New Year’s: 2019 and 5779

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

For members of my community it is already the NEWest Year, from our calendar change in the Fall when ‘traditional counting’ suggests this to be 5779 years since Creation.

Those who enjoy playing with numbers, numerology, as did the ancients of the Middle East, note the year 5779 has the equivalence of 28. Twenty-eight in Hebrew numerology produces the letters “Kaf” and “Chet”. [Every Hebrew letter has a number equivalent: Kaf = 20, Chet = 8.]

These two letters together also spell out a word, “Koach”, pronounced KOH-ach [with the ‘ach’ sounded as in the composer’s name, Bach]. Koach means ‘strength.’ So were we to look for meaning in the numbers and words of 5779, we would be pleased to see a year offering strong potential.

The dictionary defines ‘strong’ with numerous explanations — bodily or muscular power, mentally powerful, competent, courageous, influential and 11 more descriptions. Generally, ‘strong’ has to do with power of some sort. So, as we enter this new year, whether 5779 or 2019, we have the challenge of addressing power.

The world is tugging between the powerful and the rest of us. Strength may be a positive or a negative, depending on its implementation. Just being stronger does not provide entitlement for abuse or intolerance. It takes more strength to challenge the powerful, than to cower from them.

With every New Year comes a hope — to have a better year than the previous one. The year 2018 was a difficult year for many nations, for thousands of religiously persecuted peoples, for those living through the turmoil of storms and climate issues, and for hundreds dying beneath a hail of bullets.

As we muster the strength to enter this New Year, let’s try and make it an opportunity for successes and good health.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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How Much Is Too Much?

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

“Our world must strike a balance, so we can maintain a proper existence. Think of the good and evil all around us and pray for moderation.”

Some rain is good. Some rain is not.

For months we suffered in Arizona under the blazing hot sun, without any rain. We dreamed of cooler temperatures and the beauty of moisture dripping from the sky. We hoped for a light, soothing drizzle that would last a little while and fill the canals and reservoirs. Water.

Then the spigot was turned on and rain did drip from the sky. In some areas just a spritz; in others too much, resulting in flooding and disastrous damage.

So, how much is too much?

As with all life, balance and moderation are required.

Troubling that we cannot adjust the pouring of the rain, any more than we can limit the heat of the sun. We are mere humans, incapable of standing against Mother Nature and her forces.

We hoped for an end to the “dry heat.” Then, so many suffered from the torrents of the late summer hurricanes; so many lost everything because of…water. We need it, we die without it; we pray for it. And sometimes water is our mortal enemy; too much water.

In several religious traditions there are specific prayers and incantations to prompt the provision of water. I know of no prayers or incantations that say don’t give us water. And when there is too much, we think about Noah and his family and the animals marching into his Ark, two by two, not three or four or more.

In life, as with water, we need to find the point of moderation. Too much this or that, and we suffer a headache, or a wrecked vehicle. Lacking what we need, we develop pain. Children need food and nourishment for their little bodies and minds to properly grow. Seniors must have appropriate meals to maintain their well-being. Not too much, not too little…just right, as the Three Bears wisely taught us.

The blazing heat can destroy. The flooding waters will likewise. Our world must strike a balance, so we can maintain a proper existence. Think of the good and evil all around us and pray for moderation.

Noah and his family and the animals, we are told, were righteous and were saved. Our future likewise requires us to find our path that can provide balance and harmony. Not too much of this, not too much of that. Water that will hydrate, not drown. Sunlight that will warm, but not burn. Moderation that will protect us and keep us safe. And so may it be.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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The Beauty In A Smile

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

She sat there. He was sitting across, mindlessly watching the world go by. He glanced at her, a twinkle in her eye caught his.

She smiled. He smiled…and a new relationship blossomed.

Sounds like the beginning of a romance novel. Right? Maybe it’s the way human interactions begin.

Does everyone have to be “top of the hill?” Does every person have to be superior to every other one? Does equality only count versus others?

Maybe, we are all human, all created in the image of the same Creator, all defined by HOW we act, not what we look like, or how we speak, or not.

Our humanity extends into the ken of each of us. Caring about others, animals, the planet shows HOW we interpret the relationships we desire with this world.

Were every person given the time to share what’s inside, maybe the killings we see all too often would slow or stop. Were each of us to be able to find someone to “open up to,” maybe anger and hostility, road rage and fighting might be lessened, or avoided.

We need to recognize the beauty in everyone else. We need to be needed. We need to be equals among our friends and associates. No need to be better, or stronger or taller…just equal.

Some of us are born differently-abled. Some develop in unique ways. Some operate in special realms nobody can see. But, all are equals.

Relationships grow from a variety of starting points. A touch. A glance. A smile. A song. The sound of a polite comment. So many opportunities to establish our humanity and to motivate our better selves.

What’s the reality inside each of us? What can we unpeel just by listening? What is the special nature of that person, over there? And how can we better relate?

Yes, she was just sitting there. He was just glancing by. Then they became partners in a new relationship, a very special human adventure that just “happened” …. because of a smile.

Share a smile; I’ll smile back.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Thoughts And Prayers – Fooey!

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

How often do we have to offer our “thoughts and prayers” (T&P) to those who are recipients of the traumas of the world?

Doesn’t it become meaningless to constantly be repeating this phrase, when we too are traumatized, by events in our country and overseas?

If all we can do is offer “thoughts and prayers” are we not becoming culpable of insensitivity, or even worse of being insignificant? Or are we just frozen and incapable of dealing with situations, so we politely offer our “thoughts and prayers” as a means of appearing to do something valuable?

Words have meaning and value. Overused words become meaningless and void of worth.

What thoughts are we having that will assist the grieving? What prayers can we deliver that will soften the pain of their loss?

At some point in the revolutions of the earth we need to come to grips with the values we are supporting with our “thoughts and prayers.” We must address the issues, not slide by them by hoping that our T&P will resolve the problems and absolve us of any personal responsibility.

YES, T&P may offer a temporary boost to the injured and to the survivors. Real assistance needs to come from our understanding of why the events happened and what could have been done, by us, to preclude such terrible results.

T&P are the easy way out. T&P give us a quick opportunity to appear to care, then to escape to our safe places. Prayer has a place in our human experience. Forced prayers, or prayers without depth or meaning, are an empty pretending to heal.

Were that our “thoughts & prayers” were sent to others less often, and that we resolved to address the critical issues before T&P were needed. We all know the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” So may it be.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

 


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Little Creatures Of God

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

Out of nowhere they attach themselves to our heartstrings. They are cute, most say adorable, and we welcome them into our lives with smiles and a giddy feeling of anticipation.

These little creatures of God come to us seemingly from out of the blue, and then mandate our full focus, our total support, our time and talents. We bring them into our families, and everything changes. Dramatically. Immediately. Forever.

What have we done to be worthy of these little beings? Is their presence in our lives a challenge, or an opportunity to love more? Will the future we share be uplifting, or a lifelong struggle?

When these additions arrived, few of us were fully cognizant of the responsibilities they would require. Few of us could imagine how they would take over our lives, and even fewer could think beyond a busy tomorrow’s activities with them.

Little creatures of God.

We bring them into our families, they change us, and we often stumble not knowing how to reply to all their needs but pray we will not injure these tiny creations. For they’re even too young to tell us what they need.

So, we wait, and in wonder watch them begin to grow — bigger, stronger, taller, more able to communicate their wants.

How is it possible for such little beings to so completely dominate our lives and all the plans of our entire families? Incredible! Each one unique! Tied to us as we are tied to them, fully and completely. Responding as best we can, with love and understanding as we stand many feet taller than they.

They are beautiful little creatures of God, and we are there to become their providers and protectors. It’s a miracle for both of us.

Welcome little puppies. Your love for us expands ours for you.

 


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Time To Dream, Again

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

As I write this column, just a few weeks to go and then the ball falls in NYC, and we all are challenged to remember to write 2018 on our checks and letters.

Amazing how fast time flies these days. One week turns quickly into another and then we repeat it. I know that there are still 24 hours in every day, and seven days to a week. But the older I get, the faster time flies.

Can you remember, as I do, how l-o-n-g it took for Thanksgiving vacation to arrive every fall, when we were in elementary school? It seemed to take “years” to arrive. Then the parade courtesy of Macy’s was over, and back to classes until just a few weeks later we found the extended freedom of Christmas/winter vacation.

Do we accomplish more as we age? Or is it just that we begin to realize the finality of life, and must hurry to complete all our tasks prior to seeing our ball falling forever? Time never changes, unless you revel in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity — but that’s way past my intellectual scope. For me, time becomes what we do with it. If I lean back in my chair and contemplate the universe, it looks like I’m “wasting” time. If I’m busy at the computer, then an outsider might agree I’m using my time wisely.

It’s the same number of hours, but keeping busy speeds time. Think back when as little kids we would look up at the clouds and imagine the faces and animals and airplanes up there. Hours of day-dreaming.

As adults, we cannot seem to find the time to day-dream. We’re too busy doing this, that and the other, to just stop — and rest our minds, or look at the clouds.

Have a Happy New Year, 2018.

 


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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LIFE: L’Chaim, then BAM!

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. –

Sad. Happy. Quietly listening to pain. Enjoying family, celebrating at the holidays.

Many are the emotions we all have to deal with, were we to listen to lyrics of the famous Disney song “Circle of Life.” There is much to be fondly impressed by. There is also much to be depressed by. Life is a balance, and not always an equal balance.

As I write this column in early October, I celebrated a joyous festival with friends and family (Sukkot), while at the same time recovering from the difficult loss of a good friend.

So how does one do both? What is the secret to being happy while grieving? How is it possible to be both happy and sad, and fully participate in both those aspects of one’s life? Less of one and more of the other? Where is the appropriate balance?

When joyful times arise, we celebrate; we revel in the company of relatives and friends; we drink “L’chaim” To Life! And all is good. All seems OK. All appears to be under control and normal.

Then something happens that is devastating, that hurts, that shakes the body to its core. Tears, inability to smile; depression hovers, superimposed on the happy. Weird combination. Unusual situation.

That is what is going on in my head right now. The community welcomes the new year and the festival that follows, and BAM! A terrible calamity happens and the fun and joy is sucked out of the festival. The balance is tipped, and sadness becomes the norm, for a while.

Sunshine followed by fog; brightness glowing, then an impenetrable darkness.

That is life. That is the balance we all face. That is the yin and yang of human existence. First one, then the other. How we handle the problems and resolve the issues is what makes us human. Being able to cope is the ultimate human challenge. Finding the key to open the reality box, is the test.

At some point in time, each of us will be hit with such a difficult choice. Choose the one and gloom reigns, choose the other and joy takes over — waiting for the “BAM”.

To all who face the downside of this challenge, this painful “Circle of Life” challenge, I am only able to offer my warm hugs. The gloom will finally fade, the joy will return, and the circle will continue.

May we have more joyous and celebrative times than sad and gloomy ones, so we will be strong enough to go forward with an honest and compelling smile.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Summertime…And The Forgettin’ Is Easy

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Summertime!

This is the cry of school kids from Kindergarten through college. The expectation that the summer vacation frees them from studying, from learning, from reading, from following current events, for them is real. However, in reality, summertime should be an opportunity to study, learn, read and better understanding the world — without the pressures of tests or teachers’ frightening glares.

Forgetting is easy. Too easy.

Spending a full summer just ‘chillin out’ as some call it, is a full summer wasted. Reading is critical for everybody, in whatever language(s) one reads. From the youngest to the more mature, keeping the grey matter active is critical and smart.

Now I know you are hearing from your children, “but it’s summertime!” Yup, it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. But the world does not stop because it is summer in this part of the globe.

Use the months of summer to bolster readiness for next semester. Take an active part in learning during summer. Try exploring something enjoyable that is not part of the curriculum. Use the computers at the public library. Visit the state capitol museum. Travel a little north to find out about the different flora and fauna of Arizona. Take a walk — not a ride — and listen to the sounds of the world around you. Try to understand a hummingbird. Hear leaves whispering. None of these costs anything, and the impact could be seriously overwhelming.

During summer, don’t let the mind stagnate. Watch the news programs, and analyze their differences. Listen to radio news, and hear what others across the globe sound like. Find a Study-Buddy, and explore a museum, play softball, create a new dessert for the family supper. But don’t waste this summer! Read, learn, explore…and have fun!

I remember having to write annually about “what I did during my summer vacation.” The fall editorial adventure, trying to make summer look good to others, and trying to make myself feel good for having wasted so much time.

Doesn’t have to be…

Video games have a purpose, but not at the expense of picking up a daily newspaper or a topic-friendly book. Let the youngsters rest their thumbs for a little while. Motivate their body’s senses to take in the sights and sounds only available in summer. Capture special moments. Challenge the season to give its special opportunities, and have fun doing it.

For many, summer is 10 week long; two and a half months. Plan a calendar that allows for “down-time” and fun-time, and learning time. Don’t fritter away the potential joy of finding something new, visiting an extraordinary venue or helping around the house.

Ahhhh summertime. Use it wisely and energize the mind. Keep active, and enjoy the schedule change.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Life, Liberty And The Pursuit of Happiness…Or Not!

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Ever since we opened an American history textbook in school, we have been taught that American citizens are correct in expecting the privileges of living under our government’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” [LLPH] statement.

But what is the “pursuit of happiness?”

Where does my happiness come into conflict with your happiness? And how would we resolve it? Even if we had “happiness,” what would that mean?

To be more precise, when can I start celebrating my “happiness” and not fear being told to stop.

Across this country, all around our state, within our cities there are ordinances that govern your LLPH and mine. Many individuals find they are stifled in their exercise of “happiness” because someone claims offense, even if the pained person is not affected by the specific “happiness” actions.

Our neighbors, the LGBTQ community, still face bigotry and fear in hiring (and firing), in securing a place to live, and in public accommodations like restaurants and hotels.

I’m not a member of that minority; I’m in another minority that is facing its own raging difficulties worldwide. Still, the right to live freely under the protection of the laws of LLPH is under attack. LGBTQ folks work hard, live well and enjoy the same comforts we do. So why such antagonism?

Historically, activities that are different, are viewed as wrong or evil. We had the Salem Witch Trials, Jim Crowe Laws, the Holocaust and Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell. These examples are not equal, but we’ve seen how the use of vitriolic language against any of “them” too often results in harm and pain. Symbols of hate become actions; actions look for targets, and our entire nation suffers.

As Phoenix, Scottsdale and all of Arizona look to expand their piece of the economic pie, it must be noted that LGBTQ neighbors must also be ‘players.’ Look what happened in North Carolina when a single decision caused the NCAA and scores of corporations to pull-away.

We all benefit when each of us can freely express who we are; can live a life free from pejoratives, slander, bigotry and harm; and are allowed to enjoy the same “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as the rest of us.

I take inspiration from standing alongside those who speak up for their rights and for “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I pray our cities and our state may become OPEN to business, and become ONE Community of support and understanding, even if we may disagree on specific concerns.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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La La Land Is Not Just A Movie

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

So here we are, weeks into the new presidential world and more people are praying than ever before. Some pray for the new president, his family and administration, others pray for a return to democracy, sanity and honesty.

There are thousands out there who will never be pleased until all that was promised during the all-too-long campaign, is realized. And there are those who look at falsehoods, and call them out!

Whatever one believes, there is a difference between truth and untruth, between fact and fiction, between reality and fabrication. Honesty requires truth. And did not someone once proclaim, “…and the truth shall make you free.”

Those of us who seek truth, honesty and reality are being challenged today with its opposite, and some even seek to invalidate us in our own country, where we voted and express our views.

Prayers are fine, but the Almighty does not take sides in football games, and certainly doesn’t select political administrations. We cannot say, “God is on our side,” because the only way to know God’s mind is to be God’s mind, and we still remain “a little lower than the angels.”

What will happen to this country in the next four years, we can only guess, because presidential decisions now are made by Tweets, and Tweets don’t have to be real.

Prayers will help many who feel disenfranchised; meditations may allow folks to experience calm. Actions make the difference! Challenges to imposed authority are what made the United States into the greatest democracy in the world. Acceptance of falsehoods and fabrications will cause this wonderful adventure to shrivel. The phrase, “speak truth to power,” could not be more critical. Stand up. Speak out. Invoke honesty.

And may the Almighty help us all.

 

 


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. He regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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