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7 Nov

Rabbi Annie was out of town yesterday performing a wedding, so we had others from Temple Sinai filling in for Shabbat service. It’s always cool when someone stands in; don’t get me wrong, I find Rabbi Annie’s thoughts inspirational, topical, and relevant. It’s just cool to see others in the congregation have just as much to offer.

Mike gave the sermon last night. He started off talking about the Akeda, (It seemed as if he’d gotten the wrong parsha!) but was only making a point relative to this week’s parsha. It was something I’d never thought about before – Why is Issac so different from the other patriarchs? The other three have epic tales of trial and tribulation. They play this supremely active roll in shaping the course of history. What did Issac do? Why is his story so different from the other three?

Mike pointed out that there was something Issac went through that NO ONE ELSE had gone through – HaShem had commanded his father to kill him. He knew this. He was bound, put on an alter, a knife lifted over him set to end his life. Issac had a near death experience.

In our day in age, we can read study after study about what this type of experience will do to a person. (Better yet, imagine what that would do to you.) Those who go through such things come out different, mainly they become much more introspective and contemplative, concerning themselves more with meaning. Everet Fox comments that Issac seems to get old before his time, and in a sense that’s true. As we mentally mature, we become less ego-centric, more aware of the world outside of ourselves and our part in it. Having a near death experience is like pushing the fast forward button on that process.

Issac was no exception: time after time when faced with aggression, he chose temperance and peace. (He was also the first to truly love and adore his wife.) He modeled those traits to his family. He showed Jacob how to love. He showed Jacob how to face issues and overcome them without resorting to violence. He literally set the stage for Jacob to become Israel.

Mike went on to postulate that, with all the issues we face today, perhaps what we need is an Issac…

I agree.


Turn it

19 Oct

A few weeks ago, my rabbi let me borrow her copy of Pirke Avot.  I had been talking about how Parsha Bereshit was one of my favorites and that it would be cool to spend more than just one week on it every year.  She grinned and said, “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it.”

I smiled, “That’s pretty catchy.  Is that a saying from something?”

Her eyes lit up, “Yes!  Its from Pirke Avot!”

“What’s that?”

She jumped up and went to one of the many bookshelves in her office and began scanning, “You haven’t come across it yet?  I have a copy you can borrow!”  She plucked a little book from her shelf, found the page as she walked back to the table, and set it down in front of me:

Ben Bag Bag used to say, “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it.  Reflect on it and grow old and gray with it.  Don’t turn from it, for nothing is better than it.”

She said that every part of Torah contains every other part of Torah, and told the story of the man who came up to Hillel and said, “If you can teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot, I’ll devote my life to it.”  Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others; the rest is just commentary.  Now, go study the commentary.”  (Some say that ben Bag Bag was that man.)

Since I began studying Torah, I’ve been astounded at its fractal nature.  Studying Stage Theory in my psych classes was my favorite and I love to watch things unfold and develop.  Genesis chapter 1 is the ultimate: its the unfolding of the universe!  But its mirrored and extrapolated on as one reads, and echoes of each verse can be seen unfolding throughout the rest of the Torah.  In my studies, I’ve come across many ideas like this.  One commentary on gematria states that the entirety of eternity can be found within Torah, and that the entire Torah can be found in the first chapter of Genesis, and that can be found in the first word, which can then be found in the first letter…

Under each saying, this book gives a little synopsis of the passage, and here’s what it said for this one: “Unlike other reading, Torah is to be studied slowly.  We read it over and over again, each time looking for new meaning in its nuances.  This is a lifelong endeavor for as our life experiences change so does our perception of sacred text.”

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be writing more about this commentary.  It is fascinating.

Built to Survive

18 Oct

So, I had my bachelor party a few days ago. My brother and some buddies took me to a casino in Lake Charles. It was a fantastic time, but that place is insane! I don’t know how anyone could frequent a casino. To each his own, yeah? Regardless, I’m thankful I have such an awesome brother and such good friends.

Still, Saturday morning while we were eating breakfast, an elderly woman pulled me aside to comment on my Star of David. She said she had just come from Isreal and such a thing isn’t done by many right now. She began to tear up telling me how beautiful it was to be in a place where one could openly display such a thing without any real fear. She smiled and thanked me for wearing my Star and my faith with pride.

I was speachless. I smiled back, but couldn’t even get out a “Shabbat Shalom” cuz I was trying to absorb the implications of everything she’d just said.

Suddenly I felt shallow. Sitting there, eating a meal I couldn’t hope to finish, talking about my little world with my friends, in complete comfort and opulence, while this woman who’d seen and lived through G-d only knows what, kept looking over and smiling at me. I kept trying to think of something, ANYTHING, to say to her before one of us departed, but every time I tried, my mind was blank.

We finished and got up to leave. I smiled at her again, and bowed my head. She reciprocated. I suppose nothing needed to be said on my part.

Back home, I hugged my fiancé and our son like I hand’t seen them in forever. We are so blessed to be here. I’m so blessed to have them and to not have to worry about them.

I can’t say what, exactly, I gave that woman. Hope? Courage? Strength? Perhaps none of those. Perhaps all that and more. I can’t say what I gave her, but I can say what she gave me: I haven’t felt such a powerful wave of gratitude in a long time.

Thank you, HaShem, for opening my eyes.

מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקיים שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה רבה אמונתך

Please give strength to those who so desperately need it.

Built to Survive

Angsty angst…

15 Oct

“There is nothing in the world, not even among the silent things such as dust and stones, that does not posses a certain life, spiritual nature, a particular planet and its perfect form in the heavens.” – Isaac Luria

I love this quote.  When I feel angsty or just not right, it gives me comfort to recognize the truth it contains.  I find myself going back to it when I feel out of line with work or people or family or the universe.  I’ll contemplate this before and after meditating on the Shema and it helps me to visualize the all encompassing implications of this prayer.  And I’ve been reciting it multiple times throughout the day lately.

The world is being bombarded with Scorpio right now.  Everyone I know is edge, nothing seems to be working right and everyone’s pointing fingers and being judgmental.  I understand this is all part of a process of growth: can’t fix problems that aren’t recognized, but DAMN…  When everything comes to a head at once it’s difficult to deal with.  Even those I know that are experts at staying cool, calm, and collected are noticeably less so.

It could also be that it’s just me: my vibe is being picked up by those I interact with and they’re just mirroring me… I’m getting what I’m giving.

Regardless, I’m doing my damnedest to remain even keeled and level headed, nonjudgmental and objective… and it is helping.  This morning was difficult: at every corner I wanted to snap at someone or reel at something, and I had to mentally tell myself not to.  After doing this a number of times, a wave of acceptance washed over me.  It made me think of Hashem hardening pharaoh’s heart, which only occurred after pharaoh had hardened his own heart multiple times prior to.  Once he’d formed the habit of saying “No,” he was predisposed to rejection and had no choice: G-d hardened his heart even when part of him wanted to oblige Moshe.  If we build walls continually, those walls will begin to stand on their own.  If we chip away at those walls, they will eventually fall under their own weight.  In other words, G-d takes care of those who take care of themselves.  So I will continue to bat at my ego, to force myself to be understanding when everything in me wants to be judgmental.  I will do my part and I thank Hashem for obliging me.

For more on the energy of Scorpio, click here.


It’s been a long time…

13 Oct

Wow… Well, it’s been a while.  Just to ease back in and break the monotony, here’s a video I made a while back…

October 13th… for some reason, the 13th has been pretty prevalent in my life lately.  Hmm… I think that’ll be a theme in my next post… but, until then, enjoy this!

The Dark Knight Rises

5 Dec

Today’s the Dr’s appointment. I’m a little apprehensive.

Yvonne and I watched The Dark Knight Rises the other night. I love that movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, go friggin watch it!


Watching it this time, though, it spoke to me differently. When Bane and Batman are duking it out, and Bane tells him, “Peace has cost you your strength! Victory has defeated you,” it made me think of my shoulder.


So, my shoulder. Yeah.

As I said before, I hate being injured. I’ve always just “pushed through” the pain. I haven’t worked out at all… inna long time. I’ve just been enjoying life, getting fat and happy and not really caring. Until my body started aching.

When the pain refused to go away, I figured, “If my shoulder/neck/back has a crick, I’ll just work out the kinks.” I started doing push-ups and they actually made it feel better…

Till something snapped. I fell to the floor and almost broke my nose.


I don’t know what it was (I felt it over my collar bone), but ever since I haven’t been able to use my left arm much: the strength is completely gone from my left side. I still have a full range of motion, there’s no real pain, but my triceps and lats… I can’t really contract them. And when I do, they’re extremely weak: I can’t do a 5 lb overhead triceps extension with my left arm.

That’s kinda freaky. Couple that with a tingly/tickly sensation in those muscles… I’m scared I ripped a nerve or something… I don’t wanna be a cripple…


I’m trying not to dwell on it, but it’s hard. I’m not left hand dominant, but I use my left arm for just about everything.

What to do, what to do… What would Batman do?


Well (not to spoil anything, but…), Batman basically said, “No!” His back broken, he rose again. He rebuilt his body. And if Batman can come back from a broken back, I sure as hell can come back from a messed up shoulder.

Another thing that inspires me is this video.

I mean, to me, that just says, “Anyone can do anything.”

Also, seeing how big and awesome Tom Hardy is in this movie just makes me wanna pack on the muscle I had in the Marine Corps. I miss that feeling.


So, yeah, I may not be Batman, but I will rise out of this regardless of what the Dr says today.

To Vote, or… Why wouldn’t you vote?

6 Nov

Election Day 2012: go pretend you actually have a voice in picking the next commander in chief. We may not really be effecting that outcome, but the cool thing is, by voting for local and state offices, we are effecting future electoral colleges. So, try not to be too short sighted: this election may be out of our hands, but if Mitt, Obama, and their parties don’t “destroy the country” in four years, the others we put in office today will have a chance to truly represent us.

This is why I’m voting for 3rd parties. The only way to get rid of the two party machine is to starve it.

Of course, that takes a little more effort on our parts: to not just consume the free bullshit being shoveled onto our plates by the Dems and the GOP, and instead to venture out on our own, foraging info for ourselves, is more strenuous than simply digesting what’s put before us. But, like anything, nothing intrinsically good is ever free or without effort, so… To all of you who REALLY want change, hope, or truth: you won’t find it by simply turing on your idiot box. You actually have to hunt for it.

If this all sounds despondent, perhaps it’s just my frustration. I am hopeful, and I have faith in humanity and in this country: we have such potential! And yet… I see so many taking the easy or self interested path so often… It can be… daunting. Still, that doesn’t matter! For, with each and every new moment is yet another chance for us to choose to be stronger, more compassionate… just better in general.

So, happy voting! And, before you actually do cast that ballot, do me, your country, your world, our future, and yourself a favor by asking: Am I really, really making a good, educated choice, or am I just voting for the guy who appealed to me on the tv?