7/18/17

NYC Triathlon Swim: My Hudson River Diary 2013

New York City Triathlon, July 14, 2013, 6:45 AM

Minute Zero: Coming down the ramp onto the race-start-barge in the Hudson River at 99th Street.

Goggles, check; swim cap, check; stopwatch on zero, check. Interview with the race announcer over the public address, I’m Tzvee from Teaneck, New Jersey. Yes, it’s my first triathlon; yes, I’m on a relay team.

Line up, look into the river. Fourteen other swimmers in my wave and many of them sit down on the barge and jump in at the tone. So do I. It’s four feet from the barge to the water.

Minute One: I’m in the Hudson. It’s dark. I go in much deeper than I thought I would. It’s dark all around me. This was a mistake. I need to get out.

Wow, I now finally understand the psalm, “Out of the depths I cry out to you O Lord.” I do not like this at all. I’m back to the surface. It’s choppy. My heart is racing. My chest is tight. I’m not swimming. I need to swim. But where am I? Not sure. Start to do the breast stroke. Others around me are swimming. It’s cold. What a bad idea this was.

Minute Two: Still not swimming the crawl. Wetsuit. Should have worn one. Would float better. Another real dumb decision. Still doing the breast stroke and my breathing is too shallow. Realize that I am in full panic. Adrenalin starting to pump.

I’m not gonna make it. I see tomorrow’s obituary, “Teaneck Rabbi Drowns in Hudson… He always loved swimming, family recalls.”

I pray, “Shema Yisrael.” “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

Okay, so how do I get out of here? I am dizzy and disoriented. Just in case, I pray some variations, “Our father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Oh heck, “Hail Mary full of grace.” Hey, you never know. Oh, cover those bases, “Allahu akhbar.”

Minute Three: Still floundering. Tell myself to take deeper breaths. Urge myself to start to do the crawl. You can do this! No I can’t. I will swim over to that kayak and hop on board.

“Put your head down and swim!” That tight chest feeling is just panic. Not a heart attack. You wimp, you have six stents in your coronary arteries. You will be okay. Breathe, just breathe. Stroke, just stroke.

Minute Four: I’m coming back to grips with my reality. Ha! I muse that I will call out to the lifeguard on the surfboard, “I made a pledge to the United Jewish Appeal and haven’t paid it yet.” Old joke. The UJA definitely will make sure I get out alive.

I’m swimming now but going sideways. A guy in another kayak is pointing and waving at me to go in another direction. I am zigging and zagging. I’ve been swimming nearly every day for thirty years but boy, am I sucking at this swim.

Minute Five: I’m starting to get awareness for where I am and where are the other swimmers. “How long O Lord?” I sure haven’t made much progress. A long, long way to go.

Guess I really don’t like open water swimming in the Hudson. A little late to think about that now. Okay. Just stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe.

Minute Six to the Exit: Okay wow, we are doing this. Holy moly, it is far. No turning every 25 meters at the end of the pool. Can’t see any lane markers on the bottom of the river. No plastic lane dividers to gauge the direction. I am still veering right and left. There are currents and wakes. Salty I don’t mind. But feh. It’s dirty water.

Starting to bump into other swimmers. That’s good. Seems like a very long time. Stroke, breathe. Heart is strong. Breathing is better. Panic is easing.

Seems now like forever. Finally see the exit ramp ahead at 79th Street and a crowd of swimmers in front of it. A New York moment. Traffic jam is slowing us down at the Henry Hudson River off ramp.

Get to the ramp, a strong hand grips my hand and pulls me up. I’m out! Alive. But oh crap, I never started the stop watch. And double crap, now I have to run barefoot on asphalt to the bike transition. It’s long, it’s annoying. I reluctantly jog over half a mile. Hey, I am getting happier anyway.

I give my chip to my teammate, our rally team biker. He rides off.

I am done.

Check off that one.

Halleluyah.

Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy, who lives in Teaneck and writes the monthly Dear Rabbi Zahavy column for the Jewish Standard, was inspired by his triathlete son Yitzhak, who did the entire NYC triathlon and raised money to help victims of terror through Team One Family. Tzvee did the NYC Tri swim leg with help from his two Team One Family teammates, Harvey Lederman and Leiba Rimler, who did the biking and running legs.

Donate here to help the families.

Published in the Jewish Standard, July 26, 2013.

7/7/17

Talmudic Advice from a Swim Addict: Swim 100 laps every day

The Tosefta quotes Rabbi Meir (2nd century CE) saying that everyone should strive to recite 100 blessings each day. It then goes on to explain how one can do this.

Blessings are berakhot ברכות in Hebrew. In modern Hebrew the laps that one swims in a pool are called berechot בריכות.

I playfully and read the Talmud this way: Don't say 100 berakhot, say 100 berechot.
More about Meir from Wikipedia: Meir was buried in a standing position near the Kinneret. Pictured here. It is said that he asked to be buried this way so when the Final Redemption occurs, Rabbi Meir would be spared the trouble of arising from his grave and could just walk out to greet the Jewish Messiah. He requested that he be buried in Israel by the seashore so that the water that washes the shores should also lap his grave (Jerusalem Talmud, Kelaim 9:4).
And so I have my Talmudic encouragement to swim 100 laps a day. On many days each year, I get to that goal.

Here are a few of my past reflections on swimming...

7/6/17

Transgender Kids, Covert Convert Bat Mitzvah and Vintage Necktie Aliyah Quandary - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice for July 2017

Dear Rabbi Zahavy Your Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I recently asked my friend how her young grade-school kids — a boy and girl — were doing. She replied that they are fine, and they have new names. The boy now has a girl’s name and the girl has a boy’s name. I asked why? She matter-of-factly replied that they both are transgender.

I was dumbfounded to hear this. I said nothing to her. Should I ask her more about this? Should I discuss this with a responsible authority?

Worried About Trans Kids

Dear Worried,

Yes, you have every right to ask the parent for more details, and to seek out, with sensitivity, more information on this topic from friends or experts or from your own counselors. The mother makes no secret of the facts. She is open and proud of her children and their gender identities.

Gender dysphoria is a seriously hot topic this year in social and political discussions, and in the media. You will find many experts and pundits out there willing to share advice and counsel on the subject.

6/27/17

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 17th Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her little great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her memorial photo site is here.

6/16/17

Is Professor Stephen Jay Greenblatt Jewish?

Yes, Professor Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a Jew.

According to Wikipedia: "Greenblatt self-identifies as an Eastern European Jew, an Ashkenazi, and a Litvak. His observant Jewish grandparents were born in Lithuania; his paternal grandparents were from Kovno and his maternal grandparents were from Vilna. Greenblatt's grandparents immigrated to the United States during the early 1890s in order to escape a Czarist Russification plan to conscript young Jewish men into the Russian army."

Greenblatt's article in the New Yorker discusses "The Invention of Sex" from the perspective of the insights of the theologian Augustine of the 4th century AD - who was not Jewish, rather he was Manichean first and later, a rather well-known Christian. 

See:How St. Augustine Invented Sex - He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history.

This I presume, is a selection from Greenblatt's new book which will deal with Adan and Eve narratives in Genesis and the ideas of original sin and so on.

From Amazon: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Comprising only a few ancient verses, the story of Adam and Eve has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires, as both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness.

The biblical origin story, Greenblatt argues, is a model for what the humanities still have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped our species for as long as we can recall and that continue to fascinate and trouble us today.
And my books from Amazon may be reached by clicking on the below image.

6/7/17

How did I celebrate 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem when I was stuck here in NYC?

Fifty years since the reunification of Jerusalem.

How did I celebrate today this momentous anniversary in NYC? In meaningful ways.

(1) Went to see the play Oslo at the Lincoln Center Theater. (Hint: enter the lottery and even  if you lose, you get offered $59 tickets.) 
Fantastic play - worthy of best play and six other Tony nominations.

(2) Went to hear author Dara Horn lecture about Jerusalem: Imagination and Historical Consciousness at the Yeshiva University Museum - and took in their exhibit on depictions of Jerusalem. Pictures here of some highlights from the Jerusalem exhibit and the Oxford rare manuscripts exhibit. Nice museum.

The talk was meticulously prepared and full of insight and originality.

The talk was inspired by City of Gold, Bronze and Light: Jerusalem between Word and Image, the timely and beautiful exhibition on view at Yeshiva University Museum.

Free download files of the Babylonian Talmud in English

I am proud to provide for you as a gift, a download of the complete Babylonian Talmud English translation..

The Talmud in English is online and free at my site, Halakhah.com, http://www.halakhah.com/
- serving up 60,000+ downloads each month.

In 2016 I gave away a record 662,568 free downloaded files of the Babylonian Talmud in English.

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WITH NOTES, GLOSSARY AND INDICES UNDER THE EDITORSHIP OF RABBI DR. I. EPSTEIN B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit. FOREWORD BY THE VERY REV. THE LATE CHIEF RABBI DR. J. H. HERTZ. INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR.

Contains the Sedarim (orders, or major divisions) and tractates (books) of the Babylonian Talmud, as translated and organized for publication by the Soncino Press in 1935 - 1948.

My site has the entire Talmud edition in PDF format and  about 8050 pages in HTML format, comprising 1460 files — of the Talmud.

I recommend that on your web site or blog you add a link to this site http://www.halakhah.com.

Highlights include: A formatted 2-column PDF version of the Talmud at Halakhah.com.

6/1/17

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for June 2017 - Mobile Media Mitzvah Man, Doubting the Dinner, Eschewing the Event, Asking about Ashes, Raring to Retire

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for June 2017 - Mobile Media Mitzvah Man, Doubting the Dinner, Eschewing the Event, Asking about Ashes, Raring to Retire

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My friend is sick and in the hospital. I haven’t been able to visit him, but I did text him a get-well message. My wife told me that is not enough. She says I have to visit my friend in person to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick.

Who is right?

Mobile Media Mitzvah Man

Dear Mobile,

Both of you are right — but your wife is righter.

Text messages and email are mechanical ways — in your view — to satisfy the minimum fulfillment of the mitzvah of bikur cholim — visiting the sick. You expressed your concern to your friend and you feel that may lift his spirits.

But your wife is right too. Social media and texts are impersonal one-way expressions of support.

You do not get to feel the vibe of your friend’s condition through the electronic media. It’s not a hands-on inquiry into your friend’s condition or well-being. The Hebrew word for visit, bikur, also implies direct examination and investigation.

I will admit that if you were to use Skype, Hangouts, or Facetime videos, that would give a greater sense of immediacy to your e-connection. I still conclude, however, that it would fall short of a real sense of visitation.

In short, your e-wishes lack the quality that most chaplains and clergy would advocate for in visitations of the sick. A phone call is better. An in-person visit would be the best quality fulfillment of the mitzvah, a better expression of concern and compassion for your friend who is ill.

5/29/17

Can you be both Secular and a Zaddiq?

You do not have to be a Hassidic Jew to be a Zaddiq.

You do not have to be traditionally religious to be pious.

Piety means that you live day-to-day and physically act with a connection to Judaism. It means that you maintain vivid moods and motivations in accord with a faith in the Torah.

Piety means that you transform everyday activities, decisions, and attitudes. It means that you give them special significance. And where does that come from? It can come from the historical, mystical, and redemptive beliefs of Judaism. When you live with piety, you create and perform new practices based on your faith.
  • Your motives and goals as a pious person are to enhance every day of your life.
  • To bring you sanctification, qedushah.
  • To bring you more awe, love, or fear of God.
  • To allow you to submit to a higher power and create a sense of creatureliness.
  • To guarantee you an entry to paradise in the "World to Come" (for those who believe in the afterlife or heaven).
  • To bring for all in your world some form of redemption.
  • And, on a most basic level, you may believe that piety also brings you some material gain.
We usually call piety mitzvah when it is an obligation and commandment within Judaism binding on an entire community of faith.

We call piety custom or minhag when it is more limited in time and place and less authoritative. Most often this distinction goes unrecognized in your life as a pious Jew.

The ultimate yardstick of piety is the Zaddiq -- the righteous saint. He or she adheres most closely to the norms of ultimate piety. The righteous saints are those who we would call purely ethical, those who flourish as proper humans, and those who achieve true virtue.

Not many of us reach the ultimate in any part of our lives. We play golf, never expecting to become a Tiger Woods. We paint, do business, make love, for the fulfillment of each element of our lives. Yet we sometimes forsake religion because we think piety is out of our reach.

Piety is there for all of us.

5/28/17

Summer at the Teaneck Swim Club, the Tenafly JCC Outdoor Swimming Pool + 10 more world class dramatic pools to think about

The start of summer swim season is nigh.

Today was cool at the TSC - about 70 in and out of the lap pool. A few of us braved the waters this weekend to inaugurate the outdoor lap season in Teaneck.

With nice weather ahead, I look forward to swimming outdoors every day in Tenafly or Teaneck at the JCC or the TSC.

And here are some of the other pools that I'd like to swim in...I've been to some of them...[reposted from 08].

Cool pools: 10 favorite hotel swimming spots By Gary Warner
The Orange County Register

Some like it hot. I do not. After a steamy day of going from museum to shop to cafe to hotel, I am in dire need of something big, cold and relaxing. No, not a beer. Well, OK, a beer would be nice, too.

I'm talking about a pool. A hotel swimming pool. A beckoning oasis of deep, crisp blue.

Over 10 years, I've dived and dipped into hundreds of Olympics, kidneys, minerals and infinities, from Bali to Baltimore. Most are fine but forgettable, so I cling to fond memories of laps gone by on my short list of classic dips. Come dive into the deep end of my list of favorite pools. You don't even have to shower before entering.