Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech "Taking The Right Path"






So, here we are at the end of the summer. It’s back to reality. So many are packing up and heading back to school, and the stores are stocking their shelves with various school supplies. Where does the time go? It feels as though we were just boarding the buses for our departure for our 2013 summer at Camp.  And suddenly, we woke up, and the chill of autumn was in the air, and we knew that summer was coming to an end.
Life is like that.
Now, as the year draws to a close, we’re up to the last Parashat of the year, the double portion Nitzavim-Vayelech. As we leave one experience and begin a new one, we know that we will be faced with new challenges.  We’ll make mistakes along the way. Will we see that? Hopefully, we will try to do what is right, follow a path that is good, toward blessing and peace.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Parashat Shoftim - Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue





This week we are reading Parashat Shoftim, Judges. The Israelites have finally entered the Promised Land after the death of Moses. God predicted that once they settled and were comfortable in their surroundings, they would see that the other nations around them had Kings as rulers. God knew that the Israelites would also want to choose a Leader as their authority.

"You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice." (16:18)

"You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just" (16:19)

"Justice, Justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (16:20)


After making these rules for the one that was chosen, God emphasized that the king must be "one of your own people".


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "can project the daunting stillness of a seated monarch."1

                                                         Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Camp Rabbi
                                                               Camp Che-Na-Wah Minerva, NY

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has the words from this Parashat adorning the walls of her chambers: "Justice, Justice, shall thou pursue." (16:18) In an essay titled "What Being Jewish Means To Me", Justice Ginsburg described her Jewish predecessors on the Supreme Court as using "law as protector of the oppressed, the poor, the minority, the loner." 

"I am a judge born, raised and proud of being a Jew.  The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition.  I hope, in my years on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, I will have the strength and the courage to remain constant in the service of that demand." Justice Ginsburg has said that Jews in the United States today face few closed doors, and thankfully do not fear letting the world know who we are.  The security she feels is shown by the artwork that she displays...."Zedek, Zedek tirdof--Justice, Justice shall you purse." They are constant reminders of what judges are expected to do.


1Toobin, Jeffrey.:"How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Moved The Supreme Court."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Parashat Eikev - "Bringing You Into A Good Land"







This week we are reading Parashat Eikev.  Moses reminds the Israelites of all of the gifts that God has given them, that they will continue to be blessed and they will be able to enter the Promised Land, a few enemies defeated along the way…of course, with the help of God. Moses recalls the years of hardships that they had  endured, but despite it all, they survived. God watched over them, and will continue to do so, but they must promise to keep the commandments. 

Moses reminds them that they must always remember to give thanks for the land and the gifts that God gives them, and be grateful for the forgiveness that was given to them and to their ancestors.
We can’t forget that this group of Israelites that Moses was addressing did not have THE experience of Sinai. The experience is what their parents had told them. And Moses is aware of that:

“Take thought this day that it was not your children who neither experienced nor witnessed the lessons of the Lord your God” (11:2)

Moses wants the history from the Red Sea to the border of the Promised Land to be told and re-told to this new generation who will travel the long road to the Promised Land. He needs them to be motivated, and to understand that they are a part of the covenant that goes beyond those that left Egypt and reached Sinai.
How do we fit into that long chain of tradition today? We weren’t at Sinai, but our ancestors were. We no longer use stone tablets, but we are still a part of the story. We must continue to empower and inspire future generations to know the story, to tell and re-tell it, so that they understand that each one of us are here because they paved the way for us, as we must do for future generations.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Parashat Vaetchanan - How Will We Learn From Our Mistakes?



This week we read Parashat Vaetchanan, and the Israelites are ready to enter Canaan.  Moses speaks at length with his people, instructing them on his legacy.
Moses asks God to reconsider his decision. God has forbidden Moses’ entry into the Promised Land because of his prior acts of impatience and disobedience. Moses pleads with God, but God does not listen. The law is the law. The punishment will stand.
Moses can see the Promised Land from afar, but he shall never enter it. Moses has an opportunity to speak to the Children of Israel and offer them advice, and tell them to follow God’s laws faithfully. He tells them not to repeat his mistakes, so that they may live a full life, and thrive in the Promised Land.
How will we, as a society, learn from our mistakes?
Many of us heard the verdict of the George Zimmerman Trial this past weekend. We cannot change the verdict. But, there is more that we can do as a society so that future generations have a better chance of living a full life. President Obama said:
“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin”. In addition to Gun Control, will Florida finally review the Stand Your Ground Laws, so lawlessness can be prevented, rather than encouraged?
Vaetchanan….I implore you. We must join together, so that the mistakes are NOT repeated.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Parashat Devarim - Moses Begins His Farewell





 


This week we begin the final book of the Torah…Devarim.
In Parashat Devarim, Moses begins his final sermon to the Israelite people. He is pouring out his heart to the people that he has been leading, and it is his final opportunity to speak to them. They will soon cross over into the Promised Land without him, and he has chosen a new leader to guide them.  This Parashat sounds different than the ones that we just left in Bemidbar.  None of that: “The Lord spoke to Moses and said:” There’s more patience here, more guidance, more listening. Moses’s sermon recounts those days when the Israelites left Egypt to freedom, and the conquests that they made against enemies throughout the years. These Israelites are the first generation that was raised by former slaves. Moses warned them not to abuse their power and how they treated those that were weak. "For you were strangers in the Land of Egypt." Since we ourselves were slaves, Moses was afraid that we might abuse our power.
In fact, Moses was very concerned that the Israelites would be consumed with the idea of power. To combat these influences Moses gives laws to the Israelites to limit their use of power.
Devarim is about listening, and recalling, and being socially conscious

It’s about remembering our past, so that we can move forward into our future.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Parashat Mattot-Oaths, Vows, and Never Remaining Silent





This week we approach the conclusion of the Book of Numbers, and we read Parashat Mattot. The portion talks about the subject of "vows" and "oaths" that we make. We know that words are powerful, and we should always think carefully before we use the gift of words. The focus is really about the vows that women make.


"If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.  If a woman makes a vow to the Lord or assumes an obligation while still in her father's household by reason of her youth, and her father learns of her vow or her self-imposed obligation and offers no objection, all her vows shall stand and every self-imposed obligation shall stand. But if her father restrains her on the day he finds out, none of her vows or self-imposed obligations shall stand; and the Lord will forgive her, since her father restrained her." (Numbers 30:4-9)

Most of us today find this a bit shocking....all those feelings that stir within us about the nature of relationships and social status. But, it's true. When a man made a vow or took an oath, he was required to "carry out all that has crossed his lips". While women were allowed to make vows, these could actually be cancelled out by the male authority in her life if he renounced the vow when he heard it. So, providing that he does so quickly, and not keep silent, the women's father or husband can cancel out the vows made by a woman. There was no option to keep silent. Silence was giving it an OK.  Once you knew what the vow was, and you didn't speak up, you were now responsible for it. The motivation was to become accountable for what was going on around you.



So, if vows were so important, why could a woman's word be virtually wiped out by her husband or her father? That doesn't say much about the value of a woman's word in Biblical times. We HAVE come a long way. All people ARE created equal. (That means race, gender, class, religion sexual orientation, disability, what we look like, or where we come from) A person's gender shouldn't affect their ability to achieve great things. Equal Opportunity means Equal Opportunity.


We can never remain silent. Once we do, we are saying that everything is OK. If we disagree with something, we must speak up right away. It's our obligation to do so.







Monday, June 24, 2013

Parashat Pinchas - The Daughters of Zelophehad






This week we read the story of the daughters of Zelophehad. The portion begins as God instructs Moses and Eliazar to conduct a census of the people. God then instructs Moses to distribute portions of land to the descendents of each of the clans. Larger clans would acquire larger portions of land than smaller clans. But, the women were not included in this process. A man named Zelophehad had just died, and was survived only by daughters. Therefore, Zelophehad’s daughters, were not entitled to any land at all.
The 5 daughters come forth and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains and the whole assembly at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  They proclaimed that their father has died. The daughters tell the assembly that their father had no sons.
They plead to everyone present:

“Let not our father's name be lost to his clan just because he had no son! Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!” (27:4).


After the women make their plea, Moses takes the case in front of God. God tells Moses:

“the plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just: that Moses should give them a hereditary holding among their father’s kinsmen and transfer their father’s share to them. (27:7)

Miraculously, God changes the law for all times and for all daughters. Zelophehad’s daughters make it possible for daughters to inherit land when there are no sons or brothers. This was a momentous achievement for women of this time.

And what a powerful lesson for us today. The daughters of Zelophehad should inspire us that we can shape our destiny, and we do have the ability to move mountains, and change laws...even ones that were handed down at Sinai.
May we all have the courage to take action when necessary in order to make change for the better.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Parashat Balak- The Power Of Words


 
This week we read Parashat Balak. It's all about Communication. In it, there's a donkey that talks and sees visions.  There's a non-Jewish prophet that speaks with our God. He is sent to bring curses on the Israelite people, but instead, he brings blessings.  This is a story of turning curses into blessings, and of learning how to use positive words to build a nation up, rather than tear them down. 

Balak, the King of Moab, saw that the Israelites were prospering well, and was starting to feel uneasy about them. Perhaps they would want to take over his space. So, he hired the Prophet Bilaam to curse the Jewish people--"Now, please go and curse for me this nation, for it is too mighty for me; perhaps I will prevail, smite them, and drive them from the land..." Bilaam takes the job, but, again and again, his curses are turned by God into blessings. It's as though every time he tries to curse the Israelites, beautiful words come out.  Words have so much power.....Some are like magic spells.


 Each time we speak, we have the opportunity to take advantage of this incredible gift...when we say "thankyou", "I love you", "No"...even when we respond to someone that is asking for charity. At that moment, are we worthy of that gift?
Maybe we should say a prayer before we opened our mouths, and prayed that we wouldn't cause any damage with our speech. Interesting.




This age of technology has brought words into our lives even more than ever before. Sometimes, our lives are so busy that our words just fly by without us even thinking about them. We tweet in 140. We post our life stories on Facebook, and we text in shorthand.  But, before we press that "Send" button or quickly say something, maybe we could try to stop...even for 1 second, and think of the damage that we could do with our words...or the blessing that we can bestow with it. It's our choice. And our power!








because it is literally an Earth-moving statement – to change your life. For more than a decade, technology has brought words into our lives more than ever before. No longer are words just what we hear, write or read – they have become what we create and how we interact with the world around us.
We all grew up believing the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yet, at a certain point, you realized that was completely untrue and that words could hurt, just as you learned Pluto was a planet but many years later find out it is just a ball of ice no longer classified as a planet. Words, my friends, change everything! Words have a dramatic effect on what we know, how we interact with people and the decisions we ultimately make. Words can influence us, inspire us or just as easily bring us to tears.
Words change our relationships, our demeanor, our entire system of beliefs, and even our businesses. Being a planet or not being a planet makes a major difference, just as the words “I love you” or “I hate you” have majorly different meanings behind them. Words have a powerful and undeniably overwhelming influence on us – for good and, at times, for bad. Think for a moment how words have changed your life:
Marry me!  It’s a girl! You have cancer. We lost him. You’re hired! You’re fired. We won! We lost. Guilty. Not guilty.

It may not seem intentional, but it has been. At the core, a large “organization of words” shift has taken place right in front of us. As a result, words have forever changed our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before. For the majority of us, not a single day goes by when we fail to interact and create relationships with words. Take Google, for example. Google is a company with a focus on classifying and organizing words. It is a very simple focus, really: to be better than any other entity at organizing words. Now, they may say they organize information, including documents, videos, photos, maps and more. But at the core, they are all words. A document may have many words, but they are always organized in a theme, and a theme can generally be focused to a sentence or title, and a title to a primary subject or word. The same goes for videos, photos, maps and more.
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office and you are told, “you have cancer.”
A single word “cancer” just changed your life and the lives of everyone close to you. Clearly, you listen to what your doctor says, but then you go to a place you know you can get a lot of answers – a search. You may do this when you get home to your computer or tablet or immediately on your mobile phone. But nonetheless, you begin to create and interact with the words by typing a few into the search box: “what is cancer” “cancer treatments” “cancer cures” “cancer survival.” Cancer comes in many forms, so perhaps your search is more specific: “what is triple negative breast cancer” “triple negative breast cancer treatments.” As you type, the words interact with you, providing answers to your questions. As a result, you learn of clinical trials as a treatment option, so you again leverage the interaction with words: “clinical trials for triple negative breast cancer,” and you find a powerful option that gives you another word – hope. Then and there, words and our relationship to them cross over into something that changes our life once again – twice in the same day, perhaps.
The meaning and value of words have become largely dependent on real-time demand, and therefore, the perceived value is determined solely by the epicenter of time and need. In other words, it’s determined when a moment in time crosses paths with a particular individual’s needs and the two interact. In the new economy, words also have an economic value. Therefore, a search for “cancer” is infinitely important and invaluable for the person that was just diagnosed, while the words “free shipping” may be most important and valuable for someone about to buy a “42inch 3D TV,” and both words have monetary value to some third party (i.e. a research institute or Sony) as well as the provider (i.e. Google or Amazon).
Services like Twitter have also focused on words (very few, in fact, given the 140 character limit), defining trends via hashtags (a word following a # – i.e. #cancer). That said, words transcend both search and Twitter. Words have become the key to everyday life. In our vehicles, many of us use words to get assistance, either via a service such as OnStar (I need help, my car won’t start) or via GPS (and don’t turn left when told to turn right, or the next word to leave your mouth may well be S%*T).
On eCommerce websites, such as Amazon.com, FatCork.com, BestBuy.com or even ColonialCandle.com, words change our experience: Free shipping, We recommend, One Click Checkout, Out of stock, Pre Order, etc. The way we interpret the end result of each of those seemingly simple words changes our present and future behaviors in real time. In fact, free shipping is still considered one of the top triggers to purchase.
In the media industry, search – both paid search and organic (SEO) – is a huge segment of the industry developed around and focused on the use of words. Words have implications in both paid search and SEO. One of the biggest factors includes relevancy: how relevant are the words searched – to the text ad copy – to the words on the landing page – to the words on the website? They are all interconnected. Words have interconnected us with technology.
- See more at: http://www.askingsmarterquestions.com/words-have-the-power-to-change-our-lives/#sthash.oc1jQXHL.dpuf
because it is literally an Earth-moving statement – to change your life. For more than a decade, technology has brought words into our lives more than ever before. No longer are words just what we hear, write or read – they have become what we create and how we interact with the world around us.
We all grew up believing the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yet, at a certain point, you realized that was completely untrue and that words could hurt, just as you learned Pluto was a planet but many years later find out it is just a ball of ice no longer classified as a planet. Words, my friends, change everything! Words have a dramatic effect on what we know, how we interact with people and the decisions we ultimately make. Words can influence us, inspire us or just as easily bring us to tears.
Words change our relationships, our demeanor, our entire system of beliefs, and even our businesses. Being a planet or not being a planet makes a major difference, just as the words “I love you” or “I hate you” have majorly different meanings behind them. Words have a powerful and undeniably overwhelming influence on us – for good and, at times, for bad. Think for a moment how words have changed your life:
Marry me!  It’s a girl! You have cancer. We lost him. You’re hired! You’re fired. We won! We lost. Guilty. Not guilty.

It may not seem intentional, but it has been. At the core, a large “organization of words” shift has taken place right in front of us. As a result, words have forever changed our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before. For the majority of us, not a single day goes by when we fail to interact and create relationships with words. Take Google, for example. Google is a company with a focus on classifying and organizing words. It is a very simple focus, really: to be better than any other entity at organizing words. Now, they may say they organize information, including documents, videos, photos, maps and more. But at the core, they are all words. A document may have many words, but they are always organized in a theme, and a theme can generally be focused to a sentence or title, and a title to a primary subject or word. The same goes for videos, photos, maps and more.
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office and you are told, “you have cancer.”
A single word “cancer” just changed your life and the lives of everyone close to you. Clearly, you listen to what your doctor says, but then you go to a place you know you can get a lot of answers – a search. You may do this when you get home to your computer or tablet or immediately on your mobile phone. But nonetheless, you begin to create and interact with the words by typing a few into the search box: “what is cancer” “cancer treatments” “cancer cures” “cancer survival.” Cancer comes in many forms, so perhaps your search is more specific: “what is triple negative breast cancer” “triple negative breast cancer treatments.” As you type, the words interact with you, providing answers to your questions. As a result, you learn of clinical trials as a treatment option, so you again leverage the interaction with words: “clinical trials for triple negative breast cancer,” and you find a powerful option that gives you another word – hope. Then and there, words and our relationship to them cross over into something that changes our life once again – twice in the same day, perhaps.
The meaning and value of words have become largely dependent on real-time demand, and therefore, the perceived value is determined solely by the epicenter of time and need. In other words, it’s determined when a moment in time crosses paths with a particular individual’s needs and the two interact. In the new economy, words also have an economic value. Therefore, a search for “cancer” is infinitely important and invaluable for the person that was just diagnosed, while the words “free shipping” may be most important and valuable for someone about to buy a “42inch 3D TV,” and both words have monetary value to some third party (i.e. a research institute or Sony) as well as the provider (i.e. Google or Amazon).
Services like Twitter have also focused on words (very few, in fact, given the 140 character limit), defining trends via hashtags (a word following a # – i.e. #cancer). That said, words transcend both search and Twitter. Words have become the key to everyday life. In our vehicles, many of us use words to get assistance, either via a service such as OnStar (I need help, my car won’t start) or via GPS (and don’t turn left when told to turn right, or the next word to leave your mouth may well be S%*T).
On eCommerce websites, such as Amazon.com, FatCork.com, BestBuy.com or even ColonialCandle.com, words change our experience: Free shipping, We recommend, One Click Checkout, Out of stock, Pre Order, etc. The way we interpret the end result of each of those seemingly simple words changes our present and future behaviors in real time. In fact, free shipping is still considered one of the top triggers to purchase.
In the media industry, search – both paid search and organic (SEO) – is a huge segment of the industry developed around and focused on the use of words. Words have implications in both paid search and SEO. One of the biggest factors includes relevancy: how relevant are the words searched – to the text ad copy – to the words on the landing page – to the words on the website? They are all interconnected. Words have interconnected us with technology.
- See more at: http://www.askingsmarterquestions.com/words-have-the-power-to-change-our-lives/#sthash.oc1jQXHL.dpuf
because it is literally an Earth-moving statement – to change your life. For more than a decade, technology has brought words into our lives more than ever before. No longer are words just what we hear, write or read – they have become what we create and how we interact with the world around us.
We all grew up believing the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yet, at a certain point, you realized that was completely untrue and that words could hurt, just as you learned Pluto was a planet but many years later find out it is just a ball of ice no longer classified as a planet. Words, my friends, change everything! Words have a dramatic effect on what we know, how we interact with people and the decisions we ultimately make. Words can influence us, inspire us or just as easily bring us to tears.
Words change our relationships, our demeanor, our entire system of beliefs, and even our businesses. Being a planet or not being a planet makes a major difference, just as the words “I love you” or “I hate you” have majorly different meanings behind them. Words have a powerful and undeniably overwhelming influence on us – for good and, at times, for bad. Think for a moment how words have changed your life:
Marry me!  It’s a girl! You have cancer. We lost him. You’re hired! You’re fired. We won! We lost. Guilty. Not guilty.

It may not seem intentional, but it has been. At the core, a large “organization of words” shift has taken place right in front of us. As a result, words have forever changed our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before. For the majority of us, not a single day goes by when we fail to interact and create relationships with words. Take Google, for example. Google is a company with a focus on classifying and organizing words. It is a very simple focus, really: to be better than any other entity at organizing words. Now, they may say they organize information, including documents, videos, photos, maps and more. But at the core, they are all words. A document may have many words, but they are always organized in a theme, and a theme can generally be focused to a sentence or title, and a title to a primary subject or word. The same goes for videos, photos, maps and more.
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office and you are told, “you have cancer.”
A single word “cancer” just changed your life and the lives of everyone close to you. Clearly, you listen to what your doctor says, but then you go to a place you know you can get a lot of answers – a search. You may do this when you get home to your computer or tablet or immediately on your mobile phone. But nonetheless, you begin to create and interact with the words by typing a few into the search box: “what is cancer” “cancer treatments” “cancer cures” “cancer survival.” Cancer comes in many forms, so perhaps your search is more specific: “what is triple negative breast cancer” “triple negative breast cancer treatments.” As you type, the words interact with you, providing answers to your questions. As a result, you learn of clinical trials as a treatment option, so you again leverage the interaction with words: “clinical trials for triple negative breast cancer,” and you find a powerful option that gives you another word – hope. Then and there, words and our relationship to them cross over into something that changes our life once again – twice in the same day, perhaps.
The meaning and value of words have become largely dependent on real-time demand, and therefore, the perceived value is determined solely by the epicenter of time and need. In other words, it’s determined when a moment in time crosses paths with a particular individual’s needs and the two interact. In the new economy, words also have an economic value. Therefore, a search for “cancer” is infinitely important and invaluable for the person that was just diagnosed, while the words “free shipping” may be most important and valuable for someone about to buy a “42inch 3D TV,” and both words have monetary value to some third party (i.e. a research institute or Sony) as well as the provider (i.e. Google or Amazon).
Services like Twitter have also focused on words (very few, in fact, given the 140 character limit), defining trends via hashtags (a word following a # – i.e. #cancer). That said, words transcend both search and Twitter. Words have become the key to everyday life. In our vehicles, many of us use words to get assistance, either via a service such as OnStar (I need help, my car won’t start) or via GPS (and don’t turn left when told to turn right, or the next word to leave your mouth may well be S%*T).
On eCommerce websites, such as Amazon.com, FatCork.com, BestBuy.com or even ColonialCandle.com, words change our experience: Free shipping, We recommend, One Click Checkout, Out of stock, Pre Order, etc. The way we interpret the end result of each of those seemingly simple words changes our present and future behaviors in real time. In fact, free shipping is still considered one of the top triggers to purchase.
In the media industry, search – both paid search and organic (SEO) – is a huge segment of the industry developed around and focused on the use of words. Words have implications in both paid search and SEO. One of the biggest factors includes relevancy: how relevant are the words searched – to the text ad copy – to the words on the landing page – to the words on the website? They are all interconnected. Words have interconnected us with technology.
- See more at: http://www.askingsmarterquestions.com/words-have-the-power-to-change-our-lives/#sthash.oc1jQXHL.dpuf


because it is literally an Earth-moving statement – to change your life. For more than a decade, technology has brought words into our lives more than ever before. No longer are words just what we hear, write or read – they have become what we create and how we interact with the world around us.
We all grew up believing the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yet, at a certain point, you realized that was completely untrue and that words could hurt, just as you learned Pluto was a planet but many years later find out it is just a ball of ice no longer classified as a planet. Words, my friends, change everything! Words have a dramatic effect on what we know, how we interact with people and the decisions we ultimately make. Words can influence us, inspire us or just as easily bring us to tears.
Words change our relationships, our demeanor, our entire system of beliefs, and even our businesses. Being a planet or not being a planet makes a major difference, just as the words “I love you” or “I hate you” have majorly different meanings behind them. Words have a powerful and undeniably overwhelming influence on us – for good and, at times, for bad. Think for a moment how words have changed your life:
Marry me!  It’s a girl! You have cancer. We lost him. You’re hired! You’re fired. We won! We lost. Guilty. Not guilty.

It may not seem intentional, but it has been. At the core, a large “organization of words” shift has taken place right in front of us. As a result, words have forever changed our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before. For the majority of us, not a single day goes by when we fail to interact and create relationships with words. Take Google, for example. Google is a company with a focus on classifying and organizing words. It is a very simple focus, really: to be better than any other entity at organizing words. Now, they may say they organize information, including documents, videos, photos, maps and more. But at the core, they are all words. A document may have many words, but they are always organized in a theme, and a theme can generally be focused to a sentence or title, and a title to a primary subject or word. The same goes for videos, photos, maps and more.
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office and you are told, “you have cancer.”
A single word “cancer” just changed your life and the lives of everyone close to you. Clearly, you listen to what your doctor says, but then you go to a place you know you can get a lot of answers – a search. You may do this when you get home to your computer or tablet or immediately on your mobile phone. But nonetheless, you begin to create and interact with the words by typing a few into the search box: “what is cancer” “cancer treatments” “cancer cures” “cancer survival.” Cancer comes in many forms, so perhaps your search is more specific: “what is triple negative breast cancer” “triple negative breast cancer treatments.” As you type, the words interact with you, providing answers to your questions. As a result, you learn of clinical trials as a treatment option, so you again leverage the interaction with words: “clinical trials for triple negative breast cancer,” and you find a powerful option that gives you another word – hope. Then and there, words and our relationship to them cross over into something that changes our life once again – twice in the same day, perhaps.
The meaning and value of words have become largely dependent on real-time demand, and therefore, the perceived value is determined solely by the epicenter of time and need. In other words, it’s determined when a moment in time crosses paths with a particular individual’s needs and the two interact. In the new economy, words also have an economic value. Therefore, a search for “cancer” is infinitely important and invaluable for the person that was just diagnosed, while the words “free shipping” may be most important and valuable for someone about to buy a “42inch 3D TV,” and both words have monetary value to some third party (i.e. a research institute or Sony) as well as the provider (i.e. Google or Amazon).
Services like Twitter have also focused on words (very few, in fact, given the 140 character limit), defining trends via hashtags (a word following a # – i.e. #cancer). That said, words transcend both search and Twitter. Words have become the key to everyday life. In our vehicles, many of us use words to get assistance, either via a service such as OnStar (I need help, my car won’t start) or via GPS (and don’t turn left when told to turn right, or the next word to leave your mouth may well be S%*T).
On eCommerce websites, such as Amazon.com, FatCork.com, BestBuy.com or even ColonialCandle.com, words change our experience: Free shipping, We recommend, One Click Checkout, Out of stock, Pre Order, etc. The way we interpret the end result of each of those seemingly simple words changes our present and future behaviors in real time. In fact, free shipping is still considered one of the top triggers to purchase.
In the media industry, search – both paid search and organic (SEO) – is a huge segment of the industry developed around and focused on the use of words. Words have implications in both paid search and SEO. One of the biggest factors includes relevancy: how relevant are the words searched – to the text ad copy – to the words on the landing page – to the words on the website? They are all interconnected. Words have interconnected us with technology.
- See more at: http://www.askingsmarterquestions.com/words-have-the-power-to-change-our-lives/#sthash.oc1jQXHL.dpuf

Monday, June 10, 2013

Parashat Chukkat - Do You Really Need That Stick?




“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts."  Numbers 20:7-8



This week we read Parashat Chukkat, which describes the Israelites’ hardship in the wilderness, the announcement that Moses will not enter the Land, and the deaths of Miriam and Aaron. 


We read about the famous story of “striking the rock,” that terrible decree on Moses, who was supposed to speak to the rock when the people cry out for water. Instead, he struck it with his staff, and was told that he will never see the Promised Land.

So, what did Moses do that was so bad that would have warranted such a harsh punishment? It’s pretty clear that Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, not just whack it with a stick. If Moses had spoken to the rock rather than striking it to draw out the water, the Israelites might have witnessed quite a miracle...possibly even more than the 10 plagues or the parting of the Red Sea. It would have shown the great power of God. And, that's what Moses was supposed to do...to show how great God was.

So when you want to draw something out of someone, how do you get their ideas and learn about their hopes, and visions? How do you communicate with them? Are you involved in an open dialogue or do you find yourself raising a stick to strike? 

We all find ourselves in a difficult position, one time or another, of wanting to raise that stick. The key is, knowing when to put that stick down, and taking a step back, and perhaps miracles can actually happen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Parashat Korach - How Far Is Too Far






This is quite a week of rebellion of Moses' authority. The Children of Israel haven't been content. There's been a lot of unrest and arguing within the community.  They've been complaining about everything, even the food. God is getting impatient with the Israelites, and Moses had to really build them up, so God wouldn't punish them. But, in this week's Parashat, complaining reaches an all-time high.



Korach, who is a cousin of Moses and Aaron, along with Datan and Abiram, challenged the leadership ability of Moses and Aaron, in front of the entire Community of Israel.

"They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them and Adonai is in their midst, Why then do you raise yourselves above Adonai's congregation?' (Num.16:3)"



Korach convinced 250 others who also want a piece of the action, but Korach seems to have forgotten something really important. Yes, the entire community is holy. He got that right. But, what Korach seems to have forgotten is that Moses and Aaron were elevated to their positions by God. They didn't select themselves.
Moses wasn't a politician. He was a pretty modest guy. He had no ambition to fight for political survival and, frankly, would walk away from it all if God would allow it.
Politics seems to bring out the worst in people. And that's what happened here.

Korach and his Cronies bitterly divided the Israelites. They set family against family and tribe against tribe. They weakened the community, instead of helping to build them up. And perhaps that's why Korach received the punishment that he got. God opens the earth, and swallows up the rebels and their families. Complete bedlam breaks out, and the people turn on Moses and Aaron: "You two have brought death upon the Lord's people!"  Before the day is over, 14,000 have died from a plague. (or a Divine Plague, that is)

Wow.....Korach was certainly a menace. But, Moses allowed this tragedy to continue. Korach certainly provoked the Revolution, but shouldn't Moses have tried to be the leader, and respect another's point of view? Maybe Moses could have actually gotten Korach to work beyond his rage. Can you imagine....Moses and Korach working closely together? Imagine that!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Princesses: Long Island" Aren't We Better Than This?




Could T.V. stoop any lower? Tonight is the debut of a new reality show called “Princesses: Long Island” (Just what we need….another reality show) This one features a group of spoiled Long Island women, all in their 20’s , all Jewish. I’m already offended.
All I needed to hear was a voice from the commercial screeching, “Manishevitttzzz”!... and. I was sick to my stomach.


The stereotyping keeps coming. And this is just in the coming attractions. Looks like we’re in for lots of crying, whining, pining for husbands, trying on wedding dresses (just in case), fighting with each other, and, of course…shopping.  Looks like we’re in for a stereotyped-packed train wreck that will take us through Old Brookville, Great Neck Estates, and, of course, the Roosevelt Field Mall.
But, I guess people will have to watch and judge for themselves.
I just know, that we’re worth more than this.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Parashat Shelach - Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh, My!




This week's Parashat, Shelach, has a lot to do with fear. Sometimes fear gets the better of us, and we lose our way, and too often we project this fear on others.

The Israelites are finally approaching the Promised Land. It has been such a long time. God tells Moses to send out spies...one from each of the tribes....to check out the Land. The spies were instructed to explore the terrain, the towns and the cities, and the inhabitants.  They were away for 40 days (again, 40 !) and they finally returned, bearing some of the fruits of the land. They went right to Moses with a detailed description of what awaits the Israelites in Canaan, and described the beauty and bounty and called it a land that was flowing with milk and honey.  They also describe the people who dwell in the land, the various tribes: Amalakites, Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, Anankites, and the Canaanites.

Caleb and Joshua believed that the Children of Israel should move forward toward the Promised Land. But, some of the other spies start to make up stories, and tell wild tales of giants that live in the land. The Israelites start to to panic, and they rebel against Moses and Aaron, and God. Have they forgotten that God has brought them this far? Were they just going to give up without even making the attempt?

God has had enough. Moses still has a lot to do. Moses is actually thinking that the people are not ready. But, Moses calms God's anger., and reminds God of the greatness of the Israelite people. But, God does not forget. God remembers those Israelites that were particularly cruel to the Egyptians in the desert. They, in particular, will not be able to cross for another 40 years.

This is an important lesson about gratitude. I wonder if things would have been different for the Israelites if they had shown some gratitude toward God? Perhaps they all would have crossed into the Promised Land at the same time. Wouldn't it be nice if we could focus on the gifts that we have received, rather than the "what if's"? Perhaps, then, everyday would feel as though we were entering into our own Promised Land.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Parashat Behaalotecha - Building a Cohesive Team




This week we're reading Parashat Behaalotecha. At the end of the parasha, there's an interesting story about Miriam, Moses' sister. She publicly criticizes her brother about his Cushite wife. She is dark-skinned, and not an Israelite. Aaron also criticizes his brother, Moses, with these words: "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?" These sibling "discussions" were not done privately. No. They were in front of the entire Israelite Community, and Moses must have been pretty embarrassed. What happened to discussions, and family meetings?

But what happens, then, is something remarkable. Only Miriam is punished for criticizing Moses. Miriam was afflicted with leprosy for a week for her harsh words about her brother's wife. Perhaps her mistake was not seeing beyond the color of the person that was in front of her.

As for Aaron, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with each other. All of those years in the desert together...someone's got to have another opinion. But, listening to those with other opinions is key. It's all in the timing. We all have the ability to share in the responsibility....its about sharing the same vision.

If we can look beyond the color of our skin, the country of our birth, our religion, physical disabilities, hopefully we can empower, guide, encourage and make space for everyone, and create great leaders that will lift us and inspire us to do great things.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Parashat Naso - The Priestly Benediction



This week in Parashat Naso, we read about the Priestly Benediction. Today, the Jewish Priests, the Kohanim, have no "Temple", but there is still a service that is available to them in today's synagogue, and that is blessing the members of the congregation with the Birkat ha-Kohanim (Numbers 6:24-26):

"The Eternal shall bless you and protect you!"
"The Eternal shall deal kindly and graciously with you!"
"The Eternal shall bestow his favor upon you, and grant you peace!"



The blessing is actually 3 separate ones. The first blessing, "The Eternal shall bless you and protect you", refers to material wealth and success. It's not just about gaining, it's also about being protected from loss. The second blessing, "The Eternal shall deal kindly and graciously with you", refers to spiritual development. Hopefully, you'll understand what the right path in life is, and, of course, an excellent Torah student. The third blessing is a blessing for peace. It's a hope that you're 'chosen' by God to live a life filled with peace. To live a blessed life, one that is filled with material growth, intellectual growth, and spiritual development, one would also need the gift of peace.
In the days of Moses and Aaron, the Priests were born.  It was a matter of inheritance. But, one of the most important changes over the years, was to remove rank by birth.  Leadership was attained through learning. 


But this blessing has come a long way. Jewish parents no longer needed Kohanim to bless their children. On Shabbat, especially, parents are now able to become like the Priests, and bestow the blessing on their own children.
Becoming closer to God doesn't require a special place or a special person. You can bless your children yourself, and make the experience an intimate one. Time to take charge of your own Jewish lives. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

We Are A Work In Progress - Parashat Bemidbar





"On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, the Eternal One spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai , in the Tent of Meeting, saying: Take a census of the whole Israelite company (of fighters) by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head.  You and Aaron shall record them by their groups, from the age of 20 years up, all those in Israel, who are able to bear arms.  Associated with you shall be a representative of each tribe, each one the head of his ancestral house." (Numbers 1:1-4)



This week we begin the fourth of the books of the Torah.  This book, known as "Bemidbar", "in the desert", is a narrative of the wanderings of the Israelites. Instructions are given to take a census of the community, listing the names of every man over 20 who is able to bear arms.  Only the men were allowed to fight in battles, so, only they were counted.

But, things are different today. Who are the people in our Community? What are we concerned with? Today, we would count men and women, children and the elderly. We count those who work, and those who are unable to work, our loved ones who need care, and the ones who care for us. Today we also count those men, women and children who come to this country, that dream of a better future.

Our census is a work in progress. Parashat Bemidar shows us how our community once counted. We have come a long way. Today, we have the opportunity to dream, and we have the opportunity to count all people.

We are all the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and as a people that stands for compassion, we need to stand for immigration reform that is also compassionate and understanding. Let's never forget taking into account who we are, and who we can become.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding Hope - Parashat Behar Bechukotai


This week, we read the double portion of Behar-Bechukotai. In it, we read in Leviticus 26: 3-12

"If you follow my laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit.  Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and your vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your fill of bread and dwell securely in your land.  I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beast, and no sword shall cross your land.  Your army shall give chase to your enemies and they shall fall before you by the sword.....I will be ever-present in your midst: I will be your God, and you shall be My people."

This is such a powerful message of hope during a time that was so difficult for our ancestors. It was hard not to give in to despair. But through those difficult days in the desert, the Israelites gained strength from each other, and built a community that performed acts of kindness and faith.

And just a couple of weeks ago, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, on a day that celebrates Spring and Freedom, resilience and hope were tested yet again.
Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords, Aurora Movie Theatre, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon
We will not give into despair. We are resilient.
"So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil--that's it." said President Obama. "Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid."


And just like in ancient days, we will gather strength from each other. The strength is in our gathering.

Countless lives have been changed forever, and life is certainly not perfect. But, hope and faith will forever lose its meaning unless we can really appreciate the blessings that we do have. And that is the only way that we can turn our attention to moving forward toward the future.

So, we reach the end of the Book of Leviticus.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Is There A Cohen In The House - Parashat Emor


Did you know that Jews have a kind of royalty?  Don't get too excited. There are no castles involved here, or even a title like "Your Majesty". The Jewish Royals are the Kohanim, the priests who once served in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Jacob had 12 sons. Each son was the leader of one of the Tribes of Israel. Each tribe had a separate territory, except the Tribe of Levi. During the Exodus, when the Israelites made the Golden Calf, the Levites refused to worship it. Because of their devotion, they were appointed as the servants to God. There were members from this tribe that were descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. They were known as the Kohanim. Aaron was the first Kohen, the first High Priest. 

Parashat Emor begins with the laws restricting the Priests, the descendants of Aaron, from contact with the dead: "The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any dead person among his kin." (Lev 21:1).

Even though the system of the High Priesthood no longer exists, some descendants of the Kohanim are extremely careful to adhere to the ancient restrictive rules. First and foremost, is the prohibition against coming into contact or even close proximity to dead bodies. (Mind you, the rules get a bit more lax when the deceased person wasn't Jewish, just as long as the Kohen doesn't touch the body)

There are also strict rules regarding where a Kohen can walk  around a cemetery. 

And, obviously from this article, there are strict rules where a Kohen can and can't fly.

 

 

‘Plastic Bag’ Airplane Passenger a Kohen Staying Pure?

Look up in the sky? Is It a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Plastic Man – the Orthodox Jew who wrapped himself in plastic on an airplane, apparently because he is a very scrupulous Kohen.
tell a friend
plastic-man-on-airplane

An Orthodox Jewish man, wrapped in a plastic bag in his airline seat, apparently did so because he was probably a Kohen who went to extreme lengths to make sure he would not be ritually impure if the plane flew over a Jewish cemetery.
Kohenim are prohibited from coming into contact with dead bodies, and many rabbis have taken the strict opinion that a Kohen may not ride in a plane if he knows ahead of time that it will fly directly over a Jewish cemetery. Many have ruled that if does not know of the flight plan, he may ride in the airplane.
El Al once agreed to change a fight trajectory to avoid flying over a cemetery.
The man wrapped in plastic, whose photograph first appeared on the Redditor site and later on the Gothamist site, apparently did not want to take any chances. By covering himself in plastic, he established a separation between him and impurities.
However, since he arrived at his destination safe and sound, it can be assumed there was a hole in the plastic bag so he could breathe.
Some readers of Redditor suggested that “plastic man” was making sure he would not come into contact with the woman sitting behind him, but that is doubtful since it is unlikely he carried a plastic covering “just in case.”
Or maybe he simply wanted some attention.




So, if your last name is Cohen, or Kahn or even Schwartz, you just might be a part of this priestly tribe, that are descendants of one man, Aaron the High Priest, who lived 3,500 years ago.