Synagogue, To Laugh And To Cry

So I am learning that synagogue is more than a place to worship G-d.

It is a place of and for the people to express their full range of emotions. 

Frankly, I think it is a place for people to laugh and to cry. 

Rarely, a week goes by when not one or both of these emotions/actions happen. 

Yes, we cry out to G-d in supplication and also are joyous in his holy majesty and presence. 

But more than that, as a community, we come together to share of our week and ourselves with each other. 

One one hand, we laugh with each other at the funny and ridiculous things that happen to us and at the joy we feel for the blessings that G-d bestows on us daily. 

On the other, we cry on each other’s shoulders at the pain and loss that we (G-d forbid) at times must face and endure in the face of illness, evil, and tragedy.

Just today, both things happened in the synagogue and my heart was at one time uplifted with gladness and then at another greatly saddened with the hurt shared–occurrences of each in just a short span of time. 

Yes, we laugh and we cry together–alone, it is at once empty and at the other unbearable. 

We need to support each other; there is no other way that is not extreme madness. 

Put your arms around another to embrace them in great happiness and to let them cry mightily on your shoulder. 

Sharing with each other at our houses of worship–that is how we show G-d that we are bound to Him and to each others’ souls–all children of G-d trying to make it together to the next service. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)


Together 4Ever

In elementary school, the children sing about love and romance. 

“The spades go.
Two lips together.
Twilight forever. 
Bring back my love to me.”

When 2 people are together, it’s as if the angels in heaven themselves are dancing and singing. 

Love seems to make everything in the world right again. 

Recently, an old person from my building lost his wife of over 60 years!

I see him around and while he continues to go about doing his everyday things, I can see that he misses his wife so much. 

He is broken, and his strength is gone. 

I remember my grandfather and father the same way when they lost my grandmother and mother, respectively. 

Completely devastating to them–their wives were their lives and what made them complete– afterward, they were never really the same. 

Our companions are truly our other halves. 

When someone asked the old man from my building how he was doing late last week, he simply responded:

“I’m getting along the best that I can.”

He said it was such sadness and loneliness for his wife who passed that his words literally cut right through me. 

People need each other–no one is an island–and especially loving couples who have been together for decades and decades–they are for each other and with each other, even if “together forever” is just a song that children sing…it is what we all ultimately wish for. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

White Lie, Black Truth

No this is not another civil or human rights post, although I like writing those as well. 

Rather, this is about how we use our words to help and not hurt others. 

“White Lie, 

Black Truth”

Yes, we all know that it’s wrong to lie (it’s even in the 10 Commandments). 

Except, of course, when we need to tell a “white lie” in order to keep someone’s feelings from getting hurt.

For example, I may not like your new haircut, but when you ask me glowingly what I think, instead of telling you how it’s too short or whatever, I tell you, “Yeah, it looks great!”

Then, there is the “black truth.”

That’s when we swallow hard and tell the  truth to someone, even though it may hurt their feelings, it’s ultimately for their good. 

For example, your child may be going of course with their lives, and while you don’t want to hurt their feelings, you know you need to tell them the truth in order to help them course-correct.

Telling lies or truth can be hurtful to people, but a white lie isn’t really bad, because it’s used to protect someone’s feeling, the black truth, is also not so dark and foreboding, because there are times when you need to get past the superficial, be real with someone, and tell them the hard truth in order to help them in a very practical sense. 

That’s one of life’s most difficult lessons, that not everything is black or white. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Longevity…85 Is The New 65


So I was speaking to one of our very nice elderly neighbors.

Last week he lost his dear wife of 60 years!

I had visited him during Shiva (the Jewish period of mourning) to wish him our best and let him know we are there if there is anything he needs. 

He told me how the night before she passed, they had gone out to eat and to the theatre (she loved the theatre)…and everything was fine!

And then the next day, he went to work–he still teaches medicine at the local hospital 2 days a month.

At midday, he called his wife and asked how she was and if she needed anything from the store (to eat etc.)

She told him she was fine and she didn’t need anything. 

But by the time he got home just one hour later…she had fallen, hit her head, and died. 

He tried to do CPR by it was no use, she was gone. 

Both he and his wife were 84-years old. 

He mentioned that would tease her that he was 3 months older than her, and so she had to listen to him!

I felt so bad for him…it was obvious how much he loved her and missed her already. 

When he told me how old she was, I tried to say reassuringly:

“That’s a good old age…at least she lived a full life!”

But then he answered:

“84–that’s nothing! 85 is the new 65!!!”  

And went on to tell me how many of their friends are already in the 90’s. 

It’s funny how no matter what age you are…there is always a will to live!

He said how she had passed quickly and so maybe he could consider that a blessing. 

And we talked about how it truly is especially when some other people really suffer prolonged periods with terrible debilitating and painful illnesses. 

It was also strange that around the same time, I ran into yet another elderly neighbor, and he had tears in his eyes…and I asked how he is. 

He told me how he just learned 3 weeks ago that his wife has lung cancer. 

Seeing his expression how bad things were, I inquired what stage it was at. 

He said, “stage 3 cancer,” and I told him as well how sorry I was for his pain. 

All this made me realize again, how very tenuous life is…and we all hang by a thread that G-d decides at any moment when to shear and when to cut–we need to live every moment to the fullest and as if it’s our last. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Thank You To The Rescuers


With all the devastation going on around Houston and the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Harvey…

I thought it would be nice to just take a moment to reflect.

First, the pain and suffering of the people affected. 

I couldn’t believe last night when I saw this image of residents in a assisted nursing facility sitting up to the necks in flood waters.

Or this morning, when I saw a photo in the Wall Street Journal of a firefighter holding a mother with her baby daughter lying on her, rescuing them through the waters. 

With over 3,000 rescues performed for people stranded in attics, rooftops, in cars, and all over the city and surroundings, I also think it’s important to recognize all the firefighters and other emergency workers who put their lives on the line to help others. 

The Houston area is expected to get 50 inches of rain in under a week, which is what their usual annual rainfall is. 

So there is massive flooding and damage from Harvey as well as 250,000 people without power. 

My prayers go out to the people impacted and gratitude to the people who help them. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Huffington Post)

Lucky Cat

Lucky Cat.jpeg

So a retail establishment opened in the area.

They had all these cat symbols hung inside. 

I asked the owner what it said, and she told me:

“Lucky Cat”

Why a cat symbolizes luck I don’t really know.

But the bigger question is whether there is any such thing as luck in the first place.

We constantly wish people good luck on any and every aspect of their lives: from birth to bar/bat mitzvahs, engagements, weddings, graduations, new jobs, journeys, and basically anything we embark on. 

That’s what Mazel Tov means–good luck!

But I thought we believe in G-d and not luck?

We strive through prayer, charity, repentance, and all sort of good deeds to try and move the scale of justice in our favor. 

With the Jewish high holidays approaching next month–Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur–we do everything to atone for our sins and commit to being better in the future. 

We seek G-d’s mercy and his blessings. 

There is no arbitrary luck or fortune. 

Life is what we make out of it. 

What about the Massachusetts women who won $758 million in Powerball last week or the person that gets cancer or some other horrible tragedy–did they deserve it?

I suppose it’s impossible for us to judge why some people have amazing fortune and others have schlimazel (misfortune).

As it says in Genesis (18:25):

“Shall not the judge of all the Earth do justly?”

Surely, G-d has the bigger picture and the omniscience to know what is good for us and what is not. 

How he tests us and tries us and to what ends…that is a matter of faith and conviction–and we believe that it is all ultimately for our best. 

The judge of all Earth…please have mercy on us and bestow your blessings on us, your faithful children. 

As to the lucky cat–wave us some good vibes–all long as we realize that we all need G-d’s grace! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Look Down To Feel Up


Listen, everyone has problems.

Whoever I talk to has something bad and fairly serious to complain about, and there seems to be new things coming all the time.

Just today, I heard from one person who went to the dentist with a tooth pain only to discover it had been silently infected for over a year, and was so serious that it literally could’ve killed him.

Another person told be about having a child with special needs and moving to an area with a school that could more effectively deal and help them. 

And a third person told me how they lost their husband many years ago at the age of just 39-years old and being left a widow. 

But people make the best of it!

They have to.

I remember my father saying when my mother got so sick with Parkinson’s Disease:

“We are part of the survivors club.”

It wasn’t easy to see her endless suffering while he selflessly tried to help her day-in and -out and cope with the physical and emotional pain of it all. 

When I was younger my dad would teach me about not feeling bad whatever the situation, and to always be grateful for what you have, and he told the story:

“There was a poor man who had no shoes, and he felt very bad…that is, until he saw someone else who had no feet.”

It doesn’t take much for things to get really bad in life…sometimes it can seem like we’re literally just holding on by a thin thread. 

But as G-d tests us and teaches us, we need to try to look on the bright side and be grateful that things aren’t worse….and yes, they can even get better again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)