If you look at my mother’s library, you can’t help but notice the many shelves of Kennedy memorablilia. JFK’s assassination kept my mother in bed for days. Teddy’s death marked an end of an era not only for them, but for her.
Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page
I am old enough to remember house calls from my pediatrician, Dr. Pakula who called me “Johnson”, and for some reason, I, as a small child thought this was hysterical. Dr. Pakula was part of our family. He entered rooms that were reserved for those with whom we were most intimate. He was privy to information that was not readily given to many who might be considered good friends. He knew us, he cared about us, and he was considered family. It would have been the most reasonable thing in the world to discuss end of life options with Dr. Pakula, because we trusted him.
Rabbi Elazar fell ill, and Rabbi Yochanan went up to him but he was obscured because the house was dark. When Yochanan revealed his arm, light fell from it. When Rabbi Elazar saw this he broke down and cried.
Rabbi Yochanan asked: Why are you crying? If it is because of the Torah you have not learned, isn’t it taught: One will learn much, one will learn littler, but most important is that one direct his heart toward heaven? If it is because of your income, not every individual merits both tables (the table of plenty and the table of Torah). If it is because of children that you have lost, here is the tooth of my tenth son.
He answered: I am crying for this beauty that will be ravaged by dust.
Yochanan responded: This is truly worth your tears.
Both of them then cried together!
After awhile Yochanan asked him: Are these afflictions dear to you?
He answered: Not them, nor their reward.
Then give me your hand. He gave him his hand and helped him stand.
I can’t see his movies. Once my brother took me to see Reservoir Dogs, and I spent too much time avoiding eye contact with the screen. I guess it was only a matter of time until, he reckoned with the ultimate horror of the twentieth century, and, of course, Jews are weighing in on whether he should or shouldn’t have.
Some may have noticed that I have been posting less recently. There are three possible explanations:
- I had a break from teaching for the last three weeks, and if I’m not teaching, I’m not learning.
- I simply have nothing to say, but hope to have more to say soon.
- I have recently purchased an iPhone which has me mesmerized with its apps, its packaging, and its ability to keep me in touch will all my email accounts, at all times.
One of the great frustrations of anyone who observes the Jewish calendar are the conflicts that emerge when dealing with the secular rhythms of American life. The audible sigh of relief that the Chagim fall on weekends can be heard in many quarters.
It is curious that Jewish holidays are never on time. They are always early, or late. I’ve never heard it said that Rosh Hashanah is on time this year. Nevertheless, the Jewish new year is in sync with the academic calendar. Both begin the year at around the same time.
School starts usually in Elul, just when we are preparing ourselves for the New Year. It is the only time the academic and Jewish calendars coincide. I don’t count Chanukah and xmas only because it was xmas that enhanced the importance of Chanukah. Certainly, there was nothing inherent in Chanukah that would make one take a break from school.
A major theme of Rosh Hashanah is that not only our community, but the entire world is being judged at this time. It is a season of new beginnings for the entire world community. Elul is a time to change patterns of behavior that have proven to be destructive just as the school year affords those opportunities. This type of personal work is much easier when the general culture is also beginning a new term. Let everyone see themselves as preparing for the first day of a brand new term.
It’s a new semester folks, and change is possible.
I have always been a firm believer in my own kind of alternative medicine. For sedation, when sleep may evade, my drug of choice is a mystery novel. Mostly, they are mediocre and have me asleep within a half an hour. On occasion, these “whodunits” will have the opposite effect, but at least I was entertained.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart.
The saga of the cop and the Harvard professor created an opportunity for yet another referendum on race in America. Widely regarded as a tempest in a teapot, why did it captivate the attention of so many? The Talmud has an answer.
“All the gates to God have been locked except for the gates of wounded feelings.” (Bava Metziaya 59b)
The grievances of a working class Cambridge cop and a black, public intellectual, once again, opened the gates of wounded feelings, closing temporarily, the gates of the health care debate, the unemployment crisis and the billions of bonuses enjoyed by bloated deadbeat bankers. Instead, the nation’s attention is preoccupied with the drinking habits of our nation’s leaders as the media plumbs the socio-economic subtext of an arrest that shouldn’t have happened.
“Just as one can cheat a person in financial transactions, so too, one can cheat him with language alone.”