opinion

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Sometimes being an adult can get quite frustrating. Life can lack the adventure and spontaneity that colored our youth. Or at least the amount of unplanned craziness we all expect to have when we’re younger.

Many years ago I was introduced to an author who would later become my favorite: Kurt Vonnegut. I was quickly attracted to his unique and entertaining style of writing. And I found concepts and ideas throughout his books becoming a part of who I was.

The Cursed Kurt Vonnegut

A great example is an idea in the book Hocus Pocus. The character spoke about his reason for never cursing. He believed it weakened the strength of his thoughts and opinions.

Now, I grew up a classic potty-mouthed New Yorker. But I also grew up wanting to make sure any point I make gets across as quickly and effectively as possible. So it was imperative I gave this idea some thought. I considered all the most famous quotes and speeches I had heard. And the people I knew who had the most influence on me and others around me.

And not a curse word to be found.

I took this to heart, stripped my vocabulary of the expletives, and watched as over time the words became somewhat repulsive to me. I also watched as the words became more powerful. Their infrequent use made them more intense when they were actually used.

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Vonnegut’s influence on me had no bounds. There was one phrase from his incredible novel Cat’s Cradle that has had more impact on me than any other: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

As you make your way through the twists and turns of life, every once in a while someone will suggest you do something you’ve never done before. You will have an opportunity to wander outside your comfort zone, and see things differently than yesterday.

Those moments aren’t just fun one-time breaks from your normal reality. They are the bread and butter of who you will later become! And so it has been for me, time and again. In my youth I was invited to a youth group meeting. It was something outside my realm. Something that I really did not understand or see the point of. But it was a peculiar travel suggestion, with potential galore for changing my life forever.

And it most certainly did!

That one decision was the starting point for a path I am still trekking down. For sure there have been other peculiar travel suggestions along the way. Many I’ve followed, and many have had their impact. The path hasn’t always been an easy one, but it certainly has always felt like there’s been some type of plan guiding the way.

Dancing Lessons from God

In more recent years I was invited to a friend’s home to hang out and play some games. I didn’t know my host very well, nor did I know any of the other guests. My instincts and inertia could have easily gotten the better of me. After all, it was exceedingly hot outside. I was better off just staying home, reading, and napping.

My host’s peculiar travel suggestion would be a key moment on the path eventually leading to our marriage.

And thus has been the pattern of my existence for as far back as I remember. When my days had too much of a pattern, and I was too rigid and unwilling to follow the ebbs and flow of life, or there were elements holding me back, little noteworthy happened.

And therefore when I told stories about myself, I noticed they were all old. Anything and everything that seemed interesting or noteworthy about me happened a long, long time ago.

In the Comfort Zone

And now here is where I stand. I find comfort in day-to-day routines. I like knowing what my day will look like and what’s coming up in the near future. Any break from my routine, even a small one, upsets my balance. Leaves me somewhat unnerved. That’s why they call it the “comfort zone”…

Yet at the same time there are changes that need to happen. There are improvements to myself as a person I so vehemently wish I could make happen. And if things continue on the same path they’ve been zooming down since I was a teenager, these changes won’t just happen on their own. Change happens when a peculiar travel suggestion enters my world, and I’m brave enough to follow the unknown path.

Shaking Things Up

And it seems this is the only true way meaning occurs in my life. It’s like a snow globe that settles into whatever it is, but the true beauty shines when things are shaken up.

But the shaking can’t happen by force. I can’t just shake my own snow globe or artificially insert my own peculiar travel suggestions. This disingenuous method of finding meaningful change is unlikely to produce any results.

Waiting for Peculiar Travel Suggestions

That’s not to say I have no control, nor that I lack an important role in inevitable and exciting changes that lay ahead. I must lay the foundation, and create the right atmosphere for change to naturally flow from what’s happening in my life.

There is so much I want to happen in the future, so many goals I wish to achieve. I want to see new levels of professional and financial success. I wake up daily yearning to return to levels of religiosity and Zionism I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. And I want joy in my days, the extent of which I could not have imagined.

I’m out there. God, I am wandering through life, each day awaiting Your peculiar travel suggestions. I patiently seek Your dancing lessons.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

My 100th Post: Why a Blog in 2019?

Blog

Blog? You write a blog? What year is this!?

This is my 100th blog post (including guest posts). I work on the blog a little bit every day of my life. But… some days I wonder why I bother.

To date, I haven’t earned a penny. In fact, it costs me to maintain the blog.

I’m not famous. It hasn’t put me into the limelight or tossed me in the way of some prestigious writing position.

But I keep at it. Week in and week out, nearly two years now. Consistently publishing at least one post every week.

And here I stand. This is my 100th post. And I have no plans to stop. I love it. It’s really fun for me. And I hope to keep it up for quite a long time to come.

It’s 2019 and I’m still blogging. Here are five reasons why:

1) Writing is a Muscle

The people of the world don’t know how to write anymore. Sadly, those among us who love style and grammar and just common decent awareness of the English language, we can’t shut off. Not for a minute.

Each and every day I’m literally sickened by the lazy writing I see or the blatant and heartbreaking lack of attention to detail.

And I pledge to never be that guy. I want my sentences to flow from one to the other. I don’t want to toss important punctuation and grammar rules into the trash can. I’m perfectly happy being the last American alive who knows how to spell words, and values that correct spelling as well.

But one thing is for sure: Keeping the writing skills alive won’t happen by accident.

I treat writing like a muscle. If left unused long enough, it will atrophy. I want to write every day of my life to prevent this vital muscle from withering away. The muscle needs to constantly be developed and refined, and hopefully through my daily exercise it will grow and sharpen to the height of its potential.

2) Blog as Written Catharsis

As any loyal reader knows, the last 41 years haven’t always been easy. I’ve done a great deal to try and survive the many hardships that have popped up along the way. Writing for me is both a way of processing my thoughts and feelings, as well as an emotional release in and of itself.

For certain, there are many pains that I cannot process through writing. And for sure plenty of pain for which I haven’t even scratched the surface. Nevertheless, pockets of difficulties I’ve had, I have managed to get through just because of this blog.

We all know that feeling of release when a pain slowly but surely dissipates. I’ve had that feeling a few times. Whether it be contemplating the complications of returning to Israel or closure at the end of a decade’s worth of work as a Jewish Educator, this blog has consistently given me great emotional catharsis.

This alone would be reason enough to keep on going.

3) Collecting My Thoughts

I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I have no political affiliation. And I begrudge (almost) no opinion out there. Nevertheless, I’m a thinker and I do have strong opinions.

I am a work in progress, constantly listening to what others have to say and trying to piece the world together. I make mistakes. A whole lot of them.

But the goal is and always will be to understand as much as humanly possible. And the single best way for me to collect my thoughts is by trying to write them down. If I can clearly and concisely get my thoughts into the written word, and I can answer a handful of questions about what I’ve said, competently and confidently, I have successfully added another piece to what I think, feel, and know. My mind is just a little sharper than it was before.

Clarity. I write, and that’s how I achieve clarity.

4) Me, the Minor Celebrity

There’s a cute little psychological effect that comes with sharing so much of yourself in such a public forum. It’s fun when someone quotes you or has a little bit of knowledge of what’s going on in your life or has a deep understanding of your thoughts and opinions.

Obviously I’m more than aware of my relatively minor influence in the vast world out there. No delusions of grandeur over here. Only the pleasure of knowing somebody out there might be listening. Somebody out there might have a care or concern for what I can add to the conversation. It’s enough to keep writing. It feels great.

It’s a funny world. The words “rich and famous” often get lumped together, and whereas I would love to be rich one day, I can certainly live quite happily without fame. I appreciate my privacy. I love it, in fact.

And in my heart I see no contradiction between my adoration of solitude and the joy of having my thoughts out there for the world to read. When I need or want to be private, it’s always there for me. And it’s always great.

5) Keep Hope Alive

Maybe it’s online youthful innocence. Or maybe hope is the greatest motivator the world has ever seen.

But I still keep waiting and watching. I still keep hoping that at some point things will “take off”. And that can mean all sorts of things. My blog could all of a sudden become the cash cow I never imagined. Or my blog could travel far and wide and it or some portion could end up influencing the lives of thousands of people.

All I know is, as long as I keep on plugging, the chance exists of some sort of magic occurring. And those chances end the moment I close my laptop and throw in the towel.

So I keep on writing.

See you in Post #200.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 1 comment

Jerusalem Community Theater, Hidden in Plain Sight

Jerusalem Community  Theater

Wait, what? There’s community theater in English in Jerusalem?

I found myself hanging out just on the very edge of a fascinating and beautiful community. One I didn’t even know existed. How did I find out? Well… I married an actress.

But if it weren’t for that, I may have never noticed it was there.

The community is thriving, with over ten companies and a wide variety of shows performed every year.

But like anything else in the world, there’s room for improvement. And certainly room for expansion.

Why Jerusalem Community Theater?

People get involved in Jerusalem’s community theater groups for all sorts of reasons. According to CB Davies, the founder of JET, “Some people were involved in theater at some point in their life and want to do it again. Some … love the show … and so want to be a part of that … [and] there are those who want to continue to do theater and use their skills.”

However, it’s the social aspect that intrigues me the most. According to Rivka Deray, JET’s Content Manager, “It’s an incredible way for people, especially new Olim [immigrants], to find a community and create a social circle in Jerusalem.” She adds that, “New people join all the time, and there are people who always welcome them in and make them feel at home.”

There are many great adjectives people use to describe this community. The community is welcoming, diverse, and extremely supportive. Davies says, “We’re very multicultural. People join from all parts of the world.” And Marty Weisel, founder of JET Venues and a member of JET’s content team, says, “The best thing about the community is the people … surrounding myself with friends who support me and care about me.”

Room for Improvement

But as with anything great, there’s always space to grow and develop. And there are those working tirelessly to take this hidden gem in Jerusalem and make it even better.

Some speak about taking the performances and bringing them to the next level of quality. Weisel says, “The productions given by the community are incredible, however … there is always room for improvement. There is so much talent in the community … and we need to find the way to raise the standards all the time.”

Davies wants to expand the community, a suggestion that means a lot to me personally. I love theater. And yet I lived in Jerusalem for over a year without even realizing there was community theater at all, let alone in English. Davies wants to see the theater community “marketing itself better, reaching out to bring more people into the community, giving more people a chance to perform or use their skills [and] training.”

Some ideas are simpler, just to add a little pizazz to what exists. Deray offered a novel suggestion. She would like to see annual award ceremonies to celebrate some of the most impressive accomplishments in the community.

Next-Level Integration

However, the most common sentiment was that despite everything amazing that’s happening, a certain level of unity is lacking. “I would love to see it better integrated,” says Deray. “I’d love if there was a more interconnected system where any company could receive supplies, funding, etc as needed.”

Davies would also like to see a stronger “connection between the different companies.” He states that “they all give something different to the community, but in the end we are all the same artistic community.”

They believe the community is made up of multiple disparate parts, each one great in its own way. However, when the groups can come together under one banner, the potential is limitless. The whole will be far greater than the sum of each of its parts.

JET (Jerusalem English Theater)

And that’s where JET comes in. JET (Jerusalem English Theater community) was created to foster unity, and give all of its members everything they could have ever hoped for. “JET’s goals are to create a single place for companies to lean on,” says Deray. “Whether that is by providing locations, or advertising for all upcoming performances and auditions, or helping companies coordinate show schedules to avoid event conflicts. We want our site to become the Google of Jerusalem community theater, where people who aren’t as familiar yet can go to one beautiful website and find out all they need to know about upcoming performances and how they can be a part.”

It would be “a website that brings all the community into one place”, according to Davies. Replete with “blog posts to let people see what happens behind the scenes, promote the community, and let people express themselves.”

And part of the greater overall vision is to not only have a website, but an actual physical location (JET Venues). “A space that is geared towards performing arts”, says Weisel. “By having classes and opportunities available all the time … actors can hone their craft … and do what [they] love all year round.” Davies sees JET Venues ultimately as “a place that the community can call home for its artistic endeavors. This hopefully will allow artists to emerge, create, and bring new material and stories to Jerusalem”

And, of course, for the overall benefit of the community, everyone would love to see more and more involvement from a wider array of people. “I would love to see the theater community circle expand ever greater,” says Deray, “becoming home to more and more people and talents.”

Jerusalem Community Theater… is a Potato Chip

Davies says about much of these changes and developments, “I think in a way it is happening already, but I’d like to see more of it.”

Jerusalem Community Theater is a gem, hidden in plain sight in Jerusalem. It’s growing and improving all the time. Nevertheless, some folk want and need more. And they’re working to make that a reality.

Ultimately, Jerusalem’s theater community is a joyous one. “The shows themselves are like potato chips”, says Deray. “Once you’ve experienced the incredible feeling of putting your all into a production, working with and getting close to friends, old and new, you just have to come back for more.”

Yup, a fantastic community. However, there are a handful of folk out there hoping the community sees days with more, even tastier chips.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, Israel, opinion, 0 comments

Not the Game of Thrones I Remember

Game of Thrones

Warning: This article is loaded with Game of Thrones spoilers. Beware!

I love Game of Thrones. Yeah, I know, it’s me and the rest of the world. But it doesn’t change the fact that I love everything from the intense action to the riveting dialogue to the top notch acting.

But Game of Thrones, whereas I do love you… I just don’t like you sometimes.

I think it’s important to explore some elements about why I love the show… in order to understand why I’ve been disappointed so much lately.

Game of Thrones is Anti-Hollywood

I didn’t know anything about Game of Thrones when I began watching it. Then again, I come into almost everything I watch blind. But Hollywood consistently leaves me with little to keep me on the edge of my seat. The good guys win, some characters are untouchable, and the love interest will put cute smiles on all our faces. All wrapped up neatly by the end.

But Game of Thrones shocked me time and time again. I watched a child pushed out a window in the first episode and knew something was quite different about this show. And at the infamous Red Wedding, as I saw the “good guys” systematically and brutally decimated, in jaw dropping fashion, I knew I was hooked.

My emotions were entirely trapped in the show. And like in real life, I never knew what was coming next. And I’ve spent the last several years on the edge of my seat.

Game of Thrones, Surprisingly Unsafe

In conjunction with the element of surprise, I love the fact that no character is ever truly safe. We’ve seen our beloved decapitated. We’ve seen their pregnant wife stabbed in the belly. And we’ve spent seasons growing to adore certain characters, only to see the show yank on our emotional wellbeing and toss it to the trashcan. One moment we look at you with admiration; the next, you are permanently removed from our lives.

No one is invincible. Everyone can get everything taken away from them in a heartbeat. Even in an embarrassing and disrespectful manner. As un-Hollywood as it can get!

The Patient GoT

In addition, Game of Thrones is patient. If the most important thing needed to create a dramatic impact is time, then so be it.

My heart was pounding when Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were reunited. They said goodbye to each other in the first season, and not knowing anything about what the other had been through, saw each other again five seasons later. I felt chills when it happened. I have never known a show willing to wait even remotely that long to create a sensation so special.

We Love to Hate

Finally, many shows have great heroes. But no one has mastered the villain the way Game of Thrones has. It’s harder to understand why hate and anger are as important as love and respect. But it’s true. Yes, we all love Tyrion, Arya, and Daenerys. But we went to sleep at night dreaming of how Joffrey could finally be out of the picture. We were restless for weeks wanting to know if Ramsay Bolton would get what’s coming to him. And the Night King has cost many souls a night’s slumber.

Season 8, Episode 3…

I’m writing this post shortly after watching the epic third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. The episode was a masterpiece that kept the world breathing heavy for 90 minutes.

I loved it.

And I’m also terribly disappointed. All of the principles I mentioned before were ignored. Hollywood inserted its venom into the episode, and even though it was extremely entertaining, regretfully I believe ignoring what makes the show great, will ultimately make its ending quite forgettable.

Game of Thrones, Predictably Safe

What do I mean? There was nothing surprising about the episode. Nothing at all. It was a pure Hollywood delight. Yes, some characters who we have gotten to know for several years now perished. But every last one of them was expendable.

Does anyone really care if Theon Greyjoy finally met his Creator? Or if Beric Dondarrion will not be around for the next three episodes? Frankly, I don’t. Yes, they’re significant in the show, but they’re really not our heroes, nor are they characters of consequence.

But they all die amazing, heroic deaths. No one was slaughtered with their guard down or in some incredibly unexpected way. Everyone died like a champion. Even little adorable Lyanna Mormont took out a giant as she met her fate.

But what about Jon Snow and Daenerys and Tyrion? Completely and totally untouchable. For eight seasons, we haven’t seen Daenerys touch a single weapon. And now, just when it’s convenient, she’s a master killer of the Night King’s army. When we know the good guys are going to win, and the heroes cannot be harmed, Game of Thrones ceases to be Game of Thrones. We’re not kept on the edge of our seats. We can calmly watch knowing everything will be OK.

A Path Already Traveled

Game of Thrones seems to be taking a path already traveled, returning from a multi-season adventure where we never knew what to expect. It’s a world where Theon Greyjoy can die but Arya Stark cannot. A world where Theon gets to die a heroic death, as a great and valiant warrior.

We’re no longer waiting for a buildup to a great moment. And we’re watching as villains are dying like flies. The dreaded Night King, who poured fear into our hearts for years, whose spear took a dragon right out of the air, can be conquered by a single knife wound from a young girl.

GoT, What Will Be?

I miss the days of not knowing what will be. The days where heroes and villains had ambiguities. When plot and depth of character intrigued us, rather than being pulled in by just action and excitement.

Television has progressively become more and more disappointing. Few shows can capture my attention for more than a few seasons. Game of Thrones, you have been my shining light in a dark, dark cave. You’ve got three episodes left. Please don’t disappoint.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, opinion, 0 comments

Leaping for ALYN

ALYN Hospital

Another year… another leap from an airplane.

My son and I are once again jumping from a plane, for an absolutely fantastic cause. We would love it if you could contribute. Every dollar counts.

ALYN Hospital is Incredible

So first, why should you donate to ALYN Hospital?

ALYN is the only rehabilitation hospital for kids and teens in Israel. If children are involved in a car accident, hurt in an act of terror, or suffer some other trauma leaving them with serious injuries that impact their ability to lead independent lives, ALYN is likely their best hope.

ALYN Hospital will create a unique plan for each child depending on what they need, which often involves a variety of therapies and equipment. A child may receive any number of different therapies, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, pet therapy, and gardening therapy.

Everyone is pulled from every direction as to where to donate their hard-earned money. Personally, I prefer to give to a cause that everyone can agree upon. No politics, no biases. Just making the world a better place.

Children’s rehabilitation hospital?

No brainer.

Skydiving to Glory

I love participating in fundraisers. I love seeking new and exciting adventures. And I love any and all excuse to have quality time with my amazing son.

In addition, I’ve been plagued with a slew of injuries lately that have made more traditional fundraisers (like races) difficult if not impossible for me. So when I heard about the possibility of combining all of this together, I jumped at the opportunity (pun very painfully intended).

My son and I participated last year and are ecstatic to do so again. This is the fourth consecutive year for this unique style of fundraiser. And I’m hoping we’ll be diving for many years to come.

Skydiving was nothing like what I was expecting.

My top three observations after jump number one:

Pushed out a Plane

1) You don’t really jump out of a plane. It’s more like getting nudged out of one, or “tumbling out of a plane”, in the words of Julie Zola, a program participant. Or in another participant, Dana Adler’s, words, “listen to the instructor, trust in them and LET GO! You are not in control and sometimes that’s a great thing.”

In fact, there’s something truly liberating about having minimal control over what happens next. If you’re up against your fears, you’re facing them head on. And you will conquer them. Dana says, “Once you’re up in that plane, there’s no going back. This mirrors what the parents of the children in ALYN go through once they enter the doors of [the] hospital and… have no choice but to be strong.”

Learnin’ to Fly

2) Skydiving doesn’t feel like falling. More like floating or soaring. Or in the words of Dana Adler, it’s “the feeling of flying and being weightless, seeing the world from an entirely different perspective.” Julie describes it as “serenity filled with adrenaline… Once the parachute deploys, it is incredibly peaceful.”

However you want to describe it, skydiving does not have the expected terrifying feeling of plummeting to your doom. It’s not actually scary at all. Partcipant Dani Schijveschuurder says, “Any feelings of fear, is your brain playing mind-games. The actual jump is far less scary!”

No, it’s not a terrible fall at all. In many ways, slipping off your chair is far scarier. Skydiving is a serene and peaceful flying through the sky.

Done. What’s Next?

3) Dani says the skydiving experience is followed by “the irrational realization that it’s addictive and you just need to do it again. And again. And again!” I completely understand where she is coming from. However, when it ended for me, for sure I was excited to do it again. But something else interesting happened. All I wanted to do was find the next big thrill.

I don’t even know what to try. Jumping from higher up, bungee jumping, cliff diving. It’s quite a while before the intensity calms down, even just a little. Before that happens, all you want to do is find the next big challenge. You can’t wait to see what life brings you next.

ALYN Skydiving Fundraiser

It’s true, skydiving for me was a dream come true. I’d been wanting to jump literally for decades. The right opportunity just never came around.

For my son it was a right of passage. We’ve done a whole lot of really interesting activities together, from shooting to trying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together. I was there when he bravely faced his first roller coaster at Dutch Wonderland. And I was there when he first jumped out of an airplane.

He’s come a long way. And we’ve come a long way together.

But some life lessons are more important than others. I need to raise my children to be kind. I need to raise my children to treat the needs of other people as paramount.

So I’m beyond ecstatic that not only are we doing something super special together. But we are doing so for an amazing cause.

The impression is powerful. And I hope the impact stays with him for a long time to come.

As Julie says, “My favorite thing about this fundraiser is that I think we all have a tendency to take for granted that we are able to walk and do things that others do not have the ability to do. This fundraiser raises awareness that there are people who deserve a chance to live a life without disabilities.”

ALYN: What Can I Do?

So… you can’t join us for the jump. What else can you do for ALYN Hospital?

Come visit and learn more about the unique work of ALYN. Join their projects, which are all based on pushing a participant past his or her comfort zone. The children treated at the hospital must do so every single day.

And, of course, you can contribute to our campaign.

***

A warm thank you to Yarden Frankl for helping me with compiling all the necessary information for this post.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Five Life Lessons I Learned from Being a UFC Fan

UFC

I’ve been a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts for several years now. I watched UFC fights live in the States weekly, and I follow the sport like a soap opera to this day.

For the uninitiated or those who haven’t been updated, despite your possible perception of UFC as unregulated cock fighting, the sport is beautiful, exciting, graceful, and sometimes even educational.

As an avid fan, I wanted to share five life lessons I’ve gained from countless hours of watching these athletes perform:

1) The Most Dangerous UFC Fighter

Who’s the scariest fighter out there? Who’s the person who should make all opponents quiver with terror? Is it the muscle-bound behemoth or the one with the fiery death stare?

No, it’s the one who looks like he’s walking around in his own living room.

In a world where every split second counts, where the slightest mistake could mean getting knocked out in an instant, you can never afford to tense up. The moment you are nervous, you are done.

So the scariest fighter is the one who doesn’t crack under pressure. The lights, cameras, and fans don’t phase them. They just move around the ring like it’s an ordinary day, relaxing on their porch with a beer.

Who performs better in life when they’re nervous or agitated? The secret to success is finding out how to be comfortable in your own environment and circumstances, no matter what they are. You will perform at your best, and you will be ready for whatever life throws your way.

2) You Win or You Learn

This is a common refrain for many fighters, especially those who have a very good outlook on fighting and the world.

Sometimes a fighter walks into the ring, and he knocks his opponent out in a matter of seconds. There’s no time to think. There’s no perspective. Everything happened in a flash.

In the excitement, the winner will jump on the cage. He’ll scream in joy. He’ll go ahead and hug his coaches and family members.

But what happens tomorrow?

Yes, there’s joy and motivation. There’s an increased confidence and momentum on the fighter’s side.

But where does he go from here? What did he learn about himself that he could bring to the gym? Or the next fight? The answer: Not very much.

The fighter who is dragged around the ring, peppered with jabs and kicked repeatedly in the leg, humbled for 15 minutes, that fighter gets to go home with a game plan. That fighter knows the next several months are about figuring out what to do differently going forward.

So, you win or you learn. If you win, fantastic. Enjoy life’s victories. But what happens when things don’t go your way? If you’re smart, you will turn it into the ultimate learning experience.

3) Everyone Loves a Graceful Loser

There are fighters who achieve massive but temporary popularity. And there are fighters who achieve lasting fame and fortune.

I think one of the biggest keys to being in the second category is how you handle the times when you lose.

You of course have your mega-stars, like Ronda Rousey. When she was mauling her opponents in 30 seconds or less, the world was her oyster. Everyone adored her. She was on top of the world, and it looked like her spotlight would never wane, not for a minute.

But when she suffered her first losses, and she shunned the media, and basically disappeared from the public eye, everyone progressively realized we were dealing with a sore loser, and everything she had built up over time dissipated.

Some complain they really won the fight. Or the referee made a mistake. Bitching and moaning begets boos and disrespect.

But those fighters who reach ultimate fame, and humbly congratulate the victor, they win over our hearts. They thank their incredible coaching staff and tell the fans they’ll be back in the very near future to put on some more amazing shows.

You want everyone around you to love you? Have a great attitude no matter what happens. Everyone wants to be around people like that!

4) Just Keep in There!

Sometimes fighter endurance shocks and amazes me. You’ll find people who can do uncanny things, and they’re still going strong long after most people would have long passed out from exhaustion.

You don’t necessarily have to be the best or the most talented fighter. Sometimes it’s enough to have the greater stamina, or perhaps just the greater heart. And when that moment comes when your opponent falters ever so slightly due to fatigue, with perfect precision and a little technique, the fight is now yours.

Of course we all wish to be the best at what we do. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to be blessed with talents galore to accomplish everything we want in life. But sometimes the harder worker wins. Sometimes pushing just a little longer than the competition is exactly the edge needed to eke out a victory in this world.

Stay in there a little longer than the “opponent”, and seeing your hand raised can be a reality.

5) UFC: It’s All a Game

I remember my time in the Israeli Army all too well. I was miserable all the time. For my first month, day in, day out, all I wanted was for things to end.

I loathed my commanding officers. I did not enjoy or feel any value to a straight month of being yelled at and treated like garbage. And when it was all over, I felt a residual anger still lingering on me.

But I watched something fascinating happen. When everything ended, the recruits and the commanding officers in an instant became buddies. I watched with awe as all the tension melted away.

Like nothing!

UFC vs IDF

It took me a while until I realized something important. I was a new immigrant to Israel and I didn’t understand how things worked here. Essentially basic training for non-combat soldiers was somewhere between a game and theater. A bunch of 19 year olds are acting angry and tough, and a whole slew of 18 year olds spend a month pretending like they are intimidated.

And li’l ole me wasn’t in on the game.

I feel a similar effect when I watch some of the best UFC fights. Two intense, powerful individuals trash talk one another for weeks leading up to the fight, then do everything in their power to knock one another out for 15 minutes. Then the final buzzer goes off, and they hug like they’re the best of friends.

Whatever was going on before doesn’t linger. Yes, there was intensity. That was then and this is now. In the bigger picture, the fight was just a fight. It doesn’t follow into real life afterwards. It was all just a game.

And it really is all just a game.

Today’s a new day. Let it go. Move on and stop holding on to yesterday’s problems.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 0 comments

The Great Family Merger: Five Guiding Principles

Family

I’m a bit worried. Not terribly. But a bit.

I don’t doubt my parenting skills. And I certainly don’t doubt the person I married. Quite the opposite, in fact. I couldn’t imagine someone more qualified to take this journey with me and seamlessly become a part of my family.

However, I’ve heard stories galore about what happens when new parents come into the picture.

And I think I would be naive to assume everything will go smoothly without any deep thought and extremely hard work.

I don’t presume to have all the answers. Nor do I assume that anyone does, since every situation is different. And I’ve been around the block too many times to think for a moment that things can’t go wrong even if I do everything “correctly”.

Nevertheless, I’m going to work every day to have the life and family I dream of. And I will guide myself by these five principles:

1) Never Stop Loving

Maybe it’s obvious. Or maybe too hard for some out there. What happens when a child is angry and says horrible things? What happens when they get to a level where their difficulties start interfering with the quality of your relationship?

Do you separate a little? Do you give up? Is it possible to just place your focus on your new relationship and pull away from the children?

The answer is no. The answer is never!

Just keep saying “I love you”. Say it often, say it proudly. And mean it every single time.

These little ones need the reassurance that you aren’t going anywhere, and you will be there for them every step of the way. For all of their needs. For all of the imminent craziness in their life. Forever.

2) Emphasize the Three Different Family Relationships

The family used to be just you and them. There was no need to highlight that relationship. It was there day in and day out. Of course you would always be around. For certain you would have lots of fun and excitement together.

But now there’s another relationship in the picture. You wish to be with your significant other, and it’s encroaching upon this beautiful parent-child relationship you’ve developed. There needs to be a healthy separation, where your children know when you need privacy. But they need to always know their time with you is super special as well. And will always be so.

But then there’s the next level. Those precious moments when you’re all together. When you’re an odd, modern family. And it’s beautiful synergy. Personally, there’s nothing in the world I want more!

And who knows, at some point maybe they’ll have a relationship completely independent of you. Sounds like a dream come true!

3) Focus on Quality Family Time

By the time any day comes to an end, it’s so easy to have spent the whole time hyper-focused on the practical blah we all love so dearly. Washing dishes, taking out the trash, walking the pooch, paying the bills.

Sometimes it feels like a small miracle if we get anything done that’s not just pragmatic day-to-day chores and responsibilities. For certain there is nothing wrong with being productive. There’s nothing wrong with finishing a day knowing you’ve gotten a whole lot done.

But we all know the truth. We don’t want to end our lives thinking we worked a lot, but our family is a mess. And we don’t want to go the grave thinking our kids might despise us… but at least the trash got taken out.

We need to take control of the day and make sure that the entire household knows that every minute spent having fun together is infinitely more important than the little its and bits of items you successfully managed to cross off your to-do list.

4) Recognize that Fears and Other Feelings are Real

It’s so easy to sit back and confidently explain the logical fallacies in other people’s feelings and emotions.

And yet, never in the history of the world (outside of Hollywood) has this ever been effective.

We all do it. We do it often. Still, we get upset when others do it to us… but it never makes us learn. We just generate further pain or pour lighter fluid on already existing hurts.

Why? Because when you logically try and eliminate someone’s hurt, it’s as if you’re telling them their feelings are not legitimate. You’re telling them they are not allowed to feel what they are feeling.

It is every person’s God-given right to feel. Your emotions are the most personal thing you possess. And no one in the world can deny you your feelings.

So what do you do when your loved ones express their fears and concerns? Sometimes it’s enough just to be there for them. To listen. To understand. And for God’s sake, this is what hugs were invented for!

But never, ever tell someone they can’t feel what they’re feeling, or imply it in any way.

The damage is far worse than any “help” you might be giving.

5) When in Doubt, Don’t Hesitate to Ask

A great relationship with your kiddos starts with great communication. If you are open to their thoughts and ideas, and they feel safe letting you know their feelings, it should be natural to ask them how they are holding up through all the changes.

Give them all the room in the world to let you know if something is upsetting to them. Let them emote. Let them get it all out of their system.

And listen. Listen! Don’t interrupt them. Don’t argue. For God’s sake, make sure they know that you are making a concerted effort to truly understand and appreciate everything they are saying.

And when all the smoke clears, let them know that your love for them hasn’t lessened in the slightest, that they still remain the center of your existence, and seek assistance from them to find out what happens next. They know what they want and need. If any real problem has arisen, there is an intelligent solution right around the corner, and it’s in their hearts and minds. You just need to pull it out of there.

Ask, listen, work toward solutions, and follow through. The stakes are way high. This is your time to shine as a person and a parent.

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, parenting, 2 comments

Israel Elections and Why I’m Afraid to Vote

Israel Elections

Israel’s elections are around the corner. I have a mixture of emotions ranging from indifference to sheer terror.

You see, this place can get a bit crazy, and your seemingly insignificant vote can mean so much more than most could imagine.

Growing up in the States, it’s easy to start thinking of elections as a joke. In the majority of States, you can know close to 100% who your State will choose well before election day comes around. It’s very easy to feel like your choice is insignificant.

In addition, even the biggest decisions will rarely land on your doorstep. Certainly not quickly. The closest thing I had in my lifetime was the government’s asinine decision to give fines to those of who choose not to have health insurance.

But I don’t live in the States anymore. And I’ve watched as the Prime Minister’s decisions can literally land in my backyard.

Israel Elections and Getting Kicked Out of my Home

Many years ago, I was living on a wonderful settlement called Karmei Tzur. The Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, was engaged in vigorous peace negotiations with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat. On the table was nearly 100% of the disputed territories within the country. And, of course, this included my very own home.

We moped around the settlement, knowing full well that we were literally a signature away from getting dragged from our homes by the military. And we were overjoyed when talks fell through. Not because our brethren decided it was unfair and cruel for us to leave, mind you. But because Arafat rejected the plan. He wanted more land.

But it was our own leader, elected by our fellow citizens, who was trying to cause us irreparable harm.

Israel Elections and a Shaken Conscious

And, frankly, there are limits to what my conscious could bear. Several years ago, I cast my vote and helped to choose the one to run this great nation. And that leader, Ariel Sharon, would later make the decision to aggressively remove thousands of Jewish people from their homes.

None of us thought it would actually happen.

But it did.

Yes, I’m aware that if I hadn’t cast my vote, Ariel Sharon would have been elected anyway. And of course none of us could have known that this would be the results of his reign in office.

But still.

I was a cog in the wheel. I would watch from afar as people–my people–were forcefully ripped away from everything they had built for decades. And then I would watch further as for the next several years everything that could possibly go wrong went worse than anyone could imagine.

The resettlement of the Gush Katif residents was handled abysmally. And Israel would be attacked repeatedly from areas formerly occupied by Israeli families.

Lamenting Gush Katif

Years ago I spent a Shabbat in one of the Gush Katif settlements. It was a lovely and moving experience. One that I know I will never have again. And it’s all because enough people, like me, voted in that election.

Instead of revisiting Kfar Darom, and walking around through its lovely Gan Hamitzvot, I watched the residents fighting with soldiers. I watched teens who were born in the community fighting with teens who were drafted into the military. They were all young and unaware, and probably still wake up in cold sweats thinking about that miserable week in Jewish History.

The Way to the Top: Crappy Predecessors

And Sharon should have never been elected in the first place. He was able to work his way up to the top of the political ladder solely based on the poor performance of his predecessor, Ehud Barak. Ehud Barak was infamous for an empty threat that empowered five years of relentless violence against the Israeli people, known as the Second Intifada. And he was also known for endless bombings of empty homes that seemed to accomplish nothing, except for perhaps emboldening and multiplying Israel’s enemies.

And how did such a skilled politician find his way into office? His predecessor had made decisions that left him without a political friend in the world, opening the door for just about any opposition to hop into his place. Who was Barak’s predecessor? None other than current Head of State, good ole Bibi Netanyahu.

And Netanyahu had set the stage for this clown to bumble his way through leading Israel by actions that would simultaneously alienate all of his constituents, while not garnering a shred of favor from his opponents. Very much not shrewd political maneuvering on Bibi’s part.

Israel Elections and Good Ole Netanyahu

That being said, I think Bibi learned a lot from his first go as Prime Minister. And perhaps that’s why he’s been able to sink his talons into the position for so long his second time around. In all honesty, I sort of like him as Prime Minister, and I think he’s done a better job than all his recent predecessors (including himself).

Why? It feels like under his leadership, things are never too hot or too cold. Israel continues to vigorously defend itself, yet we’re not on the front page of the popular media on a daily basis. Somehow or other, we’re almost boring in the world’s view. This is in stark contrast to years past where it felt to me like Israel was constantly hovering around the front of the paper, and never in a favorable manner. Netanyahu pisses people off, but rarely so much that they call for his immediate ousting from office.

And, of course, we’re still left wondering how to perceive his illegal and/or immoral actions. This is a question that brings shivers up my spine. I watched closely as half a nation forgave an adulterous Bill Clinton. Why? Because they were able to separate his actions in the sack from his actions in the Oval Office.

Should we have a higher standard in the Holy Land? Should we seek in the Israel elections a candidate we can respect in and out of the office?

And should we cling to the leader with whom we are familiar but discontent? Or should we take chances on a new situation with unknown but potentially catastrophic consequences?

Terrified of Israel Elections

These and so many other questions can confuse and hurt to no end.

So you are wondering if I’m voting in the upcoming Israel elections. My answer: I’m really not sure. If I don’t, it’s because I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a decision I can be proud of. And because I’m afraid of waking up the next morning terrified for what legitimate damage I might cause my nation.

I’m just not sure I can handle that again.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Work from Home: The Choice of a New Generation

Work From Home

A bit over two years ago, I sat down to my first day as a Customer Support Specialist, in the coziest office imaginable… my own home. That’s right. I work from home!

This was daunting. At best. Who wouldn’t be terrified of the prospect of sitting for hours on end all by yourself? Wouldn’t I go crazy just sitting there in solitude? Would I become consumed with boredom?

And after two years, I’ve never looked back. I love my job. I love my gorgeous alone time. And I have learned so much, grown more than I could have imagined, and I don’t really have any interest in ever finding another job, since my lifestyle is so great.

And the commute is incredible!

But that doesn’t mean the ‘work from home’ fears aren’t real. It’s very easy to become exactly what we all fear. It’s quite simple to look back and say that your only accomplishments were sending out a whole lot of emails. If you look back at the end of the day and you did nothing but work, you’re woefully unhappy, you’re terribly lonely, and you’re 300 pounds overweight and diabetic, something went horribly wrong.

Here are my five strategies to make the work from home experience absolutely fantastic:

1) Learn to Love being Alone

I feel like being alone is a lost art. Nowadays, even while alone we’re still connected to the world in a dozen different ways.

But solitude, for those of us who have learned to embrace it, is beautiful.

I’m at peace when I’m by myself. That’s not to say I don’t thoroughly enjoy being social (sometimes). It just means that I don’t run away from being alone. I love it. I make great use of it. And I relish in the quiet and enjoy all of its benefits.

But what if you simply don’t know how to be alone well?

Like all other habits we wish to create, sometimes you just need to dive in and grow naturally from there. Go to a restaurant by yourself. I know. It’s weird. Go to the movies by yourself! I promise, it gets less strange. Ultimately, you might even grow to love it. No one asks you to explain anything, and you get to keep all the popcorn for yourself. What’s not to love?

If you love to be alone, loving to work from home is just a tiny hop away.

2) Find Creative Ways to Spend your Time

As the hours pass on by, especially on a slow day, there’s unlimited things you can do with your time. Those who master the art of being by themselves and loving their solitude will like their time working… and love the downtime even more.

Sure, it won’t always be easy. There will be days and periods of extreme wasted time. You’ll have re-watched a TV series for your third time. Or you’ll get to that unfortunate moment many of us have tasted where we feel we’ve “finished” YouTube.

But a moment will click. A moment in which you’ll realize that the possibilities are truly endless. You can get an advanced degree from your living room. Or write a novel. You can learn a new language or master breakdancing. And you have countless hours to do with as you please, no one looking over your shoulder judging you or wondering why you’re not “hard at work”.

I’ve had office jobs with massive amounts of downtime and it doesn’t even compare. Every moment you spend doing something not work related in an office, you fear someone will be judging you. Someone will be angry for your not advancing the company’s needs forward. But not in your own home. You do as you please. No one knows, no one cares.

Write down every single thing you wish to accomplish in this world. Then do all of them!

3) Embrace the Work from Home Advantages

My home is normally spotless, since I can wash my dishes during a break or clean that weird spill in the fridge. I was able to buy a dog, since he can joyously sleep on my leg while I work. Dozens of amazing Couch Surfers slumbered away just a few feet away from me as I typed away for my glorious job.

What happens when you’re out the door first thing in the morning and you return 9-10 hours later? Those dirty dishes stay dirty. The spill in the fridge becomes harder and harder to clean. Your poor pooch is so sad all day long that it’s borderline cruel. And your tired guests get kicked out the door first thing in the morning.

There are countless advantages to working from home. Explore them all! And find some new ones, while you’re at it.

4) Fill your Home with Healthy Eats

A great advantage of working from home is the ability to cook. You’re not tempted to go to Subway during your lunch break with your co-workers. There’s no vending machine. There’s complete accessibility to your kitchen, and you can’t use your commute as an excuse for rushed trips to 7-11.

You’re sitting in front of a computer anyway. Hop on Google and look for easy, healthy recipes. Get tons of plastic containers. And instead of spending your day knee deep in Cheetos and Mountain Dew, you can be eating like a king each and every day.

If after your first year working from home you’ve gained 70 pounds, it is unlikely you will be happy with the situation. So at the very least you’ll need to strategize about how to not become a huge, portly mess as a result of your amazing lifestyle.

5) Work from Home… But Get the @#$% out of the House as Soon as you Can

When my workday ends, I close my computer and head to the gym. If for whatever reason I don’t, it feels like it has a severe impact on the quality of my entire day. I might finish off my day having done many, many things, and I might feel a strong sense of accomplishment, but ultimately I’ll known I’ve been trapped indoors the whole time. It’s unhealthy, both physically and mentally.

So at the earliest possible moment, before your dopey brain can start coming up with excuses, get off your ass, and see what the outside world looks like.

You need to love to work from home. But you need to be a part of the world too!

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Posted by jaffeworld in career, opinion, 1 comment

The Shameful Marriage Industry

Marriage Industry

The smoke has cleared.

And I am now blissfully married to my one true love.

Everything was beautiful and we are working hard every day to have the dream life we’ve both always wanted.

But I can’t walk away from the experience without expressing some deep and painful concerns. The marriage industry is out of control, and there are countless aspects I need to speak out against. In this article I’d like to address just two.

The Rabbanut

For generations, the concept of a rabbinic body’s purpose in this world was to help improve the lives of those around them. Sadly, instead the Rabbanut of Israel has become synonymous with greed and inconvenience.

Everyone in Israel is forced by law to get married through the Rabbanut. The process is basically to “prove” that you are Jewish, single, and that you have fulfilled certain wedding requirements based on Jewish law.

I panicked as I entered the process, knowing full well that my divorce might cause problems. So, I called a handful of friends with similar situations and it seemed one of the recurring themes was people leaving the Rabbanut’s office in tears.

In tears!

Seriously.

The Shameful Rabbanut

Your organization should be ashamed. After generations of service to the Jewish world, selflessly giving to communities in a passionate attempt to make the world a better place, you now have reduced yourselves to aggressive harassment of couples in need of help. You have debased yourselves and the field, all in the name of a pathetic and pushy attempt to hold on to power.

And you charge a crap load of money in the process!

What are some of the “services” the Rabbanut does to earn their paycheck? They look over marriage and divorce documentation to make sure people are Jewish and not currently married. And couples send witnesses to them to testify that they are currently single.

The process is invasive, yet shallow. A five year-old could poke holes in their procedure, yet for whatever reason they’re obnoxious enough to send already stressed couples to the street sobbing uncontrollably.

The Incompetent Rabbanut

A great example of the Rabbanut’s silly incompetence was when I was required to go to the Rabbincal court in order to validate my divorce documentation. The office I needed to go to was in a terribly inconvenient location, with just as inconvenient office hours. My ex-wife had already been married with the same documentation in the same city. So I had to miss a great deal of work in order to be charged a large fee for them to essentially just print out a piece of paper, which I then had to deliver to others myself.

Why? All of these things could have been taken care of in minutes in a world with powerful computers and instant email capability. So why would they need to put me through all that? Why would I need to miss work, waste time, and throw money in the trash during an already busy and stressful time in life?

Greed.

And control.

And probably a hefty amount of incompetence.

Rabbi Revisited

Way back when I wrote about how I don’t like to be called “rabbi” anymore. I didn’t expect to have another reason. These people have turned the role into a joke at best; an embarrassment to the entire Jewish world at worst. I would never wish my name associated with such immorality.

Please, for the love of God, check yourselves. Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, and find out whether or not you’re causing more harm than good. And then do everything in your power to give the Rabbanut back its good name.

The Marriage Industry Bubble

I fear the marriage industry is a bubble. Alongside of other unsustainable ridiculousness of our generation, such as universities, I don’t see how the marriage industry could continue like this indefinitely.

The industry preys on the fact that everyone not only feels a religious, cultural, or moral obligation to get married, but they feel there are certain standards that must be met. Women need a certain level of fanciness in their wedding gown (or just need a wedding gown). There must be halls and caterers and photographers and a band and on and on and on.

And the industry responds by charging outrageous prices for every last detail with unimaginable hidden fees. And when the smoke clears, and you think you can’t handle the pressure of everything, what happens? Wedding planners swoop in to save the day! And another fee gets tossed into the pile. (Side note: Our planner was great and I’d recommend him fully and completely.)

The Marriage Industry Aggression

First of all, when those getting married are seeking advice, it is wildly inappropriate to use that as an opportunity to just sell us your services. I felt like every time I posted anything online about my engagement party or wedding, a half dozen people sent me messages aggressively trying to get me to use their band or whatever.

I’m asking for advice. I’m under pressure. And just because I mention a wedding, doesn’t mean you need to swarm like vultures and devour me. My joyous occasion should not be your platform for aggressive marketing.

Marriage Industry Alternatives

Second of all, there are alternatives. Many alternatives. People can elope. Or they can just remain together unmarried indefinitely. And on and on. I fear this is the direction we’re headed if prices keep climbing and the industry keeps everything as fantastically stressful as it has so far.

Do we really want to undermine the institution of marriage for our own greed? Or do we want to do what we can to allow people to become wed in relative peace and harmony, without an additional looming threat of financial ruin?

The wrong choice is bad for everyone.

Choose wisely.

A Quick Shout Out

A quick shout out is in order for those who were shining lights in all this craziness.

The flower shop that gave us petals for our flower girls. When you told me they were free, I didn’t believe you. “Free” was not a word I was used to hearing during this process. It seemed like every time I sneezed, someone handed me a tissue and sent me a bill for $50. People, buy their flowers. They deserve it.

To all the friends and family who helped out or offered to help out, it is beyond appreciated. And to anyone who understood that a bride and groom need a lot of space and as little as possible to add to their stress, you are beautiful. Keep up the good work!

As for the rest of the industry, marriage is not an institution meant to be exploited or undermined. Shame on you.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, judaism, opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments