Archive for March, 2009

Funny Flying Trends

As a person who travels frequently on airplanes throughout the year, I make it a habit to read up on the current travel trends, advice and tricks of the trade. Accordingly, when I saw the latest news out of First Class, I just cracked up! After reading this article I asked myself, “if people really have that kinda money to spend, are we really in a recession?”

I hope that you’ll click on over here and enjoy the laugh as much as I did!

Likewise, in case you thought flying from Israel to North America could get any more uncomfortable, you’ve got to check out this design, that even after giving it a couple looks up and down, still seems to resemble fashionable handcuffs more then anything else!

Drudgereport and Technology

For many years, one of the few news sites that I tend to peruse daily is the  Drudgereport. In fact, ever since he started iDrudgereport (it is the same site just that it can be read on smart phones), I generally read his headlines at the latter site, as there’s no chances whatsoever of running into a visually offensive picture. To that end, I find it rather interesting that recently he has linked to articles that stress the negative effects that the internet, or technology for that matter, can have on our children and teens For instance he has posted the following two headlines:

Truthfully, people try to analyze the politics, philosophy and overall mindset of the sites founder and author, Matt Drudge.

I will not pretend to do so.

Rather, I will merely thank him for this brave statement. Let’s be honest. He is a man who makes millions of dollars each year off of his one website.

As Jews, our Rabbis have warned that we should use the internet as a tool, and to not dilly dally and wander around a web browser, lest we get caught up in what is the world wide web! That said, contemporary society does not have a Rabbi or a “Voice of Reason” who seems to warn parents about the negative effects of using the internet, text messaging, playing countless hours of video games, etc. etc. Indeed, as this article shows, having a story featured on Drudge is dare I say, priceless!

And so, if there is anyone who is sublty warning this generation to not just know where your kid is at night, but to also care about how many hours he or she is in front of a screen, it is Matt Drudge.

Thanks Matt!

How to Still Have a Fun Passover Vacation on a Budget!

With the economy in the doldrums, many families won’t be able to afford amusement parks or attend a big concert over Chol HaMoed. To that end, without some suggestions of how to still have fun this Pesach, I’m near certain that there will be a good amount of Jewish kids spending their time in front of a computer screen, playing PlayStation, or hanging out on social networking sites. Frankly, as this and this article indicates, that’s not something that I, as a Rabbi, would encourage spending hours and hours of time on!

As such, I’ve compiled a list of  5 economically friendly but fun activities that will allow you to have a great time over Pesach vacation.

  • If you’ve got little kids, they will most probably love this economically friendly but creative Portable Art Studio. It will certainly keep the kids occupied while cleaning for Pesach!
  • As a kid, I enjoyed watching private planes or small commercial airliners land and arrive at Santa Monica Airport. In fact, because there’s less of a crowd, President Clinton used to land there when coming into the LA area. Indeed, I even got to meet the President, shake his hand and see what a real Presidential entourage looks like up close and person. Even today in a post 9/11 world, you and your children can go to one of the local but smaller airports around your area and watch for the flying planes in the sky!
  • As far as snack food, purchasing Kosher for Passover products can add up to one pricey bill! Indeed, growing up as a kid, something that we always looked forward to on Pesach was my Mom’s homemade potato chips or homemade ice cream.  As Passover became more of a commercialized event, and as the Jewish community rapidly grew in Los Angeles, one could easily purchase Kosher for Passover Potato Chips, ice cream and so on and so forth. Nowadays however, people may not want/be in the position to shell out hundreds of dollars on just eight days of Passover. To that end, if you are looking to have a great snack, such as potato chips, check out this recipe.
  • During Pesach vacation, instead of going to commercial venues, Why not try the outdoors? Consider a family hike. Go fishing, cherry picking, pick-nicking on a beach, or bike riding together as a family. You may walk away from this even surprised to find that you had more fun doing an activity such as this, as opposed to going to Six Flags!
  • If your family is like most, you may have just a couple people who may enjoy a great sporting event and cheering on the local team. That said, with the ever-growing price of tickets, taking your family to a MLB, NBA, or the like event can make a major dent in your wallet. As such, in addition to checking for promotional days or nights to lower the cost somewhat, why not try the minor leagues or become a fan of your local college teams. In general, tickets are usually less expensive, the games are more festive and you can sit closer to the action for a lot cheaper!

It’s Raining it’s Pouring…

As a child I have may fond memories of sitting on our living room couch and seeing rain drops hit the window. This allowed me to sing, and rather loudly I might add, “It’s raining it’s pouring the old man is snoring!” Unable to go outside and play or ride my bike along the bike path that seemed to adorn the Pacific Ocean, I would walk around the house singing this song and other rain related tunes in both Hebrew and English.

Nowadays however, the State of California, where I was born and raised, finds itself in a dire predicament. Indeed, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced that California is officially not just in a financial drought but an emergency drought as well. In fact, there’s even conversations of needing to ration off water!

In my current homeland, the Land of Israel, the state of our water supply is not that much better. While we have been fortunate to have received rain as of late, the Kinneret is still heavily depleted of its water. in fact, we have been recited a special prayer three times a day for there to be additional rain. As such, in a land that places such a high priority on water, I found this recent article rather compelling. All in all, with the coming of Pesach. we will no longer recite this prayer for rain. And so, I beseech upon every Jewish person, to pray for even the smallest amount of additional rainfall in Israel.

Every little drop helps!

Besides, we are all aware that rain, geshem, is an allusion for parnassah, livelihood. What’s more by beseeching the Almighty for rain in the Land of the Jews, one can also ask Hashem to mercifully look after us during this Economic Drought as well, and allow a different type of rain to still fall upon us!

You can follow/bookmark Israel’s daily water level here. More on this topic here (which is where the picture above is also from!).

How to be Happy…Even in a Recession!

Our Sages (see here) relate, “Who is truly happy? One who is content with his lot!” In today’s economic world this statement seems to ring rather loudly. People who spent and spent, and became used to a certain shall we say, “premium lifestyle,” now have to live within their salary–and not their credit cards.

Truthfully, the ancient wisdom contained within Judaism really can allow anyone, through thick and through thin, to live a more meaningful. Let’s be honest. You can either walk around upset at the cards that you are currently dealt; or you can spend your life no longer having to pursue happiness, but rather living a life of eternal happiness!

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal has a blog (yes blogs have gone that mainstream!), “Laid Off And Looking,” that follows eight unemployed professionals as they search for their next employer. Spencer Cutter, laid off from Lehman Brothers last spring, seems to be on his way to realizing what is important in life. He writes:

Now that I have been out of that culture for the better part of a year…I have re-discovered that the quality of my life is not determined by the quantity of my income…I’m focusing a lot less on the paycheck and am placing a much higher premium on a career that will…provide a sense of longevity, stability, and balance. Money is still important, but I’m no longer obsessed…

If there is one thing that some people (and clearly Spencer is one of them) will acquire from this recession we are facing, it is that one needs to occupy their time at a job that serves a purpose and not just look at the amount of zeroes in a paycheck. Spencer seems to be “growing up quick” and realizing that it’s not about wearing the latest designer suit. Rather, it’s about clocking in at a meaningful job and being happy with where you are in life.

To that end, I read with interest that the “happiest place on Earth!” is not Disneyland. instead, it’s the people who live in the Netherlands. Yes….you read correctly…the Dutch are the happiest country! 60 Minutes reports that the Dutch really seem to have realistic expectations of life, and by extension live meaningful and happy lives. As one resident put it:

“Well, in order to see myself as a success I would want to be happy and have a lot of time with my family. I think that’s very important to me. And the money is not that important,” he replied.

“It is more about the softer values, such as not being stressed, and feeling passionate about what I’m doing. ‘Maybe this job is not gonna pay me a lot of money. But I’m gonna love getting up and doing it every day,’” another said.

All in all, while I’m not suggesting that we all pick up and migrate to the Netherlands, I am of the opinion that it’s not healthy to yearn for the “American Dream.” Instead, dream within your own means so that you can follow the timely advice of our Sages. Frankly, once a person has mastered this particular tip on happiness, and it very well may be a tough bone to chew on, you’ll never need to spend your life pursuing happiness or a quick thrill!

Baby Bottles

With the economy taking up the headlines these days, it is very plausible that a person can easily overlook “the rest of the story.” Accordingly, being that our daughter Ora is the first of our children to use a bottle, I was glad to hear that the US has now joined Israel and Europe in banning BPA battles.

A Philips spokeswoman pointed out that stores and customer demand made the choice a simple one: “We made a business decision to move out of BPA. Babies R Us was banning it, Target was going to, CVS was going to, and so the distribution channels were lessening and lessening. We felt like we had hit a tipping point with our consumers and with our retailers.”

On another note, we are very pleased with these Dr. Brown’s bottles (no not the beverage!) that our daughter has been using for the past couple of months. So if you are looking, or will be shopping around in the near future for a great BPA free bottle, Ora gives her two thumbs up!

Chassidic Traditions

If you are Jewish, regardless of your affiliation, one time or another you surely have heard the famous song, “Tradition!” that Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof. In fact, to the naked eye, certain minhagim, or traditions,  that we perform may appear ostensibly weird. Indeed, there is no such thing as simply being an Orthodox Jew or a Chassidic Jew.

More often than not a person that comes from an Ashkenazic background will dress and act with different nuances and subtleties than a Sephardic Jew hailing from Yemen. Truth be told, only an accomplished historian may pick up on the multitude of differences…!

To that end, I found these recent posts of great importance in that they succinctly and beautifully explain the rationale behind the particular  Chassidic tradition.

Finally, while this clip is not new, it does display in a comedic sense, some of the differences that we Jews have in our traditions, and yet also shows how we can close this gap and express our love for every Jew!

A Female Orthodox Basketball Star

Being that I work for Sharfman’s Seminary, a wonderful post high-school program for young Orthodox Jewish women, I often take particular interest in any story that may speak to our student body. That said,  I never thought that I would find any of the words from the title of this post in one sentence…but sure enough the day has arrived!

Every heard of Naama Shafir?

I certainly hadn’t heard the name until I came across this article. And while I do not agree with the position that her particular Rabbi took, that of allowing her to play competitive college hoops on Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest not of exercise), she does nonetheless come across as a good teammate as well as an Orthodox Jew struggling to define herself in a contemporary world and in a sport that she loves.

Indeed, the first high profile Orthodox basketball player was a lanky red head from Baltimore named: Tamir Goodman. Truth be told, the man once featured on magazine covers and labeled, “The Jewish Jordan” now finds himself more spiritually in tune and fervently devoted to God and Judaism. Interestingly, this is seemingly due to the fact that his playing career led him not to the coveted NBA. Rather, he ended up playing ball for several years on various Israeli teams. Spending time in the Land of Israel allowed him to discover his heritage while playing the game that he loved and by extension, has allowed him to develop into the person he is today. On the other hand, it appears that Ms. Shafir seems to be pursuing her dream while making the opposite move. She has traveled thousands of miles away from the Holy Land to American soil.

And yet, what I took away from the article that features Ms. Shafir is how far America has come in terms of the acceptance of Shabbat within the workplace. Indeed, many great Rabbis have remarked, that when they were growing up in America, they would sit in Shul, and following the morning services, men would have to go off to work. Nowadays however, the need to express this level of religious observance is being accommodated to an unprecedented level.

May it be Hashem’s will, that it today’s economy this level of understanding and religous acceptance does not creep backwards but only continues to be accepted!

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