Pleasant Surprises

Note: This article appeared in the June Scroll.

The best surprises are the pleasant ones. Too many of the surprises I have had over the last year, heck even over the last month, have not been pleasant. I have lost friends to COVID and other maladies, had unexpected problems at work, and so on, and so on. I do not have to go into details here, you all know the story. What I experienced is, I am sure, not all that different from what you have experienced at one time or another in your lives. 

There are even times when it seems like unpleasant surprises come at me in seeming rapid fire. Issues at work, in the community, at the congregation, etc. can come up quickly in succession, and sometimes it feels like all I am doing is reacting to one bullet after another. During times like that, I bear in mind one of my favorite country songs, by Rodney Atkins: “If you’re going through h*ll, keep on going… You might get out before the Devil even knows you’re there.”

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I Feel the Need to Read

This article originally appeared in the May issue of The Scroll.

I don’t know about you, but I love to read. I got that from my mom, of blessed memory. She was a veritable bookworm and I inherited her love of the written word. My fondest memories are of times when I went into our attic, which was big and filled with boxes many of which contained dozens of books. I would gribbleve (that’s a term my mom used to say whenever we rifled through something… don’t ask me where it comes from or what its literal definition is) through dusty boxes and come up with literary gems that would occupy my mind for hours. Mom used to start wondering where I was and she would call my name at the top of her lungs to try and find me. 

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Moments

This article appeared in the April, 2021 issue of The Scroll.

Every so often, I go back and read my past articles published here in The Scroll. Sometimes I do it for inspiration and sometimes I do it just to check myself to ensure that I am providing an interesting mix of topics from month to month.

Well, I just did that.

I have a white board in my office. I want to go over to it and write 100 times, “I will NOT write about COVID.” In rereading some of my last few articles, it seemed to me that every article I read dealt, in one way or another, with the COVID pandemic. I do not like being repetitive and, even if the topics were different and COVID was only an element in the article, I feel like it has become too prevalent in my writing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When I write these articles, I write on topics that are on my mind and that I believe will be of interest and use to you, the reader. This pandemic has colored everything for over a year, so I guess it is natural that it would show up, in one form or another, many times. Today, however, I am going to say, at least for this month, ENOUGH ABOUT COVID! I am sick and tired of this bloody pandemic and its effect on our lives. So let’s try, even for a few moments, to just forget about it and take a break.

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They Paved Paradise (and Put up A Parking Lot)

Note: This article appeared in the March 2021 issue of The Scroll.

It’s a sad fact of life that we tend not to appreciate something while we have it. When I was younger, I never really appreciated the freedom I had. I felt good, everything worked fine, I could do almost anything I wanted (so long as I could afford it and my wife would let me). Now, as age starts to creep up on me, I am starting to feel the restraints it brings. The back hurts a little, I don’t sleep as well, I can’t play stickball like I used to… all those things I had, I took for granted, until they were gone. Now, I realize how great I had it and I miss those days. I wish I could get on a real stickball court and teach my grandson how to throw a curveball that had the batter bailing out of the batter’s box before it broke and landed in the lower outside corner of the strike zone box. I wish I could coach his little league baseball team like I used to do with his dad. There are so many things I wish I could do now but time has taken many of those things away from me and now I miss them.

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The Light of Hope, The Comfort of Meaning

Note: This article appeared in the February 2021 issue of The Scroll.

1 year. A whole bloody year. I cannot believe it. I blinked and a year has gone by since the world turned upside down. How do I know this? Because it all went crazy right after Purim last year. And now, this article is for the month in which Purim occurs this year. Inconceivable!

Of course, that’s measured by the Jewish calendar. I count the secular calendar’s begin date on March 16th. Not because it’s my birthday, but because that is when I was first exposed to COVID-19 (I tested positive two weeks later), and that was the first time I broadcast a congregational Mincha service on Facebook Live. So, if you’re counting by the secular calendar, we still have a little more than a month to go. Still, it has been an awfully long time since life was “normal.”

The advent of the vaccine gives me hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps this long nightmare is finally reaching its end. Too much has been lost, too many people have lost their lives, too much time has been spent indoors, and too many relationships have suffered. The pandemic is hopefully going to end soon, and I wish to be able celebrate that with you in the near future. But, life will never be the same. 

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Considerayaytion (It’s Keeping Me Wayayayayting)

Note: This appeared in the January 2021 issue of The Scroll.

Living a life that is guided by Torah has many rules. A friend of mine just sent me a video of Ashley Blaker, an orthodox comedian, on how many rules we follow and what it might look like if Christmas were a Yom Tov. It’s bloody brilliant (Blaker is British so it has to be “bloody” brilliant). 

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Comes the Holidays

This article was published in the December 2020 issue of The Scroll.

There are certain things we Jews do well. We know how to mourn. We know how to celebrate. That’s because our perspectives on both come from a source of great wisdom: the Torah.

This is the season for celebrations. I am writing this article a mere two days before Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Not just the food, although that is usually great, but the opportunity to get together with family and friends and enjoy dinner together is awesome. Of course, with COVID restrictions, our ability to congregate is very limited but at least we can choose to sit down with those we love, either physically or virtually, and spend an evening together. Plus, in sharing a Thanksgiving dinner together, we are celebrating this great country that has granted us true religious freedom. “True religious freedom” means that not only do we have the right to exercise our religion without fear of harm but the actual ability to do so. And yes, I know about the problems of anti-Semitism and how it infects our society from the streets to the hallowed halls of Congress. Still, the United States of America is a country like no other in the world and it has given us Jews a home. To be a Jew in the United States is to have true religious protection and freedoms unlike any other country in the world with the exception of Israel. Anti-Semitism in the United States’ is a problem but, compared to Europe, it is light-years ahead.

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Comes the Apocalypse

Note: This article was originally written on November 11, 2020 for the December issue of the Scroll. I opted for a more timely topic, calendar wise and did not submit this one. So, this is a website exclusive.

Warning! This column contains unrestrained political commentary! Reader’s discretion is advised.

The country is aflame. Not literally, thank G-d. At least, not as I write this. What will be in the future is unknown. We certainly have seen enough rioting and destruction this year to last us a lifetime. 

No, I mean politically. The election is over… Except it’s not. Biden has been declared the President-Elect, except that has not happened by any legal authority yet. President Trump is ready for political retirement, except he refuses to give in. Biden and the press are jumping the gun to prevent a legitimate challenge to a flawed election! Trump is preparing a coup d’etat to remain in office! OH MY GOODNESS! THE SKY IS FALLING! EVERYONE HEAD FOR THE SHELTERS!!!!!!

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Masks

Note: This article appeared in the November issue of The Scroll.

Masks. We are all wearing them. There are all kinds: three-ply surgical, KN95, N95, cloth (with and without filter), designer, bandana, etc. Masks are in nowadays. They’re all the rage. You can even get designer masks now. Like a sports team? Get a mask with their name and logo.Supporting a candidate? They got masks too. Companies and unions are making up custom masks for their employees and members. Yep, everywhere you look someone is wearing some kind of mask.

And, that’s a good thing. In today’s day of COVID, masks are a way to protect ourselves and others from the virus.

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It’s More than Stones

Note: This article was published in the October issue of The Scroll.

The building looked old. I would have to guess that it was more than 100 years old. I had to climb three flights of stairs. The walls had clearly not seen a wet paintbrush in decades. The paint had obviously been peeling off although all the flaking paint had been cleaned away. The concrete steps were sturdy but showed their age. They too had not been painted in many years.

When I reached the third floor, a sign pointed me to a huge open space. I paced it out and it measured approximately 125 x 250 feet. It was clearly a former factory floor although I am betting it had not served that purpose in a very long time. For all I know, this may have been the site of a former sweatshop from the early 20th century.

Its purpose on this day was much different.

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