When I purchase new books, I don’t always begin at the beginning. I like to open a random page somewhere in the middle of the book. I often find messages that seem to have been written just for me. After I acquired Rabbi Aaron L. Starr’s meaningful book “Don’t Forget to Call Home- Lessons from God and Grandpa on a Life of Meaning,” I turned to page 106 and began with the last paragraph on the page, under the chapter heading The Benefits of Calling Home.

From the moment that Gd chose Abraham, Gd has been encouraging humanity to “grow up”: to find agency in the midst of seeming powerlessness, to embrace life precisely because life is vulnerable. Certainly, as Moses demonstrated, we too grow up by caring for those who are in need. We also grow up by choosing, in the midst of all the craziness of our world, to live lives of meaning and purpose. We grow up by practicing gratitude and by seeking moments of joy. And we grow up when we realize the hope that Gd places on humanity and we make that hope our own.”

When we do that – when we grow and take responsibility for our own lives, our own society, our own world – then we can achieve the adult lives that Gd wants of us and then Gd can be to us the way parents relate to adult children: as a source of support, comfort, and love. Gd can be the model of hopefulness required to continue the journey forward that Abraham began so many thousands of years ago.”

Under the bold subtitle, Hope I read: “Before we get to hope, though, we often need to walk first through the valley of shadows.”

Isn’t that what a lot of us are doing daily? We walk through the valley of shadows, terrible and troubling news, sadness, confusion and anger … How many times during the day do we find ourselves uttering Gd’s name with prayers on our tongue, dreaming and praying for the safe return of hostages to their families and an end to the suffering of all good and innocent people.  We must continue to educate ourselves and share difficult conversations with each other. I hope you too will read Rabbi Starr’s beautiful book.

Always seeking inspiration, I give thanks to my son-in-law, Marty Maddin, for recommending the November 17 episode of the Ezra Klein Podcast called “The Sermons I Needed to Hear Right Now.” Klein interviews Rabbi Sharon Brous, the senior rabbi of IKAR, a Los Angeles congregation, who provides great insight for these stressful and troubling times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYlXG-6C9RI

This podcast enlightened and moved me, and I listened to it twice. Klein introduces his episode as “a conversation about the relationship between Jewishness and the Jewish state. About believing some aspects of Israel have become indefensible and believing that Israel itself must be defended. About what it means when a religion built on the lessons of exile creates a state that inflicts exile on others. About the ugly, recurrent reality of antisemitism. You know, the easy stuff.”

On a lighter note – I enjoyed participating in the Fleischman Residence “FRIENDSGIVING.”      I donned a turkey headband and helped serve residents, caregivers, and other staff some delicious seasonal foods, as we played word games and listened to holiday music.  I played the game “What’s Your Turkey Name?” and discovered that I am Spiced Cornucopia! There were magical moments and so many smiles on the faces of all who attended.  Special thank you to a special colleague, Jurgita Atanaskovski, Fleischman Residence Life Enrichment Coordinator, for the loving good humor she shares with us all.  Jurgita’s boundless care and consideration for the residents and their families make a positive difference at JSL.

Don’t stop believing. Sending you peace, love, and good health as you begin to prepare for the next big Challah Day of Chanukah!


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