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American hero Maurice Rose modest about his success

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado is considered one of the best maternity hospitals and a leader in women’s medical services. However, many might be unaware that it is named in honor of hometown hero, Maurice Rose. Rose, a highly-ranked officer who fought in both World Wars (as well as being a member of Colorado’s National Guard), wasn’t a publicity seeker. His accomplishments are mostly unknown. However, in my opinion, he was one of our best military leaders, and a Jewish guy, to boot.
Rose was born in 1899 in Middletown, Connecticut, and his family relocated to Colorado in 1902. Though raised in a family of rabbis, Rose was drawn to the military, rather than religion.
Falsifying his age, he joined the Colorado National Guard shortly after his high school graduation, joining the U.S. Calvary in its quest for Pancho Villa on the Mexican border.
However, when Rose’s parents notified the National Guard that he was underage, he was released, and went to work for a year in a meatpacking plant.
When the United States officially entered WWI, Rose joined the U.S. Army, and his parents relented, allowing him to rejoin the Army, whereupon he falsified his age once more in order to apply for Officers Candidate School.
Anxious to move up in the ranks, Rose trained both in the United States and France, where he commanded an infantry unit as a first lieutenant. . Early in combat, he was wounded by shrapnel and had to be forcibly removed.
He later returned to the battlefield against doctors’ orders.
During his service, Rose gained a reputation as a strong leader and fighter, continuing to serve in Germany after the war. He was discharged in 1919.
After working less than a year as a traveling salesman, Rose rejoined the Army with his previous rank of first lieutenant. However, after a review of his war record, Rose was promoted to the rank of captain the next day.
After a series of challenging, yet successful, training and leadership assignments, Rose saw greater opportunities for leadership advancement in the growing armored divisions. He finally ended up as leader of the Third Armored Division, after a promotion to the rank of major general.
One of the many accomplishments of the Third Armored was its longest single-day advance through enemy territory, in the history of mechanized warfare — 101 miles through Central Germany. He was, in fact, the first to cross into Germany.
Other accomplishments credited to Rose’s name included negotiation of the German army’s surrender in Tunisia and aiding the 101st Airborne at Carentan. His division also halted the German advance to the Meuse River.
On March 30, 1945, Rose was riding with his staff in a jeep near the front of a Third Armored column, when the troops came upon a German armored column. The American Jeep became wedged between the Nazi tank and a tree trunk as the driver attempted to escape, and the occupants were dumped out.
As Rose’s crew scattered, the German tank commander popped out of his tank, waving his machine pistol. The Nazi soldier fired at Rose, as the latter reached for his holster, either to shoot back or surrender his gun. Rose was instantly killed. .
What set Rose apart from the other military commanders was his aggressive style, commanding from the front, rather than from the rear. He was the highest-ranking American officer killed in Europe during the Second World War.
He is the recipient of many high awards and honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award after the Medal of Honor. Rose is buried in the American Military Cemetery, in the Netherlands.
Throughout his Army career, Rose was more interested in service than in accolades. More than 70 years after his death, we can honor his life.

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The Omer: Counting the days to Sinai

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
These days, many of us are obsessed with counting, whether it is calories, or steps or something else. We have always counted days to different events, counted how old we are, or other “counts” we may be interested in. This brings us to the ritual of today – Counting the Omer.
Here is the scoop on Omer counting, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. There is a special period between Passover and Shavuot called sefirah, meaning counting. The practice is observed from the night of the second seder until the eve of Shavuot, and is counted every evening after nightfall. When we count the Omer, we are counting the days on which the Omer offering of the new barley crop was brought to the Temple. This connects the Exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Tradition has it that the Israelites were told that the Torah would be given to them 50 days after the exodus. According to Leviticus 23:15-16, they were so eager for it, that they began to count the days, saying, “Now we have one day less to wait for the giving of the Torah.”
During this time period, we observe by refraining from joyous events and other customs; for much of our history, it seems as though massacres have taken place during Omer. The one day off from mourning is Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day between Pesach and Shavout.
A good book that discusses the Omer is “Omer: A Counting,” by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, and published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In her introduction, Kedar said that, “time, in the Jewish consciousness, is purposeful and directed, ripe with potential and filled with meaning. Yet even as we look toward the future, counting each day forces us to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of the moment. Every day presents us with the choice to stay where we are, to revert to where we have been, or to progress toward fulfilling our destiny.” Her book provides the right blessings and words to say during the Omer, plus something to think about each day.
There are also several apps, available for laptop and tablets, and Android and iPhones, to help you count the Omer. These apps remind you each day to say the correct blessing; they also provide some thoughts and insights about Omer.
Whether you count the Omer using the pages of a book or apps on your phone, here is hoping that trying this ritual provides meaning for you and your family.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Cleansing the soul during Pesach

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

By Rabbi Michael Kushnick

Preparing for Pesach requires an incredible amount of time and energy. Shopping, cleaning, kashering and cooking are just a few of the tasks that must be completed before the holiday begins. There is a significant concern for ridding every part of our home of chametz (leavening) during the preparation. The different methods of removing chametz from our homes might be tedious, but the work needed to accomplish this makes a lot of sense. We become obsessed with removing physical chametz. In fact we rid ourselves of chametz in three ways: By selling it by searching for and burning it; and finally, by declaring that anything left is no longer ours. By following this process, we not only remove chametz from our homes, we also gain a spiritual insight into our lives.
The rabbis suggest that chametz transcends the physical world. Chametz also symbolizes the puffiness of the self; an inflated personality and an enlarged ego. To some degree, everyone has these traits. It is human nature to experience these feelings, but it is not good; it harms others as well as ourselves. What if, during the preparation, we were as obsessed with ridding our own bodies of chametz as we are with removing it from our homes? Just like in the home, when we find one crumb of chametz and quickly search for the next, so too in your soul, when you find one instance of chametz — of inflated ego — quickly search for the next instance. Try to dig deep inside your soul by focusing on your conduct since the previous Passover. Isolate the occasions during which you might have acted with an inflated ego, and make a list of those occasions. The list should help you understand a pattern, know if you’ve wronged someone else, and how to repair that wrongdoing. It is hard work, but it is necessary work.
Let’s not lose sight of what Pesach is truly about: Ridding all chametz — both spiritual and physical — from the world. When we do this, we can be the holy people that God brought out of Egypt.
Next year, may we be free from all forms of an inflated self and ego, and truly live as free people.
Rabbi Michael Kushnick has served at Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano since 2013.

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‘The Brink’ fuels Bannon’s media machine

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

Several weeks have elapsed since I saw “The Brink,” enough time for me to catch my thoughts and think in terms of commenting on them. By now, you either know Steve Bannon, or you don’t. I recommend you get to know him — for the first time or not — by seeing this film. It should amaze you.
Frankly, I lost track of Bannon soon after he left the Trump White House, after his efforts at fundraising had been so hugely successful. He had other fields to plow. This one-time strategist, banker, news maven, etc., went on another kick, and was just as successful, at least for a while.
How could so many people of great wealth and influence in their own countries fall under Bannon’s spell? He’s not an orator; he’s an under-shaved, overweight man with a big mouth to match his waistline. But when he speaks, certain people like what he says. Those people — many of them here in America — like what he says about creating a populist movement, not “just” to make our country great again a la Trump, but to make it again what it was in its earliest days. These individuals forget they were immigrants themselves, a nation of snowy white Protestants. To them, everyone else, even the Pope, is in the wrong camp. The right one — the only right one — is Bannon’s.
It’s interesting to watch him in this film, as Bannon is being his own overbearing, insulting, abrasive self. You can see him in triumph and in defeat. In truth, both are the same, because he is a true believer in the old, much-debated axiom that any kind of publicity is good, as long as they spell your name correctly. Even the worst publicity is better than none. And, the film shows him getting plenty of both — but mostly of the best, as crowds cheer, raise signs and wear caps left over from the Trump campaign.
You may consider Bannon the hero or the villain of this film, which dares you to differentiate. To me, the real hero, the main figure, doesn’t show her face at all. Alison Klayman, a talented moviemaker, somehow managed to get her subject to agree to this. She had permission to follow him everywhere — on airplanes, to stage appearances, in private conferences with a few world bigwigs, and as his lone self on the telephone, berating others with words I dare not put into print here. At first, I wondered how she accomplished this feat, which I thought then was a miracle. Later, I realized this film is in total agreement with his love of publicity. As long as he is center stage — in the center of a real stage, or sitting by himself with a telephone resting on his saggy belly as he roars into its mouthpiece — he’s getting the publicity he craves, and loves. For a while, I actually wondered if Klayman sold her soul to the devil for this opportunity. How naïve I was.
I have a dear old friend who has always been a student of politics. “I think Bannon really believes the stuff that he spews out,” is his opinion. “He wants to be seen as the prophetic visionary of what he imagines is ahead: His dream, fully realized. He is the American John the Baptist.”
But it’s not his dream just for America, but for the whole world. In this film, you see him in action to sell the dream to the public, with many successes. He is brought down, in the end, but is off again. Not on screen, but in public, continuing to bring his message of “populism” —rule by people he thinks are fit to rule — to everyone who will listen. And who won’t? He’s compelling just because he is so much a figure you wouldn’t believe anyone would believe: An unshaved, overweight slob with a big mouth — who, for better or worse, knows how to use it.

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High Holidays, repentance; Pesach, education

Posted on 18 April 2019 by admin

Growing up in Dallas, and attending one of the area’s largest synagogues, each holiday had its own distinct flavor and associations. The High Holidays represented a tedious mental marathon — staying hours in shul — with a few rest stops. We, the elementary school children, sat next to our parents in a packed room, antsy and confused by the complex service, while a visiting cantor chanted solemn psalms in unfamiliar melodies.
The rabbi’s sermon usually entailed a theatrical demonstration of intelligence that centered on a select theme, carefully injected with witty quotes and an unhealthy dose of personal political commentary, that tickled sympathizers, while infuriating certain intellectuals.
Shortly before the sermon, anticipating the upcoming stretch of boredom, we pleaded with our parents for a bathroom break. If they agreed, we quickly headed for the exit before the two men closest to the exit could lock us in. Once the sermon began, we were trapped. But outside the sanctuary doors, we felt free.
Roaming the empty halls with fresh excitement, we met up with friends, a gathering of kids from different schools around Dallas, who had also managed to escape. The fun lasted until one of the older members of the congregation spotted us laughing and socializing. He then marched down the hall, shouting and scolding the group for being outside the sanctuary (or youth classes), and did his best to chase each kid back from where they came. So went the High Holidays, year after year.
The Pesach Seder carried an entirely different vibe; it was our chance to participate. Even within the familiar passages of the Haggadah, there was always room for investigation and fresh insights. Though the event ran long, it imparted a unique Jewish experience, far more profound than steaming matzo ball soup or the 10 plagues with colorful props. It was a night of adventure, where we were transported in time. Imagination merged with ancient mystical memories. If the dogs suddenly barked during the meal, we half-joked it was because Elijah the Prophet must have entered the house for his cup of wine. As the evening wound down and I listened to my father lead the “benching” (Birkat Hamazon, Grace after Meals) at the top of his lungs, I wondered if, one day, I’d be able to do the same for my family and guests.
Indeed, Pesach is considered the prime opportunity for education. On Pesach, the focus is on teaching the children, connecting to our past and planting seeds for the future.
The focus on children
There are many rituals to fulfill on Pesach night — eating matzo, drinking four cups of wine, bitter herbs, telling the Exodus story well. One of the first and most memorable acts, however, is the dipping in salt water, a custom instituted to awaken the children’s curiosity. The rest of the remaining rituals, likewise, offer a multisensory, interactive, hands-on learning experience — the building blocks of early education.
Keeping the children’s interest and providing them with a fun experience at the table is only the first step. The real concern is what significant long-term messages we want to impart. One obvious objective is to reinforce the collective destiny — the struggle to emerge from a people of slaves to a nation of Torah scholars.
This generation is fortunately a step or two removed from the hardships of war times, and certainly the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt. Freedoms are easily taken for granted. As hosts and parents, we must therefore devote time to prepare before the holiday, then be considerate and creative in selecting which excerpts of the Haggadah to unravel, while ensuring all key mitzvot are fulfilled. The practical and challenging goal is to expound without letting the evening drag.
Freedom
The main point of emphasis is cheirut — freedom. Freedom means different things to different people, but there is one aspect of freedom that is replayed in Jewish literature, and has nothing to do with physical comforts. A well-known but puzzling statement in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) stands out: “There is no free individual, except for someone who labors in Torah study.”
At first glance, this statement conveys that, through knowledge and wisdom, a person is set free, reminiscent of the line “the truth will set you free.” But knowledge itself is incomplete without parallel emotional growth and action. Perhaps the statement in Pirkei Avot refers more to one’s commitment to set aside time, throughout a busy year, to explore our rich heritage.
Laboring and feeling free appear to be contradictory. The long, hard Seder night contains an important lesson, both for adult and child. In Torah, a meaningful life involves embracing the grind and challenging yourself to grow, to be better and do more (in a spiritual context it’s called avodah).
I have noticed that people — especially “mystics,” guides or motivators who preach “living each day to the fullest” — often have no children to take care of, no sense of community, responsibility, or loyalty to a higher purpose. They choose to travel rather than host, partake rather than create. Their contrived raison d’être is simply to absorb the sights and sounds of the wonderful world around them — and take one giant vacation from worthwhile struggle.
The soul’s freedom and highest fulfillment is in giving. Her pleasure comes from progressing, and pain comes from inactivity. True joy is the result of working to change yourself and to heal the world in some part (tikkun olam), while sadness comes when we sense stagnation. So, when in someone’s pursuits, the primary focus becomes on retreat, relaxation time and mindfulness meditations, wherein the soul is only taking — something is subtly wrong. They sink deeper into the pits, a pleasant spiritual demise. All the while, the soul craves meaningful toil and mitzvahs.
Freedom stems from a connection to who you are and your purpose, despite the confines of a difficult external situation. But to get acquainted with yourself demands knowing your roots and where you’re going. Hence, the emphasis on learning Torah.
While we measure our High Holiday accomplishments by the level of repentance and resolutions, a successful Pesach rests in education and engaging discussion.

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Freedom can be felt even in midst of slavery

Posted on 18 April 2019 by admin

Pesach sure gives slavery a bad rap. After all, the Seder’s dominant theme is that of the Israelites moving away from slavery and toward a life of freedom. And the rituals of the night serve to accentuate the motif of freedom: The leaning as free men would do, the four cups of wine (the drink of the wealthy and privileged), the custom to decorate the Seder table with one’s finest vessels, the lavish meal and the obligation to see oneself as having left the bondage of Egypt (Sephardim going so far as to physically re-enact the Exodus in the midst of their Seder!). All of this and more turn the Seder night into one big ol’ gratitude-fest — “Thank you Lord for redeeming us from such a dreadful fate! Hallelujah!”
God forbid for myself or anyone else to dismiss or even downplay the depressive plight of the enslaved! Human history has shed its light on the evil that is slavery and the hell that marks its victims. And yet, I sometimes worry that a person could leave the Seder with the wrong impression: that a life has no worth, no value or purpose unless one is free. A “Give me liberty or give me death” kind of sensibility that nips at the hearts of participants around the Seder table. And that’s a shame.
For, unwittingly as it may be, such attitudes diminish the meaning of the existences of the millions upon millions of people who have lived throughout human history as enslaved peoples, many never getting close enough to even sniff the fresh air of freedom. Not to mention the many long portions of Jewish history itself riddled with slavery or slavery-like persecution in exile! Are we to argue that those stretches of Jewish history served as mere layovers toward a brighter national future? How sad, indeed, it would be if life’s meaning could so easily be stripped away from humanity at the hands of history’s oppressors!
And yet many believe just that. People like Anthony Ray Hinton, who came to believe that the powers that be could steal his life and reason-to-be away from him. He was a poor black man convicted by a jury of all white Southerners of murdering two fast-food managers and attempting to murder a third who thankfully survived a gunshot to the head, but sadly pointed out Hinton from a police lineup as the shooter (Hinton had actually been checked in at his job, surrounded by co-workers at the time of the attempted murder, but his ill-equipped court-appointed lawyer never bothered to put his co-workers on the stand).
Hinton was enraged. And rightly so. He was an innocent man that the state wanted to kill in order to move on from these grisly crimes. There was no physical evidence linking Hinton to the murders, but a shoddy ballistics report claiming that the bullets found at the crime scenes matched Anthony’s mother’s gun (almost three decades later this report would be debunked by national ballistics experts). And now, that which was left of his life had been reduced to a long waiting game for a date with the electric chair located just 40 feet from his holding cell. And what great meaning could there be in that? There were no great choices one could make on death row, no family one could grow or meaningful work to engage in. Anthony Hinton lived with these pervading thoughts for the first three years of what would become an almost 30-year stint in isolation on Alabama’s death row.
But one particularly gloomy night changed everything for the young convict. It was common at nighttime to hear sounds of crying and moaning on The Row. You learned to tune it out. But tonight was different. It was a soul-piercing cry, and it went on and on and on.
Anthony recalls his thoughts from that night. Thoughts that would alter his existence for the rest of his time in lockup.
“I thought again about all the choices I didn’t have and about freedom, and then the man stopped crying and there was a silence that was louder than any noise I’d ever heard. What if this man killed himself tonight and I did nothing? Wouldn’t that be a choice?
“I was on death row not by my own choice, but I had made the choice to spend the last three years thinking about killing McGregor [the state’s prosecutor] and thinking about killing myself. Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me. I may not have had as many as Lester [Anthony’s best friend from the outside] had, but I still had some choices. I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice.
“‘Hey!’ I walked up to my cell door and yelled toward the crying man. ‘Are you all right over there?’”
These were the first words that Anthony had uttered since he had entered death row three years prior. He had been silently protesting the entirety of it all, and refused to speak to anyone but the few outsiders who came to visit him on visiting day. But now he realized his words could also be used for the good.
It turned out that the crying inmate had recently received word that his mother had died, and Anthony’s words of care and concern opened the door for the other inmate to share his pain with another and heal in the process.
Anthony comforted the man:
“I’m sorry you lost your mom, but man, you got to look at this a different way. Now you have someone in heaven who’s going to argue your case before God.”
And then “the most amazing thing happened. On a dark night, in what must surely be the most desolate and dehumanizing place on earth, a man laughed. A real laugh. And with that laughter, I realized that the State of Alabama could steal my future and my freedom, but they couldn’t steal my soul or my humanity. And they most certainly couldn’t steal my sense of humor (“The Sun Does Shine,” pp. 115-118).”

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The ‘why’ of Pesach

Posted on 18 April 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
So many traditions shape the Passover Seder, from family to family, and over generations and cultures. However, in the words of Simon Sinek, the “why” of Passover is more important that the “how” and the “what.” Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” will change how you look at life.
So, starting Passover with “why” is perfect, because the heart of the holiday is knowing the story and understanding why it is still relevant today. This is also why, each year, I challenge others to find new and different Haggadot; each one provides a new twist on an ancient story, while helping us understand the past, the present and the future. Additionally, the Seder is designed to make us ask questions: Why the four cups of wine, why the charoses, why the plagues, why those rabbis in Bnei Brak? The questions go on and on.
The challenge is to encourage questions, and to ask them, at the Seder. No answer is wrong. We learn that from the Talmudic sages, who kept all the answers to Torah questions, even when one was considered the answer to follow. We can now look back to any tractate of Talmud and see the ongoing discussions; that is what questioning is all about.
This brings me to something that happened in my prekindergarten Torah class. One little boy told me he had a book that indicated the fourth plague was a swarm of insects. I had told him that plague was wild beasts, so I told him I would check.
My research took me to four different translations and commentaries; some focused on insects, while others specified wild beasts. When I Googled the issue, I was led to Chabad.org’s “Ask a Rabbi” section. So, I did. Within 24 hours I received this response: The Hebrew word for the fourth plague is arov, which translates into “a mixture.” The more common interpretation is a mixture of wild beasts, though the less common interpretation is a swarm of insects. Then he gave me a link to an article on the topic, which showed I wasn’t the only one asking this question. I was excited to receive the response, but did it work for me or my 4-year-old student? I think he was happy with the answer. But I had more questions.
The most important lesson here is to not stop asking questions, and to be open to exploring different answers. Such an answer could help you today, even if tomorrow you have another question. The best part of being Jewish is that we can keep asking and questioning. We learn more by questioning. So, remember this Passover to add, and ask, questions at every meal you have with family and friends.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Death of patriarch prompts questions

Posted on 18 April 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
My father passed away this past year. I will be leading the family Seder this year for the first time; we are expecting 30 people. My father held a somewhat traditional Seder, which didn’t go too far in holding the interest of people our generation and younger. What points do you think should be stressed in a Seder? Also, is there a Haggadah that would help make this Seder more relevant?
Art K.
Dear Art,
I am sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I’m sure your running the Seder in his stead and honor will bring him much nachas as he participates from on high.
I’m not sure how your father led the Seders, but yours should be conducted mostly in English, so all will understand the meaning of what is being said. Even if songs you sing from the Haggadah are in Hebrew, be sure someone reads the English first, so everyone understands the meaning of the songs.
An important point to stress is that the Haggadah story is the first time in history God revealed Himself to the entire world. Egypt was the seat of world trade and culture at that time, and people from all the inhabited world frequented that country for trade and other reasons. The 10 plagues took place over a period of 10 months, close to an entire year, in front of the entire civilized world. This showed the world there is a Creator who knows what is going on in the world, who controls and interacts with people, and even speaks to them directly. This event caused a paradigm shift in the world’s concept of God. This shift continued through Sinai and the following 40 years in the desert. Our belief in God and what He stands for came from this period. The Passover story is the key to the core Jewish belief in God.
Another key concept to stress is that of appreciation. All Seder rituals express our thanks to God for having redeemed us from Egypt and all the troubled times throughout our often-rocky history. Many have said that the greatest miracle since leaving Egypt is that we have survived. When is the last time you bumped into an Egyptian, a Babylonian, or even a Roman in Tom Thumb? Jews were the downtrodden, the vanquished, and they were the powerful conquerors, so where are they? The Seder focuses on appreciation and thanksgiving, and ends with the Hallel prayer, a prayer of thanks in its entirety. Some classical commentators stress that we need to tell the Seder story in a way that allows all participants to feel they have been redeemed, and to express their appreciation to God. This also is meant to be the cornerstone of teaching Jews to be an appreciative people, always expressing their thanks, not only to God, but to anyone from whom they benefit.
Finally, the real key to a meaningful Seder is to make it fun. Use your imagination to dress up the room or the table in a way which will draw everyone in. Use toy animals and army men to act out the plagues or to tell the story of slavery. A handful of marbles (or small Passover marshmallows) can create great hail. I always strongly recommend the “Passover Survival Kit Haggadah” (Shimon Apisdorf/Leviathan Press), which makes the Seder fun, meaningful and relevant.
Good luck with your Seder this year. I wish you and all the readers a pleasant and successful journey in making this year’s Seder the best one ever.

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Connecting the Passover and Easter dots

Posted on 18 April 2019 by admin

At my last Rotary Club meeting, I had the pleasure of presenting some interesting highlights and sidelights on the connections between Passover and Easter.
My club is a small one, about 20 members. We’re all Rotarians because we believe in the purpose of something that was started many years ago by a Chicago businessman — a Jewish man, at that — who believed that bringing businessmen together informally would be a good thing. Paul Harris recruited two friends — not Jewish — for lunch meetings. From this tiny seed grew a worldwide movement devoted to doing good things for others, based on telling the truth, being fair and helping those who need it.
There are only two Jews in my club. The rest are a mixed bag of Christians, all denominations, including one Baptist minister. And from time to time, I get the chance to share bits of my Judaism with them.
Yes, they all know, and agree, that Jesus’ last supper was indeed a Passover Seder. At our meeting, I went over the elements of the Seder, the meanings of our symbolic foods, the way our faiths come together at these springtime holidays with eggs — the universal symbol of life; greenery — the abiding sign of spring; lamb — the sacrificial animal: salvation through blood on doorposts for us, salvation through the blood of Jesus for them. Shouldn’t we, as Jews, all recognize that our Exodus was the reason Jesus has come to be called by Christians “the lamb of God”?
The goblet Christians say Jesus held aloft at his Last Supper as he proclaimed “This is my blood” was one of the four cups we drink at our Seder table. And, the bread he broke as he said “This is my body”? It was surely matzah. To this day, Christians of many faiths take “communion,” their coming together as closely as they can with Jesus, through wafers. Wafers are essentially unleavened bread.
I could go on like this for a long time — and, indeed, I did so at my Rotary Club meeting. But I finally ended with two facts of which many Jews and Christians are unaware. First, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey for that fateful Passover Seder, he was met by many who already revered him for defying the hard lines of the priests and adapting much to the level of the common folk. I count myself among those who consider Jesus the first Reform Jew. But those palm fronds grew in significance after his death, and this is what today’s Palm Sunday is all about! Palm branches are gathered to decorate churches, and some Christians — notably Catholics — burn them afterward. Then they gather the residue and save it for Ash Wednesday. Those ashes are used to mark the foreheads of worshippers as the Easter season begins, with hope for new and better life in the coming year.
And here is the second fact. In some synagogues, there is a special box, not much noticed or even talked about, sometimes attached to a high wall in the sanctuary. In it is a piece of matzo saved from the Seder of the previous year. Each year, after the Seder concludes, that box is opened and the old matzo is replaced with a new piece. This symbolizes continuity, with hope for new and better life in the coming year.
We have given so much to the religions that grew after ours, out of very Jewish roots. I have the great opportunity — small as it is — in Rotary, to help others know those roots, so that what may grow now is for more Christians to acknowledge and bless their own debt to our Judaism.
May your Seder tables be beautiful and bountiful, and herald a good year to come — for all of us.

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Another perspective on palliative pain control

Posted on 11 April 2019 by admin

By Cantor Sheri Allen

I read with great interest Rabbi Fried’s response to “Yuri, M.D.” regarding whether or not pain medication could be administered to a dying patient (in intractable pain) in a dose that would essentially lead to the patient’s immediate death (TJP, March 28, 2019). Rabbi Fried responded that the mitigation of pain is of the highest priority, and as long as the intent was to control pain and not kill the patient, and was administered by a medical professional, then the obligation to not let the patient suffer would take precedence over the risk that the patient might die, or his/her death might be hastened, as a result of the increased dosage. He reasons, “We are only allowed to take a risk to take the patient out of his or her suffering, not to administer a medication that would clearly kill the patient or with the intention of hastening his or her death.”
But that was not the scenario that the reader described, so Rabbi Fried concluded, “Your situation would, then, not be permitted, as we never have the license to take the life of a patient, and you said that the physician knows the dose requested by the patient will take his life.” So the answer hinges on intent. And if, in fact, the doctor knew for a fact that the dosage he was about to give would kill the patient, then I would have to concur with Rabbi Fried — he/she is forbidden by halacha and most state laws (with the exception of seven U.S. states and the District of Columbia) to administer the increased dosage.
But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the Office of Clinical Ethics and Palliative Care for Baylor Scott and White Health in Dallas, states that it is very difficult to determine with certainty how much pain medication will cause a patient’s death. In fact, he sites research that challenges the assumption that administering opioids in the setting of serious illness hastens death, stating, “When administered properly, there is no evidence such medicine kills the patient, and there is some evidence that failure to treat pain hastens death because pain is stressful and stress is harmful. Sure, there is a dose that one can argue one knows is inherently fatal — however it is not clear to me what the dose is in an absolute sense — it will vary from patient to patient. Furthermore, opioids as a means of causing death are so unpredictable that states who execute persons on death row don’t use opioids to carry out the execution. Opioids just aren’t very good drugs for killing people.”
Assuming there is no clear-cut formula for “dosing a patient to death” (unless a doctor was completely negligent and knowingly administered the medication improperly), we can therefore assume that his/her only intent would be to mitigate pain and suffering. After studying this issue, in a teshuvah (ruling) for the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbi Elliot Dorff concludes, “In an attempt to alleviate the severe pain of a person in the last stages of dying, morphine and other pain medications may be administered in doses sufficient to dull the pain, even if this simultaneously hastens the person’s death. The intent to treat is the crucial factor.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Rabbi Fried that “watching the suffering of another is a profoundly difficult thing to endure.” But I don’t necessarily believe that “we need to entrust the suffering of the patient to the just judgment of God.” That’s why humans (with God’s help!) created hospice (full disclosure: I’m a hospice chaplain). The intent of hospice is to provide comfort at the end of life – emotional, social, spiritual and of course physical comfort, the latter of which requires a variety of appropriately dosed medications, including opioids in many cases. If administered correctly, patients will be relieved of their suffering, and family will be spared the pain of witnessing it, and can concentrate on simply being a caring, loving presence for their loved ones.
Sheri Allen is the part-time Cantor for Congregation Beth Shalom, and a chaplain for the Jewish patients at Vitas Healthcare Fort Worth.

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