History Lesson: Chain

adtn“Everything you do, here and at home, is part of Sonoma Valley Jewish history.”

That’s what I used to tell the students in our synagogue’s Hebrew school, and it’s also one of the lessons from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo.

Pithyism #65+

Once you turn 30 (or thereabouts), no one calls you an “old soul.”


Never thought I’d hear Safeway’s in-house music channel play “London Calling” this morning. But I sang along with it anyway.

Vive La Difference

From Josee Wolff, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary:

“…The pessimist observes a situation, generalizes about the bad aspects, and interprets them as a permanent and constant feature. In contrast, the optimist observes the same situation and sees the bad aspects, but particularizes them and interprets them as a temporary obstacle that can be overcome.”

Lamed-Vavniks, Unite!

adtnAre you a Lamed-Vavnik?

According to Jewish tradition, there are 36 exceptionally righteous (read: supermensch-like) people in the world in each generation, and without whom the world would cease to exist. (In Hebrew counting, 36 is “lamed vav” (lamed = 30, vav = six)). The thing about Lamed-Vavniks is that they are secretly righteous; they do their deeds under the cover of anonymity.

My Letter to the Mayor of London

resistancesymbolHere is what I said to Mayor Sadiq Khan via his website. You may want to write your own.

Dear Sir,

Please accept my humble condolences and healing prayers for those injured and killed in the recent terror attack; I hope this finds you otherwise well. I realize you are very busy, but I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for the actions of “our” president. Not all of us voted for him; not all of us share his boorish opinions or worldview. Many of my countrymen/women are otherwise fine people, and many of them are trying their hardest to mitigate the damage he is doing to our country and the world. I can only hope you don’t judge us all by the actions of one man, even if he claims to be our elected representative.

Be well, and thank you for your time,

Neal Ross Attinson

Confronting Evil

(From a friend, for Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

April 15, 1965
יוסף דוב סולוביצ’יק

Dear Dr. Vogel:

I received your letter. Of course, you may quote me.

The gist of my discourse was that Judaism did not approach the problem of evil under the speculative – metaphysical aspect. For such an inquiry would be a futile undertaking. As long as the human mind is unable to embrace creation in its entirety and to gain an insight into the very essence and purposiveness of being as such it would not succeed in its attempt to resolve the dilemma of evil.

Midrash Mishpatim: Do, Be. Do, Be, Do


Which comes first: the doing or the understanding?

That’s the issue posed by Exodus 24:7, the Israelites’ reply to Moses’ reading of the record of the Covenant, or Ten Commandments (which we learned about in last week’s portion): “All that YHVH has spoken, we will do and we will hear/understand (kol asher dibber YHVH na’aseh v’nishma).”

Taken at face value, this seems counterintuitive. How can we do something we don’t understand?

5 Thoughts: Resist!

resistancesymbolI DON’T USUALLY GET POLITICAL. But this is no time for silence.

I did not vote for the current President. I find him arrogant, cruel and stupid. His policies, appointments, and disdainful comments about our institutions and values are fascistic and frightening to me.

Fortunately, some people are fighting back: