Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moon; step off, it's the sun's turn to be blessed

So, in case you missed it, I’m Jewish. I affiliate with Conservative Judaism, although I would define myself (admitted very dorkily that I would even define myself) as a post-denominational American Zionist. Like so many Jews of my generation, I feel that I transcend categorization, mostly because I don’t like to be told that I’m wrong. Heck. I don’t even know that I like to be told that I’m right, because I distrust anything and everything.

I guess that would make me a post denominational American Jewish Zionist skeptic.
Maybe I should start raising money for the PDAJZS. A dinner perhaps downtown? Any donors?

My theology is as follows:

Egalitarianism – (but if you don’t believe in it, fine, don’t believe in it. Whatever works for you, but don’t expect me to join your synagogue because there are good looking guys looking for wives, because I’m not going to unless you let me have an aliyah to the Torah).

Pilgrimage Every Jew should go to Israel at least once in their lives, similar to the Muslim Hajj.

Intelligent support of Israel
Supporting Israel is a critical, but that support doesn’t mean blindly endorsing Israeli policies be it from lack of some civil rights for minorities to Ultra Orthodox women sitting in the back of the buses (What is up with that?)

Life long study Jewish continuity depends on knowledge of basic traditions, life cycle events, liturgy as prayer or poetry, the Jewish Narrative (Tanak), Jewish history, Jewish culture, an understanding of Jewish practice in its realities and Judaism as it fits into the spectrum of world religions.

Hebrew The ability to access Hebrew in the text as well as in its modern usage.

What inspired me to put this on paper? Two things actually:

This satirical promotional video on Jewish ignorance

And a Jewish ritual that happens every 28 years that I just learned about called the blessing over the creation of the sun.

Every month Jews bless the new month. The sun only gets its due every 28 years. Why the sun is celebrated in this cycle is explained in the link above (although probably a learned Rabbi would explain it even better.)

The blessing goes like this:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who makes the Work of Creation.

Tradition declares that a week from Wednesday, the sun will be in the same exact place as it was during creation.

So here is my dilemma. Do I say the blessing? The sun being created on the fourth day doesn’t jibe with science. With that said, all the time I see value in religious beliefs that don’t coincide with science. It’s why I keep Passover. There’s no scientific proof of the exodus from Egypt or even the narrative, but I still scrub (or pay someone to scrub) my house and celebrate the holiday by eating two dinners and not eating certain kinds of food for a week which inevitably leads me to have one of the year’s worst stomach aches a couple of days before I binge on non Kosher pizza (vegetarian) with my brother at Pequods.

Will I say the blessing over the sun or more accurately the creation of the sun? Why not? I mean if anything deserves props from Jews or anyone else, it’s the sun, the source of life for all living things. (Plus I had a physical, and I’m in perfect health except I’m Vitamin D deficient. Why? I don’t hang out with the sun enough!)

So April 8, everybody get out of bed, stand outside and bless the fact that we are lucky enough to live on a planet that is at the perfect distance from the sun so that we can benefit from its gifts (let’s give the sun a reprieve from skin cancer next week).

And however the sun was created and however the Earth was created, we should be thankful for what we receive each day from nature and all we have to do is wake up and open the presents that are abundant in this world.

If not see you in 28 years. I wonder if I’ll have a blog when I’m 60?

Aliyah to the Torah - an honor to say the blessing over a Torah reading
Conservative Judaism - a movement in Judaism started in response to enlightenment and Jewish emancipation in Europe to modernize Judaism while keeping it in line with Jewish law.
Egalitarianism - men and women have equal opportunities to perform rituals and adhere to commandments in Judaism. Some would say equal obligation.
Passover - a holiday where you can't eat most carbs (bread, pasta, legumes) except potatoes) to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. This can mess with your digestive system because you end up eating too much Matza. Can be combated by eating many fruits and vegetables and eating Matza in Matzeration. Haha. It's also a holiday where you spring clean.

Here are some more links on this event.

My favorite is this one:

The rest of these links, I don't agree with what they are saying, but I like to listen and learn.

Orthodox Rabbi explaining it

Another Orthodox Jewish Scholar explaining it

A view on the event from people living in the holy, mystical city of Tsfat

Celebration of the Birkat Hachama 28 years ago

And here is a picture of my niece seeing her first sunrise over Lake Michigan.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

See this play in Chicago or when it comes to your town

Last night I saw the production of The Arab-Israeli Cookbook by Robin Soans at the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St.

It was a unique look at the Arab-Israeli conflict from multiple perspectives. While a criticism of the play that I read was that it works so hard at being balanced that it enters the realm of banality and fosters detachment. I strongly disagree. Or if that is so, it’s an appositive and allows the audience to gain a better understanding of the complexities of the conflict as well as Arab and Israelis own masks of aloofness when dealing about wars, assassinations, conscription, incursions and suicide bombings.

There is also a cooking element, which I enjoyed as a amateur chef, and am a fan of the food of the region. Also, each actor’s ability to play many different characters is impressive.

The play is in Chicago until April 4. Shows are Thurs-Sat at 7:30 p.m. & Sunday 3:30 p.m. For more information go to:

You can also buy the play.

Make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch

I’m trying not to make this blog too personal, but this is just too precious to not share.

Dear Sharna,

I wanted to let you know that you are the recipient of a free 6 month GOLD membership with Jretromatch a new and from what I can tell better Jewish matching service then other more familiar programs such as

You receive this membership as a result of an offer I made the congregation a couple of months ago: Anyone who made the commitment to come to daily minyan at least once a week I would offer a 6 month membership in this old-new matchmaking service - anyone single that is OR a single relative of theirs. Your dad fit that qualification and asked that you be given this opportunity.

You can find out more about Jretromatch, which is a combination on line dating and traditional matchmaking service with live match makers by going to its web page --

They have various membership levels. Yours is the GOLD level in which you will be able to talk to a professional matchmaker who will assist you in going through the profiles they have listed.

This is the first time we have tried this so please let me know : A) if or when someone from jretromatch has contacted you, they are supposed to inform you about the gift subscription and how to sign up for an account and B) if you find this service worthwhile or helpful.

I hope you don't think this is too intrusive. But for many marriage and the companionship and family life that comes with it is a desired goal and it is harder in many ways today to meet fellow Jews for this purpose then in the past. I hope this service is useful to you. If it is worthwhile you can continue on your own the service after the 6 month subscription is up, if it is not, then you can let the subscription slide. I would be very interested in hearing your impressions about the program. If it is worthwhile I will offer it to others.

Hope all is well with you. And an early Hag Pesah Sameah v'kasher.


This was the first email I received when I awoke on Thursday morning. The first thing I did was call my dad (who sort of pretended not to know about it, without saying he didn't know, to save himself from the fact that I do indeed think he knew about it). Since then I’ve been thinking about this email non stop and the fact that I have absolutely no emotional reaction to it. I’m not happy, that’s for certain, but I’m not angry getting ready to write my Rabbi an angry email about how he’s violating something or other of mine and how inappropriate it is, and the next time he sees me he better duck.

I understand his perspective. In Judaism the very first commandment is to be fruitful and multiply. I have not fulfilled, nor am I super close to fulfilling, that commandment. In Judaism, the family unit is what much of the tradition is based off of.

He also probably likes me, and thinks it’s a shanda that I’m not married.

Therefore he is proactive in supporting me in being the best Jew that I can be and also correcting the shanda that is my experience with dating, men, etc.

I’ve spoken to some friends about this, and their responses are:

“It’s free. Why not? What do you have to lose?"
"You'll at least get some good stories out of it."
“WTF???? That’s so wrong.”

I don’t know what to think. I know I’m not thrilled but I can’t exactly figure out why. Perhaps it just underscores that no matter what I do with my life the fact that I’m not married is viewed as a disability. And no matter what I do to change my own perspectives on that notion, I am constantly reminded of my failure to complete life’s mission of marriage and children.

Will I join this dating service? I don’t know. I mean besides it being irritating, I date a lot as it is. I also find that dating is like dieting. If I took the time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight combine that with the amount of time I’ve spent looking for my bashert, I could have found both a cure and a vaccine for Cancer.

What do you think?

Daily Minyan - group of 10 people (in the Conservative movement; in the Orthodox movement it’s 10 men) to make a quorum so that a complete prayer service can be held.
JDate- Jewish online dating service
Hag Pesah Sameah v'kasher Happy and Kosher Passover
bashert- the person you are destined to be with.
shanda- a shame, a travesty

POSTSCRIPT: My dad said that although the Rabbi mentioned something about this to him, he told the Rabbi to do what he wanted but not to get him (my dad) involved. That's what I sort of figured.

AIG's Bonus Round

What I think is most amusing about this mess with AIG and bonuses is the stunning negligence by both the current and previous President and our lawmakers in making provisions in the stimulus packages that would override a company’s contractual obligation to secure its executives bonuses.

Are our representative in the House and Senate working for us or are they signing bills based on partisanship or pressure?

It’s not really that shocking, I guess. No one really reads anything they agree to anymore. Hence, the mortgage crisis.

Congress: you are not there to be yes people for President Obama. You are there to represent your constituents. Even if you don’t represent our opinions, you owe it to us to read the fine print.

And to the handful of smirking Republicans who voted against the bill. You didn’t read the fine print either, so you have some explaining to do as well. You just voted against it to vote against it. Had you really wanted to look out for your constituents, you would have discovered the bonuses problem too and pointed that out to your fellow legislators and the president.

No one is immune from criticism because let’s face it, you didn’t do your job.

Ironic when unemployment is over 8 percent.

A tiny response to the Facebook Crisis of 2009

I don't really care how you change Facebook. I use it for fun. It's free. I feel like Facebook can do whatever they want.

But here is something that is really bothering me that I wanted to bring your attention to.

It's the highlights section.

You need to add a feature where I can remove a highlight.

For example, right now there is a group on my section called: “LIFE- Let's see how many pro-life people are on Facebook.”

The reason it is there is because three of my friends have joined that group.

I should be able to see that and then close it so I never have to see it again.

1. because it's aggravating
2. the picture on it (fetus) is even more aggravating.

Just another thing, imagine if I have had an abortion or miscarried (which I haven't - but speaking hypothetically), I would have to see that fetus every day.

It's really distasteful.

Thank you for your time.


Help support 42 HIV positive Orphans in Ethiopia

A woman who cared for these orphans died suddenly this week, and their plight was taken over by the Worldwide Orphans Foundation. Dollars are needed for their care and well being

Click here for more information and/or to donate.

Click here to read about Haregewoin Teferra, the woman who cared for the orphans and passed away this week.

A lovely thank you note

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let her be...

Give Bristol Palin a break.

As a teenager, she fell for a guy, had unprotected sex which resulted in a pregnancy, decided to keep the baby and try for marriage with said guy.

I’ve seen more understanding in the media for murderers and girlfriend beaters.

Here are some of the headlines I've seen about the break up:
Bristol Palin splits with ‘white trash’ Levi Johnston (Boston Herald)
OMG! Bristol and Levi are dunzo! (Christian Science Monitor - yeah I know)
Bristol Palin, fiance Levi Johnston split. Surprised? (LA Times)
Bristol Palin and Her Baby Daddy Break Up (E Online)
Bristol Palin Dumps Sex on Skates! (New York Magazine)

Put yourself in her shoes. Her mom, out of left field, ran for vice president while she, a pregnant teen, was shoved into the international spotlight wearing maternity clothes and then shoved back to the family compound to avoid embarrassing the campaign.

Governor Sarah Palin, sadly, used her own daughter to promote her flawed so called family values agenda. The abstinence only education that Governor Palin touts is totally ridiculous, but it’s unfair that Bristol Palin will be lampooned for the governor’s inadequacies both as a reasonable thinker and as a mother.

You can choose your Vice President, but you can’t choose your mother.

And hopefully Bristol will be a better mother to her son and empower him with sex education so that he will have his first child when he is ready.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chris Brown's side of the story doesn't matter. Here's why.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bazaaro version of reality when I listen to the news. I felt that way when President Bush would talk about WMDs in Iraq or how stem cell transplants were immoral.

This alternative universe seems to continue as the Chris Brown and Rihanna saga continues with the couple reportedly spotted together.

Who knows what's true in these reports? They could be halfway around the world from each other. However, what's most disturbing is the lack of absolute condemnation of the violence.

It is appropriate, usually, to look at situations analytically. To understand both sides. To see different points of views.

However, this methodology does not work universally and can lead to moral and ethical paralysis as it has in the response to Chris Brown alleged violence against Rihanna.

The music community and the entertainment industry must emphatically condemn domestic violence, and condemn it now.

"Everyone makes mistakes" just doesn't cut it in this situation. His act was intolerable and although every effort should be made to get him psychological help and keep her safe from him (and herself), excuses are meaningless. They are basically two young people barely in their 20s (with a lot of money) enmeshed in a dysfunctional relationship. There are people in the music community who have much power and resources to help motivate these two to move forward with their lives without each other and without the abuse while inspiring others in their situation to do the same.

How can this situation and the lack of outrage (think about it has there been outrage or curiosity) not affect young people and their views on violence in relationships?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Females ages 20 to 24 were at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence."

Instead of focusing on learning Chris Brown's side of the story, why not use this as a chance to empower young men and women to understand that violence in relationships is never an answer and offer them resources to prevent attacks.

Such resources can be found at

Monday, March 2, 2009

10 compelling news pieces for your enjoyment

I don’t know if you get overwhelmed by the number of articles and news segments on the internet and end up reading less than you would like. Here are some news articles (and video/audio) from this week that I found compelling. Please feel free to post your own.

1. My favorite columnist Thomas Friedman explains why Hillary Clinton is demonstrating strength rather than weakness by appointing super undersecretaries of state.

2. Question: Has a new eating disorder has evolved from the health food craze or is just a new manifestation of OCD.

3. and anti anorexia web sites emerging to fight the pro anorexia ones.

4. Jeff Bezos, founder of CEO, explains why Amazon is thriving in the failing economy. His upbeat message made me hopeful.

5. Paul Harvey's voice will be forever embedded in my audio memory. He died this week at age 90. Good Day, Mr. Harvey.

6. Father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl comments on the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses

7. A new Multiple Sclerosis Drug may help some sufferers of the disease walk.

8. Remember Kosovo? Convictions were issued (and not) last week in war crimes trials.

9. You know it’s bad when Mr. Wiesel hates you.

10. Stop trying to be so damn happy, and you’ll be happy.