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The author thanking one of the many people responsible for his morning coffee

A.J. Jacobs has written four New York Times bestsellers that combine memoir, science, humor, and a dash of self-help. He is also editor-at-large at Esquire magazine and a commentator on National Public Radio. I sat down with A.J. to talk about the lessons he’s learned about thankfulness from his over-the-top social experiments.

ReformJudaism.org: For your first book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, you read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia...

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Blue police booth on a London street

When new characters in the long-running British science fiction show, “Doctor Who,” step into the show’s time machine, TARDIS, they generally gasp and gape and say: It’s bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside!” Indeed, the innocent looking, iconic big blue police box transcends ordinary experience; it is a portal that can take you anywhere in time and space.

I have been a fan of the show for many years, but until recently, I did not really understand what it felt like to travel on the TARDIS.

It was the second night of...

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Small child holding an Israeli flag being carried on his father's shoulders

Jewish tradition is filled with questions.  

Scouring the Garden of Eden, God called out to the primeval Earthling: “Where are you?” 

Abraham brazenly challenged God: “But if there are 50 righteous people, will You still destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?”  

In Isaiah’s transcendent vision of a prophet’s being summoned to Divine service, God demands: “Who will go for us?”  

Hillel forces an immediacy to his moral imperatives by saying: “And if not now, then when?” 

And in the Haggadah, the troubled child asks: “But what does all of this have to do with me...

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Assortment of knit kippot in piles on a table

Kippot (plural of kippah, which in Hebrew means yarmulkes or skullcaps) are religiously and culturally important pieces of Jewish prayer garb. Typically, kippot are small velvet, suede, or knitted skullcaps that cover only the upper back part of the scalp, but they are also available in a variety of sizes, colors, and designs.

Some wearers consider their kippot to be an extension of their personality, which is something...

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The author, Rabbi Josh Stanton, waiting at ICE, to post bond

First, I opened a separate bank account.

Then, I received the name of the “friend” from the New Sanctuary Coalition, for whom I would be posting bond, so that he could be released from an immigrant detention center.

Then, New Sanctuary Coalition wired me the funds in the amount of the bond.

Then, from the bank check, I had a check made out to the Department of Homeland Security (and triple-checked the spelling, lest I cause it to be invalid).

Then, I walked with it and the requisite paperwork into the heart of...

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