I once asked a friend of mine, a therapist, what the biggest problem she encountered with her patients was. She answered swiftly. “They stay stuck. They get to a certain point of self-awareness but then cannot move forward.”
This summer’s vacation yielded a delightful surprise: My husband and I realized that we were capable of taking some remarkably good photographs, especially if we aimed straight and steady at some of God’s most luxuriant scenery. My iPhone 5 camera and my husband’s old but trusty Nikon produced so many wonderful shots that I have a new problem. Having spent many, many hours organizing a slideshow on my Macbook, and even a physical book of our best photos, I’m having a tough time making friends and relatives sit still while I force-feed them our photographic handiwork. This is what you get in the age when attention spans barely exceed that of a 140-character tweet.
Each year on the holiday of Shavuot (Pentacost), I love reading the Book of Ruth. Like so many of the narratives that fill Jewish history, the Book of Ruth is poignant, filled with drama, emotional honesty and risk-taking. I love the fact that on the holiday where Jews commemorate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai and become a nation defined by a covenant with God, we read the saga about a convert. As my rabbi once said so aptly, it’s not enough for Jews to consider themselves the “Chosen people;” we also need to be the choosing people. Reading the Book of Ruth affirms this idea for me. Each day, I have the opportunity to choose my Jewishness anew in any number of ways: through honest prayer, study, giving charity, looking for an additional mitzvah to do. The most famous convert in history, Ruth, reminds me that I am not defined as much by where I have been as much as where I am going.
“How’d you like to join our weight loss competition?” my chiropractor asked me, even though I was wearing one of my most slimming outfits. I politely declined—the last thing I need in addition to a spine that needs weekly ironing is to enter a weight loss competition with other patients.
(Because of the Jewish High Holidays, I wanted to share an essay that I felt was particularly pertinent to this time of year, a time when the potential for spiritual renewal is great and almost palpable. Of all the hundreds of essays I have written over the years, this one, adapted from a version that was originally published on Aish.com, is especially meaningful to me. I hope you enjoy it.)
Shortly after my bat mitzvah, I decided it was time to get a better handle on God. Did He really exist? If so, did He call the shots down here on Earth, and in particular, in my own life?
After twenty five years of teamwork, I reluctantly dismissed one of my most dedicated kitchen workers: my trusty Panasonic Kitchen Wizard. This humble little appliance helped me make thousands of meals. It sliced, it diced, it whipped, it blended, it shredded: soups, dips, cole slaws, dressings, marinades, cookie dough. You name it, my Kitchen Wizard did the job reliably. It never called in sick. It never complained, not even when I filled it with smelly garlic cloves.
I’m lying on a mat at the gym, bored out of my mind but still keeping up with an endless loop of ab crunches. Joey, the perky new instructor, has us doing this at warp speed. You know, just to get the heart rate up. I keep stealing glances at the clock – has it only been eight minutes? Oral surgery seemed to go faster than this.
Gayle Redlingshafer was a minister of music at a Texas mega-church. Harold Berman was a secular Jew from New York. When they married, they agreed on a few things: they would never have children, and religion would never get in their way.
For reasons that mystify me, not a single university invited me to deliver a commencement address this year. This, despite my having emailed more than 450 such institutions, alerting them to my availability and modest speaking fees. Sure, I may not be famous in the crude, “Entertainment Tonight” sense of the word, but I challenge those more illustrious guests to match my qualifications.
Israel is known as a land of miracles, and few have been as great as the reunification of Jerusalem as an undivided city in 1967. The tiny Jewish state had already been attacked by its neighbors immediately when it declared independence in 1948 and again in 1956. On May 27, 1967 Egyptian President Nasser announced his intent to destroy the State of Israel—a goal that many of Israel’s “neighbors” still share. Knowing that Arab armies were preparing to attack yet again, the Israeli military undertook a brilliant preemtpive strike, taking the Golan Heights from Syria; Judea and Samaria (called the West Bank) from Jordan, and most critically, the Old City of Jerusalem. The feckless UN had declared Jerusalem an “international” city but Jordan had seized control over it in 1948, barring all Jews from it.