Sunday, September 23, 2007

Timing Is Everything

Forty-six years ago, my mother gave birth to a baby girl.

Apparently, that baby came out about three weeks early... I guess, curious to discover the world.

Why, then, is that "baby" no longer early for anything, but always running late, feeling flustered and flurried?

That "baby" should ask Bruce Springsteen, Julio Iglesias, Jason Alexander and Mickey Rooney if they also have trouble with time management. Kublai Kahn, Augustus Caesar, John Coltrane are TOO LATE to answer the question!

I hope you all had an easy and meaningful fast. May your prayers be heard, may forgiveness be bestowed upon you and may you have a healthy and happy year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mi Yichyeh u'Mi Yamut...*

* Who shall live and who shall die...

"These words from the liturgy of the High Holy Days testify to our insecurity. As we grow older, our youthful illusions of invulnerability begin to disappear, and the questions become ever more acute. Perhaps the most difficult transition we make as adults is the first time we catch ourselves saying, “If you have your health, you have everything,”—and we remember how completely uncomprehending we were when we, as teenagers, heard exactly those words from our great aunt, the one who had doilies covering her tables and newspapers on her freshly scrubbed floors."

(from Rabbi Robert L. Wolkoff,

Is this first paragraph not true? As young innocents, we don't think truly about the words we are saying, but as we age, we do.

I thought that perhaps I was morbid as I stood at shul over Rosh Hashanah and thought these thoughts. But in hindsight, as I think about all the things that are wrong with our world, all the people I know who are not well, or who have already been touched by grief and sadness in their lives, I think it is only right that I am aware of these words.

I looked around the shul and wondered who would be davening with us next year, who would be missing. Just like looking at a family photo album. Take out your parents' photo albums or look at your own wedding albums, if you're married. Scan the faces. You will see and say to yourself, "This one isn't here anymore; this one died a year after I married; he is in a nursing home." The list goes on.

And unfortunately, next year at shul, you will probably encounter similar losses. Familiar faces will be missing. Some families will be smaller and will need to buy fewer High Holiday tickets.

Perhaps I was most aware of the theme of this post as the kohanim went up on the bimah for "duchenin"; two of those men that were up there, whom I know, have cancer. They have been taking treatments and I believe that one of them has decided to stop his treatments. It shows in his face, in his body and in his wife's eyes as she looks at him.

As those men stood and blessed the congregants, as kohanim have done for centuries, I couldn't help but wonder if these men would be around next year to bless us again.

And moreso I thought that they are blessing us; Hashem should bless them hundredfold with strength and good health.

And how does one wish a true "refuah shlema" on someone who is so ill? Do you? Can you? Or do you wish them strength, as I do?

It is my fervent hope that we will all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year; that strength, and hope, and prayer, and tradition will be part of those pages of our own Book of Life.

Gmar chatimah tovah.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

As I stand on the threshhold of a new Jewish year, I stop to take stock.

I review so I can see what I've learned this past year...if anything.

I review so I can see what my next step should be.

I review so I can appreciate what I have -- and what I still have.

It has certainly been a year filled with emotional strife as I've dealt with family members with ill health and lengthy and several hospitalizations. Each of those hospitalizations also had me review the past and hope and pray for a better future.

As I do now...for my family, for your families and for all of Klal Yisroel.

May you be surrounded by those near and dear to you...whether in person or whether in memory.

May the road of life you travel down this coming year be smooth, with no sharp turns or major detours.

May the wishes you seek for yourself become reality.

May good health be your best friend.

May laughter, not tears, prevail in your life.

To all of you: SHANAH TOVAH U'METUKA. A sweet happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Forever Young

Talk amongst yourselves... Then you can shout out your answers.

If you could be immortalized in any creative form, by someone living or dead, what form would it take and who would create it?
1. I would opt for a caricature done by Al Hirschfeld. He was a brilliant artist whose drawings I looked forward to seeing in the NY Times and elsewhere. It's interesting to watch any caricature artist at work, especially someone as talented as Hirschfeld was.
How would he depict me? Would he make my nose big? My lips big? My freckles big?
2. Also in the realm of caricature art, I would pick Norman Mingo to duplicate me.

Who the heck is Norman Mingo, you ask? Just think of Alfred E. Neuman...MAD Magazine...cover art. Also a brilliant, detailed artist who made his MAD Magazine cover people come alive.

(revelation: I didn't know his name either. I had to GOOGLE "Mad Magazine Cover Art" to find the guy whose design style I enjoyed.)
3. And last but not least, I would like James Taylor ("Sweet Baby James") to write an original, wholesome, mellow but catchy tune about Pearl.
YOUR TURN..................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Forerunner to the State of Israel Bonds Pledge Drive?

There's a new children's book out and it features some interesting historical facts intertwined with the story.

"Myths and stories have gathered around Salomon, a slender Jewish immigrant from Poland. The stories have help up because they are good, if not entirely true." She goes onto add that while the book is "based primarily" on authoritative historical sources, "Most of my dialogue and dramatic scenes… are my contribution to engage young readers in the story." So where does the history begin and the dramatic reenactment end? Very hard to tell. Check out the scene in which Rubin tells us about the relationship between Robert Morris, a Philadelphia businessman whom George Washington appointed the minister of finance during the War, and Salomon.

The story goes that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Haym was attending services at [Temple] Mikveh Israel. A messenger came in and asked for him. "Robert Morris sent me," the messenger said to Haym. "He needs you to sell two bills of exchange for twenty thousand dollars."Members of the congregation gasped. "For shame!" They were shocked to hear talk about money on the holiest day of the year for Jews. Haym, however, knew that at no other time would he have so many people gathered at once. He asked the rabbi for permission to speak. "Let us all help General Washington," he said. Within a few minutes, Haym raised all the necessary money, including three thousand dollars of his own.
Fact ... or fiction?
Which came first -- this scene or the Israel Bonds Pledge Drive every Yom Kippur?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Name That Spouse!

I've mentioned many times throughout blogging that I have these little neuroses/hang-ups/idiocyncracies/"jewkim barosh". Here's another one to note on that list.

I was probably twenty-one or twenty-two when a friend got married; she was my first peer to do so. Before she married, she'd talk about her fiance as "Alan this, Alan that." After she married, it was no longer, "Alan this, Alan that." It was "My husband this, my husband that."

That's when my hackles first rose.

"What??!! I know his name. Why do you have to refer to him as "my husband" all the time?" I never said this aloud to her; I just figured she was in that honeymoon stage and liked the sound of "my husband."

But she wasn't the only one who'd be so formal.

I discovered my aunt would talk about "my daughter-in-law." Now, Sara is the ONLY daughter-in-law my aunt has; why didn't she address her by name? Why did she appear to distance herself with such a generic tag?

My cousin, Sara's husband, mostly talked about Sara, but sometimes did refer to her as "my wife."

When my brother-in-law got married, he constantly talked about "my wife". Granted, he was older when he married, she was on her second marriage, so each was happy to have found the other. Did he have her on such a pedestal?

I did not like the sound of "my wife" all the time; it sounded as if he were talking about a possession, something materialistic. If I wouldn't have known her, that's something else. But I know her and I know her use it!

After witnessing him and my cousin refer to "my wife," I began to wonder if it's a Yeshivish etiquette thing that nobody had told me about. Is it a means to give kavod/honor to one's spouse...or is it just a possessive kind of thing?

Moreso, why did/does this bother me so much? I wonder.

If I ever use "my husband" in conversation, it's: 1. to someone who doesn't know him at all or 2. if I use the expression, I'll follow it with my husband's name, as an identifier or 3. i'll be cheeky to a friend in conversation and say it with great cynicism and emphasis if he's done something to irritate me.

But my husband has a name, and I make sure to use it.

I know other frum couples where the husbands refer to "my wife" and the wives refer to their husbands by name.

(it's funny, but I don't have the same problem when someone refers to "my son" or "my daughter.")

If there are any Yeshivish-type readers out there (Chaim? Ezzie? Elie?), please do tell me if there is some kind of unwritten rule among the more frum that you give one's spouse -- specifically the wife, the "eshet chayil" more honor by referring to them by their "title" rather than by "name".

My husband knows how I feel about this topic and wouldn't dare refer to me as "my wife" unless he added "Pearl" to the mix. That's why I love this guy; he respects me and my wishes.

See, people? "My husband"...Mr. TorontoPearl" ... earns respect and shows it too -- doing so on a first-name basis!