Living Life to the End, Part 3

old sick men

Generations ago, the end of life was a part of life. At a time when people died at home, when several generations of a single family lived together, and when, unfortunately, disease was both more common and more dangerous, being present for the final days and weeks of someone’s life was an experience that most people had been through several times. While it was surely never routine, there would have been a certain rhythm to it, a sense that it was time to put one’s affairs in order, for family to gather around, and for final words to be said. The end of life was a sacred time.

Today, by contrast, our experience with the end of life is usually much different. For one thing, many people pass away in hospitals or other kinds of medical facilities, lending an institutional feel to the final period of time. Our modern medications and treatments have also profoundly changed the experience. Even as they provide the tremendous gift of relieving pain and anxiety, these medications usually leave their beneficiary unable to think clearly or communicate in the days or even weeks before passing away. And, thankfully, death is something many of us simply experience less often.

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Rapping with Rapper Nissim Black

nissim black

My first introduction to Nissim Black was via my then-two-year-old grandson, Asher Zelig Chaim. Little did either of us imagine that I would one day have the privilege of not only meeting but also interviewing the star who sang little Asher’s favorite song, “Hashem Melech.” I caught up with Nissim in Tov Pizza just a day before his recent local appearance for the Unity Havdalah Concert of the Baltimore Shabbat Project.

Nissim’s rise to stardom began way before he found his way to Yiddishkeit. In 2006, when he released his first album, “The Cause and Effect,” he performed under the name D. Black – a shortened version of his birth name, Damian Jamohl Black. The rapper and producer from Seattle, Washington, released his second album, “Ali’yah,” in 2009, after being featured on a fellow rapper’s debut album a year before.

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Dreams Come True


Life is a journey. Each person treads his or her own path, and choices must be made along the way. Will I embark on a quest for meaning? In what direction should I climb? What route should I take? For many, their individual path leads them to marry early and raise families, while others blaze a different trail. Life is not about waiting for events to unfold; rather, one must take action and strive to fulfill one’s dreams regardless of life circumstances. Every age and every stage possesses a treasure.

Why more single women don’t make aliyah was a question I pondered prior to my own move to Eretz Yisrael two years ago. It is easy to continue one’s life in the groove, to adhere to an accustomed routine of work, family, single social circles, and events. Familiarity plays a big role in many people’s lives. And so I procrastinated and continued my life in my beautiful hometown of Baltimore, waiting for the right time to pick up my feet and settle in Eretz Yisrael, the land of my dreams.

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Yummy Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

Try this yummy stuffed cabbage recipe.


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A Day without Tefillin?

As Benjy finished unpacking the suitcase at their honeymoon hotel, he let out a groan.

“Oh no, I can’t believe it. I left my tefillin back home.”

Having only recently married, Benjy and his kallah had packed a joint suitcase for the first time, which might have explained the omission, but he still couldn’t believe he’d forgotten them.

Since his bar mitzva, 15 years previously, he’d never gone a day without putting on his tefillin, and he certainly didn’t want to start married life on the wrong foot.

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Preventing Falls in Older Adults: How to Stay on Your Toes and Guard Your Health


It is my zechus to address our kehila on the important topic of fall prevention in the elderly. As a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician, I would like to share with you some facts and ideas about fall prevention that may save you or your loved ones’ lives. While we know that everything is in Hashem’s hands, we also have the mitzva of “V’nishmartem meod l’nafshoseichem,” to take appropriate precautions to guard our health, which is the background to this article and to the approach I take with my patients.

Are you or someone you know at high risk of falling? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a person who has fallen once or twice over the past 12 months with a resulting traumatic injury (for example, a broken hip) is likely to be at high risk of falls. If you or one of your loved ones is in this category, preventing further falls is crucial. Some people believe themselves impervious to future falls, despite having fallen “only” a few times and suffering “only” a few broken bones. If you or someone you know is in this category, here are some more facts that may put things into perspective:

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The Sidewalk Less Traveled

cars in traffic

Normally, one does not look for an open miracle. However, a recent trip to Brooklyn convinced me that the laws of nature are suspended for this fine borough of New York, at least when it comes to transportation. This is particularly evident when driving and is equally true when parking. One soon learns that, in Flatbush and Boro Park, the rules of the road are not written in stone or, shall we say, in pavement. For example, when traveling on a main thoroughfare such as Ocean Parkway, it seems that stopping at a red light is optional. As expected, some beeping and honking of horns does ensue. Ironically, the beeping is not aimed at the offending red-light runner. Rather, it is meant to urge on the person whose light has just turned green. After all, why should a little thing like a car barreling through the intersection at 50 mph stop that driver from exercising his rightful right of way or, even worse, causing delays for the people waiting impatiently behind him?

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My Shtetl Baltimore by Eli W. Schlossberg : A Book Review

my shtetel

At his annual teshuva drasha, on the Thursday evening before Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yissachar Frand thanked Eli Schlossberg for his work in bringing the yearly lecture to the community. Then he congratulated Eli on his new book, My Shtetl Baltimore. “It’s always a great pleasure to take a walk down memory lane,” said Rabbi Frand.

I would add that this book – 557 generous pages of reminiscence, nostalgia, history, and memoir – is definitely a pleasure to read, even for someone who didn’t grow up in Baltimore’s frum community. Raised in the ’40s and ’50s on Shirley Avenue in lower Park Heights, I wasn’t frum (yet). But in those days, traditional Judaism influenced the whole community – even the non-observant. Perhaps that’s why Eli Schlossberg’s memories spark mine.

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The Extraordinary Story of Irena Sendler: Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo: a Book Review

irena sendler

Like most of you, I have read about righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Invariably, their stories are told from the Jewish vantage point. I want to take you on a journey back into that horrible time to see the things through the eyes of decent Polish gentiles. You will glimpse a story very different from the ones we are more familiar with.

Irena Sendler was a Polish woman who saved children from the Warsaw ghetto. Moreover, unlike the righteous gentiles we are used to hearing about, who acted alone, she was part of a large network of gentiles who risked their lives and saved more Jews than Schindler or other, more famous, people. Together with her friends and coworkers, Irena smuggled infants out of the Warsaw ghetto in suitcases and wooden boxes, past German guards and Jewish police traitors. She brought out toddlers and schoolchildren through the city’s foul and dangerous sewers. She worked with Jewish teenagers, many of them girls of 14 or 15, who fought bravely and died in the ghetto uprising.

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Trees: Good for Us, Good for the Environment


“A man was traveling through the desert, hungry, thirsty and tired, when he came upon a tree bearing luscious fruit and affording plenty of shade, under which ran a spring of water. He ate of the fruit, drank of the water, and rested beneath the shade. When he was about to leave, he turned to the tree and said: “Tree, O tree, with what should I bless you? Should I bless you that your fruit be sweet? Your fruit is already sweet. Should I bless you that your shade be plentiful? Your shade is plentiful. That a spring of water should run beneath you? A spring of water runs beneath you. There is one thing with which I can bless you: May it be G‑d’s will that all the trees planted from your seeds should be like you….” Talmud Taanit 5b (translation:


Baltimore is blessed with neighborhoods laden with beautiful trees. I get true joy when I drive or walk through these areas of serene beauty. Sadly, I also see many piles of logs from trees that have been cut down. In fact, tree removal has been occurring at an alarming rate in our community, and very few new trees are being planted to take their place.

As a concerned member of our community, my desire is to beautify our neighborhoods, so that families can stroll along delightful, tree-canopied streets. I also want to inform our community about the contribution trees make to our health and wellbeing. Among their many benefits, trees cool the surrounding area, clean the air from pollution, and break the cold winds in the winter. A small investment in a tree can bring your family years of satisfaction. And as your family grows, the tree will grow with you.

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