Where Does T’’U Come From?


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

We made it! We’ve successfully blasted through Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and are pushing toward the next set of holidays: Fiesta Bowl, Cactus Bowl, the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday and T”u Bishvat.

You know about the first six festivals; maybe you celebrated a couple. But what about the funny-looking one, T”u Bishvat (pronounced: too bish-vaht)?

In December, hundreds of scientists, international relations specialists and leaders from scores of countries met in Paris for the summit on climate change. Their concern was the rising ocean temperature, and fear that over-harvested forests would cancel trees’ ability to convert carbon-dioxide into oxygen.

T”u Bishvat is Chag ha-ilanot, the New Year of the trees. (You’ll recall Rosh Hashanah in the Fall, is the New Year for people.) In celebration of this special day, 16th century Kabbalists began the tradition of singing and dancing, while tasting fruits, nuts and wines.

Where does T”u come from? In Hebrew, every letter has a number equivalent. Joining the letters “tet = 9” and “vav” = 6, spells out T”u, or 15. The festival falls on the 15th day of the month Shevat.

It’s a joyous time to reflect on the significance of nature. To celebrate ecology and renewable resources: Trees – for food and shade, for controlling water flow, for housing animals, etc. To glimpse a hint of Spring, in the middle of winter.

This year T”u Bishvat falls on January 25. It’s a great day to enjoy all that our trees and vines provide to us! As we charge into 2016, and see ever more football games, some of us will stop to celebrate our trees, ecology, renewable resources…and to drink a toast “L’chaim”, to life!

Photo credit: susivinh via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Happy Footballkeyclausika Everyone!


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Summer – with its heat and monsoons has finally given us a reprieve. Fall – with its New England images of leaves and cool mornings presents us with a new view of our tomorrow. Winter – with its lower temperatures and shorter daytime gives us a chill.

So with all that we have experienced, what’s new about the coming New Year? Annually, we note the arrival of this new season with Halloween pumpkins and black hats and black cats; the appearance of turkeys and boughs of green leaves and berries. Then the stores place Santa, menorahs and tinsel on their shelves.

Not this year!

All the above seemed to arrive at the same time, maybe even on the same day!

It’s now all contained in one special time of the year called, NOT SUMMER.

We see the blending of festivals into holidays, and holidays into ceremonies and ceremonies into events. At the same time, it seems that the one unchanging factor is football.

For weeks on end, starting in the summer…in August! …we watch giant humans tossing and falling and running across green (or not so green) fields for hours at a time. The realities of pain and injury, of success and failure, of the good guys vs. the bad guys appear on every TV (and mobile device, too) for hours, on multiple days each week.

Fantasies are brought to life. Food is spread out like sands in the desert. Hopes are developed for even more games, and championships, with Jolly Green Giant sized award rings and trophies. And adults become kids, though more aggressive.

It’s just Fall, people. It’s still just a new season. But the smashing together of the holidays, celebrations, events and football games necessitates calling it by a new name, to recognize this new sensation.

Maybe we should call it Footballkeyclausika, and take our presents and cards, our Fantasy Football lists, our holly and circles of greenery and black mummies, with the cranberries, and recognize the mash for what it truly is…an opportunity to get out of the house without melting into the asphalt and a time to breathe fresh air that doesn’t feel like the hair-dryer just turned around.

Come and join in our weird celebration of Footballkeyclausika, and may the best decorations win!


For more than a quarter-century, Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. has been active in his support of civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he works part-time as the Coordinator of Hospital Chaplaincy for Jewish Family & Children’s Service, and lectures on related subjects . You may contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Photo credit: turbobumble / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Remember: Chayechah Kodmim


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Our world is troubled and crazy. We see armies and guerilla gangs fighting. We watch mass killings on TV. And we try to reconcile this with the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We’re slammed with too many obligations. We’re pressured by family, work, friends, neighbors…do this or that, help with the other thing, go here and there. Wow! It’s not easy living ‘the good life.’ But maybe we’re trying to go, to be, to do, to rush, to make more than we need to.

Maybe our tasks need to be more focused, our efforts reigned in. Maybe we need to de-stress. Maybe we should address self-care and personal wellness, first!

The Talmud (the Jewish Code of Laws argued for a thousand years prior to its codification in the 3rd century) cautions us, “Chayechah kodmim,” “Take care of yourself first.”

Truly, we cannot fix all the problems of the community and the world by ourselves. Certainly not, if we are not well. Our efforts to work with others might help move us toward that direction, but not if our health is negatively affected.

September’s calendar has Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Jewish High Holy Days), and the festival of Eid al Adha (the Muslim holiday concluding the Hajj pilgrimage time and celebrating personal faith).

Together these special days highlight the need to look out for ourselves, and then be able to do what is needed. Feasting and fasting are ways religious people have from time immemorial chosen to express their faith.

Part of the responsibility of faith is to assure that the faithful are healthy enough to maintain their beliefs. “Chayechah kodmim.”

So as the world whirls and spins beyond our control, let us try at minimum to control what is in our ability to control…to take care of ourselves.

L’chaim, to life…And good health to you!

A Twentieth Anniversary Unlike Any Before It


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– By Rabbi Robert Kravitz

A little less than a month ago I commemorated an anniversary. I didn’t throw a party. I didn’t have an elaborate dinner. I didn’t even do anything special. But it was my 20th anniversary.

Facing death is not easy. Finding out about a terminal medical problem and not knowing what to do about it is equally difficult.

So…20 years ago on my physician’s advice I had the surgery. It was a major surgery, and I lost a part of me forever. That was the internal, cancerous part of me.

My Doc – I never call a doctor, Doctor – said after the fact that since I was asymptomatic (a fancy term that means I had no outward indications of a problem), I probably would have been dead in six months, from an unknown killer.

So on a Shabbat morning, when the rest of the Jewish community was in synagogues around the planet, I went into the operating room. The re-section was done, and I’m writing about it, healthy.

Were it not for the challenge to my low iron level by the folks at United Blood Services (UBS) where I was a regular blood donor, I would have not checked in with my primary Doc, who would not have sent me to a gastroenterologist, who would have called and made the arrangements with the surgeon and the hospital.

These folks saved my life! I never gave a second thought about donating blood; it’s what I do; it’s a way to give back – to those in/out of surgery, or following a traumatic physical event of some kind. I never gave it a second thought…until it saved my life.

Summertime – vacation time – is a low supply time for blood banks. UBS is the major blood supplier to Metro Phoenix hospitals. What we donate is used within days, for our neighbors. It’s easy to set the appointment, and donating only takes about an hour…and they have free cookies, Gatorade and even popcorn, sometimes. There are centers all around the Valley.

I didn’t expect my appointment then to be as significant as it turned out to be…but it was!

The Hebrew maxim – Pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbat, the saving of a life permits one to obviate even the mandatory strictures of the Sabbath Day – came true. For me, on that Saturday in June, 20 years ago.

After a short pause for recovery – and to meet the FDA rules for UBS – I came back to being a blood donor.

It wasn’t the cookies – as tempting as they are – that brought me back. It was my overwhelming desire to continue being alive, and to help others live.

You too can help, and maybe even do yourself a life-saving favor by becoming a blood donor. Make your appointment at www.bloodhero.com.

And let’s talk again on your 20th anniversary of donating!

Time Moves Us – Or Do We Move Time?


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Spring came and went, yesterday. Summer is heading in our direction. So far this year we have seen football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer and hockey in the space of just a few months. Here it comes, there it goes.

Time moves us, or do we move time?

Many of us are so caught up in activities, classes, programs and other projects that our heads spin. We run from place to place, from one responsibility to another, from here to there and back again! Whew! There never seems to be enough time.

For others, who are not able to similarly participate, time and life drags, lingers, pulls the strength from them. Activity may not be a choice- due to maladies, illness, disability or no desire to ‘go into the public’.

We can help.

Those of us who are active, need to take heed of our brothers and sisters who do need us to come around every now and again- to say a cheery hello, to bring a cupcake or offer a lollipop.

We who are able must respond to the silent members of our communities who either cannot or do not reach out into the world. Let’s take a hand, make a visit, deliver a card or a letter. What a good feeling to brighten one of their hours, or maybe a day.

We read about Big Brothers/Big Sisters who take young children under their wings. Why not do the same for folks who lack a family here, who would relish a visit, a phone call, a flower?

The time used in this sort of involvement will certainly slow us down, will certainly take away from the ‘me’ time we often claim to want or need. But the time to slow down and say ‘hello’ is time well spent.

It will slow us down. It also can electrify the lives of those we touch. Remember: don’t let time move you, move it – use it to good purpose and feel good!

Happy almost Summer!

The Ticking Clock


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –


We call time out. We have time to go. We have time in. We have lots of time. We run out of time.


For each of us, the day contains 24-hours. It’s the same for everyone, every day. No more, no less. Time passes at the same fluid speed all the time. Why then, do some days seem to have more time, or so little time?

Consider: it’s not time that is the challenge, it’s how we choose to use time that matters. When we are active and involved, with many positive things to do…time flies by. When we are unfocussed and merely living in time, drifting, time seems to drag on forever.

Life is made up of time-slots. We can leave them empty, or we can fill them with positives. How many people always have time for you; time to listen and support you? Those are the people you should be associating with, working with, becoming involved with, because they know how to manage their time.

Those who would say they don’t have time for you, may be honest in their assessment. Because they are so consumed with themselves, they feel they don’t have time for other things, or other people.

Each day contains 24-hours, and every day ticks away those 24-hours no matter how we use them. Each passing second moves us closer to our final second.

New parents will tell you that they have no time to do anything but take care of the baby; always something that takes time. Older adults may tell you their days drag on and on, without end.

Turn the clock over and time becomes an ally. Set a schedule. Plan a project. Organize the day. When we take the time to make time, we will find that there is more of it. Fewer time-slots are left unused, more can be accomplished when we control our time. We can energize ourselves by time-management, by assuring there is time for all that we want to do.

And that is the crux of the discussion of…time. Knowing how we want to use our time and for what. How we plan our schedules, what we do, and how and where we live our lives. All those should compel us to use time wisely and well.

There will always be 60-seconds in the minute, and 60-minutes to the hour. Looking to accomplish – to appropriately fill each second, minute and hour of every day – motivates us toward success. And success is a very personal way to conquer time. Making time your ally will create the place where your life flourishes and your accomplishments grow.

Time…is more than the name of an old magazine.

Time…is the universe that surrounds us, and can push us to succeed.

Whoa! Stop! Breathe! Quiet!


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Zoom! Bump! Sorry, excuse me! Watch out! Walk faster! Horns blaring, lights flashing, jostling and noise. Pay less here, no there! Holiday music 24/7 in stores, on the radio! Looking for bargains; buy for the kids, for the parents, the neighbors! Tinsel, mistletoe, menorahs; parties, shopping…exhaustion!

Whoa! Stop! Breathe!

Our newest year is finally here. We hope to have quiet, soothing sounds, peace.

While we review what has just passed by, maybe a moment of quiet, deep-breathing can help calm our frazzled nerves, pounding heads and sore feet.

A full year has passed … reflect on deeds done, promises not fulfilled, completed and failed tasks. So much has happened … to us, to the community, to our planet.

Take a moment to calm down, from the rush and busy-ness of the year-end. See what’s upcoming and important.

Family, friends, health, quiet.

Happy 2015.

Take Time To Breathe


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Fourth of July/Independence Day…over. Labor Day/end of summer…done. Back to school/academic year…just beginning.

Yes, time flies. With so much to do and so little time in which to do it, how do we relax?

Working, shopping, helping with homework, volunteering in the community, car-pooling, cooking…so much to do.

What if we could divide ourselves, half for project X and the other half for activity Y…we’d be in two places at once! Of course, that’s impossible.

What is possible is to plan a schedule to meet our obligations. Setting a time for study is a requirement in my tradition. Why not also set a time for every other activity? Eight hours to go to work, or less for school. Forty-five minutes to pick up/drop off the kids. Half-hour to arrange/sort the laundry. An hour to prepare dinner and clean up. Five minutes – just before bedtime – to review images of the day – images only without conversations, no sound.

In law enforcement this is part of something called “Blue Courage.” It’s a program teaching how to care for the whole person – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Officers are reminded to spend 16-seconds of “S & S” – stillness and silence, at critical times. Breath in four seconds; hold four seconds; breathe out four seconds and refocus for four seconds. Sixteen seconds total, to a refreshed perspective.

With all the busy-ness out there, we need to remember to take care of ourselves. Then, we’ll better care for others. Breathe.

How To Be UP, When The World Seems To Be Going Down


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Detroit; Washington D.C.; Murrieta, Calif.; Nogales, MX; Ukraine; Crimea; Venezuela; Sierra Leone; Libya; Israel. All are familiar because of the tribulations they face. Bankruptcy, viciousness, hatred, war, plane crashes, Ebola, missiles and rockets launched recklessly, death.

Then there is the weather: draught, hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires and floods.

And personal security: jobs – or not, bullying online or in person, fraud and deception by corporations and charlatans.

How does one keep from drowning in the muck all around us? What can “little ol’ me” do to stay free of the madness and torment? Where is our Mt. Ararat (the mountain where Noah’s Ark settled after the Great Flood)?

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that “For everything there is a season, a time for every experience under heaven.” So, rather than trying to flee, we should be focusing on what there is that WE can DO to impact that experience.

Volunteering in a school, reading stories in the library, helping with a recycling effort, assisting in a hospital or nursing home, contributing to worthy causes, teaching teens about respect, working at animal shelters. So many marvelous opportunities are available to bring us up – out of the crud – into the light!

We don’t have to accept an imposition of darkness! We needn’t resign ourselves to trouble! We must not become victims!

Ours is the task to respond positively to the negatives. Ours is the obligation to make lemonade out of lemons. Ours is the duty to fight for the Good, wherever we are.

Many forecast doom; speak of gloom, and listen for boom! We have a daily opportunity to raise ourselves up, and to look through the window…for sunshine!

Red,White And Beer?


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

Your flag flying for the Fourth?  Or is it just another day off?

Our American Independence Day should be a day of pride and enthusiasm. We belittle its meaning by merely celebrating the day with flags, hot dogs and beer. When our early Americans – NOT the First Americans, who were on this land for generations before “discovery” – challenged a foreign ruler (the King of England) for the right to be free from ridiculous taxation, they fought, won, and the United States of America started to develop.

In many ways our country is still in its infancy when compared to other “ancient” nations. We are still learning how to tackle our freedoms, understand the many faces of America and acknowledge the responsibilities of running a country well.

All this pales alongside a Fourth of July flag wafting in the breezes of summer. Patriotic music, readings of the words of our founders, pageants recognizing the evolution, expansion and positive growth of our country, produce a wonderful feeling of pride in being an American.

Sure, we have problems. What family doesn’t? Certainly we face challenges. Who can walk without falling a couple times? However, the United States of America is the best nation on earth, certainly for those of us lucky enough to live here.

Pondering independence and freedom from tyranny for only one day a year, comes up short. Our country is worth more. What about every day?

The Fourth of July is a time to recognize the contributions of our great country, re-connect with our mutual American values and reassess our responsibility to the USA. Beer, hot dogs and flags will have a deeper meaning when we do.

Happy Independence Day!

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