Monthly Archives: April 2020

This year Passover incorporates past, present and future like never before

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As I write this, Passover has  already begun for my friends and family in Europe and Israel.  For those of us in the Americas, as we prepare to start the holiday and for the majority who will have a Seder like never before, I want to offer the following message of hope and encouragement.

In my years of celebrating the holiday, even when I was most focused, I admittedly would remember the past, acknowledge the present, and talk about the future.  But this  year the biggest difference for me is that we look at everything through a different lens.

As we look to the past, we will recount the story of the Jewish people being slaves in Egypt and the suffering of the Jewish people throughout the ages, most notably for so many of us, the suffering of the Holocaust.  As human nature is prone to cause us to do, this year we find more parallels between our lives and the past suffering as ever before. That doesn’t automatically mean we are correct in drawing that parallel, but to many the death and illness, coupled with the fact that we need to stay home to avoid a plague of sorts, is enough for many to see it in that light.

Our present, which is indeed connected to the past perspective, is given more focused attention than it usually is on any given Passover.  Usually Passover is a break or pause from how we conduct our every day lives, be it through changing the dietary laws, altering our work schedule, or spending time with more friends and family.  This year however, it is merely a break of a few hours over the course of a matter of a few days, as so many will be conducting their lives when the holiday is over in a very similar way to how they will conduct it over Passover. At home and, at least for the time being, adjusting to a very different normal.

However, it is my belief that the biggest difference comes in how we see the future.  Not just in practical terms but for those of us who are so inclined, in religious or spiritual terms.  For the majority of us, talking about how this year we are slaves and next year will be free, was an important yet disconnected part of our Seder in past years.  Maybe our lives haven’t always been everything we wanted,  having never truly questioned our freedom, but we have never been more appreciative of that freedom as we are today.  We look at our restrictions today and wonder if they will increase or diminish.  We question if the future holds more significant amounts of pain and suffering than we’ve already experienced.  And we question whether or not the world will become a place for all of humanity to exist in peace, freedom and love.

The answer is a simple yet complex one.  We just do not know what the future holds. But to paraphrase my father of blessed memory, we are better off not knowing the future, because inevitably we learn things we rather not know. Here is what we do know.  If we have the physical or mental capacity to do so, we can make our world better not just for ourselves but for those around us.  Acts of kindness, patience and understanding are more than just catch phrases.  They help to form that future we so dearly will look to at our Seders.  But as long as we can do something to make a difference, even in one person’s life, then we always can be hopeful for a better future.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Passover.

A Positive Perspective on a Seder Alone

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Pay it forward in comfort and kindness

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With the world primarily put on hold and stuck at home, many people are flooding social media.  If what you see online is a reflection of society as a whole, then there is a clear pattern emerging from what we are seeing.  There are those who start games that involve participation and those who post things that are cute and humorous, but when we go beyond that, much of what we see posted is negative, and it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to know that the negativity isn’t helpful.

It is not difficult to understand why  people lash out and play the blame game or reveal their fear and despair at a time like this. It would be unfair to criticize people who have been doing that, even if it was my place to do so, which it isn’t. But it is not only very obvious that it is happening, it is also very obvious that it is increasing, and I think that even those partaking in it would likely agree that it is an unhealthy pattern.   Bad situations create negative feelings and harsh reactions.  Many people focus a lot on whose fault they think it is, and with so much extra time on their hands they seize the opportunity to make their point and to try and relay what they think is their unique perspective that got them to that conclusion.  But even if some of the conclusions are correct, which would means the opposite conclusion is not, are the people doing this helping anyone? Are  they creating unity and camaraderie when it’s needed most? And maybe even more significantly, are they themselves coming out of it better? I think we all know the answer to that question.

To those posting fear and despair, it’s important to look at it through different lens than the one we use on the finger pointers and armchair quarterbacks.  Those who are sad and scared, often terrified, are not only an indicator of how bad things have gotten very quickly, they are also provide an opportunity to those who are coping better emotionally and mentally.  The opportunity I speak of is the opportunity to help, to make a positive difference. This has been, and will be a horrific time specifically for people who have lost or will lose loved ones.  People will grieve.  They will mourn.  But some will also be turning to people for help.  If you have time to post about the politician, political party or even the country you blame for the situation we find ourselves in, then you certainly have time to help someone who may desperately need it.  And if not, you might start by helping with everyone’s collective mental health by showing honor to the lost, comfort to the struggling, or inspiration and even humor to the general public.

If you’re doing OK, pay it forward.  And if you aren’t sure you’re OK then try to show kindness anyway.  There is a reasonable chance it well help you feel better. No one is an island, especially not now.  Finding a way to help starts with words of comfort and encouragement,  words that often do as much for the person saying them as they do for those for whom they are intended.  Why not give it a try?  It will be better for everyone.

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A Shabbat message for everyone

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This message is for everyone out there.  Whether you are Jewish or not, observant or not.

The observance of Shabbat, the Sabbath, is the weekly observance of a day of rest.  It is a day in which we stop much of our weekly activities, many of the more observant Jews refraining from work. driving, spending money and using electricity or phones.  The belief is that God created the world on 6 days and on the 7th day he rested.  Although different religions have different beliefs as to which day that is, Islam believes it’s Friday, Judaism Saturday, Catholicism Sunday, the basic concept is the same.  A day of rest to acknowledge God’s work and to make that day a holy day.

We live in a time when many will inevitably have a crisis of faith, while many will have a strengthening of faith.  Other’s who do not believe will either find themselves turning towards God, or believing that the current situation proves their position that God does not exist.  Although I am one who not only believes in God, but is also not having a crisis of faith, this message is applicable to each and every one of you, for even if you do not believe the origin of the concept is in religious dogma, the essence of the concept is a pure one.  It is what Judaism refers to as Bayn Adam L’chaveyru, the relationship between one person and another.

Jewish commandments are broken down into 2 categories.  One is the aforementioned relationship between one human being and the other, and the other being what is know as Bayn Adam L’Makom.  The relationship between People and God. I have no intention of using this forum today to convince anyone to hold my views on what relationship mankind should have with God, nor will I project a feeling of an attitude of superiority based on the one that I have.  I do this on purpose.  I do this because our relationship with each other may be at the core of so many of the problems facing us today.

Before we try to do right by others, we need to be honest with ourselves.  We need to be honest about our intentions and be honest about our actions.   Are we doing what we are doing because it is self-serving or because we want to do good for others?  Do we truly care about other people or does everything we do revolve entirely around our own needs?  As a flawed individual, I need to constantly ask myself those questions.  Am I doing the best I can to help those close to me, to contribute to society?  Are my intentions pure? I ask these questions of myself on a regular basis, but when do I have an actual scheduled stop from my every day life to take a step back and take an introspective look on who I am and what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong? That time is from sundown on Friday evening till darkness on Saturday.  The time designated in the Jewish religion as Shabbat.

So my Shabbat message to each and everyone of you is the following.  Take a step back. Stop your regular weekday activities.  Of course the irony is that it at this moment in time for many that means, stop your past week’s activities of stopping your everyday activities. You may not believe in God, or you do believe in God and don’t believe God gave us Shabbat, but your belief does not detract from the fact that it is indeed something wonderful.  Shabbat brings you peace and tranquility, sometimes added understanding, and a brighter outlook for the future.  Whether you believe it is God given or not, who among us couldn’t use those things right now?

Be safe, be healthy, and Shabbat Shalom.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Jay Agular.

 

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A Helpful Perspective

help-support-guidance-advice-signpostThere are ways to get through anything in life.  I don’t say that entirely from my personal experiences, because although like everyone else even though I’ve gone through good times and bad, there are so many hardships I have never had to deal with, and if I am blessed and fortunate enough, I never will.  But I have listened to and observed people over the years, some close to me, like my parents who were Holocaust survivors, some mere acquaintances, who have offered lessons in how to get through the toughest of times.  I am nowhere near having all of the answers, but to the best of my ability I will try to share some thoughts on how to handle hopelessness and fear.  For those dealing with loss or illness it is a different playing field, but for everyone else I write this with the hope that my understanding and outlook will help you in some small way, and if I help just one person, then it was time well spent.

It starts with the acquisition of knowledge.  Whether it is on a small personal scale or on a larger one, knowing as many accurate facts as possible will, with the correct approach and perspective, only help you deal with any issue.  That means chose your sources wisely and narrowly.  This is a medical issue, not a political one.  The politics and whatever consequences develop as a result are a matter to be dealt with later.  So find the medical sources you believe are trustworthy and try your best to understand what they are saying.  I suggest spreading it out a little so as to satisfy yourself that there are no hidden agendas, but once you find those 3 or 4 sources, keep your flow of information narrow and follow their guidance. It will be possible to find 10 different medical sources each day if you look hard enough, but if you do that, regardless of what happens to you physically, the mental impact will likely not be a healthy one.  Partially because it means you are spending too much time focusing on things you can’t control.

This brings me to my next point.  The issue of control is always an important thing to understand, but even more so in a crisis like the one we are facing today.  It is my belief that it is critical to understand how little of what happens is in our control, for once we do that we can focus on the things that we actually can control.  We can control our own personal actions.  If you are someone who just wants this all to be over and sits there shouting at the TV or crying on Facebook, but at the same time are not practicing social distancing, then you are not properly focused on what you can control.  And if you are someone who is angry about how things are being handled by our leaders but litter the parking lots of supermarkets and banks with your masks and gloves, you are definitely not getting it.  And yes, there are many reports of this happening.  Control your own personal actions and you will be doing your part in helping get things back to normal sooner rather than later.  But most of all, and this is where I think mental health issues can be averted, to the best of your ability, control your thoughts and emotions.

I am not a mental health professional.  But I am someone who is getting through this with certain mental disciplines and techniques I find to be very helpful.  For starters I divide my day into segments.  As someone who lives alone there is no one else I live with that depends on me.  As with so many things in life, there things about that which are advantageous, and thinks about that which are not.  It would be very easy to fall into doing just one thing all day, be it binge watching the news, catching up on all the movies and TV shows I’ve yet to see, interact online, eat, etc.   I suggest, for those who have not already done so, to structure your day.  As I told someone the other day, if you do mostly one thing during your time stuck at home, that will be who you become.  However, by diversifying your efforts, you can actually look back at any individual day and feel that it was actually a good one, even if it is not the ideal one.   Do different things, find ways to grow, even develop new hobbies, but more than anything else, think of someone other than yourself.

So there are many out there, particularly parents and healthcare workers that certainly do not need to be told to find someone else to help.  That is built into their home life or career. But for those not in that category I share with you that which has been my most useful tool in handling this time. Find at least one person, or more if you are so inclined, and help them.  Talk with them, comfort them, show them love and support.  Besides having that rewarding feeling that you made a difference in someone’s life by making their day and for all you know, many of their days better, focusing on someone else does something critically important.  It stops you from fixating on yourself and your own problems.  In a time when many of the things we need to do to fix our problems we are unable to do because of these unforeseen circumstances, if we spend too much of the day focused on that, we are not helping anyone, least of all ourselves.  But by finding someone who needs your help, be it practically or emotionally, we have done something to help. A LOT.

Whenever things are bad, personally or collectively, it is human nature to look for someone to blame. I would offer that in a time like this, pointing fingers is a misuse of your energy.  Use your energy to keep busy, work on having a positive outlook and contribute in any way you can to help.  And if you yourself feel you need help, reach out to someone for support.  If you can’t find anyone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to listen.  If you can’t find me online you can email me at hollandsheroes80@gmail.com.

Good luck and stay strong.

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Acknowledging those who are helping during the crisis (videos included)

The notion that there are many famous celebrities and organizations helping during the Coronavirus pandemic is not just an inspirational one, it’s an accurate one.  There are many stories of people giving significant amounts of money and support during this critical time.  This is not a contest. Each and every one who gives whatever they feel they can is a winner for doing so, and we thank you.  In this post I picked out 2 celebrities and 2 organizations that struck me as particularly noteworthy.

Rihanna

The very talented singer and actress has donated $5 million dollars to The Clara Lionel Foundation which she founded in 2012 to help support Coronavirus relief efforts.  In addition she has donated Personal Protective Equioment (PPE) to medics in New York state. Thank you to her, and indeed, Take a Bow.

 

 

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and his wife have donated $5 million dollars to the state of Louisiana to help in relief efforts to fight the Coronavirus.  In a statement Brees said the  following:

After “considerable research and conversations with local organizers,” this money will “be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.”

Thanking them for their generosity. And if that wasn’t enough for you, enjoy this video and watch this incredible quarterback in action. Especially noteworthy are highlights 13,17, 18 & 19.

 

Anheuser-Busch

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I’m usually a Scotch or wine  guy, but after I saw the commercial telling me they were doing this, I almost wanted to go out and buy a beer. But since I am STAYING HOME. something we all need to do, I let the moment pass and decided to write about it instead.  Anheuser-Busch is redirecting all the money it uses on advertising for sports and entertainment to its non-profit partners for the Coronavirus relief effort.  In a statement, CEO Michael Doukeris said the following:

“COVID-19 has changed how we all live our lives, but it hasn’t changed Anheuser-Busch’s priorities and our commitments as an employer, a business partner and a corporate citizen. “While we can’t solve this crisis on our own, we are proud to do what we can to serve and support our communities in need and the heroes on the front lines, using our capabilities, our relationships, and our reach to do our part. We invite other companies to use their unique capabilities to join us in this effort, however they can, so that together we can make a difference.”

Thank guys. The next Bud’s for you.

 

The New York Giants

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Disclaimer: I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  That being said, I just love what the New York Giants are doing.  They are funding a program at the Meadowlands YMCA to provide free childcare for emergency response personnel for the next 10 weeks.  Thank you New York Giants. Here’s hoping you come in a strong second in your division next year.

 

Again I reiterate that there are many out there who are helping and that every bit of help should be appreciated.  If you have any stories you wish me to share please email me at hollandsheroes80@gmail.com.

Stay strong and stay home.

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