One People

Achdus is Hebrish for “unity”.

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