All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Thursday, 31 December 2009

End Of The Year, End Of The Decade

For the whole of the day, I have been toying with what I wanted to write here. I still don't know.

The last few days of this year have found me struggling with one of the many curveballs that life throws your way and I wonder whether I will have the strength to dodge it, or just go with the roll.

This has been a seminal decade in my life. I fathered two daughters, found myself a new career and face the coming 120 months with a feeling, the like of which I have never had before.

So what will the future bring? Where will any of us be on 31st December 2019? It's not that long away and if the last ten years are anything to go by, its going to be a long, hard slog.

I'd like to be more cheerful and optimistic, but I'm afraid I can't muster the good cheer I'd like to exhibit.

Here's to 2010 and 11 and 12....and G-d help us all, because we need His provenance to guide each and every one of us, along the dimly lit pathway that lies ahead.

Oh yeah. And happy new year.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Sunday, 27 December 2009

If Santa Came To Us...

Monday, 21 December 2009

If Tommy Cooper Were Alive Today

I was sent these and I think it would be bordering on the criminal if I didn't share them with you, particularly as I can't remember the last time I laughed this much when reading an email:

I met this bloke with a didgeridoo and he was playing Dancing Queen on it. I thought, 'That's Aboriginal.'
-----------------------
This lorry full of tortoises collided with a van full of terrapins. It was a turtle disaster.
------------------------
I told my girlfriend I had a job in a bowling alley. She said 'Tenpin?' I said, 'No, permanent.'
-----------------------
I went into a pet shop. I said, 'Can I buy a goldfish?' The guy said, 'Do you want an aquarium?' I said, 'I don't care what star sign it is.'
----------------------------
I bought some Armageddon cheese today, and it said on the packet. 'Best before End'
---------------------------
I went to buy a watch, and the man in the shop said 'Analogue.' I said 'No, just a watch.'
------------------------------
I went into a shop and I said, 'Can someone sell me a kettle.' The bloke said 'Kenwood' I said, 'Where is he then?'
--------------------------
My mate is in love with two schoolbags. He's bi-satchel.
------------------------
I went to the doctor. I said to him 'I'm frightened of lapels.' He said, 'You've got cholera.'
---------------------------
I met the bloke who invented crosswords today. I can't remember his name, its P something T something I.
----------------------------
I was reading this book today, The History of Glue. I couldn't put it down.
----------------------------
I phoned the local ramblers club today, but the bloke who answered just went on and on.
---------------------------
The recruitment consultant asked me 'What do you think of voluntary work? I said 'I wouldn't do it if you paid me.'
--------------------------
I was in the jungle and there was this monkey with a tin opener. I said, 'You don't need a tin opener to peel a banana.' He said, 'No, this is for the custard.'
----------------------
This policeman came up to me with a pencil and a piece of very thin paper. He said, 'I want you to trace someone for me..'
--------------------------
I told my mum that I'd opened a theatre. She said, 'Are you having me on?' I said, 'Well I'll give you an audition, but I'm not promising you anything.'
----------------------------
I phoned the local builders today, I said to them 'Can I have a skip outside my house?' He said, 'I'm not stopping you!'
--------------------------------
This cowboy walks in to a German car showroom and he says 'Audi!'
--------------------------
I fancied a game of darts with my mate. He said, 'Nearest the bull goes first' He went 'Baah' and I went 'Moo' He said 'You're closest'
------------------------------
I was driving up the motorway and my boss phoned me and he told me I'd been promoted. I was so shocked I swerved the car. He phoned me again to say I'd been promoted even higher and I swerved again. He then made me managing director and I went right off into a tree. The police came and asked me what had happened. I said 'I careered off the road'
----------------------
I visited the offices of the RSPCA today. It's tiny: you couldn't swing a cat in there..
-------------------------
I was stealing things in the supermarket today while balanced on the shoulders of a couple of vampires. I was charged with shoplifting on two counts.
------------------------
I bought a train ticket to France and the ticket seller said 'Eurostar' I said 'Well I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin.
---------------------------
I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, 'How flexible are you?' I said, 'I can't make Tuesdays or Thursdays.'
--------------------------------
I went to the local video shop and I said, 'Can I borrow Batman Forever?' He said, 'No, you'll have to bring it back tomorrow'
--------------------------------
A waiter asks a man, 'May I take your order, sir?' 'Yes,' the man replies. 'I'm just wondering, exactly how do you prepare your chickens?' 'Nothing special, sir. We just tell them straight out that they're going to die .

Monday, 14 December 2009

My Speech For Hadassah's Bat Mitzvah

בס'ד

Rabbi Lister, Grandparents, dearest cousins and friends, welcome to Hadassah’s/Dassi’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. Thank you for coming to join us, from the distant and not so distant homes that you inhabit. It is as wonderful to see Dassi’s great-aunt Yalu, who has flown in specially from Ramat Hasharon as it is to see her uncle Guy who is here from the other side of London, as well as both sets of her grandparents, who also join us from the rather nearer suburbs of Golders Green and Finchley. Your presence (and everyone else in-between) is what makes this day so very special for all of us. However, it is also very sad that Dassi’s maternal great grandmother Savta Shchora (who we think is approaching her 100th birthday) cannot be here to share in the celebrations, although she is in our thoughts at this joyous time.

We are all here, each and every one of us to celebrate the bat-mitzvah of one very unique young lady – Hadassah. I am sure that Rabbi Lister will smile when I say that everyone who is standing here today, is doing so because, “you are all worth it”. Hadassah, your mother in particular, must be saluted before I launch into my two and a half hour speech (only kidding), because to be frank, without her tireless (and quite incredible) work on the “Bat Mitzvah project”, we might have celebrated your Bat Mitzvah in the garden, on the trampoline, with bowlfuls of cereal (a very popular dish in our household).

Everything that you see here, every part of the celebration, starting with the design of the beautiful invitations is Dana’s doing (OK, I did help a little!) and I could not even begin to describe the kind of mess we would have experienced, had I been in charge. So Dana, kol hakavod, this Bat-Mitzvah has your name engraved in every nook, cranny and detail. Tali, Michal and Shira, your oceans of patience and understanding regarding the fuss your older sister has brought about is extremely impressive. You can be very proud of her and indeed yourselves. You are all incredible young ladies!

Hadassah, you spoke less than an hour ago and the thoughts that made up your beautiful Bat Mitzvah Dvar Torah resonated, not only around the room, but also inside the hearts and minds of everyone who was privileged to hear them. And yes, it really was a privilege.

You are not only our Joseph - you also have the qualities that make up every single member of his family, from his great-grandfather Avraham Avinu (the Patriarch Abraham) through to his little brother Binyamin. Chazal (the Rabbis of old) tell us that the brothers, far from being the rogues that are presented in popular culture, were in fact very fine individuals, from whom the entire Jewish nation would later descend. Their sin, though reprehensible, ultimately led them down to Egypt and to the future Exodus (Yetziat Mizrayim) which we recall in such vivid detail on the Seder Nights.

In fact, had the brothers not decided to go ahead with their plan, I wonder whether we would be standing here today, discussing their machinations!

Hadassah, I know that you probably won’t enjoy the next part of my speech because you don’t like being the centre of attention, but I would be amiss if I didn’t address these words to you.

Before you burst onto the scene, as they say, I didn't know what it was like to be a father. I had always been the son and grandson. This was a new status, a new place to be in.

So, what does a father do? What does he feel like? What can he do to make sure he doesn't mess up someone else's life? What rules must he follow to get it right? All these questions had no responses and in a way, still don't.

Dassi , you made some of the answers easier to work out.

From Day One, you were a free spirit, an independent little person who knew exactly what she wanted. You could fight your corner but at the same time, show incredible generosity to others around you. You were going to be special and we were all aware of it. In short, you were and are a smart, sassy, serious and unique young lady.

But who are you really?

Well, for one thing, you are fast – in fact the fastest person at the Michael Sobell Sinai School – as proven with your lightning wins in last summer’s races. I hear that it took a good five minutes to extinguish the flames you left in your tracks (and I know you’ll appreciate that comment, granted your fondness of the Back To The Future films).

You are certainly very popular. I can vouch for this, if my petrol tank expenses are to be believed, granted the number of miles I drive to ferry you to your weekly (or is it daily) Bat Mitzvah celebrations!

(As Rabbi Lister said in his beautiful speech,) you are an amazing actress! Your Yenta in the summer school production was nothing short of revelatory (and if anyone in the audience knows a Hollywood Agent….) I remember feeling the need to look at a mirror to remind myself that I was your father and not your son, granted your incredible turn as the aged Yenta.

You are the kind of person who made for an excellent choice of school counsellor, peer mediator and play leader at your last school! The teachers there saw the kind of person you are – what more can I add?

And finally, your short stay (to date) at the Hasmonean, has already resulted in the receipt of a lovely letter from the school, extolling your virtues as a student. All this, before the clocks were set back for the winter!

Hadassah, you are a star. Not only the kind that Joseph’s brothers bowed down to, but also the variety which illuminates the sky and shares the light bestowed upon it by the Sun, with all its neighbours.

And talking about light, I cannot but be amazed at how the theme of light runs through your life to date. Indeed, you came into our world on the day when we read about the very first light Hashem (G-d) created in the sky – Shabbat Bereshit and here we are, just a few months later, celebrating the lights that illuminate the Chanukah skyline. These link directly to the very first Or (light) that Hashem created – "Vayomer Hashem Yehi Or" and G-d said “let there be light” and 12 years ago, you were the light that entered into all our lives.

In fact, you were born on the Shabbat that coincided with the 18th anniversary of my late paternal grandfather’s (petirah) passing. My darling bonpapa, Charles E. Wolf was niftar (passed away) on erev Shabbat Bereshit (the eve of Shabbat Bereishit) at the criminally young age of 74. I remember my father telling me on that terrible Shabbat, through his tears , something I have never forgotten – how in Parshat Bereishit, G-d created man and how tragically, had chosen to take a very special man away on the eve of the same day.

If we take the letters of your name- Hey, Dalet, Samech and Hey and use gematria (the system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other – thank you Wikipedia) we can work out that hey is equal to five, dalet is four, samech is 60 and the final Hey is 5, which as the mathematicians amongst you will have already worked out comes to the sum of 74 - your name and my grandfather’s years on earth are identical.

You, my sweet Hadassah are the embodiment of my late grandfather. You came 18 years (18 being numerically equivalent to Chay (the word for life) after his death and re-lit the light that had been extinguished from my life when he left us.

I only wish that both he and my other grandparents, Philip and Hetty Vecht (of blessed memory) and my grandmother Laura (OBM), had lived long enough to see you blossom and grow. I know that I speak for Dana when I also mention her grandparents, Lazi and Richi Beresiner (OBM) and Shimon Goldman (OBM) and envision the pride they would have felt today. You, Hadassah, are their legacy.

Rabbis, family and friends, I finish where I started and ask you to please eat, drink and enjoy the occasion. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate the simchah with you all and may we only continue to enjoy such precious moments -(till the age of 120).

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Moments

A long time ago, I wrote a blog about encapsulating those moments in time when words just can't do justice to the events that are unfolding.

Today was filled with those moments.

It was Hadassah's Batmitzvah and today was made up such moments. If you are reading this and you were there in Shul, you will know what I mean.

From escorting Dassi up the aisle to the podium, with my daughter flanked on either side by her parents, to her amazing delivery of a self-written Dvar Torah, to the beautiful words uttered by the Rabbi, to the vision of our living room filled with more people than I've seen therein....the moments were so many that I wonder if I'll ever be able to match them.

We are half-way through the Batmitzvah weekend and my mind is already awash with memories that I never want to lose.

If you were there, please remember them for me and remind me in twenty five years time. If you weren't, try to imagine.

Days like today remind me of the vitality of life, family, and friendship. Chanukah is here and in my soul, its lights are well and truly burning.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Meaning Of (My) Life

On this very day, some forty two years ago, an amazing thing happened to me.

I was born.

Notice. I didn't say "an amazing thing happened", because then, I would have made some arrogant, probably overbearing and frankly absurd statement. I added the "to me" suffix.

An amazing thing happened to me. I was born, with all my senses intact, ten fingers and ten toes all formed as they should have been; a heart that still beats as it was designed to and a brain that probably worries far too much but thankfully does so in the first place. I was born on 1st December 1967.

I haven't been a great fan of Sci-Fi. Not really my scene, but I do know that according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the meaning of life is 42 (apologies to anyone out there who hasn't found this out yet). I don't quite know what that represents, but since midnight this morning, I've been privileged to call myself that age.

I say "privileged" because I know that not everyone out there will be so blessed. Some don't make it as far whilst others wonder whether they will see the number augment, but three hundred and sixty five days from now.

So what does it mean to be 42 years of age? I suppose it feels the same as being 41 + 364 days, or 41+363 or even randomly, 41+148. It's as though I'm lucky to be here in the first place. I know that at this stage in my life, when all is said and done, I'm one seriously blessed individual.

My birth is the reason why four little girls are on this planet today. Don't get me wrong, I don't for one minute doubt the Almighty's extraordinary role in getting them here (because He is after all the most important part of the triumvirate that creates all mankind), but were I not to have breathed my very first oxygen fix back in December 1967, my four daughters would have born totally different and certainly Tali would have resembled someone else!

I mused on this last night when I saw my parents and in front of the kids shared with them the very same thoughts. It is indeed sobering to note how important their role was (and is) in the very existence of their granddaughters.

We go through life taking so much for granted. We believe that everything is there for our use and disposal. We inflate our egos to the extent that others would rather not be in the same room as us or breathe the same air that flows so freely - if our bodies are able to process it.

Maybe it takes a day like today - my day - to remind me of how incredible my presence is on this planet. To me, the meaning of life at 42 is that I have a role to play in society to ensure that my birth, those many many months ago was worth something to at least half a dozen people in the world.

I could not have been here and no-one would have blinked as a result, but I am and in being a member of the community, I feel that I owe it to everyone to thank my parents and the Lord for deciding to bring me into the world. I guess, that at the end of the day, it really is as simple as that.

And indeed, it is this very idea, to me, dear family and friends that represents the meaning of my life at 42.