Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ingroups, outgroups, and out of bounds / Pesach

Peter Beinart, in his 3/18/2012 New York Times op-ed calls for a bizarre response to the insidious anti-Israel B.D.S. (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement: his very own version of B.D.S! His, of course, is morally superior. Curiously, it’s predicated on the notion that the West Bank (which he sanctimoniously wishes to rename “nondemocratic Israel”) is part of Israel, which has never been the case, with the exception of East Jerusalem. Has Beinart not heard that the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank in cooperation with Israeli security forces -- yes cooperation -- with its headquarters in Ramallah? Has he not heard that trade and commerce between the West Bank and Israel are thriving? (He should visit Jenin on a Sunday to see all the Israeli shoppers flocking to its markets.) Would Beinart like to dismantle all the Israeli-Palestinian co-existence organizations that do not adhere strictly to his definition of the “green line” (yes, he has his own definition)? Are we surprised that Beinart places all the blame at Israel’s feet and nowhere mentions Palestinian terrorism, or intransigence and refusal to come to the bargaining table, let alone legitimate Israeli security needs? Rather than considering history -- or the future for that matter! -- Beinart is stuck in an eternal present defined by his “ingroup” and his perception of the “outgroup,” combined with a mammoth dose of “Jewish guilt” that goes something like this: Jews should never be in the position of having power over anyone else. Maybe celebrating Pesach will remind him what happens when Jews are utterly powerless.

If you ever spent any time on the playground in third grade, or in the cafeteria in seventh grade -- places where those who hold the reins of power are easy to discern -- you already know a great deal about social identity theory even if you don’t know the fancy lingo that accompanies this field of social psychology pioneered by Henri Trajfel. We humans have a proclivity to form “ingroups” (people with whom we identify and toward whom we have an affinity) and “outgroups” (who are often the subject of our contempt, opposition, and with whom we feel ourselves to be in competition). This all-too-human proclivity breeds prejudices, cronyism and collective narcissism.

Social identity theorists tell us, however, that our individual attitudes and behavior are not determined solely by our “ingroup.” Rather they lie along a continuum between interpersonal behavior and intergroup behavior. In simpler terms: I’m not an automaton of my social group; I choose my attitudes and opinions depending upon how I value and privilege my individual relationships and my membership in a social grouping.

Perhaps the most striking example is one I heard from a man whose family had had been saved by a Christian family during the Holocaust. His elderly grandmother went to the park each day and sat on a bench with another elderly woman, a Christian lady. That’s it. That’s the whole Torah. Here is the commentary: Each day these two old women sat together for an hour talking about their children and grandchildren. They did not visit one another's homes. Their families never met or socialized. Yet these daily conversations imbued the Christian woman with a deep sense that this Jew was a human being in “her world” about whom she cared. At her insistence, the Christian woman’s family saved the Jewish family. The individual relationship trumped membership in a social grouping -- all because two elderly women sat together for an hour each day on a park bench.

This Shabbat we pause in the cycle of Torah readings for the special reading designated for the first day of Pesach. Exodus 12:21-51 recounts the Tenth Plague, from the selection of lambs and gathering of hyssop to dip in the blood and smear on the lintels, to the horrifying account of the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt: “their” children die, but “our” children do not. The ultimate powerless people will be avenged from heaven. From the outset, Moses reminds the people earlier in chapter 12 that what they are doing in crisis mode at that moment, will set the stage for a yearly national remembrance of their redemption. What they do then to protect themselves from the Angel of Death they will repeat and incorporate into a series of practices designed to teach the next generation (and in every generation, the intent is to teach “the next generation”) of God’s capacity for redemption.
This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time…You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time… (Exodus 12: 16, 17)
So far, we presume that Moses is addressing the Israelites. But wait:
No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is a stranger (ger) or a citizen (ezrach) of the country. (Exodus 12:19)
And further in the same chapter:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the law of the passover offering: No foreigner (ben neikhar) shall eat of it. But any slave (eved ish) a man has bought may eat of it once he has been circumcised. No bound (toshav) or hired laborer (sakhir) shall eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house: you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house; nor shall you break a bone of it. The whole community of Israel (adat Yisrael) shall offer it. If a stranger (ger) who dwells with you would offer the passover to the Lord, all his males must be circumcised; then he shall be admitted to offer it; he shall be as a citizen of the country (ezrach ha-aretz). But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. There shall be one law (torah achat) for the citizen (ezrach) and for the stranger (ger) who dwells among you. (Exodus 12:43-49)
Torah both acknowledges “ingroups” and “outgroups” but seeks to teach that the boundaries are permeable. People are not “other” if their intent is peaceful and they live their lives with you as neighbors and friends. All rights of citizenship apply to the ger (the resident alien) as much as to any Jew. Torah teaches us that our view should be mediated by how people behavior toward us: are they good friends and neighbors, or do they treat us as the enemy. Our arms and minds should be open, our boundaries permeable.

Peter Beinart seems to have missed this lesson. His “outgroup” is demarcated by the Green Line -- a line on a map that he fails to understand was an armistice line (a cease-fire line) and never intended to be a permanent border. In his propensity to ignore history in favor ideology, Beinart has ossified it, as he has calcified his views of what a Jewish nation is. So a quick review:

The 1949 Israel-Egyptian agreement specifically states: "The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question." The Jordanian-Israeli agreement is similar.

Prof. Stephen M Schwebel who, in 1967 was deputy legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State, wrote in the American Journal of International Law (1970) that "...modifications of the 1949 armistice lines among those States within former Palestinian territory are lawful (if not necessarily desirable), whether those modifications are... 'insubstantial alterations required for mutual security' or more substantial alterations -- such as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem." In a footnote, he wrote: "It should be added that the armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them."

We all want to see a peaceful and just resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It will only be achieved when we can look beyond "ingroups" and "outgroups" and see human beings with legitimate rights, needs, and aspirations.

Oh, and by the way, you might find it interesting to know that Henri Trajfel, the British social psychologist who pioneered social identity theory was born Mersz Mordche in 1919 in Poland. Facing restrictions placed on Jews seeking education, he left Poland to study chemistry at the Sorbonne. When World War II broke out, he volunteered to serve in the French army. Within a year, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and rode out the rest of the war in a series of POW camps. At the end of the war, Trajfel learned that his entire family and most of his friends in Poland had been murdered by the Nazis. He dedicated the remainder of his life to studying the psychology and interplay of bigotry and intergroup relations.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thanks a lot! / Tzav

Charles du Bos (1882-1939), French critic of French and English literature, is credited with saying, “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Yet please consider this, as well: Anthropologists’ general understanding of sacrifices is that they (1) appease a god to prevent disaster; or (2) propitiate a god to insure future favor; or (3) make atonement to a god to avoid punishment. All three are investments in the future with an expected pay-off. The future pay-off is not a change in the one who offers the sacrifices, but rather (hopefully) in the god who receives the sacrifice.

Torah, in parshat Tzav and elsewhere, speaks about the todah, the thanksgiving offering, which is one of several kinds of sh’lamim (offerings of wellbeing).
This is the ritual of the sacrifice of wellbeing that one may offer to the Lord: If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil mixed in, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked. (Leviticus 7:11-12)
Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), famous for his cynicism, said, “Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.” Given that Rochefoucauld believed that every human act is motivated by self-interest, his take on gratitude comes as no surprise. Is this what underlies the todah? Or is it, in the words of Charles du Bos, a way to “sacrifice what we are for what we would become”?

The todah is different from other sacrifices, and therein may reside the answer and wisdom for us in our lives. First, the todah is optional, not required. Even God cannot compel the emotion of gratitude. That comes from the human heart alone. Second, the todah is made without expectation of future gain; it is a heartfelt thanks concerning what has already been. There are plenty of other sacrifices to make with expectation of recompense from God, but not this one.

Gratitude is a curious thing. It is wonderful to feel gratitude because it means you have been blessed and gifted. At the same time it can make you feel indebted and weak. It all depends on your attitude. Which one describes your experience?

Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz, in his wonderful book of allegories, The Curse of Blessings, tells the story of an Officer of the Law, proud and pompous. The Officer encounters a man in rags who places on him the Curse of Blessings. “Every day you must say a new blessing, one you have never said before. On the day you do not say a new blessing… you will die!” As you might expect, initially it is terribly difficult for the Officer of the Law to think of a new blessing each day; he is not accustomed to feeling or expressing gratitude, but that’s what he must do to find a new blessing to say each day. He succeeds: he blesses the ordinary aspects of his life, then his abilities, then his close relationships, then those around him, then the world around him. I won’t tell you how the story ends so you can have the opportunity to read and savor it yourself. But you get the idea: gratitude extends life and enhances its quality.

Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the books Being Happy, Happier, and Even Happier teaches the most popular class at Harvard. By now you’ve guessed the title of the course: Happiness. Ben-Shahar teaches that gratitude, not success, is essential for happiness. It’s a matter of perspective and attitude: either arrogance (“I deserve this”) or humility (“how fortunate I am to have this!”). Your choice. (Even Happier is a combined book and workbook for learning the skill of gratitude.)

Talmud teaches us how important attitude is, and that it is our choice what attitude to adopt:
[Ben Zoma] used to say: “What does a good guest say? ‘How much trouble my host has taken for me! How much meat he has set before me! How much wine he has set before me! How many cakes he has set before me! And all the trouble he has taken was only for my sake!’ But what does a bad guest say? ‘How much after all has my host put himself out? I have eaten one piece of bread, I have eaten one slice of meat, I have drunk one cup of wine! All the trouble which my host has taken was only for the sake of his wife and children!’” (Berakhot 58a)
Torah teaches us that gratitude expressed through the todah (thanksgiving) offering is gratitude internalized. It enriches our lives, increases our happiness, and ultimately that of those around us. As President Obama said in a commencement address at Arizona State University in 2009, “Acts of sacrifice and decency without regard to what’s in it for you create ripple effects. Ones that lift up families and communities, that spread opportunity and boost our economy; that reach folks in the forgotten corners of the world who, in committed young people like you, see the true face of America: our strength, our goodness, our diversity, our enduring power, our ideals.”

How about that? There is a pay-off after all! So, whom are you going to thank today?

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Whose glass is this anyway? / Vayikra

Ah, the eternal conundrum: Is your glass half full or half empty?
Parshat Vayikra and indeed, all of the Book of Leviticus, reads like a priestly manual on making sacrifices. Here’s a typical passage:
And if his offering is a goat, he shall bring it before the Lord, and lay his hand upon its head. It shall be slaughtered before the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar. He shall then present as his offering from it, as an offering by fire to the Lord, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is about the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, that is at the loins, and the protuberance on the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys. The priest shall turn these into smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire, of pleasing odor. (Leviticus 3:12-17)
People often ask: Why would people make sacrifices? Isn’t this terribly primitive? Why give up something valuable for no reason -- it’s just getting burned up, what a waste?

But perhaps the question to ask is: How can you not?

At the core of offering sacrifices are the notions of OWNERSHIP and ENTITLEMENT. We think we own all we possess, and we’re entitled to it, and to a good deal more: We’re entitled to a storybook childhood and wonderful parents. We’re entitled to partners who meet our every need, and model children who make us kvell 24/7. We’re entitled to the opportunities, education, jobs, bosses, coworkers, and neighbors of our dreams. We’re entitled to the talents, skills, personal and physical attributes we know we deserve. We’re even entitled to self-esteem -- not based on accomplishment, but just because it’s everyone’s due.

How do we know if we feel entitled? First, if we feel somehow “cheated” by the lack, and second, if we blame others for what we lack. When blame-your-parents books became all the rage, if our children objected to some rule, restriction, or requirement we set, we told them, “You can grow up and write a book about us.” On occasion, our daughter Naomi would express mock displeasure with her father by pointing a finger at him and saying, “That will go in chapter 12.”

Certainly we have a basic notion of human entitlement that is legitimate, and our understanding of fundamental human rights is based upon it. And that is a good thing because it compels us to act on behalf of those in need. The sense of ownership and entitlement I have in mind is far above the subsistence level. It’s something we all experience, quite understandably. I often feel both a sense of ownership and entitlement, but I also know they are a trap.

Torah tries to help us avoid the trap by positing the radical idea that we don’t own anything. The earth is the Lord’s and that it holds, the world and its inhabitants (Psalm 24:1). It’s all God’s, and though we do have temporary custody of property, goods, and money, we don’t own them. Hence a sense of entitlement flies out the window. Ownership is replaced by obligation: responsibility to others and to earth itself. Entitlement is replaced by a deep sense of gratitude. The spiritual soul knows responsibility and gratitude in full measure.

What happens when responsibility and gratitude supplant ownership and entitlement? You stop seeing what you don’t have, and can focus on what you do have - the glass half full.

The notion of korban (sacrifice) pulls us out of the abyss of ownership and entitlement (which sucks us into the vortex of dissatisfaction and unhappiness). At the beginning of our parashah we read:
The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Temple of Meeting saying: Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them: When any of you present (yakriv) an offering (korban) to the Lord from the cattle, from the herd, or from the flock -- you shall offer (takrivu) your offering (korbanchem). (Leviticus 1:1-2)
In just one verse (verse 2) a word with the root kuf-resh-bet is used four times, twice as a noun meaning “sacrifice” and twice as a verb meaning “offer.” The root kuf-resh-bet means to “approach” or “draw near.” Why four times in these verses which introduce and frame all of the Book of Leviticus? Perhaps to alert us that an attitude of gratitude and responsibility draw us close to our true selves, to other people, to the world we inhabit, and to God. God has gifted us with life and this world to be our home. How much happier we can be when we see it from that perspective -- gratitude is a powerful purveyor of happiness. Would that we could arrive at the place where we can say: Look, someone made the glass twice as big as it needs to be!

(c) Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Have I got a story for you! / Vayakhel-Pikudei

Narratives are composed of details. Lots and lots of details that our brains sort, organize, and combine to produce a narrative story we call memory. Sometimes that sorting and combining goes perversely awry:

Recently Rush Limbaugh audaciously declared over the radio that Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke (he referred to her as a “Feminazi”), who last week told Democratic members of congress that the requirement that health insurance provide coverage for contraception is critical for women’s health: "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute."

Note that Rush did not use the same details to tell the story this way: she must have contraception so men can have sex.
Politicians know that “either you control the story or the story controls you.” So do neurologists and psychologists. Our most intense and vivid memories are stored in our reptile brain, the amygdala, which consists of clusters of neurons in the medial temporal lobe. How we order and ascribe meaning to those memories -- the narrative story we create from them -- happens in the higher brain functions. Our life narratives begin with details that we assemble, order, and to which we ascribe meaning.

Passover is coming -- in less than a month. It’s easy to get caught up in the intense nitty-gritty of preparation and then the myriad of detail of the seder itself. Yet those very details can bring our narrative memories into sharp focus. Since it’s time to start cleaning, two apropos examples (and given the one with which I started, I’ll give you only light ones here): Years ago my kids assembled a long playlist on my laptop of high energy pop and rock tunes for Pesach cleaning. When Jonah and I together take the refrigerator apart to clean it everything each year, I carefully note how the drawers and shelves fit back together, but then completely forget when it comes time to put them back an hour later. Each year Jonah laughs and says, “No problem, Ema, I’ll take care of it this year.” Year after year. Second example: Jonah played endlessly with Lego as a child, and every year, when we pull the stove out from the wall to vacuum behind it, we find pieces of Lego. Every year. But Jonah is nearly 20 now. As impossible as it seems, we found a piece behind the stove last year, evoking a flood of memories of years past and Jonah’s building projects when our house was drowning in Lego. Both of these memories -- trivial details in the scheme of things -- are part of my narrative about how much fun Pesach cleaning can be when you do it with your kids.

Our double Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pikudei similarly includes an intensely detailed description -- this one of the Wilderness Tabernacle. Every plank, pole, socket, and tenon of the Tent of Meeting; every piece of yarn, cloth, and animal skin used in the curtains and coverings; every exquisite detail of the ark, altar, menorah, and incense altar; precisely how much silver and copper were used; all are recorded in minute detail. Why so much detail? Why should we, standing in the 21st century, care?

Why so much detail? From the perspective of those who built the Tabernacle and brought sacrifices to God there daily, the Tabernacle was a reflection or replica of the heavenly realm. For our ancestors, the Tabernacle was their portal to God and everything beyond their immediate lives: purpose, meaning, immortality. But we who live 3200 years later have neither seen nor experienced the Tabernacle and its elaborate rites and rituals. Why recount the details? The Tabernacle -- precisely in its details -- evokes national memories of our beginnings, our purpose, our mission.

The details of Passover create a national narrative about redemption and covenant. Each year we re-enact the experience of our ancestors to create memories from our re-enactments. The details -- bitter herbs of slavery, recitation of the plagues, sweet charoset of freedom, opening our doors to welcome Elijah -- coalesce into a narrative about redemption and covenant. Each time we are reminded of the details, we have another opportunity to derive from, or ascribe meaning to, the story.

Each of us has narratives that explain how we have come to see our lives. Each narrative is composed of a myriad details. It is we who weave the details into a narrative tapestry of how we see our lives. At times, our tapestries depict a life of abuse, neglect, lost opportunities, failures… and these lead to great pain, and often paralyze us. We cannot grow, we cannot change, we cannot move forward because our narrative (the story of our lives as we tell it to ourselves) holds us back. Remember Rush? The same details can tell a very different story. Abuse can be a story of resilience. Neglect can become a story of self-reliance. Lost opportunities can become a story of caution, sometimes wisely exercised and sometimes not. Failures can become a story of courageous risk-taking. It’s all in the details and the story we have them tell.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tabernacles and paper airplanes / Parshat Ki Tissa

Cartoonist Al Capp (remember Li’l Abner?) described modern art as “a produce of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.” If you read Dave Barry’s marvelous satire “Modern Art Stinks” ( , Capp’s biting comment sounds more realistic than bitter. In truth, much in modern art is fascinating and moving. We are all moderns, and our lives are our art. Do you think of yourself as an artist?

Long ago in first grade, my son Jonah’s teacher told him that when I saw his work at the parent-teacher conference I would be “ashamed” of him. The offending piece of schoolwork was an assignment to write directions to do or make something. Jonah had written only two sentences, but above them were five drawings depicting each stage in making a folded paper airplane. His drawings were 3-D and the perspective was accurate. I stared at his paper. “Did Jonah have a paper airplane on his desk to look at when he did this?” I asked. “No, but that’s not the point. He hardly wrote anything,” the teacher replied, in a futile attempt to draw me back to what was important.
I mailed a photocopy of Jonah’s paper to my father z”l, who was an artist and graphic designer. The phone rang the moment he pulled it out of the envelope. “He’s got it,” he said solemnly. “Got what?” I asked. “He’s an artist; he’s got a gift.” “What do I do?” I asked. “Nothing, absolutely nothing. Let it come out in its own time, in its own way.”
The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have singled out by name Betzalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge of every kind of craft; to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood -- to work in every kind of craft. (Exodus 31:1-5)
According to my father, Jonah’s proclivity for art would emerge in its own time, when it held meaning for him. According to Parshat Ki Tissa, Betzalel, the craftsman in charge of building the Tabernacle and its furnishings, becomes an artist when God fills him with ruach Elohim (the spirit of God) -- the capacity for wisdom, insight, and knowledge in every manner of work.

I’m not claiming that Jonah is a Betzalel, but two questions come to mind: Does art come from without (as Torah seems to imply vis-à-vis Betzalel) or from within (as my father said it would for Jonah)? And if artistry -- in its many guises -- arises from God, is God beyond us, or deep within us?

The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore is a rare gem. AVAM explains “visionary art” as “art produced by [an eclectic assortment of] self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself. In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as 'art' by its creator.” Please keep that last phrase in mind: “Visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as ‘art’ by its creator.”

First, concerning “listening to the inner voices of the soul”: Perhaps this is what Ki Tissa is telling us: Betzalel is endowed with ruach Elohim not thanks to DNA and not because God infuses him with an IV of divine spirit from without, but because his spirit is attuned to the world around him and the universe of which we are all a part. Betzalel perceives that his work has meaning beyond him.

The entire universe is filled with ruach Elohim -- God’s presence saturates all. Picture an ever-flowing waterfall. If I am mindful and aware of the waterfall and hold my cup under the flow, I get water. I don’t mean this in a mystical or esoteric way, but rather in a down-to-earth way: everything can be elevated to a level of holiness if we are mindful and recognize its meaning beyond us.

Second, concerning “visionary art… may not even be thought of as art.” Our lives are our art. We are all artists; we are all Betzalel. Our lives are an integral part of Creation and the on-going life of the universe. Our lives -- and all that they entail at work, at home, in the community, when we are alone -- are our art, or at least they can be if we are mindful of the waterfall and hold our cups under the flow.

Truly gifted artists know that their art arises from a creative and inspired space within -- from God -- and holds meaning, purpose, and resonance beyond them -- as do our lives. The Rabbis reflect this insight in an aggadah that recounts a conversation between Betzalel and Moses:
R. Samuel b. Nachmani said in the name of R. Yochanan: “He was called Betzalel on account of his wisdom. At the time when the Holy One, blessed be God, said to Moses: ‘Go and tell Betzalel to make Me a tabernacle, an ark and vessels,’ Moses went and reversed the order, saying, ‘Make an ark and vessels and a tabernacle.’ Betzalel said to him: ‘Moses, our Teacher, as a rule a man first builds a house and then brings vessels into it; but you say, “Make me an ark and vessels and a tabernacle.” Where shall I put the vessels that I am to make? Can it be that the Holy One, blessed be God, said to you, “Make a tabernacle, an ark and vessels?”’ Moses replied: ‘Perhaps you were in the shadow of God and knew!’” (b.Berakhot 55a)
Although Hebrew does not have compound words, the Rabbis read Betzalel as b’tzeil El (“in the shadow of God”) to explain an anomaly in the text: Moses reverses the order of what Betzalel is to build (see Exodus 31:7). Betzalel, however, stands “in the shadow of God” and knows the proper order. He is attuned; he holds his cup out under the flow.

My grandmother and father were artists. Two of my children are artists. The gene skipped me, except that I can make a fine paper airplane. For all of us, the way we live our lives is our art. We can live it wisely and meaningfully -- or not. We can be attuned to a higher purpose -- or not. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Every moment is yet another opportunity to hold our cups under the flow, imbibe some mayim chaim (life-giving water), and expand our life portfolios.

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman