One of the interesting paradoxes of human life is our tendency to copy one another and to try to “fit in" with friends and acquaintances, while simultaneously trying to be distinct from others, and to be our “own person."
I am sure that you have a most favorite activity. I know that I do.
I once loved the word. I first heard it when I was introduced to the thought of German sociologist Max Weber. He differentiated between several types of leaders, one of whom had neither specialized expertise nor royal birth, but whose authority rested on the devotion instilled in his followers by the force of his personality. He termed that force of personality "charisma," and he wrote eloquently of the power of charisma and of the great danger charismatic leaders posed to society.
We are all full of contradictions. There is a part of us which is noble, kind and generous. But there is another part that is selfish and stingy, and which can even be cruel.
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.
The world is indeed a stage, and we all play many roles in our lives. Some of these roles are assigned to us, leaving us with little choice but to fill them. Other roles, however, are freely chosen.
It was November, 1938. Dark clouds were gathering over all of Europe, and particularly over the Jewish communities in countries like Poland and Lithuania. Although few foresaw the horrific extent of the Holocaust that lay ahead, everyone knew that those communities were in very grave danger.
I trace back my love of poetry to Mr. Perle. He taught freshman English in the high school I attended. I remember him as diminutive in stature, but not at all diminutive in his ability to inspire reluctant students to read, and to actually enjoy, fine literature.
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.
This column initiates a weekly series of discussions on the biblical portion read every Sabbath in the synagogue. I intend to focus on a theme which relates directly to the person and his or her real life experiences. I will try to plumb the depths of the parsha to find gems of relevance.
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.
It is a word that one hears frequently these days, in many contexts. The word is "process." It is a word that reflects our growing recognition that there are very few things in this world that occur in an instant, yesh me'ayin, something out of nothing.
It is good for the body and good for the soul. It helps one lose weight, provides time for contemplation, is a favorite leisure activity, it can be entertaining – even edifying – and it costs nothing. In fact, there is no down side to it at all. It is the act of walking, or more colloquially, "taking a walk."
It is an old word, and it describes a behavior that has been around since the very beginning of history. Yet the word seems to me to be used more and more frequently these days, and the behavior it describes has gotten out of control.
The custom is fairly prevalent nowadays, but it was not a common practice thirty years ago when my friend raised his sons. He would seek out especially pious rabbis, generally quite elderly ones, to request that they bless his children.
Although many of his adherents deny it, he definitely had an anti-Semitic streak and was at least, for a time, sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Yet he was one of the major psychological theorists of the 20th century, and I personally have found his insights into the human mind both fascinating and practical.