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Rabbi Sharon G. Forman

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Forest in summer; sun streaming in on tall, full leaf trees

In Joan Micklin Silver’s 1988 cinematic gem, “Crossing Delancey,” the actor Peter Riegert portrays Sam, the humble mensch and pickle man who woos Amy Irving’s snobbish but sympathetic character, Izzy. So excited about the promise of a long-awaited date with her, Sam confesses, he uttered the Hebrew blessing for planting trees. This line has always melted my heart, although, in fact, there is no such blessing.

Because blessings release divine gifts into the human realm, the ancient rabbis did compose a blessing to mark the exact moment we appreciate trees in bloom for the first time...

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Two people in total shadow jumping on the beach with sunlight behind them

Before my dad ever put our Buick station wagon into gear – whether we were heading off on vacation, to take the SATs, or have wisdom teeth extracted – he would turn to face whomever was in the back seat. In a voice reminiscent of Ted Lewis, the 1920s jazz band leader (born Theodore Friedman in 1892), he would ask Lewis’ famous question: “Is everybody happy?” He wouldn’t budge until we had dutifully responded that we were.

A recent New York Times article about happiness and the immune system reminded me of my dad’s signature question, and confirmed that he was on to something. It...

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Blue circular tunnel with white light opening at the end

I was born about half a century ago on the morning after Yom Kippur. Apparently, I made my appearance more than two weeks early and may have been prompted by my mother’s repeated standing and sitting during lengthy prayer services, running after two toddlers, and fasting – against her doctor’s orders.

Fast forward a generation. When I was pregnant with my middle child, my doctor sternly cautioned against fasting on Yom Kippur. A Catholic, the obstetrician knew nonetheless that the Jewish Day of Atonement and the day that followed were notoriously busy in her practice as many babies...

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computer keyboard with three additional keys: thumbs up (green), thumbs down (red), and thumbs neutral (yellow)

I’m waiting for it – the next inevitable satisfaction survey from a company or business that asks: How are we doing? What do you like about us? How have we changed your life?

Just last week, I received surveys from my children’s dentist, my son’s summer camp, a national department store chain, and a dermatologist I never even saw. After I placed a take-out order at a neighborhood pizzeria and while we still were wiping the grease from our hands, the pizzeria called our home: How did you enjoy your meal? Do you have any suggestions for us? Hmm… How about this: I love the slight hint...

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Mother and daughter sitting back-to-back

In the first biblical story, God creates the vast universe according to a specific pattern and order. On the first divine-sized day, God separates day from night and light from darkness. Then, God evaluates the handiwork proclaiming it “good.” On the second day, God separates the lower and higher waters to divide the seas from the heavens. On this day of creation, God neglects to declare it “good.” On the third day, though, after creating all the lovely and colorful flowers, fruits, and trees, God twice declares the work to be “good.”

It’s no surprise that ancient rabbis had an...

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