One People

Achdus is Hebrish for “unity”.

The Gig and Some Thought

Well, people do think sometimes.  Last post I complained that a performer wouldn’t forego her fee when her audience, one very sick little girl) was niftara (died) before the scheduled concert.
But the singer changed her mind in the end!  In the end she said, Forget about it.  Just pay my keyboard guy.  

I’m really glad, I have to tell you.  It’s not as if she read Zachdus and felt guilty, for sure not.

But this blog is all about not judging people, and probably, when first faced with losing her fee, she panicked and worried about a bill or some other financial obligation, maybe tuition for day school or summer camp for the kids.

Then it became, An On the Second Thought.

On the second thought, forget it.  I can’t make money on that.

She reconsidered.  Gotta’ love her.

Second thoughtfully yours,


June 20, 2007 Posted by | reconsideration, the gig | Leave a comment

The Gig

We had a death in our community, a young girl, sick for two to three years, an unbelievable child with an attitude about life and death and Yehadus (Judaism), that shames most of us who think we know what it’s all about.

She taught an entire community.

Anyway, prior to her passing, a famous performer in the Jewish world had been hired to come to her home to give her a private concert. The singer expected to be paid, even though the girl passed away before the concert and could no longer (as far as we know) appreciate the music.

There are entire tractates of Jewish law on these types of problems, I understand, and the singer’s expectation (demand) to be paid is therefore not something we should judge.

Ultimately the parties who arranged the contract agreed to have a small concert for the tzedeicat’s classmates. (Saint is the best I can do on a one word translation for tzedeicat)

When I heard this story I thought to myself,

If I told patients that no matter what happened, no matter what the scheduling conflict, that they had to pay for my services? I’d be out of business in a heartbeat.

I know there are cancellation stipulations, and I have a strict 3 day in advance cancellation policy myself. But I don’t want to see anyone when they’re sick, and I believe people shouldn’t have to pay extra if they have to go to a funeral.

That’s price enough, isn’t it.

But I’m not judging, just throwing it out there.

sadly yours,


June 18, 2007 Posted by | funerals, hospice, learning from children, scheduling, the gig, tzedeicat | Leave a comment

Indians from India and Shabbas

Well, today was Shabbas and I took a walk in the ‘hood.

We have some new neighbors, lovely folks from India.  Their 17 year-old was outside in the front yard, washing the car on the carport, blasting the car radio.
It really annoyed me.  It was such a quiet, beautiful day.  I was tempted to say something like, “You’re going to find that folks in this neighborhood nap on Saturday afternoon, it’s the Sabbath.  Perhaps could you turn that down?”

But I didn’t.  I walked on.

Two doors down a kid, Caucasian, about 3-4 years old, was standing outside his front door on the porch, bopping his head and sort of hopping from foot to foot.  He was clearly trying to dance to the music.  He smiled at me and I waved.

And I thought, how cool is this, a kid dancing on the porch to the new kid’s radio.

It is, you know.  Totally cool.

Respectfully yours,


June 17, 2007 Posted by | Indian neighbors, shabbas | Leave a comment

Urban Myths–How they get started

This hasn’t much to do with the theme of our blog, but the following caught my eye.  The blogger’s experience (she’s  orthodox) with a drug rep is interesting. 

I’m clipping from the end of her post:

“I can’t even suggest a drug to a patient,” I reply kindly. “Malpractice. I can suggest an evaluation, but not a drug.”

Saying that, Dr. Z and I relax and compare bike rides to work.

Then I heard the following from E., a drug rep at the other end of the table. It blew my mind.

The average kid in Kentucky begins smoking tobacco at 7 years old.

I asked her to repeat that 3 times. I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe I heard it wrong. I didn’t want to believe it.

When I got home I looked it up. See, it helps to look things up, to think critically. A story from Wires,Tuesday, July 19, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky ranks among the unhealthiest states – a plight that’s largely self-inflicted due to smoking, eating fatty foods and not exercising enough, The Courier-Journal reported in a special section published Sunday.

Chronic poor health threatens lives and hits all Kentuckians in the pocketbook through taxes and insurance premiums, according to the Louisville newspaper’s special report.

On almost every health measure, Kentuckians fare poorly – second worst nationally for cancer deaths, fifth worst for cardiovascular deaths and seventh worst for obesity, according to the paper, which published a special eight-page section on the state’s poor health.

Kentuckians die at a rate of 18 percent above the national average, the newspaper reported. Its report said residents of all income levels are disabled and killed by cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes _ chronic illnesses that are linked to smoking, poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.

“We don’t have to worry about foreign aggressors,” said Dr. Baretta Casey, a Hazard physician and University of Kentucky professor. “We are killing ourselves off.”

Poverty is at the center of the problem. . .

Where is the word 7-year old? Nowhere.

Next story, a story on 5-7 year olds with ADHD who also have sleep disordered breathing (SDB) in Pediatrics concludes with the following:

We present additional confirmatory evidence that symptoms of SDB are frequent in 5- to 7-year-old children and that the risk increases when parents snore or smoke cigarettes. In children with significant symptoms of ADHD, REM sleep disturbances are more frequent and may contribute mildly yet significantly to neurobehavioral function

I suggest that these two stories, the one about Kentucky’s populace having the worst health in the nation and the one from the pediatric journal on parental smoking and SDB blended to create this marvelous new urban myth.

But you heard it here first, folks. It really is an urban myth. (If I’m wrong, please show me the research.) Kids in Kentucky don’t light up. They probably do, however, breathe in more secondary smoke than the rest of us.

Now that makes sense.

Thanks for dinner, Boehringer Ingelheim. And sure, I’ll be happy to do it again.

I just thought it interesting how professionals can do that, put 2 and 2 together to get 3.

Shabbat Shalom,


June 15, 2007 Posted by | urban myths | Leave a comment

Upgrading to Cohen

Today I took a look at office space in a new location. The realtor was a nice Jewish guy, about my age, who had a dozen ways to flatter me. Can you imagine having a repertoire that includes,

You can’t possibly have been in practice for 30 years. That would mean you started working at 10!

Stuff like that.

Anyway, one of the ways sales guys try to reel you in is by talking culture, and it was me that got the ball rolling.

He said, “I just want you to know that I’m presenting this exactly as I’m presenting it to Dr. K.”

“Well,” I say with a laugh,”she’s more chashuv (rhymes with duh shoes), “the K’s are Cohanim (meaning from the priestly family of Israel). My father says he’s a Cohain, but who really knows, you know?”

“Oh but you know what they did, our grandfathers, when they came to the new country.”

“No, what?” I asked.

“They did what every immigrant does who has an opportunity to make himself look better, to earn more respect.”

“Oh, I see where you’re going.”

“Yeah, when asked, Are you a Cohain, a Levy, or a Yisraeli, many of them chose to be Cohanim.”

“An upgrade,” I said.

“Uh, huh.”

We talked a bit about rent, but I reflected on our talk and wondered if he even thought back on it.  It’s not exactly a complementary thing he said about us, really.

I don’t think he knew what he did there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he replayed that conversation back and decided he shouldn’t have said what he said. Just like when he started telling me a few of his personal problems and I told him my fee, not thinking that he’d be sorry he hadn’t charged more per square foot.

Loosely yours,


June 14, 2007 Posted by | cohanim, immigrants, lashon harah, levy's, opportunity, renting, yisraelim | 1 Comment

Shmah and Postage Stamps

I’m a therapist and behavior modification is at the heart of much of what I do.

This morning I was rattling off the first paragraph of the Shmah and caught myself before I made a mistake.  I’m less good at rattling off the next two paragraphs, so I try to do that, catch myself before continuing on past the last word of that first paragraph,  vee-sha-ar-echa.

And it’s good to think about the words, right?

For some reason I flashed back to the reason why I know paragraph #1 perfectly but don’t know #2 or #3 as well.

When I was in kitah bet in Hebrew School, Mr. Michelle, who I thought ancient, but perhaps topped 40 years old at most, rewarded those of us who could memorize things.  He gave us canceled Israeli postage stamps if we learned our vocabulary words successfully.

It wasn’t an Orthodox school, but the principal was frum, and Mr. Michelle was frum (I think) and I collected quite a few stamps.

I brought them home, lovingly and proud, to show my parents.  They were so pretty!  There were different colors! American stamps were very basic in those days, a picture on a white background.  No pastels.

All of my adult children have taught either cheder or Hebrew school at some point in their lives and I don’t believe I’ve ever shared that anecdote with them.

It’s kind of funny what a person remembers.   Anyway, Mr. Michelle, if you’re out there somewhere and reading the Jewish blogs, thanks so much, not just for being a terrific behaviorist, but for being so gentle and kind.  You’re the only one I remember.
Gratefully yours,


June 12, 2007 Posted by | behavior modification, shmah | 1 Comment

Retiring the Mitzvah Police badge

About 32 years ago, when I first started getting frum, my only brother said to me, “I don’t understand how you could practice the religion in a way that divides families rather than brings them closer together.”

We had already lost a brother, you should know, in an accident.  And he was referring to the , “You can’t drive here on Shabbas” thing.

It wasn’t easy to explain.  Sometimes I wondered the same thing.  But now that I’m more secure, he and his wife, and my nephews and their girlfriends all drive over (when I’m zocheh to have them) on Shabbas and on Yom Tov. We make high holidays the exceptions.

Nobody in the neighborhood could care less.  It’s a loving town.

And I think, I could be wrong, but I think my brother’s family is a little more frum because of it, although that all depends upon what means frum, I think of deeds and heart, much more than blindly following rules. I also doubt I’m any less frum for having ceased to be the mitzvah police, as if that were ever my job.

But surely I personally could be more frum.  That I know.

Equitably yours,


June 12, 2007 Posted by | driving on shabbas, mitzvah police | Leave a comment

ba’al tshuvah–new to being Orthodox

This phrase, ba’al tshuvah, literally means a person who has repented, changed his ways, returned to the fold.  Frequently it is associated with people who never were religious, rather they turned inward at some point in their lives, sought out spirituality and meaning, and found it in Yehadus, Judaism.

When the find is Orthodox, then the Orthodox call them ba’alai tshuvah, persons who have returned.  Of course this bothers me.  They didn’t know anything much about the religion.  What’s this return, thing?

And it’s another way of stating that they, by virtue of having been raised Orthodox, are superior, which may be true in some ways.  I personally am in awe of some of the people I know who were raised religiously, meaning were raised to constantly look for opportunities to be helpful to others, who never miss an opportunity to do the right thing.  This is how we see service to the Creator.
That’s what it means to be a Jew.

Indeed, all of us are supposed to be better than we are, and all of us are supposed to be chastising ourselves (to a degree) for not being better than we are.  All of us are supposed to be in a constant state of improving, regretting how we’ve messed up the past couple of hours (if that’s the case, of course) how we’ve missed opportunities.  We’re supposed to do tshuvah between breakfast and lunch, before dinner, at bedtime.  By the time we get to Yom Kippor we’ve done tshuvah for the year, need only think about the day.

Great Jews do this.

There’s so much more to say on this topic, but I thought we’d start with definitions.  The correct response, you should know, when someone asks you if you’re a ba’al tshuvah (which is totally prohibited, you’re never supposed to embarrass someone, make them feel they’re not as good as you are),

again, the correct response when someone asks you, Are you a ba’al tshuvah should be:

Aren’t you?

Sensitively yours,


June 11, 2007 Posted by | ba'al tshuva, Judaism, tshuva, Yehadus | Leave a comment


THEM always means “goyim,” right?

Goyim means “other people”, as in not Jewish

And even though the word goy means “people” as in nationality, it’s somehow not a compliment. Similar to the way being “frum” IS a complement. We’re an “Am” (rhymes with “mom”), they’re goyim.

This way of speaking, too, has to disappear from the lips of any G-d loving Jewish person.

After all, the angels were severely chastised for singing as the Egyptians drowned while chasing the Jewish People into the Red Sea.  He cried out:

Those are MY creatures! He said. How could you sing?

Anyway, we were eating with some friends on a Friday night. The food was good, the conversation intellectual and funny. Seven adults, one teenager. This is what happens when the nest starts to empty out, but it’s good in some ways. People really let loose when kids aren’t around to hear the hypocrisy just dying to show its lovely head (lovely?).

Only this time, because these are very special, loving people, the conversation was decidedly AGAINST hypocrisy.

An American who made aliyah tells the story of a very Catholic colleague (meaning a practicing Catholic) who came to visit Jerusalem. A woman.

He took her on a tour. They stopped at a winery. We have wonderful wineries in Israel. Anyway, when a man travels with a woman in Israel it is assumed she is his wife. And if that man is wearing a kipah, it’s assumed that he is Jewish. People assume she is, too.

The tour guide, seeing that this was a married Jewish couple said, “We’re going to taste the wine later, but don’t worry! No goy has ever touched one of our bottles in the vintaging of our wine!”

My friend was mortified, rightly so.



June 10, 2007 Posted by | aliyah, Catholic, frum, goyim, kipah, lose this vocab, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


So I heard that in Flatbush, when frum (Orthodox) people buy television sets they have the sales people box their new TVs in air conditioner boxes.

That way no one knows they have bought a television.

Then people who buy new AC’s bring them home in television boxes, I guess.  And all the frummers on the block see the TV box and say, Don’t tell anyone, but the Schwartz’ just bought a new  air conditioner.  The proof’s in the alley!  They’re not fooling anyone!

Crazy, right?


June 10, 2007 Posted by | airconditioner boxes, televison, TV | Leave a comment