According to Juan José Segura, doctor at Son Espases´s hospital, 85% of the victims fall accidentally, usually while trying to jump from one balcony to the next or do some reckless movement near the edge … He estimates an average of 10 to 15 cases each year … and established the profile of the “average practitioner” as a 24 year old British male.
“Hoteliers refuse to take responsibility for the accidents, arguing that their establishments provide hotel guests with information pamphlets, always try to place groups of young people on the ground or lower floors, and comply with both the European and national norms that regulate construction conditions.”
This week I want to open with a quote from R’ Bradley Shavit-Artson, the dean of the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles:
“We have what to share with the world: our values, our stories, our traditions and guidelines, our love of a place, our ways of sanctifying time and family, our hunger for justice. Ours may be the greatest secret that humanity has yet to discover because it has been hiding in plain view. And it is our job to bring it out there into the world… To do that, you have to know the sources. How else can we transmit the wisdom that people are starving for if we don’t ourselves become fluent in it?”
To me, this is an excellent statement of the unquestionable importance of learning in Judaism. Ours is not a faith which one is expected to follow blindly; You will not hear me suggest that you must believe without knowing why or that you must believe even when it contradicts what you know. Jewish faith works in reverse to many others: faith and belief are built upon knowledge. The more you know, the more you believe, the more you can represent the values of the Torah and our traditions to the world around us.
To that end, learning is not a side-step in one’s spiritual journey– it is absolutely elemental. It is the culmination of the mitzvot, almost a meta-mitzvah, because through learning we can deepen our understanding of Judaism. Literacy and familiarity with Jewish sources must be a top priority for any community which wishes to claim the mantle of Jewish tradition.
In that frame, I’m very happy to share with you that we have a new adult education programme running at SAMS this upcoming year (5779.) I’ve branded it ‘Life-Long Learning,’ and I hope that you’ll join me in studying and sharing throughout the year. If you would like more information, please contact the Synagogue office.
A few things to note:
-Our successful Hebrew class is returning, in a double-incarnation, with options for those who are complete beginners, as well as those who want to deepen their knowledge.
-The programme is divided into four areas: Learn Language, Learn Text, Learn Today, and Learn Skills. Aside from Hebrew, our Text classes will include an in-depth study of the Zohar (in English, accessible to all) as well as a regular Torah study group. Learn Today will focus on discussions and lectures on contemporary affairs and ethical questions (including a series on modern Israel). Learn Skills will provide an opportunity to become more familiar with the ritual of the synagogue and an empowering chance to practice them as well.
-None of these classes have any prerequisites other than an interest to learn something new. You can drop in and out, dress however you’d like, and don’t worry for an instant if you don’t feel like you know enough of the subject to be there (that’s why you’re learning it, isn’t it?)
-Lastly, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There will be other chances throughout the year to learn new things in one-off programmes and there is the constant offer on my part to teach, discuss, and debate any topic you would like.
I’m so looking forward to another year of learning with all of you. I hope you’ll join me in studying the sources of our tradition in order to understand them, to share them with the world, and to build a foundation of belief through knowledge.
When I was a kid, one of my favourite activities was the inevitable ‘scavenger hunt’– the more baroque and complex the clues– the better. The absurd combination of puzzles and geography was extremely satisfying. As I got older, the ubiquity of global positioning system (GPS) technology meant that there were new avenues of scavenger hunting: first geo-caching, then geographical alternative reality games such as Ingress.
However, this year, Mikayla and I have been participating in an all-new type of scavenger hunt, enabled by social media and smartphones. In 2011, actor Misha Collins started the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES), which has since been abbreviated just to GISH (thankfully). GISH brings together strangers from across the globe onto teams of 15, where, for one week a year they work together to complete absurd challenges and submit evidence of it.
Each participant pays a small fee to be part, one hundred percent of which goes to charity– and many of the challenges therein lead to different forms of charitable fundraising. Some are just silly! One of this year’s clues was itself a Caesar Box Cipher, which, when decoded instructed the reader to create an entire toga exclusively out of romaine lettuce leaves, snap a photo wearing it, and submit the evidence. Many challenges get people out of their boxes and out into their communities, often encouraging participants to meet up with others to complete tasks.
Although I have only just been involved this year, I can already see the amazing benefits of what seems like a silly endeavour. In a world in which people are increasingly isolated from one another, GISH uses technology to bring people together, and all for a good cause. It encourages us to transcend self-interest and cooperate for a greater good in a way we rarely have the opportunity to. Most of all, it cultivates a child-like fun and deeply encourages you not to take yourself too seriously!
GISH has won several Guinness world records, including: ‘Largest Online Photo Album of Hugs’ (2013) – 108,121 hugs, ‘Longest Human Chain to Pass Through a Hula Hoop’ (2014) – 572 participants, and ‘Most Pledges for a Campaign/to Complete a Random Act of Kindness. (2012) – 93,376 pledges. In my book, any project which gets nearly 100,000 people to pledge to do a random act of kindness is a net gain for humanity.
I’ve really enjoyed the somewhat-juvenile spirit of scavenger hunting this week, and I suggest that you keep an eye on it and consider trying your own hand at it next year. After all, there’s no harm that can come from getting outside your comfort zone to raise money for charity (although perhaps person #572 in that human hula hoop chain felt different.) 😉
If anyone is looking for a worthy cause to donate tsedakahto this week, here is the fundraising page for this year’s effort: https://bit.ly/2vddYVD