Elul 8: Finding Joy on the Porch

Our next guest blogger is Heather Weiser, the education director at Congregation Kneseth Israel. Her post is interesting because it links happiness/joy with rich, osher. The Ashrei prayer does this as well. She and I are happiest (is it joy?) sitting at Panera solving all the problems of the world while drinking ice tea. We both hope for the day when everyone can live contented with their lot and when everyone can live under their vine and fig tree and none will make them afraid.

“Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot” Pirkei Avot 4:1

When Rabbi Margaret asked me to write about Joy, I had to stop and think, ”What is joy? Who is full of joy?” So now, I ponder this while sitting my back yard with 3 dogs, and ice tea, and my laptop.

My go to book these days is Visions of the Fathers/Pirkei Avot. Pirkei Avot, which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers, is a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis of the Mishnaic period.

While this book focuses on “big ideas,” of Michaniac times, almost everything is relevant today.

I work with lots of children, families, and parents. For the most part, all of them are happy.

For the sake of this for Rabbi Margaret, I am using a verse from Pirkei Avot 4:1. “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot” I am using rich as a synonym for joy.

We have all heard, the grass is always greener…but stop and be happy with your grass. Be happy with what you have worked hard for and earned. Resist the urge long for something more.

Living in the digital age, where social media is the norm, everyone shows off. We are inundated with who just got the newest iPhone, who is on the most extravagant vacation, or who has the “best” child.

This often causes stress and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). You begin to think that what you have isn’t enough. You aren’t happy. There is something better out there! Stop, appreciate the little things in life, set goals for yourself, and appreciate what is you have.

I will now return to my peach iced tea, 3 mixed breed dogs, and the toy that somehow made it outside!

Election Day–To Do and To Pray

There are many issues facing the United States this day. I have already voted. Simon and Sarah have as well. I spoke about the election last Friday at synagogue. While I have a strongly held position, it is not appropriate for me as a rabbi to state what that is from the bimah. I can say this. The election is very close. We have been granted a constitutional right to vote. In the beginning of this country, had I lived in Chelmsford in the 1600s, I could not have voted, I am neither male, Christian, nor a landowner. We have come very far. Jews have been praying for their secular leaders since Jeremiah’s day. “Thus said the Lord of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, to the whole community which I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters. And seek the welfare of the city to while I exiled you and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Some have said that it means to pray for peace, because if the country we live in knows peace we will know peace. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: To Do and To Pray

It has been one week since Hurricane Sandy struck the mainland US. Of course it had struck in the Caribbean first with significant loss of live and property. The meteorologists had this one right. This was a Superstorm, a Frankenstorm of Epic Proportions. I still have friends and relatives who are coping with immeasurable losses. The people I know best seem to be doing precisely that: coping. Many say it could be a lot worse. They are learning how little they need. They would like quicker repairs, shorter gas lines but realize that these are inconveniences. Others have lost much more. Those of us not on the East Coast struggle with what to do, with what to pray. Continue reading