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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland died this week at the age of 83. He became well-known for his first book, How We Die, which won the National Book Award in 1994. For him, pondering death was a way of wondering at life — and the infinite variety of processes that maintain human life moment to moment. He reflects on the meaning of life by way of scrupulous and elegant detail about human physiology:

“Wonder is something I share with people of deep faith. They wonder at the universe that God has created, and I wonder at the universe that nature has created. This is a sense of awe that motivates the faithful, motivates me. And when I say motivates, it provides an energy for seeking. Just as the faithful will always say, ‘We are seeking,’ I am seeking.”

We remixed this interview and present it in his honor.

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I see my identity as deeply tied to a family. I’m very deeply Jewish. My mannerisms, whatever it may be, I mean, I was brought up with Jewish music, my father, he was very poor, but he celebrated the Shabbat with joy. So I have deep memories, Jewishly. So I have never had the desire to leave. I had the desire that it should be better, so my criticism grows from love. It’s like I was once told, don’t be critical as your mother-in-law who enjoys to find out things that are lacking in you [laughs], but be critical out of compassion, out of real love for what you think the people could be. And as I suffered that, because on one level I want to feel empathy, intimacy, with these people with its history, with its longing, and I know its vulnerabilities, its weaknesses, its psychological problems of wanting to be loved.
- ~Rabbi David Hartman from "Hope in a Hopeless God"
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If the law doesn’t point to a God, then what is it all about?
- ~Rabbi David Hartman from "Hope in a Hopeless God"
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Ushering in Hanukkah with a Song

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The Maccabeats put together another excellent cover to celebrate Hanukkah with Matisyahu’s “Miracle.” Chag Sameach to all our Jewish friends out there!

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trentgilliss:

There are so many incredible photos documenting the devastating deluge caused by Hurricane Sandy. But, this image of Torah scrolls being unrolled to dry after a Brighton Beach yeshiva in Brooklyn was flooded put another face on the damage. As Rabbi Avremel Okonov, who co-founded Mazel Academy ten years ago, told The Jewish Daily Forward:
“We’re drying them out. But I’m looking closely — a lot of these pages, it’s not reparable. This is just heartbreaking to look at.”

Photo by Ben Harris
trentgilliss:

There are so many incredible photos documenting the devastating deluge caused by Hurricane Sandy. But, this image of Torah scrolls being unrolled to dry after a Brighton Beach yeshiva in Brooklyn was flooded put another face on the damage. As Rabbi Avremel Okonov, who co-founded Mazel Academy ten years ago, told The Jewish Daily Forward:
“We’re drying them out. But I’m looking closely — a lot of these pages, it’s not reparable. This is just heartbreaking to look at.”

Photo by Ben Harris

trentgilliss:

There are so many incredible photos documenting the devastating deluge caused by Hurricane Sandy. But, this image of Torah scrolls being unrolled to dry after a Brighton Beach yeshiva in Brooklyn was flooded put another face on the damage. As Rabbi Avremel Okonov, who co-founded Mazel Academy ten years ago, told The Jewish Daily Forward:

“We’re drying them out. But I’m looking closely — a lot of these pages, it’s not reparable. This is just heartbreaking to look at.”

Photo by Ben Harris

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trentgilliss:

Chag Sameach, y’all. This photo of the lulav and etrog from Matthew Septimus’ “Greetings from Zucotti Park” series remains with me to this day. During his preparations for Sukkot, the young, observant Jew stopped down to show his solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street in October 2011 and had such a happy, . 
trentgilliss:

Chag Sameach, y’all. This photo of the lulav and etrog from Matthew Septimus’ “Greetings from Zucotti Park” series remains with me to this day. During his preparations for Sukkot, the young, observant Jew stopped down to show his solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street in October 2011 and had such a happy, . 

trentgilliss:

Chag Sameach, y’all. This photo of the lulav and etrog from Matthew Septimus’ “Greetings from Zucotti Park” series remains with me to this day. During his preparations for Sukkot, the young, observant Jew stopped down to show his solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street in October 2011 and had such a happy, . 

Photo by Matthew Septimus

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A future Olympic event?
picturedept:

Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012
July 30, 2012 Jerusalem, Israel A boy looks on as tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews attend a celebration marking completion of a seven-and a-half year daily study-cycle of the entire Talmud
PHOTO OF THE DAY ARCHIVE

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A future Olympic event?
picturedept:

Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012
July 30, 2012 Jerusalem, Israel A boy looks on as tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews attend a celebration marking completion of a seven-and a-half year daily study-cycle of the entire Talmud
PHOTO OF THE DAY ARCHIVE

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A future Olympic event?

picturedept:

Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012
Jerusalem, Israel

A boy looks on as tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews attend a celebration marking completion of a seven-and a-half year daily study-cycle of the entire Talmud

PHOTO OF THE DAY ARCHIVE

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Cancer made me feel completely misunderstood and out of place, but it also made me more self-aware. It gave me a new perspective on the world, helping me appreciate simple dialogues with loved ones and strangers. Above all, it was transformative and empowering, giving the knowledge that only an experience like this could impart: to know what it means to be empathetic. This is my story of Tisha B’Av.

The first word for cancer to appear in medical literature, back in the time of Hippocrates around 400 BCE, was karkinos, from the Greek word for crab; it’s a linguistic coincidence, but to me it seems connected to the similar-sounding word kinos, the elegies for Tisha B’Av. Since that hour on my bed at camp three summers ago, I have searched for the notebook where I wrote my own kinos and filled pages with my own pain, but I haven’t found it. Maybe like the old Jewish custom to bury the books of kinos deep in the ground, in the hopes of not needing to use them the following year (with the rebuilding of the Temple), I buried them somewhere deep in my room. What I feared then as my life’s end, like the Temples’ destruction, turned out to require of me the courage to begin again.

-

Raffi Leicht, from her powerful piece in Tablet Magazine, "How Tisha B’Av Helped Me Heal"

If you read one thing today, be sure it’s this contemplative personal history of a young, observant Jewish student who says that “cancer, and a year of chemotherapy, gave me a new perspective on Jewish holidays — starting with Tisha B’Av.”

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On Tisha B’Av, a family reads Lamentations at the synagogue Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem.
(Photo by Brian Negin/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
On Tisha B’Av, a family reads Lamentations at the synagogue Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem.
(Photo by Brian Negin/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

On Tisha B’Av, a family reads Lamentations at the synagogue Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem.

(Photo by Brian Negin/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

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Many who were circumcised
And versed in Jewish lore.
Perhaps the Germans have forgotten
For they are there no more.
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Rabbi David Wolpe

This is the final stanza from the L.A.-based rabbi’s poem in the Washington Post in which he responds to Germany’s decision to ban circumcisions. Stinging words.

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Counting the Omer in the Modern Day

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Barley in the fieldPhoto by Kwan C./Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

"From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai."Leviticus 23:15-16

The same evening that 40,000 Orthodox Jews gathered for a rally to consider the dangers of the Internet (and its responsible use), an email from a local conservative synagogue arrived in my inbox to remind me of a ritual for observant Jews to count the Omer. The email message notes which day of the Omer should be counted after sundown, and comes with a prayer written both in English and in Hebrew. You can also get an app for it, follow reminders from Twitter @CountTheHomer, or read the daily prayers via your RSS feed.

The counting of the Omer, also known as the mitzvah of Sefirat Ha’Omer, is a period of spiritual renewal starting from the second night of Passover and ending with Shavuot — the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the Israelites. For each night of these seven weeks, Jews are commanded to count from the day on which the Omer (a unit measure of barley) is offered at the Temple. The ritual begins after sundown by reciting a blessing and then saying the appropriate day of the count.

This tradition has been described as a mindfulness practice, and there is a philosophical debate about whether one should count down the days, or count up. A cancer patient proposes that counting toward the Omer can provide you with a hopeful future orientation.

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The Relationship Between Happiness and Gratitude

by Susan Leem, associate producer

How we feel about where we are today affects how we remember and regret the past. The question illustrator Hanan Harchol is trying to understand: what is the relationship between happiness and gratitude? If you can feel gratitude for what you have, it can render those bad decisions unimportant, even not so bad.

And what does this do for regret? It can help you move on and stop ruminating about the “one that got away” or the job you should have taken, and make better decisions in the future.

In this animated video, Harchol shares a Jewish folktale in which a farmer complains about his home being too small. The cagy, local rabbi advises the farmer to bring goats into his small home for a while. Then, the farmer sees how small his home really could be.

Thankfully, we can replicate this advice as a thought experiment. This may sound like a grandma reminding us, “Oh, it could always be worse.” But it’s easier to realize how good life is once you imagine how hard it could be. Isn’t it easier to see a bronze medal as a gift rather than a failed attempt at a gold if you imagine that you might’ve come in 4th place? If the ability to feel gratitude is like building a muscle, maybe the workout starts here.

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Thank goodness for Reuters:

A white rose is placed on barbed wire at the museum of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau January 27, 2012. [REUTERS/Kacper Pempel]

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Thank goodness for Reuters:

A white rose is placed on barbed wire at the museum of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau January 27, 2012. [REUTERS/Kacper Pempel]

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Thank goodness for Reuters:

A white rose is placed on barbed wire at the museum of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau January 27, 2012. [REUTERS/Kacper Pempel]

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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