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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘silly things’

The Things I Miss Because I Live in Israel

Friday, December 13th, 2013

When I first moved to Israel, I had a list of things I’d ask people to bring; things I thought I NEEDED to live…they were, I realized over the years, silly things.

I needed onion powder because the onion powder in Israel seems to clump with moisture in a very short period of time.

I still ask people to bring it when they can, use more fresh onions, and occasionally use the Israeli brands. I don’t NEED it from America…but it’s always nice to have.

I needed tuna…the Israeli brand seemed awful – now they sell the same American brand I used in the States and it’s priced pretty reasonably.

I needed American peanut butter…now they sell Skippy here, but I prefer the Israeli brand for cooking (it’s healthier and blends better with other ingredients).

I needed…I’m not really sure what else. I loved Entenmann’s cakes in America…I still do…but the last time I had it here, I felt this chemical taste and realized that Israeli foods use so much less chemicals.

Time to market is faster here – the market is so much closer and smaller, and so it seems shelf life is shorter.

Whatever the manufacturing reasons, I’ve learned to bake what I need or buy what I need here.

When we first came, Heinz ketchup was rare and a fortune – we used Osem. After a time, my husband brought me a bottle of Heinz and my kids thought it was too spicy.

I was a fanatic ketchup user in my youth…but truthfully, I don’t NEED Heinz…though I still like it.

After 20 years here, I’m left with two things they just don’t have here. I can live without both of them…but how I miss them…what I figure is that if the only thing I lack from America comes to these two things, I’m not doing to badly.

I love so much about this country, I can live with the fact that there are two things I had in America that I really can’t get (or get enough of) here.

The first is Sunday. Oh, I want a day where I can sleep late and then get up and go traveling. I miss Sundays; I really do.

Sometimes, I steal a day for myself…I go where I want; do what I want.

Considering I’ve spent the better part of the last three months since my operation not working…I really shouldn’t complain, but there’s something so wonderful about the concept of a Sunday. Maybe it’s the guilt-free part.

And the second thing that has been missing from my life for so long is snow. I love snow. I love rain…but I love snow.

And today…after so many years in Israel, I was like the silliest kid on the train.

I took picture after picture after picture…and the funny part was hearing that same Android click from all over the train.

There are few more beautiful places in the world – than Jerusalem in the snow.

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/failing-in-order-to-succeed/2013/08/19/

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