Turn it and turn it and turn it again…

I wish it weren’t so, but I kinda fell out of the blogosphere for a bit.  I could list the reasons why, but I won’t waste your time, I’ll just apologize and move on, sorry.

So, where are we?  We’ve done two full challenges so far, a blessing challenge and a tzedakah challenge.  Currently, we are in the midst of a Torah reading challenge.  The idea here is to read a section of the weekly Torah portion everyday.  Thankfully, the rabbis already break the portion up into nice, digestible chunks and there just happen to be seven in each portion.  If you don’t own a Torah translation (chumash), don’t worry, there are plenty of translations online.  You may not get the most recent JPS translation, but you’ll get the gist.

For a nice and easy guide to the weekly breakdown of the seven sections (these are actually the aliyot that are read each shabbat in synagogues around the world), just visit Hebcal.com  When you visit this site, you’ll notice that all the Torah portions are listed.  Next to each portion, there is the date that it is read in most synagogues.  Remember, although most of us are familiar with the Torah reading on Shabbat, the Torah portion is read throughout the entire week leading up to that Shabbat.  For instance, this weeks Torah portion is Vayechi and it will be read on Saturday, December 29th, but it is technically the Torah portion for this entire week.

Once the Torah portion is located, just click on it and a screen that looks like this should come up.

30 Day Jewish Challenge

Don’t worry about any of the columns except for the first one, “Full Kriyah.”  Here you will see the chapter and verses for each of the seven aliyot for the week’s Torah portion.  What is even better, if you just click on the hyperlink, you will be transported to another website where you can read the section for the day.

So, give it a shot, go ahead and read a bit of the weekly Torah portion every day.

Don’t forget, send me some reflections on the portion as you read it!

Golf rangefinder reviews 2015

What is a Golf Rangefinder?

A laser rangefinder is a rangefinder which uses a laser beam to determine the distance to an object. The most common form of laser rangefinder operates on the time of flight principle by sending a laser pulse in a narrow beam towards the object and measuring the timetaken by the pulse to be reflected off the target and returned to the sender. Due to the high speed of light, this technique is not appropriate for high precision sub-millimeter measurements, where triangulation and other techniques are often used. (Wiki)bushnell-hybrid-laser-gps

How to choose the best golf rangefinder 2015

Rangefinder refresher: this tool has evolved, making it even more of a necessity

When the first laser rangefinder was introduced several years ago it was met with conflicting reviews. Pessimists saw it not only as a way for hunters to take unfair advantage of game, but as a temptation that would cause many to attempt shots at far greater ranges than they should. That same opinion, by the way, was also shared by a small percentage of hunters back in the 1940s, when the telescopic sight began to really catch on. On the opposite side of the debate, optimists saw the laser rangefinder as a way to determine when game was too far away to shoot. This is important to any ethical hunter, regardless of whether his self-imposed maximum range is thirty or 300 yards.

During the past few years, I’ve made it a point to ask every guide and outfitter I meet if the introduction of the laser rangefinder has had any impact on the success of their clients. Each and every one has told me that the percentage of game wounded and lost has been noticeably reduced for no reason other than the fact that all guides (and most hunters) now carry rangefinders.

When used properly, the laser rangefinder is one of the best things to come along, not for the benefit of the hunter but for the benefit of the game he hunts. Anyone who says or thinks otherwise has his head in the sand.

How They Work

Some laser rangefinders used by the military utilize a special pressurized gas and are powerful enough to cause blindness if discharged into the eyes. The laser rangefinder you and I can buy utilizes a less powerful diode-emitted infrared beam of light that is classified by the government as “eye-safe.” This type of ranging system first became available commercially only as a dedicated unit, but it’s now available in binoculars and rifle scopes.

* They all work the same way. When the button is pushed, electrical current flows from a battery to a diode, causing it to project a beam or pulse of invisible light to the target. The unit instantaneously measures the amount of time it takes for the beam to reflect back to its receiving lens and uses this information to calculate distance, which is displayed in an LCD. Error seldom exceeds one yard regardless of distance ranged.

* A typical rangefinder has several mode options. On Scan Mode, you can hold down the operating button and range several different targets as you sweep an area; the unit will also constantly indicate changes in distance when a target is moving. Rain Mode permits accurate readings when ranging through falling rain or snow. Zip or Brush Mode ranges distant objects while ignoring closer ones. This latter feature is quite handy when you’re positioned back in the woods and need to range a deer standing out in a clearing.

* Internal inclinometers are new. They allow a hunter to compensate for steep uphill and downhill shots-which have always seemed to con: fuse some hunters. When in Bow Mode, for example, the Bushnell Elite 1500 ARC (Angle Range Compensation) displays not only line of site distance but also the true horizontal distance to the target. This is important because the horizontal distance from the target is less than the slope angle distance, and you must shoot accordingly. For example, if the angle from a hunter sitting in a tree stand to the deer is, say, forty-four degrees, and the line of sight distance is thirty-two yards, true horizontal distance is only twenty-three yards. If the bowhunter’s aim is based on slope angle distance rather horizontal distance, he will shoot high. In Rifle Mode, the Elite 1500 goes even further by displaying the amount of bullet drop at the target. Leupold also has some outstanding units with this feature.

* Laser rangefinders are rated to varying distances.

These ratings are based on a unit’s ability to range a highly reflective target under ideal ambient light conditions and favorable atmospheric conditions. When shopping for one, keep in mind that when used on less reflective targets and under less than ideal conditions, it’s not unusual for a rangefinding unit to fall short of its maximum range rating by 30 to 40 percent. In other words, if a unit has a 400-yard rating, you can usually depend on it to consistently range low-reflective targets out to 250 or 300 yards, even when ambient conditions are less than favorable.

Dedicated Ranging Units

Laser rangefinders with the single function of measuring distances will continue to be the least expensive, and they do have advantages. For one, they can be used in a variety of applications other than big game hunting and varmint shooting. When hunting waterfowl or turkeys, I use a rangefinder to determine distances to various landmarks, which I can use to determine when birds are in my effective range. With a dedicated unit, you also have the option of stowing it away in a daypack when you’re not using it rather than having it hanging around your neck or attached to your rifle. Most dedicated units are also small and lightweight.

Laser Rangefinder Binoculars

The biggest advantage in having your binocular double as a laser rangefinder is that you can immediately range an animal when you see it. When carrying separate units, you must first spot the target with the binocular and then range it with another instrument before deciding whether or not to aim and shoot, and this takes time that you don’t always have. If there is a negative to this type of rangefinder, it’s that they are typically larger and heavier than dedicated units. Laser range finding binoculars are also generally more expensive than dedicated units. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll only be paying for and carrying one unit instead of two.

Laser Rangefinding RiflescopesBest-Golf-rangefinder-swing

A riflescope with a built-in rangefinder has one really big advantage over the other two systems noted above: There is no lost time between ranging and shooting. After sizing up the animal with your binocular, you place the crosshairs of the scope on a vital area, push a button to get the range, adjust your hold if needed and squeeze the trigger.

This is especially nice if the animal you’ve decided to shoot keeps moving and changing its distance from you. A buck antelope chasing a doe across the prairie is a good example. When it occasionally stops running, you may only have a few seconds to range and shoot before it starts moving again. The higher magnification of the rangefinding scope also makes it easier to accurately direct the laser beam on a small target such as a prairie dog standing several hundred yards away.

The biggest downside to the several laser rangefinding scopes presently available is their size and weight, which makes them less than appealing if your hunting includes lots of walking and/or climbing. For stand hunting they are quite nice, but I wouldn’t want to carry one up a sheep mountain or try to squeeze it into a saddle scabbard. Laser rangefinding scopes are perfect for varmint shooting.

Actually, I don’t see laser ranging riflescopes ever making other rangefinding devices obsolete. A riflescope of any kind should be used only for shooting and never for glassing game–it should only be used to range a target that you intend to shoot. For general ranging or glassing, you’ll still need one of the other types of rangefinders or a binocular.

(1) Leica Rangemaster CRF 900

* Magnification: 7X

* Range: 10-902 yds

Accuracy: +/- 1yd to 366 yds +/- 2 yds to 800 yds +/- 0.5% over 800 yds

* LED display with four digits and brightness control

* Weight: 7.8 oz

* Color: Black

* $600

(2) Leupold RX II

* Magnification: 6X

* Range: 3-750 yds

* Accuracy: +/- 1 yd

* Inclinometer: Yes

* Weight: 6.8 oz

* Color: Black, grey or Mossy Oak Obsession

* $375 black/gray–$400 Mossy Oak Obsession

* leupold.com

(3) Bushnell Elite

* Magnification: 7X

* Range: 5-1,500 yds

* Accuracy: +/- 1 yd

* Inclinometer: yes

* Weight: 12.1 oz

* Color: Mossy Oak

* $699

* bushnell.com

(4) Nikon Laser 440 (8X)

* Magnification: 6X

* Range: 440

* Accuracy: +/- .5 yd to 437 yds

* Inclinometer: No

* Weight: 6:9 oz

* Color: Black, Realtree

* $312 Black, $344 Realtree

Swarovski Laserguide 8×30

* Magnification: 8X

* Range: 10-1,600 yds

* Accuracy: +/- 1 yd

* Inclinometer: No

* Weight: 13.6 oz.

* Color: Green

* $999

* swarovskioptik.com


Use Your best golf rangefinder To Know Distances Before Game Appears.

WHEN I SET up to call in a gobbler, I range various landmarks around my position to determine what is or is not within range of my gun. Then when the gobbler gets to that rotten stump to my left, the trunk of the big white oak out front or the small boulder to my right, I know whether I can shoot or not. I do the same when sitting in one spot and waiting for deer, elk or other big game to come out of hiding.

Introduction of Bushnell Pro 1600- The Best Rangefinder

This range finder include a 7X magnification. It covers the distance of 1600 yards and also it is water proof. You can even use this range finder in harsh climatic conditions.It covers a distance that range from 5-1600 yards

The slop edition has +/- 1% accuracy and also has a 9 volt battery. It also has 100% water proof properties and also has a cover. This type of golf range finder also has a 9 volt battery and it is perfect for the professional use

Nikon 8397 ACULON Cheap Golf Rangefinder

By its ultra-compact size (3.6″x2.9″x1.5), this innovative rangefinder redefines “portability” and is little enough to fit inside almost any pocket. Weighing just 6.4 ounces, the ACULON Rangefinder is made to be taken universally. These Golf rangefinder reviews are particularly useful if the object being deliberated is partially obscured by grass or brush.

  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 2.9 inches ; 6.4 ounces
  • Shipping Weight: one pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Shipping: Presently, item can be shipped only within the U.S.
  • The ASIN of the product: B00EF30VWA
  • Model # 8397
  • Battery: 1 CR2 batteries necessary.
  • Brand: Nikon
  • Best Sellers Rank of Amazon: #2,666 in Sports & Outdoors (look at the Top one hundred in Sports and Outdoors)
  • Average Customer Review:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5) (71 customer reviews)

Nikon CoolShot Best Laser Rangefinder

The Nikon range finder is among the best range finders and it has got a feedback store of 4.4 out of 5. The customers rely on this product due to its extraordinary features.

  • Best-GolfReady to use: The range finder is compact, lightweight and only having two buttons to perform all the functions so it is ready to use and reliable.
  • Fast speed: The Nikon range finder has a laser technology that gives the instant measurements and the readings to its users.
  • Water proof: It is also ideal to play in most extreme weathers as well because of its water proof nature.
  • Grabs plenty of light: This range finder is able to grab a plenty of light so gives the brighter views of the images by transmitting more light.
  • Eye relief: The large ocular lens enable a person to view the wide range of field and as well as it`s lens also gives the comfort of the eyes.

The Nikon best golf rangefinder is ideal for both beginners and the tournament players. Both its standard and slope editions are specialized for playing a specific match. It is also widely used by the coaches and the instructors.

The Nikon golf range finder exhibits the best features. It is ideal for all the golf lovers and if you want to improve your game then this range finder is must for you.

  Bushnell Tour V3 Jolt Standard Edition – Best Golf Rangefinder

Bushnell-Pro-1600This Laser rangefinder is the best aid for any golfer that likes to record accurate yard ranges for his shots and who likes to know precise shooting ranges as well. Aged Golfers who have trouble finding yards through smartphone applications will also love using this laser rangefinder in easing difficult observations for them. Moreover, other rangefinders don’t give you confirmation of the yard range that is being targeted whereas the Bushnell laser rangefinder confirms your target by a sudden jolt.

This feature helps the user to hold the rangefinder firmly without causing the rangefinder to lose grip from time to time or slip without notice. This also improves the accuracy of the laser rangefinder by ten folds. This laser rangefinder is exceptional with a range varying from a mere 10 yards to a staggering 1000 yards as well as being able to flag up to 300 yards at a time, give or take one yard.

The technology of Pin Seeker incorporated in this device makes it easy for users to scan landscapes with a continuous updated brief on the rangefinder’s LCD. This enables the user to navigate what is in front of him without losing out his position. The device also comes with a 2 year warranty and a 3-volt battery that keeps it up and running for numerous days and weeks without the need to recharge. The best feature about this laser rangefinder, however, is that it is allowed for tournament plays.

It’s Not Charity

Charity-According to Merriam-Webster.com

      • benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
  • generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need


  • Middle English charite, from Anglo-French charité, from Late Latin caritat-, caritas Christian love, from Latin, dearness, from carus dear; akin to Old Irish carae friend, Sanskritkāma love
  • First Known Use: 13th century

jewishWhile giving צְדָקָה (tzedakah) may fulfill some of the definitions of charity, it is much more than charity in the classic sense of the word.   Most importantly for Jews, it is a mitzvah.  Giving צְדָקָה is a one of our sacred obligations and it has helped define us as a people for generations.  Especially in times when no other organization would think to care for Jews, we made sure that our people were taken care of.  Today, while there are still many Jews in need, our community has the ability to help not just other Jews, but people all over the world.  At is essence, the Jewish notion of צְדָקָה recognizes that too much is not right with the world, that injustice surrounds us and we all have an obligation to help correct that injustice.

Like so many Hebrew words, צְדָקָה has a three letter root, צדק.  The essence of the root צדק is all about justice and righteousness.  Therefore, we can say that when we engage in צְדָקָה, we create more justice in the world.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of charity, I usually don’t have justice in mind.  I usually think that whoever is giving charity is giving out of the goodness of his or her heart.  The person who gives wants to do something good or nice.  Clearly, Judaism does not understand צְדָקָה in this manner.

It is an assumption, but I think most Jews out there, if they are giving צְדָקָה, usually sit down and write a check a few times a year.  It isn’t often that we actually feel money leaving our hands and going into a צְדָקָה box or even into another person’s hand.  I am not suggesting that we should stop writing big checks to organizations that we know are doing good work, but I wonder how our expereince of giving צְדָקָה might change if we gave it everyday.  How might we be changed if every morning we woke up and one of the first things we did was take some bills or some change and add to our collection?  What if it was the last thing we did before going to bed?  Might giving צְדָקָה daily reframe our entire day?

The צְדָקָה challenge has started!  Tweet #30doftzedakah and send me reflections to post.  I can’t wait to hear what this is like for everyone!

The First Challenge Comes To A Close

When I came up with the idea to do these challenges I just felt they would be a success.  Most of the time, when we come up with ideas, we know they will be hit or miss, we know there is risk involved.  This idea was different.  I knew, this idea would be hard for people to say no to, it is just too personalized, too easy, yet at the same time holds the possibility of profound transformation.

I know this challenge has been transformative for many.  Most clearly, I see that with my congregants who I see face to face with some regularity, but I know there are those out there across the world who are engaging in this challenge who I am sure have felt the effects.  Of course, a rabbi does not come up with an idea like 30 day Jewish challenges and then hope that folks participating will stop after the 30 days.  No, if this has been meaningful for you, keep doing the blessings!  Commit to another 30 days and see what it feels like.

Yesterday was the last day of the month of Cheshvan and with the setting sun we welcomed Kislev.  I will be posting more information about our next challenge tomorrow, but the challenge is quite simple, see what it feels like to give tzedakah everyday.  Take a little money out of your pocket or wallet and put it in a tzedakah box or some receptacle for the month.  At the end of the month, you can make a donation or keep adding to your collection.  More about that tomorrow.

I leave you with one more reflection and I think the perfect one to end this challenge.  May you all have a blessed day.

spiders-webI went into the first Thirty Day Challenge of Blessings with confidence.  This was going to be easy for me. I would have no shortage of blessings as I regularly took the time to acknowledge all that I am grateful for.  I turned my attention to becoming “Twitter savvy” so that I could tweet my blessings.  I had no idea that within the first week of the challenge, that a single blessing would test my faith and have me questioning God’s role in my blessing, my prayers, and my life.

“Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who…”

These are the words that I got hung up on.  My blessings usually came to me first thing in the morning or at night before I went to bed. These are quiet and reflective times for me.  These words at the beginning of my blessing were words that I said literally thousands of times during Shabbat Services and countless other times since I was a child.  Really thinking about these words made me question what God had to do with my blessing. I did not say my blessing that morning.  I couldn’t.  I wasn’t sure about God’s role in my life, my relationships, and the things that happened around me. This realization shook me to my core.  I was distracted the entire day as I contemplated my beliefs.

God and I had a good thing going during Shabbat.  Prayer during Shabbat had taken on real meaning for me.  After Shabbat as I went through the week, I rarely thought about God.  I seldom if ever spoke to God.  I realized during this very long day that I had taken the beginning words of many of our blessings for granted and did not consider their real meaning.  I closed my office door during lunchtime and shut off my light.  I closed my eyes and really tried to sort out my beliefs and God role in my life outside of Shabbat.

After lunch I faked it through the rest of my day.  As I worked with my clients and my staff tackling various issues, I kept thinking how unimportant they were in comparison to the really important questions that I was grappling with. I left work and as I pulled up in front of my house and remembered that I needed to park outside as my garage was full with items being moved.

As I went up the steps to enter the house, I stopped to see the most amazing spider web.  The sun was setting and it cast a beautiful light onto water droplets that clung to the web.  I looked at the intricacies of the beautiful web, a still struggling bug caught in the web, and the proud spider that did not move. It was awesome.  It was something that only God could have created.    Perhaps this spider web was mine to notice as a reminder that nature’s beauty and miracles large and small serve as a reminder that God is not only everywhere but truly accessible by means of the blessings we say.

Connecting God to whatever I am thankful for or acknowledging via my blessing has made a powerful difference for me. God and I have a new relationship.  We just don’t connect during Shabbat.  We connect daily. That said, I still have lots of questions.  I have to admit that I cannot see God’s role in all aspects of life and the prospect of that is frightening.  I’m beginning to feel that true faith requires trust.  Although I am not sure where it will lead, I know that I am on a journey that will help me to find these answers. It is a journey that will not end today as it is just beginning. So my blessing today is:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech Ha Olam who leads me to trust as he has led those before me.


A Brand New Day

Thank you, Chris.  This is a helpful reflection as we approach the end of this first challenge.  As someone who already has a meaningful blessing ritual, keeping up this challenge past the 30 days will be just a little easier, Chris.  For those of us hoping to incorporate this blessing challenge into our daily lives after the official challenge is over, you give us a great example.

sunriseHow does one thank God everyday for thirty days?  Sounds easy right?  I thought so too when I started the 30 Days of Blessings at Temple Beth David.  Turns out after the first couple of days it got a little tough.  I mean sure I could thank God everyday for my children, my wife, the air we breathe, a sunrise etc.  But this was supposed to be a meaningful challenge, one that would require some daily reflection.  So I started by spending a few minutes each day reflecting and looking for something to be thankful for.  But with the pressures of running a business, raising two children and being a Jewish husband (ha ha) I often found myself lying in bed at night and remembering that I had forgotten to say a blessing that day.  It only had to happen a couple times before I decided that this was not what I intended and if I am going to “complete” this challenge I would need to do something different.

Turns out I didn’t need to do anything different just change how I thought about what the meaning of this challenge is.  A few months ago before the challenge I found myself up at sunrise every morning.  Being one who enjoys nature I started going outside for a minute just to enjoy the beauty.  It was probably the combination of the smells and the sounds of the summer, and the sun rising that made me take this next step; one morning I decided to say the Shema.  It felt really good and so I did it again.  About a month down the road it had become part of my morning routine.  It was around that time when I was in my car listening to my NFTY CD.  No I’m not some religious freak, I just really like some of the songs on it, also it is the only CD in my car and I am too lazy to change it out.  Anyway, I was singing along to Modeh Ani when suddenly it clicked that this was the morning prayer I was looking for.  Long story short I added that to my morning routine and have kept it up ever since.  Every morning I go outside (sometimes with the dog,  sometimes alone) and sing Modeh Ani then say the Shema and take a minute to feel the breeze, taste the rain or smell the dew and truly enjoy what God has made.

So now I told you that story to tell you this one.  Today while enjoying a breakfast burrito, I was asked if I had said my blessing today.  It only took a second to think and ask, “What do you mean?”  I then explained that I had not done my “#30dofBlessings” yet but that I had, as I always do now, said my morning prayers Modeh Ani and the Shema.  It was about 30 minutes after this conversation that another synapse had formed in my antiquated brain that connected my ritual of saying morning prayers and the intended purpose of the 30 days of Blessings Challenge.  The point is to thank God for not only the spectacular but the mundane and everything in between, to notice something every day and take a moment to enjoy its beauty whether it is visual, auditory, or it just warms the cockles of your heart.  So to answer the question, yes I did say my blessings, but I am far from the 100 required so I will always strive to do one more.

Making It Personal

Yesterday, I was going into the gym and I saw a woman who is doing the blessing challenge with us.  She began to tell me that she has said a blessing (almost) everyday and reading the blog, but she hasn’t been sharing any of those blessings with the world via twitter or the blog.  I told her that was fine and certainly a perfectly proper way of going about the challenge.  Let’s face it, sharing a personal blessing is a very intimate thing, we might not want to let the world in on our blessings.  This person continued to tell me how meaningful the challenge has been, she told  me that she has kept track of things she is grateful for and that adding the blessing has made what she has already been doing so much more personal.photo1As this person continued talking and explaining how the blessing format had made things personal, she also mentioned that the Hebrew was helping to do this.  When I heard her say that, I was happy and at the same time a little surprised.  Often times, we hear that Hebrew is a roadblock, that not having complete understanding of the words we are saying gets in the way of a person’s prayer.  I was so happy to hear that in this case, Hebrew was making this person’s experience not only more meaningful, but more personal.  I suppose it was really that part of the statement, that Hebrew was making it personal that really stayed with me.  I’ve been thinking about this moment ever since we bumped into each other.

I think a few things are going on, not just for this person I spoke with, but hopefully for all of us.  The beginning of the blessings are so familiar to most of us, it basically feels like second nature to utter that part of the blessing.  The familiarity is probably very important.  But, there is more to it than that, it isn’t just that we’ve said those words for years.  For me, at least, praying in Hebrew is as much about connecting with our sense of peoplehood and ancestry as anything else.  Our people have said בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם for so long, it is deeply personal when we utter those words as well.  Because the blessing formula is so old and connects us to much, it is personal in a way that goes beyond our person.  Beginning our blessings with  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, propels us through generations, it takes us back in time and at the same time reaffirms what we are doing right now, right at the moment we utter the blessing that has come to mind.  Hebrew is the language our people have prayed in for thousands of years.  Yes, it is personal.

I’m Jewish, So Does It Matter If It’s Jewish?

Our last reflection piece by Susan was so beautiful, Susan brought tears to my eyes.  I was moved by her words and her ability to let us into her life and experience.  Susan also brought up an interesting issue, probably without even meaning to do so.  Susan speaks about how engaging in the blessings challenge has not been revolutionary for her, but rather a tweaking of something she has done for a long time.  Over the course of these challenges, others may have a similar experience, some of us may say, “Hey, I already am a conscientious eater, keeping some form of Kosher isn’t so different from what I already am doing.”  Of course, this is a good thing, it will make the challenges a bit easier I suppose.

the priests handClearly, as Susan stated in her reflection, saying blessings in a Jewish context has had an impact on her (and I am glad Susan said that rather than saying it hasn’t changed much of anything).  But, there still may be folks out there who ask the question, “If I am (fill in the blank) already, does it matter if I do it in a Jewish way?”  On the one hand, no it doesn’t matter.  What you may already be doing is clearly meaningful to you or you wouldn’t already be doing it (whatever it is).  I would be lying if I said otherwise.  On the other hand, tweaking something you already engage in and making it a part of your Jewish life has the potential for even greater impact.  Staying with our current challenge, saying a blessing but not making it a part of our Jewish experience is like switching to a smart phone and not using it to browse the internet.  Yes, the smart phone is great, but think about how much we are missing out on.

As you may know, I developed this idea for 30 day Jewish Challenges after watching a TED talk by Matt Cutts, an engineer at Google.  I used one of my High Holy Day sermons to introduce the idea to my congregation and I ended that sermon with this idea.

One of my favorite midrashim says that before each of us is born, we are all great Torah scholars.  We sit in heaven studying, learning and debating. In the moments before we are born into this world, an angel comes and finds us, and touches us here, right above our lip, right in the center and leaves that small divot. The moment the angels touches us, we lose all memory of the heavenly yeshivah, we forget all the Torah we had learned.
When Matt Cutts engages in his thirty-day challenges, he is trying to discover something outside himself, he is trying to form a new habit or just see if he can do something new or different. When we engage in our Jewish challenges, we are not in the process of discovery, but rediscovery.  These challenges will lead us to places in the deep recesses of our souls that house the innate Judaism in us all. Come join me and together we can.

Often times, when I am working with students both young or old, I tell them that I think of myself as a guide, not instructor.  As a rabbi and teacher, I don’t see myself filling a vessel, the student is not some object for me to pour out my thoughts and ideas.  I see myself as trying to help my students uncover who they actually are at their core.  Judaism isn’t something we believe, it is something we are.  Whether by birth or conversion all Jews are connected, we all studied in the heavenly yeshivah together.

As the reflection pieces have shown so far, these challenges are truly about self-reflection and personal exploration.  Every time we say a blessing, or do any of the challenges we are about to do, we are learning about ourselves as a member of the People Israel.

Keep on blessings!

Taking It For Granted

Once again, an incredible reflection found its way to my inbox.  The piece is beautiful.  Thank you, Susan for sharing this reflection.  There is no doubt, this piece comes straight from your heart.  May you continue to have blessings in your life and recognize even the smallest of them.

Shabbat Shalom!

For me the challenge has been more of a tweaking rather than a revelation. Now I am using a Jewish prayer instead of English. I say prayers of gratitude all day long. But I am feeling more of a connection with my heritage, as I have never really said them in Hebrew. It is also taking  me to a bit of a new level.  I saw this on the first night.

the priests handI had a particularly difficult period in my life nine years ago and slept on an air mattress on the floor for six months. When I finally got a bed, I was so grateful that I promised myself I would never get into bed again without thanking God for having a bed. As I got into bed the first night of the challenge and and began my Hebrew prayer, I realized that there were so many other layers to it. I am thankful for the money  coming to me so that I can buy what I need including a bed and for my home that keeps me warm, my sense of touch so that can feel the softness and warmth of the sheets and blankets. My point is that even when we acknowledge a small everyday blessing  there are so many layers to it. When we are grateful for food, we can also acknowledge that we can  see and taste it and have money to buy it. We can appreciate where it came from and the people sharing it with us. The flow is endless. I am not having any trouble finding blessings, as there seems  to be a plethora of blessings and each one, no matter how mundane, leads me into another flow.


Did you mean the struggle for me too?

I begin this post with a thank you.  Thank you, Mindy, for sending me this email and letting me post it.  There is so much honesty here, it is amazing.  I’ll give people a chance to read below and then I want to respond.  Enjoy!
struggleI’ve been reading everyone’s posts, tweets etc and been really amazed at the beautiful, brave, messages of those who’ve shared so far.  I thank you for sharing so openly because your words are  helping me get through the 30 days. And I choose the words ” get through” on purpose.  For me this challenge is much harder than I thought it would be.  First, I was stuck on what to bless-every day pick one thing? I have a tough time with choices.  Just ask anyone who’s been with me for dinner at a restaurant. It all sounds good!   It is also not easy to stop my daily routine, to be in the  moment and say a blessing.   But here’s where I am having the most problem with this challenge. To acknowledge verbally, consciously, every day, God’s part in my life, brings me to the questions that I struggle with-what does God have to do with it?  Does God hear my blessings and does that matter?   Is the act of  blessing good enough? It is hard for me to think about these questions and now because of this challenge I am thinking about them every day. I suspect that at the end of the 30 day challenge, I am going to feel different. I do a little bit already. I’m going to keep going and see where it leads. Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha olam, for  the ability to ask questions and  the strength to not be afraid of the answers.
I love the entire email, but I especially love the second half of this email.  I love that you open up about the difficulty, about how this challenge is making you change the way you live each day.  Of course, I love that you use the word “struggle” in your email.  For us Jews, struggle is the essential part.  We are God wrestlers!  We are encouraged to ask, to engage, to be in the struggle of discovery.  It is near the end of this email that it becomes clear how meaningful this challenge has already been.  You acknowledge, “…I am going to feel different.  I do a little bit already.”  I wonder, if during this challenge, any of us will truly understand how it may be changing our perspective on the world, how it might be shaping our appreciation for life and everything around us?
Mindy, your email is exactly what this challenge is all about.  Thank you.

A prayer for our good inclination

There is no doubt, this blessings challenge is quite personal.  What we say a blessing for, when we say that blessing and if we are willing to share the blessing all take a lot thought.  Sometimes the blessings are hard to find and sometimes the blessings are right there under our noses. images I asked my dad, Eric, to share a reflection on one of his blessing and this is what I received.  Clearly, his reflection is a moment of mitzvah gorerret mitzvah, one mitzvah leading to another.  I hope that other will also be willing to share a reflection soon too.

Today at Torah study we were discussing the parasha, Noach.  One of the points made was that of free will.  Within that discussion we talked about how we have both the inclination to de good (yetzer hatov) and the inclination to do evil (yetzer hara). All too often we tend to focus only on the evil that people do.  But it occurs to me that there are so many good things that people do for loved ones and even for complete strangers.  So during the Tefilla I said the following blessing to myself:  Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melach ha-olom sh’natan li yetzer tov (for giving me the inclination to do good.)

I am wondering, and granted this is a little off point for our blessings challenge, what do others say during the silent prayer time in the Amidah?  Is there anyone willing to share?  Just leave a comment.


Thanks, dad!