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The Edible Torah

 

Posts Tagged ‘blogelul’

Blogelul Day 26: Hope

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.

blogelulWhat, exactly, is “hope”. Is it the same thing as a wish? As more than a dream but less than a want? Is hope a fervent prayer, but one which you aren’t sure will be answered (or at least, answered positively)?

It’s a funny kind of word.

Saying “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow” conveys a completely different emotion than hearing about someone who found a way to “keep hope alive in difficult circumstances”.

But in each case I could think of, hope was self-focused. Hope is always the verb that is done by the main subject.

And in this month of Elul, it’s entirely appropriate to think that way. To send our praise and gratitude heavenward accompanied by a small packet of requests – hopes for the future, our hopes for those around us, and of course hopes for ourselves.

But I’d like to suggestion that we also have an opportunity – in these last few moments before the Days of Awe are upon us – to BE hope. To notice those around us who hope for better. I’m not referring to tzedakah, although there’s plenty of opportunity for that as well.

I’m talking about a chance to offer friendship, or help, or expertise. Those things which could make a difference to them and don’t really cost you anything.

Look around you and you may be surprised how easy it is to notice the things people hope about.

And in that moment, as you find that you have at your disposal the means to give hope to someone else, you may find you have tapped into something primal and awesome.

And may you find, as you stand before the Eternal Source of Hope, that those things you wished and dreamed and desired and prayed about – those hopes – are fulfilled as well.

BlogElul Day 25: Begin

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulYesterday, I asked you what you would stop doing, so that you had room to start something new (and hopefully better). Today, I’m asking the flip-side of the question:
What will you start?

If you haven’t taken the time to consider that thought fully, here’s a list of questions to get you started:

  • I have time to start __________
  • I DON’T have time to start _____________
  • I would be better off if I began ___________
  • I may not make it another year if I don’t begin to ________
  • I’m not ready to start ________
  • I need help to begin ______

BlogElul Day 24: End

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulThere is now less than a week before our day in court. Less than a week to consider our behavior, and begin to put in place whatever changes we see are needed.

One of the challenges to any change is having the capacity to make it. I’ve yet to meet someone who says, in all seriousness and for any length of time, “Oh, I really don’t have enough on my plate. I could use a few more things to do.”

So you need to make room. You need to stop one thing, in order to be able to start another.

I’m not going to go on here. I’m ending this post early, with the hope that you use the remainder of the time you had (conciously or not) allocated to reading here.

So, what will you end, so that you can start?

BlogElul Day 23: Love

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulFor most of my career, I’ve been fortunate that large parts of my work day have been engaging, challenging, and enjoyable. But it’s always been work.

I’ve often joked that my job is huge stretches of frustration and angst, punctuated by brief moments of euphoria, followed by taking up the next problem needing a solution (and the next long stretch of frustration and angst.)

I find myself in the unexpected situation of absolutely loving my job.

I’ve been given the opportunity to share, to write creatively, to present some of the tricks I’ve picked up over 25 years in IT; to write both creatively and technically as part of my daily work product; to play with new technology early; and to have input as to how new technology is presented to the people who will use it.

It’s not a job for everyone. Many people incredibly skilled, amazingly intelligent people in my industry are uncomfortable talking to the person in the next cubicle, let alone a crowded meeting room, a convention audience, or in a live-streaming video on the internet.

But it’s honestly my dream job, and I feel blessed every day when I get to my desk and realize “I get to do all this and get paid!”.

What does this have to do with Judaism, Elul, and the Days of Awe?

Being given the chance to experience real joy and gratitude for what is still WORK has informed my prayer and preparation this month.

  • Getting up at 5:15am is (for some) not play, it’s work.
  • Praying for two hours each morning is (for some) not play, it’s work.
  • Thinking deeply about my actions this past year is (for many) not play, it’s work.
  • Getting in touch with people I may have wronged and sincerely appologizing is (for most) not play, it’s work.

But we must do with our whole heart and with a sense of purpose. We must find the gratitude in even having the chance to be here – to stand on this earth and do these things in safety and relative comfort.

It is work that we must learn to love.

BlogElul Day 22: Dare

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulWe hear it variations on the theme all the time – “dare to be different”, “think outside the box”, “take risks”. It’s become a cultural mantra.

It’s also become so vague as to be nearly meaningless.

What does it mean to “dare”, or to be “daring”. Is it like that scene from “Christmas Story”: “I dare you”, “I double dare you”, “I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU!”.

Years ago I was in an acting class, and we were encouraged to take risks. The trick, our teachers told us, was understanding the difference between a risk and a sure thing.

“Please understand,” one instructor confided, “Jumping off the Empire State Building is not a risk. It’s a sure thing. You’re gonna die.”

There’s no such thing as an un-calculated risk, but there are definitely times when the level of daring-do that we feel is out of proportion to the reality.

I remember the first time a particular person joined our minyan in the morning. He was exploring a new-found interested in his Judaism. While he had put on tallit and tefillin as part of a class, and in tentative attempts to pray at home, he had never done so in an actual minyan.

He was sweating bullets.

I found this incredible for a very particular reason, and told him so:

“I don’t understand. You are actually a brain surgeon. Every day, you go to work and crack people’s skull open and you poke at their grey matter. One sneeze and they’d be a vegetable. But this makes you nervous?”
He smiled sheepishly and muttered something about feeling like this (tefillin) was more risky than anything he had done in the operating theater.

To his credit, he showed up – and kept showing up – and eventually felt more at ease. But even today you can see in his face the gravity that he feels when putting on those leather boxes. It’s not a simple matter to him.

As we head toward the end of Elul and prepare to face God and be called into account for our actions, I think it’s important to understand the level of risk we are facing.

I can’t say for certain that there’s nothing at stake – that (as I mentioned a few days ago) as long as we show up all will be forgiven.

Even so, I believe that part of the point of Elul is to teach us that we dare not take the coming Days of Awe lightly.

BlogElul Day 21: Change

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulA friend once confided in me, that if you want to stop a bad habit, tell everyone. If you want to start a good habit, don’t tell anyone.

His theory was that we tend to do the opposite, telling everyone that we’ve taken up jogging or a healthy diet, or yoga. And when, because new habits are difficult and consistency is one of the most difficult aspects, we miss the mark we fear the disappointment other people will have for us. Even if their standards are too high. Even if we got 6 out of 10.

Meanwhile, when we attempt to stop a bad habit (but tell nobody, because do I really want to broadcast my bad habits in the first place), we lose out on the moral support (or positive peer pressure) that could get us back on track after the inevitable lapses.

My point is that change is hard, no matter what strategy you adopt. To expect anything different is to set yourself up for failure.

Teshuvah is no different. However, a thought from Rabbi Moshe Adler (http://www.bethelheights.org/rabbi.php) sticks with me. He teaches that Teshuvah means “to return”, meaning to return to God. But we can feel like we’ve strayed so far that the distance to return can be daunting, and it keeps us from making the effort. But, he says, Teshuvah doesn’t work like that. As we travel on our path away, God is quietly walking behind us. All we need to do is turn and God will be right there. The act of return – of teshuvah – is simply the act of turning around and taking the first step.

There are just nine days left in the month of Elul. Nine days to look inward. And when we find what must be changed, we need to know in advance that it will be hard, but that God is right there, waiting for us to turn around and find Him.

BlogElul Day 20: Judge

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.

blogelul#dontjudgeme is a popular way to tag a message on social media these days. Used primarily after declaring a guilty pleasure, less than healthy choice, or socially inappropriate behavior, saying “dontjudgeme” is a way of admitting to a fault (whether real or percieved by society at large) but without making any promise of change.

Judaism, it should be noted, does not tell us not to judge. We aren’t encouraged to do it, but the sages recognized the inevitability of human behavior.

Rather, we are told that if we judge, we must judge favorably.

That guy with a kippah walking into McDonalds? He probably needed to use the bathroom. The orthodox woman with non-kosher food in her cart? Most likely she was buying for a non-Jewish neighbor.

While it sometimes feels like a stretch, the results can be transformative. No longer are you saddled with the weight of neigborhood hipocracy. Skepticism can take a back seat. Suspicion gets the day off. And in that freedom you are invited to take people and situations at face value. Better than face value, in fact. Because when the person them self says they don’t measure up in some way, it is still incumbent on us to find the good, the positive.

The other night at a school open-house, we were filing out to the respective teacher’s rooms. One person said “I wasn’t paying attention. Does anyone know Mr. Smith’s classroom is?” Then they added, “I guess I fail orientation.” A woman next to me replied, “I’m sure you were paying attention. You just didn’t remember.” and then she gave directions. I could tell from her tone that her comment – about not remembering – was said it in all seriousness.

While judging favorably is a year-round mitzvah, there is an interesting facet of this particular to the month on Elul, where part of our preparations for the Days of Awe include asking others to forgive us, and in turn forgiving others when we are asked. In those moments, there is no commandment of investigation, validation, or cross-examination. When being asked to forgive another, we are commanded to judge favorably.

So should the judgement go for us, on the day when we stand before the True Judge.

BlogElul day 19: Ask

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulThis post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.

For some of us, one of the most difficult things to do is to ask. Asking for for help, or advice, or even for directions requires an enormous effort.

Our reasons are many – admitting fallibility or vulnerability can raise the specter of past hurts. Pushing out of our protective shell to connect with another person can prove terrifying. The fear of rejection may be an insurmountable obstacle.
Not every inability to ask manifests as a phobia. Some of us simply hate to pick up the phone to return a call. We put off the email that requires more than a terse “yes” or “no”.
Which makes it all the more remarkable when someone breaks free of those constraints and asks anyway.

When someone does that – reaches out to you to ask for directions; to speak in a language or on a topic that is not familiar (which is itself a request for your patience and engagement); to tell you a story (which is begging of your time and attention)

In those an many other situations, we should take an extra moment to consider what it took to ask. We don’t always have to say “yes”. We don’t always have to ignore our own needs for those of another. But we do owe the requester the courtesy of a kind response.

It costs us nothing.

And in this month of Elul, when we prepare to stand before God and ask for another year, we hope that once again that the principal of midah k’neged midah – that we will be treated by the Heavenly Court in the same way we treat others here in this world.

BogElul Day 18: pray

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


blogelulWhen someone says “I pray that…” what do you understand them to mean?

I was reminded this as I re-watched one of my favorite sci-fi series – FarsScape () and the following dialog came up:

D’Argo: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this fiasco, it’s that I will never be chained up again.”
Zhaan: “I pray that will be the case.”
D’Argo: “You can pray all you like. I was expressing a fact. Not a hope.”

That got me thinking, so I looked at how pray was used in older times. It used to be rendered as “prithee”. Wikipedia told me that:

“Prithee is an archaic English interjection formed from a corruption of the phrase pray thee. [...] Although the closest Modern English equivalent of prithee is please, [...] the word please suggests that the person being addressed is willing to comply with the request, whereas the word prithee suggests that he or she is not willing.”

This stands in stark contrast to the way Judaism views prayer. There are several words I know that mean “to pray”:

  • daven – “to move the lips”; or “from our fathers”
  • tefillah – to judge (ourselves, not others); or “attachment”
  • avodah – to serve, as a servant would work for a master

What I understand from this is that prayer should not be idle wishing, not a daydream of something that might someday be. Prayer is an active state – grounding ourselves to the traditions of our past, determining whether we have what it takes to make our prayers a reality, and then committing ourselves to the work of making our words come to be.

It is this engaged state of being that we should be cultivating in this month of reflection and self-analysis so that when we open our hearts to pray on Rosh Hashana, we are expressing a fact, not a hope.

BlogElul Day 17: Awaken

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.


 blogelulIt’s 5:30am. My boys and I walk carefully through the grass because it is damp enough at this pre-dawn hour to soak through our sneakers. We have our tallit bags in one hand, and our thermos (hot chocolate for them, coffee for me) in the other. My oldest son also balances a long shofar in the crook of one arm.

A couple of blocks later, we stumble up the stairs into shul. Under the too-bright fllourescent lighting, we wait for another few men (and the official starting time of 5:45) before launching into Selichot prayers.

For Sephardim – Jews who hail from areas around the Mediterranean such as Spain, Morocco, Iraq, and Syria – the tradition is to do this from the beginning of Elul through Yom Kippur. Each morning we congregate and pray and sing.

The act of awakening each morning becomes a month-long metaphor for dragging my soul out of it’s slumber.

It’s emblematic of the Sephardic outlook that, while the prayers are penitential, the tunes are anything but. They are joyful, lilting, powerful, participatory.

As one member told me “It’s true that Selichot is a time to stand before Hashem and say we are sorry. But we (Sephardim) say to ourselves ‘But it’s DAD we’re talking to. Of course He’s going to forgive us.” We just have to remember to show up. So we sing with joy because we are here – we remembered – and our forgiveness is assured.”

It was this joyfullness that compelled my boys and I to drag ourselves out of bed each morning. Well, that and the hot chocolate. But even so, by this point – here on the 17th of Elul – the long days start to take their toll.

Far from being a negative, even the exhaustion becomes part of the experience. By Rosh Hashana, I find I have no energy left for artifice, nothing in reserve to hide from the truth or mask my falacies. I stand before The Creator stripped down to the barest of essentials, doggedly throwing myself into each prayer, begging for for another year which I hope – like my request for forgiveness – is also assured.