Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mellowing with Age....

Top of the evening to all...

When Jennifer and I lived in New York City, I loved the Christmas season.  The smell of pine, of fir, and of spruce wafted through the air from all of the trees piled up in front of the stores.  People were generally of pleasant disposition.  We would walk down 5th Avenue and see how all of the windows were decorated.  We wandered into Rockefeller Center (US location, US spelling) to see the tree.  We never got to be part of the annual singing of Handel's "Messiah," but I wish we had.

I will tell you further that I absolutely love "Carol of the Bells."  As well, we played a remarkably Christian piece in high school band called "La Marche des Rois."  I still hum the piece from time to time.

We lived in North Carolina for a couple of years, a place a colleague called the "buckle of the Bible Belt."  I got a little X-mased out.  I even rewrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to be "Rudolph the Kosher Reindeer."  It does not end well for the reindeer.

Nowadays, I am watching the atheist groups of the world try and shut out religion from virtually every corner of public life.  I am not impressed.  As they attempt this, I have also begun to rethink my own opinions.

I am a Jew.  I light a hannukiyah.  I celebrate Pesach.  I build a sukkah.  The list goes on.  I live in Toronto, a city in which 80 languages are spoken on a daily basis.  If we were to speak of theological languages, the number would be much higher.

I fully support placing a Christmas tree at Queen's Park, on Parliament Hill, at the White House, and on virtually every other piece of public property in the world.  I also have no issue with a manger.  I believe that all of these places should also have a hannukiyah and a sukkah at the proper times.

This is not a statement of communal support of one faith to the exclusion of others, or of faith in general to the exclusion of atheism.  It is a reminder that we speak 80 languages in our home city.  It is a reminder that we should share in each other's happiness as a community.  It is a reminder that even though some people do not care about Christmas, some other people might.  I share in their joy.  Please, offer me a cup of egg nog.  I will say a b'rakhah (blessing) on it, and share a toast with you.  I invite you to share in my joy.  As for all of these public places, they share in our joy communally.  They remind us that we live together as neighbours despite our differences.  They should remind all of us that Queen's Park, Parliament Hill, and the White House should not be places that are only about politics.  They are about people, and should not be devoid of the symbols that people find important.

On an aside, the sukkah is a much more potent Jewish symbol.  Hannukah does not hold a candle to Christmas in terms of deeper meaning of the holiday to the respective faith groups (pun intented).  A communal hannukiyah is wonderful, but I would much prefer to see a communal sukkah.

To my Christian friends out there, I wish you all of the joy and holiness Christmas should bring you.  And if you wish me a Merry Christmas because you do not immediately recognize me as Jewish, thank you for the sentiment, even if I cannot enjoy the holiday.


Conquering Fears...

Top of the afternoon to all...

Some of you may remember a few months back that I separated my shoulder playing racquetball.

I came back to Marine Corps Base Quantico in August with my racquetball equipment, but never played.  I was nervous about the possibility of injuring it a second time.

I am in Quantico again.  I have my equipment again.  I did it!!  Today was a racquetball day.  I played on the same court on which I received the reminder of the fact that sometimes things break.  The shoulder felt good.  There was no unplanned bouncing off the wall.  It was nice to play again.

The only thing left to do is to find the two Marines who got me in the first place.  I feel the need for some comeuppance.

Have a great day.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Men's Shabbat...

Shavua tov to all...

Jennifer and Keren are in Texas for a bat mitzvah.  That means that Gavi, Jesse, and I had a men's Shabbat.

Last night we played a couple of board games.  After services today, while lunch was getting warm in the oven, we worked on knife-fighting techniques.  Jesse had just had a karate class on how to defend against an attacker wielding a knife.

There was ping-pong in the afternoon, and some more board games.

Tonight, we are going to get sushi and watch "Demolition Man."  It is a classic.

Have a good evening everyone.


Friday, December 12, 2014

7th Period Band Class....

Top of the afternoon to all...

When I was in high school, band class was 7th period.  Lo and behold, it is for Jesse as well.

I went to band class yesterday.  Why did I do this?  Jesse downloaded a program from the internet called musescore.  It allows someone to compose music.  it has its flaws, for sure.

Jesse has been composing his own music for the last several years.  His band teacher decided that the band would sightread his music yesterday.

I arranged with his teacher and went.  I am no mere spectator though.  I brought my own trumpet, sat in the trumpet section, and played my son's music.

Way to go Jesse, and thanks for the father-son moment.

Shabbat Shalom to all.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Nickel for Your Thoughts...

Top of the evening, o' loyal readers.

With the mint's decision to remove the penny from circulation, the cost of a single thought quintupled almost overnight, at least in Canada.  Luckily, those in the US can still get thoughts at the cheaper rate that has been around for well over a century.  

I have a question.

Over the last couple of years, my beloved bride (some of you read her blog) has been telling me to write a book.  I have started that project.

This week, a publisher contacted me after having read entries from my own blog.  She also thinks I should consider writing a book.

Given that the 30-ish followers of my blog may end up being the only purchasers of such a book, I am curious as to the following:

1.  Is my beloved bride on to something here?
2.  If I were to write a book, what subject interests all of you?

I generally like to receive comments on my blog.  At this time, I am respectfully requesting them.

Have a good evening.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Ignoring the Lessons of My Mother...

Top of the evening all...

I had reserve duty yesterday and today.  I had breakfast yesterday morning before leaving Toronto at 5:30 AM.  Due to what turned out to be a hectic day, I barely had time for lunch.  I only ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I did not eat the two apples I had brought.  I did not eat any of my nutri-grain bars.  By the time the end of the day rolled around, I was pretty hungry.

When I go to the US, I always travel with a shopping list.  Since I know I am going to the supermarket, I never travel with anything more than my immediate lunch.

I got to the supermarket.  I bought the shopping list.  I picked up stuff for the rest of my meals.  Then I bought snacks.  There were cocoa-covered almonds.  They are yummy, and almonds are good for blood pressure concerns.  I bought honey-roasted sunflower seeds.  They are also yummy, and are packed with selenium.  I do not know what selenium does, but it has a cool name.  Jesse tells me that it is on the Periodic Table.  As there are sunflower seeds in front of me right now, I can happily tell you that it is also on the kitchen table.  I bought two bananas.  They were very appealing.

Now that I have returned to Toronto, I am forced to say that I did not eat everything that I purchased.

Mom's lesson: never go grocery shopping while hungry.

On the positive side, the list you see above is more or less healthy.  That is because I did not mention the bag of potato chips.

Have a good evening.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deep Philosophical Issues...

Top of the evening to all.

I was taking the kids home from karate this evening.  We pondered together a deep philosophical issue.

In the ultimate battle of evil against evil, who would win?  Would it be Darth Sidius, the evil emperor from the Star Wars series?  Or would it be Lord Voldemort?

Personally, I would root for Lord Voldemort.  He had more depth as a character.

In any event, after a short discussion, we concluded that the winner would be composer John Williams.  He wrote the music for both series of movies.

Have a good evening.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Now Just a Minute!!

Top of the evening all...

Many of you have read Jennifer's recent blog post entitled "Weird Things Couples Fight About".  It is wrong to undercut one's spouse in public; however, circumstances sometimes dictate a vociferous response.

Folding towels: I learned as a kid to fold towels in ninths (I think my mother liked Beethoven).  At some point over our time together, Jennifer asked me to do it differently.  I was happy to acquiesce.  The problem is that I never remembered how she liked it.  I know that she does not like ninths.  So I do not do that anymore.  Still, the thought of folding something to fit in a certain space is entirely lost on me.  The space will fit anything that is crammed into it.  I think that Jennifer is too sensitive to stuff falling out on her when she opens closets and cabinets.

Serving utensils: it is just the five of us.  What is the problem??

Toilet paper: Jennifer probably changes it more than I do.  I am very worried about squeezing the Charmin.  It should be done though with the pull-down on the outside.

The toothpaste tube: the reflexive property of mathematics states that in all equations, a = a.  The amount of toothpaste in the tube does not change, no matter where one squeezes it.

Movies: Jennifer is right.  The closest I come to watching a movie is to ask which movie I would like to fall asleep watching.

Leftovers: sometimes, I do not like them.  Still, it is wrong to waste food.  I will often have them for lunch.  It seems to me that the ~12 hours between dinner and packing lunch for the next day is more than enough time for Jennifer to stake out her territory.  If it is still in the fridge when I come home for lunch, it is fair game.  They are never a late-night snack.  By the way, I took some of tonight's leftover kasha from dinner and packed it in a container for her lunch.  I get serious good husband points for that.

Ordering take-out: when I was but a lad, my parents would take us out to dinner.  They would tell my brother and me* that we had a limit of $5, or whatever it was.  I am used to that mindset.  The second-born, left to his own druthers, will order every appetizer on the menu and a main course, and then wonder why he cannot have dessert.  The firstborn also seems to like more than one entree.  When we go out for sushi, he orders a dragon roll and the macaroni and cheese (he seems not to grasp the concept of fusion cooking).  Leaving the ordering of takeout to Jennifer removes me from having to keep the boys under control.

The dishwasher: I have video that I am not going to upload in which one can observe the dishwasher expanding for her.  It is unbelievable.  'Nuff said.

The drainboard: I put away everything whose location I can immediately ascertain.  Plates are easy.  The whisk?  I never know where it goes.  We have so many of them.  They are easy enough to wash that they are not worth the space-time continuum in the dishwasher.  So they get washed, and then live on the drainboard.

The shoes: my shoes are exactly where they are supposed to be right now.  One is on my left foot.  The other is on my right.  Jennifer moved the shoe rack to another spot.  It is not convenient to get to it.  We shoot for the convenient spot.  On an aside, I had a funeral on Sunday and could not find my funeral boots.

And now for a serious note: all couples fight.  It is important to know what the lines in the sand are.  There really should be very, very few.  When the marriage is healthy, the little things do not matter.  They might even become the stuff of humorous blog entries.  When little things start to matter, there is a problem.  When fights start to increase, and happen over anything, there is a problem.

Have a good evening everyone.


*Not 'my brother and I.'  When working with a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of a preposition, 'my brother and me' is correct.  The easiest test of this is to remove the other person from the sentence.  "They told me."  Therefore, "they told my brother and me."  Also, note here that in each of the cases, we are dealing with an object (direct, indirect, of preposition).  As soon as we bring the object into the sentence, 'me' becomes correct.  In fact, me, him, her, us, and them are all called object pronouns or objective pronouns.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

Top of the evening all....

In previous posts, I have mentioned the differences in the way we all understand November 11th.  Armistice Day marks the end of World War I in Europe.  Remembrance Day is geared toward those who fell in Canada's defense.  Veterans' Day in the US is in honour of all those who have ever worn the uniform.  It does not specifically acknowledge World War I because the United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles.

The Gorman family has now been in Canada for close to a decade.  In that time, we have had numerous occasions to see how Remembrance Day is noted in Canada.  I sense that Canadians treat it with far more seriousness than the populace of the United States.  It is not the beginning of some holiday season or another.  It is not marked by sales.  The nation attends ceremonies.  The poppy becomes ubiquitous.  You see them everywhere.  It is authorized wear on the military uniforms, which we would never permit in the US.

That being said, I like the fact that there is a Veterans Day.  Those of us who have stood ready to answer the nation's call all too often slip into the cracks.  We came home.  We went back to our lives.

Still, there is an old saying that a war is not over until the last veteran is dead.  The effects of war stay with the vets and with their families for a long time.  As the vets return to their lives, they carry the vision and the potential of what they experienced with them.  They cannot 'un-see' what they saw.  The effects of post-traumatic stress stay with them, and may rear their ugly head at any point.  To have a day for veterans reminds us that we have obligations to the living.  It reminds us that the veterans administrations in both the US and Canada are seriously flawed.  It is our sacred debt both to those vets and to our national honour that we not forget our obligations to those who answer their country's call.

One other note: there is some confusion as to how to write Veterans Day.  There is no apostrophe.  It is merely the word in the plural.  I like that far better than Veteran's Day, with 'veteran' as a singular noun.  In many ways, I have more in common with soldiers in Canada than I do with civilians anywhere.  The bond amongst those who have worn a uniform is tight.  It forces the word to be rendered in the plural.

Have a good evening everyone.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Sermonic Response to Ottawa

Top of the evening to all.

You may remember that there was a terrorist attack in Boston about 18 months ago.  I wrote a sermon in response to that event.  After the attacks in Ottawa and in Quebec last week, I felt that I again needed to respond.  The following sermon was delivered Shabbat Noach, October 25, 2014.

18 months ago, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Over the week afterwards, several of you offered me condolences as an American over an attack that took place in one of the venerated cities of my birth country, and in one of the venerated cities of that nation's birth.

I went back and read the sermon I wrote in response to that event. It was a good sermon. With a few changes to the words, I could easily give the same sermon today. That sermon spoke of my condolences to all of us, as we had yet again had the point driven home that the number of soft targets that we take for granted, synagogues, subways, the ACC, or any place at which people gather, might be a target. We had all been attacked that day.

The events of this week both in Quebec and in Ottawa are a grim reminder of this continuing reality. As I mentioned then, the mundane act of looking both ways when crossing the street involves more now than just checking for traffic. As well, with Canada's seat of government attacked, this nation is forced to consider the uncomfortable possibilities of increased security at its most proudly public places. As such, I return those condolences to all of you.

But I will also again accept condolences in this regard. I accept condolences though not as an American. I accept them as someone who shares a bond with all those who wear a uniform.  It is a bond that crosses borders.  I accept them as someone who, like you, has just been attacked. I accept them as someone who has just seen the reminder that the US and Canada have far more in common than not. I accept them as someone, like you, who has had to find the balance between security and individual rights, between a visible, accessible government with the doors of Parliament wide open so that we can all see what happens there, balanced against the need to protect those inside.

I again want to point out some of the good that happened. The first responders reacted well. They secured the locations, tended to the wounded, and protected their charges. Four total strangers stood over a mortally wounded Soldier to help him, and making sure that the final words he heard were of love. O' Canada was sung at a hockey game between the Flyers and the Penguins, teams not from this country. Yet again, good people outnumbered the bad.

Words of consolation are clearly in order. As such, I remember that we stand together, Canadians, Americans, British, Australians, and all of the other nations that had to adjust their security posture this week. We do not just stand together with resolve against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to take arms against a sea of troubles. We also stand together with the warmth of genuine friendship and concern not just for ourselves, but for each other. We stand together knowing that we can no longer walk placidly through the chaos, but also knowing that we do not walk through that chaos alone.

As the locals build the Tower of Babel, there is an old midrash that as the tower got higher and higher, there would be construction accidents. The builders would sit and cry when a brick fell, but would not pay heed when a person fell. We pay heed when our people fall. We feel when our people fall. We realize that what makes the soul of a community and the soul of a nation is not contained in its bricks, but in the values and beliefs of its people. We are those people. We care when one of our own falls.

Keep safe, everyone.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah Redux...

Top of the evening everyone...

A few years back, I wrote an entry to this blog entitled Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah.  It was a posting about mikveh.  I would, first and foremost, like to reiterate some of the points of that posting.

The mikveh attendants of any city should meet once a month.  Each mikveh has its own practices and customs.  Often there is a great deal of logic behind those practices that should be shared with the world.

I also mentioned that a mikveh should be a place of physical health as well as spiritual health.  To that end, the dressing rooms should have instructions for a monthly exam, as well as phone numbers to shelters and crisis counsellors.

There is a certain etiquette to the mikveh.  In general, the women who go are there for the same reason.  It is the end of the monthly cycle.  They are there to immerse.  They will then go home and resume intimate relations with their spouses after having taken an 11-day hiatus.  That is not discussed, obviously.  When we were still living in New York, there were times that I would go with Jennifer.  When that happened, I would wait across the street or across the parking lot.  There was NEVER eye contact with the women who were going.  Again, this was an intimate moment for them.  It is not to be intruded upon, especially by a stranger, and especially by a male.  I call it a secret sorority.  Most men have not been privileged with the password.

I write this now due to the pending case of a prominent rabbi in the Washington DC area.  Allegedly, he had rigged a camera in the mikveh area.  He is being charged with voyeurism.

This is appalling.  That he would (allegedly) violate both the intimate spiritual life and the intimate marital life of these women is a betrayal on a grand scale.  Frankly, it is a violation not just of the mikveh at Kesher Israel, but at every mikveh throughout the world.  Every woman now must enter the mikveh with the knowledge that if it can happen in DC, it can happen anywhere.

What to do?  First and foremost, the communities should pronounce a herem on him if and when he is convicted.  This is effectively a communal silent treatment.  He is not to be allowed to daven anywhere.  No one is allowed to do any sort of business with him.

Second, no one person should ever be allowed into the mikveh area alone.  This means the rabbis.  This means the women who go.  Usually, there is an attendant in there with the women.  This is normal.

Third, every mikveh board should have women on it.  It is in and of itself ludicrous that this needs to be said.  Women are the primary users.  Men often do not fully understand the intimacy involved.  It is the natural result of being wired differently.

I am at present wrestling with the fourth thing to do.  I have said that men should likely go on a monthly basis.  The rabbis of the Talmud teach us that the monthly observance of mikveh is to maintain a woman's enticing nature to her spouse.  Men are also involved in that.  We should also be enticing to our spouses.

There may be another level to consider men's attendance at the mikveh.

As healthy men, we have very few violations of our bodies.  We do not have to endure yearly pap smears that accompany remarkably personal physical examinations.  We have a brit milah, and then a digital exam when we become men of a certain age.  I do not think that we will ever fully understand the physical and spiritual vulnerability of the mikveh without using it consistently.  Perhaps if we can come to understand it, we menfolk might be more able to react to what has happened here.  Please note here that I have read at least six different editorials on this incident today.  Only one was written by a man.

Gentlemen: a violation of our spouses is also a violation of us.  What happens to one spouse happens to the other.

On a separate note, both the Rabbinical Council of America and the rabbanut in Israel have decided that the conversions he has thus far overseen are valid.  Out of respect to those people who have undergone conversion with him, that is the right decision.  However, putting on tefillin, keeping kosher, and observing Shabbat are simply not sufficient.  Henceforth, until the teshuvah is done, his kashrut is not to be trusted.  His testimony before a beit din is not to be trusted.  The failure to keep the national laws in my mind renders all of his Jewish practice suspect.

Have a good evening everyone.


P.S.  The synagogue and the mikveh are separate organizations.  I have looked at the synagogue's website.  If you would like to see a superb example of how to respond to this correctly, go to www.kesher.org.  I give them a great deal of credit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Recent Discoveries in Paleontology...

Top of the evening all.

Recently, a new species of dinosaur was discovered.  It was very interesting.  There were fossils of empty eggs around it, but no real evidence of footprints other than its own.  There was ample food supply in the area, but nothing was found in the dinosaur's belly.  As well, it was clear that this species had been in some sort of tussle.  It had scars on its bones, and one bone was in fact broken.

In the world of paleontology, if one discovers a new species, one gets to name it.  This one is thus called 'OyhaveIgotsaurus.'

Have a good evening everyone.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

You're Kidding, Right?

Top of the evening all...

News of the recent goings-on within the NFL has been all over every media out there.  Said news has nothing to do with the scores and the standings.

Apparently, a player for the Ravens flattened his spouse (might have been girlfriend at the time).  There is video.  The player was appropriately fired from his team and suspended from the NFL.  This is the right response, even though it should have happened months ago.

Several people have asked the appalling question: why does she not just leave?  Let's analyze this question before answering it.

A parallel situation: a person walks into a store with a gun and robs the place.  The storekeeper calls the police.  The police come.  They take a statement, and then go and look for the alleged perpetrator.  The case goes to trial.  The defense lawyer questions the storekeeper.  Oddly enough, no one suggests to the storekeeper closing up shop and moving elsewhere.  The Crown pursues the case as though the storekeeper is innocent.  The reason for that is very simple: the storekeeper is innocent!

Now that we have analyzed our parallel situation, let us come back to the question at hand.  Why does she not just leave?  It is her home.  She was attacked by someone who is supposed to keep her home safe.  She should not have to leave.  Why does he not just leave?  He committed the assault.  Asking the original question says that she, and she alone, is responsible for her own safety.  She, and she alone, holds the keys to preventing such threats to her body.  She must suffer the loss of her home after having been assaulted. 

Furthermore, all of the statistics will tell us that the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she leaves.  With that in mind, let us rephrase the question: she has been assaulted.  Why does she not increase the danger to life and limb by leaving?

A few other notes are in order.  Physical abuse is usually only the tip of the iceberg.  Prior to that, there is often sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and social abuse.  Leaving becomes far more difficult when one has already been so beaten down prior to the actual punch.

Furthermore, the question itself takes no other circumstances into consideration.  A society that asks the question about her leaving is not exactly going to provide the support she needs when she finally does.  Beyond that, where will she go?  Leaving is easy.  Going somewhere is not so easy.  What happens with her children?  She cannot leave them in a home where she is unsafe.  Now the question becomes: where will they go?  That question becomes even more acute as summer draws to a close.  We had days last year when it was -18 C/0 F last year.  It is remarkably easy to ask where someone will go when the weather is lovely.  As of mid-February last year, Toronto had 19 days of extreme cold weather alerts.  Baltimore, where this couple lives, had 26 days.

Folks, we need to ask the right questions on this.  What are we doing to prevent this man from ever punching another person?  What are we doing to protect those who have been abused?  What are we doing to support those who have been abused as they come through the ordeal?  These are better questions.

Have a good evening everyone.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

But Wait! There's More....

Top of the evening to all...

A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog entry about the News You Should Have Seen.  In that entry, there were multiple news reports on the goings-on in Gaza that somehow managed to escape the heavy-handed censors.

I would like to report to you all that it is not over yet.  Here are a couple of other articles.  I will continue to add articles as I find them.

Hamas Threatened UNRWA Personnel at Gunpoint

The only annoying thing here is that we have to have a little sympathy for the UN.  I will work on that.

Also, see Hamas Admits to Rocket Fire from Residential Areas.  

I have no comment.

Good night.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Days that Will Live in Infamy...

Top of the evening to all...

Hopefully, you recognize the original quote in the variation that is the title of this blog entry.  President Roosevelt made the original quote on December 8th, 1941.  It was in an address to Congress requesting a declaration of war against Japan the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Even though Hawaii was not yet a state, FDR understood the attack as an attack against the United States.

Why do I allude to that quote here?  It is here because the US has been egregiously attacked twice over the last few weeks.  You have all heard about the executions in Syria of the two American reporters.  They were executed for being American.  The executioner spoke in English, and blamed American policy for his actions.

The comparatively tiny scope of damage in the attacks (2 dead, as opposed to over 2300 at Pearl Harbor) should not take anything away from the national nature of the attack.  These murders were a declaration of war.  There will be more of them.

The President has said that the US will see to it that justice is served.  I hope he does not mean in a courtroom.  The people who did this will laugh the entire way to the maximum security prison in Colorado.  Justice should be served, up close and personal.  The damning evidence has already been delivered to us via youtube.

Air strikes are effective only in a limited manner.  There comes a point when there must be boots on the ground.  While the US military is probably a little tired right now after ten years in Iraq and in Afghanistan, I am certain that we stand ready to answer the nation's call.  I am certain that every Sailor, every Marine, every Soldier, and every Airman is prepared to help deliver that justice.

Combat operations require a clear mission.  They require the right equipment.  They require overwhelming force.  And frankly, they require a steely, angry glint in the eye of the troops.

There is little use in sitting down to negotiate with people who have no desire to talk.  Building a coalition is lovely.  Still, there comes a point when one must act.  Failure to do so in a timely manner reflects a lack of resolve, and will only invite more of this violence.

Somehow, we missed on the ounce of prevention.  I hate to sound like a warmonger, but it is time to deliver the pound of cure - emphatically.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Contemplating My Naval...

Top of the afternoon to all.

GS - the spelling is correct.  Trust me.

One of my congregants asked me this week about how he might come to grips with his imminent retirement.  There is so much in the question.  Other people, perhaps more capable, are taking over your job.  The routines of life change dramatically.  There is no professional reason to get up in the morning. It requires a complete rethinking of how to view life.

I answered him as follows: I have the same question.  I do not know.

(No sympathy please)

I took my naval commission on October 31, 1994.  By tradition, officers get two runs at the promotion board.  If they fail to make rank on the second look, it is the Navy's quiet way of saying "thank you for your service.  Enjoy the rest of your life in any endeavour you pursue."  In the reserve community, officers usually get a third serious look.  By law, the Navy must consider anyone on active duty for promotion, no matter how many times that person fails to select for the next rank.

I have failed to select for the rank of Commander three times.  The third time would have been my best shot, with a fitness report signed by a 3-star admiral in my files.  Lieutenant-commanders (lieutenants-commander?) are allowed to serve a total of 20 years.  I am not exactly sure when that point occurs.  I have at least one year that does not count.  In any event, it is sooner rather than later.

I have realized the same question that my congregant asked.  I am not the future of the US Navy.  I am the present.  Younger people, perhaps wiser people, are filling the ranks that I will soon leave.  The security blanket that has left me not having to decide how to match my socks to my clothing will soon be pulled away.  The absolute, crystal clear, job description will no longer be absolute and crystal clear.  The loss of something definite, something palpable, is downright scary.

To my congregant who asked this question, I do not know.  Ultimately, one must come to terms with his/her mirror.  One must like the reflection in the mirror.  One must be able to look the mirror in the eye and be comfortable with what looks back.  Torches must be passed.  Mine will be.  Everyone's will be.

The week I interviewed for rabbinical school, the dean's mother died.  I was not the only candidate to interview.  There were probably two dozen.  The dean made a remarkably difficult decision to avoid checking in during the week of shiva.  When he came back, he found that everything that was supposed to happen happened, despite his absence.  He learned that when he is gone, the world will continue, more or less as it is supposed to continue.

So it is for my congregant.  So it is for me.  The world will continue as it should.

Have a good evening everyone.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dumb Things I have Said...

Hi all...

One of my readers has accused me of being way too serious lately.  As such, I would like to tell everyone a couple of the dumber things I have said in recent memory.

In trying to convince my kids to do something they did not want to do: "if it kills you, I will not ask you to do it ever again."

I am not an actor, but I play one on television.

Have a good day.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

News You Should Have Seen...

Top of the evening to all...

Last week, there was a protest outside the CNN offices in New York City.  The protest was by a pro-Israel group on the shoddy, biased reporting coming out of Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

I have thought for years that the press has been strongly against Israel.  I believe this to be true.  However, there have been some interesting pieces over the last few weeks.  These news pieces have suggested other possibilities going beyond bias.  You should see them.

I have endeavoured to pull these web links from something other than the Jewish or Israeli media.

The first link is from NDTV - The Times of India.  http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/ndtv-exclusive-how-hamas-assembles-and-fires-rockets-571033 It reports on a rocket being assembled and launched right near their hotel.

http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/08/01/finnish-tv-reporter-at-gazas-al-shifa-hospital-its-true-that-rockets-are-launched-here-from-the-gazan-side-into-israel-video/  This is from a Finnish reporter.  She was startled as a rocket was launched near where she was standing in the parking lot of Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-condemns-placement-rockets-second-time-one-its-schools  This is from the UNRWA.  It is after the second of three times that rockets were found on UNRWA property.

http://www.fpa.org.il/?categoryId=73840 - Foreign Press Association is an Israeli organization representing foreign reporters in the region.  In this article, the organization strongly condemns the behaviour of the peace-loving neighbours to our south in controlling the press so rigidly.  The rest of the article is not exactly pro-Israel,

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28688179  The statistician at the BBC questions the casualty rates as reported by the Gazans.  There is a similar article in the New York Times.

Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris  @gabrielebarbati  An Italian reporter tweeted what we have here, but only after he was out of Gaza.  

http://www.france24.com/en/20140805-exclusive-video-hamas-rocket-launching-pad-near-gaza-homes-un-building/  And this is from a French news station.  

All of these articles support what the Israeli government has been saying all along - that there has been weapons fire from schools, hospitals, and hotel areas and that there has been intimidation of the press.

Taken together, one must assume that much of what Israel has been doing is not in violation of Geneva conventions.  At the absolute least, the burden of proof on those making such accusations has just gotten much higher.

Have a good evening.


Laying Bare the Canard...

Top of the evening to all...

Over the years, we have heard many a person say that one can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic.  I have never believed that statement to be true.  No other nation in the world suffers the international criticism that Israel endures.  China is certainly worthy of such scrutiny.  Honest critics of nations should spend a great deal of time asking what India is doing to protect its young women.  It is a challenge though to state that the microscope under which Israel lives is anti-Semitism, or even anti-Israel.  Reasonable people can and do criticize governments and nations.  Perhaps there is a good reason that it seems like Israel endures this nonsense so much more than others.  Perhaps I have been overly sensitive to it. 

The challenge of proving that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments are one and the same is not longer.  It is an indefensible thesis.  What has happened that henceforth prevents the thesis from standing?

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, there have been the usual protests by the usual useful idiots around the world against Israel.  The most notable took place in Paris.  There, protesters attempted to burn down synagogues.  They broke the windows of Jewish-owned businesses.  It was a mini-Kristallnacht.  If one is anti-Israel, protest at the embassy in Paris.  Boycott an Israeli-owned business.  To go after a place of worship crosses the line from the political to the religious.

At another protest in Washington DC, there were constant comparisons of Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of Germany during World War II (his name will never be mentioned in this blog).  Of all the murderers in all the world, the protestors chose this one.  Let’s see…Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Kahn, Nero, Assad (either one), Kim Jong Un…any of these clearly fit the bill.  Stalin was also not so great for the Jews.  Why would the protesters choose the German dictator?  Jews have a sensitivity to this one more than to the others.  There was a reason.  By the way, I find it ironic that people who try to deny the Shoah (Holocaust) invoke its vocabulary when criticizing Israel.

The latest is that people in Italy came out with a list of Jewish-owned businesses to boycott.  There are plenty of Jews out there who are not so pro-Israel.  Did anyone ask these people their thoughts prior to targeting?  I doubt it.  They were targeted again because they were Jews.

Let us make sure that we understand what things are before we respond to them.

Have a good night.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Do Not Understand...

Top of the evening to all...

I have refrained from writing about the current conflagration in Gaza.  The primary reason is that I find myself remarkably hawkish on this whole thing.  That is not a normal position for me.

It has taken until today to figure out what I wanted to write.

I do not understand why even the bien-pensants of the world do not see what the peace-loving neighbours wanted to do with the tunnels.

I do not understand how people do not see that as causis belli.

I do not understand why shooting down a rocket seems to lessen the severity of the crime in its launch.

I do not understand who those who would deny the Shoah (Holocaust) would use its imagery to slam Israel.

I do not understand why the Secretary of State by all accounts angered both Israel and the PA in trying to bring about a cease-fire.

I do not understand why the world will condemn the death of innocent civilians, but will not utter a peep about those who place their weapons in schools.

I do not understand why the slugfest between Israel and the peace-loving neighbours to the south generates so much press, but the death of thousands of people in Syria does not even make it to the back page.

I do not understand how the gleaming vision of the founders of the UN developed into an organization of murderous dictatorships with international legitimacy.

It is bedtime.  Let's hope this gets better soon.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Top of the evening to all...

A few years back, I took a several weeks worth of training in public speaking.  I learned a great deal.  As I was getting started, the teacher and I discussed goals.  One of the questions she asked was whether I wanted to work on diction in such a way that I spoke with a Canadian accent.

My answer was no.  I said to her that I am an educated American.  It is better to sound like what I am than to attempt to learn an accent of something I am not.  It would feel fake.

Over the years, people have had increasing difficulty pinpointing my accent.  Then, very recently, people started guessing American, and clearly from the Northeast.  While I grew up in Virginia, being the child of two parents from Brooklyn has never entirely left me.

While we were in Israel, we were walking around the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.  I like the layout and serenity of it far more than Arlington, by the way.  Anyway, we were ambling through, chattering away in English.  Someone walked up to us and asked us where we lived in Canada.

(Trade secret - rabbis sometimes have to go several minutes into a conversation before we realize how we know someone.  We are very good at continuing a conversation while we figure that out.)

I assumed that I had met the man who asked us that over the course of my rabbinate.  I had not.  He said he is very good at picking out accents.

All of that leaves me wondering: what language do I speak?  What dialect of that language do I speak?

Have a good evening.


Different Mindsets...

Top of the morning everyone...

Certain phrases are permanently a part of my vocabulary due to my military training.  Every Marine will tell you that you must 'maintain positive control of your weapon.'  That means that at all times when one is holding any sort of rifle, a hand must be on it.  It shortens response time if there is a need to shoot.  As well, it makes it more difficult for a weapon to be removed from the owner's hand.

When we were walking around the streets of Jerusalem, I noticed that both the soldiers and the police did not adhere to this policy.  They wore their weapons on their backs.  It made me a little uncomfortable.

I asked a couple of policemen.  They were very clear that this was how they carried their weapons, and that there was no logic to always having a hand thereupon.

Since then, I have given it some thought.  In the US, it is illegal for a government-issued weapon to leave government control.  When Marines are in garrison, they do not carry.  When they are out in the field, they check out a weapon before leaving.  They return the weapon immediately upon return.  The same holds for deployment.

For Israelis, the weapon is with them all the time.  They take it home.  They walk the streets with it.  It becomes natural to have it, and keeping a hand on it would be cumbersome and annoying.

I did not get entirely used to it.


Monday, July 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Delis...

It was the borscht of times.  It was the wurst of times.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Eating My Way through Israel...

Top of the afternoon to all...

I had two worries when we left for Israel.  One was that I would happily eat my way through the country.  The other worry was that I would not.  I think I chose the former, but I am not certain.

When Jennifer and I lived here 20 years ago, we had our favourite spot at Mahane Yehuda for hummus, tehina, pickles, and olives.  The place is still there.  The owner is still the same guy, although he did not remember us.  We should have brought the picture we took.

Anyway, we stopped there for olives and pickles prior to our first Shabbat in Israel.  The olives were simply delightful, and possibly the best I have ever had.  I wonder if it is all in my head - they taste better because I was in Israel, because I bought them at my favourite spot, and so on.  On the other hand, people who drink wine and whisky know that air, soil, and altitude will all have an effect on the taste.

We also bought hummus and tehina there for lunch last week.  Jennifer makes those at home.  It takes her a few minutes, and it is always tasty.  She was trying to figure out why this was so much better.

One of the Israeli customs that I like was starting Shabbat dinner with all of these odds and ends - the pickles, the olives, the hummus.  I could get used to that.

Another Israeli custom (I think) - when we came home at the end of every day, Jennifer's cousin had sliced up some watermelon.  Wow was that a nice way to end the day.

One of the nice things about being on the Kefar for Shabbat was that people ate their way through the neighbourhood as well.  The houses are trafficked all day.  People drop by.  You feed them cake.  You drop by.  They feed you melon.  Keren and I were taking a Shabbat walk.  A man walked up to us and asked if we wanted a cup of water.  We went to his home.  He gave us water, and then invited us to stay for Seudah Shelishit (third Shabbat meal).  We declined, but it was clearly another statement about how much a part of the culture it is to eat one's way through the country.

We are back in Toronto now.  I will miss those olives.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Thoughts from Jerusalem...

Top of the afternoon to all.

Several people have contacted us to express concern about our proximity to the lunacy that is going on in the south. 

Jen and I have been into Jerusalem every day this week.  The city is teeming with people.  Many are tourists, going from this place to that place, on foot or by bus.  Still others are locals.  They get up in the morning and go to work, much like anyone else.  We went to Machane Yehudah yesterday.  It was bustling, loud, and the usual semi-contained chaos that one sees there every day.  In these regards, Jerusalem is no different from Akko, from Ashkelon, from Be’er Sheva, from Tel Aviv, or from anywhere else in the country.  People are aware of what is going on.  It is THE topic of conversation.  Still, they go about their lives with full confidence in those who provide for their common defense. 

The Israeli government is an elected body.  That means that it has responsibilities to the civilian population.  I can assure you that every bit of military planning has been with those responsibilities clearly in mind.

Jen and I are eyewitnesses to all of this.  Our younger two children are not remotely concerned, even though we all went to the miklat (shelter) in the basement of our cousin’s home yesterday.  Jesse is now with a USY group.  When we see the pictures of him enjoying himself with his brand new best friends, and when we remember the wonder and excitement of our own teen tours to Israel, Jen and I cannot think of anywhere we would rather Jesse be.

I suppose I should be a little more concerned.  I am not.  Israel knows exactly what she is doing.  The peace-loving neighbours to the south cannot hit the broad side of a barn from the inside.

Shabbat Shalom, and continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

R/SCG, writing from Kefar Adumim in the Judaean desert

Thursday, July 10, 2014

שיר שהוא כבן אלפיים ובכל יום חדש

"Sing that it is 2000 years old, and renewed every day..."  These are lyrics from the last verse of a Naomi Shemer song.

Those lyrics occurred to me as we sat is Teddy Park today.  Teddy Park is a new park in Jerusalem built in memory of the long time mayor of the city, Teddy Kollek.  In accordance with municipality laws, the park is done in Jerusalem stone.  The facade of all buildings in the city also must be done that way.

In the park, there is a big, beautiful sundial.  Around the circumference of the sundial is a quote from the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) that talks about the rising and setting of the sun.  That sundial captures the city for me.

When we were getting ready to go, people would ask how long it has been since I have been to Israel.  Without giving numbers, it had been way too long.  Instantly, people would say "it has changed so much."  I figured as much, but truly did not know what to expect.

We have not done splendidly in getting out of Jerusalem.  This is fine.  Jerusalem has changed.  The plaza outside Jaffa Gate is now safe and delightful.  The LRT is wonderfully functional and a delight to take around town.  The area around Damascus Gate is bustling at all times of the day and night.  The list goes on.

A trip to Jerusalem requires going to the outdoor market, Machane Yehuda.  It too has changed.  The fruit and vegetable stands are still there.  Now there are small cafes and restaurants as well.  It is a wonderfully bustling, loud place.  The flavours, the smells, and the crowds are exactly as I remember them.  The restaurants and cafes add a wonderful touch.

Some things also remain exactly as I remember.  The basic layout of the city remains the same.  The wide variety of shops sell merchandise that I remember.  There are stores everywhere for jewelry and for religious material.

That new sundial with the scriptural quote encapsulates both the old and the new.  Both are still quite evident in this city.  It is still a city I love, for many of the same reasons, and for many new reasons.  It is as old as time, and it is brand new every day.

Have a great day.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Neat Stuff We Have Done...

Hi all...

We have been staying on Kefar Adumim.  It is a small town off of the much larger town, Ma'aleh Adumim.  If you have at any point thought that these 'settlements' are sleepy backwaters filled with religious zealots and no indoor plumbing, think again.  First of all, there is too much sand to call it a backwater.  Much more importantly, Ma'aleh Adumim has a population of about 37,000, as of 2010.  This is not a small town by any stretch of the imagination.  I would love to live there.  Kefar Adumim is not even close to as big.  At present, it has about 500 families.

This is a roundabout way of getting to a neat little industry right here at the kefar.  Many of you are aware of the commandment of tzitzit (ritual fringes, see the end of Numbers, 15).  The commandment requires a fringe of blue.  It is not a blue that one can just make with a Rit dye from Walmart.  It is a secretion from a specific sea snail.  For about 1500 years, the recipe was lost.  About 120 years ago, someone figured out how to make it.  The factory here at Kfar Adumim makes the vast majority of the the blue dye available in the world.  They do tours.  We heard a fascinating introduction to how the blue is made.

We also went to the Armoured Corps Museum at Latrun.  It is the world's largest armoured vehicle museum, with over 130 vehicles.  We learned about the history of Israel's armoured corps, with a personal tour from a soldier.

I asked someone else a question, and we ended up meeting in the office of one of the directors learning about the question I had asked, as well as the geography of the whole area.

Tomorrow, we are going to Yad LaKashish and to Yemin Moshe.  Perhaps we will also hit Machane Yehudah one more time.  It is not entirely clear.

Have a good night.


In Israel with Gavi....

Shalom to all...

One of the things we have tried to do during our time of Israel is to speak a fair amount of Hebrew.  Keren is not totally thrilled.  Jesse is, but Gavi is hereby declared to be off the wall.  He has decided that he is not going to speak any English from now until our return flight is over the UK.

We tried initially last week.  The kids went in different directions at the Jerusalem zoo.  I followed Gavi. We spent a wonderful afternoon together at a very nice zoo.  He spoke only in Hebrew (needs work, but he is getting better).  He is really making an effort.

We went last night to a felafel stand.  I spoke with the man behind the counter and told him to speak to the kids only in simple Hebrew.  He was great.  As he was building their sandwiches, he would hold the tongs over an ingredient, and just say the word in Hebrew, giving the kids a visual and aural lesson.  

We will continue this effort.

Jesse is now with his brand new best friends.  We turned him over to USY last night.  He is now someone else's problem.  He was with one group for about 45 minutes before bedtime, and three hours before being shifted to another group.  The one group totally embraced him.  I so like youth groups.

Have a good night.


Monday, July 7, 2014


Top of the evening all...

With the murders that have taken place, I want to point out some of the differences between Israeli and Palestinian society.

All of Israeli society reacted with absolute horror.  No one said 'it is not our doing, but we cheer those who did it.'

The Knesset voted unanimously to condemn the murders.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Israeli politics, it is not clear that the Knesset would vote unanimously that the sky is blue.

The alleged murderers will receive a fair trial.  If convicted, their bodies will not be dragged through the streets.

Abbas was praised for having the courage to condemn the murders.  PM Netanyahu did not need that type of courage to call the family.  He spoke for a nation.

No effort will be made to shield the alleged perpetrators from the law.

No streets will be named after the murderers.

No murderer will receive a salary while in prison.

No candy will be given to children in celebration.

Folks, I am not trying to play games of moral relativism.  The crimes committed here were an absolute travesty.  No murderer is better than any other.  I am also not trying to say 'we are better than they are.'  It does not matter.  I am trying to point out though that the challenges of living next door to people with such a radically different view of the world are often difficult to overcome.

Have a good evening.


Those People Are Not My People...

Top of the evening everyone...

You are all aware by now of the goings-on here in Israel.  Three young boys were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.  In response, six Jews burned an Arab teenager to death.

Whatever is happening between Israel and the Palestinians will happen.  Kids should not be involved.

The six Jews who were arrested are appalling people (and I use the term loosely).  I would sooner spend my religious life with pagans then count these men as part of my minyan.

One of the rabbis in Judea or Shomron wrote that these six should be executed.  Israel has a death penalty.  It is only for crimes against humanity, and it has only been used once.  I hesitate to compare the crimes here to those of Eichman.

That being said, I understand the sentiment.  They killed a child in cold blood.  They did it in a way that was uncomfortably resonant of Eichman's crimes.  They placed a nation at risk.  They placed its population at risk (we are staying with Jennifer's cousin.  Their car was stoned the other night).   They set Israeli diplomatic efforts on all fronts back quite a bit.  I am annoyed also.

The young boy's name is Muhammed Abu Kheidr.  May his memory be a blessing for all who knew him.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Please Don't Tell the Rental Company...

Hi all...

I am assuming that most of you have seen at least one James Bond movie.  As such, you know a good car chase.  In some of those car chases, we see our hero driving down narrow streets.  There is room for the car, but the buildings are too close to the street to open the door.

Such was my life yesterday.

A turn we needed was not well-signed.  I missed it.  We went up to where I could take a left.  I took a left.  Then I took another left.  I took a right.  I might have gone straight.  I am not entirely sure.  Jennifer is absolutely certain that there is at least one turn I should have taken.  We did finally get back on course.

Later on in the day, it happened again.  We ended up taking a left into Meah She'arim.  Jennifer pulled  a shawl up over her shoulders.  I pulled up onto the sidewalk to avoid one parked car.  Again, the street was narrow.

The good news is that I successfully eluded the forces of SPECTRE.

On an aside, we took a cab yesterday.  He drove down a hill that looked straight down to me, head-on towards a car coming up that same hill.  They missed each other.  Keren ducked for this car ride, so that the police would not see a fifth person in the vehicle.

Signing off....

R/SCG 0018

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Most Perplexing...

Top of the afternoon to all...

Can anyone out there in the blogosphere explain to me the following questions?

Why, pray tell, did my medium child feel the need to bring home a hubcap that he found by the side of the road?

Is this at all connected to the two nuts that he wanted to keep from redoing the sink?

And why do I have to ask these questions?


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Blog Not Written....

Hi all...

I have opinions.  I thought you should know.

It so happens that there are things I cannot write.  This is a public blog, and I need to be sensitive to my readers.  Below you will see some of the titles that have received no development whatsoever.

1.  Strollers on the Bus
2.  Primal Scream
3.  Full Contact Sports
4.  Open criticism of the President (he is my boss for at least one month a year)
5.  Open criticism of my civilian bosses

There are likely others.  Those who wish may e-mail me privately and ask for further elaboration.

"The better part of valour is discretion" (Henry IV, Part 1).

Have a great day everyone.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Coca Cola and Wings

Top of the evening all.

Our kitchen faucet was getting to its last drops.  The hose never worked correctly.  Most recently, it was becoming harder and harder to turn it off.

It has been replaced.

Gavi is a touch too young for beer and wings.  However, he helped a great deal.  I tried to have him do most of the work.  He connected the new faucet to the water.  He connected the hose.  He was the one who ascertained that no water was leaking from any new connections.

It was a coca cola and wings night with my medium monster.

I did ask him why he wanted to keep the two rather large nuts used to secure the old faucet.  He said: "I am a businessman!"  I am not sure what it means, but I will stand out of the way.

Have a good evening all.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Mayor and Rehab...

Top of the evening everyone...

The mayor's brother reported today that the mayor may be back on the job in four-five weeks.  I have some concerns.

It is possible that a man who said that 'rehab is great' might not be getting the full benefits.

As well, he just loaned his car to someone who got pulled over for a DUI.  It suggests to me that he has not shifted his circle of friends to a more appropriate crowd.  The mayor has been heard to say, correctly, that he is the mayor for all Torontonians.  That does not mean that he has to be friends with all Torontonians.  That does not mean that he must spend his free time with some of the dregs of society.  Failure to shift his circle of friends to people who will discourage his continued addictive behaviour will only lead him back down a dark path.

These two points need attention.

I hope further that the rehab centre is also teaching him the after-plan, in which he learns how to avoid his triggers and in which he attends meetings with addicts (heck, the people who go to AA meetings are also Torontonians).

There are numerous good reasons that addicts are taught to think of themselves as addicts forever.  To see oneself in that light means that the recovering addict will always be careful about threats to the recovery.

I wish him all good health and recovery.

Good night.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beer and Wings Redux

Top of the evening all...

A couple of months ago, I wrote an entry called Beer and Wings.  It was about a manly evening of household repairs with Jesse.  Once we had finished fixing the dishwasher, it really seemed as though beer and wings were in order.

So last week, Jennifer and the other two kids were away for Shabbat.  Jesse and I nicknamed it 'Shabbat beer and wings.'  I got some wings and a six-pack of beer.  He had a sip.  It is not his thing.  

We had a great night.  We had Shabbat dinner.  We played some ping pong.  The next morning after services, we came home for lunch, played some more ping pong, and then headed south to where Jennifer was.  That was a two-hour walk.

I like to have the five of us at the Shabbat table.  Jesse is a year shy of finishing high school.  The nest is going to start emptying, as it should.  Still, when any one of us is gone, it changes the dynamic.  I like that change also.

Here's to Shabbat with my son.

Good night all.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Channeling Dad...

Top of the evening everyone...

Some years back, Gavi was walking through the house with a screwdriver.  It never really occurred to me to ask him why.  That was Gavi.  I told him to be sure to put the screwdriver back in the same spot in toolbox.  Yikes...that is precisely what Dad has said more times than he cares to count.

On Friday, the dryer decided to take a vacation.  In a house with five people, this can be a problem.  Worse, it was Good Friday.  Nothing was open.

On Sunday, google was open.  I was able to figure out that it was the door switch.  The dryer will not work if it thinks that the door is open.  It was, of course, Easter Sunday.

As it turns out, Sears is available even on Easter Sunday.  I ordered the correct part.  It came today.

So tonight, I took the dryer apart.  The problem is that for some dumb reason, I did not have a 1/4 inch socket.  I had to undo everything with a pair of pliers.  That is much slower.  Dad always told me to use the right tool for the right job.  He was right.  Anyhow, I got to the switch.  Jennifer was able to get her hands in to detach it in a way that I could not.  She also attached the new one.

I found the 1/4 inch socket in the nut driver box.  Putting the dryer back together was much faster as a result.  Dad was really right.

One thing Dad never told me: do not drop the ratchet and socket behind the dryer when putting it all back together.  I do not know why he did not tell me that.  I wish he had.

Oh well.  The dryer works.  I got the socket and ratchet out from behind the dryer and put all the tools back in their appointed place in the toolbox.  Lots of money was saved in not having a repairperson come to the house.

Have a good evening everyone.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Time of Our Redemption...

Top of the evening all...

Pesach is over.  I thought you should all know.

As you are all aware, I have been undergoing physical therapy for my injured shoulder.  It is progressing well.  For all daily intents and purposes, I am 100% functional.  There is some residual pain from time to time, but it is truly minor.

This has allowed me to resume playing ping pong with the kids.  I have to consider very carefully as to whether or not a forehand slam is worth the price.  Even if it gets the point, it is still a painful endeavour.

I would like to state for the record though that I defeated Jesse twice today.  It will not continue.  He is clearly the better player.  Still, it was a matter of personal redemption.

Have a great evening.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cutting the Mustard...

Top of the evening to all...

Pesach (Passover) is right around the corner.  As most of you are aware, it brings with it a whole bunch of food concerns.  One of those is mustard.

Many Jews of Eastern European descent do not eat real mustard at this time of year.  As such, it is often difficult to find, especially in the United States.  The rabbinate in the US has always been very Eastern European in its outlook and approach.  Instead, there is a mustard substitute.

I do not permit this mustard.  It is too expensive.  It is made with cottonseed oil, which is remarkably bad for you.  There is no need.

Luckily, I live in Canada.  Here, we can get real mustard, marked for Pesach.  A friend of mine and I both like to purchase it.  For starters, it is a wonderful, sinus-clearing, dijon mustard.  Beyond that, we can.  And last, I think both of us like to take any opportunity to snub an overzealous rabbinate run amok.

Have a good evening all.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Notre Chere Pauline...

Notre Chere Pauline...

Le bureau d'emploi (Service Canada) se trouve a 541 rue de St-Etienne, La Malbaie, QC, a près de votre bureau.  Le bureau est ouvert lundi-vendredi, 0830-1600.  On y parle français.  Je crois qu'on y parle anglais aussi.  Dommage.

On y porte des chapeaux, des kippas, des turbans, et des niqabs.  On n'enlèvera pas, parce qu'il ne faut pas les enlever au Canada.

Le Rabbin Sean Gorman

I have issues with mean-spirited bigotry.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Squeaky Wheels...

Top of the evening everyone...

As you all know, I like to ride my bicycle.  Between the lousy weather and my shoulder, I have not really been out since early December.  It is nice to be back out.  The shoulder is by no means fully healed, but you would not know that from my daily living.

Many of the riders in Toronto give cyclists everywhere a bad name.  I have seen and heard of many who flaunt the rules of traffic, who communicate with drivers using digital communication (the middle digit, to be precise), and who otherwise cause mayhem and discontent whenever and wherever they ride.

It was with the image of those riders in mind that I decided anyway to attend the annual meeting of the city cyclists' union.  I am glad I went, and not just because of the wonderful beer that I had (Flying Monkeys Smashbomb IPA).  It is a reminder not to pre-judge a situation.  The people there were an eclectic bunch of highly educated and accomplished folks.  Amongst many others, there was the person who started Ticketmaster in Canada.  There was an MPP (also a member of the union - does not own a car).  People running for the executive committee included an environmental lawyer as well as a graduate from the London School of Economics.  The folks there were not the squeaky wheels who give us a bad name.

It is my hope and goal to get two things accomplished out here.

1.  Construct a safe north-south route from out here to the downtown core

      I have tried to ride south during rush hour several times.  It is scary.  There is no room to maneuver.  The potholes are terrible.  Going under the 401 is dangerous.

2.  Build a bridge over the reservoir in G. Ross Lord Park

      Going through the park is not safe.  There are blind spots.  The walking paths are well used.  Many of the walkers do not have great hearing, great reflexes, or great balance.  I do not like to ride in there.  There is another path that goes to the dam at Wilmington (SW corner of the park).  The path that goes through the park is on the other side of the reservoir, maybe 150 metres away.  A bridge there would make the east-west route complete, and make the part safer for all.

Spring may finally be here.  Enjoy the nicer weather.  It may yet get warm.

Good night all.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sidewalks and Streets....

Top of the evening all....

I understand that yet another winter storm is bearing down on the GTA this evening.  This winter just will not quit.

Anyway, the weather, combined with my shoulder has made me see certain things in a different manner.

The city usually sends ploughs down the sidewalks, although we are also responsible for the walkways in front of our own homes.  I am guessing that there is some conflict on this though.  I think that the apartment buildings down the block want the city to do it.  The city thinks that the apartment building should do it.  The result is that over the course of the winter, the sidewalk in front of that building has become an icy mess.

Falling is generally a bad thing.  Add in that I am now unable to protect myself on one side, and I walk in the street.  This is not exactly a better choice.

Eventually, I will have a healthy shoulder again.  When that happens, my bicycle will come out, and all will be good with the world.  The potholes on the side of the road in Toronto are generally bad.  This winter has made them that much worse.  Cyclists are always faced with the choice of coming out into traffic or hitting the potholes.  It is not a great choice.

That choice will become more difficult.  Do I hit the pothole, risk damage to the bicycle or to the rider, and risk aggravating a shoulder injury?  Alternatively, do I veer into traffic, with all of the risks that entails.

Tough choices...

Have a good evening.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Separation Issues...

Top of the evening all....

Apparently, I have separation issues.  I separated my shoulder.  I also broke a bone that heretofore I did not even know existed.  It is called the coracoid process.  My arm is in a sling.  I will see what my doctor says about it tomorrow.

A process is a type of bone that is attached only at one end.  You might be familiar with the xiphoid process at the base of the sternum.  In any event, while a process is attached at one end, mine is not attached at all.

Jesse insists that I am too old to play racquetball.  Jennifer thinks I should stick to people my own age.  Playing against Marines is not going to be a successful endeavour.

Anyway, other things I have learned:

1.  The ability to tie one's own shoes should not be taken for granted.
2.  Childproof caps are quite the thing to open the first night with the injury and the meds.
3.  The pat on the shoulder is more common than I ever realized.  Wow...Ouch...

It is my deepest hope that the boys can learn to play ping pong together.  I will be out of commission for a while.  As well, I am likely off my bicycle until it heals.  Gavi got in trouble when he injured his collarbone and then went for a bike ride.  As his father, I should probably be an example.

Have a good evening everyone.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Quaint...

Top of the evening everyone...

The temperature here in Quantico today rose to 44 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was downright balmy.  It is supposed to drop to 16 tonight, and hang out around the freezing mark tomorrow.

On Tuesday, it snowed here.  The staff in the chaplain's office was talking about whether the command would decide to shut down the base.  I was chuckling.

The flakes were big and beautiful.  The trees had that wonderful look of fresh snow on bare branches.  On Wednesday, it was well above freezing.  Virtually all of the snow that fell on Tuesday is gone.

I suppose perspective is in order today.  Snow squalls caused a 96-car pileup on the southbound 400.  I have not seen the front lawn of my home since the ice storm back in December.  That is now over two months.

On another note, I so love honesty in signage.  At the post exchange (sort of a military department store), there are signs up for the different sections of the store, as one might expect to find at any department store.  This sign reads "Toys/Hardware."

Have a good evening.


Still a Disgrace to the Fleet...

Hi all...

You may remember that I wrote a blog entry a couple of years ago entitled "Disgrace to the Fleet."  It was about crushing defeats on the racquetball court.

It would appear that I am still a disgrace to the fleet.  At least this time, it was to a Marine.  It keeps it in the Department of the Navy family.



Public Service Announcement....

Top of the afternoon to all...

The following is a public service announcement.

Several folks who read my blog have asked about Rav Jen's.  The problem is that she does not remember who asked.  As such, here is the site for her blog:

Rav Jen's Blog

This has been a public service announcement.

Have a good day.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Never Again...

Good morning to all.

I am not often predisposed to publishing my sermons.  Several of my congregants said that this one should go up on this blog.  So done...

Have a good day everyone.


        I debated whether to speak about my chosen topic today.  The timing is appropriate, given the events in the news over the last week.  On the other hand, I wanted to wait until Yom HaShoah, as that is how the mess in North Korea is resonating with me.

        You have seen the news.  You have likely heard the none other than the UN Human Rights Council took the time to focus on some matter other than Israel.  The council came back with a graphic, damning report on the goings on in North Korea.  The details of the report were contained in findings of over 350 pages.  The report itself is 36 pages.

        The report speaks of concentration camps.  The report speaks of torture.  The report speaks of starvation.  The report speaks of summary executions.  The report speaks of people chained to walls in the most uncomfortable positions for hours, days, or even weeks on end.  The report speaks of inmates forced to run races along the ridges of cliffs.  The report speaks of rape and human trafficking, the modern form of slavery.  The list goes on and on.

        If this resonates for us as Jews, there is good reason.  While we were marked for extermination in a way that the people of North Korea have not been, the travail that the North Korean people are forced to endure is eerily, uncomfortably similar.

        We cannot ignore this.  The Torah specifically states that we are not to stand idly over the blood of our neighbours.  We ourselves have all said, more than once, the words 'never again.'  If those words only mean 'never again for us,' they are a mockery both of the North Korean people and of those of us who speak them.  If those words mean something, if our own suffering means something, we must find ways to give action to those words.

        I am still giving a great deal of thought to how we should do this.  There are few charities with focus on the North Korean people.  It is difficult to deal with a regime that is known as the hermit kingdom.  If you have ideas, let me know. 

        Our parashah starts off with the words vaykhel moshe et kol adat b'nai Yisrael...and Moshe gathered all of the community of Israel.  I remember being one of 250,000 people in Washington DC in 1987 when Mikhael Gorbachev was there.  I remember reading about protests for Soviet Jewry in front of embassies and consulates.  I have colleagues with arrest records from those days.  There was no Reform.  There was no Conservative.  There was no Orthodox.  We had a mission.  We acted, as a community.  I remember how well we were organized for our own.  It is time to do that again.  It is time to gather the community.  It is time to give action to the words "never again."