Picture the scene: The Israelites have been wandering for 40 years in the desert and are finally on the banks of the Jordan river just mere miles from the Holy Land. Moses, knowing that his time as their leader is coming to end, offers one final speech to his people. This not-so-short speech, which is basically the entire book of Deuteronomy, is a look back at their shared history and words of advice for their future. Specifically in this first portion of Deuteronomy, D’varim, Moses does not mince words and offers a harsh rebuke of his people. He says:
One woman and her reticent seven year old child came in because she saw the chalk and balloons from the street. We invited her in, and gave her daughter a meal, and after she devoured a bagel, we gave her more. The way they ate said they hadn’t eaten in a while. When I told her she could have more, her eyes brightened. Then, we sat and played Penny Pack with the deck of cards, and then the teen leaders taught her Rummy, which I had taught them. She asked her young daughter to decide whether she wants to stay for a bit. After some food in her belly, the daughter was more social and said, “I’ve made my decision.” Then she pulled up a chair next to me. We sat and played the card game that her mother had been playing with the interns. I invited both of them into the library, and had her take books to read for herself, or for her child. She said under her breath, “thank God, this program exists, something positive like this exists, because I would have gone somewhere else I shouldn’t have gone today.
But I’m here.” I welcomed her back and said the doors are always open.
A Latino family came in clutching a flyer that I had passed out at Spring Garden Elementary, and the hands of two kids. The parents didn’t speak any English. We had the interns effortlessly include the kids and involve them in their games. I speak Spanish, so I managed to learn from the parents that they were just on their way to receive social security benefits and figured they’d stop in for the kids’ breakfast before a long day. Eric, the chairperson of Breaking Bread on Broad, put on Bachata music, and the parents’ faces morphed from a glazed-over look to two happy smiles.
Have you ever seen the hashtag #firstworldproblems? A simple google search brings up some great ones like:
The struggle of finding storage for 20 bottles of champagne #firstworldproblems
I got really tan this weekend and now my concealer is too light!!!
My dog won’t eat that chip I dropped, so now I have to pick it up.
When it takes 6 weeks for the new iphone to come in #firstworldproblems
Have you ever gotten one of those emails that said something like, “A Nigerian prince wants to send you $10,000 dollars; just send your bank account information and social security number…”
About 6 weeks ago, we got a call to the office here at RS that Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah of Abu Dhabi wanted to invite one of our clergy to be his guest in the United Arab Emirates and we had until the end of the day to let him know! We were sure it was a scam… But just in case it wasn’t, I did a little research, followed up, and made a few calls. As you might have seen from my Facebook updates, it definitely was not a scam and with the unwavering support of our clergy and most importantly Laurel, I agreed to go. At around 2pm this afternoon, I returned from three of the most profoundly transformative days of my life. I want to share with you tonight of few of the powerful lessons that I learned. But first, a little background:
More than 1 in 8 Americans struggles with hunger; and many in our own neighborhood. I recently heard a story from Principal Laureal Robinson at Spring Garden Elementary about a student who was putting some of her free school breakfasts and lunches in her backpack to take home because her family did not have enough money to buy groceries last month. The faces of hunger in America are both familiar and hidden from view, yet they are all too real and far too many.
Maybe you’ve heard this one:
The Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Pope are in a meeting in Rome. The Rabbi notices an unusually fancy phone in the Pope’s private chambers.”What is that phone for?” he asks the pontiff. “It’s my direct line to God!” The Holy Father insists that the Rabbi try it out, and, indeed, he is connected to God and has a conversation with her. After hanging up the Rabbi says. “Thank you! Please let me reimburse you for my phone charges.” The Pope, of course refuses, but the Rabbi is steadfast and finally, the pontiff gives in. “All right! The charges were 100,000 Lira.” The Chief Rabbi gladly hands over a packet of bills. A few months later, the Pope is in Israel and in the Chief Rabbi’s chambers he sees a phone identical to his, and learns it also is a direct line to God. The Pope remembers he has an urgent matter that requires divine consultation, and asks if he can use the Rabbi’s phone. The Rabbi gladly agrees, hands him the phone, and the Pope chats away. After hanging up, the Pope offers to pay for the phone charges. The Rabbi says: “1 Shekel!” The Pope looks surprised: “Why so cheap!?” The Rabbi smiles: “Local call.” Read the rest of this entry »
It was a few days before our Berman Mercaz Limud model seder. As I was heading home for the day, I said to Rabbi Maderer in passing, “I’m off to boil six dozen eggs or so.” She looked at me incredulously, “Why exactly are you boiling all those eggs?” I explained that we had done a sign-up for our model seder and most of the items on the list had been covered but not enough families signed up for the hard boiled eggs and I was just going to do it myself.
Rabbi Maderer, an amazing mentor, then gave me some great advice that will always stay with me; she said, “You did not become a rabbi to boil six dozen eggs, you became a rabbi to empower others to boil eggs!”