Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Have Not Been Blogging Much Lately...

Top of the evening everyone...

I have not been blogging much lately.  I am not sure as to why.  One of my loyal readers told me the other day that she misses my missives.  Now I am feeling pressure.

You may remember last year that I won a bicycle last year in a contest.  That was amazing.  I then had two bicycles.  The one I won was a little bit more mini-van than sports car, but that is okay.  I teased it up a little.  The free bicycle ended up costing almost $500.

We were visiting my in-laws in December.  One of Rav Jen's friends from USY came up to visit us.  While we were chatting, it turned out that he likes to ride.  He is much more serious.  He rides triathlons.  I use that word playing Scrabble.  He said he had an extra road bike and offered it to me.

After spending several minutes confirming that he was serious, I said sure.  We would swing through Philadelphia in February to get it.  I told him to attempt to sell it before then.  He said he was either going to keep it or give it to me.  We picked up the bicycle in February.  He will not miss it.  He has five or six other rides.

Another free bicycle...yes, and another $500 from my wallet.  I have got to stop getting free bicycles.  It needed pedals, a tune-up, the right kind of shoes, and a saddle.

I can lift this bicycle with two fingers.  I took it for a ride last week.  Clip-in pedals take some getting used to.  I did not fall, but I humbly thank a congregant for being next to me at a moment when I lost my balance (I was standing still at the time).

I took it for a longer ride today.  I have to tell you...you all know that I fully support the idea of riding on Shabbat.  I do not know what it was, but I felt utterly free while I was out today.  That feeling of freedom is what Shabbat is supposed to be about.

The really good news is that I have a road bike...a really good one.  I also have two other bicycles.  One of them will go to Jesse as soon as he tells me wants it.

The only thing left to do is to convince my daughter that riding is almost as good as chocolate.

Have a great evening.

R/SCG

Monday, March 20, 2017

That's Three Times, and I Am Getting Annoyed...

Top of the evening to all...

I have now been killed in the service of my country three times.  This is getting annoying.

The first time was about 18 years ago.  One of my submarines, USS Chicago, was in drydock for some repairs.  The commanding officer decided to run a fire drill.  He asked me if I wanted to observe in the compartment where the supposed fire was to take place.  I went into the compartment.

The rule on submarines is that a fire must be brought under control within 60 seconds.  After that, everyone is presumed to be dead.  By the way, flooding at sea is bad, but there are multiple ways to control it.  Pumps, counter-flooding, or turning off water supply might be options, depending on the situation.  Any sailor will tell you that fire is far more frightening.  Anyway, the submarine's damage control team took three minutes to get to the compartment where I was observing.  Sigh...

The second situation was real.  I do not remember exactly what happened.  I know that I was underway and underwater.  I was hanging out in the torpedo room.  Suddenly there was smoke in the torpedo room (never a good thing).  I moved into a corner.  I still do not know what caused that smoke.

The last time was just a couple of weeks ago.  We had an active shooter drill at the reserve center.  I screwed up, got shot, and got everyone else in my room killed also.

The good news is that I am feeling pretty spry.

Have a good evening.

R/SCG

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Alt....


Good evening everyone....

One of the President's advisors used the term 'alternate truth' early on in his term of office.  It was an unfortunate term, and sadly has taken on a momentum of its own.

That the Presdient's advisor gave this concept a vocabulary does not take anything away from the reality that such alternate truths have been around for years.  Let's examine some of them.

Muhammed al-Dura was shot by Israelis during a gunfight in Gaza.  The science disproves it.  French courts explicitly rejected the claim, stating that not a shred of evidence supported it.

Vaccines cause autism.  This was a 'study,' the results of which could not be duplicated.  The Lancet, the British medical journal that originally published the 'study,' ultimately retracted it.  The doctor who authored the 'study' lost his license to practice medicine.  Neverthless, the perception still exists.

Israel is an apartheid state.  Have you looked up apartheid in the dictionary recently?  There is no Israeli denied the right to vote.  There is no Israeli denied adequate and equal medical care.  There is no Israeli denied the rights of citizenship.  There is an Arab judge on Israel's Supreme Court.  There is an Arab chief of surgery at Barzilai hospital.  Palestinians and Syrians regularly cross into Israel for medical treatment.  Arab representation in the Knesset is more than 10% of the Knesset.  This is a far cry from the apartheid of the old South Africa.

God forbid that these days one should be a campus speaker from the right of the political world.  Being shouted down is the norm.  Being whisked away by security is often a necessity.  Speeches are cancelled last-minute.  Campus riots against these speakers are defended as free speech, but God forbid that these folks be able to get a sentence out without feeling the wrath of the so-called free speech movements.

The late Senator Daniel Moynihan once said that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."  To those who insist on pursuing alternate facts, please know that they are not facts, and you are not entitled to them.  Alternate facts are lies.  To those on the left and on the right, I remind you gently that those who live in glass houses should avoid throwing stones.  President Trump and his advisors did not invent alternate facts.  They are a tale as old as time.

I hope one day that we all learn to listen to each other again.

Good night everyone.

R/SCG

Good Advice I Have Given Out....

Shavua tov to all....

Over the last couple of weeks, two pieces of advice that I have given out have come back to me with thanks.  I share those pieces of advice with you.

The first is from a colleague.  Please bear in mind that traditional Jewish law does not permit driving on Shabbat.  As such, many rabbis live within walking distance of their congregations.  Even for my colleagues who do not live within walking distance, most want to be in their communities.  They are therefore not far from their congregations.

With that proximity in mind, I have always gone home for lunch.  It puts a break in my day.  It gets me outside, as I never drive to the office.

I gave that piece of advice to a colleague, a new rabbi in her first pulpit.  She goes home.  She sees her family.  She eats.  Word has traveled back to me that this has been helpful for her.

The second piece of advice is to the married folks out there.  It has been to splurge for the king-size bed.  Extra real estate is useful during...uhhh...marital closeness.  As well, young children are known for midnight invasions.  Hopefully, those invasions do not take place during marital closeness.

One of my former students, now on her second child, thanked me for that advice today.

Room size notwithstanding, I pass on that recommendation to all of you.

Have a great evening everyone.

R/SCG

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Am Not Sure How I Feel Either....

Top of the evening everyone.

Today is January 21st, 2017.  The United States has just inaugurated a new President.  I congratulate my country for yet again defying what has been tragically consistent in world history by having a peaceful transfer of power.

And there were rioters in the streets.  They are saying things like "not my President."  Well, let's start with a basic.  The Constitutional process has been served.  To my American readers, Donald Trump most certainly IS your President.  In any event, I am not entirely certain what breaking windows and burning cars has to do with the negative sentiment.

President Trump (I have to get used to that also - this is only my blog's second President) spoke of "America First."  People are in a tizzy about that.  They should not be.  That is his job.  There is nothing in the President's job description that gives him any permission to work for the benefit of France, or any other nation.

That being said, we no longer live in a world in which any nation can just block out the existence of the rest of the world.  There are ripples in the pond of every decision that the President must make.  To start a trade war with China, for example, can destabilize what is a remarkably stable nation.  That has effects in the US, in Canada, and just about everywhere else.  Putting America first is what he should do.  There is no such thing though as "America only."  I hope that he realizes that quickly.

I do not know how I feel about this President.  I am hopeful that he will do wonderful things.  I believe firmly that he has the capability of doing wonderful things.  I think that the riots do nothing to advance the cause of those who oppose him.  It frankly looks like a child throwing a tantrum on the floor.  I also must point out to all that more than 60 million people voted for him.  I refuse to accept for even a second that more than 60 million Americans are bigots.  I refuse to accept for even a second that 60 million Americans are misogynist.  Neither is he.

And so we should let him have the chance to accomplish something instead of thwarting him at every turn.

Mr. President, if you are reading this, may you find every manner of good fortune, luck, and opportunity in making America greater than it already is.

Good night everyone.

R/SCG

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ending Yom Kippur....

Top of the evening everyone...

Given that Hannukah is about to be upon us, I thought it high time to write about the way I calculate the ending to Yom Kippur.

Some background is in order.  First of all, the local va'ad in Toronto insists on using the strictest method of calculation possible, which is 72 minutes from the time of candle-lighting.  As well, I have seen methods that just require an hour from candle-lighting.  This was what most communities in New York did.

When I was at my pulpit in New York, my cantor insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur, despite being diabetic.  As well, he refused to use his CPAP machine.  Every year, we argued about it, and every year he did what he was going to do.

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that he was likely not the only person in the room fasting when he should not have been, when Jewish law would have told him that he should not.  On the one hand, this is good.  Rabbis everywhere want these basic observances of Jewish law to be so ingrained that it is hard to put them down even when we should.  On the other hand, there are times we should.

Shabbat and holidays can all end when there are three stars in the sky.  Many years back, someone wrote an article showing that three stars are always visible 25 minutes past sundown.  Candle-lighting is 18 minutes before sundown.  Thus, 43 minutes after candle-lighting is an acceptable time to end Shabbat and holidays.  That is when I shoot to get to the ending rituals.

What Jewish law requires, it requires.  When it comes to something like fasting, it is unreasonable for Jewish law to require even a minute more than it already does, especially since setting those times already involves a necessary stringency.  And that is for those who should fast.  When we get into the realm of those who should not fast, but do so anyway, I believe it obligatory to end as quickly as possible, absent stringencies, for the sake of their health.

Have a good evening everyone.

R/SCG

Category IV....

That is what it says on my military ID card.  It refers to my category in the Geneva Conventions.  I am not a combatant.  It means that in a war, the other side is not allowed to target me in any way.  If captured, I do not become a POW.  I become a detainee.  The difference is significant.  A detainee is allowed to continue with his/her assigned tasking.  Failure to support that requires releasing a detainee to go home.

In September 2001, my infantry battalion did an exercise with the Royal Marines.  One morning, they crept up on our perimeter, "killed" the guards, and then overran our camp.  I woke with a Royal Marine yelling "whar's yer weapon?"  I said "chaplain."  He turned and shot someone else.

I have every confidence that if the US ever gets into armed conflict with the British, my status will be respected and protected.

The challenge is that I do not expect us to get into a war with the British.  This is a good thing.  However, the folks with whom we get into armed conflict now have no respect whatsoever for such convention.  It is in that light that I have started working on my tan belt with the Marine Corps.  I have learned a couple of things while doing it.

The first is that I have most of the moves down at this point.

The second is that the Marines with whom I am working are half my age.  Maybe starting this at age 47 was not the brightest idea I have ever had.  Ouch.  It is the weekend right now.  I must tell you that I am happy about that.  My ribs are no longer tender.

On a separate, but related note, my dad took my brother and me to the range last night.  Dad can shoot.  My brother did okay as well.  With me...well...there is clear reason that chaplains do not carry.  My dad kept telling me to keep the muzzle up.  I finally said that there is a pill for that.

Have a good one everybody.

R/SCG