Saturday, 30 August 2014

Blog Elul Day 5-"Know"

"Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowing"~Abraham Joshua Heschel

We need to know and understand our history in order to work for a better and more peaceful future.

I Know Where I've Been (from Hairspray) Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

**Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Her blog and various links can be found at

Blog Elul Day 4-"Accept"

"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them."~Albert Einstein

We cannot truly consider ourselves in a state of holiness, until we accept every person for their uniqueness and their differences.

Wig in a Box (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch) Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask

**Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Her blog and various links can be found at

Friday, 29 August 2014

Blog Elul Day 3-"Bless"

Today's music recognizes the ecumenical quality of offering blessings. No matter which Divine Being we acknowledge, our blessings can take on powerful qualities if we offer them with full hearts and voices.

The refrain from Day by Day comes from a prayer ascribed to 13th century bishop Saint Richard of Chichester.

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think.~Maya Angelou

Day by Day (from Godspell) Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

**Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Her blog and various links can be found at

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Blog Elul Day 2-"Act"

"In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision."~Dalai Lama

The way we proceed in our actions is as important as the act itself. Intelligence and thoughtfulness must be at the forefront.

Cool (From West Side Story) Music by Leonard Bernstein; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

**Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Her blog and various links can be found at

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blog Elul Day 1 "Do"

Last year when I decided to attempt to Blog Elul, I hit upon the notion that perhaps all of life's issues could be expressed through Broadway show tunes. And in truth, I did manage to prove the thesis. I will try it again.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~Walt Disney

What Do the Simple Folks Do (From Camelot) Music by Alan Jay Lerner; Lyrics by Frederick Lowe

**Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Her blog and various links can be found at

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My V8 Moment With The Ice Bucket Challenge

For the last few weeks the internet has been captivated by the Ice Bucket Challenge. The meme is so pervasive that it really doesn't require any further explanation, but the recent connection to ALS  has quite simply made an already viral experience explode into the stratosphere. I have read many recent posts as to why the entire experience is frivolous, irritating, self-serving, and just plain stupid. I am choosing not to link to these articles because frankly, I am jealous that I didn't think of it first.

Why, you may ask?

I wish that I or any member of my family had come up with such a brilliant marketing ploy that could  have possibly raised untold millions for an orphan disease that is afflicting one of our own.

Last November I wrote about my father-in-law's struggles against the insidious neuromuscular condition called PSP. PSP is truly a disease with little publicity and even fewer advocates. There is no  known treatment and no known cure. His fight against PSP somewhat mirrors those who have had to endure the misery that is ALS, as he too is a prisoner in his own body with a mind that is still fully functioning. It is a nightmare to witness a loved one deteriorate before your eyes, knowing that you are absolutely powerless to stop it.

Like ALS, PSP researchers struggle mightily for funding as it isn't a "sexy" disease with a high profile celebrity spokesperson. So when a couple of wise people figured out that they could raise a bit of cash for a very worthwhile cause by tying into a previously infantile internet stunt, I had my V8 moment. Why didn't I think of that?

Last year during this same time period, ALS raised a little more than $1.9M. As of yesterday they were close to $16M. I can't think of a better reason to dump ice water on my head. And for those of you criticizing self-involved celebrities for dunking, do you honestly believe that all that cash came from people who refused to be doused? The majority have been doing both. So what if they stroke their egos a bit in the process? If I could raise that kind of cash for PSP, I would sit all day in a dunk tank filled with ice. And you all know how I feel about being cold.

Yes. The Ice Bucket Challenge is juvenile and yes, it probably will peter out like any good internet meme fairly soon, but the ALS foundations are a bit further ahead today as a result of the childishness and frivolity. Until you have walked a mile in those patients' and their families' shoes, maybe criticism of a worthy endeavour might not be the best use of your time. Remember that the next time you buy a pink ribbon or a daffodil.

Note: You can donate to help fight PSP at or to help fight ALS at

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Facebook and Tomato Sandwiches

I invited myself to lunch yesterday with a couple of dear friends.

It started when one of the girls posted a picture on social media of her gloriously ripening backyard tomatoes and the rest just took care of itself. It seems that we all have a fondness for fresh tomato sandwiches on challah, made with just a hint of mayonnaise, basil, and some wonderful cheese. (Lactose free, of course.) My mouth is still in saliva overdrive.

I have to say that it was a wonderful diversion from the myriad of "stuff" plaguing us all. For two lovely hours, we just sat in the sun, consumed the aforementioned delicacy, and chatted. Somehow, in the middle of it all we got to talking about the ills of social media, ironically the very thing that made our lunch yesterday possible.

I have been thinking a great deal about the collective misery that we have been witness to this summer. The horrors in the Middle East, the nightmare in Ferguson, the loss of iconic celebrities, ebola, the bullshit being spewed during this Toronto municipal election campaign, and the crappy weather have all made for a rather soul-crushing season. And social media, especially Facebook, has contributed mightily to much of the ugly discourse.

Social media can be a wonderful tool, but it is just that...a tool. It cannot and should never be a substitute for critical thinking or fact checking. Source material of suspect origin has invaded our feeds and what has me concerned is just how many of us have abdicated our social responsibility to the greater good by passing on trash, rumours, innuendo, and spam. It is dangerous and difficult to undo. Author Terry Pratchett once famously wrote, “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” We have a duty to every single person to whom we are connected, to do our homework before carelessly posting and pushing that share button.

I loved the frivolousness of our lunch yesterday. It reminded me of the best parts of social media. Connections. We sometimes lose sight of those connections in our busyness. I am not for a minute advocating dismissing social media from our lives, (there is a genie/bottle metaphor in there somewhere) merely to temper it with a few ripening tomato photos and a stupid status update now and again. It might just lower the ulcer-inducing discourse a wee bit.