There is an old tale of a man who was searching for the finest archer and came upon a barn covered with painted targets. In the center of each rested an arrow – dead-center. The incredulous man asked how such perfection could be achieved. The barn owner let loose a shot – the arrow flew crazily – and landed well outside any of the targets. The fellow grabbed a brush and bucket – and painted a perfect circle around the arrow.
Last week, a new study on abortion found that while the decision is hard for most women, no matter class, geography, or ethnicity 95% of women who have made the choice to abort do not regret it. The findings of this study go against the prevailing common narratives conveyed by the media and in politics but they were not so shocking to me.
One of my hobbies is chicken keeping. My municipality allows small flocks of hens (no roosters — too loud) within city limits, so I have a coop, a fenced run and five birds in my yard. It is a good relationship: I feed them and care for them, and they give me eggs.
Yesterday, around the world, we Jews observed Tisha B’Av, a day of grieving the historical destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, our archetypal and historical sacred center.
I did not fast during Ramadan. But I did somehow experience a little bit of the meaning of the Muslim holy month that just ended a few days ago. The ebb and flow of the fast days was in my consciousness. The daily hunger and the spiritual uplift of the faithful were on my mind. I learned a tiny bit about the meaning of this month, about being conditioned through the fast to feel empathy for the poor who don’t have enough to eat. When the muezzin called just after the sun went down each day, I listened and thought of the parched throats praying and then easing their thirst and hunger. And although I did not fast, I participated in many iftar/break-fast meals with my Muslim friends. My neighbors became a little bit a part of me, and I became a little bit a part of them.
Here’s my favorite fact about the New Horizons flight to Pluto: New Horizons launched at 2 pm on January 19, 2006, and passed the moon at 10:35 pm that same day (which, by the way, was nearly ten times faster than the Apollo 11 mission). It then took nearly nine and a half years to get to Pluto. It’s mind-blowing.
When I decided to enter rabbinical school, many of my friends were incredulous at the thought. They said, “Don’t get us wrong, we think being spiritual is important….come, let’s find God on the mountaintop, but Matthew, Organized Religion, you must be out of your mind.”
In the Beginning, the friendship of three rabbis was created and nurtured at an annual Rabbis Without Borders alumni retreat.
An acquaintance of mine once told me bitterly that his father had once explained to him his theory of successful negotiation: It is when the negotiator (meaning himself) walks away with everything he wanted, and the other party doesn’t.