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WOLFE'S WORDSOctober 12, 2007
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Always Wear Clean
by: Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
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This Month...

Editor's Comment
Michael looks at:
Farewell, Shalom and Adieu

Being Jewish Magazine

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An Open Letter from Abba to His Family

Enough With The Political Finger-Pointing!

Revisiting the Haggadah

Eddy's Recipe List
Victoria Sponge

Book Review
Unstrung Heroes

The Outspeaker
Encouraging violence is never correct

Good times and bad times with Batya

Nathan Weissler
What my friendship with Michael Hanna-Fein meant to me

BC's Backlot
The Last Shalom

This And That
My Treasure Chest

Three Symbols of Passover


Lynn Ruth Miller
How we all became part of a bigger story

Mel Yahre
A few words for my friend

Eddy's Thoughts
Don't let life flutter by

The Bear Facts
How I found Michael


(*Underwear)...And other words of advice from The God Squad

Long Island, New York, is home to The God Squad. Rabbi Marc Gellman and Msgr. Thomas Hartman, "best friends," have been writing a syndicated column since 2002. The two religious leaders have appeared on national television and written books together. They are America's most famous priest-rabbi media duo.

The title of this article comes from Rabbi Gellman's book: "Always Wear Clean Underwear..and other words of advice from The God Squad." Gellman said that he had a battle with his editors over the title of this children's book. He wanted it to be titled, "Don't Pee in the Pool: and other ways parents tell you they love you." His publishers said that no librarian and few parents ("tate-mame") would buy a book with the word 'Pee' in the title. They won! Gellman admits that he's fine now after years of therapy. He ends the piece by writing, "I have to close now. I am in L.A. visiting my 5-year-old grandson, Zeke, so I don't really have time for this. I am going to read Zeke a bedtime story now. It's one of his favorite books. It's called, 'Walter the Farting Dog.'"

Msgr. Hartman, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, is stepping down as co-writer of The God Squad. No more hugs and kisses on the cheek--a regular ritual signifying accomplishment for a job well done, interfaith understanding, and a sign of "frayndshaft" (friendship).

Hartman says that there is a planned message ("yedie") in the symbolic kiss and hug on TV. "This is a visual medium. People will react more to our friendship than the concepts we develop." Hartman, by the way, is regularly chided by his partner for being the Robert Redford--the "sheyn" (handsome) one--of the duo.

Gellman and Hartman are perhaps the two clergymen in the U. S. with the widest regular viewing and listening "oylem" (audience).

Over the years I have regularly read Rabbi Gellman's columns, "The Spiritual State" in Newsweek Magazine. They have been posted on my kitchen "fridzhider" (refrigerator), along with Ann Landers columns

Shown below are some of my favorite columns:

1. Prayers for Henry, who has cancer
This particular column really touched me since my brother, Paul, is suffering from pancreatic cancer. Gellman wrote that "The secret of this fight is to know the feeling of being ROOTED in the love of family & friends and, for some, God. I am praying for you Henry. I am praying that beyond the smell of antiseptic and crappy hospital food that you might catch a whiff of something fine and bracing and beseeching and incantatory. I am praying that you can catch the scent of water. No matter what tomorrow might bring, Henry, I pray that today your new leaves will begin to sprout. May God bless you and heal you."

2. Graduation from kindergarten
Having attended four "kinder-gortn" graduations for my grandchildren--Amanda, Scott, Shane and Connor--I found this particular column just "vunderlekh" (wonderful). He wrote, "I just returned from Los Angeles where I saw my only grandson, Ezekiel, graduate with a group of cute and charming 5-year-olds from his nursery school. From what I was able to observe when I saw Zeke in class, I would say he graduated with honors in finger painting, magna cum laude in crayons, summa cum laude in knocking down things made with blocks; undoubtedly, Zeke was the valedictorian of snacks."

3. A Prayer for Va. Tech
Rabbi Gellman prays for all the parents and protectors of all the children who are sent off to all the schools in all the mornings of our lives. He write, "Help them to let their children go to school with a smile and a kiss and not a tug and a tear. We know that the chances of such a bloodbath engulfing them are remote, but like lightening or a sudden storm, we know that the chances for complete safety are an illusion in our wounded world ("velt"). We truly and sorrowfully know that some storms cannot be weathered. So it is with the storm of murderous evil on this day. We know that we must let them go, but today we do not want to let them go. Today we only want to hold them close. Help us all to live with the terrifying challenge of freedom and fate."

4. A Prayer for Care Givers
Rabbi Gellman's parents resided in "Chai Point," a residence overlooking Lake Michigan. He prefers the name "Chai-howyadoin." (His father has since passed away.) The Rabbi writes, "We are, sadly, not living in the old neighborhoods ("shkheyneshaft") not surrounded by large extended families who gather every Sunday to play cards and eat traditional greasy food while sharing the burden of care for our old ones. We need a place like Chai Point now. We cannot give them what they gave to their parents, and our own lives would neither protect nor nurture them. We are putting them in homes to soothe our guilt. We are enabling our parents to knit together a new life with others their age who remember things we do not know. This Passover my mom made gefilte fish for a lonely woman down the hall. This was not a little thing. Chai Point is not a building. It is a society of human beings who happen to be old and who have chosen to be old together."

5. Imus must repent
Don Imus's racist remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team; he called the players "nappy-headed hos").

Gellman wrote, "The third stage of repentance is to ask God to purify you from the effects of sin. Sin is not just a mistake. It is a mistake that stains us in a way that no apology can ever completely rectify. I teach children about this by pounding a bunch of nails into a board and telling them that each nail stands for something bad we do in our life. Then I pull out the nails and I tell them that this is like apologizing and changing what we do. I then point to all the nail holes in the board and ask the kids how to make those holes go away. None of them know how to make the holes go away. People who are not religious have their ways to fix the holes, and I respect those ways.".

6. The Death of Miles
Rabbi Gellman wrote about the loss of his dog, Miles; he also thanked his vet for providing such superior care. Gellman wrote, "I bury people, and I know that grief at the death of a pet is not the same as grief at the death of a person, but it is still grief. It is still deep and raw and shattering to our admittedly irrational expectations that we will never be separated from those we love. I tell people I counsel through grief to try to give thanks for the pain we feel, because the pain is a measure of their love...I am happy to be a mess of tears now because I was, and my family was, loved by Miles unconditionally, and I savor this grief as the way the gift of unconditional love is painfully but properly repaid."

7. Doing little things with great love
Rabbi Gellman wrote, "Mother Theresa was right when she said that God did not put us here to do great things. God put us here to do little things with great love. Right now there is probably someone you know who is in mourning whom you have not yet contacted. Call them today, or better yet, get a card or write a note with your own hand and your own heart (forget the green bean casseroles)."

8. Is God good, smart and powerful?
(from the book, "Bad Stuff in the Headlines: A Guide to Handling the Headlines" by Gellman and Hartman) "If you're wondering where God is going to come into this picture, consider this in their introduction: 'If you believe that God is good and smart and powerful, it's hard to figure why there's so much bad stuff in the world God created. Some people say that the reason there's bad stuff is that there's no God. But we believe that God exists and that God made the world with holes in it so that we could fill up the holes ourselves and have something important to do with our lives. And a lot of the bad stuff isn't God's fault at all, but our fault for making bad choices.'"

On September 19, 2007, a Nebraska State Senator, Ernie Chambers, filed a lawsuit against the Almighty in protest against frivolous lawsuits. Chambers accuses God of causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the earth's inhabitants" by using "fearsome floods...horrendous hurricanes" and "terrifying tornadoes." He is seeking an injunction against God.

9. God and Aretha Franklin reports that Rabbi Marc Gellman also sees the problems inherent in a disconnect of intellectual life and popular culture. "There must be room in the culture for people who believe in both God and Aretha Franklin. Right now we are perilously close to a world in which Rolling Stone owns all the good music (and all the bad music) and religion owns all the good ideas (and a few bad ideas). This cannot continue because, to paraphrase Kant, ideas without music are empty, and music without ideas is blind."

10. Sermons - Pews in the News
One of the five most important religious trends of 2005, according to Gellman, is Biblical illiteracy. He wrote, "We are the people of the Bible but you would hardly know it by going to church nowadays. I think we Jews do better on this score, but most of the baby Rabbis I mentor still preach sermons (if they preach at all) that sound more like Dr. Phil than Rabbi Phil."

Marjorie Wolfe wishes Msgr. Thomas Hartman "zayt gezunt!" To Rabbi Gellman, she says, "Zei nor gezint un asach hatzlukeh mitt eiyer shreibn."--Be well and best wishes on your writing.


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