Monthly Archives: March 2012

Goldfish and good times

Photo from here
Growing up as a “traditional” Jew, Purim was always fun. Mostly because of the potential to win a goldfish and see how long they would live. My congregation’s Purim carnival was not only fun (even when I had to help run it as an NCSYer), but brought our members out of the sanctuary and the social hall and down into the basement. Aside from throwing ping pong balls into cups filled with goldfish, we played musical chairs, the fishing for a prize game, and if you had enough tickets you could put someone in “jail”. There were other games too, but these come to mind. The whole “Shaloch Manos” thing was pretty much confined to Sunday and Hebrew School.  It, for sure, wasn’t on our family’s radar.  All in all, it was a fun holiday when I was growing up.  Good time…good times.
I wax nostalgic and remember being surrounded by the people my family was close with as we celebrated what I understood as a victory for the Jews.  The feeling of being part of a community was overpowering.  Looking back now, it was a feeling of achdus.  Maybe because we were a massive minority in Wichita, KS, but we had such pride (especially on Purim) about being Jewish.    
I think about this now, as an adult, because the value of having fun in Judaism is something that I that I feel is important.  The mitzvos ha yom all involve connecting with others and giving, but we have to make it fun. It’s often easy to focus on our costumes, d’vrai Torah, and rushing around assemble and then deliver Shaloch Manos.  I know that sometimes I’m running around so much that I forget the simcha shel mitzvah and the simchas ha chaim.  Those are two things are worth giving over to others on Purim.

An inspiring evening

Art found here

Monday evening I attended an informal dinner meeting hosted by Chai Lifeline to hear about a proposal for bike riders from Chicago to join in the amazing BIKE4CHAI 150 mile ride in NJ that ends at Camp Simcha. It’s an interesting idea that I’m really considering, since this year’s Bike the Drive event is on Shavuos.

That night I met two very inspiring people.  The first person was also attending our meeting.  He’s a 75 year old businessman who has joined the ALYN ride six years in a row.  ALYN’s ride is an intense 5 day ride in Eretz Yisrael along some serious routes. His biking chevrusa (and gemara chevrusa) also was at the meeting and related that this 75 year old man doesn’t get off his bike to walk up any of the inclines on the ALYN ride…amazing!  To be 75 years old and have that much koach is something to admire.

After our meeting, a man at the next table in the restaurant came over and asked the Chai Lifeline representatives, Rabbi Sruli Fried (director of Chai Lifeline NJ) and Rabbi Shlomo Crandall (director of Chai Lifeline Midwest) about their program.  As introductions were being made, it turns out that this fellow (a medical doctor visiting Chicago for a meeting) is, in fact, the founder of  He started the website in the mid 1990’s and doesn’t solicit donations or have advertisements on the site to help offset the maintenace costs.  He is one of the most l’shaim shamayim people I’ve ever met.