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.
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.
If the law doesn’t point to a God, then what is it all about?
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!
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
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, .
A future Olympic event?
Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012
July 30, 2012
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
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
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.”