11/11/20

Is Ronald A. Klain Jewish?

On 10/18/14 I posted this about Klain who is back in the news now: 

Yes, the new Ebola Czar Ronald A. (Ron) Klain is a Jew. He previously served as Vice President Joseph Biden's Chief of Staff.

President Obama will appoint Klain according to CNN citing White House press secretary Josh Earnest, "to make sure that all the government agencies who are responsible for aspects of this response, that their efforts are carefully integrated. He will also be playing a role in making sure the decisions get made."

Klain previously served as Chief of Staff and Counselor to Vice President Al Gore. Klain also knew Biden as a result of his service as counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary when Biden chaired that committee.

Klain lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with his wife Monica Medina, who is not a Jew, and their children Hannah, Michael and Daniel.

The Times reported in 2007:

... when they married, Ron Klain and his wife, Monica Medina, struck a deal: their daughter and two sons would be raised Jewish (for him), but they would celebrate Christmas (for her).

Despite their satisfaction with the arrangement, the couple, who live in Chevy Chase, Md., have never put up the tree while Mr. Klain’s mother is visiting from Indianapolis. Instead, they wait until after her annual December visit.

“I grew up in Indiana, with a decent-size Jewish community, but we were a distinct minority,” Mr. Klain said. “Not having a Christmas tree was very much part of our Jewish identity in a place where everyone else did.”
In the HBO movie "Recount" Kevin Spacey played Ron Klain.

Spacey, who was born in South Orange, New Jersey to Kathleen A. Spacey (1931-2003), a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler (1924-1992), a technical writer, is not a Jew.

11/10/20

What my Rebbe, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Said to Me about Women, the Torah, the Synagogues and Checks

It is essential for Orthodox Judaism to provide women with full equality - to count them for a minyan, to call them to the Torah, and, after proper training, to ordain them as rabbis.

When Women Write the Checks
(I originally blogged this here in March, 2005 - published in the Jewish Press 2014)
 

In 1973, after I completed my Semicha studies with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik at Yeshiva University, I attended his summer shiurim (Talmud classes) in Boston and then started as a PhD graduate student at Brown University.

Brown was known as a progressive community in an era of ferment. Some of us Orthodox graduate students gathered at the Hillel to engage in a traditional Minyan. Not surprisingly some of the women students there wanted to know how far we could push the envelope. Could we conduct an Orthodox service and give women aliyot to the Torah?

I knew these were all sincere and properly motivated students, seeking greater fulfillment in their practice of Judaism. So when they asked me to drive up to Boston and to discuss this issue with the Rav, Rabbi Soloveitchik, I readily accepted the challenge.

10/5/20

Jewish Black Magic: They Cursed Ariel Sharon with the Pulsa D'Nora in 2005 - and can it work in October 2020 for someone else?

I've spent years teaching numerous college courses on religion - always with the disclaimer that we will cover only the positive aspects of the subject. Religion used for evil, that is for war or other forms of harm, is a misuse and distortion of systems of faith.

Curses, I reasoned, were a misuse and distortion of religious practice.

Curses invoked before the Rabin assassination changed my mind about that. Prior to that tragic event, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a group of "Kabbalists" intoned the pulsa curse outside the Rabin residence. Once again, in the summer of 2005, another group gathered to invoke the curse against P.M. Ariel Sharon. It seemed to me that curses indeed were part of our religion - like it or not.

One blogger, Canonist, dealt briefly with the curse back in July 2005, complete with a link to the video of the curse "ceremony" and quotations from learned professors:
Praying for Ariel Sharon's Death

Yesterday's death-curse seems thus far to have gone unanswered by the Almighty, but we'll see. Generally speaking, I don't write much about Israel and the disengagement, but this latest is quite interesting. PaleoJudaica's got a great roundup, including descriptions of the pulsa de-nura ceremony, its detractors, and the threat of prosecution that've come out of it. Meantime, you can actually watch the ceremony in this video, which, with a bunch of people in sweats reading from photocopies, looks oddly like some run-of-the-mill Jewish ceremony, like burning chametz or somesuch. The video comes courtesy of Samuel Heilman, via a listserv to which he wrote, with the subject "Jewish Jihadists": "Lest any of you think that only Islamists have jihadists, see the video below in which so-called 'religious Jews' pray for Prime Minister Sharon's Death in a Pulsa De Nura." Bold words on both sides. Let's see what comes of them.
Erudite rabbis have written about the matter, explaining that magic is not a part of Judaism, as in the following:

10/1/20

Pandemic Kohelet: An Israelite Form of Meditation: Ecclesiastes is a cynical reflection on life’s futility that we can resonate to now more than ever.

I think you will like this article published today on TheTorah.com! Kohelet: An Israelite Form of Meditation. Ecclesiastes is a cynical reflection on life’s futility. The constant sonorous repetition, visualizations, and references to breath serve as a sustained meditation to help free the reader’s soul from the agonizing struggle of life.

7/31/20

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...

7/29/20

Jerusalem and Tisha B'Av - 1986 v. 2020 - How times change!

Today I published my thoughts for Tisha B'Av 2020 - see it as an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. I say Jerusalem's destruction symbolizes the sufferings of our pandemic world today.

Tisha B'Av has serious meaning for us this year. For many years I did not think that was true.

Thirty-two years ago, on August 13, 1986, I wrote an op-ed that was published in the Jerusalem Post saying that Jerusalem is not desolate. My underlying point was that when we pray, it’s false to say that Jerusalem today is in ruins.

The title that the editors assigned to the op ed was, “Some prefer to give it a new meaning,” although that’s not exactly what I said. Here is the editorial:

“I shall be fasting this week [for Tisha B’Av]. But this year, more than ever before, I feel silly mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. I really do not know what to do when it comes time to listen to and recite for myself the classical laments for the fast of Tisha B’Av. Much of what we say about Jerusalem in the synagogue is just not true anymore.

“It is obvious to anyone and everyone that Jerusalem does not lie in ruins. On the contrary, this is my fourth extended visit to Jerusalem in the last seven years. Over the last seven years I have watched as buildings spread out from the center of town to the new neighborhoods. Now Jerusalem sprawls across the hills of Judea, south and north from Gilo to Ramot and beyond.

“On the ninth day of Av this year the observant Jews of Jerusalem will congregate in synagogues throughout the city to mourn and lament. What they say inside these halls will not reflect the reality immediately outside them.

“And so this year I have resolved to add a few silent paragraphs to my prayers. Then when I leave the synagogue and step out into the rebuilt city of our people, I will feel that I have been candid in my meditations and forthright in my worship. I shall say something like this:

“‘Jerusalem is not desolate. It stands glorious above our Land. Our capital looks down on the miracle of the modern state of our people, rebuilt by the sweat and labor of our brethren and sisters. A thousand settlements testify to our return and we are homeless no more.’

“‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are not homeless. Beautiful buildings abound, apartments, condominiums, villas, large and small. Hotels and hostels, old and new. Whosoever wishes may come and live here. Whosoever is hungry shall find sustenance here.’

“‘Enemies do not govern our land. The Knesset, the site of our self-government, stands at the center of our new metropolis, a vibrant testimony to our freedom. Independent and sovereign, we struggle with each other and with the states of the world, and somehow, we manage to live in harmony among ourselves, and to survive in the swirling community of nations.’

“‘Yes, the Temple was destroyed. But we have built other edifices in its stead. Long ago, in another age, our national center was taken from us by forces we could not resist. But now we have built new structures where we symbolize and express our spirit, our minds and our creative energies, and most of all, our freedom.’

“‘A great synagogue and many more stand in our capital. They serve as the many beating hearts of our spiritual organs. In dozens of yeshivot, teachers build the religious minds of our youth. Schools abound. When school is in session, wherever you turn there are children on their way to classes from kindergartens to high schools, soaking up the knowledge of our world.’

“‘A great Hebrew University answers to the essence of our wider educational appetites, in the capital of our nation. In its laboratories, classrooms and libraries, students try to unravel the mysteries of nature and society and strive to construct a new and better order.’

“‘The Israel Museum, the Bezalel School, the Jerusalem Theatre and other institutions small and large. cater to our cultural needs. In Jerusalem we display our past and our present. We sing and dance and we mourn no more. We paint and draw and sculpt and adorn the urban hub of our people, the crown of our land.’

“‘As we watch, day-by-day, luxury hotels go up and up. Lush green gardens bloom before us. We repose in parks and swimming pools. We find our needs in supermarkets, bakeries and department stores. And we indulge our extravagances in shops and markets, elegant restaurants and offbeat cafes.’

“‘The city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt. Still, the work is never done. And the struggle will not end. But: our city is not desolate. How can we mourn? We must, yes, we are obliged, indeed, it is the highest duty, for us to celebrate. For with God’s help, but in accordance with our own will and with our own hands, we have raised Jerusalem beyond its highest heights. Never before in all of our history has this city attained such glory.’

“And so that is what I shall add as I conclude my lamentations on Tisha B’Av this year. I shall be cheerful this year, and I will not mourn. But I shall do so silently, because this is my own private devotion. Will others join me?”

7/23/20

Pandemic Lamentations: My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for July 2020

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

These past few months in 2020 have been such a sad time of worldwide suffering, specifically due to the impact of the covid-19 virus. On the upcoming Tisha B’Av fast day (the ninth day of Av, which this year begins on the evening of July 29 and ends at sundown on July 30), would it be appropriate to make note of what is going on around us and perhaps to recite prayers to lament and to seek consolation for our present sufferings? How would that work for us?

Lamenting in Leonia


Dear Lamenting,

Yes, that surely is appropriate to do. Though our world of 2020 seems distant from the ancient times of Tisha B’Av, in 70 C. E., when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the underlying human conditions of life have not changed. Sadly, this year we have come to the point where right now we face extraordinary suffering, trauma, and destruction, on the personal, communal, and global level.

To make for yourself a meaningful Tisha B’Av 2020, you will need to creatively repurpose our old and established rituals, which were instituted after the destructions of 70 C.E. Under the circumstances, you should go for it, and create a new set of lamentations for yourself.

6/26/20

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 20th 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 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 beautiful memorial photo site is here.

6/16/20

9 years ago I published: "God’s Favorite Prayers" - it has been a delicious improvement on all previous theologies of Jewish prayers

"God’s Favorite Prayers" (ISBN 0615509495) is a new published book that unlocks the personalities behind the prayers. Author Tzvee Zahavy introduces readers to the archetypes within Jewish liturgy in this engaging new volume.

"God’s Favorite Prayers" invites the reader into the heart of Jewish spirituality, to learn about its idiom and imagery, its emotions and its great sweeping dramas. The author invites the reader to meet six ideal personalities of Jewish prayer and to get to know some of God's favorite prayers.

According to Zahavy, Jews recite and sing and meditate prayers that derive from six distinct archetypes. He labels those six personalities: the performer, the mystic, the scribe, the priest, the meditator and the celebrity.

6/15/20

Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Ontology of Women and Replies to it - all in the Link

Note: A credible scholar gave a class on zoom  yesterday showing in detail that the Rav was wrong in his halakhic premises about this topic. I concur with that conclusion.
A New Transcription: Surrendering to the Almighty
By Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l | March 14, 2019
Editor’s note: Torahweb.org has just completed this new transcription as part of a forthcoming book. The full shiur, made in 1975 to Rabbinic alumni, is available on YU Torah here: https://tinyurl.com/y5ylmmax. This text is excerpted only in the interest of space, omitting several introductory paragraphs. The full transcription, with full footnotes, is available here: https://tinyurl.com/y5akgjoj.
...Today, let me say it in Hebrew, «כלו כל הקיצין» [2], and I feel it is my duty to make the following statement, and I am very sad that I have to do it. But somehow, I have no choice in the matter; there is no alternative. What I am going to say, I want you to understand, is my credo about Torah and the way Torah should be taught and Torah should be studied.
The study of Torah has had such a great cathartic impact upon me, as you understand it, is rooted in the wondrous experience I always have when I open up the Gemara. Somehow, when I do open up the Gemara, either alone or when I am in company, and I do teach others, I have the impression - don’t call it hallucination, it is not a hallucination - I have the impression as if I heard, I would say, soft footsteps of somebody invisible, who comes in and sits down with me, sometimes looking over my shoulder. It is simply, the idea is not a mystical idea, it is the Gemara, the mishna in Avos, the Gemara in Berachos say, «אפילו אחד יושב ועוסק בתורה שכינה שרויה» [4] and we all believe that the nosein haTorah, the One who gave us the Torah, has never deserted the Torah, and He simply walks, He accompanies the Torah, wherever the Torah has a, let’s say, a rendezvous, an appointment, a date with somebody, He is there.

6/11/20

How to Deal With Facebook Stalkers, List Snubs and Technology Taboo Makers - My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for June 2020



Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I am on Facebook a lot and have many friends there. Recently, one of those people, whom I have known for many years, started replying negatively on every post that I made and on every comment that I put on Facebook. These were not just critical replies. They were snarky at first, and then became nasty and highly personal in nature.


I unfriended this person. But somehow, he still manages to find and comment on all my posts. What should I do to stop this?

Besieged in Bergenfield


Dear Besieged,

Facebook has mechanisms for actively blocking content from specific individuals. You can and should poke around the platform until you find them, and then invoke the harshest level of blocking against this offending person. Be persistent. Since Facebook thrives on content proliferation, your postings make money for them, and thus it deliberately makes the blocking process possible, but neither easy nor intuitive.

6/5/20

Are dirty tricks in negotiations kosher?

Day after day we see ill will and bad faith in the negotiations in our marketplace and workplace.

No, dirty tricks are not kosher.

But you ask, exactly what are dirty tricks and how can you deal with them?

Several years ago we took one course in Negotiations in the MBA program at Rutgers. Each year the brilliant professor who taught the course, Daniel Levin sends emails to his former students to remind them about how to respond in a negotiation to the prevalent issue of distributive tactics or what we normally call "dirty tricks."

According to Levin, the top ten dirty tricks in negotiations are:
1. Good Cop/Bad Cop
2. Emotional Intimidation
3. Lowball (or Highball) Offer
4. Opening with a Take It or Leave It Offer
5. Exploiting the Trappings of Power
6. Increasing an Offer's Appearance of Legitimacy
7. Pretending to Have Limited Authority
8. Playing a Game of Chicken
9. Lying about Priorities
10. Nibbling
Levin gives us his priceless suggestions for responses in his Talmudic analysis here. Study it and study it some more, because everything you need to know about dirty tricks is in that grid.

We've said many times that in all of the years of our education through college and rabbinical school and graduate school at Brown, Levin's negotiations course in the MBA program at Rutgers was the most valuable course that we ever took.

We use the skills that we learned there every day.

Thank you again Dan Levin.

5/3/20

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy - Yahrzeit Number 8

Photos

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy
New York City 
September 8, 1918 - May 1, 2012

When my Father was Rabbi at the Park East Synagogue

Praying and the synagogue were central to my life since my early childhood. My father, Zev Zahavy, was the rabbi of several distinguished New York City synagogues on the West side and then the East Side of Manhattan. I recall many times accompanying him to his work. His study in the synagogue was off to the side of the main sanctuary, lined with books, filled with a musty smell and having the creakiest wood floor I ever walked on.
The author (right) with his Dad (center) in 5715 in the synagogue sukkah

The synagogue in Manhattan at that time was a stately place with formal services, led by a professional Hazzan. My dad wore a robe and high hat - black during the year and white on the High Holy Days.

He was famous in the city for his sermons. He labored over them for hours. He would send "releases" to the local papers (like the NY Times' 230+ citations of his sermons -- here in online book form) to let them know about what he would be preaching on Saturday. Those were the fifties and the Times and other papers covered the Saturday and Sunday sermons. Frequently we would look around the sanctuary to see if the reporter from the Times was present. We'd know because he'd sit in the back and be writing feverishly on his reporter's pad. (Not iPad... real paper pad.)

My father was ambitious especially about increasing the attendance at the services. We had to count the number of people in shul and discuss that at the lunch table. Then he'd ask us how the sermon was and we all answered enthusiastically every week, "It was terrrrrrific!"

My father's most valuable autographs - the signatures on his ordination parchment

I am republishing this post in honor of the Yeshiva University Chag HaSemikhah Convocation that will take place on Sunday, March 19, 2017 and in honor of the 75th anniversary of my father receiving his ordination.

I received my rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva in 1973. My father received his semichah on March 19, 1942 = א׳ בְּנִיסָן תש״ב

Here is my original post:

In May 2012, during the shiva for my dad, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, I showed many people an important part of our inheritance from him - five valuable autographs.

Now these are not autographs of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or of U.S. presidents or anything like that. 

These are the five signatures on my dad's klaf - on his diploma of ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which he received in 1942.

The priceless autographs are by five great Torah scholars, Rabbi Binyamin Aronowitz, Rabbi Bernard L. Levinthal of Philadelphia, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, Rabbi Moses Shatzkes (the Lomza Rav) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston (the Rav).

Rabbi Yossi Adler looked at the klaf during the shiva in Teaneck and confirmed what I had been told, that it was rare to have five signatures on such a document. My own ordination has two (Rabbis Belkin and Soloveitchik).

I once asked my dad what it was like to go before these five great rabbis and be examined before receiving semichah - ordination. He told me, "They were tough. They asked difficult questions. They made me sweat."

I greatly treasure this meaningful part of the legacy of my dad.


4/23/20

Dear Rabbi Zahavy - my Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for April 2020 Your reactions to the pandemic and worries over shul closures

Dear Rabbi Zahavy - my Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for April 2020
Your reactions to the pandemic and worries over shul closures


Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I find it hard to cope with all the bad news of the current pandemic. I feel it definitely has been impacting my mental stability and even affecting my physical health. What’s your advice?

Reacting in Ridgefield Park


Dear Reacting,

The talmudic rabbis recognized, way back in antiquity, that some people are more sensitive than others to external stimuli. Some rabbis, like the great sage Rabban Gamaliel, were given leeway in their religious practices because they were categorized as istinis — a term some believe is derived from the Greek meaning not strong: a-sthenos; for example, a person of pronounced sensitivity to ugly or troublesome environmental stimuli, death or sickness.

3/23/20

Who wrote the Haggadah?



They say that the Seder is the most widely observed Jewish ritual. Assuming that is true, the Haggadah then is a near universally used Jewish book. It also is one of the most frequently published Jewish books in history, surpassed perhaps only by the Hebrew Bible and the Siddur and Machzor Prayer books.

Now it behooves me to ask of this book, who wrote the Haggadah?

Jewish Standard Feature Article on my Polychrome Historical Haggadah, the beautiful Color-coded Haggadah that reveals the Seder's history

Thanks to all of you who have purchased my Haggadah on Amazon. 

Happy Spring!

Jewish Standard Feature Article: 

Color-coded Haggadah highlights seder’s origins: The Polychrome Historical Haggadah

Teaneck rabbi reprints classic work of seven-hued scholarship

By Larry Yudelson

Who wrote the Haggadah?

We know who wrote the Hogwarts Haggadah. (Moshe Rosenberg.) We know who wrote the Rav Kook Haggadah. (Bezalel Naor.) We even know who wrote the ArtScroll Family Haggadah. (Nosson Scherman.)

But who wrote the original text?

Like all the siddur and other classic works of Judaism, the Haggadah dates back to before people started putting title pages and copyright notices on their books and listing them on Amazon. So we don’t really know.

We do know that most of the text we use today is found in the earliest Jewish liturgical manuscripts, which date from the ninth century. And the outline accords with the teachings of the Mishna from six centuries earlier.

But who put this together, and exactly when?

Truth be told, we don’t know.

Now, however, a Teaneck rabbi — and Jewish Standard columnist — has republished a classic work that highlights all the different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

“We are having a conversation with Jews across all periods of history,” Rabbi Tzvee Zahavy said. “This is not just something we’re doing with our family. We’re having a dialogue across the ages.”

This month, Rabbi Zahavy reissued the Polychrome Historical Haggadah. Originally published in 1974, it was the work of Rabbi Jacob Freedman of Springfield, Massachusetts. It highlights the different levels of the Haggadah by putting each stratum in a different color. Biblical verses are black. Mishna passages are red. And so on — until contemporary additions like the Hatikvah, appropriately in Israeli-flag blue.

It is a seven-hued rainbow.

3/5/20

Electricity on Shabbat? My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Jewish Standard Column for March 2020

Electricity on Shabbat? My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Jewish Standard Column for March 2020

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Members of my community of Orthodox Jews who are shomer Shabbos refrain from turning on and off all electrical devices to observe their Shabbat rest. So, on Friday nights and Saturdays our practice is not to use, for instance, our phones or TVs or computers. And we don’t turn on or off lights or fans or heaters.

Lately, I’ve become lax in keeping these rules, especially regarding my use of my smart phone, my computer and my Alexa Amazon Echo devices. I feel that using these devices enhances my rest and my leisure. And I have found that avoiding them makes me uneasy, not relaxed or restful.

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I don’t publicly advertise my actions. But it’s increasingly evident to me that my family knows what I am doing and that they quietly disapprove.

I am worried and need your advice. Am I sinning by my behavior? I feel strongly that what I am doing is not a violation of any rules and likely will continue my uses. But what can I do regarding my actions if this all blows up and causes social friction in my family and community?

Electrified in Englewood

Dear Electrified,

Establishing sacred time is a powerful part of all religions. The notion that we Jews spend one day a week in a special world of restful restrictions starting on sundown on Friday is an amazing claim to make. And at the same time, it is hard for the community to enforce the Sabbath taboos.

2/6/20

Times: How did Jewish Actor Kirk Douglas Quit Smoking Cigarettes?

Kirk Douglas passed away at 103 today. He quit smoking cigarettes years ago. His story is below, reposted from 2010... Please, if you smoke, stop today!

On occasion, we suggest to people we know who smoke cigarettes, and sometimes even to random smoking strangers, that today is the perfect day to quit smoking cigarettes.

Here is Kirk Douglas' first person account from the Times in 2003 of why today is the best day of your life to quit smoking cigarettes. (Yes he was Jewish, born born Issur Danielovitch, now 92 years old. He played the Jewish Col. David 'Mickey' Marcus in the film, "Cast a Giant Shadow.")

If you do smoke cigarettes, please do quit today.
My First Cigarette, and My Last
By KIRK DOUGLAS
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.

My father, a Russian peasant, came to this country in 1910. Like all of his pals, he smoked. It's hard for me to picture my father without a cigarette in his mouth.

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for February 2020 - Beginning Talmud Study and Playing Golf

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for February 2020 - Beginning Talmud Study and Playing Golf

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

As I approach retirement and anticipate having more time on my hands, I have decided to take up two new pursuits: studying the Talmud and playing golf.

For Talmud study, I was thinking of learning at the rate of one page per day via the Daf Yomi program, as relatives as well as friends at my synagogue have advised. Perhaps you know of it?

As for golf, a couple of outings a week seems ideal, and again both friends and relatives insist that they will tolerate my incompetence and help.

But there seems to be so much involved in just getting started that part of me thinks both pursuits may be too elusive.

Am I taking on too much in my golden years?

Bewildered Beginner in Bergenfield


Dear Bewildered,

Not at all! I applaud with all my heart your ambition to expand your emotional, intellectual, and physical qualities at a time in life when many of us face the awful prospect of living out our later days in quiet desperation. I’m with best-selling author Daniel J. Levitin, who in his book, “Successful Aging,” enthusiastically commends those who set out to tackle bold new challenges in their mature years.

Go for it!

In fact, you already have started — by seeking assistance from relatives and friends. So, in offering my own advice, I’ll do likewise through the insights of two special advisers, my own sister, Dr. Miryam Wahrman of Teaneck, and my longtime golfing friend, the golf writer and editor Robin McMillan. Each has experienced what you are facing now. It is true that while Miryam is talmudically enlightened (or so she tells me), Robin still has trouble breaking 100 on the golf course, but both enjoy their avocations immensely. This, I think, is your true goal as you approach retirement.