Rabbi Noah Farkas’ Yom Kippur sermon: Clap Along if You Feel That Holiness is the Truth


It might seem crazy what I am about to say

Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way

(Because I’m happy)

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

(Because I’m happy)

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

(Because I’m happy)

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

(Because I’m happy)

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

What a catchy tune..  My kids dance like crazy when it comes on. 

Now it might seem crazy what I’m about to say and I might be full of hot air, but I’m not a balloon. Even though my wife sometimes calls me a buffoon.

Yom Kippur is not supposed to be a sad holiday.  We have other holidays that are sad.  We have Tisha B’Av, a night and day of fasting that memorializes the destruction of the Temple.  It takes place in the middle of the summer because nothing says summer vacation better than being told to put down your margarita to mourn the loss of building 2,000 years ago.

On a much more serious note, there’s Yom HaShoah, where we read the names of the victims of the holocaust.  It is a serious day indeed.  Even Passover has its elements of anger like at the end of the Seder we open the door for Elijah, the harbinger of the messiah and we recite “Pour out your wrath” upon those that seem to keep the world from redemption.

Yom Kippur, however is not a sad holiday.  Even though we take a moment to remember the one’s we’ve lost along life’s journey, the purpose of Yom Kippur is not be in mourning. The purpose of Yom Kippur is not to be angry, or completely down on ourselves.  It is a day of personal evaluation and of bringing to the surface of vulnerabilities and our mortality, but once the great shofar is sounded at the end of the holiday we are supposed to dance and sing.  The very first thing you are supposed to do after you break your fast is to put the first pole in the ground for Sukkot, the most joyus holiday on the calendar.  (Orach Chayyim 624:5 and 625:1) Yom Kippur is not a sad holiday.

In fact it’s a holiday that through the process of fasting and praying will make us more joyous and ultimately more holy as people.

Which is what I want to focus on with you for a few minutes today.   I want to think through what it means to make your life happy and to see if happiness is really the truth as the song says or if happiness is part of a greater plan for your life to make you more holy as an individual.

For starters there’s the idea of “being happy.” It’s an emotion usually based on something that is happening to you.  Happiness is based on your happenings.   It’s triggered by by something on the outside and shapes the way you feel in a particular moment.

For example, I’m at my birthday party and I get a cake and everyone sings “Happy Birthday” I’m feeling happy.  I’m at my son’s birthday party and he gets cake, and I sing “Happy Birthday” I’m feeling happy for him. I’m at my son’s friend’s birthday party and he gets a cake and we all sing “Happy Birthday” and I’m happy because I know I can leave soon to get back to watching football.    Happiness is a feeling that happens to you based on your surroundings.

So let’s take a trip where you are surrounded by happiness.  Let’s go to the happiest place on earth.  Disneyland.  I’m there with my family and everyone is having a great time.  We ride the rides, eat ice cream, get a few souvenirs and everyone is happy. Until of course we leave the park, sit in traffic for hours and then I get my credit card bill for how much we spent on tickets, ice cream and souvenirs.    Then I’m not sure I’m so happy.

That is to say that being happy is not only based on your surroundings, but that it is also temporary. It’s ephemeral. It oozes out of us as soon as we stop feeling it.

Where does this idea of being happy come from? How did we get to “Happiness is the truth?”  It comes from ancient Athens, the founders of philosophy, democracy and the gyro sandwich.  Aristotle one of the forefathers of philosophical thought wrote two books on ethics. Eudaimonian Ethics and Nicomachean Ethics, both extraordinary works of erudition.  His idea first principle in both books is that happiness or what he calls eudaimonia is itself the greatest goal in life.  He knows this because as he “says it is complete and self-sufficient, being the end of all of our practical undertakings.” What he means is that we can arrive at the conclusion that happiness is the most important thing in life because everything that we choose do, we do for some greater purpose – except happiness.

I’ll explain it this way.  It’s like the kid in a math class who ask.

Child: Why do I have to learn math?

Parent: “So you can get good grades”

Child:  “Why do I need to do that?”

Parent:  “So you can go to High School?”

Child: “Why?”

Parent:  “So you can go to college.”

Child: “Why?”

Parent: “So you can get a good job.”

Child: “Why?”

Parent: “So you can have a nice home and go on vacation.”

Child: “Why?” 

Parent: So you can be….happy.

Each idea leads to another and another until he comes to rest on the greatest purpose in life, the function of being a human, which he writes is to achieve happiness.  Happiness is “self-sufficient” and the “ends of life’s goals.”

You can draw a straight line from ancient Athens and its philosophers through the Western canon of intellectual thought all the way until today.  The most popular class at Harvard is called the Happy Class.  Over eight hundred students enroll every year.  They fill the largest lecture hall on campus twice a week.  The only purpose of the class is to learn to be happy.

Hundreds of songs on itunes, like the one by Pharrell Williams who says “clap along” either have the title or subject matter as happiness. On the TED website, where all rabbis go to learn to give a sermon, There are over two hundred TED talks on the subject.  On Amazon there are over 20k books on happiness available for purchase.  We go to McDonalds and eat America’s most popular fast food dish – “Happy Meals”  After work we go to where everyone knows your name to for “Happy Hours”  and some people I hear go to other places for “Happy Endings.”

Americans we know are obsessed with happiness.  Perhaps it’s because we look out at the world and we feel anxious.  Whether it’s internationally with the threat of nuclear war from North Korea.  Or domestically with the politics of our country. Especially as we realize that there are strong forces that try to make us more divided.  Or even closer to home with fear and anxiety that permeates everyday life.   There are those in this room who have a fear of getting fired. There are those in this room that have a fear of not making enough.  Fear of not having a big enough bank account. Fear of being shamed for your life choices or just for who you are.  Fear of going back to work after having a child because you leaving them with a stranger.  Or fear of staying home after having a child because it will set your career back.   Or maybe someone in our family is getting sick and we are not sure how to take care of them.  Or there is mandatory retirement at your company but you feel like you’re not done with your life’s work.  There is a lot of anxiety that permeates every corner of our lives.   And we know intuitively that we need something more.  We need a release from the anxiety and pain.  We need something to make us smile. We look out at the horizon and are searching, searching almost messianically for what we call happiness.

Don’t think that Judaism doesn’t care about joy.  Not everything we sing is in the minor key.  Judaism says, being happy is important.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov famously for example said,  mitzvah gedolah lihiyot b’simcha tamid. “  It is a great mitzvah to be happy all the time. (Likkutei Maharan, Part 2:24).  The word simcha is mentioned nearly two hundred times in the Tanach and nearly a thousand times in rabbinic literature.  An overflowing cup of wine on Friday night is a symbol of unending joy.  You are not allowed to make kiddish angry.  If a bride walks by your shop on the day of her wedding you must stop your work. Stop everything  and dance for her.  It is a commandment to rejoice with the bride and the groom. (Talmud Ketubot 17a) If you are invited to bris, you have to go.

Jewish humorists are some the most famous comedians in history.  We love to tell jokes:

Did you hear the one about the chicken and the salmon who go for a walk?  I know it’s a tough visual. The chicken and salmon go for a walk, and as they walk they see a big sign outside a restaurant: “Lox and Eggs Breakfast for Charity.” The Chicken says, “Come on, let’s go in, looks like fun!” The salmon hedges and says,“I don’t know.” The chicken says, “Why, what’s holding you back?  C’mon it’s for a good cause!” The salmon says, “Look: it says “lox and eggs.” From you they want a contribution, from me they want commitment!”

Or this one….

Rabbi Ben Simmons was fed up with his congregation. So, he decided to skip the services on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and instead go play golf.

Moses was looking down from heaven and saw the rabbi on the golf course. He naturally reported it to God. Moses suggested God punish the rabbi severely.

As he watched, Moses saw Rabbi Ben Simmons playing the best game he had ever played. The rabbi got a hole-in-one on the toughest hole on the course and then again on the next hole.

Moses turned to God and asked, ‘I thought you were going to punish him. Do you call this punishment?’

God replied, ‘Who’s he gonna tell?’

Or how about this one…

There was the Jew that went camping.  Spend the night in Yosemite and woke up in the morning to a glorious sunshine.  He goes out of the tent and puts on the Tallit and Tefillin.  He begins to pray.  Thank you God for such a glorious day. For making me free.  And just then a huge bear comes out of the woods licking his chops.  The man knows that he’s breakfast.  So he raises his hands and says, Ribono Shel Olam! Master of the world!  Please, please, I know my end is near, please make this bear into a Jew a good Jew.

He closes his eyes and begins to Shema Yisrael.  He opens his eyes and he sees that bear has put on a kippah and is covering his eyes in prayer as well.  Thank God!  Moshele says!  I’m saved!  The Bear is a Jewish Bear!  He listens closer to hear what the bear is praying:  The bear sings: Hamotzi Lechem min haaretz.

Telling food jokes on Yom Kippur, oy.  Everyone ok?  Anyone hungry?

We love being funny and having fun. We love being happy!  It’s not just you that feels that way this compulsion for happiness.  There was an economic survey back in the 1970s that asked a series of questions that can be boiled down to the inquiry, “are you happy?” The economists behind the survey wanted to know– in a long period of economic growth where incomes were rising and debts falling– did having more money in your pocket made you happier. Questionnaires of this sort have been repeated many times. The results of the survey were decidedly mixed.

On the one hand, you can track happiness and life-satisfaction to income.  The more you earn, the more things you can own, and the happier you can become. This is true for both individuals and whole countries.  On the other hand, when the data is reexamined through the lens of behavioral economics and psychology, a paradox emerges.  While happiness seems to rise with increasing wealth, so did the rising sense of meaninglessness.

Therein lies the paradox of our lives.   The more things you try to own the more you realize that you cannot find meaning in it.  The more you ask yourself, “What do I need to feel happy?” the more you are disappointed when you have have that thing. As one billionaire said, “How many more pairs of jeans do I need to own to make me look good? I already have one for everyday of the week.”

What emerges from these studies is that our sensibilities adapt to the things we own.  Every purchase of material goods we make can add to our satisfaction, but only for a short period of time.  You quickly  get used to your new car or purse and soon feel just as empty as you did before you bought that new thing.  The more we ask “what do I need?” the more we feel that we need.  It is what Freud calls being driven by our instincts or our passions.  We create a cycle of desire…pleasure…desire….pleasure.   Until we look back at our lives, and wonder what it was all about.

Deep down our souls are begging for something different.  Our hearts are screaming for something more.

Ultimately to me, trying to find enough happiness is a like trying to get enough sleep.  It’s something that we tell our friends we don’t get enough of, that we are always looking for more of it, and when we finally have it, we are never awake enough to know it.

Trying to live life as Aristotle says, by setting up happiness as life’s ultimate telos, or goal, and then crafting your entire life around that goal by drugging our way there or buying our way there or vacationing our way there is our inheritance of being in a Western culture. Athens has had a lock on the Western mind for thousands of years.  Rational philosophy, utilitarian philosophy, existentialism, and American pragmatism are all thought palaces built on the foundations of Athens.

But Jews are not Greeks. Athens is not our capital.  Jerusalem is.  Judaism has always said that our lives cannot be reduced to the mere biological cycle of need and satisfaction.  Being happy is not life’s primary goal.  As Kohelet, the author of the book Ecclesiastes teaches, “Come now, I get mixed up with joy and experience pleasure,” and behold, it too was vanity. Of laughter, I said, “It is mirth” and concerning joy, “What does it accomplish?” (Ecclesiastes, 2:1-2) Kohelet was no cranky old man.  He was full of life and wisdom.  Kohelet travelled the world, learned from the greatest of teachers, earned great riches. Some say he was King Solomon.  He had seen it all – being poor and rich – wise and foolish.  And yet, his holy wisdom says to us that happiness leads to futility and meaninglessness.  If he were alive today he would be one of us. He would have gone to a nice college.  Got a graduate degree.  Made a living.  Stayed at the Ritz on vacation.  He has a wine collection, got good seats to Hamilton, the best tea times at the club, and a box at the bowl every summer, yet he felt in the end that all his travels and his wealth brought ephemeral joy, but in the end it had accomplished nothing.   Does this sound familiar to any of us in this room?

That is because life is more than the circle of pleasure, desire..pleasure…desire.  You are more than a biological creature, more than what Freud said about how you are driven by instincts.  The vital drives of sex, food, power and all the time we spend trying to satisfy  those needs do not, according to our rabbis, describe the fullness of our existence.

The material desires are part of each human being, but they cannot fully describe the experience of being human.

Our souls are begging for something different.  Our hearts are screaming for something more.

It is the philosophers of Athens teach us that happiness is the greatest good because it is the only thing we do for it’s own sake, but it is the sages of Jerusalem that teaches us that what happiness is not life’s goal.

It is holiness, that is life’s goal.

The purpose of life, says our tradition, is to be not only happy, but to be holy.

What then is holiness?

It is hard to teach this in a straightforward manner, so Think of it this way.  The kids this year in our day school are doing the Wizard of Oz. Remember the movie?  It’s starts out in Kansas and everything appears to be alright.  They have a nice farm, good family not without its problems, but for the most part everyone is ok.  Except, that there is this one thing that nobody notices. It permeates every corner of their lives. It is in every frame of the movie, it is behind every breath and furtive look.  Yet not a single character notices that the are living their lives in black-and-white. It’s only after the storm when the house goes flying in the air and lands somewhere in munchkin land does Dorothy open the door to the house and wanders outside does she see the world in color for the first time.

That’s what holiness is.  It fills our world and floats in the background and many of us never know that it is there.  If you only live your life trying to achieve one thing, happiness, you are living along a single axis.  Your life is broadcast in black-and-white.

But if you understand that happiness is means and not an end, if you understand that there is a greater world out there more cherished and sacred than happiness alone, if you see yourself in service to something greater, then you you can live in many dimensions at once. Your life is no longer in broadcast in black-and-white but in full streaming technicolor.

It is hard to approach this directly, so let me try again with another story.

When my zayde died, we gathered together for shiva at his home.  After a couple of nights, one of the cousins stands up and says, Can I tell zayde’s favorite joke?  She proceeded to tell it and the family started laughing contagiously.  Then another member of the family stood up and told another family joke.  One after another for 20 minutes amidst their sadness we found laughter.  We were on the floor in stitches.  That’s not because we were happy.  We were able to live in joy and sadness at the same time. Darkness and light comingled together into the admixture of our lives.  We were not happy in a happy moment, we found ourselves to be in a holy moment.

A few years later Sarah and I were married.  At my wedding, Sarah and I stood under the chuppah with our family, and we took a few moments to remember our fallen loved ones including my Zayde.  Just imagine on this beautiful Sunday we stood under chuppah and said prayers for him, remembering this sweet man who poured his life into our. We all cried.  I cried.  Because we were not just experiencing happiness as a couple, but holiness.  When you mourn for your family under the chuppah. That’s a technicolor holy moment because you begin to see the world through a prism that refracts all of life moments into one.

The same is when we had our oldest daughter, Meira.  We named her after my Zayde.  And amongst the most joyous feelings of new beginnings we took a moment to remember him again by sharing a few of his virtues we wished to see in her. I was sad and happy and excited and nervous.  A full spread of colorful emotions painting the world with God’s paintbrush.  Michieye matim brachamim rabim. Bringing light into darkness and darkness into light.   Mourning into dancing, and death into life, precious sweet life once again.  Michieye matim brachamim rabim.

It’s ok to laugh in a shiva house and cry under the chuppah and mourn at a baby naming. It’s not only ok, it’s holy.

Holiness is the fullest expression of our flourishing.  It is finding the colorful background behind the grayscale of our lives.

How do we find holiness?  Jews don’t believe that God makes a map for your life.  We are not predestined to heaven.  God does not set a fated path before each us.  Nor does God even know the outcomes of our choices, otherwise Yom Kippur makes no sense.  What is the use of taking the field and playing the game if everyone, even the fans know the outcome.  God is not a map maker.  God does not have a plan for your life.  That is your responsibility.

God does, however, provide us with a blueprint.  A blueprint tells you how to build the house.  Where to put the beams, what kind of shingles to use and where the plumbing and electricity go.  A blueprint never tells you what paintings to put on your walls or what sports team to follow.  It never tells you which melody to use when you sing your children to sleep.  Or what kind of tortilla to use for ‘Taco Tuesday.’ Blueprints are plans for an environment, an ecosystem in which those holy moments can be found. The blueprint is the background and you are the foreground.

According to the midrash, the Torah is God’s blueprint. (Bereshit Rabbah 1:4)  God uses the Torah to set out the foundations of the world.  The Torah gives us commandments and tells us the many stories of our people, but at it’s center is a single character that matters more than Abraham and Sarah or Moses and Miriam. At  the very center of the Torah is the most important character – so important that the whole world depends on it.

At the center of the Torah is the story of you.

The story of where you come from, of what is the nature of being human, of what is demanded of you, needed of you, and how you can give to the world.

God ordains the sacred times but it is up to you to make them holy.
(Leviticus 23:2) The Torah sets out the blueprint for the house and it’s up to you make life in the house.

The Torah teaches us greatest dimension of difference between holiness and happiness.

Aristotle asks, “How do I find happiness?” “What fulfills my desire?”  “What frees me from pain?”  “What gives me pleasure?” “What do I need?”

The Torah asks, “How do you find holiness?”  “How do you free the pain of others?” “How are you needed?”

Holy moments are not about your needs, but about how you are needed.

You don’t marry someone to make you a better person, it’s because you are needed by your partner so that they feel loved. They need you.

You don’t ask for forgiveness to make yourself feel less guilty, you ask for forgiveness so that the other person no longer has to feel the pain you’ve caused. They need you.

Tzedakah is a holy virtue.  You shouldn’t give money to charity because it makes you feel good and happy, or to get a tax deduction, it’s because the poor need you, they cry out to you.  When you break their fetters of oppression, their shackles of poverty and slavery says the prophet Isaiah (58:6-12) on this holiest of days, you become holy through them.  They need you.

That is how you become holy.  By being needed.

The Torah does not say, Smechim Te’hu,  “You shall be happy” Because life is not lived in black-and-white. God’s blueprint says, Kedoshim Te’hu, (Leviticus 19:2) “You shall be holy”, with all it’s ups and downs.  With happiness and sadness. With life and death.  In life’s fullest dimensions and colors.  Holiness breaks the cycle of desire and pleasure by transcending ourselves to be more godly.   To be like God who is holy.

This is the central task of your life.

The world, according to the Talmud was created for your so that you know that you are part of something dramatically bigger than your personal needs. (Sanhedrin 34a).  Being human and finding significance, and indeed happiness, cannot happen solely by the fulfillment of your desires, but instead in the realization that you are needed. The Torah’s blueprint for your life is only the foundations, the parameters of your days on earth.  It gives you some guidance, but at it’s heart it asks of you this most central question.   “Are you needed?”

Your life is the answer to this question.

In 2011, the Nobel Laureate and author Toni Morrison, spoke at the Rutgers University commencement.  She said, “I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.”

Yom Kippur is our commencement day complete with robes and funny hats.   Yom Kippur is also our holiest day of the year. Yom Kippur is the holiday when we free ourselves from the cycle of desire and pleasure in order to achieve something greater, something more than our own short-lived happiness.  We fast our bodies so we can feed our souls.  We wear no leather, nor display wealth of any kind for we know that materialism is no substitute for holiness.  We spend the day away from work and our physical needs choosing instead to reflect and look inside ourselves so that we may grow.  We are all trying not just to look good but be good. Be holy.

Both Athens and Jerusalem say that you and I are the most important thing ever imagined.  But where the Greeks say the goal of life is to be happy, our sages say it is to be holy.  To build a life of holiness where your needs are met by meeting the needs of others.  Where we can build a synagogue community of caring and sharing.  A place that dips into the wellspring of our ancient tradition and say at almost any given moment, that we are doing holy work.  By belonging to a community, making a commitment to a community that says it’s mission is to create holiness in the lives of all people.

By learning our eternal values (Torah), by reaching deep with our own souls (Avodah), by connecting to others (Hevre) and by growing in spirit by growing the spirits of others through acts of loving kindness (chesed). For without them the world cannot stand. (Pirke Avot 1:2)

Our community is not a country club nor is it a business it is a kehila kedosha, a community of holiness.  Were we can never settle for happiness.  Because our lives are so much more colorful than that. Be with us. And you can clap along if you feel that’s what you wanna do.

Gmar Hatima Tova.

This was originally posted on Valley Beth Shalom’s website

High Holy Days: Working for happiness


Did you know that many people actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work? Although many people also find their work stressful, boring or meaningless, success doesn’t make people happy either. 

“More than a decade of groundbreaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has proven in no uncertain terms that the relationship between success and happiness works the other way around,” writes Shawn Achor, one of the designers and teachers of Harvard’s famous Happiness course, in “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.” Research shows that happiness is the precursor to success, not the result, and that, together with optimism, it fuel success. This is what Achor means by the competitive edge he calls the “happiness advantage.” 

But can unhappy people – or even mildly content people – become happy? If so, how? And is it possible to be happy even at work?

Achor believes so. As the CEO of Good Think Inc., a global positive-psychology consulting company, Achor uses the latest in research to give practical steps to increase happiness in our daily lives. His TED talks on the subject have garnered millions of views. 

The Texan got a taste of happiness when he unexpectedly got into Harvard after applying on a dare. He then stayed in the dorms for the next 12 years, first as an undergraduate, then a graduate student and live-in resident to help students with academic and personal success. There he witnessed a pattern of students getting worried, overwhelmed, depressed and even failing. 

It was only after he went to visit a shantytown school in Soweto, South Africa, that he began to understand the answer. When he asked the kids if they like to do schoolwork,  most of the kids raised their hands. And they weren’t lying. A CEO from South Africa told him, “They see schoolwork as a privilege, one their parents did not have.”

When he returned to Harvard and saw people complaining about the very thing Soweto students saw as a privilege, “I started to realize just how much our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality.” Students who saw learning as a chore missed out on the opportunities in front of them, but those who saw Harvard as an opportunity shined.

The seven principles in “The Happiness Advantage” are not about putting on a happy face, Achor believes. It’s not about using positive thinking to pretend problems don’t exist, or that everything will always be great. It’s about harnessing our neuroplasticity, our brain’s ability to change and rewire itself. 

“The hardest part about happiness is remembering that we can choose it,” he says. 

Achor talked about the seven principles of “The Happiness Advantage.”

Principle No. 1 The Happiness Advantage Happiness, Achor says, is “the joy we feel striving toward our potential.” This definition links positive emotion with a cognitive awareness of growth. Positive emotion without growth is pleasure, which is fleeting. Growth without positive emotion is equally short-lived and leads to depression.

“Your brain works significantly better at positive than it does when neutral or negative,” Achor says, noting that when positive, the brain has triple the creativity, 31 percent higher levels of productivity, 23 percent fewer fatigue-related symptoms, 37 percent higher levels of sales — all resulting in higher profit and lower burnout. 

Principle No. 2: The Fulcrum and the Lever Achor learned at an early age that our brain can be thought of as “single processors capable of devoting only a finite amount of resources to experiencing the world.” You can use those resources to see the world through a lens of negativity, stress, pain and uncertainty, he says, or through a lens of gratitude, hope, resilience and optimism. 

“Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances.”

According to Yale psychologist Amy Wrzeniewski, a crucial part in work satisfaction is whether you view your work as a job (a means to a paycheck), a career (necessary to advance and succeed) or a calling (work as an end in itself contributing to a greater good). It doesn’t matter the work one does, it can always  be connected to one’s higher calling, Achor says. 

Principle No. 3 The Tetris Effect 

The brains of people who repeatedly play video games (like Tetris, where blocks have to fit geometrically) became stuck in a ‘cognitive after-image,’ which causes them to see the game wherever they go. People can also get stuck that way, especially accountants, lawyers and other professionals trained to be critical. Lawyers depose their children while accountants make spreadsheets of their wives’ faults. 

But you can create a ‘Positive Tetris Effect,’ i.e. train your brain to get stuck in a positive afterimage using happiness, gratitude and optimism. Make a list of three positive things at the end of the day, and your brain will have to scan for positive events. 

“This trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them,” he says. 

Principle No. 4 Falling Up 

The human brain has been wired to create mental maps to survive and navigate the world. After a failure, we create a map with three possible outcomes:  1. Circling in the same spot.  2.  Getting further lost (going down a more negative path).  3.  Getting to a place stronger than before.

The third way “is the difference between those who are crippled by failure and those who rise above it.” After repeated setbacks, some people learn helplessness and believe their actions are futile, while others have what psychologists call “adversarial growth” success after traumas or failures because of their positive mindset. 

Principle No. 5 The Zorro Circle 

Before he could become a hero, the fictional character Zorro had to learn to control his impulsiveness and master his skills one by one, first within a small circle. Often, Achor says, we feel out of control, especially when we try to tackle too many things at once. In a study of 7,400 employees published in The Lancet in 2007, people who felt they had little control over their deadlines had a 50 percent higher risk of heart disease. 

In times of stress, Achor says, it’s important to identify your feelings (whether in writing or in words), find out which parts of the situation you can control, then try to accomplish one small goal. Then another, and another. 

Principle No. 6: The 20-Second Rule

Neuroplasticity tells us that we can change our brains: bad habits wire them that way as do good habits. Achor works with people to replace a negative habit with a positive one “so that the brain’s resources are being allocated appropriately” toward change, he says. 

But to form a new habit, you have to create the path of least resistance (i.e., it needs to be easy). Achor found that committing to playing the guitar every day wasn’t enough when his guitar was stored in the closet. Once he moved it outside (“lower the barrier”), he incorporated guitar playing into his daily routine. 

Principle No. 7 Social Investment

In times of stress and crisis, many people retreat into their shells and cut off communication with their friends and loved ones. But happy, successful people do the opposite. “Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social circle,” Achor says. Forming social bonds increases Oxytocin, reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus.

In the end, Achor believes we can always be happy at work by creating positive habits and sticking with them. “But if you feel like you could grow more in another job, then optimism should fuel the belief that you can make that change successfully,” he says. But if change is not possible for some reason, “making the best of the current situation only makes good sense.”

When Birthday Party Blowouts Blowup


The wedding invitation convinced me that modern moms and dads have officially lost their gumballs regarding children’s birthday parties. “Master Jacob Estroff” read the ivory parchment envelope; it took a moment to register that the addressee was in fact Jakey, my 5-year-old. The bride-to-be (Miss Sophia Rosenthal) was Sophie, his toothless classmate.

The party lived up to its invitation. There were bridesmaids, groomsmen and, of course, a mini groom and a mini chuppah. There was even a wedding cake taller than the birthday bride herself.

In all fairness, Jewish parents come by it honestly. We’ve barely cleared labor and delivery before we’re expected to be on the phone with the caterer ordering bagels and lox for 200 for the bris or baby naming.

It seems a natural progression to plan a three-ring circus in the cul-de-sac when that bundle of joy turns 6. It’s just that somewhere between the petting zoo, the pony rides and the moonwalk we end up with an empty wallet, a giant headache and a kid who is so overwhelmed by the hoopla, he can barely enjoy his big day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we bail on our kids’ birthday parties altogether. On the contrary, these annual rites of passage are much-anticipated events in our children’s lives. But going to the opposite extreme isn’t the answer either.

Fortunately, it’s perfectly possible to plan a kid-friendly birthday bash without compromising our values, sanity and pocketbook. All it takes is a little panning for gold.

You know when you take a big clump of mud and swoosh it around in a pan until a few glistening specks of gold are all that remain. Well, we’re going to do the same thing here. Only instead of mud, we’re going to swoosh a big, mushy mess of modern birthday party madness.

Are you swooshing yet? Do you see those overpriced invitations and goody bags spilling over the sides into a bucket by your feet? Great, keep swooshing. But don’t go peeking at those golden nuggets yet. Not until we’ve spent some time looking at the slush in the bucket, and have a clear grasp on what exactly our child’s birthday party does not need to be (regardless of what parenting magazines, party planners or other parents might think):

  • It does not need to be a reflection of our parental prowess. We accomplish lots of amazing feats as parents. Getting our children out the door and into school every morning; keeping them safe, healthy and happy. Our child’s birthday party is but one little parenting accomplishment in a year of millions; it’s hardly a manifestation of our maternal savvy.
  • It does not need to be a Martha Stewart masterpiece. Have you ever bought a magazine based on the teaser “foolproof birthday party ideas” only to realize a page and a half in that you are a fool for buying the magazine in the first place? Not only is making tulip-shaped cupcakes not foolproof, but it takes a degree from the World Culinary Institute. Besides, our kids couldn’t care less if their cupcakes are shaped like tulips or toilets, as long as they’re yummy, icing-soaked and flanked with the right amount of candles.
  • It does not have to be an unprecedented concept. Do you know that sinking feeling we get when we learn another kid is having a birthday gala at the same secret site we’ve booked for our own child’s party — only a week earlier. “The nerve!” we think to ourselves. “I’ve had that inflatable jumpy place booked for a year and that parent stole the idea right out from under me.” But the reality is our kids love playing on inflatable jumpy stuff. They would do it day in and day out if we’d let them. I must ask you this: Would you turn up your nose at an opportunity to go to a spa just because you did the same thing last weekend? I think not.
  • It does not need to go off without a hitch. For my niece’s sixth birthday, my sister-in-law booked a highly acclaimed magician, months — if not years — in advance. You could taste the excitement as the guests counted down the seconds until he arrived. And then they counted some more. And some more. Until it became painfully evident that the magician had taken his vanishing act to the next level.

That’s when they started building Oreo towers. Those kids went through package after package of double stuffs until they’d constructed a bona fide chocolate cookie Camelot. And then it was time to go home. “Thanks, that was fun,” the children told my catatonic sister-in-law as they exited.

Lesson learned? Despite a catastrophic birthday party disaster, my niece turned 6, the guests were happy and we had a family memory that would last years beyond the applause after a perfectly executed magic show.

OK then. I think we’re finally ready to peek at the golden nuggets. At those few precious, glimmering things our child’s birthday party should be. They look something like this:

  • A fun, memorable day spent with family and friends.
  • A means of making them feel happy, proud and loved.

  • A celebration of their development, uniqueness and existence.

Sharon Duke Estroff is an internationally syndicated Jewish parenting columnist, award-winning Jewish educator and mother of four. Her first book, “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? The Essential 411 on Raising Modern Jewish Kids” will be published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House in 2007.

End of Sanity


The orange ribbon was tied neatly around my rearview mirror.

Through the mirror I saw the face of an acquaintance in the backseat. I was giving her a ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

When she noticed the color of my political views above the dashboard, she offered her own: “We can’t live in the midst of our enemy. Disengagement is the only sane thing to do.”

“I disagree,” I said simply, avoiding a political debate I wasn’t ready to win fully. I knew I would find out some more truth for myself, that weekend, on my planned trip to Gush Katif.

I had to go to the Gush before it was too late. I had to see what all the contention was about. Friends of the family hooked me up with an 18-year-old named Ayelet, who was doing her national service in the emergency dispatch station in Neve Dekalim, the most urban Gush settlement.

Before sunset heralded in Shabbat, Ayelet and her friends took me for a ride around the Gush. All I could see through the car window were red roofs, palm trees, and the thick blue line of the sea. The place looked like an Israeli Malibu.

Our first stop was a huge nursery filled with thousands of plants.

“I can’t believe they’ll close this,” I said to Ayelet. “They’re even uprooting nature.”

“It’s very sad,” she sighed.

I didn’t take the conversation further because it clashed with the upbeat green life around me.

We ended the afternoon on the beach, the same beach where soldiers occupied the deserted seaside hotel they had evacuated a week earlier. But I hardly noticed them. Instead I watched men play matkot (beachside racket ball), kids splash in the water and a couple snuggle on the sand. The waters looked bluer than those that met the crowded Tel Aviv shore, and much more peaceful.

That evening, as we walked to the family hosting us for Friday night dinner, we passed couples pushing strollers — smiling; kids running in the street — carefree; teenagers wishing us Shabbat shalom — cheerfully.

At dinner, the topic of disengagement hardly came up, and I was annoyed because I had questions: How do you feel? Do you think it’s going to happen? What are you going to do the day of?

But I couldn’t bring myself to break the serene air with such painful talk.

So I looked around me. Hundreds of books lined the walls, china filled the cabinet. There was no sign of anyone leaving, or wanting to leave.

Walking home with the clear skies above us, and the special Shabbat silence enveloping the Gush, I pressed Ayelet.

“I don’t see how they’re going to clear the Gush out.”

“Me either.”

“People are happy here. They have built their homes here, their livelihood. What are they going to do? Drag people out of their homes? Put them into buses, like cattle? Pack their stuff?”

“It seems so. The army will bring special containers and pack for them.”

“How can they do that?”

“It’s devastating.”

The next day, I had lunch with another family. Pictures of Rav Kook, the father of religious Zionism, adorned the walls of their home. This time, the topic of disengagement came up, but with an air of dismissal.

“God will help us,” said the father.

He and his wife had never left Israel, on principle. I tried to picture what it would be like on the fateful day: What would they do when a soldier knocked on their door — if he didn’t already break it down — and hauled them out against their will?

But I shut off the vision. I decided to give the residents a well-deserved break from the topic of “disengagement,” and they inspired me to do the same for myself. I took a nap for the rest of the Shabbat afternoon.

Finally, on my way out of the Gush, I gave people a ride to Tel Aviv. Shlomi, a handsome 21-year-old who had just finished his army service, sat in the front seat, wearing jeans and a tank top. He lived on a Gush farming community.

Trying to be nonchalant, I asked, “How are people so relaxed?”

“No one wants to think about,” he said. “No one can digest it. It’s like if someone you love is going to die. You don’t want to think about and plan their death.”

The woman I had driven to Jerusalem had said it was sane to evacuate the settlers. Now it was clear to me how it will be one of the maddest things Israel could do. Gush is one of the sanest places in Israel I had ever visited. The people are healthy and happy. They love life and they love Israel.

But maybe that’s what Israel is learning to disengage from: tranquility, joy, health, beauty, idealism, strength and bravery. By uprooting these families, Israel is uprooting the very emotions and values we need to win the fight for Israel — and to remain here, forever.

On my way out of the Gush, driving the three-minute stretch of potentially dangerous road, I looked at my orange ribbon. And I understood even more why it was there.

Orit Arfa is a writer living in Tel Aviv. She can be reached at arfa@netvision.net.il.

 

And They Lived Happily Ever Apart


Years ago, when I met someone who had life-partner potential, someone who could be my first real adult relationship, I held on

tighter than Donald Trump to a bad hair style.

“I love you,” I said.

“I want to be with you all the time,” I said.

“Let’s get married,” I said.

I said a lot of things. We got married.

At first, it was just like the movies. There was love and passion and caring and sharing and laughter and plans for the future. We were like the models on Hallmark greeting cards. There were fields of daisies and we were running across them, in slow motion, toward one another, arms outstretched. It couldn’t have been mushier or cornier, but we didn’t give a damn. Other singles envied us.

“Be strong, little singles,” we told them. “We were you once.”

Flash forward. A dozen years. A couple of kids. A few conflicts.

“I want you” was replaced by “Are you still here?”

“Do you realize we’ve been having sex for six straight hours?” was replaced by “Do you realize we haven’t had sex for six straight weeks?”

And “I just love all your little quirks,” was replaced by “That sound you make when you sneeze makes my skin crawl.”

Being together day after day for 14 years sadly lost its luster.

We tried to save the quickly expiring marital patient. Counseling. More counseling. More counseling. But it was not to be. We decide to pull the plug. Divorce. Mediation. Married couple becomes two singles again.

When you’re alone, you look around and it appears as though everyone else in the world is in love, except you. All the other animals on the Ark are in pairs — except you, the sole pig — Porky, party of one.

So I jumped back into the quest. Almost another decade of dating; of periods of no dates, of bad dates, of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am dates. And now, once again, I’ve met someone who has life-partner potential. I want to be with her all the time. I see fields of daisies and us running across them, in slow motion, toward one — wait a minute. This is starting to sound familiar. I try to remember the TV show or movie that’s reminding me of what’s happening, and then it occurs to me that it’s a rerun from my own life. Oh, God. I’m repeating the pattern. Will I be stuck in this Dante’s Romantic Inferno forever? Will this be my personal hell? My Vietnam? My Iraq?

Is this going to be the arc of my romantic growth? To go from “All You Need Is Love” to “Familiarity Breeds Contempt?” Is there any way to change my fate?

Life has a way of stepping in when you need it. This time (Adult Relationship No. 2), I can’t spend all my waking moments with my new girlfriend. Because of our work, children, pet and activity schedules, we can only see each other a few times a week. Maybe that’s why each time we do, it’s like we’re meeting for that first time. We’re constantly in a state of missing each other and accumulating experiences and feelings to share. We’re not together every day. We’re definitely not living together. And we’re both fine with that. Really. We’ve each been married before, so neither of us are in a hurry to rush into anything permanent. We each value both our time together and our independent time apart.

I remember many of those fairy tales we read as kids ending with: “And they lived together, happily ever after.” I suppose for some people that still holds true. But for myself and for many others these days, it’s a new, revised fairy tale ending: “And they lived apart, happily ever after.”

Maybe it’s not the perfect fairy tale ending. Then again, what with the national divorce rate at 50 percent and higher, maybe we’re simply creating our own fairy tale.

Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at markmiller2000@comcast.net

If You Wanna Be Happy


If You Wanna Be Happy

During these holidays, Jews are commanded to be joyful.

The Hebrew word for happy is sameach.

The Hebrew word for festival or holiday is chag.

Find and circle those words in the phrase below, which means: “And you shall be happy on your festival”

 

Dance ‘Til You Drop!

We hold the Torah and dance in a circle seven times on Simchat Torah to celebrate the completion of the old cycle of reading and the beginning of the new one.

Complete this poem. All the words rhyme with Torah!

Come on Wendy, Jake and ________ (a girl’s name)

Let’s dance the ____________ (name of Israeli dance) around the Torah.

We’ll dance ’til we reach ______ – ______ (an island in Polynesia).

We’ll jump ’til we fall on the _______- a (it’s below the ceiling).

Because our legs and arms are ______- a (when you exercise too much).

But if you sleep, please don’t ________- a (you do this through your nose and mouth).

Los Angeles 5758


Your rabbi is a banana. Your cantor thinks she’sJohn Lennon. And the entire congregation is singing Beatlestunes.

A nightmare? A parallel universe?

No, it’s just Purim at Sha’arei Am: The SantaMonica Synagogue, and Rabbi Jeff Marx’s megillah reading is just oneof many bizarre scenes that will play out as rabbi and congregantsrid themselves of cumbersome inhibitions for one silly day.

In the Book of Esther business as usual is turnedon its head, so Purim demands that revelers literally eat, drink andbe merry, in direct contrast to holidays such as Yom Kippur.

“On Purim we can appreciate what God has given usthrough good things and happy times,” says Malca Schwarzmer, Jewishstudies principal at Ohr Eliyahu academy, a yeshiva day school inCulver City.

“We are given a wonderful opportunity to have timeand perspective without pressure. That belief is something that comestruly from the heart,” says Schwarzmer, who has been known to shockstudents by dressing up as a punk rocker for Purim.

Rabbi Yisroel Kelemer — a notorious jokester –has never had a problem with merrymaking. But on Purim, even he takesit over the top with costumes and pranks.

“One year I wanted to go as a Chasidic rabbi,”says Kelemer, rabbi at Congregation Mogen David. “But the only beardI could get was a Santa Claus beard. So they called me, ‘RabbiSanta.'”

Rabbi Avraham Levitansky found out that it’s hardto shock Southern Californians. A few years ago he hung aroud a SantaMonica street corner handing out mishloach manot, traditional Purimgift baskets, with his friend, Megillah Gorilla.

“Not one person flinched,” recalls Levitansky,rabbi of Chabad in Santa Monica. “They just rolled down theirwindows, took the basket, and said, ‘thank you.'”

Some take their fun more seriously than others.This year, Rabbi Haim-Dov Beliak of Temple Ner Tamid in Downey willcontinue his 15-year tradition of dressing up as a clown.

“I did not know I would be made famous by RabbiBakshi Doron, who calls himself the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel,when he said Reform rabbis are clowns.”

This year, the board at Ner Tamid passed aresolution requiring all board members to dress in costume to “set aproper example” Beliak said.

The fact that a board resolution was requiredpoints to a problem lamented by many.

Purim has fallen victim to “the pediatric approachto Judaism — it’s something wonderful for the kids, but not sonecessary for adults,” says Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah inWoodland Hills.

But historically, Purim was a very adult chance tochuckle at the world, he points out.

“A Purim spiel is an attempt to laugh at life evenwhen things are bad. At times, spielers brought great healing to manycommunities,” Vogel says.

Unfortunately, Purim has also brought great harm,as revelers have gone too far with the tradition of ad delo yada,drinking until the distinction between cursing Haman and blessingMordechai is blurred.

“I don’t think it’s a sobriety test,” says Vogel.”I think rather that it’s a statement about life, that sometimes goodand evil blur themselves and life can change quickly. It’s the natureof Jewish existence.”

Most rabbis agree that getting smashed is not theway to celebrate Purim. In fact, the Orthodox Union is using Purim asa launchpad for a new teen alcoholism educational campaign.

Schwarzmer notes that there are other ways tocelebrate, such as through the other mitzvot of Purim — givingtzedakah, sharing gift baskets and enjoying a community meal.

There is also a fine tradition of using Purim topoke fun at tradition, nowadays widely done on the Internet.

But some say even that goes too far.

“The line between being relaxed and derisive hasto a large degree been crossed over,” says Joshua Berkowitz, rabbi ofCongregation Shaarei Tefila in the Fairfax area, which draws a largecrowd to its annual Purim party. “It was always intended to be withrestraint and respect, but things that are holy and sacred becomeobjects of derision.”

But for Beliak, joy is what Purim is allabout.

“Generally, there is too little real joy in asynagogue,” Beliak says. “There is a lot of manufactured joy, whereyou walk in on somebody’s simcha. But Purim just seems to be purejoy.”

Raisin revellers at Sha’arei Am’s Purimfestivities.

Coming Up

Purim On The Pier

Purim is known as the holiday where everythinggets turned upside down, and that’s just what will happen to rollercoaster riders at Kehillat Israel’s Purim party on the pier.

The Pacific Palisades synagogue has managed torent out Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier for the evening ofThursday, March 12, when the carnival rides and games are usuallyclosed.

“It’s a wonderful way for everyone to celebratetogether and for people to learn about Purim,” says Leslie Gifford, asynagogue member who is helping to organize the event.

Thursday, March 12, 4-8 p.m. at the Santa MonicaPier. Wristbands for all 11 rides are $12 at the gate, $10 in advanceat Kehillat Israel, 16019 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310)459-2328. — JGF

 

Justice for All

The Southern California Board of Rabbisis creating an interdenominational beit din

By Julie GruenbaumFax,

Religion Editor

In a move that some are heralding as a great showof Jewish unity, the Southern California Board of Rabbis is creatingan interdenominational beitdin, or rabbinic arbitration body, toresolve civil disputes between Jewish individuals orinstitutions.

“We wanted to show that the concept of Jewishethics is not divided by movement,” says Rabbi Aaron Kriegel, chairof the beit din committee for the Board of Rabbis. “We all understandthe idea of what is right, the concepts of Torah that bind ustogether.”

Litigants, who must agree that the beit din’sdecision is legally binding, will each choose a rabbi, and the tworabbis will choose a third.

The board, made up of 250 rabbis from alldenominations, hopes that the beit din will provide an alternative tocostly court battles and keep the media away from internal battles inthe Jewish community.

“There is real excitement in our coming togetherto use tradition to solve problems, using a system that has workedfor thousands of years,” says Kriegel.

Yet that excitement is premature for some in theOrthodox camp, who are reluctant to offer support until more detailsare available.

“In theory, this is a wonderful idea, a wonderfulway to connect Jews to the Jewish legal system, and a wonderful wayto keep things internal rather than going to civil court,” says RabbiYosef Kanefsky, a member of the Board of Rabbis’ executive committeeand head of B’nai David-Judea, an Orthodox congregation.

“[But] I wouldn’t serve unless it were clear thatthis is not a formal halachic body. If the impression is that it isgoing t
o issue piskei halacha [Jewish legal decisions], that would bea misrepresentation.”

Kanefsky, who is active in interdenominationaldialogue, says he would consider participating only if it were clearthat the body was a “Jewish, scholarly, benevolent and wisearbitration board guided by principles of Jewish law.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, also a member of theBoard of Rabbis, is less optimistic.

“On one hand, there is a part of me which looksfavorably to Jews looking to the sources that all of us share,” saysAdlerstein, director of the Jewish Studies Institute of Yeshiva ofLos Angeles. “But in terms of mechanics of such a beit din, I don’tknow how we could ever get off first base.”

Kanefsky and Adlerstein both stress that eachmovement holds a fundamentally different approach to halacha and thehalachic process.

“It would be like a medical committee of aHarvard-trained physician, a homeopath and a foot reflexologisttrying to decide a medical matter,” Adlerstein says. “They would eachhave the best interest of the patient in mind, but they just don’tspeak the same language.”

But Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark, president of theBoard of Rabbis, says that, by definition, participants in each casewould be self-selective. Litigants would choose rabbis whom theyrespect, and rabbis uncomfortable with the specifics of a given casecould refuse to sit on the beit din.

“There is nobody being forced to be on a beit din,and because we have 250 rabbis of all shapes and sizes anddescriptions, people can choose,” says Goldmark, rabbi of Temple BethOhr, a Reform congregation in La Mirada.

There remain details to be worked out, Kriegelsays, such as how much the beit din will charge. For the first case– a dispute between an individual and a Jewish institution — no feewas charged.

“We don’t want to be nogaya bidavar, to showpartiality,” Kriegel says. “Right now, the issue of justice is biggerthan the issue of payment.”

And the issue of unity seems to come above allelse.

“The whole concept is that there are so manythings that are dividing the Jewish community that this is somethingthat comes at a wonderful time to unite us,” Goldmark says.

For Adlerstein, the issue is not so clear. “AllJews can, and should, feel equally passionate about the ability ofall of us to get along,” he says. But this, he added, just might haveto remain one of the issues that divides.

 

Activist and Cantor Team Up For Shabbaton

It’s not often that Rabbi Avi Weiss, activist parexcellence, gets upstaged. But he didn’t seem to mind taking secondseat to Cantor Elli Kranzler at a recent Shabbaton hosted by B’naiDavid-Judea.

With sweet melodies and rousing renditions of thetunes of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Kranzler, cantor at Weiss’s HebrewInstitute of Riverdale, led the congregation in hours worth ofuplifting song and dance throughout the weekend at the OrthodoxPico-Robertson congregation.

Rabbi Weiss drew crowds for his talks on Shabbat,and despite a downpour, to a Saturday night lecture, where his speechwas followed by a sing-along by Kranzler in the shul’s intimate GoldRoom.

“What has propelled me to do what I do,” explainedWeiss, “…is feeling the pain of our brothers and sisters. Thequestion becomes not why do we do it, but how can we not?”

Weiss is renowned for such actions as taking onblack activist Khalid Mohammed for anti-Semitic and racist remarks,and for taking up the cause of Jonathan Pollard, currently in prisonfor spying on the U.S. for Israel.

“What he did was legally wrong,” Weiss said. “Theissue is those who have done what Jonathan Pollard did, have receivedsentences between four and five years. Jonathan Pollard is in the13th year of a life sentence.”

Weiss said his activism was also aimed atpreserving the past.

“How will we view the Shoah 200 years from now or300 years from now? I’m desperately concerned about this…I’mconcerned that the Shoah has not been ritualized.”

In addition, Weiss noted that the memory of theHolocaust is being threatened by the establishment of churchesoutside concentration camps in Europe.

Outlining the formidable task of activism thatlies ahead, Weiss defined “the ultimate challenge we face” as “theneed for younger, stronger people to help.”

He concluded his lecture by saying: “Don’t speakout for what is popular, but for what is right.” — MichaelAushenker, Community Editor, and Julie Gruenbaum Fax, ReligionEditor


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