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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Love And Fear…Of Food

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Some of us climb a scale each day in terror and dread. Some of us alight a scale, with our hearts thumping and throats tightening. We may know how to jump off and on, or gyrate this way or that to create a different number. And we will stare at that all important number – which could very well dictate our mood for the rest of the day. We believe the final number to be the true judge of our worth – of how well we are doing. And we are sorry that the scale could not be fooled.

I try not to think back to those obsessive weighing-in days. Yes, I am not as slender as I was back then. Yes, I still have days where I feel very large, and need to remind myself that I am much more than a dress size. One day I discovered other ways to monitor size, and my scale lost its power over me. No longer was my self-worth tied to random blinking numbers. I bravely abandoned the scale that was my companion most of my youth and put it away. I learned about a whole world that did not revolve around food plans and rigid choices. I learned that food could be my friend, and I could enjoy it based on my tastes and likes. I learned that my body actually knows when food is necessary, and that I could trust my hunger. I realized that G-d wants us to eat and enjoy, instead of feeling tortured when faced with tasty food.

Eating is a constant, and we ought to notice what it is we consume. What am I choosing to eat at this moment? Do I eat with abandon, or with awareness? Am I even enjoying the food? Am I making my blessings properly, before and after a meal or snack, expressing to G-d how grateful I am for these choices?

I think of a friend, a mentor from my days in New York. She was a truly special woman who not only raised a large family, but had also begun to have grandchildren. Then she succumbed to an awful illness and quickly was gone. The first thought I had then upon hearing the news was “but she never got to be as thin as she wanted.” Yet, G-d took her. Her time was up.

What if we spend our all our waking moments mourning over an extra morsel of cake? What if we regret our food decisions each time we make them? What if we don’t see what we’ve become?

All of us are expert calorie counters. We know all the labels, and can recite the calories fat and carbs of each item. Our generation is truly more educated than any other about food, and the consequences of eating poorly. Even young children have jumped on the food bandwagon, and can rattle off the fat contents and calories. We have the knowledge to make better choices.

It is good to be aware, to be sure we are not eating recreationally, to fill time, but rather that we are reaching for food based on our internal hunger signals. I wonder, though, do we focus equally on our spiritual progress?

The High Holidays are just a few weeks behind us. We have been judged by the one true Judge – and we made promises and resolutions. The real world, the real judgement of our worth, lies entirely in our behaviors and choices. Good intentions are nice, but only valuable if we make them concrete with action. G-d does not care about the number on the scales; He does not care how much we weigh. However, He does care about how we treat our mothers and fathers. He will measure the nuances of our speech around our coworkers and how we act when we are behind the steering wheel.

Am I spending all my waking moments mourning over something I ate that was high in calorie? Am I noticing how I look or who I have become? Do I appreciate the gift of what I do have? Do I truly revel in the present, appreciating life? Do I count my blessings or my calorie consumption?

New York Jewish Doctor Co-Recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Robert J. Lefkowitz, a Jewish physician and path-breaking biochemist from New York, has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Brian K. Kobilka, a researcher at California’s Stanford University.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 went to the scientists for “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family … of receptors: G-protein–coupled receptors,” an Oct. 10 posting on the website of the Nobel Prize stated. Understanding how these receptors function helped further explain how cells could sense their environment, according to the text.

Lefkowitz – who works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina — and Kobilka worked together to isolate and analyze a gene which led them to discover that “the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner,” the Nobel Prize website said.

Lefkowitz, 61, and Kobilka, 57, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee.

On Oct. 9. The Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm announced that Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, had won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with David Wineland from the United States. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 went to Dan Shechtman of Israel’s Technion.

In 2008, Lefkowitz received the US National Medal of Science. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported at the time that he was one of three American-Jewish recipients that year of the nation’s highest honor in science and technology.

In an interview with Emily Harris which appeared this summer on the website of Duke University, Lefkowitz is quoted as saying: “I was clearly destined to be a physician, I dreamed about it from the third grade on. Wouldn’t trade that part of my experience in for anything. I LOVED medical school.” He also said: “I do regret that my dad died thinking I would be a practicing cardiologist, never dreaming what the future held for me.”

Lefkowitz’s father, who died at the age of 63, “never got to see any of this play out,” Lefkowitz said.

Which Are You?

Friday, October 5th, 2012

I watched them tear a building down;
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a mighty heave and a lusty yell,
They swung a boom and a side wall fell.

I said to the foreman, “Are these men skilled
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just a common laborer is all I need.
And I can wreck in a day or two
What it took the builder a year to do.”

And I thought to myself as I went my way,
“Just which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by the rule and square,
Or am I a wrecker as I walk the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?”

When I read this anonymously written poem, I immediately thought about self-confidence. Do you work brick by brick to build your own self-confidence and those of everyone around you or do you use a wrecking ball to knock it all down? Granted, it is a lot quicker to wreck things than it is to build them well.

But, self-confidence is essential to a healthy, happy life. Self-confidence is needed in order to create meaningful friendships, apply for competitive jobs, and parent our children with assurance and ease. Perhaps the most important reason we need to believe in ourselves is that if we do not, we will teach our children that it is okay to put themselves down as well. This can ultimately lead to a rejection of self.

First, let’s discuss how to build your own self-confidence.

Focus on the positive. Obviously, no one is perfect, but every one of us has positive qualities that we can build on. Even if overall you are not happy with who you are – you can definitely come up with qualities that you appreciate about yourself. Perhaps you are a wonderful organizer, a great listener or an excellent cook. Make a list of the things you like about yourself and schedule activities that bring out those qualities during your day.

Some examples:

If you are a wonderful organizer: Volunteer to run a fundraiser for your shul or school.

If you are a great listener: Visit the elderly and listen to their stories about the past.

If you are an excellent cook: Cook meals for the new mothers in your neighborhood or for the less fortunate.

Engaging in activities that you feel competent in (and that are additionally helpful to others) will help build your self-confidence.

Treat yourself. Every now and then, remind yourself that you are worth it. Depending on what you can afford (both time and money), give yourself something you love: a massage, an hour of babysitting to read your book quietly, a fast walk outside to clear your mind, or an extra two hours of sleep. Treating yourself will signal to your inner “wrecking ball” that you believe you have value.

Once you begin to work on your own self-confidence, it might be time to focus on your children as well. Do they say things like, “I am so stupid” or “I can’t do anything right”? If so, they could use some help figuring out how to build themselves up.

Child psychologists and educators often suggest the following steps:

Avoid labels. Instead of saying, “You are so smart.” Say, “When you figured out how to read that sign without any help, I was so impressed with how much you have learned.” Or, instead of “You are a kind and sweet girl” say, “Remember the time when your sister Faigy was crying and you went over and sang her a song to make her feel better? That was so nice of you.”

Engage in their strengths. Just as you should do for yourself, talk to your child about the things she feels she does well and then help her do those activities regularly. For instance, if your daughter is artistic, sign her up for an art class after school or on Sundays. If your budget does not allow for afterschool activities, consider investing in some art supplies that will be hers alone so that she can feel special.

What Bill Belichick and the Patriots Can Teach Us about the Days of Awe

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

A conversation between God and the angels is recorded in Tractate Rosh Hashanah:

Angels: Why aren’t the Israelites singing Hallel (psalms of praise) on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

God: The books of Life and Death are open before Me, and you want them to sing?

In this conversation, the Angels appear to have forgotten which Holidays we’re discussing, expecting these serious Days of Awe to be days for singing and happiness.

The following sports metaphor should help us understand the Angels’ question:

The great Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, who has lead his team to many Super Bowl appearances, five as a head coach and three more as defensive coordinator, is arriving in July for the team’s first training mini-camp. His basic goals is to get the team ready for the new season by setting their sights on another Super Bowl, introducing the play book, and instilling the discipline necessary for a winning team.

The latter would include a commitment to adhere to the coach’s direction. Coach Belichick is known for his “New England way”: team success over individual success, thorough preparation, shutting out distractions, and looking no further than the next game, or, as Coach Belichick puts it: “We just gotta’ get ready for next week.”

Now think about it: how does the team feel when their great coach arrives at that mini-camp? Obviously, they’re glad he’s arrived, and anticipate getting ready for another championship run.

The ten day period from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur are similar: God, our great, respected ”coach,” starts our year by ”joining us” for ten days with the goal of getting us ready for another ”Super Bowl season.” He wants to direct our attention 1) towards that goal2)towards focusing on the ”play book” (the Torah) and towards the recognition of God as our absolute ”coach,” who we must adhere to in order to ”win.”

So the Angels correctly ask why we’re not joyfully singing Hallel as God ”arrives” at the beginning of our year-we certainly are ecstatic upon his arrival and much anticipate ”kicking off.”

Let us begin our year on the right foot towards another Super Bowl season.

When I Murdered Rabin

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The outspoken statements we cited here, at the Jewish Press, by Hagai Amir, brother of Rabin’s assassin Yogal Amir, took me back to my own personal encounter with the Rabin assassination. It didn’t exactly change my life, but it taught me several crucial lessons.

On that fateful Shabbat in November, 1995, when rumors reached Manhattan’s Lower East Side that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been wounded by an assailant’s bullets, we were at the Seuda Shlishit (third meal) in the Chassidic shteibel where I davened for more than two decades. (I also belonged to another, more left-wing, modern Orthodox shul. I’m a difficult person to classify.) Between conversations and nibbling, one of my neighbors bent over and whispered, smiling, “At least in this shul we know no one is going to recited Tehillim for his speedy recovery.”

My immediate, totally uncalculated reaction was to open a siddur (prayer book) and begin to recite Tehillim. I couldn’t behave otherwise. That‘s my nature – if someone will tell me NOT to jump off a bridge, I’m already up on the railing, hat in hand.

Even if I had known on that Shabbat that Rabin’s murder would mark the end of my career in Hebrew language journalism, I definitely would have continued to recite those chapters of Tehillim, and not just to be different than the other Jewish guy who said whatever he said.

Still, if on that Shabbat you would have asked me if I supported Yitzchak Rabin’s politics, I would have certainly replied in the negative. There are even those that claim that Yitzhak Rabin himself already didn’t completely agree with his government’s course of action, and was possibly even considering how to change direction, when the murderer’s bullet stopped him.

However, it’s not those old arguments that I want to relate, rather my inconspicuous and non-dramatic connection to the big story. Maybe one day some historian will come across this article and I will merit having my name mentioned in a footnote in some important book about the murder.

I have already gone over broad details of quite a few accounts of Rabin’s murder, and considering the fact that I am a peaceful individual by nature, even a bit of a coward, certainly not the type to run ahead and climb all kinds of barricades, I have been incredibly close to several high profile murders.

One Shabbat afternoon, when I was 6 years old, in Ramat Chen, Zhurabin shot his cousin over something the cousin he had done in the Irgun. It was a dark Shabbat in 1960, I believe, about 35 years before the gloomy Shabbat of the Rabin murder. I was looking out my bedroom window on the second floor on HaSeren Dov Street and I saw the wounded uncle limping down the sidewalk to Dr. Gorelick’s house at the corner of Aluf David Street.

He left a trail of big, thick beads of blood on the gray, cement sidewalk, tiny red puddles that turned brown, but didn’t disappear for many years. Red and gray were the colors of the Zhurabin murder attempt. I think he was put into a mental institution and after that we were told not to mention the whole affair in front of his children, even though they were bullies and occasionally deserved pushback. (If they didn’t pick you to play little-goal soccer—the soccer equivalent of stickball—you didn’t play.)

When I was 16, I hung around with some friends in Bat Yam, among them Rachel Heller, a thin, shy, teenage girl. I really have nothing significant to say about besides her name and what she looked like. Several years later, when I was already in New York, distributing Ma’ariv and Yedioth newspapers every Friday night, I suddenly saw that a guy named Amos Barnas admitted to murdering her seven years before. I didn’t remember this entire affair until 1981, when I saw Heller’s picture and did a double take.

Before this, in 1980, I was driving a yellow taxi cab and I left off a passenger at the Dakota Building at 72nd Street and Central Park West, just a day before Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon on the very same sidewalk.

By the way, does anyone know why all American assassins have two first names? Lee Harvey Oswald. James Earl Ray. John Wilkes Booth. Charles Julius Guiteau (killed Garfield).

Democrat Convention Plan Shows Obama will Lose the Election

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Visit Barry Rubin’s blog, Rubin Reports.

The Republican convention, whatever your critique of it, was designed to show that this is not a group of scary horrible people and that even if it is conservative this is also a moderate, rational group in the conservative solutions it proposes and in its broad appeal. Of course, the mass media did all it could to distort that fact but, of course, the terrible economic situation favors the opposition party.

The information released about the Democratic convention seems to show it is designed to prove how radical the party is, to play to the most limited possible sector of the population. There will be hatred and vicious character assassination. Of all the imams that could have been chosen, one with a radical background was picked to lead services while—from what I’ve read—Catholics were almost deliberately dissed. This is a convention featuring Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. There will be a lot of scary people and nasty rhetoric, sort of like a Keith Olbermann film festival.

I estimate that two-thirds of the Democrats in Congress are really moderate though they lack the courage to speak up. But will any of them be allowed to make any moderate statements that truly differ with the far-left line? No. Lots are staying away because they know this to be true; others will smile on the outside and be totally depressed knowing that the iceberg is on the way.

And the more the mass media gushes over this carnival, the more it will discredit itself and increase the cognitive dissonance (a fancy word for: What, are you guys nuts!) among a lot of Americans. When you are a wolf dressed up in a sheep suit you don’t want to unzip it, step out, and bare your teeth.

This is typical of a pattern often seen historically in democratic countries around the world, in which a party drifts so far to the left or right, is so dominated by ideologues, so arrogant in believing it is the only possible ruling party that it collapses.

I might be wrong but I think the design of the Democratic convention shows why Obama and his congressional supporters are going to lose the election big-time.

Visit Barry Rubin’s blog, Rubin Reports.

White Sox Jewish Third Baseman Will Play for Israel at World Baseball Classic

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said he will play for Israel at the World Baseball Classic.

Youkilis told Israel Sports Radio Wednesday that he would play for Team Israel if he is healthy. This season, the three-time All Star is hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 47 runs batted in. He has been hampered by injuries for much of the past three seasons.

Israel is one of 16 countries invited to play in next month’s qualifying round, and the top four teams advance to the 2013 classic.

Youkilis also said there are other Jewish Major League Baseball players who want to play.

Diaspora Jews are eligible to play on behalf of Israel.

Former MLB player Brad Ausmus has signed on as coach and retired players Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler have agreed to assist as coaches and players for the Israeli team.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/white-sox-jewish-third-baseman-will-play-for-israel-at-world-baseball-classic/2012/08/23/

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