Happy Father’s Day

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So it’s Shabbat and that’s one of the wonderful times to look at old photos in the albums and boxes. 


Yes, this was before digital photography!


I came across this art that my daughters had given to my father and mother when they were still alive–I think it was plastered on their refrigerator for a while. 


This photo seemed to bridge the past, present, and future for me. 


My parents are gone now to Hashem–already 2 and 3 years–and I still can’t believe it. 


At the annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day–it’s just another time of year to remember how much I miss them all year long. 


For me now, it is also a chance to be grateful for my lovely children that G-d has so gracefully blessed me and Dossy with. 


Smiles, hugs and kisses, love and caring for one another–this is what life is all about.


Father’s Day to me is not about the gratefulness of my children to me, but rather of me to Hashem and them to be blessed to be a dad and have the chance to give back to such lovely children–to the next generation that greatly supersedes me and mine!


So I’m crunched in the middle in time between wonderful parents and beautiful children and as my dad would joke, it skipped a generation (hopefully, not really). 😉 


(Source Photo: My Girls)

How Much Can You Love Something?

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Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone…


Those can be virtually infinite. 


I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 


He used to say:


“I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d].”


And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 


But how about for things–how much do some people love their things?


I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller’s estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!


That’s a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!


But even things that aren’t so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 


In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 


True, it’s colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!


Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.


But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it’s only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Life Has Meaning

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What makes meaning in life?


Faith.


Family.


Friends.


Love.


Giving.


Integrity. 


Purpose.


Learning. 


Growth.


Struggle. 


Hope.


Meaning is crucial to personal happiness and wellbeing. 


Without meaning there is worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.


Seek meaning to prolong your life and make it a life truly worth living. 😉


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

Bull In A China Shop

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For some reason everyone wants to face down the bull in the China Shop or on Wall Street. 


The bull is stubborn and when it gets angry, it charges and gores. 


So how heroic for the statue of little girl (below on International Women’s Day) to be shown standing in front of him defiantly and not afraid. 


The truth probably is that we are all afraid in life. 


No one wants to get hurt or worse. 


The consequences of something really bad happening can be devastating loss–limb, body, mobility, property or even total person. 


And actually, the more we have in life, the more we have to (potentially) G-d forbid, lose. 


So when you have a spouse, children, a beautiful home, and a good job, that’s when you get really, really afraid. 


Losing your precious loved ones and everything you’ve built with G-d’s blessing and help can instantaneously be gone in the blink of an eye. 


Therefore, be careful before standing in front of a raging bull, you never know when you’ll get walloped and bad. 


Bravery in the face of danger is noble and praiseworthy when doing true good and confronting evil, but just to be a big mouth or a know-it-all or to strut your stuff, you better forget about it–you’ve got a lot to lose and it doesn’t take much for that bull to charge head on and do you a real big dirty! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and here with attribution to AP)

Flying Sneaks

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We can all fly.


Not necessarily through the air.


But through life and ultimately in death, we can fight and take flight and soar. 


It is our attitude and determination to overcome the hardest of hardships that we face. 


We feel the pain for the situations where we fell, failed, and lost control over outcomes. 


People who told us what they thought we are and where we can go…our ego busted, our shame written all over us, our regret and fear over what we did or should’ve done differently.


We can’t go back.


We can only go forward.


We can learn, and we can grow.


We can compartmentalize the problems and hurt. 


We can pick up the pieces wiser than before and more determined to succeed.


Wings are not just for angels, but also for sneakers and for souls. 


I want to fly all around the world, and more so into the heavens to see my Heavenly father and be reunited for eternity with my family and loved ones.


Fly free and wide.


Fly high and unobstructed by poverty, illness, abuse, and loneliness. 


Fly and soar beyond anything we could ever have imagined. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Bonding and Independence

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It’s an interesting phenomenon between parents and children. 


Parents (with G-d as the third partner) birth and raise their beautiful children. 


It is in a way a thankless job that we all savor and do with love, joy, and even gratitude just to have the opportunity. 


From sleepless nights to dirty diapers, homework to honing on how to be a mensch, family outings to school trips, braces to bar/bat- mitzvahs, birthdays to sleepover parties, shopping trips to college choices, as parents there is nothing we won’t do for our children. 


Yet, the role of children is to learn and grow to be independent. Children must spread their wings, so they can function as their own adults and parents one day (and hopefully before they are 33 and still living in mom and dad’s house)!


Yet to a parent, a child is always their child, no matter how big, smart, or successful they are (and even when, G-d willing, they surpass their parents in height, good looks, and achievements).


My father used to say, “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning that it’s a harsh world out there and the family always needs to stick together.


As children of Holocaust survivors, I learned that we can’t stray to far (or far at all) from either our religion or family, because otherwise, “We let Hitler win.”


We grew up living next to my grandparents (1 block away) and later in life, we always lived right near my parents as well. 


I watched TV and ate salami sandwiches with my grandmother and doted over my grandfather who sat on the bimah in his big chair as the president of our then struggling synagogue in Manhattan. 


Similarly, my parents were like surrogate parents to my own children and regularly babysat, picked the kids up from school/camp, made Sabbath meals, and happily spent time with them doing whatever. 


My parents were always there to advise, guide, lend a hand and support…no matter the cost to them, as my father used to say, “I would go through fire for my family” and this–his devotion and integrity–I knew was the utter truth. 


In turn, I tried to be a good son and although I disagreed and fought with my parents (mostly my dad) on many issues (often religious and sometimes politics as remember them), I knew they loved me dearly and I them.


As my dear parents are now gone, and I have become (slightly) a helicopter parent myself with forever worries about how my kids are doing, I know that they need to be independent–and that (more than) sometimes means making mistakes or falling down, and hopefully getting right back up again on their feet.


It is hard to learn that as parents, in many cases, we are just spectators–not that we know everything, we don’t, but the maternal and paternal instinct is to safeguard our children whom we love and adore. 


Kids need three things to individuate successfully: stability, consistency, and safety. Absent those, you run the risk of unhealthy knotted bonding and stunted separation anxiety. 


Everyone needs to lead their own lives–we really only have one life to live. Yet, as family, we are very much the foundation and part of their inner strength for everything that follows from their determination, hard work, and blessings from Above. 


For parents and children, it is critical to balance the need for healthy separation and independence with love and bonding that is timeless.


We have to “let go and let G-d” and let our Children. 


The parents are the past and the children are the future, but we mean everything to each other. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

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A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 


He connected to this week’s reading from Genesis in the Torah.


It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 


As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 


Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:


– Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden


– Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers


– Abraham and Sarah’s doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child


– Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)


 – Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau


– Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister


– Joseph’s brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery


– Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 


And so on. 


Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:


1) Context – There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 


2) Dysfunction – Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 


3) Responsibility – Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do–our actions.  We can’t just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 


4) Communication – In dealing with life and it’s challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 


The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it’s heroes and heroines–our ancestors–is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.


The bible doesn’t sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with–it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)