Veteran readers of this column are familiar with my paternal grandfather, Chaim Yitzchak Weinreb. He was an old-school Jew, with roots in the region of eastern Poland known as Galicia. He had studied under renowned Talmudists back in the old country, and his fervent wish was to see his grandchildren grow up to be dedicated Talmud students.
Kindergarten children are delightfully oblivious to the distinction between what adults call reality and the imaginary world. For these young children, there is no difference between the people in their actual lives and the people they learn about in the stories they hear.
I read the story quite some time ago. It was told by a young woman who boarded an airplane early one winter Friday morning. She was on her way to Chicago from New York to spend a weekend there with friends.
Regular readers of this column are familiar with my dear grandfathers, both of whom passed away more than fifty years ago, may their memories be a blessing. Although they were quite a different from each other, they both taught me lessons that have lasted throughout the years.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the early origins of my basic beliefs. One of those beliefs, which has thankfully persisted to this day, has been the belief in fairness. I guess that I first learned about fairness on the playgrounds of the neighborhood in Brooklyn, where I grew up.
With this week’s Torah portion, Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8), we begin a new cycle of Torah readings. No wonder that we somehow feel that the new year has finally really begun. It is also the beginning of a new academic year for many of us. No wonder that “newness” is in the air.
Fear and trembling. Those have been our primary religious emotions during the past several weeks...
We all have our secret lives. I don't mean to say that each of us has a sinister side, which we wickedly act out in some deep, dark, private world. What I do mean is that we all act differently when we are alone, or with a few close intimates, than we act when we are out in public, among others.
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.
Ethics is a subject about which we all have many questions. What makes an ethical personality? How do we make ethical decisions in complicated circumstances?
Jewish people teach Jewish values to their children, and to all who wish to be informed about their faith. If one is asked “Should I or should I not?” we generally respond with clear and certain advice: “Yes, you should”, if the value is a positive one, or “No, you should not”, when the value in question demands inaction.
Except for the saints among us, we all boast. Sometimes we boast about our own natural endowments, our good looks, or our athletic prowess. Often we boast about our achievements, social or professional.
It was at a house of mourning, and she was saying something that I had heard many times before. In fact, I had said it myself when I was sitting shiva for my own mother.
We all nod our heads in agreement when we hear the phrase, "Two Jews, three opinions." We similarly chuckle when we hear the anecdote about the Jew who was discovered after years of living alone on a desert island. His rescuers noticed that he had built two huts aside from the one he lived in. He told the puzzled people who saved him that they were shuls, or synagogues. When asked why he needed two shuls, he retorted, "One is the one in which I pray, and the other is the one into which I would never set foot."
Imagine standing at a crossroads. We have all been there. We have all experienced moments in our life’s journey when we had to make a crucial choice and decide whether to proceed along one road or along another. (Except for Yogi Berra, of course, who famously said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it.")
I no longer remember which Israeli artist colony I was visiting. Perhaps Jaffa. But I will never forget the crude, almost primitive paintings, which were on exhibit. They were all very different in color, style, and size. But in every painting, a candle predominated.
I am sure that you have a most favorite activity. I know that I do. I am also sure that you have a least favorite activity, as I do.
My first exposure to the study of the Bible was in the Yiddish language. We spoke only English at home, but almost all the teachers we had in the yeshiva I attended were Holocaust survivors who had escaped to the safety of these shores only a few years prior.
I love visiting residences for senior citizens. For one thing, being around truly older people invariably helps me feel young by comparison. Recently, I was a weekend guest scholar at such a residence. I dispensed with my prepared lectures and instead tried to engage the residents of the facility, not one of whom was less than ninety years old, in a group discussion. This proved to be a very wise move on my part, because I learned a great deal about the experience of getting old. Or, as one wise man insisted, “You don’t get ‘old’—you get ‘older.’”