Rabbi Jason’s 10 Years of Blogging

I started this blog 10 years ago today on October 28, 2003. The term “blog” was only becoming recognized as a verb back then and I had no idea what to blog about in my first post. Over 1,000 posts later and close to 1 million pageviews, I’m close to figuring it out. Thanks for reading!
The Blogger sweatshirt Google sent me after they acquired Blogger in 2003 after I launched my blog

Vayera: Be Our Guest (The Mitzvah of Hospitality)

We can learn a lot about the value of hospitality from our patriarch Abraham and matriarch Sarah in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayera. On the third day after Abraham had circumcised himself he hosted three angels who appeared in human form.  Recovering from this procedure in the excruciating heat of the midday sun, our patriarch still urged them to receive his hospitality.  Not only that, but as soon as Abraham saw these three men standing near him, he ran to greet them (vayaratz likratam).  Not realizing these men were angels, Abraham took these strangers into his home and offered them water to wash their feet and shade to rest.  With his wife Sarah’s help, the guests were treated to a feast of bread and meat, curds and milk.  He personally served these strangers the delicacies and attended to their needs.

Sarah Abraham
Abraham and Sarah (Providence Lithograph Company – Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

In Tractate Bava Metzia of the Babylonian Talmud, we find a midrash explaining that the Israelites benefit later on as a result of Abraham’s kindness to these strangers:

Rab Judah teaches in Rab’s name: Everything which Abraham personally did for the Ministering Angels, the Holy One Blessed be God did for God’s children [the Israelites]; and whatever Abraham did through a messenger, the Holy One Blessed be God did for God’s children through a messenger [Moses].  

Therefore, just as Abraham ran to the herd to get a tender calf to cook for his guests, a wind from God started up and swept quail from the sea and strewed them over the camp (Numbers 11:31).  Just as Abraham took butter and milk, God rained bread from heaven for the Israelites (Exodus 16:4).  As Abraham stood by the guests under the tree, God stood before them upon the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:6).  And like Abraham went with them to bring them on the way, God went before the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 13:21).  Finally, Abraham had water fetched for the three men, and similarly God commanded Moses to strike the rock for drinking water to come out of it for the Israelites (Exodus 17:6).

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Case of Mistaken Identity for Good

In the past decade Google’s email application Gmail has grown in popularity. With around half a billion active Gmail email accounts, it has become the free email provider of choice for most people. However, with such a popular email application like Gmail, one of the inherent problems is that of mistaken identity. That is, it is very easy to send an email to the wrong person and that can often have interesting results.

Such was the case recently with an invitation for a retreat for Jewish leaders. In 2005 Gary Rosenblatt, the editor and publisher of The Jewish Week, created an annual conference called The Conversation. Each year Gary invites some 50 participants (a cross-section of artists, rabbis, entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, activists and communal leaders) who converge on the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center outside of Baltimore, to discuss the issues of day in an Open Space forum.

Rabbi David Ingber of Romemu

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Rabbi Ron Aigen’s Book of Animal Answers

I never realized I had so many questions about animals until I met my brother-in-law, a veterinary radiologist and a devoted pet lover. It was at the first family dinner that my wife’s sister brought him to that I began to pepper him with questions about animals. I realized that I had an animal expert in my midst and all of a sudden I started to think of the most intricate questions about animals. My kids joined in and began asking him their own animal questions. Listening to his answers and learning from him was a fun experience and something that we have repeated often at family get-togethers.

As a rabbi I can relate to what my brother-in-law must feel when someone learns that he’s an animal expert and suddenly a game of 20 questions ensues. That happens to me when I’m at an event and someone (usually a non-Jew or an unaffiliated member of the Jewish faith) hears that I’m a rabbi. They take that opportunity to ask every question about Judaism that they’ve ever had and I become a living, breathing Wikipedia for them.

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Dr. Abraham Nemeth – Inventor and Mathematician

One of the highlights of attending Shabbat services at Adat Shalom Synagogue since I was a young child has been talking with Dr. Abe Nemeth. Dr. Nemeth, who passed away yesterday at 94, was a brilliant mathematician and inventor.

Dr. Nemeth was blind since birth, but he invented many technological devices to make his life easier. I recall a Friday night get together at Rabbi Efry Spectre’s home during high school when Dr. Nemeth was the guest speaker. He showed the 20 or so teens in the room how he developed a wrist watch that would tell him the time just by touching it. He also showed us the Braille siddur (prayerbook) that he uses.

Dr. Abraham Nemeth

Dr. Nemeth taught math for 3 decades at the University of Detroit and then started their Computer Science department. In terms of his lasting legacy, his entry in Wikipedia explains that Dr. Nemeth developed “the Braille code that would more effectively handle the kinds of math and science material he was tackling. Ultimately, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation in 1952. The Nemeth Code has gone through 4 revisions since its initial development, and continues to be widely used today. Nemeth is also responsible for the rules of MathSpeak, a system for orally communicating mathematical text. In the course of his studies, Nemeth found that he needed to make use of sighted readers to read otherwise inaccessible math texts and other materials. Likewise, he needed a method for dictating his math work and other materials for transcription into print. The conventions Nemeth developed for efficiently reading mathematical text out loud have evolved into MathSpeak.

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Detroit Philanthropist Joel Tauber Inspired At Techonomy Detroit

I attended Techonomy Detroit again this year and my interview with Joel Tauber, one of the speakers at the conference, was published in this week’s Detroit Jewish News:‘TECHONOMY’ CONFAB INSPIRES JOEL TAUBER

The recent Techonomy conference on the campus of Wayne State University was not much different than last year’s event, the first of its kind here in the Motor City. Tech leaders and business icons from around the country converged on Detroit for a series of conversations and workshops discussing how technology and innovation can boost American economic growth, job creation and urban revival.

This year’s conference emphasized the national challenge of inadequate and inequitable education. Speakers discussed the role of entrepreneurs and industry, as well as how technology can be creatively applied to help revive America’s physical and social urban infrastructure, to reignite competitiveness and economic growth.

The majority of the speakers were under age 45 and so it is noteworthy that one of the Detroit Jewish community’s major philanthropists and a world-renowned business leader was one of the panelists. Among the prominent speakers at Techonomy, such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd), was Joel Tauber.

Courtesy of Techonomy – (photo by Asa Mathat)

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