Posts Tagged ‘Torah Study’

GRATITUDE

The post I intended has been postponed a week. I want to get to something both overdue and necessary.

Gratitude.

Cheers to the people on the pandemic’s front lines. Doctors and nurses. Ambulance drivers, lab techs and hospital janitors. A shout-out to non-medical folks promoting the general welfare: farmers and laborers, factory workers, cops, firefighters, EMTs and ambulance drivers. Also, workers at public utilities. Everyone along the food chain. Pharmacists, techs and associates. Mechanics. Bank personnel. Bus, subway and train drivers along with cabbies and on-demand drivers. And everyone else getting it done.

Thanks also to so many people who, over 75 years, I owe so much. I’ll miss some—maybe many—but here’s a sampling.

My parents, Morris and Blanche, taught me to love and do the right thing. Unlike many, they walked the walk. My terrific sister Kay Zaks (and brother-in-law Herb). We encourage and comfort each other across the continent.

Family and friends—Ron and Lynn Laupheimer, David and Ellen Newman, for example—laugh (sometimes) at my jokes and put up with my introversion and occasional lack of social graces. I can’t name everyone, but you know who you are. And if you think you’re in this group, you are.

Now, a few names from the past. My kid/teen buddies Marty, Lenny, Alan, Mickey, Sammy and Dennis. Mrs. Fulton, my teacher in third and fourth grades at P.S. 174, who provided great encouragement. So, too, Mrs. Bushinsky, my Sabra teacher in Hebrew School. Les Kozerowitz, from Camp Colang (summers) then Alfred University, remains a valued friend.

Two men helped me during seventh grade when my emotions went off the rails. When I balked at being bar mitzvah, Rabbi Josiah Darby of Rego Park Jewish Center convinced me to stick with it. Am I glad! When I was miserable—isolated from friends in the seventh-grade Special Progress class that would vault me to ninth—Dr. Gramet, principal at Russell Sage Junior High, gracefully encouraged me to enter eighth grade the following year. And hats off to Mrs. Alexander, my eighth-grade home room/art teacher. I recovered a lot of my lost sense of self in her class. And always, the Perlstein family doctor, Irving Nachtigal, took care of us.

Dr. Mel Bernstein, chair of the English Department and my adviser at Alfred, taught me a great lesson: Never forget your sense of humor. Staff Sergeant Thomas “Fat Cat” Johnson gave basic training at Fort Dix perspective. John McCarthy, my boss in Fort Sam Houston’s Special Services office, modeled true professionalism. Brother Louis Schuster, a dynamic Chaucer scholar at St. Mary’s University where I earned my M.A., reminded me to maintain the discipline I’d learned at Fort Benning on both the academic and life fronts.

John Fabian helped me build a successful freelance copywriting business. Marty Weiner and Larry Raphael were more than rabbis. Friends, their support of my writing, along with Jim Shay, Ron Eaton, Jane Cutler and Tom Parker, mean so much.

I consider my Torah Study buddies, including Dan Weiss and Ira Fateman, as brothers—and sisters.

I don’t know where I’d be without Carolyn. And I love my kids—Seth, Yosi and Aaron (plus husband Jeremy).

Thank you one and all. “No man is an island,” wrote the British poet John Donne. Truer words.

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Ramadan. And if you’re celebrating anything else, may you also find joy, fulfillment and courage.

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THE SMALL THINGS

This Thursday, Americans will consume meals that leave us more stuffed than our turkeys. Hopefully, many will actually give thanks for the big things in their lives. Me? I’ve been lucky. But I’ll also give thanks for the little things.

Admittedly, I’m boring. (Read “The Least Interesting Man in the World.”) My day starts with a bowl of cereal topped with banana, blueberries and strawberries. Plus the sports section. I love it.

Then I take a walk of about a mile. I’m grateful I can still do that and pick up coffee, which I take home in a 49ers mug my son Seth bought me. I drink while I read part of the weekly Torah portion. I love that, too.

Then I write. It’s not about fame (yes, I fantasize) but passion. I had an earlier fiction-writing career decades ago, but in the face of constant rejection—even my agent couldn’t sell anything—I took a break to meet the demands of a growing family and the growing business supporting it. Years later, I wrote two non-fiction books. Solo Successwas published by Crown, New York. I independently published God’s Others—a fabulous learning experience. Then, moving towards retirement, I turned back to fiction and wrote Slick!

Another highlight of my exciting day. Carolyn and I eat dinner watching the news. (Are you nodding off yet?) Sometimes, we have leftovers. I’m thankful we can prepare enough food to have leftovers. Also to have meals delivered by Munchery for Friday night.

Shabbat delights me no end. I put the week, such as it is, to rest and seek new perspectives on life—the big picture if you will. At unfinished Friday business meetings, clients often said let’s continue tomorrow. I explained I didn’t work on Saturdays, but Sunday would be fine. We always continued on Monday.

I’m tickled about TV shows we enjoy. Cable unleashed myriad creative opportunities enabling many series to equal top independent films and novels. (Just finished Homecoming.) And reading. Especially in bed. I have a friend in Connecticut who was director of the Norwalk Public Library and sends or recommends outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction. Not everyone has their own literary curator.

I love having friends. As I’ve written before, I’m an introvert. But introverts can have very close friendships. My week’s highlight? Torah Study with my friends on Saturday morning followed by coffee and conversation ranging from deep (theirs) to inane (mine).

On Thursday, Carolyn and I will host family and friends for Thanksgiving. The sites I’ve seen include Stonehenge, the Colosseum, the Western Wall, Petra, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon and Yosemite. The most awesome? Family and friends around the table.

And I haven’t yet mentioned 30 years of The Simpsons, the view of Lobos Valley and the Pacific two blocks north of my house, praying in my synagogue Friday night followed by ice cream for dessert, doing research on the Internet (an author once told Terry Gross the Net is catnip for writers; true!), sunning (with a broad-brimmed hat) in my backyard and having ten people reading the second draft of my current novel.

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a day to give thanks for the small stuff. To me, that’s a pretty big deal.

I’ll be teaching Torah Study tomorrow morning at Congregation Sherith Israel, 9:15–10:15 am. Join me. (Bagels and lox include.) It’s going to be “magic.”

The post will take off next weekend. It will return November 30.

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FRIENDS

Studies show that people with friends live longer and healthier. As someone whose introversion ranges from moderate to—well, let’s say more than moderate—I attribute my own wellbeing to my friends.

I enjoy a range of friends. Each enhances my life in a different way. I’ll start with my Torah Study group. We meet on Saturday mornings and have coffee afterwards at CMPC hospital’s California Campus on Webster Street. Three of us started having coffee twenty years ago at cafés up and down Fillmore Street. All of which closed or became too small as our group grew. The hospital may not offer the best coffee, but the huge basement cafeteria remains almost empty throughout our visit. We never wait for a table or worry about privacy. (Yes, we get loud at times; friends do that.)

Our group occasionally goes to dinner and a few of us to Giants games. Five of us hover around 70. One isn’t Jewish but attends Torah Study regularly for the intellectual challenge. Two are decades younger. One just got married. She still comes by. The other found a distraction for Saturday mornings—a girlfriend he met on Jdate. We approve. All attend our evening study sessions, which we hold periodically.

There’s great joy in any bunch of guys—and a woman or women, including an ancillary woman member when she visits from Atlanta—sitting around a table talking and joking. Our conversations flow and morph freely. They cover topics from religion and politics to TV, personal anecdotes and observations. Whether a conversation reflects deep thought or inanity—I contribute both—this social interaction leaves us energized. It’s the highlight of my week.

I see other friends individually at different times and in different ways—often for weekday lunch or coffee. Carolyn and I have others to our house or go out with them to dinner and a movie. We don’t do so as often as we’d like given everyone’s busy schedules, but we look forward to each get-together.

Friendship is cheaper than therapy though there’s nothing wrong with seeing a professional. I can talk to friends about a range of issues that affect me. They can bring up issues that concern them. We discuss all topics free from judgement. In some of my more troubled moments, I get things off my chest—valuable in itself—and occasionally receive wise counsel offering me new perspective. Cheap therapy, indeed.

Not to mention that my friends buy my books and read my short stories. Some read them immediately and shower me with praise. I appreciate that. Others read my work a little later. A few just buy the books. No matter. Their support means the world to me.

Let me acknowledge my best friend: Carolyn. After nearly 49 years of marriage, Carolyn knows my emotional ins and outs. In fact, she knows me so well, it’s scary. That she not only signed on for “until death do us part” but lives up to the contract provides testament to her willingness to endure. And no one praises my writing more!

If there’s something I wish for everyone, it’s friends. And, that we consider people we encounter at random moments in random places as friends we haven’t had coffee with. Yet.

Last week’s post was mistitled, as my friend Tracy pointed out. It doesn’t concern victimlesscrime but nonviolentcrime. Its point, however, remains the same. If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll find it under the title “The Hoax of Nonviolent Crime.”

The post will take a break on May 18 and return on May 25.

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