Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

“Short”cuts

On the home page for espn.com I noticed a new article by Paul Lukas of Uni Watch fame. Lukas writes about the nuances and idiosyncrasies of sports uniforms.He notices everything from commemorative patches to new piping along the sides of a jersey. Nothing gets past the ever watchful eye of Uni Watch.

The article that caught my eye was about a religious Pentecostal high school basketball team. Turns out these guys don’t wear shorts. Ever. Including basketball games. Immediately I was reminded of my elementary school days.

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Tough Times for Private Schools and Yeshivas

My father is the Dean of a Jewish girls private school in New York. It is a girls Yeshiva called Ateres Bais Yaakov. The government provides no funding to run the school however there is grant money as well as some other federal and state programs which contribute to the school’s bottom line. The bulk of the budget is set off by tuition and donations. Last week my father told me about the recent economic situation’s effect on his school.

It has been on my mind since then. Today the Wall Street Journal has an article detailing the current pinch for private schools and their parents.

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Recess + Litigation = Big Problem

“Oh I can be quite litigious” Cosmo Kramer

As Law Student I read about 25-30 cases per week. All of the cases I read this year are lawsuits. Whether they deal with torts and damages, contract disputes or property issues “A” is always suing “B”. The lawsuit is the basis of the American Legal system. It allows any victim of a social or financial injustice to seek and recover damages for harms suffered. There is a downside however.

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You Are What You Eat | Connections 1/26/09

Nowhere is the statement “you are what you eat” more true than in Judaism.

Our topic tonight was the dietary laws of the Torah. Tonight we dispelled many of the myths about kosher. We discussed the origins of the English word Kosher and contrasted that to the Hebrew word for Kosher.

Kosher is survival of the fittest. The fittest food for human consumption. Fit in the sense that it is good for your soul. Soul Food.

We got pretty deep into understanding why food is so important in Judaism and how some of the dietary rules help us avoid “danger zones”.

The discussion ranged from chutes and ladders to sciatica. (no kidding)

There was a very nice crowd tonight and we hope that the class continues to grow. Come next week – and bring a friend!

Click through to listen now.

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The Wave

Yesterday we took the boys to Adventure City. We had a great time. The rides are perfect for a 5 year old like Rami and he was able to hop onto any ride he wanted with no wait. Some of the rides there are pretty intense and yet Rami was undeterred. I am blogging today because of two women. The first of those women is pictured below waving excitedly. We will get to the second woman shortly.waver

 

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Messilas Yesharim 01/25/09

Today we completed the 3rd chapter of Messilas Yesharim.

Perhaps the most famous of Ramchal’s ideas is present in this week’ section. I won’t ruin it for you so you will need to check it out for yourself…

As we completed the section we talked about practical applications of “Zehirus” and in what ares we need watchfulness. We are not rehabilitating murders, thieves and rapists in our class so where is the moral struggle for which we need watchfulness? As a group we discussed following our intellect over our instinct and areas where that may be helpful.

We also briefly mentioned the idea that when we make good choices they can become instinctive as well – but that is an acquired instinct resulting from our good choices. The bad instinct is the “child” within us that is selfish and is reminiscent of animal instinct.

What we are learning about is how to stop the child instinct from controlling us. Then we make good choices which in turn become instinctual… And that is a good thing!

Click through to listen now.

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A Piece of Peace

We had a spectacular Shabbos on the beach this week.

Friday Night Dinner was punctuated by a bang. An earthquake struck the area and sent many of us under the table for cover! The earthquake however was no match for the Shabbos Lunch meal the next day…

For the first time anyone can remember all 3 observant Shuls in the Venice / Santa Monica area shared a community meal together. The turnout was incredible, the atmosphere was electric and every participant truly enjoyed themselves.

Leslie Friedman (PJC Office), Mildred Wilson and my wife Tova planned and set up the whole thing and we appreciate their efforts.

It was truly a special moment in time and we are so happy with how the event turned out.

Pacific Jewish Center has an open door policy and this week we backed up our promises and ideas of an open door policy with actions. There will be more such events in the future and we look forward to more unity, harmony, peace and love across the Venice / Santa Monica Community. We share more than just a neighborhood, we share common values, goals and ideas. We can all be so much more effective if we work together.

In a couple of months PJC will also be hosting a Shabbat Across America. This is an opportunity for anyone who has not experienced a Shabbos with us in Venice to join us. There will be group meals and home hosted meals in the neighborhood and now is the time to begin inviting your friends and neighbors. The week will begin with a special Shabbos themedConnections” exploring the beauty and significance of Shabbos. So mark your calendars! March 16 will be the special Connections and March 20 -21 will be the Shabbat Across America Shabbos.

See you then!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, A Moment of Silence for… A Moment of Silence

Yes. It is true. The Moment of Silence in Public Schools in Illinois is unconstitutional. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the moment of silence.

A total of 18 states have similar statutes in their legislation giving students a moment of silence or prayer during school time.

In 1969 the Illinois legislature passed the following act:

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Messilas Yesharim 01/18/09

As we continued the 3rd Chapter we learned more about the necessity for watchfulness. Ramchal compares each of us to merchants which must check, double check and triple check our wares to ensure their quality. Similarly, we must check our actions for their quality.

There was a tangential discussion about how the Rabbis will use verses form TanaKh to teach us ideas using puns or plays on the words – very interesting stuff.

We concluded with Ramchal’s introduction of a new set of problems. We are blinded by the darkness of our world – how can we even begin to evaluate our actions to know what is right and wrong?

Click through to listen now.

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One Month Anniversary | Best of the Blog (So Far)

Well it has been one month for me on the blogging trail. I must say, I quite like it. I like the idea of expressing myself to an infinite (sometimes reluctant) audience. If the world stops being interesting to me then the blog posts will probably end. I don’t think that is going to happen so I am fairly certain you will see more of my thoughts over time and this is in addition to the twice weekly podcasts and essays of my speeches.

I have compiled a brief “best of” for those of you who may have missed some previous posts. The word “and” appears in nearly every post title. Hmmmmm…..

Malcolm Gladwell and Outliers

Madoff 1 and Madoff 2

Bob Costas and Destiny

Kobe Bryant and Preparation

The Ravens and Respect

Children and Manners

Winners and Losers

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Important Update!

The Drasha (sermon) from Parshas Vayigash has been posted in its chronological order on “January 3rd”.

Click to see the Drasha entitled “Truth and Consequences”.

Enjoy

-ef

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Winners and Losers | A New Yorker Cartoon (and I get it, and it is funny!)

Thanks to The Seinfeld Episode: The Cartoon whenever I see The New Yorker magazine I check to see if the cartoons are actually funny. One of my professors mentioned a New Yorker article last night about inaugural addresses so I went to check it out online. This cartoon was inset in a completely different article I was reading (which I did not “get”) and I just had to blog about the cartoon (which i do “get”)!

We Lost

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Breaking News! Ad@lf Hitl&r Campbell Update

A few weeks ago I commented on the idiots who named their children Adolf Hitler Campbell and Aryan Nation Campbell. They had a problem getting a birthday cake. Awwww, too bad.

Now they have a new problem on their hands. They will need to be invited by the authorities for the next birthday party. It seems that they are in a bit of hot water with the child protections agency. The children have been removed from the custody of the parents. The newspaper has conflicting reports on what their reasons were for removing the children from their home.

Apparently, the children were removed but NOT because of their names. So that just means that the parents were idiots when they named their kids and they continue to be idiots enough to warrant taking their children away!

I can’t say I am happy when a child is taken away from its parents but this might actually be a good thing…

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All About Manners

18 and Under – Making Room for Miss Manners Is a Parenting Basic – NYTimes.com.

This NY Times article written by a pediatrician follows the usual course of “today’s generation has bad manners, but it is not a new problem, it has always been this way… etc.”. The doctor recommends a book called Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children. Great title by the way. Perfect? Really? Where do I sign up? Maybe a bit of hyperbole there…?

The aforementioned book makes one very important point that we have been underlining over and over again in our Messilas Yesharim classes. The idea that we are all born as selfish children. The book has its own approach to dealing with this issue. I raise the issue here to remind myself that that childishness that we are born with, the child inside us, he never grows up, he is with us until we leave this earth. Our challenge is to channel that child and not allow the selfishness inside us dictate our decisions. When we recognize that the child inside us that used to say “gimme, gimme” and if it had the chance would eat jellybeans for every meal is actually still inside us we can begin to deal with it. The child’s message changes from jellybeans to newer more sophisticated version of jellybeans. But he is still there and always will be there. Our job is to the boss of that child and allow our adult, mature loving selves to persevere. You may find some real good advice in the Messilas Yesharim classes in this regard.

Well, actually the doctor’s favorite part of the book is to me a big mistake as well the root of these problems in the first place! Here is the excerpt from the article where the doctor praises Miss Manners approach…

“I like Miss Manners’ approach because it lets a parent respect a child’s intellectual and emotional privacy: I’m not telling you to like your teacher; I’m telling you to treat her with courtesy. I’m not telling you that you can’t hate Tommy; I’m telling you that you can’t hit Tommy. Your feelings are your own private business; your behavior is public.”

The message here is that you can think whatever you want just you need to keep it to yourself. This is actually good advice as a last resort but it cannot be the right way to develop good people. The only way to develop good people is to develop the skills necessary to be good people. Hiding your feelings is a useful tool but it is not the most important skill in becoming a good person.

The missing ingredient here is trying to see the good in others as opposed to finding their flaws and then “hating” them for it – privately of course. If a child says that they dislike someone then the way to help correct that behavior is by helping the child see all the good that the other person does and all the nice things about that other person. This is a very rare and very basic skill. If we only see bad in the other person to the point that we feel negatively towards them then we need to adjust how we view them. We can do this and this is actually developing the adult in us and taking charge of our child inside us.

Imagine if the entire world was teaching their children to see the good in other people instead of the negative. The world would definitely be a better place! Not to mention all the therapy and other side-effects that would be avoided by people not having to suppress their negative feelings!

I am going to start imagining that world now, so I will end this post…

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California Dreaming No Longer?

Go East, young man? Californians look for the exit – Yahoo News

This article gives all the doom and gloom figures to make you want to leave California. But California living is not all about facts and figures. California living is about living in the most progressive state in the Country. It is about living in a place where ideas are allowed to grow. I was discussing this idea with a classmate of mine at Law School – Calvin Ngo, who is from the Washington D.C. area, that when you live somewhere that is warm you never need to bundle up. When you bundle up you not only close your bod off to the world but I think it also closes your heart a little. When you are wrapped so tightly on the outside it has an effect on your “inside”. So to me Southern California is conducive to acceptance, openness and warmth (for better or for worse). The atmosphere here is special and it will always be special no matter what the facts and figures say!

Truthfully this touches on a very important important aspect of Judaism. We believe that your actions on the outside will change how you feel on the inside. When we act kindly we begin to actually feel kind and then we act kindly naturally. If we feel stingy and we want to change how we act we have two different approaches. Our first option is to meditate on benevolence, think about giving and convince ourselves that giving is important. That might work… The other option is to simply begin to give! When we begin to give it actually takes an effect on our attitude. Slowly our giving becomes natural and we have become less stingy!

This works with any characteristic we have (for better or for worse). How we act changes how we feel therefore we need to be careful how we act. It is powerful stuff so… beware!

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This Is My Blog

You have arrived at a place in cyberspace featuring the thoughts, ramblings, musings and Torah of Eliyahu Fink.

If you like what you have found come join us at the The Shul on the Beach. You know the Shul on the Venice boardwalk - you've seen it, right?

Scroll down to the bottom of this sidebar to see some of my pictures of the Pacific Jewish Center just before sundown on a Friday Evening.

Well, we are there every Friday Night and Saturday Morning for services.

Come check us out! You will feel something special in the air. I guarantee it.

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- Eliyahu Fink

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