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Ekev: Habitude of Gratitude

August 20, 2016 – 10:50 pm | 23 views

Grace After Meals
If you have even a nominal Jewish education, from day school, summer camp or home, you know that Judaism is a habitude of gratitude. When we awaken, we share words of gratitude, before and after we eat, once again gratitude. Before we go to sleep, some more gratitude.
Yes, …

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Olympians Defy Game Spirit and Embrace Human Spirit

August 17, 2016 – 10:24 pm |

When Soul Trumps Sport

The world media loved it. The LA Times ran a headline “Runners Abbey D’Agostino, Nikki Hamblin are the real winners in Rio.” Indeed, they are the real winners. They really did win gold.

Here is how it happened.

Long distance runner Abbey D’Agostino, of Topsfield, Mass., collided with Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand about 3,200 meters into the race. The spirit of the race would have demanded that the contestants each get up and resume their race to the finish. Any moment wasted forfeits the race. Yet, when D’Agostino noticed Hamblin lying uncomfortably on the ground, she paused and spent a precious moment encouraging a rival she had never met. She put a hand on Hamblin’s shoulder and said, “get up get up, we have to finish this.”

Hamblin heeded the summons and pulled herself up. By now you would think that Hamblin would be off to the races and running, but no. Out of her periphery she noticed D’Agostino ambling painfully. Now it was Hamblin’s turn. She stopped to help her benefactor. D’Agostino encouraged her to run on, but she wouldn’t hear of it. They ambled along the track together and D’Agostino came in last. Hamblin passed the finish line only seconds ahead of her newfound friend.

But they didn’t come in last. They came in first.

This is not what the ancient Olympics were all about. The ancient Greeks established these games to prove physical prowess and perfection. The games were all about gaining a competitive edge and emerging victorious. Surrendering glory for the sake of humanity was a sign of weakness. This was precisely why the Greeks and Macabees clashed. It wasn’t merely a struggle over land. It was a struggle over conflicting weltanschauungs.

Today we have two Olympians who showed the world that the soul is more important than the flesh. Character is more important than medals. The spirit trumps the sport any day, any time. The human connection they forged on that track is their gold medal. The runner who crossed the finish line first will be forgotten tomorrow. This triumph, however, will be lauded for years.

If you ask me, the Olympics Committee should present a specially minted medal at the games closing ceremonies to these two athletes that transcended the games.

Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin: Theirs was not the quickest time; theirs was for all time.

and Embrace Human Spirit

Vaetchanan: Pay Attention

August 15, 2016 – 11:49 pm |

Shema Yisrael
The best known verse in the Torah is the declaration of Jewish faith, Shema Yisrael, “hear O’ Israel, G-d is our Lord G-d is one.”[1] It is part of our liturgy and is recited four times a day. It is the verse with which countless Jews faced their death …

Vaetchanan: A Woman’s Comfort

August 15, 2016 – 11:45 pm |

Just before I sat down to write this essay, I tucked my daughter Rochel into bed. As I walked into her room, she was struggling with pillows, blankets and a comforter that were way too large for her to maneuver. I offered to help, but she declined. I realized that …

D’varim: How Good Is Good?

August 6, 2016 – 11:57 pm |
unity - innerstream

When More Is Less
There is an old saying, “if good is good, is better not better?” Contrast that with the saying, “everything is good, but only in moderation.” Which is true?
Ice cream is good, but too much of it gives you a stomach ache. Vacations are good, but too much …

Devarim: It Is Not About You

August 6, 2016 – 11:52 pm |

Two things drastically different events are taking place this week. Jews around the world are mourning the Temple that was destroyed in 69 BCE and Olympians from around the world are competing for gold medals. What is the connection between them? Both have learned the secret to life: It is …

Masei: Back to Basics

July 31, 2016 – 12:00 am |

Basics of LIfe
Are you still in touch with your grade school teachers; the ones that taught you the basics and laid your foundation for life? If you were like me, you looked down on your first grade teacher by the time you reached second grade. He was still in first, …

Matot: Jewish Custom

July 30, 2016 – 11:48 pm |

Importance of Custom
One of the common refrains I hear as a rabbi are the words, “Oh, it’s just a custom. We don’t need to keep every custom.” The supposition is that Jewish law is binding, but customs are arbitrary. One can adopt them or reject them at will.

Pinchas: A Broken Whole

July 24, 2016 – 10:58 pm |

The Holy Donut
The old saying goes, there is nothing more complete than a broken heart. Sometimes to make something complete, you need to break it. You can’t make a donut unless you punch a hole in it. With a hole, it is whole. Refill the hole and you lost the …

Pinchas: From Tragedy to Joy

July 24, 2016 – 10:54 pm |

More Tragedy
As the summer months arrived, we learned of more black lives killed by police shootings. After the rash of police shootings last summer and the resultant furor, we would have expected the police to introduce responsible measures to reduce tragedy, but whatever measures were taken, were simply not enough. …