Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's our obligation?

Haiti was hit by a massive quake earlier this week. The loss and devastation is heart rending. Aid has been coming in but it's a logistical nightmare trying to get the aid to the people who need it. At times like this, I'm reminded of the verse from Leviticus, "Do not stand on the blood of your neighbor." (19:16) Don't idly watch as your neighbor bleeds. Don't profit from your neighbor's suffering either. Like Christopher Plummer's character did in "Inside Man." He said, "When there's blood on the streets, buy property."

Are the Haitians our neighbors? If so, what can we do for them? Some of you might answer to pray for them. Prayers go from the heart to God. And it's said that God hearkens unto our prayers. But He doesn't always answer them as we would like. Nor does a prayer by itself build a house, clean up rubble, or provide food, clothing and medicine. A prayer is basically words. To provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine, comfort, companionship, one must physically go and do. And I ask, can we? How?

There is suffering throughout the world on a daily basis. The quake in Haiti is a recent example. But there are millions throughout the world who don't have enough to eat or are homeless or jobless or need medical aid but cannot afford it. What shall we do for them?

Is it all too much? So I ask, what's our obligation. What are we to do? If our circumstances are such that we cannot lend aid and comfort, are we still obligated to do something? And what would that something be? Money? To whom? Will it get to the people who need it?

I wonder what we are supposed to do if prayer and money seem questionable responses at best.

Monday, November 2, 2009


And these are the generations of Leo, a disciple of Elyon. And Leo begat Yehudit Chava, a daughter in his own image and likeness. And he said, brucha haba'ah (blessed is she who comes). And he thanked God with these words: Praised are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who has given us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

And it came to pass on the 22nd of October in the year 2009, corresponding to the 4th of the month of Chesvan in the year 5,770 from the creation of the world by HaShem, blessed be His Name, that Yehudit Chava came into the world. And the manner of her birth was of great struggle and suffering even as HaShem said to the first Chava, "I will greatly multiply thy pains in childbirth." And lo, the contractions did cause the baby's heartrate to drop dramatically such that the doctors and nurses were all greatly concerned. And the doctor bade the mother consent to an emergency c-section and yea, the same was performed that same hour.

And at 9:09 the doctor did pronounce, "it's a girl!" and after the staff suctioned the mucus from the baby's mouth and nose and the air flowed into her little lungs that she uttered her first cry bringing tears to her parents as well.

And lo, mother and father and baby did stay at the hospital over the weekend getting some time together while mother recuperated from her surgery. And yea, there were a great many messages and cards and phone calls and gifts and visitors. And Yehudit Chava did meet her grandfather and aunts and uncles on her mother's side. And she met her great grandmother and grandparents and aunt on her father's side. And there are still many uncles and an aunt on her father's side she has yet to meet.

And great was the rejoicing when Yehudit Chava came home for the first time and the family from her mother's side was at the house, including her great aunt, that is her mother's mother's sister.

Steep and difficult has been the learning curve for Yehudit's parents as she is the firstborn child for either of them. And her mother has had no child-rearing experience, ever. Not even babysitting. And while her father has done his share of caring for his younger siblings and changing diapers, that has been many years ago. And so her parents learn about her non-verbal communication and what different cries mean. And they learn about feeding her and changing her diapers and bathing her and comforting her in the wee small hours of the night.

And for all the crying and fussing and keeping her parents up at night, so that neither gets much sleep, her parents will accept it. A smile on her face instantly banishes all dark clouds. Holding her in their arms while she sleeps, all other concerns are forgotten.

Lord, may she have the wisdom of Sarah, the kindness of Rebekah, the tenderness of Leah and the courage of Rachel. Beautiful she is already, like the moon and the stars. And may she also be blessed with good health all her days and may she have descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the stars in the heavens.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thy Will Be Done

Usually, when praying, I ask that my will be done. I ask that God align His will with mine. I petition the Almighty for all sorts of things. Health, happiness, success, prosperity, goodness, peace. Things I want.

But if we look at the model for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, we see praise of God first and then asking that His will be done.

In times of great distress and turmoil, I am wont to ask that His will match mine. And yet it is more appropriate that I ask for my will to match His.

I was reminded forcefully of this last night when my wife heard from her father that he has prostate cancer. With all the tsouris already going on in her life, this news sent her over the edge. She was distraught. It's a scary word, cancer. It makes the blood run cold. It makes you worry-immediately. Horrible imaginings come to mind. How can you not be shaken?

And the natural reaction is to pray for his health, to pray for a speedy recovery, to pray that the cancer be removed and he be restored to full health and strength.

All this is well and good. I do not say that we should NOT ask for these things.

But, we should first ask that His will be done. If we would ask anything for ourselves, let us ask that we be given the strength to accept His will. For who knows if it be His will to heal my father in law? I would love it if it were. But if it is not, how deeply disappointed I will be. How angry at God. And why? Because He didn't answer my prayers. He didn't grant my petition.

And yet, and yet, life and death are not in my hands. Who lives and who dies, is not up to me.

If I could be granted the strength to accept His will, whatever happens, and of course I want my father in law to get well, then whatever does happen, I should be ok with.

A hard thing, to be sure.

Let His Name be glorified. Let his kingdom come. Let us learn to accept His will, come what may.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Much as I'd like to

I think it's too early to say that the division race in the AL East is over. New York has a 6 game lead on Boston with 36 games left to play. The two teams will meet each other for another 3 game set. If NY's lead has shrunk to only 3 games by then (which is possible, though admittedly not likely) that becomes a huge series that could decide the race for the division crown.

New York has been playing well of late, especially since the All Star break, with a major league best 29-10.

But, a lot can happen with 36 games left to play. In a much shorter span, the Red Sox saw the Yankees pull away with a four game sweep at Yankee Stadium and a series win (2 of 3) at Fenway.

Barring catastrophic injuries (may the Almighty preserve them) the Yankees appear to have the division sewn up. Let's just not anoint them the winners till they've achieved their magic number.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shir Ha Shirim chapter 2, continued

14 My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

This is not so bad, at least in my opinion. Dove is nice, isn't it? A symbol of peace. A beautiful white bird. "Clefts of the rock and hiding places on the mountainside" calls to my mind Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock on Sinai and also Elijah hiding in the same place when the Almighty passed by. See Exodus 33:21-22 and 1 Kings 19:11-12. And then he compliments her on her face and voice.

15 Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.

And then the lover breaks off into a rant against foxes that ruin the vineyards. Not sure what this is doing here, but what the hey, right? :D

16 My lover is mine and I am his;

This refrain (my lover is mine and I am his) will occur in various forms throughout this book.

he browses among the lilies.

17 Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
turn, my lover,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the rugged hills.

so, what exactly is she asking her lover to do at night? And is it all night? "until the day breaks and the shadows flee" And "turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag." Meaning, what, exactly? "Turn and be like a gazelle or a young stag." Is she saying to run all night? To leap about? To frolic? And by frolic, does she mean sex? Hard to say. *shrug*

Friday, July 10, 2009

"She was with you"

This past weekend, me wife went to Babies R Us to register for the upcoming baby shower. It hain't been planned yet, but no sense in delaying, eh? And it was really hard for her, not having her mom with her. She would have been able to rely on her mother's advice and wisdom on what products were necessary and which were not. Which were the best buys, which were not. Instead she was accompanied by her sister, her aunt, a family friend and her 3 year old son. Needless to say, a very exhausting day both physically and emotionally.

At the end of the day, she made a status post about how much she missed her mom and how it wasn't fair that she wasn't with her. And she got two responses back saying that her mom was with her.

Not helpful, people! Really not. What aisle was she in? What answers, what support, what comfort was to be had knowing that her mom should have been physically with her in the store but wasn't? She said that the next person who said that to her would be bitch slapped. Too bad that next person turned out to be someone me wife really likes. No, there was no slapping, but me wife did tell this woman of what was promised to the next person who said 'your mom was with you.'

When ties are severed because of death and nothing will ever be the same again, saying "she was with you" is ill advised and insensitive. People may be well meaning, but they're better off leaving well enough alone. Me wife's mom was not with her. That's the point. An occasion that might have been for much joy and celebration, doing a baby registry, was fraught with heartache and woe and aggravation and exhaustion.

Important events in life will be bittersweet. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, graduation, weddings, sporting events, recitals, plays, concerts will be missing an important element. The loss of a loved one is keenly felt at such moments (and other times as well). No, me wife's mom was not with me wife when she wanted her and needed her. She was not there to offer advice and encouragement and a shoulder to lean on.

Some vague knowledge that her mom was in heaven was of poor comfort, if any.

What can we do? We grieve. We mourn for those who loved her. We acknowledge that she misses her mom terribly and wishes with all her might that her mom could have shared this experience with her. And we pray for God to heal and comfort the bereaved. And most assuredly we do not say, 'she was with you.'

The peace of God be with you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shir HaShirim, chapter 2


v. 1 A rose of Sharon, a lily among the valleys. One commentator says the beloved "modestly compares herself to the wild flowers of Sharon." I haven't seen the wild flowers of Sharon, but I hear tell that they are beautiful. I'm not sure how comparing oneself to those flowers is being modest, but hey. :)


v. 2 Now here's a comparison! The beloved is a lily; the other maidens are thorns.


vv 3-13 The lover is compared to an apple tree among trees of the forest. What's the difference? He bears good fruit which is sweet to the taste. Food imagery is used in connection with love- apples, wine, raisins. How she longs for his embrace. And she charges the maidens of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and deer of the field (what? What does that mean?) do not rouse love, until it please. Meaning....? Her lover is compared to a gazelle leaping and bounding and standing at the wall gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice. His desire for her is so great he runs to her and waits by her window for her to get up. And he calls, come, get up, lecha dodi ("come, my beloved." Or, as I like to tell my wife, "move, baby.") Winter is past, the rains have come and gone. Look! It's spring! Flowers appear! The turtle-dove sings. The fig tree is ripening its early figs, the vines in blossom give forth their fragrance. Here's another reason for the Song of Songs to be read during Passover. Passover occurs in the spring. New birth, new life. Recall that God gave the Israelites new life by redeeming them from the bondage of Egypt. And as the lover calls to his beloved, so too, should we men call to our beloveds.

To be continued...