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Elul 15: Change the lightbulb


Let's say I wanted to lose weight or learn a new skill. Easy, right? Eat less and move more, take  a class or find a teacher. 

Except, what if I liked to eat and didn't want to exercise or if I were convinced that I'm too old to learn new tricks. Not so easy now, is it? 

The bottom line: in order to change, I have to be willing to change. Change, whether it's weight, health, or skills, requires a psychic change of attitude. It's true

Every January 1st we make resolutions that are broken by January 31. And every Rosh Hashanah, we recite a litany of misdeeds and transgressions that - all determination aside - we recite the following Rosh Hashanah knowing full well that oops, we did it again.

All our good intentions get us nowhere unless and until we are willing to do what it takes to revise the way we look at ourselves and our world.

The problem is that  most of us aren't willing to do that until we absolutely have to. I knew someone who chain smoked for years until he damn near burned down his house when he fell asleep hanging on to a lit cigarette. Many of us know people who are overweight and live a spectacularly unhealthy life style ... until they wake up one day in the CCU with a scar running down their chests. 

There's a saying, "If I always do what I've always done, I'll always get what I always got." And that's true.

But there's a better way to put it:


In other words, if you're a lightbulb, change is possible if ...


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Elul 21: The airline safety guide (Love)

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You shall love the stranger that dwells with you (who will be for you like the native-born among you), as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Adonai, your God. (Lev. 19:34)

And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might ... (Deut. 6:5)

If you've paid attention to your flight attendant, you know that in the event of an emergency, you put your own oxygen mask on first. Only then do you help someone next to you, including a child. Why? Because if you don't have oxygen, you're useless to anyone else.

It's the same with love.

Start by loving and caring for yourself. It's not selfish; it's just a place to start.

Then move outward: your neighbor, your community, the strangers around you.

Then, finally, the realm of God: the spiritual love that holds all the others together.

But it all starts in your own home.


Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777: WAIT

I got the best advice from my son: "Mom, why are you even engaging with these people? Please stop."

I've got people on Facebook who - while holding similar philosophies in some areas - are 180 degrees from me politically. I long ago determined that arguing with these people is counterproductive, only useful if I believe - science notwithstanding - that heartrate-raising arguments is equal to a good cardio workout.

And so my goal for today is to WAIT (by the way, not an original concept - I learned it from Rabbi Andy Sklarz): Why Am I Talking?

Provocateurs and bullies want to be engaged. They poke, someone responds, and the game is afoot. Like fire, they need constant air renewal. So if don't engage, don't respond, they will run out of air.

So for today, I grit my teeth ... and wait.


Elul 7: Choice - God, the Restaurant, and Malbec

Choices are good.
Choices are terrifying.
Choices are God's way of saying, "Hey, human, trust Me; you and I got this, and don't worry, there's no choice that can't be undone."

I'm a holy terror in a restaurant. I eyeball and dissect every possibility. I'm usually the last to order so I can see what everyone else ordered because obviously their choices are going to be better than mine. I torture myself and the wait staff: suppose I order this (and I don't like it) or that (and someone gets something better)? What if I daringly order a house-special cocktail and I really hate it instead of going with something safe, like a glass of Malbec?

Now take that food-ordering mentality and make it macro.

What if I mess up? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I disappoint myself and someone else? What if I make a choice and people stop loving me or leave me?

Here's the beautiful thing about having a relationship with the Holy One of Blessing: Unle…