Monday, January 11, 2010

The Difference

Although, technically speaking, my job involves teaching Jewish texts; I see it as so much more. My students often make the claim that there is no reason to learn the texts in the original Hebrew or Aramaic being that that they can use the readily available English translations. “What’s the difference Rabbi?” they ask.

As with most of the country, it has been cold where I live. Not just cold, painfully cold. As such, I have been running, if I can use that term for an action that involves staying in place, on the treadmill. It seems like no big deal. After all, other than the lack of downhills, the treadmill does a pretty good job of replicating the exercise experience of running. Again, what’s the difference?

I discovered the difference on Friday when I convinced myself to go for a real run. Yes, it was cold, but it felt so good to get out there and breathe fresh cool air. Good to leave the artificial cocoon in which I had ensconced myself. Good to leave the regulated temperature and ESPN behind. Instead of listening to weight machines clanging in the background, I heard the ducks as I ran around the lake. Instead of staring at the TV screen, I glimpsed the clear blue sky. It was real. I felt alive.

I can’t say that it changed me for good. It was colder yesterday and I was back on the treadmill. I know that if I didn’t have membership at the Y, I would have no choice but to run outside everyday, as not running is not an option. For now, at least, I know the difference.
Please help Chai Lifeline’s kids, as a merit for Rabbi Avi Feder, by clicking on the following link:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pass It On

“When I was young, I wanted to change the world. As I got older, I wanted to change my community. Now that I am old, I wish to change myself”. When I first heard these words, I thought that the rabbi who had said them meant to convey the futility of changing the behavior of others. It seems to me he had something else in mind. I can not change the world by working on “them”. I can only do so by changing myself.

There is a wonderful article in the current issue of Runners World magazine about a young child who decides to run a mile with his father. The author, who is the boy’s father, with the totally appropriate name of Mark Parent, makes clear that he never encouraged his son to join him. Rather, almost as if by osmosis, his son, mirroring his father decided to be like his dad. Mr. Parent references an amazing study that demonstrates that change when other people view their friends and family making improvements in their own lives.

What a wonderful idea! Want to make the world a nicer place? Refrain from moralizing. Instead act nicer. Want your family to make healthier choices? Join a gym. Is your goal to spread spirituality? Start y becoming a more spiritual person. We get to help others by helping ourselves. Pass it on.