Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Plight of the Bumble Bee

Good evening folks.

Actually, it started off as "The Plight of the Assistant Rabbi," but I just could not resist.

The year before the Gorman family moved to Toronto was spent in a job search. Jennifer and I had decided that we were leaving New York. It got to be pretty harrowing not having a position locked in place by March. We were facing me taking an extended trip to Baghdad. During that time, I remember speaking with a potential senior rabbi (and therefore potential boss). He said to me that he would not want an assistant who was content to remain an assistant. Having been both a senior and an assistant, I must disagree with what he said.

I would have been quite content to remain an assistant in my first assistant position. We were all very happy there. The bills were getting paid. We were comfortable in our home. Trust me when I tell you that I had no desire to risk that stability. Senior rabbis and boards should not confuse a desire for stability with a lack of ambition.

Furthermore, congregations that require an assistant usually give that assistant more than enough to do. It is thus quite similar to being a senior. There are decisions. There is teaching. All of the pastoral work is there. If the assistant rabbi has ambition, there is more than enough to satisfy that ambition. Moreover, a rabbi who feels that he/she has a potential future at the congregation will not constantly have one eye on the door.

Last, from the congregation's point of view, a happy assistant rabbi is very important. It avoids bitterness of having to move on when one is not ready to do so. It avoids the potential revolving door. Sometimes congregants want to go where all the rabbis know their name. To send off the assistant after just a few years forces the membership to learn to trust and like someone new. It is not a recipe for successful congregation building.

The advantage to those congregations that will take an assistant for a few years and then shoo him/her out the door is that when the rabbi gets to the next place, no one will look at the rabbi and say that there is no experience. It remains one of those annoying things, that one cannot get a position without experience.

Have a good evening.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sharing a Permanent Address

Good morning all...

So I wrote last night that part of being a lover means sharing a permanent address. I deleted one thing prior to posting. I had also written that part of being a lover means sharing a bank account.

Why did I delete that? I am glad you asked that question. Please note: on my rules of marriage, I state that once married, it is no longer "his money" and "her money." Trust your spouse's values and judgment. If you cannot do that with money, you cannot do that with anything else. I believed that when I wrote it. I believe it still.

What brought about my change in thinking? It is a couple of things. The first is spousal abuse. When we think of spousal abuse, we usually think about physical abuse. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Emotional abuse, social abuse, and financial abuse are also part of the package. It is often difficult to predict what people will be after the wedding. As such, to have a bank account handy that a spouse cannot empty is not a bad idea.

As well, the economy is not in the best of conditions. People are losing jobs. People are having trouble making ends meet. I know of one couple in which she lost her job. One of the things they were considering was defaulting on the mortgage. The house was only in her name though. Defaulting on the mortgage would probably damage both credit ratings, but would not do nearly the same level of damage to his as it would to hers. To have one credit rating still somewhat intact means that a credit card can still be had and a home can likely be rented. That involves having separate bank accounts.

Marriage should still render the question of whose money it is moot. However, there are other reasons that perhaps having separate accounts might be necessary.

Have a great day.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lessons from the Walk of Shame

Hi all...

Remember me?

Over the last few days, there has been some commotion at Yeshiva University. Normally, I truly do not care what goes on there. However, this is just too interesting to pass up. For those of you who do not know, one of the student publications published an anonymous article about a pre-marital sexual encounter. If I am reading the article correctly, it is also her first time. You can find the article at http://yubeacon.com/2011/12/the__written_word/how-do-i-even-begin-to-explain-this/. It is not brilliant writing. It is real though. The poor young lady states at the end that the only thing she learned from the whole encounter is how to do the walk of shame the next morning. She should go back and reread her article. She has learned a great many important lessons.

She writes that the two of them consumed a fair amount of beer prior to the festivities, and that it helped her shut off her conscience.

Lesson #1: if one requires beer to do something that one would not do while sober, it is probably best not to do it drunk either.

She writes that "between the fumbling, the pain, the pleasure, I convince myself that I’ve learned how to make love."

Lesson #2: learning to make love is something we do with only one person. Having sex will only teach mechanics. Making love means that we also know how to talk to our lover. It means that we know how to touch our lover. It means that we have taken the time to know and care about the person sharing a bed with us.

She writes that "cuddling with him that night, I tell him how much he means to me, but I know I can’t tell him I love him."

Lesson #3: learning to make love requires love.

She writes that she gets dressed the next day and hails him a cab before walking back to the university cafeteria.

Lesson #4: making love has a tender goodbye the next morning. It involves putting a little note into a backpack that the lover will likely see during the day. It involves some expectation that the lovers will see each other again that evening.

This whole encounter takes place in a hotel.

Lesson #5: lovers can enjoy the comforts of a hotel. In fact, they should. But lovers do not share only a bedroom. They share a living room. They share a kitchen. They share a permanent mailing address. Without that long-term commitment , the lady in the article has only worked on the mechanics.

Lesson #6: lovers have no need to hide what they are doing. People assume it. It goes hand-in-hand with lesson #5.

While not stated in the article, I must assume that the couple used some protection.

Lesson #7: lovers worry less about protection. They thrill for the moment, and its meaning in the hour. They are hopeful about the results, and not worried about the "risk."

The author of the article will likely suffer from no small amount of guilt that will follow her at least until her wedding day. I hope she does not. She is human. She has just learned a very adult set of lessons at a very young age. One does not need to feel guilt over mistakes. One only need not repeat them.

Good night to all.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Wear Three Hats

About three years ago, I attended a panel discussion at the Royal Military College of Canada. The panel consisted of a senior Naval officer and former ship commander, a Catholic theologian, and an international lawyer. The subject of discussion was juris bellum - just war. When is it legal to go to war? What are the rules when it happens. The ship commander at one point in his career avoided shooting down a civilian jetliner only because the missile failed to launch. The plane identified itself after he had given the order to fire.

I found that while listening to these men that I had very little time for the lawyer. It seemed that he had no experience seeing the effects of potential legal decisions in combat operations. It is so easy to open a book and see how the law applies. To apply those books in real time, when bullets are flying and lives are at stake, is simply not a task for the faint of heart.

It is with that in mind that I don the first of my hats. This hat is my military cover. I am a naval officer. I have affirmed an oath to support and protect the Constitution of the United States. This hat says two things to me right now. We do not leave a soldier in the field - ever. It is an issue of honour that those whom we send to advance the Nation's policies must go with the security that the Nation is not just using them as tools. Whether or not my country will do its utmost to rescue me or those for whom I am responsible has direct relation to the level of risk I expect any Sailor, Marine, or Soldier to take. On the other hand, those of us who have affirmed the oath of office or the oath of enlistment affirmed that oath knowing the risks. We would never want our captivity to be treated as a political tool by the enemy. As well, we would not want our our freedom to place the Nation's security at increased risk due to the price tag of securing our release. This issue is not black and white.

And so I switch to my second hat. This is my kippah. This is the Rabbi speaking. Oddly enough, the military issues are not different from the Rabbinic issues. The Mishnah in Gitin (Page 45a) already tells us that we do not redeem a captive for more than his/her worth. The discussions of this issue throughout the ages come back to what the community can afford, whether or not the payment to redeem the captive encourages others to kidnap as well, and the like. The Rabbis are quite divided. As a Nation, we need to tell our people that we will work for their safe return. We also need not to sacrifice the security of a nation in the process. This issue is also not black and white.

And so I turn to my third hat. I am a father. I have taken several looks at the picture of Gilad Shalit hugging his father Noam. Even now, after five or six looks, I have a lump in my throat looking at it. I cannot imagine the mental torture that Gilad's parents must have endured over the last five years. I do not want to imagine it. The quiet dignity they maintained over the time of their son's imprisonment would probably defy most of our abilities. There is nothing morally, politically, or militarily ambiguous here.

My first hat and my second hat are desperately seeking black and white in a situation that dwells squarely in the gray. My third hat is black and white. When the decisions for a nation are so difficult, then we must make decisions for a family and for a person. I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu for navigating this awful decision. I congratulate the country of Israel for understanding some small piece of the black and white.

A final word: the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot 1:7 reads as follows: "Nitai the Arbelite says: keep far from an evil neighbour. Do not become friends with a wicked person. Believe in karma." We are stuck living close to an evil neighbour. We will not become friends, and should not be encouraged to do so. The Palestinian enemy (no longer dignified with a name) in Gaza must realize that those who behave with an utter lack of humanity will often see their own behaviour imitated by those who suffer under their oppressive thumb.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Specific Title

So just for the record, it is possible. It is possible to have a complete Rosh HaShanah service, accomplish all of the requirements, and still be home in time for lunch. We started at 8:30 on both days. 1st day, we finished at 12:25. On 2nd day, we were done by 12:10.

I do not understand why people do it. The three days of the year that the liturgy is most difficult to decipher, people come to services to hear the cantor chant said liturgy in tunes that are often only used during those three days. No, thank you.

While I am not bragging about the finish time, there is a point to be made. The point is not to drag out that which does not require it. Services can be completed, in a reasonable amount of time, in a manner that is enjoyable, and in such a way that all of the requirements are met or exceeded.

Maybe I am bragging a little.

Have a good day everyone.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Pursuit of Justice

Top of the evening.

The Jerusalem Post reports today that the long-awaited and oft-delayed Palmer report is to be released on Friday. I will believe it when I see it. The reason for the delay is that publication of the report will force both Israel and Turkey into more-hardened positions, thus preventing any rapprochement. The report is expected to confirm that Israel is upholding a legal blockade, that boarding the ship was legal, that those on board the ship were looking for a fight, that they were backed by the Turkish government, that Israel's internal investigation upheld the highest standards, and that Turkey's internal investigation did not. The report is also expected to conclude that Israel used excessive force.

As regards the last point, I have not read the report. I can tell you that the most dangerous military operation is the seizing of a ship at sea. The first man on board is in extreme danger until a safe area can be secured. When you realize the basic danger of that operation, it is also worth it to remember Field Marshal Moltke's rule that a battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy. I will thus not be the "Monday morning quarterback."

Turkey has stated that it will not accept the report, despite the presence of one of its own citizens on the committee, and despite the international reputation of Geoffrey Palmer.

The title of this entry is "The Pursuit of Justice." It comes from this week's Torah portion - "Justice justice shall you pursue." Justice has been pursued. Justice has been pursued in a world forum not known for much more than tolerating Israel's existence. Part of this pursuit of justice is that you might not like what comes back. That does not make a proper conclusion any less just. For Turkey to reject the conclusion of this committee is an open statement that the pursuit of justice is not as important a goal as the gutting of a neighbouring country.

Israel should not apologize. She did nothing wrong. Turkey should apologize, for incitement, for supporting an act of war, for placing civilians in the line of fire, for blaming Israel before any of the facts were in, for conducting its own sham investigation, and for rejecting a conclusion that is not to its liking.

Good night.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Random Musings

Hi all...

Remember me?

I have two matters I would like to share with you.

Jennifer and I spent the week up at Camp Ramah. Normally, we go up there to teach. However, the summer is winding down. We organized the library, went through the ever-growing pile of old tallitot and tefillin, and buried some old materials that had served their purpose. In the piles of stuff, we found 3.5 sets of remarkably high-quality tefillin, as well as another three sets of medium-quality tefillin. The three sets of high-quality are each worth no less than $500, and probably a fair amount more. The medium-quality sets would probably go for about $375.

1. Parents, when you send your kids to camp with tefillin, buy an inexpensive set. It is nowhere near as much a financial loss.
2. Parents, take one of those clothing labels that we all buy for camp and stitch it to the inside of the tefillin bag.
3. If Jesse were to leave tefillin of that quality at camp, I promise that he would be on the bus back up there to find them.

On the half set, there was one that only had the hand tefillin. I do not know what happened to the head. Camp was ever so kind as to give that to me. It is quite helpful. We have a set of kosher parshiyot for the head. We will need ot get the sofer to make a bayit for it, but that should not cost too much.

In another matter, researchers at Tel Aviv have made the scurrilous attempts at boycott even more difficult to sustain. They have developed a series of four chemical formulations that can detect whether a drink has been spiked by any of the four date rape drugs. They are working now on the means of being able to communicate that information via SMS to a cell phone. At this point, the drinks will change colour if the drugs are detected. As a father of a young lady and of two young men, I am thankful for such an invention.

Those darned Israelis...it really makes one wonder what people might be able to produce if they were more caught up in solving the world's problems instead of causing bloodshed.

It is an important piece of Halakhah for me that Jewish tradition defines handedness by writing and not by how we wield a weapon.

Have a wonderful day.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marital Compromise? Give Me a Break!

There is a website that I like. The owner of the website is a woman who came within a hair's breadth of divorcing her husband. She then made a series of decisions that saved and strengthened their marriage. She writes on various marital issues. The website is set so that those of us who wish to comment may do so.

One of her recent posts was entitled "20 Reasons that Monogamy Rocks." It was a good post. In some of the comments though, there were apparently people who thought otherwise. Monogamy was not for everyone.

Needless to say, I commented. I thought I wrote some respectful, but nonetheless blistering responses to those who support the idea of open marriage.

Some of those who thought it is acceptable stated that as long as the couple had it within their basic ground rules, there should be no problem.

I caustically disagree.

For the record, adultery is marital abuse. Adultery says the following things:
1. My other partner is better in bed.
2. What you give only to me I can get anywhere.
3. You do not "put out" enough.
4. You bore me.

Those statements are abusive.

Let us look at another type of abuse. We witness one partner screaming at another with threats, nasty names, and various insults. The offending partner leaves. We ask the offended partner about it. The offended partner says "it is okay. I gave permission."

No. No no no no no. A thousand times no.

The permission slip does not make such abuse acceptable. If the permission slip does not make abuse acceptable in the case of such a verbal onslaught, I fail to see how it makes the abuse of tawdry affairs acceptable.

In this case, having the trappings of marital compromise is nothing more than compromising one's marriage.

My friends, it is late. To all of you married folks, if you are going to have a tawdry affair, have one with your spouse. It is not so difficult. Do it tonight. It is one you can start right now.

Go to sleep...or not...


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Longing for the Days of DDT?

Hi all...

Until I was 10, I lived on the North Shore of Eastern Long Island. We were there until April, 1980. The North Shore was hilly and forested. In my youth, I never recall once seeing a bird of prey.

We took the kids camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains last week. Birds were everywhere. We saw hawks and vultures. We even got to see a barred owl, which we named 'Shakespeare.'

In the United States, the bird population suffered greatly from DDT. I have clear memories of many a failed attempt to get a nesting pair of bald eagles to lay and hatch a healthy egg. Thankfully, their numbers are back up. They are not at all endangered. They were removed from the endangered species list in 2007. It is wonderful to know that we can bring a proud animal back from the brink of extinction.

On the other hand, the bug population of the world has also rebounded quite robustly. This is not as good. You are all also aware that the bat population in the US is dying off in droves right now due to a fungal virus that scientists cannot control. The gnats were simply awful.

This presents a quandary. I understand that "they" are starting to experiment with DDT again in limited amounts. I do hope that some balance can be found, either with DDT or with something else. Birds are wonderful. Gnats...not so much.

Good night folks.


How the Mighty Hath Fallen...

I have any number of books that I have considered writing. Amongst them would be a thesis on the structure and writing of a Sefer Torah or a thesis on the polemic of the person/people who divided the parshiyot and the aliyot. Another one on my mind for a couple of years now is entitled "Eikh Naflu Giburim." We know this phrase. It is David's lament upon hearing of the death of Saul and of Jonathan. It is usually translated the way I have it in the title.

One of the reasons I have not written this book is that I do not know why I want to write it. Let me tell you about a few 'colleagues.' One is in jail for being a pedophile. Another is in jail for life after contracting a hit on his wife. Still another died in jail. He had broken the terms of his parole. This one ended up in jail for pilfering $85,000 from his discretionary fund. He used the money to move his mistress from Memphis to the Mississippi coast, and then to move a family facing difficult times up to New Jersey so that the family (his mistress) could have a fresh start after Katrina. He also purchased a $5000 rock for her finger. Yet another was videotaped with a prostitute.

The three mentioned received their ordinations from schools in every denomination. This type of behaviour is not restricted to one movement. As well, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

The concept of the book is intriguing. The reasons to write it are elusive. If it just turns out to be another expose of tawdry behaviour, to write such a book is unjustifiable. I often wonder though what keeps most of us from making such egregious decisions with our lives. I would like to figure that one out.

All of that being said, the crimes listed above are more than just crimes in the eyes of the law. They are a betrayal to the people these 'rabbis' are supposed to serve. It is not just short-term. "Okay..we fired the Rabbi, burned his files, and moved his furniture out of the house. No one with that Hebrew name will ever be allowed to receive an aliyah again." That does not make it go away. It requires a new Rabbi with a gentle demeanour and a kind heart. It will take time for the congregation to learn to trust that person. Building trust is difficult enough. Rebuilding it is nearly impossible.

The translation of our verse can also be rendered "how did the mighty fall?" It is a question with which I have wrestled for years. The answer is elusive. The inability to find an answer is frightening.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I Like to Ride My Bicycle

Top of the evening everyone.

You may remember when I identified the differences between brave and foolish. If not, go back and reread this entry: http://seabeechaplain.blogspot.com/2011/01/more-musings-and-amusings.html. I would like to add one other difference. 'Brave' has a much better writer than 'foolish.'

With those differences in mind, I would like to tell everyone that I was brave again. Every year, I ride a charity bicycle ride for the Zareinu school in Toronto. It is a 50-kilometre ride around the Niagara Escarpment. It was quite lovely. This year was my fifth ride. Over the years, I have seen many of the same people. We have a loose hevre. One of them is a guy named Mark. Mark had also signed up for the 50k, though he usually rides the 100k. At the very last minute, he convinced me to do the 1000-kilometre ride. Mark is most certainly not going on my Christmas list. That does not matter so much. I do not have one.

Somehow, I made it. I must tell you though that it hurt in places I did not know existed. For example, there is a town called 'Limehouse.' It hurt there. It also hurt in Halton Hills.

The good news is that I will only do the 50k next year, as I am also announcing the formation of 'Team Gorman.' Team Gorman will consist of me and the teenager.

Speaking of the teenager, you are all familiar with the song "Sunrise, Sunset." One of the verses has the following lyric: "When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall?" I can answer that question. He got to be so tall in the last 10 or so days. Using a level, we determined that Jesse was not taller than Jennifer about 10 days ago. As of Shabbat, he was. Jesse got to be this tall in June 2011.

Have a good night all.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Would Love to Say It's Been Quiet, But....

Hi all.

I have no clue what happened to the last month. The repairs we have needed on the outside of the house are in progress, but not yet complete. The kids are in the final weeks of school. That means multiple parties, early dismissals, exams, constant running around back and forth, and a general lack of time. Did I mention the short-fuse trip to Norfolk?

Shavuot went very well this year. We started the learning early, with the idea of being able to teach some of the people who would come with younger kids, but not be able to stay late. With the help of my wife and two friends, we ended up staying up until almost midnight learning at the shul.

Today was the Zareinu move-a-thon for the kids. They rode a great deal to raise money. As always, I am proud of them. It appears though that Gavi's rear brake cable is frayed. Rather than replace the cable (crucial), we will just get rid of the bicycle. I want to promote him to Jesse's bicycle this year anyway.

The cat is loud. She is sitting about seven feet from me. I can hear her purring.

It is 9:50 PM. I do not have much to accomplish this evening. I bid you all good night.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fixing a Hole

With great respect to the Beatles...

Winter was rough. With the amount of precipitation we had, our front porch more or less blew apart. As well, our fence has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous weather. Please do not sneeze in the backyard. I am not sure that what remains of our fence will withstand the violence.

And so we are having stuff fixed. Despite the expense, I do not mind. In fact, I am sort of enjoying it. The repairs will be long-term. We knew that they were coming at some point, but we will do them once, knowing that we will not have to worry about either one for another 25 years or so.

Note to all: when you fix your house, do it right. If you must do it on a budget, consider that your budget will not like having to make the same repair twice.

Take care.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flying Humans

I used to like flying also. I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the flights between Tokyo and Chicago. The little "puddle hoppers" - those I do not like as much. I remember trying to land in one of those at Dulles. We had to come in a second time because the wind was so strong.

I must agree with my wife. I am not sure that humans were meant to fly. They were meant to ride bicycles!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

Embassies at Kenya and Tanzania
World Trade Center
Shanksville, PA

It is about time we finally got this piece of garbage. Bravo Zulu to the members of the SEAL team that carried out the operation.

It is my sincere hope that whichever ship got to dump this piece of garbage overboard took the time to have an accidental discharge of the bilge tanks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feeling Philosophical, Part 2

Hi all.

Back in January, I wrote a posting entitled "Feeling Philosophical." In it, I told all of you that I could not go into the details of why I was writing that posting. Now I can.

We buried a friend today. Michael was 44. His three children are all within a couple of months of the ages of my three children. His youngest is in the same grade as Keren. They have attended the same school since kindergarten.

Very often, a eulogy is a testament to the deceased. It speaks of a person's decency, kindness, compassion, and all of the things for which we should all strive to be remembered. Michael was a friend. All of the words were true.

Sometimes, the testament to the deceased is beyond the words of the eulogy. In this case, the funeral home had to open up a divider between two chapels to make one large chapel. Even still, people were standing in the back.

Jennifer and I spoke to the kids over the last few days as to what they might expect at the cemetery. They fully understood, I suppose. In any event, they are old enough to go to the cemetery. I think sometimes that we shelter kids too much. Doing so creates a spookiness to cemeteries that is simply inappropriate. I would rather they understand that we will all eventually take a one-way trip. It is sad, but not remotely spooky.

I absolutely believe that a child should be able to say goodbye to a loved one. To deny a child that right can cause issues down the stretch. Furthermore, if the child is old enough to have a meaningful relationship with a mourner (beyond play group level), then the child can go and stand with a mourning friend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last Week's Sermon

Hi all...

I want to thank DG for her thoughts on what I should have written in a sermon about the Goldstone retraction. I am copying the sermon below.

Sometimes it happens. I am speechless. We continue on page 157...Being speechless happened to me last motza-ei Shabbat. I had turned on the computer to check the weather for Sunday. The computer confirmed what I already knew. There would be weather. Anyway, I also checked the news. And there, on the Jerusalem Post website were numerous references to Richard Goldstone's article on the infamous 'Goldstone Report.' You all know the article. This is the article in which Richard Goldstone retracted the most damning accusation in the report on Israel's operation Cast Lead, the accusation that Israel deliberately targeted civilians.

When I read this, I spent a few minutes picking my jaw up from the floor. Then I went and carefully read his article. It was missing an apology. It seemed to blame Israel for the faulty findings because his commission did not receive cooperation from the Israeli government.

Let us take a look more closely at a couple of items that are in his article from last week. First, and most obvious, is that he retracted the most libelous charge, that Israel targeted civilians. Second, he stated clearly, unequivocally, that the authority in Gaza did in fact target civilians. Third is the one everyone seems to want to brush under the carpet. I quote: "I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted."

My dear friends, there is so much to say. This week's parashah, Metzora, does not offer so much to us in this day and age. My house is clearly not leprous. The Rabbis pun with the word metzora, saying it means motzi ra, to speak ill of someone. I can only say that Richard Goldstone has developed a rather bad case of it.

I suppose it is best to start with the old story that most of my colleagues tell at Yom Kippur. A person goes to speak with the Chafetz Chaim, the author of all of our laws on lashon hara. "Rabbi, I spoke badly of someone. I want to make it right. What should I do?" The Chafetz Chaim says: "take a pillow, go up to the tallest building in town. Cut it open, and shake out the feathers." The man does so. He comes back. "Now what?" The rabbi says: "go collect the feathers."

These are not just feathers. These are e-feathers. There is no going back and collecting these feathers. Those feathers are in European capitals. Those feathers are in Tehran. Those feathers are on your computers. Those feathers are in the hands of those who are making the attempt to cut Israel off economically. We cannot just hit the delete key.

Worse, our early elation over his article has given way to the reality that he seems unwilling to go so much as a centimetre further.

And so his report retains its stains. It retains the stain of one of the members stating openly her concern about Israeli war crimes before so much as stepping foot on the plane for the investigation. It retains the stain that the author himself pointed out, that the UNHRC clearly does not know or even desire evenhandedness when it comes to Israel. It retains the stain of being used to pillory Israel for sins it has not committed. It retains the stain of ignoring half the report, that which pertains to rockets being fired at a civilian population.

The Mishnah tells us in Yoma: hachoteh v'hamachati ain maspikin b'yado la'asot teshuvah. - one who sins and leads others to sin can never achieve teshuvah. Mr. Goldstone, you have sinned. You have sinned against Israel. You have sinned against the Jewish people. You have sinned against every person who has ever sought to cast off the yoke of tyranny. In so doing, you have led others to sin, giving the thin veil of UN permission so that they might commit the same sins you have. Mr. Goldstone, the Rambam teaches us that an apology is the first step to teshuvah. Fixing the damage is second. You have the unique ability to make your apology and fixing the damage one and the same. Your apology should go beyond an op-ed in the Washington Post. Your apology should have you standing in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council declaring your sins for them to hear. Your apology should have you standing in front of the leadership of every nation in the world stating that you were wrong. In so doing, you will go a long way towards correcting the damage. Mr. Goldstone, we await your apology. Fix the damage you have caused. May this happen speedily in our day, and spread its feathers as quickly and as widely as your initial report.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Write a Sermon

Good evening all.

I am having some difficulty in deciding exactly what to write in my sermon for this coming Shabbat. Perhaps you might help me just a little. As you are aware, Richard Goldstone retracted his scurrilous statement and wrote that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. There is so much here. Let me offer you some of what is going through my mind. I always read your comments, and very much appreciated them while I was in Okinawa.

1. God is "poteach yad bitshuvah - opening a hand in teshuvah" (repentance/return). We should be too. This idea, however, is diametrically opposed to....

2. "Hachoteh v'hamachti, ein maspikin b'yado la'asot teshuva - one who sins and leads others to sin can never make amends."

3. The truth will set you free, unless you are Israel.

4. The idea that metzora ('leprosy'), this week's Torah portion, refers to speaking ill of others (metzora - motzi ra).

You are all aware of how utterly ludicrous it is to have a nation like China or Cuba be in a position to accuse Israel of human rights violations. Whatever Israel's flaws may be, it is downright laughable to have such nations point an accusing finger. I believe that organizations such as the United Nations should exist. However, there should be another organization, one only of democratic nations. In such an organization, Iran and Saudi Arabia at best might be jealous spectators. In any event, it is high time for the UNHRC to be tossed out with the rest of the trash. The minimal credibility this committee might have had before Friday has vanished with Goldstone's retraction.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

And Another Thing....

When we still lived in New York, I had a chat with my cantor on this whole issue of kitniyot. His response to me was that he never puts himself in a situation wherein he might have to eat kitniyot.

This is the wrong answer.

At Pesach, we celebrate perhaps the most seminal moment in Jewish history. We, as a nation, left slavery. We did it together. We should never set this particular time aside as a period not to eat with other Jews when those other Jews keep an otherwise normative (and tasty!) kashrut custom.

All I am saying is give peas a chance.

On another note, I was teaching my weekly class this morning. In the weeks prior to Pesach, we go through some different haggadot. The last time I counted (two years ago), Jennifer and I had over 90. Two of them got some extra discussion today.

The first is called the Rylands Haggadah. It is a 14th century illuminated manuscript from Catalonia. The commentary is wonderful. It has in it 80+ piyutim with some connection to Pesach. The most striking to me is the one that talks about being locked in their homes. Apparently, the local authorities in Spain did not allow the Jews out of their homes during Holy Week (the week prior to Easter). Also, in Catalonia, it was the custom to dip the karpas in the haroset instead of in salt water.

The second Haggadah is called "Pessach Haggadah 1729." It is an illuminated Ashkenazi text. Two things struck me. The first was a rather graphic, R-rated picture as part of the illumination. Jesse believes that this is entirely about marketing. The second thing that struck me is a pet peeve. In this context though, it is fascinating. This text is entirely in Hebrew. The Hebrew of the Haggadah is relatively simple Hebrew. Anyway, this Hebrew text is replete with vocalization errors. Every page has multiple mistakes. Rather than react with my usual derision on issues of grammar, I am perplexed and fascinated. The only conclusion I can draw is that the artist copied the text from another Haggadah that lacked all of the vowels. Then, he filled in the vowels on his own. Please note that for anyone who has done even a superficial study of Hebrew grammar, the errors were obvious. Jesse picked it apart with little trouble.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tyranny of the Rabbinate

So I am sitting here with a friend mentally preparing for Pesach. Are we talking about the haggadah? Are we talking about the process of kashering a kitchen? No. We are talking about quinoa.

And why are we talking about quinoa? Are we talking about what a wonderful source of nutrition it is? No. Are we talking about how well it would complement a seder meal? No. We are talking about a rabbinate that has raised ignorance to the level of piety. In so doing, it has taken a food that was permitted five years ago and rendered it forbidden. I think I missed that class when I was in Seminary.

It is simply impossible for a food to be added to the list of kitniyot when no one knew of its existence until 20 years ago. None other than the Igrot Moshe states this clearly. That, apparently, is not good enough for our local va'ad (unnamed, but you all know where I live).

As long as I am on this diatribe, you should know that we can get a wonderful kosher for Pesach dijon mustard up here in Toronto. I send it to several friends in the US. I just checked on a brand of natural peanut butter. The friend with whom I am sitting is so incensed with this ignorant piety that her family has gone off the deep end. Her children will nosh on popcorn during the seder. We will also get hummous and tehina to go on our matza. A lovely lentil dahl is also wonderful, healthy, and a welcome change from the other foods we eat year to year.

You have an obligation to enjoy your food at Pesach. In my mind, that obligation trumps the silliness of a minhag that really should go away, and certainly should not be extended. Moreover, the Talmud tells us that we will be called to account for every legitimate pleasure we ever deny ourselves. I will not deny myself legitimate pleasures, particularly at the holidays. I will never answer a kashrut question that denies you such pleasures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ring of Fire

Good evening all.

Just for the record, I am home. I am not in Japan.

That being said, the goings-on there have cause little more than high waves where I was, roughly 1600 kilometres to the south. The Navy has not asked me to go back to assist in disaster relief.

The Japanese people are resilient and stoic. They will weather this nightmare. I have no doubt.

In the meantime, I urge all of my faithful readers to donate something to support relief efforts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Is Israel's Fault!

Over the last several weeks, we have been privileged to watch what happens when despots keep their citizens living with no freedom whatsoever. There comes a point when people realize that they do not have to suffer oppression. It started in Tunisia. It went to Egypt. Libya is exploding. I cannot help but cheer the Libyan people in particular. They are brave and resilient.

Over the last couple of years, many have tried to convince us that if the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians could just find a solution, all of the other challenges in the region would simply disappear. More recently, numerous commentators have noted the folly of that belief. They have told us that the protestors in these nations have not declared that Israel is the problem. One retired Saudi military officer even went so far as to say that Israel did not put away the billions of dollars stolen from the nations in question.

I am offended. I believe that the goings-on in the Middle East are entirely Israel's fault. Israel does not suppress its internet. Israel does not restrict its press. The IDF answers to civilian authority. The judiciary is respected around the world, and has recently brought down a president. The results of the next Knesset elections are not known well in advance, and are not decreed from God. Wealth is not restricted to the hands of a few. The citizens of Israel's neighbours know this. They know that a vibrant society in which people have opportunity can exist in the region. Israel places that reality squarely in everyone's face.

It is nothing more than a continuation of the double standard from which Israel constantly suffers to deny Israel's role in bringing about the end of megalomaniac theocrats.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miss Maurelli's Composition Class

Good evening everyone.

I am feeling grumpy this evening. Due to a series of mistakes, the Gorman family's immigration file never made it to Immigration Canada. The result of that is that we must submit it a second time. The problem is that the rules have changed since a year ago. Now, Jennifer and I must have certification of our ability to communicate in either English or French. That is right. Two native English speakers, born in an English-speaking country, who attended American universities and received multiple degrees, must prove the ability to speak, read, write, and understand one of Canada's two languages. I will further add that I am a United States Naval officer. I must be able to communicate in English. Did I mention that Jennifer had an article published in a book? Did I mention that I came in 3rd place in an international sermon contest with 48 entries?

On some level, I am okay with the requirement. Every potential immigrant starts with the same blank slate.

Immigration Canada allows only two certifying agencies. One of them is www.ielts.org. I went to the organization's website. We will ignore for now that the Toronto office has a Thursday test tomorrow and next month, and nothing else until at least June. The two Thursday tests are booked. All other tests are on Shabbat. What we will not ignore is the sample test that the organization has on the website.

I will pick out a couple of quotes from the sample general training reading sample.

"All the excursions in this brochure will be operated by Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches."

This sentence is in passive voice. While technically proper grammar, passive voice is poor writing style. Competent writers avoid it. Better would be to say "Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches will operate all the excursions in this brochure."

We continue:

"Now our fleet of 50 modern coaches (few are more than five years old) operate throughout Britain and Europe but we're pleased to maintain the high standards of quality and service that were the trademark of our founders nearly sixty years ago."

Take note of the words in bold print. What we have here is a grammatical mess. Subject and verb must always agree with each other in gender, number, and case. "Fleet" is singular. "Operate" belongs with a plural noun. My suspicion is that the writer here had the word "coaches" in mind when writing "operate." However, "coaches" is the object of a preposition. It cannot be the subject of the sentence. As well, I am not certain of the word "but" in this sentence. It is a disjunctive, implying contrast with what comes before it. It is not necessary here, particularly since the point of contrast is not clear. Better would be to end the sentence prior to 'but.' The next sentence would begin with "we're" and continue. Even better would be to remember that the use of contractions in formal writing is also not correct.

I have only noted the first two paragraphs on this page. The rest of the page is replete with problems. Below is the link. Have a look for yourselves.


The title of this entry is "Miss Maurelli's Composition Class." Miss Maurelli taught composition in grade 10. She made it clear on the first day of class that more than three mistakes of the kind we see throughout this page would earn a failing grade for a paper. It is more than a little insulting to know that an organization with demonstrated grammar and writing deficiencies will determine whether or not Jennifer and I write, speak, and understand English well enough to live here. It is my sincere hope that whoever grades my test can meet my standards. Thus far, I am not impressed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coming Home

I have been home now approximately two weeks. In that time, Gavi has ambushed me with some flying stuffed thing at every opportunity. Jesse has really gone from being a big boy to a small man. Keren is..well..Keren.

Since being home, Gavi has been home from school with a headache. I think he threw up once too. Keren is home today with strep. She did throw up. Jennifer and I have been to their school once to teach, and then went back today for a meeting. We have twice rescheduled Jesse's interview for CHAT (Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto). There was an optometrist appointment for Gavi. There was a doctor appointment for Jesse. I have done one funeral. I have another one on Sunday. Jennifer had a meeting Monday evening. We are both donating blood next week. Jennifer and I spent Tuesday taking care of some paperwork that was dependent on immigration status for both of us. It is all done, but she does not have OHIP, and I do not have a SIN card. OHIP is the socialized medicine up here. SIN (Social Insurance) is Canada's equivalent of a Social Security number.

"They" always tell the spouses of deployed family members not to do anything radical while the spouse is gone. There should be no radical changes to hairstyles. The house should look the same when the Sailor comes back in the door. Do not buy a new car.

Now for the Gorman perspective: if Jennifer purchased a Porsche while I was gone, I would regard it as a small price to pay for a happy wife. If she changed her hair, I am a guy. It is unlikely I would notice. As far as changing the house around, Jennifer rearranges furniture. If I came home after however long, and the furniture had not shifted, I would be concerned about her. She also painted the ensuite, the kids' bathroom, and the master bedroom. Again, this is what she does.

My life is primarily in the second paragraph of this entry. The other stuff - hairstyle, car, house - is minor. These are the things that Jennifer must do to continue living. I would never want her to avoid them. Jennifer is not going to move and forget to tell me the address. Short of that, I expect her to live the way she wants and needs to live.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reasons to Have Children

I had promised everyone that I would publish my list of reasons to have children. You may remember a couple of years ago that a therapist and mother of two published a book in Europe entitled "No Kids: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children." I would like to congratulate her on helping her colleagues. I am certain that her children, roughly the age of my older two, will certainly not think she meant them specifically. And just think - she was on the bestseller list too. I bet she made lots of money. I wonder what her name was.

Over summer 2009, the book "No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children" was a bestseller in North America. The author wastes over 100 pages of ink to give all of the reasons - her reasons - we should avoid having children.

This decision is very personal for most couples, and has numerous factors involved - economy, past experiences, fertility, etc. In no way do I criticize those who have chosen a different path. Neither do I mean any insult towards those who have had such a different path thrust upon them.

After reading this book, I spent some time on line finding lists of reasons that people should have children. Many websites exist, each giving numerous reasons, and each castigating the author of the book in question. The lists on these websites were all very good. However, virtually every website I found was Catholic.

Jewish families are not Catholic families. Some of our reasons as Jews are different from those of our Catholic neighbors. I thus present to you 40 reasons that Jewish families should have children. Please note that some of the reasons are in direct response to the spurious waste of paper mentioned in the first paragraph.

1. I do not require a reason. Some truths are self-evident, with no need for justification.
2. Very often, the phrase "I do not want to have children" really means "I do not want to have children with you."
3. A large part of the marital counseling I do centers around the inability to do so.
4. I live with the constant reminder that there is more to the world than the ability to be spontaneous with my spouse.
5. Biblical obligation (Genesis 1:28).
6. I remember with clarity my son staring at me endlessly on the day he was born.
7. I remember with clarity my second son coming out to join me for breakfast at 6:30 every morning when he was a toddler.
8. I remember with clarity my just-learning-to-walk daughter turning on the radio and dancing in the living room. You cannot get such memories from the cat. You also cannot get them from having the author's suggested "overnight guests" just because there are no kids in the way.
9. The requirement of the morning wrestling match to get one of them out of bed.
10. It has certainly made my wife and me much closer, if not a little more exhausted.
11. Watching my children's triumphs with joy, pride, and even a little jealousy.
12. Knowing that my children could write this list.
13. I regard replacing 6,000,000 of my immediate ancestors as a personal obligation.
14. Advancing professionally is not on the same scale as advancing personally.
15. My children will always know how to care for others.
16. Making the special "cupcake hallah" with my kids.
17. Watching the delight of learning something new.
18. Trips to the ice cream parlor are much more fun with them than they are solo.
19. Who knew that macaroni and cheese is its own food group?
20. Calzone night
21. Losing at chess and Othello to kids I should defeat.
22. Shabbat afternoon Monopoly games
23. Wintertime and the wooden trains (which are mostly mine)
24. Listening in wonder and amazement while someone talks for so long without taking a breath.
25. Trying to deliver a sermon with a kid standing between me and a bimah.
26. My wife and I go out as adults way more now than we ever did before we had kids.
27. One child has asked for his own candle-sticks, because his sister has them, and he does not want to be left out.
28. The raucous Shabbat table.
29. My kids will go to the book store over the movie theater.
30. I have no clue what the problem is for the author of the book. Our sex life is fine thank you very much. That is how Jennifer and I had these children. By the way, get a lock for the bedroom door.
31. We have plenty of friends. They all have children about the age of our own.
32. Watching one of the kids do a 20-kilometer charity ride on a bicycle with one training wheel.
33. Watching one of my kids teach two friends to read Torah, and then organize the Torah readers for the family service.
34. Gaining respect for my parents, as well as a sense of relief that I never said "I will never say that to my kids."
35. Being aware of their needs helps me to be aware of the needs of others as well, and not to focus only on my own.
36. Having a world-renowned expert on dinosaurs living in my basement.
37. The first frog they brought home.
38. Learning a fair amount about myself.
39. Hearing the story of how my eldest organized his brother and sister for their first bus ride from karate to home.
40. The pocketful of acorns that I put through the laundry.

I am adding in one more reason, as I believe that this is not an equal choice. The reasons to have children not only outweigh the author's reasons not to have children. They also outnumber the author's reasons.

41. Marital intimacy is far more fun and spontaneous when one is hopeful about the results instead of worried about the results.

Rav Sean Gorman, with help from Rav Jennifer Gorman

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah

Jennifer's favourite mitzvah is mikveh, as you saw in her posting today. She sees it as spiritual. I always refer my female conversion students to her to talk about it. I can tell you how to build one. I have never been able to get into the spiritual side of it.

Before I comment on my personal feelings, I need to be the Rabbi. Given that the mikveh is essentially a secret sorority, it should be many things. Above and beyond the questions of spiritual health, it should also be a place of physical health. As such, the dressing rooms should have posters with proper instructions for a monthly breast exam. There should be phone numbers for shelters and abuse counseling.

On a macro level, mikveh attendants should meet once a month in cities where there are multiple mikvaot. They should discuss different procedures for helping someone with physical challenges in and out of the mikveh. They should discuss Mrs. Schwartz, who goes to a different mikveh every night. They should learn to ask the simple question of whether it is the right night to be there. Being forced to go to mikveh early is prevalent in abusive relationships. By the way, there is a different method of counting the days of menstruation amongst the Sephardim as opposed to the Ashkenazim. A question to the mikveh attendant about that counting might be a question about personal custom. It might also be a sign of a much deeper marital problem.

On a personal level, mikveh for me is very erotic. In the week prior, I am already thinking about 'mikveh night.' I plan the evening. I shower also. I put the kids to bed as early as I can get away with.

One of my teachers pointed out that if the point of mikveh is for the monthly honeymoon that Jennifer mentioned, men should go too. It is not only incumbent on the women to maintain the romance in a relationship. I should go monthly. I do not. I will start at some point.

Home for a Week

I have been home for a week. I suppose I should write something. I'm ho-oooome. What's for dinner?

My luggage did finally come a couple of hours before Shabbat. I must have a chat with the airline. They damaged my suitcase. I am not sure whether to be upset or happy. The suitcase was showing its age.

I was ambushed at the door. Gavi organized it, complete with a barrage of stuffed animals and everyone in his/her proper spot for maximum effect. Gavi's rough side has since come through. He has a beautiful black eye to show for it, courtesy of the bedroom door.

Jesse read Torah last Shabbat morning. He read one aliyah. If he would slow down just a touch, it would have been absolutely perfect. It seemed like his eyes moved faster than his mouth. That being said, I was utterly floored listening to him. I left a boy here. He is certainly a young man. His voice is deeper. There is a confidence and maturity to his reading that he did not have in October, despite a skill level in this regard that goes beyond anyone his age, or several years older.

Keren planned a return party. She invited people. When they asked her what to bring, she thought about it and answered the question. People brought cake and other assorted sundries.

I put the cheque in the mail today to the taxi driver in Okinawa. I hope he gets it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Hi all....

Our revels now are ended. The lunacy that has been my life over the last several months has reached a conclusion. The Navy actually did not have a legal way to keep me in Okinawa as long as they wanted. The result of that is that they cobbled together various types of orders to keep me there as long as possible. They ran out of money.

As such, on January 26th, I boarded a plane, then another, and then another. I arrived in Toronto on a flight from Chicago last night. I am sitting at my kitchen table. There are icicles outside my window. As well, there are snow flurries.

The driveway is shovelled.

Two interesting notes: the duty free store at Narita Airport allows you taste samples before making a purchase. If you ever get there, I recommend the local plum wine. It was wonderful. Nonetheless, I purchased one of the Japanese whiskies. As concerns the free sampling, let us just say that I was in a wonderful mood when I got on the plane.

The other interesting note: I called a taxi to take me from the lodge to the airport. I very specifically told the taxi company that I was paying with a credit card. The machine in the taxi did not allow my card for some reason. I think it only would accept Japanese cards. Because I knew I could pay with my card, I had no cash. I am now home. Over the next day or two, I will go to the bank and get a check made out to the tune of 7946 yen. I will then mail it to the driver. It never occurred to him that I might do otherwise. Luckily, I am the type of person who would not even consider doing otherwise.

As concerns the title of this blog, one of my three suitcases liked Chicago so much that it decided to stay there.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jennifer's Emotional Exhaustion and the Gorman Children

First of all, Jennifer - squirrels do not do laundry. I am sorry that I had to be the one to break it to you. You need a couple of dwarves. With Snow White finally hooked up with that two-timing Prince Charming (you all forgot about Cinderella), the dwarves are primed to learn some serious life skills. Given the way I feel about laundry, and the hour at which we usually end up folding it, may I suggest hiring Grumpy and Sleepy?

The Gorman children...Jesse has always been verbal. I have a list on my computer at the Pride of the 41 reasons to have children. I wrote it as a response to the waste of paper that the therapist and mother of two in France/Belgium wrote on the 40 reasons not to have children. At some point, I will have Jennifer send me that list, and I will publish it here. Anyway, one of my reasons has to do with marvelling while watching a child speak for an hour without inhaling. Yes...I had Jesse in mind. He spoke early. He spoke clearly. He had (and still has) an exceptional vocabulary. I remember an incident prior to his second birthday. He had dropped something on the floor, and could not get out of the high chair to reach it. He said something to me, which I missed. He said it again, and again I missed. He finally pointed at it and said "can't reach."

Gavi came out looking for a meal and a fight. Of the three children, he is the most adventurous eater, always willing to try something new. He enjoys spicy food, and is now learning the art of the barbecue. When he was crawling, I was still wrestling with Jesse. Suddenly, this little baby is in the middle of it. That rough-and-tumble nature has not left him. He got in trouble in pre-school for wrestling with one of the other boys (it was mutual. The other kid got in trouble too). He has had more black eyes than the other two children, combined. I walk into his room in the morning. He awakens instantly, with a stuffed animal flying through the air towards my head.

And then there is Keren. Keren is more expressive than Gavi. At her age, Jesse would still throw tantrums. Keren's expressiveness sometimes locks out reason. Yesterday morning, she was reading at the kitchen table before school. It was time to go. She had not finished. She threw a tantrum, because she could not go - in someone else's car - until she finished her homework. Reason would not sway her.

In short, my faith in genetics extends only as far as looks. The three of them look alike. It is clear that they are siblings. Temperament...focus....specific intelligences...disposition...logic suggests that they should have something in common, given that the 46 chromosomes that are at the root of their genetic matter came from the same place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lord I Was Born a Ramblin' Man

So I guess you will all permit me to ramble just a little bit...or a lot.

I am watching "The Big Chill" right now. I first saw the movie when I was 19 while spending the year in Israel. In Israel, the title of the movie is "Haverim shel Alex" - Friends of Alex. It was badly cut. The opening scene was missing. I had no clue what the movie was about. Since then, I have seen the full, uncut version. It is remarkably different at age 21 (that's how old I am now) from what it was more than two decades ago at age 19. As I get older, the movie gains a certain amount of poignancy.

On a different note, when I saw the scene when William Hurt, Meg Tilley, Kevin Kline, and Michael Goldblum were looking at the house that Alex and Chloe were renovating, the first thing that went through my mind was that Jennifer would love to have a house to renovate like that.

Did you know that Alex was played by Kevin Costner? All of his live scenes were cut. You only see him being dressed prior to the funeral.

I took a walk to the beach on Shabbat. I had been there a few weeks ago. It was high tide. Beaches at high tide are wonderful places. The waves are strong against the rocks. There are places it is impossible to walk.

When I got there on Shabbat, it was low tide. All of those rocks that were the crashing points for all of those waves were exposed. Some of them were HUGE. It was amazing to see how different the shoreline was with so much visible.

I have read now two chapters of Anita Diamant's "The Red Tent." The writing is captivating. Despite the writing, I must tell you that I am going to have to force myself to finish the book. The reason is that I have never felt less like the target audience for a book than I have for this one. It is a gender issue.

The list of things that have been nutty in my life since getting out here is really long and annoying. I will be happy to tell the story, after several shots of tequila. In the meantime, several things have gone exactly right. I would like to mention them. First, as you remember, we were involved in the prevention of a suicide in Korea. Second, we got a kitchen kashered, and another one is in progress. Third, I am down about 2.5 kilos. Fourth, the congregation here met every other Friday evening prior to my arrival. Now, there is a contingent that wants to meet every Friday evening. Last, the mother of one of the owners of the kitchen we kashered has decided she should start looking at her Hebrew again. Her son-in-law (owns the kashered kitchen) is in process of converting, and she does not want want to be outdone by him. Ripples in the pond are wonderful. This one ripples all the way out to South Bend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jennifer and Me at 17.5 Years

Over the last few days, I have had two chuckles. The first was when I realized that Jennifer and I react so differently to the same events. To read our respective writings on the death of Debbie Friedman or the fact that a friend is really quite sick, you would never know that we knew each other, let alone the fact that we share a life, a home, three children, and two cats. The second chuckle was when Jennifer told me that a couple of people who are following both of our blogs pointed out the same thing to her.

When you see either one or both of us in the parking lot after school, or at services, or anywhere else, you are seeing a finished product. You are encountering us after whatever issue of the day has been discussed. You see us with our kids, with the rules of parenting hammered out over almost 14 years of being parents. Presently, we have been apart for several months. The differences in our makeups appear more readily than they might when we are together.

A little information about our backgrounds is in order. Jennifer's parents sold the home in which she grew up, her very first home, the home they purchased ten months before she was born, only over summer 2010. My parents are in their fifth residence since she met me 19 years ago. Maybe it is the sixth residence. One of them was twice. I also might have missed one anyway. Jennifer grew up on Jewish Long Island. I am a southerner and a Navy brat, having grown up in military housing in Norfolk, Virginia. Jennifer went to Brandeis University, where she was accepted early admission. I went to State University of New York at Buffalo, on which I decided by process of elimination. All of the universities to which I applied save SUNY Buffalo eliminated me. SUNY Buffalo's largest dormitory was bigger than all of Brandeis University.

A funny, telling story: we spent the first year of married life living in Israel. Rabbinical School required one year in Jerusalem. In January 1994, it was winter break. I wanted to go to Turkey. We could rent a lounge chair on a ship for $30 each way. It would have been quite the adventure. Jennifer wanted to know what we were going to do there. I said we would figure it out when we got there. She wanted to plan it, and was not interested in traveling without a plan. Ultimately, we ended up purchasing an Ebgi.

I admit (begrudgingly) that there is probably a lot of room for some element of planning when considering travel. Jennifer would also likely admit that the ability to fly by the seat of one's pants will usually not result in torn jeans. We do well together in this regard.

Jennifer can cry when she is overwhelmed. I pick up my pen (well...keyboard, but you know what I mean). Jennifer looks for the communal meaning of Debbie Friedman's work. I find solace in words I studied in Talmud over a decade ago. I learned those words from one of Professor Lieberman's students, a teacher with whom Jennifer never studied. Jennifer cites Professor Heschel in her writings.

Most of you know us as Jennifer&Sean. It is interesting and amusing to see us as Jennifer & Sean. For what it is worth, I have enjoyed watching that as well. As marriage goes, 2=1. That is why the kids are not allowed to play us against each other. Still, I do not often take the time to think about how different we are. The last three months have certainly afforded that opportunity.

Jennifer - here's looking to the next 17.5 I love you.

If you have been following our blogs over the last several months, we will shortly send you a bill. Just kidding...

Tiyul - day 2

Hi all....

I decided to bike back across to where I was yesterday. There were a couple of stores I had wanted to see that were closed when I was there originally. They were still closed.

During my time here, and especially today, because I was looking more carefully, I noticed three things that the Japanese do for pedestrian and traffic safety. We should learn from these in North America.

1. There are landing lights that mark dark curbs. The flash in a procession, and are remarkably helpful on dark, stormy nights.

2. When the light changes and it is safe to walk, the sign indicates as much. As well, the noise sounds in order that those who are visually impaired will also be able to go. The timing and the sound of the noise are offset from each other. This means that you hear noise in front of you and a different noise behind you, clearly sounding out the straight line in a way that is not confusing.

3. Speaking of straight lines, I had noticed 3 cm bumps in the sidewalk. The bumps are in four long columns, a total of 30 cm wide and follow the sidewalk as it goes its way. When I am walking the bicycle, I like to put it in the grooves. The bumps change texture when you get to an intersection. I tested it this afternoon. I was able to close my eyes and walk the sidewalk without bumping into anything. Again, that is a stupendous idea for the visually impaired.

Related to today's tiyul, I have a habit of playing the instant lottery wherever I go. To date, I have a winning record in West Virginia, where my only ticket, purchased on the way through, won $8.00. Jennifer and I may retire there. Anyway, I regret to inform all of you that my record in Okinawa is that I am down 400 Yen, roughly $3.20 USD.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words That Do Not Exist in English

Some words do not exist in English. One of them is 'tiyul.' 'Tiyul' is a Hebrew word in the gerund form of the verb 'l'tayel.' It means to 'take a day and bounce around town.' 'We are tourists here. Let's tiyul around and see what there is to see.'

I tiyuled around today. It was a nice trip, about 10 kilometres each way by bicycle. I stopped off in different stores. These were stores out in town. There was an arts and crafts store (avodat yad). I went into a musical instrument store. I know these are stores that cater to Americans. Still, they were run by real Okinawans. The things I bought were made by real Okinawans. It was a nice day.

I found a set of Okinawan castanets for the boys, and a tchatchke for Jennifer. As well, there is something new to hang up in the sukkah this fall. You should add one new decoration to your sukkah each year. Now, I only need a fridge magnet. Best of all, I got to meander. We are on yet another 96-hour weekend due to Martin Luther King's birthday. If I got back late, it did not really matter. I can sleep in tomorrow.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feeling Philosophical

It has been a strange weekend. I am not at liberty to go into the details, but it has left me feeling philosophical.

Please note: at no time should you infer anything about my health. I promise you that I am quite healthy, and see no indication of that changing.

I started writing letters yesterday. These are letters to my kids and to Jennifer. I intend to type them out, and then video them. It is my sincere hope to update those letters yearly. I wish I could do it by hand. The fact is that to hold a pen and endeavour mightily to produce penmanship that anyone can read has always been painful. I may do one paragraph by hand a day until the task is finished. The letters will be put in the safe downstairs.

In the meantime, "life's...a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage" (Macbeth, Act V). We do not know how long our hour is. Neither do we know how that hour draws to a close. It might draw to a close like a light switch, or like a dimmer. What I do know is that those who survive us quite naturally will remember our closing days more easily than our full lives. When my time comes, I want my wife and my kids to know that my life with them is so much more than the naturally self-centered way in which we all depart. I want them to know that if I lose my memory and cannot recognize or communicate, that any inability is insignificant as compared to their roles in my life.

So I am writing down my memories of who they have been as they grew up. These stories have been funny and poignant. I have learned some about the kids in the process of writing.

I recommend everyone consider doing this. It is not too late, but it can be rather quickly. Our last words to those important to us should not be about who gets the china and how to divide out the sale of the house.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Original Rules of Marriage.

I want to thank DKW for asking me nicely to post my other rules of marriage. Even if you have seen them in the past, they are worth rereading. By the way, there has been at least one significant addition in the last month.

1. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. You are each 100% responsible for the success of your marriage.

2. Do not go somewhere to find a spouse if you would not want your children hanging out there.

3. Take 30 minutes with your spouse every day. “Date night” is also critical, especially after you become parents.

4. One rose 12 times will speak more loudly than 12 roses once. Remember the little things. Do them often.

5. Call, text, or e-mail your spouse from work once a day, just to say hello.

6. When you get married, you can no longer be single. Act married. This means the following:
a. Most of your friends should be married people.
b. Do married things. This means not hanging out in bars. See #2.
c. Your parents are now second on the priority list.
d. In a conflict between your spouse and your parents, your spouse always wins. This holds true even if you disagree with your spouse.
e. Once you’ve made the decision to be married, act married. Engagement is not your last chance to sow wild oats.

7. Never put yourself in a situation where your honour or integrity might be called into question.

8. Never let anyone call your spouse’s honour into question. Your spouse always gets your trust. No one is ever allowed to say anything bad about your spouse.

9. Talk about your spouse with respect and love. Do not make jokes about your spouse. This holds when your spouse is present, and when your spouse is not present. Talk to your spouse with respect.

10. When you get married, it is no longer “his money” and “her money.” The money belongs to both of you. Trust the values that you and your spouse share enough to trust your spouse with the money. Inability to trust your spouse with money is a sign of much deeper problems.

11. Arguments are a normal part of marriage. It is not okay to bring all the past misdeeds. A matter forgiven is a matter ignored. It does not matter who wins or loses an argument. It matters that you are both equal partners.

12. Say three nice things to your spouse every day. You should also flirt with your spouse. Do not let your conversations focus only on who is driving carpool.

13. Your religious values and beliefs are more important to you than you realize. Think carefully about those values and beliefs. Choose a spouse who shares them.

14. Laugh and sing together.

15. Never, ever use the “d” word. Do not joke about it. Do not threaten it. Never let it enter your mind, and you will always find other ways to solve problems.

16. Making love is a vital part of your marriage. Set time aside for making love. Set enough time aside for more than just a “quickie.” Experiment. Have fun. Do not be perfunctory. Whipped cream has uses beyond the kitchen. Pornography is visual adultery.

17. We purchase starter homes. There is no such thing as a “starter marriage.”

18. Your spouse should know your status prior to your facebook friends. Your spouse should know more about your status than your facebook friends.

19. If either one of you thinks you need marriage counseling, seek marriage counseling. Your spouse’s opinions deserve consideration even if you disagree.

20.  Your spouse cannot read your mind.  Tell your spouse what you are thinking.  You cannot read your spouse's mind.  Ask.

Chaplain Gorman’s Rules for a Successful Military Marriage - Deployment

Good evening all.

Many of you are familiar with my "Rules of Marriage." I send it around every once in a while. It has undergone some revision since I am here. I have also written a new one specifically focused on the military. I would like to thank Rav Jen and my mother for their input. Since most of you have seen my original "Rules of Marriage," I will not post that document unless someone asks very nicely.

Feel free to comment. I will likely place some of my own notes in between.

1. Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. You are each 100% responsible for the success of your marriage.

2. Take 30 minutes with your spouse every day. It may not seem like much, but you will think of nothing else in the middle of a deployment.

Remarkably true.

3. Plant little notes around the house before you leave. Plant notes in the luggage before departure. Do not pack the cat.

Jennifer filled my luggage with tootsie rolls. I was finding them for days. The world is a notably better place with kosher supervision for tootsie rolls.

4. Call, text, or e-mail your spouse every day. Use skype when you can. Send pictures. Do this especially if you have been out on a patrol or if the command has had to shut down the internet. Even with the internet, the handwritten word has value in this world. Send letters home. Keep a dummy e-mail account. That is the one you use when you write an angry, frustrated e-mail. Having a dummy e-mail account allows you the catharsis of hitting the ‘send’ button without causing distress to your spouse. If you are going to be “outside the wire,” do not compromise operational security in letting your spouse know. Remember: as much as your spouse wants to know, your spouse does not want you to compromise the mission. Your spouse understands that your life, as well as the life of your unit, depends on operational security. Make contact as soon as possible upon return, before taking a shower.

We have been pretty good. We skype almost daily. There is plenty of e-mail. We have had no issues of operational security, although I have a list of code words that I will send home immediately if that changes. We have not done spectacularly with the written word, although Gavi sent me a postcard.

5. Talk about your spouse with respect and love. Joke with your spouse. Never joke about your spouse.

6. You are on deployment. Whether you like it or not, the chequebook must stay at home. Trust your spouse with the math and with the details. You have to.

This was difficult. Jennifer can handle a chequebook. However, it had been my responsibility since we moved to Toronto five and a half years ago. It was difficult to let it go.

7. The six weeks prior to and the six weeks after deployment are the hardest times in a military marriage. Fighting is a normal part of gearing up for a deployment. It is easier to be openly angry than it is to be openly sad. It is easier to be angry than to realize that the “rules” of your marriage have shifted during the separation. Decide in advance how to handle these “quarrels.” Remember that these are quarrels from sadness, and not from anger.

8. Plan your return. You should plan together, and you both should plan little surprises.

At this point, my plans have gotten me as far as unpacking. I need to think about this more.

9. You can flirt with your spouse even from a distance of 10,000 miles. Do so. Write an erotic note or letter. Use graphic, but clean language. “Erotic” and “pornographic” are not the same thing. Be romantic. Even when apart, spouses should continue to be lovers.

I have no comment here. A gentleman never writes and tells.

10. Remember that spouses need physical contact. Even stepping on a toe accidentally is a reminder that you share a life. Absence of that contact can be a sub-conscious source of insecurity. You need to make up for the lack of direct contact any way you can. One of the joys of the internet is that you can send flowers. Do so. From home, send food to the field, as well as other little odds and ends.

I have sent flowers, once. It is getting to be time to do that again. This has not been one of my strengths anyway, but I am trying.

11. Write notes to your kids. They miss you too. Tell them what you are doing. They are interested. Listen to what they are doing. They want you to be part of their lives as much as possible.

We have been very good here. Outside of the fact that Gavi really needs me to wrestle him into submission, the contact has been fantastic.

12. Never put yourself in a situation where your honour or integrity might be called into question.

13. The old adage of “what happens on deployment stays on deployment” should never have existed. In this day of incurable, fatal, and highly contagious diseases, that adage really needs to go away. Remember rule #12 as written above.

14.  Those of you who are home: your spouse is carrying a 50-pound pack, a weapon, and a huge amount of responsibility.  Please do not assume that the spouse can come back and readjust overnight.

Those of you who are deployed: while you were away, your spouse got kids up every day, changed the oil on the car, had a really bizarre incident with the iron, changed the kitty litter, and did everything else that goes into running a home alone.  Do not assume that just because you were carrying a 50-pound pack, a weapon, and a huge amount of responsibility means that your spouse did not work very hard also.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Unscripted Movie Scenes

Four movie scenes come to mind that were not in the original scripts. The first is from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Early in the movie, we find Indiana Jones running around Cairo trying to find Marian, who has just been kidnapped by hired goons. Suddenly, the crowd clears. There is a man with a rather large scimitar doing all sorts of sword gymnastics. Indiana Jones just shoots him.

The next is from 'My Cousin Vinny.' Marisa Tomei's character is complaining about her 'biological clock tick tick ticking.' She stomps her foot on the deck as she says it. You can see Joe Pesci hold back a chuckle.

The third is from 'When Harry Met Sally.' In the beginning of the movie, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are talking in the car. He is eating grapes. He spits out a seed onto the closed window. He turns to her and says "I'll open the window."

The last is from 'Sleepless in Seattle.' Everyone is sitting around the table talking about crying at movies. Tom Hanks says that men do not really do that, but then says that he cried at the end of "The Dirty Dozen." The next two minutes are completely unscripted.

With that introduction, I must tell you all that I like 'chick flicks.' Last night, I watched "Shall We Dance" with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. Towards the end of the movie, he comes up the escalator and hands a rose to Susan Sarandon. The two women who work for Susan Sarandon were crying. I have to admit that I got misty-eyed.

I elected to check the movie out of the library today, so that I could watch it without the editor's cuts. The same thing happened at the same scene in the movie.

I really like a happily-ever-after romantic comedy, particularly where no one even flirts with the idea of doing something to violate the marital vows.

Echoing My Bride

When I went to summer camp in 1984, we took a day trip to New York City. We were only about two hours away. I remember the bus ride into Manhattan. I was humming Debbie Friedman's 'Oseh Shalom' to myself. I had just learned, and could not get it out of my head. It remains my favourite. We have worked very hard at the Pride both Erev Shabbat and at Shabbat Mincah to be able to sing with the counterpoint harmony, and we usually get it right. As well, we have put a variation on Debbie Friedman's 'Mi Shebeirakh' into our Shabbat morning service.

The Jerusalem Talmud in chapter 3 of Moed Katan teaches us that when we cite the words of our teachers, their lips quiver in the grave. Debbie Friedman's influence in the world of North American Jewish music will keep her lips quivering for millennia.

May her memory be for a blessing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Musings and Amusings

Hi all....

It is Friday afternoon. I have to change clothes for services. I have to say Minchah. I have some other things to do. Naturally, I am typing to you.

I believe it is incumbent on all clergy to assist anyone in seeking that which is holy. I have reached the conclusion though that sometimes this is not a good idea. For example, the sharp piece of metal that made my bicycle tire holy I would rather not have found.

Many of you have heard me comment on the differences between brave and foolish. There are two interrelated differences. 'Brave' lives to tell about it. 'Foolish' does not. Also, 'brave' is in the first person - I was brave. 'Foolish' is in the third person - he was foolish.

It would appear that I was brave today. When I am in the field, I get to eat MRE's. There is some debate as to the exact meaning of 'MRE.' It is supposed to mean 'meals ready to eat.' Some say it means 'meals refusing to exit.' Some believe that it is 'meals rushing to exit.' Anyway, I have only had the kosher MRE's. They are pretty good. When I could eat dairy, the florentine lasagne was delightful. Most of my colleagues like the chicken noodle.

I found a couple of boxes of kosher MRE's in the closet. The thing is that the individual boxes did not look like the ones I know. I could not find a date on them. I copied down all the gobbledygook codes I could find and e-mailed the president of My Own Meals (www.myownmeals.com). We e-mail back and forth from time to time. She was able to tell me that the codes date the packaging to 1993. She also said that they are probably still good, and quipped about whether or not to try one.

I was brave. I tried one. The good news is that I was brave. After 17 years, packaging for MRE's works.

Do not try this at home. I would not.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Parenting

Hi all.

There is a young couple currently across the hall from me. She is pregnant. Good for them. For the second time this week, I found her outside having a cancer break (cigarette). I asked about it. She said she is stressed, but would not elaborate.

There are certain habits for which I have zero tolerance. Cancer sticks are one of them. Apparently, I have less than zero tolerance for them in certain cases. I asked the mom to answer the following: when the baby is out, will you place a pillow over its face when you are stressed? The answer, thankfully, was no. She did not answer me though when I asked her why she was doing that now.

It is now time for a sermon. First though, we have a multiple choice question.

When do we become parents?

A. When the baby comes
B. When we find out about the pregnancy
C. When we make the decision to have a baby

If you chose 'A', read on. My answer is 'C'. It is at that point when we must start thinking past our own wants and needs. The pre-natal vitamins must start. Alcohol consumption must drop precipitously. Dimmer switches and cabinet locks must go on the proper places. As well, we must look at a much bigger vision of the future. We must take active steps to be healthy. Bringing a child into the world is the biological part of becoming a parent. Biology is not the only ingredient though.

'B' could be the correct answer also. Not every pregnancy happens with planning.

End of Sermon. We continue now with Ein Ke-lo-heinu on page 167.