Thursday, August 29, 2013

For the Caregivers...

Afternoon all...

I am not a fully-trained hospital chaplain (but I play one on TV).  Still, over the years, I have picked up a little bit of wisdom.  Something happened today that leaves me thinking I should pass that wisdom on.

I received a phone call today from someone whose spouse had a significant stroke two years ago.  Why did this person call me?  Over the last two years, of all the people this person knows, I was the only one who consistently made it a point to ask this person how things were with him/her.  This was beyond the concern for the sick.  We spend so much time appropriately worrying about the health of a sick person that we often lose sight of those who are directly involved in their care.  Ask the caregivers too.  They might be stressed.  It can be very difficult to be involved in such direct care all the time.  It can be gut-wrenching to watch someone struggle to regain abilities, or to watch someone progressively lose abilities.  The sick person is only one part of the story.  The caregiver is also vital.  Check in from time to time.

Also, if you are a caregiver, take a day off once a week.  Take a vacation.  It is not selfishness.  To take the time for self-care will make you a better caregiver and likely a less resentful caregiver.

Have a good evening.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Difficult Choices

Top of the evening all...

The President is facing a remarkably difficult set of decisions right now.  As you are aware, the Syrian army has seen it fit to use chemical weapons on its own population.  It is a vile act of a cruel despot.


1.  Do nothing.  It has the advantage of not affecting the status quo.
2.  Use the US military for some sort of strike.  It also has the advantage of not affecting the status quo, but at least we do not look foolish for having declared and then ignored a red line.

The problem within Syria is that the President must consider what the effects of such a strike might be.  He could unseat the butcher in Damascus.  The challenge there is that those attempting to do precisely that would then turn their weapons on each other.  Syria would likely be in a state of civil war for another decade.  At the end of that civil war, Syria would likely be ruled by a brutal theocracy.  On the other hand, left alone, the butcher of Damascus will likely put this rebellion down.  Syria will then be ruled by a brutal autocracy.

The choice comes down to the following question: do we support that which is reprehensible, or that which is abhorrent?

Perhaps I am glad I was not elected President.  It is generally a bad thing to feel like one must shower after making a decision.

Good night.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Happiness and Atonement

Top of the afternoon all...

With Yom Kippur drawing nigh, and my sermons not quite yet finished, I thought it appropriate to think about how we should live our lives.

The Jerusalem Talmud teaches us that we will be called to atone for every legitimate pleasure we deny ourselves.  This is primarily in connection to food.  I do not believe this to be a statement allowing us to eat whatever we want whenever we want, as long as it is kosher.  We must still keep a careful eye on our health.  At the same time, it is a statement that those foods that are given to us to eat are truly there for us to enjoy.

That being said, a couple of the pita companies around here do fantastic pitas.  They are soft, chewy, and resonant of those in Jerusalem.  It is a sheer delight to put one in the toaster for just a little bit.  Then, it is soft, chewy and warm.

Ahhhh....happiness is a warm bun.

Have a good day.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On Friday, the Rabbi Said Kaddish...

Top of the day to all...

Last Friday was the 10th of the month of Elul.  I said Kaddish.

For those who do not know, Kaddish is a prayer spoken in memory of the deceased.  We say it during the required period of mourning for one of the seven key relatives (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse) and at the anniversary of the death.

There are those around my congregation who prefer I do not say it.  Those seven relatives are, thankfully, alive and kicking.  There is an old superstition that if you say Kaddish with no reason, God will give you a reason.  I do not hold by such stupid-stition, not in the least.  As well, I have heard of it leading to a damaging legal decision, where someone was told not to say Kaddish for his wife, as his parents were still alive.  According to Biblical law, parents command a higher degree of respect than all other relatives.  Still, superstition about what might happen to them should not prevent a person from fulfilling both an obligation and a catharsis for a spouse.

When we get to that point in the service. I usually have my cantor lead it.

What changed on Friday?  In most synagogues, members will put up memorial plaques for the deceased.  There is a small light next to each one that is lit up the week of the yahrtzeit (memorial).  On the southern wall of my sanctuary on the memorial board, there are four consecutive plaques lit up this week.  A few plaques underneath, there is a fifth.

The four lights are Mrs. Menka's family.  The one lone light a few plaques down is for her late husband's entire family.  The corresponding English date on all of them was August 23, 1942.

I can imagine what happened.  We all can.  I do not know where.  I do not know how she managed to escape it.  What I do know is this: I get a chill every time I look at those four plaques.  I must walk past them to get to my pulpit.

Mrs. Menka is no longer able to attend services regularly.  Between that and the compelling nature of such a calamitous day, I felt the need to say Kaddish.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

He Makes Me So Proud...

Top of the evening to all...

Of which 'he' do I speak?  We will start with Jesse.

I am trying to find the weblink to the opening ceremony for Yom Sport 2013 at Ramah.  There is a trumpet fanfare as part of that ceremony.  Jesse composed it specifically for that occasion.  Way to go Kid!!

And then there is Gavi.  We told the woman who teaches ceramics at camp that we bought a couple of extra shelves for Gavi's growing collection of ceramics.  She said: "you're going to need a bigger house."  And that is not all.

Over the summer, people have asked me how the kids are doing.  My response has consistently been "I don't care."  They were at camp.  If something had gone awry, the camp would have let us know.

Something went awry.  We got a call this morning from the camp doctor.  "Everything's fine..."  Gavi and a culprit...oops...I mean friend...were out very late on the last night of camp.  More accurately, they were out exceedingly early the last morning of camp.  The two young gentlemen were bunk-hopping to visit someone on the girls' side of camp.  While over there, Gavi managed to get clotheslined by a clothesline.  It caught him at the neck and flipped him.

I spent two hours today at an emergency clinic around the corner.  Gavi has a not-so-well-tempered clavicle.  He fractured his left collarbone.

My darling son injured himself while involved in a little otherwise harmless mischief.  He thinks it was on the camp eiruv no less.*  It is really quite wonderful.  The rabbis' kid injures himself on a part of the religious boundary of the camp doing something he was likely not supposed to be doing.  I am so proud.

He wanted to go over to the drugstore today to get something.  Jennifer appropriately told him to walk.  Then she made the mistake of lying down for a nap.  She heard the garage door open.  Gavi rode his bicycle (one-handed) over to the drug store.  Yet again, I am so proud.

At least his attempt to lie about it was not sincere.

He has just discovered that he cannot do a belly-slide down the bannister from his room.

Have a good night.

Rav Sean

*Jesse is not certain about the eiruv.  He thinks it was just a clothesline.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ability to Pun...

Top of the afternoon all...

Most of you are aware of my deep love of the pun.  I regard it as the highest form of humour.  Please note: a good joke is not judged so much by the laugh as by whether or not someone is doubled over in pain.  I live for that.  If you are new to this blog and not entirely aware of my deep love of the pun, check the entries entitled 'Finally...' and 'The Joke.'  I thought these were brilliant masterpieces.

Jennifer and I toured a beer brewery last week.  The brewery is a little whimsical in the way they do packaging.  Under the cap, you will find little sayings.  The company is very clear that if you are seeking wisdom, you should look elsewhere.

I submitted a suggestion.  "Sometimes, things have to come to lager heads."

They are going to put it under a cap.

I won a six-pack of beer.

The ability to pun has now not only brought laughter and indigestion to many.  I have now won a prize.

You can bet that I will never let Jennifer forget this.

Have a good day.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perspectives from Summer Camp

Shalom all…

Jennifer and I are halfway through a week up at summer camp at the present.  I thought some perspective on camp life might be in order.

Jesse just finished his last Shabbat as a camper.  He was holding back tears at Havdalah this evening.  My but we have come a long way.  This is the kid who spent a night in our cabin the first summer we were up here eight years ago.  He was having adjustment concerns, and the staff did not think he could handle the overnight camping trip.  By the way, he has since earned his platinum medal in canoeing, and voted for the hardest camping trip with his friends.  Keren was also fighting back tears tonight.

Many of my friends are vegetarians.  I have heard the arguments both ways.  After having spent time at camp, I realize that there is one compelling argument towards the consumption of meat.   With few natural predators, it falls on human beings to control the spread of the Canada goose.  I volunteer, happily.  I am debating offering a course in kosher slaughter one summer.  At the conclusion of the course, we will have a barbecue.  They are such disgusting creatures.

Jennifer pointed out last summer that there is something important to the kids about standing on benches.  I do not know what it is, but at random moments at meals, various groups of kids will stand up and start singing or shouting.

I have discovered an amusing difference between the boys and the girls.  Many of the girls in Keren’s group have not yet been photographed in their own dress clothes.  On Friday afternoon, in preparation for Shabbat, all of the girls are wearing someone else’s clothing.  The boys just do not do that.  The boys wear their own clothes.  It seems that at least concerning the dress clothes, the girls here do not bring their own clothing so much as they bring a contribution to the communal wardrobe.

Jesse's group did its musical last night.  They performed, in Hebrew, "Prince of Egypt.'  After a hiatus of too many years, it was nice to see/hear my trumpet in the pit orchestra.  Jesse arranged the music for the trumpet and clarinet, and played very nicely.  I got a little misty-eyed.  That group spent this evening at dinner singing songs from the Passover Haggadah.  It was really funny when they had the entire camp singing "Ehad Mi Yodea" - "Who Knows One."

There are varying levels of personal observance amongst the campers.  Some will wear a kippah (yarmulke) all day.  Some will wear one only at meals and at daily services.  I took an informal survey today.  Of the six rabbis' sons at camp, only one wears a kippah full time.  The rabbis' kids are apparently the worst culprits.  Imagine that.

The child of close friends has happily adopted Jennifer and me as his camp parents.  What I do not understand is this: what is it about me that has him react to me with the same level of mischief that I get from Gavi?  Is it etched on my forehead?

I have a pet rock.  Somehow, there is always a small stone in my left shoe.  No matter how many times I pour it out, I have a stone again within an hour.  I think it is the same stone.  I think it follows me around camp, waiting cunningly for the opportunity to jump into my shoe.

Have a good night.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

I Thought It Was a Non-Event...

Top of the evening to all...

It has now been three weeks since the appendectomy.  As I have said to everyone, I felt much better the next day.  I was functional within a week.  I felt like I was 100% by the time I got home two weeks afterwards.  Looking back, I was not 100% at that time.  I am now 100%.

Everyone is still concerned.  I get all manner of question on how I am feeling.  I feel fine.  I really do.  I find myself puzzled by the questions.  I appreciate the concern.  By all means, keep asking.  I have to remember that I had surgery.  It is routine for everyone except the patient.  My friends and congregants are aware of that.  That is why everyone is asking.

On a separate note, there is a short prayer we are supposed to say after surviving a harrowing experience.  According to Jewish Law, such harrowing experiences would include intercontinental flight, significant illness, childbirth, surgery, leaving jail, or leaving a combat zone.  I said this prayer.  In my own mind though, it was not for the surgical procedure itself.  It was more for the illness, which, if not caught in time, would have presented a much more serious health issue.

Have a good evening...