This is an important event, important enough that I’m volunteering my time to help. The event is free and is open from 11am-3pm on Sunday, July 20th, 2014.
Hi, I know that I haven’t written anything fresh in a while. Thanks because I’ve been trying to spend more time with my family after work. When they are asleep I’ve been biking, since I will be biking on Lake Shore Drive this Sunday, May 25th more than 50 miles. This is my 7th year joining Chai Lifeline’s Bike The Drive. I’m please to say that, so far, I have raised more than $1200, but I want to do more. This is where YOU come in. If you have ever liked something that I have posted, hated something that I wrote, or just come to my blog for 3 seconds and leave then I’m addressing YOU.
If possible, please sponsor me by going here. All donations are tax deductible and the website will accept sponsors until Monday, May 26th. Plus there’s a link on the top of that page to my embarrassing YouTube video I posted. Thanks!!!!!
May 9, 2014
The pursuit of uncool
By NEIL HARRIS
If you ask my wife and three kids (a boy, 14 and two girls, 11 and 7) if I am a good father, I’m not sure what they would answer. If you ask them if they think I’m a cool abba, they’ll tell you that I used to be cool. Being cool is a choice. I spent, what seems like months, saying to my own children. “Kids, I really am cool.”
I tried explaining to them about the glory of the 80s and how music was much better back then, especially the stuff that fell into the categories of college radio and punk. I tried showing them how a bunch of my friends all dressed differently than everyone else (we all mostly wore black…very original). I told my daughters that I had crazy hairspray and hair dryer skills that they couldn’t even dream about. It was never a conscious choice, but during high school and the beginning of college I was seen as being “cool.”
I know plenty of parents that go out of their way to appear cool to their kids. They might try to friend their kids and their kids’ friends on Facebook, be up on the latest music, novels, and texting abbreviations. If that works for you and the relationship you want to have with our kids, more power to you. I eventually gave up and just accepted the fact that I was no longer cool. I stopped trying to be cool in their eyes.
It was much easier than I thought it would be. However, I found that the choice of not being cool opened up a whole new avenue of going out of my way to be uncool. I had thoughts of calling my kids’ friends by nicknames that only I would understand. I had visions of interrupting play dates my kids had by doing the robot dance. To my family’s delight, I rarely acted upon these examples.
What I did implement was a conscious choice to show my kids that I wasn’t cool. Again, I am far from a model parent, but this mindset has fostered a more positive relationship with my kids. This was much easier than I thought in some aspects. My wife and I have always stressed to our children that there are things our family does and it might be a little different than other what other families do. There are TV shows, music, and movies that we feel are appropriate and others that are not. These decisions to be uncool, at times, are not easy, but my kids have learned that my wife and I are willing to listen to their points of view and if we are swayed to their side it is solely because they have valid reasons and not because we are looking to be “those parents,” the ones that propel the parent/child relationship with the fuel of coolness.
Rabbi Joseph Hurwitz (1847-1919), known as the Elder of Novardok (a city in Belarus) taught that, “When the world means nothing, life means everything.” I have always looked at this quote as a message that we have to stand our ground sometimes. We shouldn’t always do things that the masses are doing, especially if it goes against our value system. When we stop worrying about what others think is when we can have opportunities to do what we know is the right thing in life. This is something that we can’t lecture our kids about; it is something that we have to show by example. I am no poster child for leading by example all the time. I am, however, blessed with three great kids who are learning the importance of doing the right thing, which is a foundation of Judaism.
Neil Harris and his family live in West Rogers Park and, aside from being uncool, he works in commercial finance and writes monthly for Oy! Chicago.
Originally posted in JUF NEWS-May 9th, 2014
Once in a while, I merit to have a good idea come down to me from Hashem. I admit, it is pretty rare, but when it does happen I am pretty darn grateful.
Prior to Pesach I had made plans with 4 other families to go to a White Sox game with my kids on Thursday of Chol HaMoed. I knew that within our group we would have 7 adult males (4 fathers and 3 post Bar Mitzvah boys). I decided to put the word out on Facebook, Twitter, and emailed a bunch of fellow residents of the Chicago area to see if we could get a Maariv minyan at the beginning of the 7th inning. Quickly I got a response from a friend that he would be there and also 2 other guys. Then another guy (didn’t know him prior to the game, but I’m glad I’m friends with him now) and his son said they would join in, too. As we got to the stadium and parked, my son noticed a car of 3 other guys parking right next to us and I quickly told them about the minyan, as well.
When it came time to daven we had just over 17 people, including someone saying Kaddish and someone who had a Yahrzeit. The Sox lost, but I don’t think it was related to our minyan.
Here’s the important part, really. I’m not posting this because I’m looking to blow my own shofar, I’m posting this because each of us has a way we that we can help others and add to the “quality” of our community (or a community of baseball fans). I often go through periods when I know I should be doing more with myself on a communal level. I know there’s, like, volumes more what I’m meant to be doing for Klal Yisrael beyond my role within my family and immediate friends, but I just don’t (for a number of reasons). I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. I’m, again, grateful that I was open to receiving an opportunity this time and acting upon it…this time.
This Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the day school community of Chicago has an opportunity to hear from on the experts on Bullying, Dr. Rona Novick.* Not only is she a nationwide expert on this subject, but she an amazing and engaging speaker.
Day School Parents, Educators & Board Members
are cordially invited to attend a Dessert Reception
on behalf of the Jewish United Fund
Bully, Bullied or Bystander: The Roles Children Play
Featuring nationally acclaimed guest speaker
Dr. Rona Novick
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Desert reception – 7:15 PM – 8:30 PM
Holiday Inn North Shore
5300 West Touhy Avenue, Skokie
Reservations required, Dietary laws observed, Valet parking available
A meaningful gift to the 2014 Jewish United Fund Annual Campaign is strongly encouraged.
For more information, please contact Mindy Bass at 312-444-2839 or email@example.com.
Reservations are required
* Rona Novick, PhD is the director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Doctoral Program at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University and Associate Clinical Professor of Child Psychology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Dr. Novick also serves as Co-Educational Director of the Hidden Sparks program, providing consultation to day schools and Yeshivas. Dr. Novick received her PHD from Rutgers University and completed her doctoral internship at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. She developed the Alliance for School Mental Health at North-Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center and served as its director for eight years, authoring the BRAVE bully prevention program for schools. She is recognized for her expertise in behavior management and child behavior therapy and has published scholarly articles on school applications of behavior management, children and trauma and bully prevention in schools. She has delivered numerous presentations at national and international conferences, focusing on her research interests in parenting and parent-school partnerships, child anxiety disorders, social-emotional learning and the behavior and development of young children. She is the author of a book for parents: Helping Your Child Make Friends, and editor of the book series Kids Don’t Come With Instruction Manuals
I am grateful to all of my previous sponsors and I know that you will, once again, help me reach my goal. All you need to do is to make any donation that you can! If interested, please feel free to forward email to anyone you feel might be open to this opportunity to help. Feel free to spread the word via social media, as well (don’t worry, I will also be using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get the word out). To sponsor me all you need to do is to go to:
AJOP‘s e-newsletter had this awesome link:
Pretty darn cool!
Nice song by Shyne with Naftali Kalfa and Piamenta. This isn’t exactly my style of music, but Piamenta is…Piamenta.
See it here.
While in the past I have attempted to post something close to the 25th of Shevat, when Rabbi Yisrael Salanter zt’l was niftar. I am opting to repost the text of a little pamphlet I put together. Rabbi Micha Berger also has a great post, here.
If interested there is also a biography of R Yisrael Salanter zt’l from 1899 that I posted a while back, here.
אמת – שלא להוציא מן הפה דבר שאין הלב מעיד על אמיתותו.
Truth– Never speak a word unless your heart can testify to its truth.
Do the words we speak to others clearly reflect the feelings in our heart? It is vital that when we talk with our friends or family members we open up ourselves and show them who we really are. Our heart serves as a witness to what we say and who we are. The gemara in Yoma 69b states that Hashem’s “seal” is אמת, truth. By committing to speak the truth in all matters, we are connecting to Hashem in a very powerful way.
-שלא לבטל רגע לבטלה. כן לעשות מה שדרוש לעשות.זריזות
Alacrity– Never waste a single moment; do what has to be done.
Do you grab moments in life or do they slip away? This middah is about grabbing the opportunities that Hashem puts in front of us when they come our way. When it comes to doing what has to be done, it’s all about priorities. Some things are clearly not as important to do as others. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim says that we learn alacrity from Avraham. Before the Akeida, he “woke up early in the morning” (Bereishis 22:3). We are not just talking about mitzvos, though. We have to approach daily tasks with this same energy. It can be emails in your inbox, dishes in the sink, an assignment in school, or laundry. Things need to be accomplished in a timely fashion.
חריצות – לעשות מה שהוחלט לעשות בשקידה וברגש.
Diligence– Do what you have determined to do and do it with feeling.
How long is your “to do” list? If you are like most people, just when you take one thing off your list, two more are written down. While the previous middah dealt with doing what has to be done in a timely manner, this is different. This middah is more about actualizing your decisions by following through. We can make plans to exercise, start dieting, or even to learn more Torah, but for many these are just “plans”. Making up my mind is only step one. Step two is to make it happen. Rabbi Yisrael teaches us the secret to following step two. He says, “Do it with feeling.” To take an idea or make a decision and bring it into this world is a powerful thing. When we are passionate about what we try to do, we are that much closer to success.
כבוד – להיזהר בכבוד כל אדם ואפילו של זה שאין אנו תמימי דעה עמו.
Honor: Be careful to treat all people with honor, even those with whom you have little in common.
Do you treat everyone you know with honor? The idea behind this middah is that everyone is created in the image of Hashem, even if we don’t like them. This means that we have to recognize that their neshama (soul) is connected to Hashem. We all know sometimes it’s easier to be nice to strangers in a store than it is with those that we live with. To be known as a nice person on the street isn’t a big deal. Being a nice person when we enter the front door of our homes is much more difficult. There are people you meet in life that you simply find it difficult to connect with or even get along with. They might be more or less observant than you, daven somewhere else, or have totally different values than you do. We can’t forget that they are also created by Hashem.
מנוחה – מנוחת הנפש, לבלי היות מבוהל ולעשות כל דבר במנוחה.
Tranquility: Find an inner calmness; do not be overwhelmed; always act with deliberation.
Do you find time to relax and chill out? The middah of menucha, or tranquility, is an important and overlooked trait. We are all so concerned about staying connected and running from place to place that it’s easy to forget that we need to have a feeling of calmness within us. Rabbi Salanter urges us not to get overwhelmed with life, especially with problems that arise. If I start out with a sense of balance within me, then it’s easier not get overwhelmed and panic stricken. When we feel the pressure of having too much to do, we find it difficult to make decisions. This is why it’s suggested to “always act with deliberation.”
נחת – דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים, ולכן השתדל לדבר כן.
Gentleness: The wise speak in a gentle manner; always try to speak softly.
When do find yourself shouting? The Ramban, in his famous letter, instructs his son to, “Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone.” Speaking to others gently allows you to not only be heard, but to listen to another person. When we get aggravated and raise our voice, usually someone will do the same. We end up yelling so loud that we can’t even hear the other person or their side of the story. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter is teaching us that that our words are powerful. Everyone has been hurt by something that someone has said to them. While physical abuse is outwardly more apparent, verbal abuse hurts us on the inside. Sharp words hurt. Softly spoken words can hurt too, but might be better received.
ניקיון – ניקיון וטהרה בגופו ובבגדיו.
Cleanliness: Attain cleanliness and purity in body and clothing.
How do you appear to other people? This isn’t a lesson in my hygiene and appearance. It’s about how the outside world views me. If I recognize that my neshama was given to me my Hashem, then that needs to be reflected in how I present myself in the world. If we look in the mirror and are happy with what we see, it means something. Our outer appearance needs to reflect our inner appearance. The type of Jew we are at home should also be the type of Jew we are when we are not at home. If we really are children of the King of Kings, then how we carry ourselves and dress should reflect that honor.
סבלנות – לסבול במנוחה כל מקרה וכל פגע בחיים.
Patience: Calmly confront every situation and absorb each occurrence in life.
Is there someone that eats away your patience? The root of the Hebrew word for patience means load or burden (based on Alei Shur by Rabbi Shlomo Volbe zt’l). Being a patience person means seeing the whole picture, the parts we like and parts we don’t like. We might not like the person we are dealing with or a specific situation, but we carry that with us. Sometimes I’ll notice myself getting impatient and just stop what I’m doing and count backwards from 30 to 1. That usually helps me. We have to remember that challenges and difficulties are like a computer virus. If you stop them early, you can save your operating system.
סדר – לעשות כל מעשה ועניין בסדר ובמשטר.
Orderliness: Carry out your responsibilities in all aspects in an orderly fashion.
What happens when you don’t follow your GPS directions in order? We all know it is important to follow the correct directions or we’ll get lost. No matter if it’s a school report, project for work, a recipe for dinner, or the way to perform a mitzvah, there’s an order that has to be followed. It’s easy to get frazzled quickly when responsibilities stack up. This is why we have to have to know what needs to be done first. Pirkei Avos (5:7) states that one of the seven characteristics of a wise person is that, “He responds to first things first and to latter things later.” This is a simple, yet practical application of the middah of orderliness.
ענוה – להכיר חסרונות עצמו ולהסיח דעת ממומי חברו.
Humility: Recognize your own shortcomings and disregard those of your fellow man.
Do you know anyone that thinks they are always right? According to Rabbi Salanter, the first step in attaining humility is realizing our own strengths and weaknesses. We all excel in certain things and there are other areas that we need to work on. It’s important to remember this when dealing with others. We all need to learn to see the positive things in others. Each time we deal with someone, we need to stop looking at their shortcomings and see the positive things that we can learn from others. By doing this we can grow into the person we are meant to be.
צדק – כפשוטו וכדרשתו: ‘וותר משלך’.
Righteousness: In its most basic form; and also to be to “forgo your own interests”.
Are justice and righteousness the same thing? Both can only be measured by a set standard. In our lives, that standard is Hashem’s Torah. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says that we have to be willing to even give up things that can benefit us. This could include: a parking spot, your seat in shul, the last delicious brownie, giving a smile or a kind work to another person. Rabbi Salanter’s great-grandson, Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt’l, took this concept of giving and taught that there are two types of people in the world, givers and takers. Being a giver is truly a righteous thing.
קמוץ – שלא להוציא פרוטה שלא לצורך.
Thrift: Do not spend even a penny unnecessarily
Do we purchase what we need or what we want? This is a very different middah than the previous ones, because it directly related to so something material. How we spend our money gives us is an indication of what we value. We need to realize that every dollar and every penny is ultimately given to us by Hashem and we should be careful about how we spend it. There is nothing wrong with working hard and owning things that you feel you deserve. However, affluence isn’t everything. It’s what we do with our money that demonstrates the quality of who we are. As it states in Eruvin 65b: A person is recognized through three things – his Kos (how he acts after drinking), his Ka’as (anger), and his Kis (wallet or how he spends).
שתיקה – יחשוב את התועלת שבדבריו קודם שידבר.
Silence: Think about the benefit of your words before you say them.
How often do you say something without really thinking about it? Words reveal our thoughts and allow us to connect with others. We talk, text, email, constantly, connecting with others. We need to think about what we say and how those words can help another person. A kind word or show of thanks is an extremely powerful force. When praying, we also are using the power of speech. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s final middah challenges each of us to think about the gift of speech. When we communicate with someone, we need to realize that we are revealing part of our neshama, that which is connected to Hashem, the source of all truth.
This publication was written in conjunction with the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter zt’l (25th of Shevat)
The Hebrew text for the 13 middos is based on written accounts about Rabbi Yisrael Salanter printed in the sefer Mikor Baruch by Rabbi Baruch Epstein zt”l, page 1111.
My thanks to Rabbi Micha Berger for his essay and chart regarding the 13 middos. Available here: http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2010/03/lists-of-middos.shtml
For additional copies or a pdf file, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2012 Neil Harris