THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, REMEMBER:

26 May

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND has become a weekend of barbecue and bikes, in DC.

I chose to celebrate my MEMORIAL MINUTE with earnest, attending a 6th&I Friday night service dedicated to veterans and loved heroes lost at war. I had showed up a week earlier, last Friday. I determined to return, to say ‘thank you for your service’ and ‘thank you for your sacrifice.’ The unorthodox service, Downtown DC, meets the fourth Friday of each month. Larry, the leader’s practice, each Friday he leads his congregation, is to read out the names of the Fallen. Larry said he has been doing this five years now. Larry saw someone else list the dead. Larry committed to honoring heroes ages 19-40’s, each one a pause for tears.

For all the naysayers, Jews dont serve. They do. Just walk amongst the headstones at Arlington Cemetery. Stars of David dot the crowns of the white tablets, each tablet looking like 1/2 of the Ten Commandment, two tablets. Present at the ceremony were a father and mother from Florida and a teeny bent woman with two young men and her girl. Whoosh. She reminded me of my mom, my family, our loss I shared with her after Adon Olam, Lord Of The Universe.

She held me hand as I shared our loss, why Memorial Day is important to me. She said ‘you understand. I dont need to explain. They,’ sweeping her hand towards the exiting congregants, ‘they dont get it.’ They dont. I agreed. And I shared with her my words of comfort given to me at the time of our loss ‘He is missed.’ Three words that speak volumes. And I shared my reality gifted to us within 30 days of our loss, ‘people will tell you to move forward. You will but you wont. You are changed forever. It can be a gift. Or not.’

The gathered were present for kavanah, devotion, introspection. My hostest was Joyce, the congregation leader’s vivacious wife I had fortune to sit next to on the pew bench upstairs. Larry shared Sixth and I history. He had no way of knowing my moment in it, my photo on the wall gallery downstairs, my memories of Abe Pollin, my association with Shelton Jackson and with Doug Jemal. When Larry asked had I been here at 6th and I before. I smiled. With too much history to share, I said, yes, I was there when the Synagogue that became a Church became a Synagogue again.

My dinner mate was an Episcopalian Gay who loved shule and Jews and couldnt understand much of what I don’t understand about the world. I relished how he looked in my eyes as we spoke. I shared with him I had stopped by the FRC Watchmen Conference earlier that day where a pastor engaged with me on the conversation of Gays and Faith, BSA and bullying. My dinner mate and I were in synch. All I could think of was the dialogue is shifting. The loudest voices being heard could probably use therapy to work through their issues as this delicious man is NOT being spoke for by them. Nor was the couple, both wearing yarmulkehs. They were not a the Memorial Weekend sabbath as activists. They were there as Jews steeped in their faith.

So when a friend sent me a forward, in Memory of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, dean and founder of Aish HaTorah International, a man who for 50 years his visionary educational programs brought hundreds of thousands of Jews closer to their heritage, I thought his words are in tribute to those we lost & love:

Way #13: Think About It  by Rabbi Noah Weinberg

We sometimes make snap decisions. Or we may mull over decisions for too long. Become skilled at the happy medium of good decision-making. Imagine walking on a tightrope high above Niagara Falls. As you inch along, you see a maniac coming at you from behind. No longer are you just concerned about falling to either side, you also have to make sure the maniac doesn’t catch you! In a sense, life is the same way. Every step we make has real consequences – yet we have to continue to move forward. People want immediate results and tend to lack patience when it comes to making decisions. People may even throw themselves into a certain decision – for better or for worse – just to get the decision out of the way. Others may excessively mull over decisions, lacking the confidence to come to the right conclusion. Whatever the case, decisions can come back and haunt us. And we wonder: “Why didn’t I think this through better?” Take note of how you make decisions. Do you deliberate and consider the weight of important issues? Or is it impulsive and without thought of consequence? Or do you simply shrug your shoulders and make a decision out of ignorance?

Way #13 is Bi-yishuv – literally “by sitting.” Life has decisions to be made at every moment. So don’t be hasty. Slow down. Examine all the aspects. Reflect. Deliberate. Make the best decisions you can, but don’t get so wrapped up in yourself that you’re afraid to commit to a final decision. These techniques will help you solve problems that inevitably arise in career, marriage, and parenting. And once you do make your decision, you’ll move forward with confidence, knowing it was the best decision possible.


FOUR STEPS OF DELIBERATION

“Deliberation” means to ponder insights, events, ideas – whatever we encounter in life. Let things lie for a while, then go back and mull them over. The Sages say that whatever you encounter, study it four times. This process is likened to the act of planting – because wisdom is for the soul what food is for the body.

  1. PLOWING – The first time you go over an idea, try to figure it out. That’s “breaking up the soil.”
  2. PLANTING – The second time, the idea begins to make sense. You’re “putting seeds into the ground,” planting it into yourself.
  3. HARVESTING – The third time, you come to an experiential and intellectual understanding. It’s “reaping the wheat.”
  4. DIGESTING – The fourth time, you integrate the idea into your life. It “nourishes” your soul and is now part of you.

We all want to achieve great things with minimum effort. A great sage said: “A person wants to become great overnight, and get a good night’s sleep, too!” Realize that true growth is a long process. That’s why deliberation is an important tool, because it forces you to slow down, exercise patience, and stretch the limits of your powers. With everything you want to achieve – and the short time you have to do so – taking time to deliberate is the best investment you’ll ever make.


SIX TOOLS OF DELIBERATION

TOOL #1 – NIGHTLY RECAP

Before going to sleep, look back and review the events of your day. Try to identify what you learned. Then project toward the future. Anticipate what you expect to encounter the following day, week, or month. Set a schedule to review your life regularly. In Judaism, the appointed times are every week before Shabbat, every month before Rosh Chodesh, and every year before Rosh Hashana. You can also do this before a birthday, graduation, wedding or other milestone. Do this consistently for the rest of your life. Deliberate on what you’ve done in the past, and what you hope for the future. Without this, you’re just running aimlessly through life. Sure, you’ll eventually end up someplace – but you won’t be happy and you won’t know how you got there.


TOOL #2 – CAPTURE & CONCRETIZE

We all have an occasional flash of truth: moments when we realize what it means to be a friend, what we are doing wrong, what we really want out of life. We may think the moment of realization has changed us. But often the moment is lost. Because unless we concretize the insight, we’ll never act on it, and the effect dissipates altogether. The next time you get a great insight, stop. Freeze. Don’t move. Think about what the insight means in the overall scheme of things. And figure out how to put it into practice. Imagine you encounter the suffering of poor people and are moved to tears. If you want to help, you’ll need to structure a careful, detailed plan. Otherwise, all your good intentions are unlikely to amount to anything.


TOOL #3 – THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

We all have ups and downs, good days and bad days. Hasty reactions are a defense mechanism, and usually not the most effective one. If we’re not on guard, we can act impulsively. Criticism has a way of getting under our skin and making us attack the source of the criticism. So before you react, give yourself a chance to consider the comment, what it really means, and if perhaps there’s some validity to it. As King Solomon says: “Don’t be quick to respond.” When someone hurts or insults you, wait before you react. You’re naturally on the defensive. Be careful not to say anything you’ll later regret. Before you start shouting, pause. Catch a hold of yourself and count to 10. Similarly, when someone asks you a question, think before you answer. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” When asked for your point of view, learn to say, “I’m not sure,” or “It seems to me…” In the long run, you’ll gain respect.


TOOL #4 – ANALYZE THE INFO

If it’s not worth mulling over, it’s not worth studying in the first place. Because all that information may just overload and confuse you. When you hear or read something, train yourself to sum up the central point in a few words. If you don’t take the time to think over what you’ve learned, you’re viewing the world blindly through someone else’s eyes. Next, examine the implications of the new idea. It helps to have a list of standard probing questions like:

  • Is the source objective?
  • What is the evidence cited?
  • What aspects don’t I understand?
  • What are the implications/consequences of this for my life?

Asking these questions will sharpen your analytical abilities, and will help you apply what you learn.

Next, take a piece of paper and write out the pros and cons. This gets the ball rolling in a constructive direction. Even though it may seem like this process will slow you down, once you master the technique, it will become more automatic. Then you’ll be able to analyze things with lightning speed, and make better, faster decisions.


TOOL #5 – BE PREPARED

You need to distinguish between “reality” and “moods.” Deliberating before you confront a problem will enable you to act with greater confidence when the problem does arise. So before you enter a situation that could backfire – a job interview, a family gathering, etc. – consider in advance what you’ll have to confront, and practice for it. Role-play in front of a mirror (or with a friend) and prepare catch-phrases that – in the heat of the moment – keep you focused. When you’re prepared, you’re confident. And then no one will be able to pull the rug out from under your feet.


TOOL #6 – GIVE IT TIME

Did you ever go to sleep with a problem and then wake up with a solution? To gain clarity, you sometimes have to walk away from a situation and then come back to it later. If you feel yourself coming up empty, take a break for while and come back refreshed. You are more clever and resourceful than you give yourself credit for. Solutions may jump right out at you the next time around. Over time, we get answers. So stick with it. Ask others for advice. Ask God to help. The clarity will come.


WHY IS “THINKING ABOUT IT” A WAY TO WISDOM?

  • We all want greatness. It takes time and hard work to achieve it.
  • When you reach an impasse, pause and analyze. Deal with the problem. Don’t look for the quick, easy solution.
  • Careful reflection ensures a much wiser response than an impulse reaction.
  • To know what you’re living for, take the time to think it through. Otherwise you could end up with a very superficial life.
  • And, when things look the bleakest, do the Daily thing- take TWO TABLETS and call HIM in the morning.

   

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