The Talmud

I am a Christian. But since Jesus was Jewish, I thought it would be good to learn more about Christianity’s Judaic heritage. I’ve read the Torah, the Tanakh and the rest of the Bible cover-to-cover (more than once) but I’ve never dug into the Talmud.  Soooo. . . . .

A few months ago, I drove passed a store that offered a large selection of Judaica.  It was the book section that enticed me to stop.  I asked the gentleman at the counter for the best book (I confessed to being an Episcopalian) to learn about the Talmud.  He nodded and handed me The Essential Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.  All I can say is – “wow.”  The book was captivating.  And hard to put down. 

While the Tanakh (Old Testament) is the cornerstone of Judaism, the Talmud is the pillar — the most important book in Jewish culture.  The Talmud is an assemblage of commentary, questions and answers – about the Torah, the Tanakh, culture, social order and. . . . . everything.  The Talmud invites questions.  None of which is considered inappropriate.  Questions about the Torah are encouraged.  Discussed.  Debated.  Resolved.  And discussed again.  One is not supposed to just read the Talmud – but to study it.  And to become a scholar of the Talmud.  This is quite unlike Islam which mandates that questions about the Quran are haram (forbidden). 

Rabbi Steinsaltz’s book includes chapters on the Sabbath, Marriage, Divorce, Civil and Criminal Law, Dietary Laws, Ethics, the Law, Prayer, Scholarship, Women, and on.  And on.  It was a truly enlightening read.  If you are interested and would like a copy of the book – let me know.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Why wildfires have gotten worse

He ruffles feathers (including my own) but Mr. Trump’s comment that the State of California’s forest policies share responsibility for the horrific forest fires in the state — may be on target. 

I have posted occasionally on the TED Talks that I watch while having lunch. I just finished my chicken avocado sandwich while watching a TED Talk bearing the title above – “Why Wildfires have gotten Worse” by Dr. Paul Hessburg . .             

Dr. Hessburg is a forest ecologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service. He has a doctorate in Forest Pathology from Oregon State University and he is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington. Dr. Hessburg’s mantra is that “unless we change . . . our forest and fire management habits . . . we will lose many more beloved forests. . . . ”  

On November 9th, the New York Times had an article titled “Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires.”  The answer – according to the Times is fourfold:  climate change; people (who start fires); fire suppression policies; and the Santa Ana winds.  Dr. Hessburg’s 14 minute video is an excellent primer which tracks in part the NYT article.  So why is the situation worse today?   If you wish to learn, invest 14 minutes and watch his presentation.       

Roots. And Wings. . . . .

Good parenting is critical for the development of children.  In my post of October 31, 2011, I spoke of how nature and nurture play a significant role in the growth and development of children.  How it is best to guide a child to achieve his or her greatest and highest potential rather than to steer a child into a parental choice of interests, profession and schools. 

Then in my post of April 23, 2012, I mentioned my attendance at an insightful  presentation by psychotherapist Alice Virgil who spoke on how to build strong kids (and on the things parents and grandparents can do to participate in this development).  Tops on her list were encouraging relationships, creativity, awareness, courage, initiative, morality and spirituality.  

In a recent Sunday sermon, our pastor added further inspiration for parents using a famous quote of Henry Ward Beecher.  “The greatest bequest we can give our children is roots and wings.”  The book Hot Chocolate for the Soul expands on this admonition — and provides context:  “Good parents give their children roots and wings.  Roots to know where their home is, and wings to fly and put into practice what they have learned.”    

It’s a tough job being a parent (a wee bit easier being a grandparent 🙂 ) but little words of wisdom like those above can’t help – but help.   

Ultimate Fighting

Who watches ultimate fighting?  The Sports Business Journal pegs the median age for those who watch ultimate fighting as men – 49 years old.   But when I ask “who” watches ultimate fighting, I’m more interested in what kind of human being enjoys watching men trying to kill each other.    

In my post of March 29, 2018, I spoke of Edward Gibbons’ classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  The reasons for Rome’s destruction are scarily similar to things happening today in America.  One reason for the Empire’s unraveling was the blood lust of Romans in the brutal gladiator  games.  

Is ultimate fighting any different?  For some aficionados, the more brutal and bloody the match – the better.  Yet read the statistics on UF “warriors” who have died in the ring (or shortly thereafter).  These guys are dropping like flies (or becoming vegetables).  Bump someone on the street too hard and you can be charged with assault and battery.  Extinguish a human life in the UF ring?   And you become a legend.

Who watches ultimate fighting?  I scratch my head on this one.        


I’m a sucker for TED Talks. Well, I just had lunch.  And watched another — that I would like to share with you.

Africa.  A continent of crushing poverty.  Pain.  Corruption.  And yet – so many good organizations are working to make things better.  Ndidi Nwuneli presented a talk “The Role of Faith and Belief in Modern Africa”  see  ).  The premise of Ndidi’s presentation is that there are many faith-based organizations which offer help to the poorest of the poor in Africa.  And there are many secular organizations which do the same.  But secular organizations often refuse to work with faith-based organizations.  Ndidi’s message?  Please keep an open mind so we can work together to help people. . . . .

The takeaway is that groups that are not religious can enhance their missions and results by working in concert on certain tasks (especially health care and education) with faith-based organizations.  By working together – rather than at cross-purpose (or redundant purpose) greater progress may be made.  The winners?  The poorest of the poor in Africa.  The losers?  None that I can think of . . . . . 

Run Over

[A repeat from December 11, 2014] My parents taught me early to keep my eyes open.  And to watch for coins on the street or sidewalk.  In my post of August 2, 2012, I spoke of picking up pennies, nickels, dimes, dollar bills — as well as cell phones, wallets, watches and fine jewelry (some mighty fine).   I still do. My eyes are glued to the ground.  And yes – I still pick up pennies.  And nails (see 1/8/17).  All monetary finds go into a bowl for a year-end charitable donation.  It’s really a game.  A personal challenge.  To see what I can find.         

During the week, I catch the train and go downtown to my office.  Each day as I walk across the train tracks, I slow. Looking. I have never put a coin on the railroad tracks (to do so would probably invite several years in the penitentiary). But I’m on the scout for those errant “run over” coins that have been placed on the tracks — and lost — by others. Over the years, I have acquired a nice collection.  Nineteen flattened coins to be precise.  A few quarters.  Dimes.  Nickels.  Pennies.  Each one I’m sure has a story.  Just as each lost coin has a story.  The good thing is that if I ever run low on cash, I can always take these run over coins to the bank and trade them in for unscathed versions.  One dollar and thirty-six cents by my count.     

Leg Cramps – Part III

[The finale from August 28, 2014]

In my posts of October 24 and 26, 2011, I discussed the causes of and treatments for leg cramps. Since that time, I have had zero leg cramps. Until last night. . . . .

Let’s set the stage.  It was Friday.  I took the day off.  To play in a 2 day golf tournament (my team won).   It was 90+ degrees.  100% humidity.  I poured sweat.   And drank bottle after bottle of water.  At the turn, when I normally make a pit stop, there was no reason to stop.  I just went on to the 10th tee.  And teed off.  More water.  And I continued to pour sweat.  We had dinner.  More water (no cabernet).  And when I got home, I was tired.  I went up.  Got in bed and started reading.  That’s when it happened.  The biceps femoris (the muscle behind my right knee) began cramping.  Ow ow ow ow.   I rubbed.   Drank some water.  And Donna sped off for some V-8 juice (potassium/sodium).  And she gave me two more things not mentioned in the earlier posts. 

Donna had read that magnesium can help stop muscle cramps.  So I popped a magnesium pill (Metagenics Mag Glycinate – 200 mg).  And she had bought a Health & Wisdom magnesium gel with aloe vera.   And she brought some ice.  Within 10 minutes, the cramp was history.  I went back to reading.  And slept like a baby.  Maybe it was the Dove bar that I tossed under the sheet . . . . *

*Read prior post for context  

Leg Cramps – Part II

[A repeat from October 26, 2011]

My last post on Leg Cramps prompted numerous comments.  One cure – from my old friend Jim – had me saying “no wayyyy”:

I have a much easier solution . . . . You simply put a small bar of soap in a pocket or hold on to it.   That’s it.   It’s weird but I have used this for years.  You can even place some small bars under your sheets.    I prefer to keep some of the bars in my nightstand so they are readily available in case of a cramp.  If I get a cramp I reach into my nightstand drawer, grab a bar of the soap and the cramp is gone within about 10 seconds.  It has never failed to work.   My doctor confirmed that he had heard of this working, but I know of no scientific evidence as to why.”

Soap.  Puh-lease

However, investigative reporter that I am, I delved into this “remedy.”  There are many articles on this subject.  Soap – a remedy for leg cramps.  Even the ever-suspicious Snopes refers to the cure as “undetermined” –    If you Google +”leg cramps” +”bar of soap” you will get more than 30,000 records.  +soap yields over 2 million(!).   One theory is that soap is heavy in sodium chloride – which can be inhaled.    

Sure – I’m a skeptic.  But you know what?  I now have a bar of soap by the bed. . . . .

Leg Cramps – Part I

[A post from August 28, 2011]

Both Donna and I have experienced nocturnal leg cramps or spasms.  Back of the leg.  Very painful.  Does it ever happen to you?

In order to treat leg cramps, it is advantageous to know the cause of such cramps.   From my research, I gather that dehydration, low potassium, low sodium, low calcium and underlying muscle injury can contribute to leg cramps.  When I have experienced leg cramps, I rub the area vigorously, apply ice, drink a V-8 juice (high in sodium and potassium) and have a few glasses of water.  Know what?  The cramp goes away.* 

The last time this happened I had played golf all day without stops.  Walking.  No water.  Had a bit of lunch and a little ice tea and no other hydration.  Then we went out in the evening.  A wee bit of red wine.  No water.  Come nighttime, there was little inspiration to guzzle a few glasses of water or V-8 at bedtime.  Then at midnight – KA-BOOM!  Leg cramp.  My RX worked perfectly. 

*My comments here are not medical advice.