Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Gone for Passover!

I will be away for the week of Passover.



This year, Passover starts Monday evening April 14.

I will return Wednesday April 23.

Have a happy Passover!



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Right now, we are in the middle of the Jewish festival of Sukkot. [1]

Just for the person who has to have lunch on the go, my dear friend Steven Burke has come up with his own clever variation of the sukkah-mobile.

Open two car doors, put two 2x4s over the door tops and rest the s’chach on top of the 2x4s!


sukkah-mobile(Image Credit: Steven Burke)

The chochmah and binah demonstrated here is inspirational!

Once again, Necessity is the Mother of Invention!

Bravo, Steven. Yasher Koach! 


[1]  As commanded in the Bible (Lev. 23:33-44). Christians may know Sukkot by the name Feast of Tabernacles (KJV), Festival of Tabernacles (NIV), Feast of Booths (NASB), etc.

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Hi, guys…

Passover begins tonight (Monday March 25, 2013) at sunset.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Matzah Bakery at the Mea Shearim neighborhood(Baking handmade shmura matza for Passover)

I will be in Toronto for a little over a week.

Have a happy, kosher and joyful Passover.

sedar-table(The Passover seder table)

I’ll should be back Wednesday April 3.

See you then!


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On Monday, I arrived in Israel for the first time in my life after so many years… decades… of waiting, hoping, praying.

I came alone.

I knew it was going to be emotional. I knew it was going to be intense.

I was prepared… or so I thought.

It was like being prepared to be hit by a bus… compared to actually being hit by a bus.

When the plane touched down in Tel Aviv, I began weeping. [1]

I could barely stand. Other passengers grabbed their carry on bags and headed out. I was in a daze.

I made my way through a blur of tears. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I moved as if in a trance. Was this really happening? Am I in one of the thousands of dreams and daydreams I’ve had over the last 30 or 40 years?


I was nervous about being questioned by Israeli authorities. Who was I? Where was I from? Where was I born? Why was I coming to Israel? Was I Jewish? A Jew with an Italian name? Were my parents Jewish? Did I convert? What rabbinical court converted me? My daughter lives in Israel? She immigrated to Israel? Where does she live? What is her address? Is this my first visit? What prayer does a Jew make when he embarks on a trip? Recite the first line. Do I wear tefillin? When do I wear them? When do I NOT wear them? What was the Torah reading for last Shabbes? What’s the Torah reading for next Shabbes? Was I married? Did I have an aufrufen? Did I read from the Torah? What was the Torah portion? Can I recite the first line from my haftorah portion? What holiday is coming up in 2 weeks? What book is read? Recite the blessings that are read before the book is read. Can you read the first few lines from that book? Do you know the melody that goes with that reading?

I had heard so many stories about Israeli security. I was nervous. I stepped up to the customs officer and handed her my passport.

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

I explained that this was my first visit to Israel and that I came to see my daughter who made aliyah (i.e. emigrated to Israel) a year ago.

“Where does she live?”

I told her she lives in Ramat Gan.

“How long are you going to be in Israel?”

I said I was staying for two weeks, returning on February 25.

The customs officer looked at me for a few moments, sizing me up.

She smiled and handed me back my passport and told me to proceed to baggage claims.

I walked to the baggage claim area and searched for my luggage. A plain black suitcase. My dear friend (and international travel guide) Tracy suggested I attach some brightly-coloured masking tape or cloth to make it distinguishable. I found it. Both wheels were broken off.


I extended the handle and dragged the suitcase behind me as I moved out into the main lobby. I felt numb. It all seemed so unreal. I couldn’t help feeling that I was going to wake up at any moment.

A tall handsome young man with a wide smile. Tomer. My daughter’s boyfriend. He waves and comes to me, giving me a big warm tight hug.

And then I see my beloved daughter. I’ve not laid eyes on her in over a year.

I cry again. I can’t help it. Tomer helps me with my crippled suitcase.

We walk out into the fresh air. I breathe it deep into my lungs.

I’m here. I feel I’ve finally come home to a place to which I’ve never been before.


[1] Actually, I started crying as soon as I heard the landing gear lowering. 

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Over the holidays, I ran into this video on the religions of Westeros, the land in which much of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones [1] is set.

Fascinating clip. For fans of the books and the show and for people interested in religion, this video is a must see.


[1] A Game of Thrones is the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of high fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin. It has been made into a highly successful television series by HBO.

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You see church message boards everywhere, each one trying to out-clever the next with cute sayings.

See what I mean?

Or something like this…

Plays on words. Puns. Cute sayings that will catch your eye when you drive by.

They’re everywhere. Some are groaners. Some bring a genuine smile to your lips.

Some even attempt some nerd humour.

Or try to be internet savvy.

And then… you get to The South!

Yeah, there’s a kind of plain-spoken directness to the messages some churches make down there.

Southerners tend not to mince words.

They kinda cut right to the chase, is what I’m trying to say.

To be sure, not all churches in The South put up messages like these ones.

It’s just that sometimes, it sure does seem like they do!

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I had occasion the other day to spend a leisurely afternoon with my dearly beloved friend, Davka Frei. [1]

Davka is a stunningly beautiful Jewish girl who has zero interest in Yiddishkeit. [2]

It’s not that she hates Judaism or even dislikes it. It’s simply not on the radar with her. As such, she is continually flummoxed at the fact that I live an observant Jewish life.

I did not grow up Orthodox. I chose to become Orthodox later in life. And this is what gets her!

You see, while Davka can wrap her mind around someone being observant because he or she was raised that way and ‘did not know better’ (i.e. FFB – Frum From Birth [3]), she has a much harder time understanding why someone who ‘knew better’ (i.e. had a normal non-observant life) would choose a frum lifestyle.

(Frum vs Frei)

Fortunately for the both of us, the Frum/Frei debate hasn’t affected our relationship in the least because for the most part we are completely dippy about each other. For all of our differences in terms of religious observance, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.

(Frei vs Frum)

And it is that genuine affection that trumps just about everything else.

In our own way, we are both as Loonie as they come… but we arrive at our loopiness from different angles.

(That’s not us, btw)

That’s what makes lunch (kosher, of course… my friend puts friendship over flavour! [4]) with Davka such a wonderful, delightful experience.

(Ahavas Yisroel! [5])

Love really does conquer all.


[1] Davka Frei (pronounced ‘DAHV-kah FRY’). Not her real name. Davka Frei is a pseudonym. Davka is an Aramaic word that has no precise English translation. The closest you can come is probably ‘very’ or ‘exactly’ or ‘precisely.’  Frei (lit. ‘free’) is a Yiddish/German word meaning ‘non-observant’or ‘not Orthodox’… as in ‘free’ from religious observance.

[2] Yiddishkeit (from the Yiddish; Lit. “Jewishness”) – the word is usually used to mean Judaism and everything related to Jews and Judaism.

[3] Frum (from the German fromm, meaning “devout” or “pious”. The ‘u’ is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’ or ‘cookie’) meaning committed to the observance of  Jewish commandments and law, specifically of Orthodox Judaism. Frum is the opposite of Frei.

[4] Truth be told, our last lunch together was at the Oasis Cafe in downtown Toronto. I wasn’t expecting much. We both had the Eggplant Parmigiana with caesar salad and Peach Snapple. It was astonishingly good. Davka: “It’s so delicious, you’d never know it was kosher!” LOL

[5] Love for one’s fellow Jew.

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