Monthly Archives: May, 2010

Have a Heart

May 27th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

I don’t know about you, but I can look backwards at a depressingly long list of mistakes.  These were bad decisions.  I think of them as forks in the road where I took the wrong turn.

 

Almost without exception, each one resulted when I rationalized something to which I already felt emotionally attracted.  I allowed my head to collaborate with my heart and once those two ganged up in cahoots, my fate was sealed.

 

I’ve known people who’ve purchased bad time share deals though they were warned against them by a wise advisor.  Their hearts were seduced by the view and their heads went along for the ride.

 

I’ve known men and women who have made terrible marriage decisions both in whom they married and in how they went about setting up the relationship’s ground rules.  In each case they ‘fell in love’ and their heads were only belatedly involved.

 

There is obviously a role for our hearts otherwise God would hardly have implanted emotions inside us.  A person incapable of being powerfully stirred by emotion is not a complete person.  But a man or woman whose emotions chiefly guide their decisions will frequently make bad choices.

 

Scripture doesn’t employ the common English usage of “Tom said to himself…”  Instead we encounter phrases like the one in the following verse:

 

And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things happened to me…?’

(Jeremiah 13:22)

 

However, in the Lord’s language, there is meticulous specificity about prepositions.  Which is to say that in the Hebrew text some instances read, “_____said IN his or her heart” while others read, “_____said TO or AT his or her heart.”

 

What is the difference?

 

IN one’s heart means that your head has descended into your heart and your brain has surrendered to your feelings. 

 

TO one’s heart means that your head exerts control, addressing the heart from a strong and independent position.

 

Notably, the Torah hints at this vital tool for complete comprehension quite early in Genesis.

 

And God said TO His heart, ‘I will no longer continue to curse the earth…’

(Genesis 8:21)

 

God is giving us a guideline to emulate.  We should choose to be like Him and those who follow His path.

With mind-boggling consistency, each time we read, “And _____ said IN his heart,” a Biblical figure is about to make a life-harming mistake. Each time we read, “And _____said TO his heart,” we see someone making a wise move.

 

I must point out that, sadly, most English translations fail to make this vital distinction, translating the Hebrew ‘EL’ meaning TO and also the Hebrew ‘B’ meaning IN, identically.

 

Here are two examples of men who had potential for greatness but headed in the wrong direction:

 

Esau hated Jacob…and Esau said IN his heart… ‘I will kill Jacob my brother…’

(Genesis 27:41)

 

Jeroboam said IN his heart, ‘Perhaps the monarchy will

return to the house of David.’

(I Kings 12:26)

 

 

Not surprisingly, Psalms 14:1 declares:

 

A depraved person says IN his heart, ‘There is no God.’

 

By contrast, enjoy these examples of people heading in the right direction.

 

Hannah was speaking AT her heart…

(I Samuel 1:13)

 

David said TO his heart

 (I Samuel 27:1)

 

Scripture is empowering us with a subtle but powerful message.  We can allow our emotions to dominate us and then use our heads to rationalize bad decisions. Or we can carefully make decisions and then invite our hearts on board to provide needed excitement and enthusiasm.

 

There are so many messages like this one which only emerge from reading the Bible in the original Hebrew. Imagine how exciting it would be to look up all the above references and see this life lesson jump out at you. Or to find other examples on your own! So many of you have asked whether we might offer a Hebrew class and I am thrilled to finally be able to say: Yes! Learn more about Holy Hebrew! at and follow the links to sign up. http://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/holyhebrew.php

 

Just Like Me

May 25th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Two women were having a loud conversation, one which everyone
in the vicinity overheard. Their voices were passionate; their convictions
firm. The political candidate under discussion was an arrogant, self-serving
liar. How could anyone possibly support him?

There was only one glitch. Both women were so eager to
express their opinion that they hadn’t listened very well to the other. Each of
them was sure that her friend was validating her own ideas. On the other hand,
we eavesdroppers had caught the opening sentence of both diatribes which the
conversationalists had missed. The women were supporting opposing candidates.
Everything good each woman said about her own candidate and negative she said
about the other one’s, was being turned around by her friend as proof that her
intelligent, articulate companion shared her own point of view.

 

Here is another instance of the same syndrome. A
psychologist was giving on air marriage advice to prospective husbands. She
spoke of how her husband buys her greeting cards once or twice a week, leaving
them on her pillow or tucking them into her computer case. Sometimes the cards are
funny, other times sentimental, but she treasures them as evidence of a loving
spouse. Her marriage advice? Young grooms should learn from her husband and shower
their own wives with cards.

 
We all tend to assume that others, particularly people who
seem similar to us, think as we do. The radio psychologist missed expressing a
valid and important point because her vision narrowed to only her own preferences.
New husbands (and veteran ones) should recognize that most wives do cherish
tokens of affection. But imagine a couple who are having trouble getting on the
same financial page, where the wife is concerned that her husband spends money
carelessly. His spending a few dollars on a greeting card is likely to be met
with annoyance rather than gratitude. Even if money isn’t an issue, maybe one
wife has a weakness for cashews or ice cream or flowers. She may tell herself
that getting a card is nice, but since it is something she doesn’t particularly
care about, the repeated action comes across as impersonal proof that her
husband isn’t taking the time to really know her. 


 As for my political debaters, neither of them actually said
anything of value to the other. Had a policy issue or debatable fact been
introduced, they both would have quickly realized that they supported opposing
sides. The ad hominem attacks on one man and empty praise for the other didn’t
lead to further understanding or a broadening of vision.

 
As a disinterested party to both the political conversation
and the radio show, I found these two incidents amusing. At the same time, they
made me uncomfortable. I have an uneasy feeling that while it is easy to
recognize that type of behavior in others, it is much harder for me to
recognize it in myself. 

Have a Heart

May 25th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

I don’t know about you, but I can look backwards at a depressingly long list of mistakes.  These were bad decisions.  I think of them as forks in the road where I took the wrong turn.

 

Almost without exception, each one resulted when I rationalized something to which I already felt emotionally attracted.  I allowed my head to collaborate with my heart and once those two ganged up in cahoots, my fate was sealed.

 

I’ve known people who’ve purchased bad time share deals though they were warned against them by a wise advisor.  Their hearts were seduced by the view and their heads went along for the ride.

 

I’ve known men and women who have made terrible marriage decisions both in whom they married and in how they went about setting up the relationship’s ground rules.  In each case they ‘fell in love’ and their heads were only belatedly involved.

 

There is obviously a role for our hearts otherwise God would hardly have implanted emotions inside us.  A person incapable of being powerfully stirred by emotion is not a complete person.  But a man or woman whose emotions chiefly guide their decisions will frequently make bad choices.

 

Scripture doesn’t employ the common English usage of “Tom said to himself…”  Instead we encounter phrases like the one in the following verse:

 

And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things happened to me…?’

(Jeremiah 13:22)

 

However, in the Lord’s language, there is meticulous specificity about prepositions.  Which is to say that in the Hebrew text some instances read, “_____said IN his or her heart” while others read, “_____said TO or AT his or her heart.”

 

What is the difference?

 

IN one’s heart means that your head has descended into your heart and your brain has surrendered to your feelings. 

 

TO one’s heart means that your head exerts control, addressing the heart from a strong and independent position.

 

Notably, the Torah hints at this vital tool for complete comprehension quite early in Genesis.

 

And God said TO His heart, ‘I will no longer continue to curse the earth…’

(Genesis 8:21)

 

God is giving us a guideline to emulate.  We should choose to be like Him and those who follow His path.

With mind-boggling consistency, each time we read, “And _____ said IN his heart,” a Biblical figure is about to make a life-harming mistake. Each time we read, “And _____said TO his heart,” we see someone making a wise move.

 

I must point out that, sadly, most English translations fail to make this vital distinction, translating the Hebrew ‘EL’ meaning TO and also the Hebrew ‘B’ meaning IN, identically.

 

Here are two examples of men who had potential for greatness but headed in the wrong direction:

 

Esau hated Jacob…and Esau said IN his heart… ‘I will kill Jacob my brother…’

(Genesis 27:41)

 

Jeroboam said IN his heart, ‘Perhaps the monarchy will

return to the house of David.’

(I Kings 12:26)

 

 

Not surprisingly, Psalms 14:1 declares:

 

A depraved person says IN his heart, ‘There is no God.’

 

By contrast, enjoy these examples of people heading in the right direction.

 

Hannah was speaking AT her heart…

(I Samuel 1:13)

 

David said TO his heart

 (I Samuel 27:1)

 

Scripture is empowering us with a subtle but powerful message.  We can allow our emotions to dominate us and then use our heads to rationalize bad decisions. Or we can carefully make decisions and then invite our hearts on board to provide needed excitement and enthusiasm.

 

There are so many messages like this one which only emerge from reading the Bible in the original Hebrew. Imagine how exciting it would be to look up all the above references and see this life lesson jump out at you. Or to find other examples on your own! So many of you have asked whether we might offer a Hebrew class and I am thrilled to finally be able to say: Yes! Two weeks ago we asked for feedback about holding a series of webinars and the response was overwhelming. Learn more about Holy Hebrew! http://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/holyhebrew.php and follow the links to sign up.

 

What! Me Cheat?

May 17th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

“Rabbi, I’ve been seeing another woman,” the man sitting opposite me flatly declared.  Unfortunately, I have heard more than my fair share of such heartbreaking disclosures.  Sometimes it was the wife betraying the marriage; sometimes the husband.  Sometimes the marriage was rescued; often it wasn’t.  

A marriage betrayal and its consequences is surely one of the most shattering experiences anyone endures.  Its destructive impact on everyone, particularly children, has been well documented by the outstanding researcher Judith Wallerstein.

A recent report about marriage entitled The Science of a Happy Marriage
caught my attention.  Researchers at universities in Sweden, New York and Montreal investigated this intriguing question:
Why do some men and women cheat on their partners while others resist temptation?

After reviewing the study I can reveal their answer.

It is all about genes, you see.  Some people have the predisposition to betray and others don’t.  “It’s my genes, honey, what could I do?”

The intrepid researchers then addressed this question:  

Can a person be trained to resist temptation?

While designing role playing games more suited to kindergarten than marriage therapy, the scientists finally concluded:  “…your commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons.”  

In other words, “If you don’t satisfy me, honey, I’m out of here!”

It astounds me that in this study of betrayal in marriage, not even once do words like wrong or evil appear.  Needless to say, neither do the words sin or God.

The character Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov seems to decide that God doesn’t exist and that therefore, logically, nothing can be judged as wrong or immoral.  Those researchers at their universities would agree.

However, the Torah does not.  A marriage is not just a contract between two parties.  It is a holy covenant between three entities: man, woman, and God.  

One spouse might believe that an extra-marital fling will complete his or her life while the other spouse is convinced that such a fling is destructive. Who is to say which belief is more compelling?  But there is one more party to the marriage—God!  And He is pretty unambiguous about it.

Listen to Joseph’s response after Mrs. Potiphar threw him an intimate invitation.

He refused and said to his boss’s wife, “My boss has placed all his affairs in my hands… he has withheld nothing from me, except you, his wife! So how could I then do this big wrong? And doing so would be a sin against God.

(Genesis 39:8-9)

 

Joseph is speaking to himself as well as to Mrs. Potiphar. First he tries keeping formal distance.  He thinks of her only as his boss’s wife.  That contains a valuable message for us, but it is not enough.  Then Joseph tries logic—it would be a betrayal of my boss’s trust.  This is still not enough to prevent his weakening.  Finally, Joseph falls back on the only thing that works.  It would be a sin against God.

 

Unfortunately, even those who do follow God sometimes succumb to temptation. Nevertheless, if both spouses acknowledge that betraying the marriage would violate their relationship with God, it serves as strong weaponry in the arsenal.

My rabbinic and radio show experiences have taught me that it is a mistake for any couple to complacently consider themselves as invulnerable.  Anybody in the right (or wrong) circumstances can yield to temptation, damage a marriage and harm lives. Building a durable and fulfilling marriage is a life’s work needing constant effort and deliberate scheduling in spite of conflicting time and energy demands.

Remember, our offices and store close in honor of the Shavuot (Pentecost) holyday at sunset Tuesday night, PDT, and reopen late Thursday night.  

Next week Thought Tool resumes its regular schedule.

Frigates, Coursers and Librarians

May 17th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

 

I didn’t recognize any of the people working at my community’s library today. I still get surprised when that happens. Despite being aware of the policy changes that were instituted a while back, I just cannot get accustomed to not knowing the staff.

 

Over the years, our library system has announced a number of “new and improved” policies. Sometimes, the change is a good one, as when card catalogues became computerized. Other times, I have to wonder why anyone wanted to tinker with a successfully functioning system.

 

When our county declared that librarians were going to rotate through the branches, rather than be assigned permanent positions, there was an attempt to explain how beneficial this would be. Both librarians and patrons would be better served. I didn’t get it.

 

To my shame and regret, I didn’t plan a protest rally. I didn’t even express my dismay to the local newspaper’s editor or to the “Friends of the Library” fundraising group. That reflected a busy life, not a lack of concern.

 

For years, my children and I spent hours each week at the library. We attended programs and special classes, but most of all we roamed the shelves and checked out books. Over time, the librarians learned of each of my children’s unique interests and abilities. Frequently, they recommended books, assisted them in research projects and in general, became part of their educational support network. The library was our greatest resource for homeschooling material and it was also friendly to our budget.

 

Had there been no easy access to a library my children would have still been surrounded by books. They would have still had adults in their lives encouraging them to read and pointing them in the direction of worthwhile material. Not all children are so fortunate.

 

The public library system offers the gift of books to all. Through the generations librarians have been the interface to those books for scores of immigrants or neglected children.

 

Today, I can reserve books online, check myself out using a computer, and never interact with a human being. If I do have a question, anyone working behind the desk can answer it. I can even type it in my computer and never exchange a word with a person. That’s fine for me, though I certainly prefer to see familiar faces and share greetings. But for a child for whom the library serves as a haven and a doorway into a better future, the computer cannot replace a living person expressing interest in his life. A strange face each time she visits means there is no one to notice that she has read a particularly challenging book or prefers non-fiction to fiction. Libraries should exude welcome and comfort, not impersonal bureaucracy.

 

As Emily Dickinson said:

 

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

 

Not only books, but librarians as well, are capable of being chariots. I have no idea what the government officials who instituted the rotating librarian policy were thinking. It would be lovely if they would think again.

We Interrupt This Life

May 11th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

When you
were a child, the unwanted food on your plate probably didn’t become more
appealing when your mother reminded you that children in Africa
were starving. Similarly, knowing that the current downturn does not compare
with The Depression doesn’t necessarily make our own lives less stressful. And
when we live with constant tension we are more likely to make serious mistakes.
Even great Biblical leaders faltered.

 

The first
ten chapters of the second book of Samuel are almost entirely packed with accounts
of King David’s wars.  Challenges and
attacks follow upon trials and tribulations. 
If he wasn’t fighting the house of Saul he was fighting the Philistines.

 

All of a
sudden, chapter 11 reveals an entirely new scene.  King David appears to be smitten by Batsheva,
the wife of one of his officers.  What
follows leads the prophet Nathan to severely castigate the king, and while God
accepts David’s repentance, the baby born to David and Batsheva dies.  However, in chapter 12 they have another
baby, Solomon, who later becomes the most successful king of Israel and the
builder of the temple. After this excursion into David’s personal life the
narrative returns to his frightful struggles to build a kingdom. 

 

One other
well-known instance of a lengthy narrative being interrupted by what appears to
be a totally extraneous story involves Joseph. Genesis 37 relates the jealousy
his brothers felt for Joseph, leading to their selling him.

 

Genesis 39
picks up the story of Joseph being purchased as a slave by Potiphar in Egypt.  But what happens in the intervening chapter
38? 

 

Chapter 38
details what appears to be a somewhat unseemly relationship between Joseph’s
brother, Judah and someone he thought was prostitute but who is actually his
former daughter-in-law, Tamar.  Genesis
38 concludes with the birth of Judah and Tamar’s twin boys, Peretz and Zerach.

 

These two
strange interruptions of a narrative are linked because Peretz, the result of
the story in Genesis 38, is the tenth generation forebear of King David (See
the end of chapter 4 in Ruth).

 

These two
stories, David with Batsheva and Judah with Tamar seem shockingly
improper.  While ancient Jewish wisdom
emphasizes that they are not as bad as they seem to be on the surface, there
was certainly misconduct. In the midst of difficult times, Judah and David
behave badly. However, both men acknowledge their weakness and are sincerely
repentant. Through working on rebuilding themselves they become even greater
human beings.

 

Ancient
Jewish wisdom explains that rising above their flawed moments propels these men
to greatness. Having overcome dark moments, Scripture gives us a glimpse into
the purpose of their lives. Both these events directly led to the construction
of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hand of Solomon. We can stay
on God’s roadmap even if we can’t see it while running out of gasoline in the
middle of a traffic jam.

 

Indeed,
we all find ourselves in the midst of turbulent events that swirl around the
foundations of our lives.  That is not an
excuse for sinning, but neither is sinning an excuse for giving up. Precisely
at times like these we need reminders that there is a roadmap. If we detour we can
get back on the path and even the wrong road can trampoline us to a higher
level.

Stand by Your Man: Take 2

May 9th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

 

On Sunday, I had the car radio on and heard a report of Hillary Clinton’s upcoming appearance on 60 Minutes, including a direct quote. Are you as amazed and incredulous as I was at her words? I came home and wrote the following.

 

Imagine this scenario. On your way to bed, you notice that that there is light shining from under the door to your sixteen year-old son’s room. You knock, planning to say an extra good night, but there is no answer. After the second knock, you figure that he fell asleep with the light on and quietly open the door to turn it off. No one is there. A quick check of the bathroom, kitchen and rest of the house shows that your child is missing.

Some detective work has you soon driving over to a house a few blocks away, where you interrupt a party in progress, complete with lots of beer and even some hard liquor. The teens are less than delighted to see you and eventually you and your son get home where you tell him that you will talk about this in the morning.

What are you going to say? How does this sound?

“Son, you are very lucky that I got there before you were drunk. If you ever do something like this again, and manage to get drunk before I catch you, you are really going to be in trouble.”

If that speech sounds reasonable to you, may I suggest you sign up for some parenting classes?

For years we have been told how intelligent Hillary Clinton is. We have also been told that she is a strong, independent minded woman. This did make it awkward when she chose to “stand by her man” as he publicly humiliated her. However, like all wives whose husbands betray their marriage vows, she had a heart-wrenching decision to make, even if hers played out on the national stage.

But, marriage is personal and that aspect of the affair was truly her business.

This time, standing by her man, Barack Obama, contains no personal element, only a political one. After last week’s botched attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square was linked by the administration to Pakistan, she taped an interview with 60 Minutes. Can she feel anything but a fool saying such asinine words as, “We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

Exactly how many Americans need to die for an attack by the Pakistani Taliban to be considered successful? Two, twenty, two hundred, two thousand? What would have happened if in 1941 the Japanese had miscalculated the distance to Pearl Harbor and been forced to turn back a few miles offshore? Would Americans have tolerated a message from the Administration warning that if Japan did manage to bomb our fleet they’d be in big trouble?

When Hillary Clinton accepted the post of Secretary of State she, like the vice-president and other high officials, took an oath of office, swearing allegiance not to the president but to the Constitution. The oath includes the following words:

 I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

Last time I looked, one of the jobs of the government as stated in the Constitution includes providing for the common defense.

During the campaign in which Mrs. Clinton attempted to get the Democratic Party nomination for president, she made national security an issue. She urged Americans to see her as the leader they would trust in a crisis. Well, she may not be president, but she is in a leadership position. In this case, standing by her man betrays both her oath of office and diminishes the argument that women bring real-life common sense to government. Need I mention that, most importantly, it puts American lives in danger?

Lions and Foxes and Me, Oh My

May 4th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

  Has anyone ever asked you whether you are more a cat or a dog person?  Before you answer, think about this: Members of the cat family, including lions, often carry their tails high.

 

Most times, members of the dog family, including foxes, hunt with their noses close to the ground as they follow a scent.  So lions generally raise their tails, while foxes lower their heads.

These are not merely idle observations about animals from a rabbi who enjoys Animal Planet and National Geographic shows about God’s amazing creatures.  No, they help explain a famous aphorism from ancient Jewish wisdom, “Become a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes.”

 

In other words, we can attach ourselves to people who make us feel as if we are their heads.  They flatter us by asking our opinions, emulate us and make us feel important.  However, standing at their head still barely raises us above ground level. Inevitably, they keep us down.  Our association with such ‘fox-like’ people tends to reduce rather than elevate us.

 

On the other hand, there are others who offer us an opportunity to serve them.  They don’t call us “boss”—instead they issue directives.  Rather than flattering us, they tell us the truth and correct our mistakes.  In the end, these ‘lion-like’ people raise us up.

 

Remember when along with a gas fill-up, an enthusiastic young person offered to check your oil and clean your windshield?  One particular gas station always had lines of eager customers because its attendants took really good care of visiting motorists.

 

Its owner was known to pay the lowest wages around.  He also had the highest employee turnover.  Why did his young employees provide such exemplary service?

 

It turns out that the canny owner gave the following speech to all his new hires.

 

“I won’t be paying you much but this is the best first job you could ever have.

If you do well, you won’t be here long.  Do what I say and I guarantee that you

will soon start receiving job proposals paying far more than I’m offering. 

Take one of those jobs. You will have earned it.”

 

He explained that successful business owners actively look for good employees.  They are alert and aware that someone who makes a good impression greeting customers, pumping gas and cleaning bugs off windshields, can probably do a whole lot more than that.

 

The gas station owner never lacked for new employees eager to climb onto his career escalator.  The enterprising motorists who hired away his people found employees willing to start at the bottom and work hard to move up.  The young people learned vital work skills while making important connections. A good deal all around.

 

These young high school kids could have ended up in first jobs with ordinary bosses who saw them as unimportant, indistinguishable low wage earners.  Instead they lucked into becoming tails to a lion.

 

In chapter 27 of the Biblical book of Numbers, God informs Moses that his time on this earth is coming to an end.  Moses responds by expressing the concern that Israel not be ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ and asking God to appoint his replacement. 

 

Who might this replacement be?  After all, the Israelites had prestigious heads of tribes. They had prominent princes.  There were priests, judges, and other leaders. Moses himself had two sons. Surely one of these high ranking eminences was to become his successor?

 

Yet the Lord said:

 

Take Joshua…a man in whom there is the spirit…

 (Numbers 27:18)

 

Who was Joshua?  He was Moses’ attendant.  Yet Moses was a lion and through serving him, Joshua learned, grew, and became the man who led Israel into the Promised Land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marathon Maturity

May 4th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

It is possible that that some people do not consider a pyramid of bright yellow sulfur to be an attractive sight. But for our family, that view always evokes nostalgic smiles and wistful sighs. You see, along with heavy seaplane traffic and the striking architecture of the Vancouver Convention Centre, the miniature mountain of sulfur always signaled to our family that our boat had passed beneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge and was approaching  our Coal Harbour dock, one of our favourite boating destinations (we even get into the British spelling as you can see).

This past Friday, my husband and I arrived in Vancouver by car rather than by boat, but even so we both felt our spirits lift as we caught sight of the familiar landmark across the harbour.  We had come to Vancouver as the cheering squad for our daughter Miriam, who would compete in her first marathon on Sunday. Aside from the achievement of running the 26 mile course in an amazing four and a half hours despite almost constant rain, she and her teammates also raised over a million dollars for Leukemia/Lymphoma research.  I was delighted that so many of you supported her efforts.  Thank you.

Over the years, our family hasn’t been very typically American in our children’s sports activities. We had a few summers of T-ball and soccer day camp when the kids were younger and a basketball season or two during high school.  But our lives never revolved around Little League or driving kids to and from games and practices. Our children’s physical pursuits tended to be more informal neighborhood games, individual endeavors like snow-boarding and the family passion of boating.  Parental cheering squads just weren’t often needed.

One reason we weren’t into team sports was that we live in an area with only a small population of Sabbath-observing Jews.  Most games were scheduled for Friday night and Saturdays, which our children learned effectively ruled out their participation. One year our son did find a basketball team that played only on weekdays.  However, to his disappointment, their final championship game fell on the night of Purim, the Feast of Esther, and he went to synagogue rather than to the gym. 

Last November, when Miriam decided she wanted to run a marathon and to train with the well-known Team in Training, the fund raising arm of the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, she discovered that training was scheduled for Saturdays and Tuesday nights. At that point, had it been me, I would have shrugged and looked for a pottery course instead. But Miriam explained to the coaches that she could not attend the Saturday runs on account of Shabbat and found friends with whom she could run on Sunday instead.

That was one of the ways in which she balanced being part of the group and following her faith.  Another was that on this past Saturday, while her team members spent the day before the race touring Vancouver, she and we enjoyed the Sabbath in our hotel. We lit the candles on Friday evening and spent the long sunny Saturday attending worship service, enjoying our Shabbat meals and strolling the busy harbour front to view our beloved snow-clad mountains, the seaplanes and ships, and of course the yellow sulfur stack.

Since the official pre-race pasta party, intended to assist carbohydrate loading, was both on the Sabbath and did not involve kosher food, we brought pasta salad from home for Miriam to eat in our room on Saturday night.  With all the issues that cropped up for a religious Jewish participant, her team members were always understanding and helpful.  Until Sunday night after the race was over.  That was when most of the runners enjoyed a rambunctious party featuring a great deal of the alcohol they had to refrain from in the weeks leading up to the race.  They were sure that beer was kosher and were puzzled by our daughter not participating.

Finishing a marathon is a great achievement; living with integrity is an even greater one. Well done, Miriam!