Every disease is a social disease. When a person is diagnosed, his or her family, friends and community are involved as well. The shock moves through a widening circle, and the questions are always the same: How do we react; how should we react? Will I say the right thing; is there a right thing to say? Should I call, buy a gift? The questions and uncertainties pile up because every serious disease is a social disease.
Parshat Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) God tells Moses that although he's faithfully led His people through the desert these past 40 years, and although the Jews are now standing at the very border of the Holy Land, Moses himself will never be allowed entry, and will die and be buried outside of Israel.
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Are You watching, God?
Have You seen the innocent swept away?
Are You listening, God?
Have You heard their cries?
Be with them, God.
Be their strength and their comfort.
Let them know You are near.
Work through us, God.
Teach us to be Your messengers on earth.
Wake us up, God,
Show us how to help.
Use us, God, shine through us,
Inspire us to rebuild the ruins.
Open our hearts so we can comfort the mourning.
Open our arms so we can extend our hands to those in need.
Shake us out of our complacency, God.
Be our guide,
Transform our helplessness into action,
Our generous intentions into charity,
Turn the prayers of our souls into acts of kindness and compassion.
My only decent pair of glasses broke en route from Los Angeles to Israel, and I took it as a sign -- it was time to for corrective laser surgery, a.k.a. LASIK.
"Make sure on the day of surgery someone comes with you," the Israeli receptionist said to me after I set my appointment.
Great. Who would I call on to come with me? If I lived in Los Angeles, someone in my family would have shepherded me. But I wasn't comfortable asking my family in Israel to escort me.
I favor the type of acrylic French tip nails that are considered fashionable only by midlevel porn stars.
A decade before 2001, the increased availability of the personal computer and the Internet revolutionized our world, but it hardly whipsawed our sense of well-being. We expect leaps in technology. We predict the world of things, even nature itself, will fall more and more under our mastery. But 2001 was a leap in dread, fear and anxiety, all things we have managed to medicate but not master.
What changed in 2001 was the comfort of predictability itself. Now we all walk around with a sense that the other shoe will not only drop at any time, but it might also drop on us.
I am in Israel for a few days to visit the victims of terrorist acts. I'm on my own, not with a group. It's the first time I've been in Israel with a purpose other than visiting family and enjoying myself. I'm not frightened but there is something unsettling to visit Israel this way. It was the idea of my sister, Dalya. She had returned from Israel a few weeks earlier. She just heard on the radio about a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem.
The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, after the haftara that is read: "Nachamu, nachamu ami" (Be comforted, be comforted my people).
Thursday was Tisha B'av -- the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av -- the day on which we fast, pray and commemorate the tragedy of our people's past. According to tradition, many of the worst catastrophes to befall the Jewish people took place on Tisha B'av: The destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, the Crusades, the expulsion from Spain, the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. All of it -- all of the pain and the shame of the past tragedies -- comes crashing down upon us each Tisha B'av.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh recently had some ominous words for Congress, but legislators and many Jewish leaders weren't in a listening mood.