One People

Achdus is Hebrish for “unity”.

It’s Been Awhile

I love that song.

Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on Zachdus.  It’s not that I don’t care about the unification of the Jewish people.  I do, I do. 

 It’s just that I’m spread a little thin, started teaching.

Did you know that teaching means too much time for too little money?  That’s what it means, honestly.

And yet, there’s nothing quite like it, is there, seeing that glint in their eyes when they GET it.   Quickly.  To participate in the class, to get a “participation point,” students (these are doctoral students in their 30’s and 40’s) have to comment on the class blog. 

And we’re using YouTube for emphasis.  For example, that song, Suicide is Painless?  From MASH?  It’s a really good teaching tool. 

Yes, I’m rambling.  What can I say?  I’m back.  Just in time for Adar.

shavuah tov and chodesh tov, since I’m so late,


February 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why we get to sing

Picture it:The Old Mighty is deciding how he’ll design the personalities of humankind. A couple of angels are trying to talk Him out of it, clearly they’ve taken Genetics 570:

The Old Mighty: I say they get to talk. I’ll give them speech, even inflections.

Angel A: Big mistake. They’ll just gossip and complain.

Angel B: And hurt one another’s feelings!

The Old Mighty: Well, perhaps they can learn to not do that. This way they’ll also be able to help one another. Humans will need a lot of help!

Angel A: Then let them point with their index fingers! They can gesticulate and flail their arms, jut out their chins. Don’t let them talk!

Angel B: Well, maybe you should just teach them the alphabet and give them writing utensils. They can write whatever it is that they want to say. A is right. Whatever you do, Gee-Dee, don’t let them talk.

Angel A: They’ll never shut-up, once you get them started.

The Old Mighty: No, I disagree with both of you. From where I stand, they have to be able to praise Me. If they don’t have someone to praise, then they’ll think it’s all about THEM!

Angel B: I know humans. They have no trouble whatsoever praising themselves. They’re very narcissistic, too, meaning they get really mad when other people DON’T praise THEM. You’ll be lucky if they praise You once a day.

Angel A: That’s right. They could care less about talking to You.

The Old Mighty: I can make them talk to Me. You know there are no atheists in foxholes.

Angel B: But they’ll curse you, too.

The Old Mighty: G-d forbid!

Angel A: And slander others on blogs!

Angel B: Anything’s possible.

The Old Mighty: That would be bad. Yet. . .This gives them the opportunity to sell themselves and their good ideas. They can give speeches, politic. They can argue with me. I won’t mind. I can handle it.

Angel A: But again, Old, they might lie. They might use that right to speech inappropriately.

Angel B: And some would lord themselves over others only because they CAN.

Angel A: And make promises they won’t keep. You can do that with words!

Angel B: And once they invent television, the few will entertain the many. The privileged.

Angel A: And those who become true talking heads will bore the many.

Angel B: But that will help them sleep.

The Old Mighty: You make very good points.

Angel A: EXCELLENT points.

Angel B: Mine were really good.

Angel A: Look who’s really good.

The Old Mighty: But think of it this way. They’ll also be able to defend themselves when someone accuses them wrongly. That’s important, speaking up.

Angel A: Yes, assertiveness. I read about it on TherapyDoc’s blog.

The Old Mighty: And they can defend others, too, the poor, the defenseless, the down-trodden, others to whom I’ve bequested less than a portion of eloquence.

Angel B: Nicely put, Gee-Dee, but no one will want to become a public defender. They’ll make much less.

The Old Mighty: But so what! I can reward them later!

Angel A: By the same token they might also use the gift of speech to fool one another, cheat and con one another, exploit one another.

The Old Mighty: Now that would be bad.

Angel B: You know humans can’t control themselves. You’ve seen that movie, Defending Your Life. How do you expect them to control their mouths! They can’t control ANYTHING.

The Old Mighty: Shsh! What if I give them the aptitude to sing?

Angel B: Now THAT would be a good coping strategy.

Angel A: What? Sing like us? They could never do it. Not well. It takes years of training and everyone thinks they’re good. I can’t imagine the noise.

The Old Mighty: It could get a little cacophonous, true.

Angel B: But some of them might sing so well, that it would be worth it.

Angel A: And people can pick and choose what they want to hear on YouTube anyway. As long as humans think they have an audience they’re okay.

Angel B: And it’s possible they’ll think up some new tunes.

Angel A: True. They’re a ditty lot according to the blueprint.

The Old Mighty: And I could give them accompaniment. A piano, for example. Conga drums. Maracas.

Angel B: Salsa! You could teach them salsa dancing!

The Old Mighty: That seals it. I have to see them dance. They get song, dance, AND the power of speech.

Angel A: I sure hope they use it wisely.

The Old Mighty: Me, too.

copyright 2007, therapydoccopyright 2007, therapydoc

Yes, I took it from the doc. With permission, anyway, anyone can, without permission. You can find the original at EveryoneNeedsTherapy

have a great, loshon harah-free week,


November 4, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


A crowd of adorable Asian kids just came to my door. I’m telling you, about 11 of them, all in costume, all smiling, one of them for sure, wobbling on the stairs, about to fall.

I look up at his dad, who grabs him from behind. Seconds later, the first of four bags of Reeses Pieces is all but gone.

Earlier in the day I stopped at a stoplight by a school and a first grade class had sprung in costume for a walk. Who knows where they were going, but they were all in costume, almost all African American (not their tradition, plll..ease) and they waved and smiled and I waved and smiled back.

No, it’s not Purim. But it’s pretty cute anyway. FD says, Look how different we are! On Purim the Jewish people give away! On Halloween, they come and they blackmail us and take.

I still think it’s cute.

gimme a costume, any costume,


November 1, 2007 Posted by | Halloween, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

NCSY Fall Convention Story #2

I go to shul for a lot of reasons, but one is that I like to look down on a sea of tallaisim.  The guys don’t interest me.  It’s the scene that counts.  I love the boys club.  We women, we lunch.  But the guys?  Well.

Yesterday I took off for shul well before the NCSY kids were even thinking of getting out of bed, and made it for kiddusha shachris.  I caught up on the davening and before breaking out of my trance (who knows what I was thinking about, not likely the words) the guys downstairs were doing krias Torah.

A kid with Down Syndrome had an aliyah.  You don’t see that every day.  There was another kid behind him, giving him chizuk (emotional strength).  These boys were about 14.  The bracha was perfect and beautiful.  The one with special needs turned to his friend and the two of them embraced.

And they didn’t let go.  It was clearly one of the best moments in both of their lives.

Not a dry eye. . .


October 29, 2007 Posted by | NCSY, NCSY Fall Convention Chicago | Leave a comment

NCSY Fall Chicago Convention-1st story

Really it’s the second.

But quickly, because I have to get the kids back to shul tonight to catch the bus so that they can go to ESPN Zone  for “interactive video games and dozens of sporting events on tv.”  This is code for “Judaism is fun.”

They told the girls (n = 8 at my house, K”H; N = 250 teenagers in all) that on Friday they would get to go to the Magnificent Mile (North Michigan Avenue) to shop Nikitown, Disney, American Doll, and Hershey.

So I went to work.

When I got home, around 2:00 pm, I remembered that I needed a gift for a shower that I wouldn’t make on Sunday (some of us work) so I did a quick turn around to go to Target. It’s erev Shabbas and I’m in a hurry, but 0n my way down the front steps the girls waved, walking up the sidewalk.  They had returned from their shopping trip.   No one carried a single bag.

“Hey,” I shouted.  “Anyone want to go to Target?”  They jumped up and screamed, “I do! I do!”

And away we go.  A total success, a feel-good, this another way to have fun, National Council of Synagogue Youth afternoon in Chi-town.

we’re frugal but happy,


October 28, 2007 Posted by | National Synagogue Youth, NCSY, NCSY Fall Convention Chicago, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

But I’m normal

We’re having a few NCSY girls for Shabbas, basically providing midnight pasta (upon arrival, a kid has to eat) and the amenities of home (a hairdryer).

There are 7 of them, and one is prettier than the next.  This morning (Friday) I told the madricha,  Hey, I’m off to work, here’s the key.  Have fun.

But first we compared some notes, played Jewish geography, and she told me she knew my daughter-in-law, recognized her picture on the wall, and that she grew up with some of d-i-l’s extended family in a city out east.

I said, So frum.

She said, defensively, But I’m NORMAL!

See?  This is what it’s come to.  Have a good shabbas,


October 26, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daily Bread

JacobDaJew writes about a fellow (I’m assuming it’s a guy) who started a submarine sandwich-from-the-truck business in a chasidic community, but many people protested.

I think the problem had something to do with, It’s not what we do in this town, not our minhag (custom) eating from trucks, gathering where we might be shoulder to shoulder with women (men). I’m guessing.

I have some pretty frum relatives, women don’t drive they’re so modest. One of the nephews has set up a sandwich shop in a gas station. Don’t go identifying him, he could be in Venezuela for all you know 🙂 To me, any enterprise (legal and tzniut) is better than welfare. The sitting around, waiting for the check, is a foreign concept to me, and within the spirit of stealing. (Uh, oh I said it.) I’d like my welfare dollars to go to truly disabled individuals, or people who are otherwise unemployable, or because, perhaps, they’re elderly.

Can someone please explain the rationale? How do you convince a child that sitting and learning and being dependent upon someone else is a good thing?

Look, I’m an intellectual. I have to read and write and concentrate. The mind is no different whether you’re studying Torah or studying history. It takes its own breaks. You aren’t really in control when you’re going to trance out, take a vacation from what’s on the page. You can TRY to get back to it, whatever it is, but if you get up, do something else, then come back to it fresh, you’ll get more out of your learning.

Those of you who are getting degrees in theology or philosophy might consider testing this hypotheses.

If a person works a full day, then he will learn more during the early morning and evening hours.

Oh, and most of us arrange a mid-day break for food or coffee. Include those hours in the study.

I realize you have to control for variables. But hey, that’s what you do when you’re learning in the secular velt. It’s not a waste of time. Or maybe it is. I don’t know.

Not judgmental, just wondering,


October 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We’re Different (?)

I have a rabbi, and I love and respect him dearly, don’t get me wrong, who’s always saying,

We’re different.

And it always makes me angry. We’re different because, what?

We don’t cheat in business?
We don’t cheat on our spouses?
We don’t talk about other people?
We don’t watch television?
We don’t work/think about work on Shabbas?

Okay, sure, we try.
Or is it because

We pay attention so well while we pray?
We honor our parents?
We’re community minded?
We’re careful about how we represent ourselves as Jews to others?
We can’t WAIT to keep the Sabbath holy? Hate to see it end?

Sure, to a point.

It would be nice, just once, if our rabbanut could mention how alike all Jews are, really, and how we could learn from one another. But then they’d have to answer to, Well aren’t ALL people alike? And the answer would be a resounding YES.

And we’d REALLY be in trouble.

troubled sometimes,

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Being Dumbledore and Being Jewish

Sure, I know.  You don’t read Harry Potter because you’re busy learning Torah.  Or is that not the case?  You find the time, and the place (uh hem) to do both.

Then you might know by now, that Jo K. Rowling received a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall when she revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay.

Her response?  “If I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago.”

If you don’t know the actual plot, I won’t spoil it for you.  But in the final book Harry learns that his hero and headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, had a best friend.  But that friend, Gellert Grindelwald, went in a different direction, magically speaking. He went to the dark side.  So the boys parted ways.

A courageous move on Ms. Rowling’s part, to tell her fans AFTER the books have been safely digested, that her second protagonist was gay.  But it made me wonder why she hadn’t come out about it in the text.  Why didn’t she have Dumbledore say, Harry, you know I’m gay, of course, don’t you? I was in love with Gellert.

It was her chance to normalize gayness, to say, Look here, your hero, the most intrepid of wizards!  He’s gay.  Such an opportunity it was to dent our internationally heterosexist biases.  Oh, you don’t like where I’m going, do you.

So as a Jew, what are you supposed to do with this subject matter?  My feeling as a professional and as a Jew, and I’m not being homophobic or heterosexist, either, is that teachers have no place discussing their own personal love lives or sexual orientations with their students in any case.

And then there’s the idea that being gay as a young person (Albus was young and in love, apparently) shouldn’t by definition imply having sex.  Why do teenagers feel they should have sex at all, gay or straight?  They’re too young.  Finish.  They open themselves up to a flood of body memories and pain.

Finally, same sex love between peers is very powerful and very good.  When I went to graduate school and read Freud, Lidz, Erikson, and other developmental theorists, it was considered GOOD to love your friends, to choose them over your parents. It constituted a developmental leap.

These days everything has to be sexual or it’s not salable.

Even Harry Potter– had— to have a sexual denouement, even if it’s not in writing.

Call me old fashioned, but it’s not homophobic to keep lust out of children’s literature.

Sensibly yours,


October 22, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Doc Falls Asleep

I’m always telling you that religious yiddin’ are too self-conscious about being religious.  They erroneously think they’re so different from the rest of the tribe.  But indeed, I know it’s a rogue opinion, we are not.

We have to eat and we have to sleep.  The question for today is, should we do it while we work?  I found myself with an irrepressible desire to close my baby blues while listening to people’s problems a few months ago.  Maybe it was aging, maybe stress.  Patients weren’t boring, not at all.

I just couldn’t stay up.

So I did what any normal Jew would do.  I stopped eating.  I used to make myself (and FD) remarkable, gourmet sandwiches and ate them in increments before noon.  But they were making me tired, so not eating much during the day did the trick, kept me awake.

When you’re hungry, you stay awake.  Except that meant that the chocolate my colleague Serious Doc kept in the office next door started screaming at me.  And I started responding.

The rest of this story  is on my other blog, the blog that empties my reservoir of What I Have to Say about therapy.  But as I described my sandwiches I ended up having to mention that word, the kosher word.  And explaining kashrut to people who might have no reference whatsoever to our rules isn’t easy.

So maybe we are different, I guess.  Different enough to have to qualify what we eat with phrases like nothing crawly, okay? And No reptiles.

Shavuah tov,


October 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment