Passover.  Now is the time to make sure you have enough supplies that you have to leave the house in the most limited way possible.  Health first!You can still sell your chametz here and then it will be available for you after the holiday. 
  2. On the other hand... Is this so much worse than the many plagues, pogroms, and slaveries the Jewish people have endured.  If they could attempt to celebrate passover in the camps surely we can do with less and make it work. Perhaps this is exactly the moment to test our resolve. Perhaps we should clean house despite the pandemic and show ourselves what really matters!
  3. On the other other hand... perhaps these should be two conflicting values that we hold onto at the same time.  We could buy supplies but make sure to donate some of them to a local food pantry. We could still set them aside and have a full passover.  Perhaps it is in this balance that we show ourselves and the world exactly what Judaism has to offer. We accept and interact with the world as it is, but we also struggle and dream of the world as it could be.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Are we really Zooming?

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I saw this on facebook and I suddenly felt seen! Here are my three thoughts on spending my life in zoom.

  1. We live in amazing times.  At this point its mostly cliche to praise all of the technology at our fingertips but I just can't help to be amazed at this relatively inexpensive, (not free and still hard to access for so many in this country), high powered, and functional communication infrastructure that exists.  The number of cables, satelites, wireless towers, server farms, coders, and companies involved in making this reality so that i click a button and can see so many people it is unsafe to see otherwise is nothing short of miraculous. 
  2. It still sucks! Yes, it's amazing and awe inspiring.  Yes, it's better than nothing. Yes, it even begs the question of how many in person meetings are really necessary.  Yet, with all of those truths it still sucks.  It is impersonal, it is hard in a group to get a word in edgewise.  Two dimensions loses all the depth of 3 dimensions.  It loses the ability to flow smoothly between different sub groups.  It is very often functional, it communicates information, it reminds others that you care but it just isn't the same. On top of that is very often like wanting a real pina colada and being given a virgin pina colada.  (this is kind of a footnote but i've done a couple of meetings that were "lunch" meetings.  It is truly unpleasant to watch myself eat)
  3. Now that I've told you how amazing I think it is and I've confessed just how unsatisfactory it all is where does that leave me? Zoom leaves me every day fighting to stay in the "gratitude" space.  It leaves me spending way too much time thinking about who should be muted when and other such nonsense.  It leaves me challenged.  I know how lucky I am in so many ways.  Can the frustrations of this "distancing" be ignored? Can I continue to wake up in the morning and look at the world and feel blessed.  I hope so!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Matzah -- not to crumby!

GRAB LIFE BY THE MATZAH BALLS Just Do It ✔️ Passover | Just Do ...

I just taught a class last night that you can watch here: In it I have kind of fallen in love with Matzah.  Not the taste.  Only my grandfather and my non-Jewish friends in public high school like the taste of matzah.  But the meaning. Here are my three thoughts.

  1. Matzah is both the bread of affliction and the bread of redemption.  We eat the bread because we left without time for it to rise and it was the bread we ate while we were slaves.  While this is obviously contradictory it seems inherently true. The thing that makes us feel the most free is the thing most likely to "enslave" us.  Whatever that thing is we will want more and more until it is the only thing in our life.  matzah is a reminder to balance.  It is a statement that having only one purpose is not enough in life. 
  2. Matzah is the ultimate statement of faith!  God says get out of Egypt now don't even let the bread rise and people just get up and go.  Am I that ready for important opportunities when they come? Do I have that kind of foresight? matzah is deliberately ridiculous to remind me to keep my mind open
  3. I can't stand matzah, i mean just writing this makes all the saliva in my mouth flee.  Yet, doing these 8 days each year is a also a reminder not to be bounded by my likes and dislikes.  comfort allows you to make yourself quite frail.  Passover, and matzah specifically, reminds me of the importance of some grit in life.  Each terrible bite is a reminder that you know what my ancestors went through way worse stuff than i did.  I'm going to be okay. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Miracles, do you believe?

Cupcakes Are Muffins That Believed In Miracles

The outstanding author Brenda Janowitz shared the above quote on facebook today and it inspired my three things of the day.

  1. My first thought is that i usually think of this in reverse.  Muffins are the clever cake that convinced you it was an appropriate breakfast food.  Miracles are always amazing but are actually dependent on your perspective.  What Egypt have used the world "miracle" to describe the splitting of the sea. it makes me ask, what is a miracle for you? 
  2. I love this idea because it implies that we are all just a little frosting away from being a "miracle."  The space between regular and fabulous is so small.  What am I doing today to add some "frosting" too my life? what regular activities or moments am I going to add a little razzle dazzle to in order to make them miracles.  
  3. This is is the whole passover story in one quote! The whole passover story can be shrunk down to a responsibility to look at a dark and broken world and believe that the world could be better! To believe that we have to find the frosting and the candle to take our lives to the next level. 
Comment below and share how you are ready to make yourself into a "miracle!"

Thursday, March 26, 2020


I have seen pictures on facebook, what’s app chats, and in the background of zoom with everyone’s schedules. And all I can say is Oy!  We have our own schedules of course.  In the beginning, in order to balance all of our slightly variant schedules we had to have it broken down in 15 minute chunks.  We had to squeeze to get it to be on the same page.  Here are my three thoughts on schedules

  1. Schedules are deeply Jewish! Our entire system of mitzvot prioritizes keva set times.  In fact, if you search the internet for zmanim you will get a detailed list of various times for halachic purposes. Perhaps all of these schedules can help us connect to our Jewish schedules too. 
  2. Our history is also full of those rebelling against all of the keva. The original hassidim were rebels fighting against all of the extra set prayers and observances and hoping to be out in the world with people.  Our movements of today are all various responses to a world of freedom and a restrictive Jewish schedule.  Or as my college professor said to me when i told her I would be out for Simchat torah “again! Another holiday!.” Perhaps all of these schedules are a reminder to push past the set times and still find time for spontaneity and newness. What are you doing each day to break those tentative schedules to find something exciting that was unplanned!
  3. God, (and I use the word with its full weight) Please let it be soon that we go back to someone else making up the majority of our schedules.  I have new respect for all of the things that must be balanced, squeezed in, and taken into account.  I miss school and regular work sooo much!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stop. insert name. It's all Good

Stop. insert name. It's all Good

Last night I was texting with the co-chairs of a task force in the synagogue.  these two are outstanding lay leaders and they were texting me with how we could possibly go forward in this crazy time.  It came to the end and there were two jobs for the three of us.  The person who wound up without any responsibilities was feeling bad and the person who took up one of the responsibilities wrote back "Stop. the person's name. It's all Good."  Here is one thing for each of these gloriously brief, deep, and beautiful sentences.

  1. Stop.  It's a whole sentence. It's a way of life.  So often the negative parts of our life are because of inertia. We allow ourselves to get caught in a cycle or a paradigm that we could break out of if just said to ourselves, "stop." 
  2. your name!  I am a lover of fantasy books.  In every world that has magic one's name has intense magical powers.  Indeed, in real life it seems the same.  People could be talking all around you and you not hearing a single coherent word until someone says your name.  Let your name have the power for good! let it shake you, let it give you power over you life. 
  3. "Its all Good." my favorite part about this short sentence is that its a total lie! By any objective measurement it is not "all good." The world is a giant mess! However, the greatest truth and secret of the universe, the greatest law of nature, the truest form of being is "fake it till you make it." Smile because it will remind your body to feel happy.  say "it's all good." because it will let you see the blessing hiding amidst all the brokenness.  It is not "all good." but by God we can try and live like it is.  
Stop. You! It's all Good.

Monday, March 23, 2020

I just found out I know people who have tested positive for coronavirus.  By and large, thank God, they are okay. They are quarantined. It put real faces on this graph and numbers story I've been watching.  It reminds me of a classic version of the "trolley" conundrum.  If you are standing at the trolley switch and it is headed straight for ten people you don't know what do you do? If you pull the lever the trolley will change tracks but on the other track is one person you know well.  who do you save? In other words, why does it matter if you know the person? Isn't a life a life.  Here are my three thoughts.

1. Maimonides makes clear that it is a mitzvah commandment of the highest importance to use every effort to extend someone's life, even for a few breaths.  If a building falls on shabbat and you think maybe someone is under he argues you have to violate all of shabbat on the hint that maybe someone is there. This might seem obvious to some of you reading this but to the rabbis this is a radical declaration.  Shabbat is one of the ten commandments explicitly laid out in the Torah. From this I learn that it should not matter if you know the person or not. 

2. OF COURSE IT MATTERS! All of western civilization, every movie that I love, any one's moral compass tell us that you save the one you love first. That putting a personal face on a problem makes the problem real and visceral in a way that affects how we act.  From a Creation standpoint this is a terrible way to create people.  Shouldn't God have made us equally compassionate for all? Yet there is something essential to human existence that we pick people to be our people, and that we stick up for them over others. 

3. It seems to me if you focus only on one or the other you get lost.  If you completely focus on the collective you will lose your sense of humanity.  You are the general that callously orders soldiers to their death without understanding the terrible sacrifice.  but, if you are the person that only looks out for your people and everyone else be damned you help create a system of those who matter and those who don't.  Yes, it makes the virus more real, but I hope it only reminds me how important the big picture is.  I hope I can hold onto the idea that the overall plan and saving the whole society is what matters but that I can doubly share myself and my heart with those that I know.

Kol Tuv,