Sometimes even the corniest of old jokes has a profound lesson to teach us...
It is the last Sabbath of this year. In just a few days we usher in a New Year, and by the time we read the next Torah portion it will already be the year 5774.
For many of us, the first pieces of wisdom which we learned were from nursery rhymes and schoolyard jingles. Sometimes these childish lessons had value, but more often they were off the mark and had the effect of distorting a truer perspective on life.
I have kept my time-worn copy of Roget's Thesaurus in my personal library since I was in the seventh grade. It was given to me by my teacher, a Mr. Zeller, who introduced me to the beauty of language and who first stimulated my fascination with words. He taught me to use this thesaurus in order to use language effectively and with precision.
How drastically has our world changed! Even as many communities have gradually "reopened," we now realize that things may never be quite the same as they were just a short time ago.
For the past several months, we have all been struggling with the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. We have heard our share of sad and tragic stories, and many have had to cope with very frightening events. But, on more than one occasion, we have also read about, and sometimes even witnessed, uplifting and inspiring episodes that have helped us cope with the situation constructively.
It was a lesson I learned long ago, when I was a high school classroom teacher. I was new at this line of work, and found that my greatest challenge was to find ways to motivate the students. I tried various approaches, which all were basically attempts to motivate by giving. I tried giving special prizes and awards, granting extra privileges, and even resorting to outright bribery in order to get the students to pay attention, do their homework, and learn the subject matter.
All beginning students of Torah face this obstacle: in their original, the primary texts of our Jewish tradition have no punctuation. There are neither commas nor periods in the Torah scroll, the Sefer Torah. There are no question marks, nor are there indications of where one paragraph ends and another begins in standard editions of the Talmud.
That transitions and destinations are part of life is obvious. What is less obvious, but more fascinating, is that one person's destination is often another person's transition, and vice versa.
It is quite a long time now since I first heard the term "work-study program." This was a special federal program designed to assist young adults with limited financial means to achieve a professional education.
I am proud of my large library of Jewish books. My collection, which my wife half-jokingly refers to as my addiction, began on my 11th birthday with a gift from my maternal grandparents, may they rest in peace.
“No man is an island.” “It takes a village.” These are just some of the clichés that are used to convey the importance of social groups, of the realization that people cannot “go at it alone”.
There are certain phrases or expressions that many of us find hard to say. "I love you" is one of them. Another such phrase is "thank you".
What is life all about? One answer to that question is that life is all about beginnings and endings.
It is hard to sustain a spiritual high. Those of us who are committed to religious observance know that long periods of successful adherence to our standards are sometimes rudely interrupted by sudden, seemingly inexplicable lapses. Long-enduring spiritual experiences yield to momentary temptations and vanish in a flash.
Scholars have long disagreed about what distinguishes human beings from the rest of the animal world. Some have argued that it is man's intelligence and use of language that distinguishes him; hence the term Homo Sapiens. Others have maintained that it is the fact that he uses tools that makes man distinct from other living creatures; hence, the term Homo Faber. There have even been those who have put forward the opinion that man alone of all the rest of the animal species engages in play; hence, the term Homo Ludens.