Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Another Season Of Our Joy

Tradition! With Barbie! Yes, we are done with Yom Kippur for 5784. Therefore, this is [almost] the Holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which we also call זמן שׂמחתנו, the Season of Our Joy.

For after all, what are we Jews commanded to do on this holiday? Build a sukkah, invite guests, and envelop ourselves in the fragrance of the Four Species.

How hard could that be?


Even Barbie can do it!

Barbie Sukkah

Yes. That’s right. ANOTHER Jewish holiday. Friday evening (Erev Shabbat) begins the Festival of Sukkot - the Season of Our Joy.

United With Israel reminds us:
Sukkot is one of the three Torah festivals on which Jews everywhere were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  
It is a seven day holiday with the first day being observed as a holy day, similar to the Sabbath, upon which no work is permitted. Outside of Israel the first two days are observed as holy days.
The remaining days of the holiday are referred to as “Chol Hamoed.” The Chol Hamoed days are not outright holy days but they are treated with more sanctity than regular weekdays complete with elaborate meals and nicer clothing.  
Originally, Sukkot was more of an agricultural festival, as the Torah itself calls it: The Feast of Ingathering… when you gather in your labors from out of the field. (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:40-43; Deuteronomy 16:13). It was a thanksgiving festival to God for the year’s harvest. 
Today, it is observed more as a holiday of rest and reflection for the miracles that God did for the Jewish people when He led them in the desert for 40 years.
To help us celebrate - here are The Fountainheads with Livin' In A Booth:

No etrogim were harmed in the filming of this video.
Lemons are a different story.

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

One of Thirty-Six

Righteous Individuals: May we all be inscribed and sealed for life! 

ICYMI - Here is an inspired and strongly-delivered Rosh Hashanah 5784 sermon  - One of Thirty-Six - by the one and only Rabbi Lisa Rubin, the New York's Central Synagogue's Director of the Center for Exploring Judaism.

Rabbi Lisa Rubin

Abq Jew knows - we all just sat through more than a few such sermons at our local shuls, just a few days ago. But Rabbi Rubin's Rosh Hashanah 5784 sermon is really, really good.

One of Thirty-Six
Rabbi Lisa Rubin     Rosh HaShanah 5784

A couple in our community recently suffered a tragic loss. Their first child was born prematurely and only survived for two days. It goes without saying that the aftermath of losing a baby is a profound and indescribable anguish. 

As I engaged with the funeral home very late that night, they explained what would normally happen: the baby’s body would go to the hospital morgue and then be transported in the morning. 

The idea of this precious newborn in a morgue felt unsettling and grim. The family was distraught over this protocol, and I wasn’t comfortable with it, either.

Thirty Six

And then an extraordinary gesture was made. 

The funeral home employee said that after her shift, close to midnight, she would go to the hospital herself to pick up the baby and bring it to the funeral home. There, adherence to Jewish custom could prevail: a shomer -- a watcher -- could sit with the child, with tenderness and protection, until burial. 

I found it incredible that a stranger would extend such an offer—an act of kindness that felt nearly messianic. It was a balm of humanity, a healing touch to tend to a gaping wound. 

I accepted her generosity on behalf of the family,
and was deeply moved by her compassion.

Lamed Vav

Within Judaism there exists a captivating myth to describe a person who would perform such a selfless act. According to this legend, there are thirty-six righteous individuals living at any given time, whose merit sustains the world’s existence. 

These thirty-six people exemplify
kindness, selflessness, and humility. 

Without them, the tradition says, the world would be susceptible to destruction by God because of the wickedness of humankind. These honorable people are known as Lamed Vavniks, derived from the number thirty-six in Hebrew. Double Chai.

The identities of Lamed Vavniks are not known as they walk among us, so they are called the “Hidden Righteous.” Their deeds often go unrecognized. They themselves may not even know of their role! Their humility prevents them from seeing the deep impact of their virtuous behavior. 


Even more intriguing is the myth’s notion that the count of thirty-six is not fixed. Individuals can come in and out of this role. 

Someone can be righteous for their whole life or for five minutes. 

The underlying concept is that at any given time, thirty-six people need to be acting virtuously to justify the purpose of civilization in the eyes of the divine. Without them, the world would meet its demise. 


The idea that God would destroy the world for its wickedness is established early in the Bible. We see it in the generation of Noah: God floods the Earth because humankind has reached an impossible level of depravity. 

And the narrative repeats itself in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. This time, Abraham, concerned for the fate of the virtuous people living there, begins to negotiate with God. If there are 50 good people, will God save the cities? Yes. What about 40? Yes. Abraham gets God down to ten. 

Ten worthy individuals is all it would take. They are not found, of course, but the principle has been established. A crucial point is made: for the sake of a few, God might spare the many.

The hope embedded in this legend is captivating: any one of us could be a Lamed Vavnik, or encounter one. It teaches how intrinsically necessary we all are. We each play a role in the ongoing creation and improvement of the world. Every act can be meaningful. It validates a Talmudic teaching:

“Treat no one lightly and think nothing is useless,
for everyone has his moment and everything has its place.” 

Jewish Star

But then Rabbi Rubin dives into
David Brooks' recent column in The Atlantic.

Click here to view the video.
Click here to view the transcript.
But know that Rabbi Rubin's delivery is everything.

These ideas resonate in our current climate. The past year has left many feeling disheartened. A sense of unease pervades. Beyond the persistent issues like polarizing politics, conflicts abroad, anti-Semitism, and environmental crises, a new level of discord is the norm. 

Acts of kindness and selflessness appear increasingly spare. Mean-spiritedness and intolerance have left a significant portion of our country feeling calloused and alienated.

Every generation has their zeitgest issue. Is ours that people cannot interact without animosity? That we have a true disdain for each other? Are we divided into hostile factions that will never reconcile? 

USA David Brooks

David Brooks skillfully captures in his recent piece [How America Got Mean] for The Atlantic that 

the words that define our age reek of menace:
conspiracy, polarization, mass shootings, trauma, safe spaces. 

Brooks argues that America has lost its moral compass. We simply don’t know, he says, how to treat each other with compassion or consideration any more. 

Brooks asks how our nation will find its ethical footing again; how we can help people restrain their selfishness. He writes, 

How do we keep 
our evolutionarily-conferred egotism
under control?

He asks how to teach basic social and ethical skills: 

How do you welcome a neighbor into your community?
How do you disagree with someone constructively?

Finally, he asks how to guide people toward purpose and ideals in life: 

What moral institutions are teaching us
to serve the poor, protect the nation, love our neighbor?


Judaism has been wrestling with, and answering, these questions for millennia. We may not have a panacea, but we do have a blueprint. 

Jewish tradition and sources are filled with ethical principles. Some are very well known: honor your parents. Don’t steal. Don’t put a stumbling block before the blind. Others are less well known: Don’t hold a worker’s wages until morning. Rest your animals, too, on Shabbat. A handful of laws proscribing decency may not attract attention. 

But when we amass hundreds of such dictates requiring consideration for our fellow human beings (and animals!), we paint a picture of a morally focused people. Judaism stands as an ancient and ongoing beacon of virtue, which has developed the most extensive system of legislated good acts in human history! 

God doesn’t demand moral excellence
without providing a roadmap to achieve it. 


Rabbi Hillel was one of the most brilliant, audacious legal scholars of the Talmud. In a renowned tale, a man approaches him, seeking conversion to Judaism under the condition that he be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel doesn’t falter. He responds, 

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.
The rest is commentary. Go and study.

This response is remarkable. Hillel doesn’t talk to the man about monotheism, Shabbat, or prayer. He restricts himself to a description of Judaism’s ethical essence! 

Hillel believes if the man can grasp this fundamental principle of being considerate to others, he can be Jewish, and the rest will be commentary. It’s a return to the basics that enables us to concentrate on one of the quintessential aspects of Judaism.

You Never Know

Today, I propose that we emulate Hillel’s mindset and view the Lamed Vavnik legend as an invitation to flex some of our most important Jewish muscles: acts of kindness, giving back to the world, and leading by example. 

A benchmark is set for us every new year for acts big and small. The world’s population is 8.1 billion. Thirty-six of us hitting the mark at any given time seems manageable. We can all strive to join the ranks of the Lamed Vavniks.


In an era marred by hostility and intolerance, what does kindness truly entail? How do we prioritize the needs of others over our own? And what does it mean to be a savior to someone in a single moment—to serve as the lifeline that someone desperately requires? 

How, ultimately, can we get good at being good? 

Rabbi Sacks

The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks underscored this when he wrote,

What we do affects others and cannot but affect others. We give them comfort or leave them feeling inadequate and alone. We embarrass them or make them feel they belong. 

A smile can lift a person up for a day. A cutting comment can leave a scar that lasts a lifetime. A word of encouragement can open up for someone a possibility, a source of energy, they did not have before. 

Of such passing moments are our images of the world made. By such micro-interactions we have an effect on other lives.

Once we understand the world depends on us, opportunities for kindness will not be hard to find. 

It is not on our intellect or power or wealth or wit
that the world hangs but on our moral integrity. 

This awareness reminds us to approach each interaction with grace and curiosity because if we’re not one of the thirty-six in that moment, the person we’re engaging with may very well be.                   

Judaism is a complex and subtle faith, yet it has rarely lost touch with its simple ethical imperatives. We are still here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world - a day at a time, an act at a time. 

We do it for as long as it takes to make our world a place of justice and compassion where the lonely are not alone, the poor not without help, where the cry of the vulnerable is heeded.

David Brooks may be right, that humanity has lost its way. But our tradition reminds us that, at any given moment, our world’s preservation rests on the shoulders of Lamed Vavniks - concealed virtuous individuals. I bet some of them are sitting right here in this room.  

Yom Kippur

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Rosh Hashanah 5784

Dip Your Apple In The Honey: It's Rosh Hashanah! And, as we begin a New Jewish Year, please remember - as Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum of Denver, CO; of Livingston, NJ; and now, once again, of Charleston, SC has taught us -

There is hope for the world.
There is hope for your life.

The way it is now is not the way it must be. 

Abq Jew warmly invites you to check out
this now-classic Rosh Hashanah hit from 5772:
Dip Your Apple!

No apples, pomegranates, babies, or smartphones
were harmed in the filming of this video.
Please don't feed babies honey.


Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Abq Jew knows (and knows you know), are special times for our Jewish hearts, minds, and souls.

The Ein Prat Fountainheads have - as always! - touched our hearts. Now, here is something that will touch our minds and souls.


For many years, you may recall, we New MexiJews had a Jewish Federation that spoke to us and for us. Now we don't. 

Therefore, Abq Jew has taken the responsibility to pass along this New Year message from the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire - his son's family's community. Hey - at least it's got New in its name.

Jewish Federation New Hampshire

Promoting Jewish continuity by enhancing and expanding
a connected and vibrant Jewish community
in New Hampshire, Israel, and around the world.

Allyson Guertin

Embracing the Jewish High Holidays:
A Season of Change and Community Unity
Allyson Guertin, JFNH Director

Fall in New England has always been my favorite season. As the leaves begin to change and the air becomes crisp, it’s the perfect time to welcome the Jewish High Holidays.

These important days serve as a reminder of the circle of life and the importance of coming together as a community to celebrate, reflect, and grow. The theme of change is woven into the very fabric of these holidays, just as the world around us transforms.

The High Holidays provide the perfect opportunity to come together as a community, reinforcing the bonds that unite us. During these important days, we gather in synagogues to pray, share meals with family and friends, and participate in acts of charity and kindness. The act of coming together strengthens our sense of belonging and reinforces the idea that we are not alone in our journey of growth and transformation. 

The changing of seasons in New Hampshire mirrors the transformation that takes place during the High Holidays. Just as nature undergoes metamorphosis, shedding the old to make way for the new, we too have the opportunity to shed our past wrongdoing and emerge renewed and rejuvenated.

As we prepare to observe the Jewish High Holidays with our New Hampshire community, take a moment to reflect on the ideas of compassion, empathy, and unity. Let us strive to be a source of support and strength for one another, recognizing that we are all interconnected as part of this beautiful circle of Jewish New Hampshire.

May the sweetness of the apples dipped in honey symbolize a year filled with blessings and a sweet future for all. Wishing you and your families a meaningful and joyous High Holiday season.

L'Shana Tova Tikatevu –
May you be inscribed for a good year!

Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Closing Out 5783

Three Things: This past week, three things touched Abq Jew's spirit. Two of them involved the way-too-early deaths of a couple of well-known, beloved public figures who had accomplished a great deal in their lifetimes. 

And then there was that other thing.

But let's start with

Jimmy Buffett   1946~2023

Jimmy Buffett

We all learned last Friday that the one and only Jimmy Buffett, the Mayor of Margaritaville, had died at the age of 76. That seems awfully, terribly young for Abq Jew, who recently completed his 73rd circuit around our Sun.

Oy. What to say? Once again, Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner get it exactly right in the Substack Steady column titled - what else? - Margaritaville.

There was something quintessentially American about the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, who passed away yesterday at the age of 76. He was a showman, selling a laid-back vision of life: beaches, cocktails, sunbaked days, and parties after dark. 

The allure of letting loose and having fun has been a part of our national identity. But so have hard work and seizing opportunities to monetize an idea, which Buffett did with such skill that Forbes estimated his net worth this year at $1 billion. 

Buffett’s life followed an arc that exemplified the American Dream. Originally a reporter working for Billboard, he struggled as a young musician to find his voice and make his mark. 

That changed when he moved to Key West, Florida. He would later say that there “I found a lifestyle, and I knew that whatever I did would have to work around my lifestyle.” 

And it was this lifestyle — a blend of love for the open sea and the camaraderie of a seaside bar, all infused with music — that drew legions of loyal fans over decades of success. 

Not being a true Parrothead, Abq Jew had sorta lost track of Jimmy Buffett. But twenty (20) years ago, he (that is, Jimmy Buffett) joined with country star Alan Jackson in the joyful rendition of It's Five O'Clock Somewhere - one of the best drinking songs around, at least when Abq Jew was drinking.

No, Jimmy Buffett rarely if ever exuded gravitas (at least, not in public) - which is exactly why we all loved him.

If you wanted gravitas, seriousness of purpose, and lifelong dedication to public service, you turned to 

Bill Richardson   1947~2023

Bill Richardson

We all learned Saturday that the one and only Bill Richardson, the former 2x Governor of New Mexico, Representative, UN Ambassador, and Secretary of Energy, had died at the age of 75. Once again - that seems awfully, terribly young for Abq Jew.

Perhaps most importantly, Bill Richardson was known as a מתיר אסורים - freer of the imprisoned - a mitzvah for which we also thank The Holy One, Blessed Be He, each morning.

In fact, shortly before his death, Bill Richardson was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in hostage diplomacy - seeking the release of 15 political prisoners, including professional basketball player Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed.

Dan Rather said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter:
Bill Richardson was a skilled politician, gifted diplomat, and good guy. He was determined and deliberate. Rising to prominence in his native New Mexico, he became a respected figure on the world stage. Over the years, he brought many Americans detained overseas back home. He was a symbol of hope and resolve. 
May he rest in peace.

And then there was that other thing.

The Travels of Howdy Doody

Howdy Doody

We all learned Friday that the one and only Howdy Doody, the steer who rides shotgun in his owner’s car, had been stopped by the Norfolk, Nebraska Police for ... riding shotgun in his owner’s car. That seems awfully, terribly harsh for Abq Jew, who often rides shotgun in Mrs Abq Jew's car.

Maria Luisa Paul reported in The Washington Post:

On Wednesday morning, Capt. Chad Reiman was sitting in his Norfolk, Neb., office when he heard radio traffic that immediately piqued his interest. There was a report about a car driving through the city’s downtown area with a cow inside of it.

Reiman “just had to see it for myself because it seemed so unusual,” he told The Washington Post. He drove to the scene, where he found a fully grown, black-and-white-dappled steer with long protruding horns riding shotgun in his owner’s modified Ford Crown Victoria sedan.

“It was quite a big surprise,” said Reiman, with the Norfolk Police Division. “We were all kind of expecting it to be a smaller animal, like a calf, that would actually fit into a vehicle, not the large animal that we actually discovered there.”

The animal was Howdy Doody, a 2,200-pound, 9-year-old Watusi-longhorn mix steer who’s more doglike than fierce fighting bull. 

His owner, Lee Meyer, said Howdy Doody enjoys going on walks on a leash, getting treats and, yes, feeling the wind rush past his face when they go on rides. Howdy Doody also knows some commands, such as “back up” and “come here.”

Hayom Harat Olam

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, let's review what we have learned here.

    • Jimmy Buffett laughed but could get serious.
    • Bill Richardson was serious but could laugh.
    • Howdy Doody could ride shotgun in his owner's car.

It takes all types to make the world go round. As we prepare to move from 5783 on to 5784, let's all remember that and go easy on others. 

And on ourselves.
We too make the world go round.

Parrot Guitar

"Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic.
But I had a good life all the way."
- Jimmy Buffett -