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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology intended for use by seniors.


Blogs

No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments

A Book Review of No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments By Ana Levy-Lyons Published by  Center Street/Hachette 2018 Reviewed by Rabbi Natan Margalit, Organic Torah Originally published in Tikkun Magazine (link) It is evident from the first page that this book is swimming against the current in our contemporary political and spiritual landscape. Author Ana Levy-Lyons tells a story in her preface about how one of her teachers back in high school liked to entertain the kids by listing oxymorons: pretty ugly, jumbo shrimp, etc, and he sometimes ...

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Purim: The Dangerous Holiday

Purim is a dangerous holiday. That’s probably why we in the Jewish community often trivialize it and pretend it’s just a kid’s holiday where the children dress up like Mordechai and Esther and we eat hamentashen and everyone has a nice time. We may be afraid to see what it is really saying to us. There is a lot of violence in the Purim story: the Scroll of Esther (in Hebrew, Megillat Esther) includes the king forcing his queen, Vashti, to either dance naked or be killed or exiled; there is evil Haman’s threat to wipe out the Jews of Persia; and there is also the ...

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The Magic of Emergence

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is an old adage, but it could be one of the most important keys to a healthy, meaningful life. People yearn to be a part of something. When we are a part of something, we feel whole. When we see how things connect and relate to form a whole, they make sense and resonate: they come alive. In 1973 I arrived at Camp Swig, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Big Basin, California as a shy 15 year old kid from Hawai`i. My parents were New York Jewish intellectuals who moved to Hawai`i when I was a baby. They wanted nothing more ...

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My Green New Year’s Resolutions

I want to be "greener" this year and here are my plans: Resolution #1: Reduce. I am going to buy less — especially those things that have a negative impact on the environment, such as plastic tableware when I have company coming for dinner. I am also going to reduce my energy needs. I am going to wear more layers of clothing at home this winter, for example, so I can lower my thermostat without feeling cold. Resolution #2: Reuse. When we go out to eat, I am going to try to bring my own containers to take home the leftovers. Styrofoam can take hundreds of ...

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The Force of Our Interconnectedness

I just saw the latest Star Wars movie with my family. It was very exciting and entertaining. But beyond that, I've always felt that the amazing popularity of the Star Wars series has been in part because it touches a spiritual nerve in moderns in a way that most of our places of worship only hope to achieve. The central premise of Star Wars is that there is an energy that connects us all, an energy that surrounds and infuses all life and creates the fabric of the universe. When we recognize that inter-connecting energy, when we tap into it, we can harness great power for ...

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Two Examples, Two Paths

Take a good look at American society today and you see both dysfunctional, shortsighted, thinking, and, if you look, you can see a new kind of thinking that takes the whole picture into account. On the one hand we have the heartbreaking and sickening epidemic of mass shootings that is only getting worse in our country today. You would think that this would now, finally, bring about an awakening to the well documented conclusion that we need better laws to control the number of guns and who wields them. The evidence is clear: The U.S. has many more mass shootings than other ...

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Looking to the Sky, Remembering Our Ideals

by Rabbi Natan Margalit ~Recently, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that talked about the way that people do or say things, say, supporting a good cause or political opinion, not because they really believe in it, but because they want to signal to their social network that they are virtuous. Apparently, there is a popular new label for this behavior: “virtue signaling.” The author reports that this term is most often used by people on the right against people on the left (“Virtue Signaling Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another Is,” ...

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Old Habits, New Opportunities

We are creatures of habit. Mostly, that’s a good thing. I almost never forget to brush my teeth, close the windows and lock the doors before I go to bed at night. In the morning I can almost sleep walk while I make my favorite breakfast (fried rice, sardines and kale… I know, it’s not a classic breakfast like cereal and milk, or eggs and toast, but I like it and the kids like it, too. My wife, not such a big fan of sardines…) But, as much as those habits help us stay on an even keel, too much habit can keep us from changes that we want to make. As we enter ...

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A New Kind of Community

My family and I just got back from ten days at our annual “dance camp.” This gathering, which has been happening for more than 30 years, is about dancing, but more so, it’s ten days of living like a village in a tight knit, inclusive and caring community. My oldest son had a great summer this year: Jewish wilderness camp, basketball camp, beaches and more. He loved all of them, but he said that dance camp was the best: it was because he got to hang out with a tight group of teens who spent a ton of time together dancing (he’s becoming a great salsa dancer!), ...

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Tree of Knowledge, Tree of Life

My work at Organic Torah starts with asking a question about chochma/Jewish wisdom: Must the Tree of Knowledge be separated from the Tree of Life? The Tree of Knowledge is what we have become used to in much of our Western education—it begins with breaking things apart into smallest components. Our education system is divided into discreet subjects: math, science, English—too often devoid of context and the vibrancy which comes from what Gregory Bateson called “the pattern which connects.” And if we go to college or grad school we might study a “discipline” ...

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Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism and Veganism

by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. ~Yom Kippur, the culmination of the Aseret Y’mei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance) that begins on Rosh Hashanah, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. On this day, Jews refrain completely from food and water and spend many hours in synagogues, examining their deeds, vowing to repent for past transgressions, and seeking God’s blessings for a coming year of good health and positive outcomes. Yet, after Yom Kippur, most Jews return to animal-based diets that are arguably inconsistent with the values of Yom Kippur and Judaism in ...

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Our 2017 (5777) Collection of Earth Etudes for Elul

Introduction by Susan Levine~ Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. And during Elul this year, we have seen three category 4 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) wreak havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and several other Caribbean islands. The scientists have blamed increased ocean temperatures for the high winds and rising floodwaters. What other evidence do we need to believe that climate change is real? Our earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism--Tikkun ...

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Shana Tova — May You Have a Good Year

by Rabbi Katy Allen • photos by Gabi Mezger ~As you journey through these the Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe, may you find yourself more able to remain present in the moment, may you find meaning in unexpected places, and my your heart open ever wider. May you search among the needles for the gifts of seeds.   May you find beauty among that which at first glance seems no longer needed, but which in fact is vital. May your gaze turn upward toward vistas without end. May you notice gifts that pop up quickly in unexpected places. ...

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The Importance of Teshuva during the High Holidays

The Jewish high holidays are around the corner... During the 10 days of repentance, our prayers and forgiveness carry significantly more weight than any other time during the year. Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (the Shelah Hakadosh) said that our behavior during each day of the 7 days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur has the potential to correct our sins made during each of those days in the past year, and can affect the rest of the same days next year (Sunday corrects Sundays, Monday corrects Mondays etc). So how do we make the most out of those days and make sure ...

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The Human Impacts on Global Warming

Global Warming is perhaps the biggest concern our generation is experiencing. Its’ effects are obviously frightening and dramatically urgent. Even though often debated in global politics and the media, we can’t deny that the causes and effects of global warming are real, global and calculable. Global warming is primarily a problem of excess of  carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere—which acts as a blanket or a cloak, by trapping heat and warming the planet. As we burn fossil fuels for energy or cut down and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, carbon ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 29 – Farmers of Our Souls

by Molly Bajgot~ something that the earth knows well is our attempts to conquer, manipulate, and control her. in this High Holy season, in the return to oneself, we are asked to abstain from the conquering, manipulating and controlling — that it may lead to understanding our impulses for doing so: to each other, the earth, other beings, and our own soul. we have a task, this Holy season, to do teshuvah — to relinquish, however micro or macro we can - the impulses and ways we farm our subconscious and conscious minds with seeds ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 28 – Another Blue Day

by Thea Iberall, Ph.D. ~I have a picture of my mother Helene with Heidi Klum, the blonde supermodel and TV star. We were in Heidi’s trailer on the Warner Bros lot in Burbank watching her prep for a commercial shoot. Heidi and her makeup entourage gathered around my mother who was wearing her “Kiss Me I’m 100” T-shirt. They wanted to know her secret to aging well. My mom laughed and told Heidi about the gin-soaked raisins she eats every morning to ward off arthritis. Then she talked about the raw apple cider vinegar she takes before every meal to overcome gas. ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 27 – Re-Connecting to the Land

by Rabbi Lawrence Troster ~On a recent vacation to my home town of Toronto, as I drove around the countryside and saw the many places I knew so well from my childhood, I reflected again on how the landscape in which I lived affected who I am and how I see the world. I was born in Toronto which is in an area that was covered by glaciers over 10,000 years ago and the land still is shaped by that ancient event: spoon shaped hills called drumlins, ridges called eskers which are the remains of the river beds that flowed from the retreating ice. And lakes: I spent many of ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 26 – Three Levels of Holiness

by Rabbi David Seidenberg~ In the Torah, three things are called "shabbat shabbaton" – the seventh day, Yom Kippur, and Shmitah (the Sabbatical year). Agnon, in his book The Days of Awe, shares a teaching from Rabbi Tzvi Hakohen of Rymanov about this. The rabbi was asked, if both Yom Kippur and the Sabbath itself are called "shabbat shabbaton", how is Yom Kippur more special? And he answered, the seventh day is called "shabbat shabbaton l’adonai" – a sabbath of sabbaths for God. Yom Kippur is called "shabbat shabbaton lakhem" – a sabbath of sabbaths for all of ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 25 – Practicing Teshuvah

by Maxine Lyons~ I lost a lot of azalea bushes this past winter. The space looks stark and bare, and I am deciding what to place there to fill that void that a harsh Boston winter destroyed in my garden. The weight of the snowfall broke branches. I was at first very upset looking at the spot where azaleas once flourished in the springtime, and angry that the snow’s destructive force did this when I was not home for two months (to brush them off and relieve the pressure of the snow’s weight). I used a combination of practices from Mussar (using the soul-trait ...

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