Elul Blog – Day 14 – Serena Williams and Confidence

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

When Serena Williams was interviewed on Sunday, after winning her 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open, as she joined the ranks of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, she explained that part of what allowed her to relax into the tournament was the confidence she had gained through her successful summer of play.   My jaw dropped. Number 1 in the world, holder of 17 grand slam titles, three Olympic gold medals needs to boost her confidence? What does that mean for the rest of us mere mortals? For me, who finds myself often wondering if I am good enough for whatever I’m doing?   Then as I reread Rabbi Alan Lew’s (z”l) wonderful book, This is Real and You...

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Elul Blog Day 12 – Joy and Pain

Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Last night I read an article in the New York Times about the high rate of physician suicide. It made me incredibly sad, and I couldn’t quite shake it. I certainly didn’t want that to be my last image before sleep. So I switched to Facebook and found the video of two deer who stopped Golden Gate Bridge traffic running from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands. Deer running are always a joy to watch—the way they leap and spring forward—they almost force giggles out of me. I realized that I needed that release, that sense of joy, and the pleasure of watching nature and one of the most wondrous human-made structures—that is itself a suicide magnet (although soon we...

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Elul Blog Day 11

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday I participated in a webinar by Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute about Teshuva in a Time of Darkness. He spoke about how we know we are forgiven on Yom Kippur, and how are we supposed to deal with the uncertainty when God is absent (reminding me again how Judaism is so much about carving order out of chaos, how uncertainty is terrifying). At the end of this horrible, terrible summer when war, and trauma, and beheadings, and invasions, how we turn toward our true selves, how we mend our relationships seems almost superfluous.   The ancient rabbis also dealt with horrible, terrible summers—the destruction of the Temple, the place where...

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Elul Blog Day 10

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m reading Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism, to see again how modern psychology reflects ancient rabbinic wisdom. The book contains a quiz that assessed one’s optimism, pessimism, self-confidence and sense of hope. According to the scoring, I’m mostly optimistic, have an extraordinary sense of hope (good Jew that I am), but somewhat low self-esteem… I looked back at the questions that reflected the self-esteem, and discovered–as he discussed–that if you don’t think the reason for your successes is your own wonderfulness, then you are not optimistic… For example, if the question asks why you got a job, and...

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Elul Blog Day 8

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday, on the eighth day of Elul, I received a call from one of the people from Spring Lake Village who I came to know during my Chaplaincy placement and through the Welcoming Shabbat program I do each month (sort of). Her husband, a vibrant, alive character, had been diagnosed with terminal lymphoma a couple of months ago, and he died over the weekend. Although her children arranged the funeral with their congregational rabbi, she asked if I could be there to say a few words as well. I felt blessed that I had an unscheduled day and so I could go at the last minute. The rabbi did a lovely job, given that he’d never met Phil, and the kids described exactly the...

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Elul Day 7 – Labor Day

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

It’s the seventh day of Elul and Labor Day, our American celebration of labor and labor unions, that have won us so many important benefits. I was present this morning at a shiva minyan, where two of the Torah verses reiterates the verse from the Holiness Code about workers (Lev. 19:13). Deut 24:14-15: You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether your brother or a stranger in your land and your gates. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Holy One against you and you will incur guilt. The , service leader, Sara Sarasohn, gave a quick drash on these...

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