Friday, November 29, 2013

Eight Crazy Nights: A Deeper Look

Dear Henry,    
        Anyone who has ever heard of Adam Sandler is well aware of the origins of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. As Adam Sandler sings about in a song that later becomes a movie, “Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights!” The Talmud tells us that when the Jews returned to the Holy Temple which had been desecrated by the Syrian Greeks, they found one small jug of pure oil, that had not been contaminated. It seemed like there was only enough oil to last one night, but in the end, it lasted for eight nights. As a commemoration for this miracle, the Rabbis enacted an eight day holiday of thanksgiving to G-d.
            If one delves into this idea a little deeper, it seems a little bit puzzling. We know that there was also another very significant miracle that took place at the same time—namely that a small band of Jewish priests, overtook a massive force from the Syrian Greek army, in an unprecedented, shocking military victory. If the Jews would have lost the military campaign, the results would have been catastrophic. And yet, when the rabbis decided to enact a holiday to commemorate these events, they chose to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days instead of the more significant military victory. The obvious question becomes—why then, is Chanukah based on the miracle of the oil, as opposed to the key military victory?
            Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz gives a phenomenal answer to this question by giving a very powerful metaphor: Imagine if there was a family who lost a very precious object. For a full week, the whole family is searching for the object, with no luck. Finally, the five-year-old boy finds it, and immediately, the father runs over to him, gives him a hug and a kiss on his head. For that boy, there are two things happening: A) The overall, large-scale satisfaction of the whole family finding the lost object, and B) the personal delight and immense pride that the child experiences when his father gives him a kiss on his head. For that child, that kiss was priceless.
            Rabbi Shmuelevitz says that this was the reason that the rabbis enacted the holiday of Chanukah. While it is true, and undeniable, that on a macro level, the larger miracle clearly was the military victory, what we want to remember throughout the generations is how G-d enabled one small jug of oil to last for eight days. Were we to have walked into the Temple, as victors of the battle, that surely would have been enough. But in G-d’s immense love for us, He gave us the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. He demonstrated His love for us by giving a timeless kiss on our head, and that is what the Rabbis want us to remember , and to cling to, during Chanukah, the darkest time of the year.
            Rabbi Shimshon Pincus points out that even nowadays, there are tremendous miracles happening all the time. Our problem, however, is that we are unable to perceive them. We are unable to perceive the kiss and embrace of our loving Father. He likens this reality to the reality of the abundance of sound waves that exist in the vast universe. It is true that there are sound waves—but if we don’t have the right instruments, they will never be perceived. On Chanukah, our job is to work on perceiving these daily miracles; to build our own personal radio transmitters, so that we too, can bask in the unending love of the Almighty. 

Danny Wolfe

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

IPhones, Shabbos, and JetBlue

Dear Henry,
       Before I begin my long-awaited blogg post (its practically been a month since my last one-- sorry to all of you dedicated readers checking your facebook statuses every day anxiously awaiting tidings of my new post), I wanted to give a shout out to my big Little Man, Avrumie, on the occasion of his fifth birthday. It was 5 years ago today, the day before Chanukah that he made his grand entrance into the world in Up-town Manhattan, and he has given us unending joy ever since.
      On November 6, 2013, I received a very disturbing email from my favorite airline, Jet Blue. Sorry to all you good folks reading this blogg who work for Southwest-- I love you too-- but there is nothing quite like Jet Blue. Maybe its the blue potato chips. Maybe its the incredible customer service. Maybe its the pleasant late night flights. I don't quite know what it is. But Jet Blue is awesome.
       The subject of the email instantly caught my attention: "Take off without Shutting off!" The email then said, "We'll leave you to your own devices. We know you and your personal electronic devices go hand-in-hand. Now you can use smartphones, tablets and similar devices from departure gate to arrival gate..."
     Henry, it used to be, back in the old days, that if you wanted to go online, you had to sit in front of your big fat desk top, wait for AOL 3.0 to dial up, and then you would be connected. Then, we evolved to world of cable connections, wifi, and eventually 3G and 4G. But even in the more modern times, whenever people would go on a subway or airplane, they would either have to sit down nicely and listen to themselves think, read a paper, listen to music, or just close their eyes. The one consistent sanctuary people would have from constant connectivity was the airplane flight. But now, because our devices and us go "hand in hand," that sanctuary has been stripped from us, and we can always remain connected.
     I was disappointed to read the email from Jet Blue, because I think that we are all addicted to our iphones and androids, and society is simply perpetuating our addiction. You might be thinking, dear Henry, "whats so bad about this addiction to our iphones? After all, it means that I can read your blogg mere seconds after you post it!" Henry, while this is true, and undeniably a tremendous benefit of the speedy connectivity we find ourselves in, it is also true and undeniable that our addiction to technology has ruined our ability to communicate with one another. It is hard to focus on the person we are speaking to when our phones are buzzing in our pockets. It is hard to bother dialing a phone number, when I can send you a text, in a shorter amount of time.  It is hard to read a book,  have a meaningful conversation, or spend quality time with children, when I can see whats going on with my fantasy football team right now, or when I can see what interesting tweets are flying around the twitterverse.
     But as much as these devices are messing up our ability to communicate, they are also messing up our ability to think. Rather than bother thinking, I usually just pull out my phone, and check my email for the 78th time today. Its as if we are afraid to be left alone to our own thoughts, and I think it messes with our ability to be thoughtful, introspective, creative individuals.
    Thank G-d, as an observant Jew, I have Shabbos. On Shabbos I have no choice but to power down, and there is no greater feeling of serenity in the world. Having the opportunity to connect to myself, my loved ones, and G-d, with no outside distractions, is more precious than a little baby playing with his or her toe jam. In fact, even the non-religious world, is picking up on this concept, referring to a "secular sabbath," in which people turn off their devices. (See great article here:

       I double dogg dare all of my devoted readers, (and I am also speaking to myself) to consider three steps to overcome our addiction: A) Walk around 1 day with a pen and paper, and make tally's every single time we check our email from our phones. This will prove to us, that we are in fact, insanely addicted to our phones. B) Read this essay that deals with how to connect to yourself: C) Take a break from your phone- an I-phone shabbos if you will. Turn off your phone at 4:15 Friday afternoon, and leave it off till 5:30 PM Saturday evening. You will thank me.

To Jet Blue, I thank you. I thank you for waking me up, exposing me to the tragic reality that my phone and I really do go hand in hand. That needs to change. And it will.

Danny Wolfe

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween: What on Earth am I Missing?

Dear Henry,
       I am going to toot my own horn for just a second. If you haven't noticed I am a very hip rabbi. To say I'm in with the times would be a massive understatement. I know what Breaking Bad is. I know the theme songs to the OC and One Tree Hill by heart. I know Snoop Doggy Dogg changed his name to Snoop Dogg, and then again, to Snoop Lion. I have two fantasy football teams, and I am beating most of my opponents. To put it simply, I am cooler than ice cold. Cooler than the other side of the pillow. After receiving a text message from me, One girl responded "a texting rabbi! I always knew Jews were so cool." Little did she know I also got BBM. Like I said, I'm cool.
      So it greatly confuses me that I completely, and absolutely do not for the life of me understand the American borderline obsession-like craze about Halloween. I write this not as a religious Jew, but as a father of adorably precious little children. 
      I first noticed this feeling of confusion last year in August, when we first moved back to America, after having lived in Jerusalem Israel for two years. We went to the book store, and I was amazed to see that the whole kids section was dedicated to scary stories involving Halloween, which was coming up right around the corner, in a mere 3 months. I thought to myself quite simply, as much as I want my children to be mortified and spooked before they go to sleep, I will pass on these books for now.
      I again recalled this feeling of bewilderment a few weeks ago when I was in New Jersey for a Shabbos. We were walking around a large community and I saw on every other lawn statues of bloodied, mangled corpses, some playing the piano. Some were half-buried. Again I thought of my kids: this is probably awesome seeing bleeding dead looking people in people's lawns. These are healthy images to inhabit the innocent minds of my 2 and 4 year olds. Although an observant Jew, I get the appeal of having beautiful lights on one's trees outside, or even a friendly looking dude with a cool white beard on a sled, with some deer behind him. Thats pretty cool. But bloodied, mangled corpses?Hands and legs sticking out of the ground?
      Henry, maybe I am old fashion, but this type of stuff downright gives me the willies. 
      Maybe instead of having limbs scattered across the lawn, we could make new types of lawn decorations. Maybe we should start making statutes of a young man or woman helping an elderly person cross the street. Or maybe a young whippersnapper helping up a stranger who had tripped and fallen to the ground. Or perhaps depict an image of a person giving money or a sandwich to someone less fortunate. Or even a high school student shlepping her grandfather's groceries up to his apartment.  These are the images I want to implant into my children's brains when they walk outside-- not the annual vivid memory of bloodied human remains.
      Is our obsession with the morbidity of Halloween any indication of our society at large?  Like, perhaps our TV shows are too violent, and our video games are too graphic?  Am I living on a different planet? What am I missing? Maybe all this stuff is good old fashion plain fun. But can't we have fun by going to a baseball game, playing checkers, or going apple-picking?
     This might sound radical--which is crazy-- but when my kids get older, I would much rather they remember their childhood autumns by the stunningly exquisite leaves on the trees, than by the ghosts and skeletons hanging from them.
Danny Wolfe

Friday, October 18, 2013

Judaism and Bowls of Salad


Dear Henry,
      Now that the US Government shutdown is over, I am also putting an abrupt end to my blogg shutdown. You see, dear Henry, as an act of heroic and darn-right patriotic solidarity to the Grand Canyon, which was closed as a result of the shutdown, I decided I would be a hypocrite if I did not also shut down my blogg. So I shut it down. But now, the government is not shut down anymore. So, my blogg is not shut down either.  You see, America is by far, one of the greatest nations on G-d's green earth. I love this nation. My country tis of thee; sweet land of liberty. O beautiful for patriot dream, That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!  
    In short, America is awesomely awesome. What is so amazing about America? Is it that it is the Great Melting Pot where everyone becomes the same and melts together as one? Or I would suggest that perhaps this is not such a great thing, for everyone to lose their own personal identities and characteristics. Maybe the awesome thing about 'murica is that I can be a religious Jew living and practicing freely, while you can be a devout Protestant, living how you want, and he can be an observant Muslim living according to his traditions, and she can be a Buddhist, doing her thing. We can all live in the same salad bowl, each of uniquely retaining our own identities. 
    My question, that came up this past week, is why is it that so many of my Jewish brethren so desperately want to be melted into a massive pot, losing their Jewish identities? This past week I probably asked several hundred college students in a campus on the East Coast of this beautiful country of ours two questions: A) Are you Jewish? B) If so, are you interested in a FREE trip to Israel. Henry, I am now about to analyze these two basic seemingly simplistic simple questions, and then I am going to call it a day. 
    Firstly, we will deal with question number 1: Are you Jewish. For some reason, the word "Jewish" itself inherently displays ambivalence and lack of conviction. Have you ever had a Christian say I am Christian-ish. Or a Muslim say I am Muslim-ish. Or, do they tell us, proud as can be, "I am a Christian! I am a Muslim!" This ambivalence and shyness about being Jewish was on clear display this week, as we would ask people. There would be a group of 3-4 Jews, and after hearing the question, the Jew would look away, while the non-Jewish friend would nudge them, and say, "she's Jewish," at which point the Jew would dejectedly look down, accepting defeat. 
    Now, we will analyze question 2: Do you want a free trip to Israel? That is a seemingly straight forward question that does not even need our analysis. I walked over to a table of three students who were studying. I said, "Sorry to interrupt, but are you Jewish, and do you want a free trip to Israel?" The guy at the table looked down embarrassedly, and told me he is Jewish, but does not want the free trip to Israel. The girl at the table looked me straight in the eye and said, "I am not Jewish, but would LOVE the free trip to Israel. Maybe if we could somehow change places, I would be happy to go!"
This happened more than once. Can you imagine if you went to a Catholic, and asked them if they wanted a free trip to Rome, or the Vatican, and they hurriedly declined? Its hard to fathom. 
    Admittedly, throughout our glorious history, us Jews have sometimes had it rough. We have been through the Crusades, expulsions, pogroms, and outright genocide. However people mistakenly think that all of our problems would just go away if we ran away from our identities and just melded into the culture in which we live, losing any trace of our past. But that doesn't work. History has brutally and tragically disproven that false premise.
    The point, dear Henry, is that all of us in general--including the thousands upon thousands of readers of this blogg across the globe--and us Jews in particular, need to be proud of where we come from. We shouldn't be shy about our religion. We should flaunt it.  Just like the bright yellow pepper stands apart in my blue salad bowl on the dinner table, so too, we need to stand proud in the salad bowl that is American Society.  

Danny Wolfe

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

To the Shutdown US Government: I Thank You!

Dear Henry,
      Inasmuch as the American Government is currently shutdown, I decided now would be an appropriate time to write a new blogg entry. My thought process went as follows: I have thousands of viewers across the vast planet. Hundreds of them are undoubtedly government officials, park rangers, and museum employees. Therefore, they need something to do these next few days-- so  figured I would do the United States a service, and provide everyone effected from the shutdown with compelling, beautiful, thought-provoking, and downright brilliant reading material. So to all my readers from America to China-- you're very welcome.
     Tonight I wanted to write about one Friday morning in the month of April. For many, April 19th 2013 was a day like any other. But for the city of Boston, April 19 2013 is a day that will not soon be forgotten. Boston was locked down, and the police and SWAT teams were patrolling the streets, performing a manhunt for the cruel, sadistic Boston Marathon Bomber.  As I sat, staring at, watching this, I realized that every single one of these brave, heroic boston Police officers was risking their lives so that Boston-- and all of America-- could be safe. I realized, almost in an epiphany, that every day, police officers and firefighters risk their lives, so that we can be safe and live in comfort and security. 
     Then I thought to myself, its quite likely that these heroes are greatly undervalued and under appreciated. How often do we thank them? How often do we look at them with disdain, casting them off, along with their stupid speed traps? How many times do we laugh uncontrollably when we see their cruisers parked outside Dunkin Donuts? 
     I realized that every day we need to value and thank these heros-- But with the Bostonian police officers on the streets of Boston actively risking their lives-- today was the day to express my gratitude. I decided to bring these heros some goodies to express my thanks. I drove to Trader Joes, and I purchased a few of the containers of their deliciously delicious chocolate peanut-butter cups. From TJs I headed down to the station. When I walked in, a lady was chatting with the police man, who signaled for me to come in. I put down the bag of goodies and said, "with everything going on in Boston, I felt responsible to come in and express to you the incredible amount of gratitude I have towards you guys, for protecting us. Sometimes you might feel unnoticed and unappreciated. But we notice you, and appreciate it very much. Thank you, and G-d bless you." The policeman dumb-foundedly looked at me, and asked what organization these were from. Surprised by the question, I simply responded, no organization-- they were just from me-- a simple American. 
    Judaism teaches that gratitude is a fundamental value incumbent upon us at all times. The Torah teaches that the first thing I am required to do every morning, even before jumping out of bed-- is to thank the Almighty for allowing me to wake up, and remain alive. Undoubtedly, hundreds of people every night throughout the world do not wake up. How fortunate are we every day that G-d returns us our souls. 
    It is hard to fathom anything more frustrating than working very hard at something, expending enormous effort on behalf of someone, and going unnoticed, and unthanked. One of the harshest descriptions one can use to describe a job, is to describe it as "thankless." A person can go through a day, accomplish incredible things, and go completely unvalued. Most of us though who go un-thanked (fortunately I am not included in this category of human beings) don't receive acknowledgement for trivial things like making the coffee, or helping a coworker. Police, however, go un-thanked as they risk their own lives for our safety and well-being. And the truth us, most human beings have a basic need to be acknowledged. Fascinatingly, the word in hebrew for gratitude, "Hoda'ah" is the same as the word in hebrew for acknowledgement.  To thank someone is to acknowledge them as a human being. To ignore them, is to dehumanize them. There are stories told of how victims of the Nazi Holocaust demanded that their murderers look them in the eye before killing them--forcing them, at the very least, to acknowledge that they were butchering not rodents, but human beings.
    Despite having no malicious intent, many of us hurriedly run through our busy lives, failing to thank those who help us. It is our duty as decent human beings, to start thanking anyone and everyone. Thank the nice person who cleaned your table before you sit down to eat. Thank the lady for being your cashier after buying a bagel. Thank your parents for their constant love. Thank your spouse for being your spouse. Thank your garbage man and your mail man. Thank your child's teachers. Thank the shutdown American government for giving you freedom-- for us Jews, a religious freedom unprecedented in the history of our long and brutal exile.
 And most importantly, thank the Almighty for all the wonderful gifts He has given you. 

Danny Wolfe

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lost Luggage and Yom Kippur

Dear Henry,
     With the grace of the Lord Above, right now, somewhere out there, in America's Southwest, one suitcase is residing with its rightful owners-- who had not seen their precious suitcase in about 3 months.
     You see Henry, it all started about six months ago. A buddy of mine knew that I would be traveling to the country in which he resided. My friend, whom, for the noble purposes of protecting his identity and maintaining his privacy, we will call Alfred, made a request of me. He knew that I would be visiting the country in which he and his family were residing. He also knew that within a few months he would be moving back to this beautiful country of ours, the magnificent United States of America. Therefore, he kindly asked me if I would transport his bag back to the States for him, as in 3 months he would be traveling with his beautiful, blossoming family back to the States, with many many other bags and goodies. The memories were fresh in my own mind of how we made a similar move. We shipped boxes in boats overseas, and shlepped 9 bags filled with all of our belongings in the airport. With only two of us, yours truly, and my beautiful, sweet, loving wife, we were able to move the luggage-carrier-thing you rent at the airport five feet at a time, then we would go back and stroll our screaming, delicious children. Then we would move the luggage carrier 5 more feet, and then, yet again, stroll our little angelic kinderlech. Then, a massive bag would fall off of the luggage caddy, nearly missing a child. With this vivid image still freshly etched in my mind, I happily obliged, excited to be able to remove this burden from my friend.
      One evening, on my trip, my buddy came over with his bag, and I happily took it from him. We went over the contents of the bag, I checked everything, and we repacked it. I took a mental picture of the bag so I would be able to recognize it, and then the next day, I placed the bag underneath the tour bus on which I was leading a large group. The bag remained there for the duration of the trip, while all the other bags of my travel mates went on and off the bus, with each new overnight stop we made.
When the bus took us back to the airport for a return flight back to America, all of the bags were unloaded on to the sidewalk. I first spotted my own bag, and grabbed it. Then, I returned my rental phone to the rental-phone guy and disassembled my ipad so I could return the sim-card that I had been renting. After reassembling my ipad, and securing my own belongings, I started to look up and down the sidewalk for my friend's suitcase. Some of my travel mates would not be joining us on the flight home, so they were staying in this country, extending their visit. They came over to say goodbye-- but all I could think about was finding this silly suitcase. Up and down the sidewalk I paced, trying to find it-- but it was nowhere to be seen. It did not help matters that there was now another tour bus pulling up alongside ours, unloading their 50 pieces of luggage on the same sidewalk.
      I kept pacing, looking everywhere for this suitcase, but to no avail. I sent my group ahead of me, because I wasn't leaving until I found it. But as my group started to go inside, and another tour bus pulled up, it seemed hopeless. Then, someone from my group ran outside to tell me that, as the group leader, I had to be the first one in the line, to talk with the security check-in folks. I realized that this bag, by some freak accident, did not make it on my bus, and must have been left at one of our previous overnight stops. At every stop, all the bags would come off the bus. Because no one was looking after this bag too much, since it was just hanging out on the bus for the whole trip, maybe it got left in some dusty parking lot, in the middle of this country.
     I realized at this point, there was not much I could do, so I went inside to move my group along. As I stood in my line, feeling like an irresponsible failure, I thought of how I would break it to my friend, who till this day, has no idea this all happened. He probably will find out though, after I publish this blogg, because he likely will be among the thousands of readers worldwide of this blogg, so Alfred, if you are reading this, please forgive me for my irresponsibility. I thought I would just tell him the honest truth, how I put the bag on the bottom of the bus intending to keep it there, until we got off the bus to go to the airport. When we got off the bus, I would tell him, I realized the bag was gone, and it must have been left somewhere in the middle of this vast country. I would then ask him, how much his valuables in this bag was worth. I was hoping it would be around $1000, and then, I would ask him if I could pay off this sum in an installment plan. I still felt horrible, but I knew that this uncomfortable conversation would need to take place.
      As I advanced in the check in line, a line I probably stood in for a full hour, I began sulking, very disappointed in myself. I had basically given up hope. But suddenly, I realized, that maybe, now with all the tour groups standing in front of me in this line, the bag would be chillin' by itself, clearly discernible on the lonely sidewalk outside. The problem was, I wasn't allowed to leave my line. So I decided I would call my tour guide-- a very sweet man whom for anonymity and secrecy we will call Harold, who was waiting for our group to all get checked in. Then I realized, I couldn't call Harold, because I had returned my rental phone to the rental phone guy. So I frantically looked around, and saw a travel-mate playing mad-birds on his phone-- and realized, maybe, if I asked nicely, he would let me use it! So I asked nicely, and he let me use it.
     I immediately dialed his number, and with the grace of the Almighty, he picked up the phone. Nowadays, people don't always pick up the phone when folks call the phone. I told him my situation, and I asked, if there was maybe, perhaps, possibly, any way he could go outside for a minute to see if he could find this bag. I described the bag to him, and he told me he could go, but it would take about 5 minutes because he was far from the door. I stood there, praying that he would find it, knowing this was my last chance. Seven minutes later my travel-mate's phone started buzzing like a large mean, yellow, bumble bee. I picked up the phone. It was Harold. He told me that the police started circling around the bag, suspicious because it was an unattended suspicious bag, and they were preparing to blow up the bag, when my heroic, knight in shining armor Harold arrived to claim it. He brought the bag to me. The bag spent the summer with me, and again, due to the unending love of the One Above, last week, I was able to return it to its rightful owner.
       I learned from this traumatic experience with Alfred's suitcase that one can NEVER give up. I could have given up--- but then Alf's bag would have been blown to shreds. One tiny idea popped in my head, and saved the day. This concept is very much a Jewish perspective-- and that is, that no matter what, a person can never, EVER give up. We must always continue to push forward, believing in ourselves, knowing that we can overcome ANY situation in which we find ourselves.
     Life, oh Henry, can often by very challenging. Sometimes people find themselves in difficult situations, and people are often in despair. There is a tendency in life nowadays, to give up. People give up on themselves, G-d forbid, they give up on family, and they give up on friends. Sometimes people have very difficult challenges, and they think they cannot overcome them-- so they give up, reaching that awful feeling of despair. The Torah teaches us not to despair-- never to give up.  Rebbi Nachman of Breslov, whose merits should protect us, teaches that "The whole world is a very narrow-bridge--but the main thing, is not to be afraid at all."
      Every human being on the planet- all of you humans across the globe reading this blogg-- by virtue of your humanity, have a soul-- the breath of G-d Himself. You have Godliness within your soul-- a spark of the Divine. That means that you are beyond great, and there is no challenge that you cannot overcome-- as difficult as it might be. Whenever the going gets tough, never forget that you are Godly, and you can overcome anything.
    Tomorrow night begins Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is a gift that G-d gives us, in His infinite kindness that enables us to actively repent for our previous wrongdoings, and to start off our lives anew. We are able to erase the past, and begin a bright new future. Lest a person ever give up, and think they are too far removed from being able to repent, and turn their lives around, Yom Kippur comes and affirms the complete and total falseness of that errant assertion.
    Let us all be sealed in the Book of Life, blessed with a beautiful, sweet new year, where we understand the greatness that lies within us, and utilize our G-d given potential to impact the entire universe.

Danny Wolfe


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Native Americans and Twitter and Rockies, Oh My.

Dear Henry,
      One thing that I am darn proud about, is being from Colorado. Colorado is hands down the best state in this beautiful country of ours. Growing up, I would ski to school, tip over cows on Saturday nights, and during the cow-tippin offseason, I would spend my Saturday nights hanging out at Super Walmart. Life was chilled out and simple. When one needs to shift lanes, the person behind him allows the other car to go ahead, in front of him. People do not cut one another off. People are very polite. When the speed limit is 55 MPH people go 45-50 MPH.  On one occasion, when we were visiting Denver after spending a magical year living in the Holiest city on the planet- Jerusalem aka the City of Gold aka the Holy City-- My wife and I and two children were walking in the King Soopers (the local grocery store), taking up the entire aisle, making the aisle as impassible as a fallen tree makes a creaky bridge in a wooded mountainy meadow in Finland.  Suddenly, we heard a very polite request, "Excuse me...I am so sorry, but would you mind if I could please get through? So sorry to inconvenience you!!" The good folks out west are VERY friendly.
      To top it off, we had the Broncos and Avalanche to root for growing up, both winning two championships during my youth. The Nuggets made many playoff runs, only to routinely fall in the first round-- year after bloody year. The Rockies, however, have made a habit of finishing rock bottom basically every year.  I put up with it though, during my 18 years living in Denver, because we have season tickets, and I would routinely go with my father. I was an extraordinarily cute little boy--not much has changed--  and I would often leave games with balls the players tossed up to me.  Those games are undoubtedly among the highlights of my youth. One specific ritual we had, was that my father would pull us from school to take us to Opening Day. I will never forget the time he totally surprised us, and took me in 1995 to the first ever game at Coors Field, against the New York Mets (remember them-- they will come in to play later).
       The game went quite long. The 6th inning became the 7th inning. We did the 7th inning stretch. The 7th inning became the 8th inning. the 8th inning became the 9th inning. The 9th inning became the 10th inning. People were sissies, so they started leaving. I moved down to the first row behind the Mets dugout. Bret Butler tosses us up a ball. The 10th inning became the 11th inning. The 11th inning became the 12th inning. You get the idea, but I'ma keep going, because this is my blogg, and I can. The 12th inning became the 13th inning. The 13th inning became the 14th inning. We did the 7th inning stretch, which I thought was strange, inasmuch as it was the 14th inning, and not the 7th inning.
      Then, Dante Bichette steps up to the plate. I swore to myself when I got older, I would grow a mullet like him. In fact, one of my favorite websites of my childhood was At the time, I didn't realize how hard it is to grow a mullet when you are rapidly balding faster than Husein Bolt runs the 100 meter race.  In the bottom of the 14th, Dante took one mighty swing of the bat, hit the ball with a thunderous roar, raised his fat arm to make a fiery fist pump, and he trotted around the bases in glory, as he hit a walk off shot to end the game. (
I still get the chills watching that.
     But Henry, 1995 was a very long time ago. Since then, they have stunk it up worse than a shvitzy four year old coming inside after playing in the humid sun all day, and worse than a 2 year old girl potty training, and accidentally missing the potty when she tried to relieve herself. They had a fluke season in 2007 where they got swept out of the World Series in 2007 by the Smelly Sox from Boston. They have made the playoffs three lousy times in their pathetic 20 years of existence.
   And now, lets fast forward, from their opening game in Shea Stadium, in 1993, to August 8th, 2013. On  August 8th, I quit being a Rockies fan. They just ended their season by finishing their road-trip with a 1-9 record. But whats worse, oh Henry, is how they lost, and to whom they lost. The trip started against the Braves with 9-8, 11-3, 9-0, 11-2 losses to the Braves. And it ended by being swept by the Mets- arguably the only team in the MLB who has been more pathetic than the Rockies in the last 20 years. That loss in August 8th to the Mets, completing the sweep-- was it for me. I was checking out.
   But, this was mainly just a big, fat, unnecessary, digression. Let me get to the point.
   Let me first introduce my main point by just informing my thousands of readers, from Canada to Mexico, to Israel, France, Russia, and now, most recently, Australia of a new up and coming website about which you might not have heard, but which will play a critical role in my overly-over-drawnout story. I am extraordinarily tech-savvy, so you might not be aware of this, dear readers, but there is a new website called that is a new type of facebook. Famous rabbis, like  myself have accounts, with myriads of followers. We can tweet (ie. write) very short messages including 120 characters to our devoted followers. This is the newest trend nowadays, so naturally, I have a blossoming account. Check me out at @dannywolfe1. When I resigned from being a Rockies fan, I became a Cleveland Indians fan. The logic was as follows. My Better half is from Cleveland. The Indians are from Cleveland. Therefore, I should love the Cleveland Indians. And I do. So I thought that my hundreds of Twitter followers would want to know about my not-so-sudden change of allegiance. So I sent a Tweet,  (ie. a message) that in addition to going to my hundreds of followers, also went to the Rockies, and the Indians. It said as follows:

swept to the ? You mean nothing to me. We are done. Its been a depressing 20 years. Bye. I am now an fan.

The Cleveland Indians liked these chain of events, so they wrote back to me as follows:

       The Indians thus officially welcomed me to being a fan of the Tribe. And this point is exactly what I wanted to discuss with you on this chilly 65 degree evening in Ohio. Someone, who works for the Cleveland Indians marketing department, wrote me a tweet, giving me a warm welcome. They said something kind to me. And, Henry, it made me feel good. Someone said something nice to me, and it felt great. And this is a profound lesson that you, Henry, and my thousands upon thousands upon thousands of readers should take to heart. People like when you say kind things to them. People like when you compliment them. It can completely change someone's day--heck, it might even completely change someone's life.
     Think for a moment, the last time you were told a compliment. What was it? How did it feel? Sometimes we (especially those of us of the male persuasion) feel like its unnecessary to compliment because something is so obvious. For example suppose our spouse is wearing a pretty outfit, we feel like we don't need to compliment, because obviously she looks beautiful. But how many times does this spouse then change her outfit, and then when we look at her in astonishment, she explains she changed because she knows we didn't like it?  How often do we feel under appreciated, or stressed out, and one little compliment is all it would take to turn around our entire mood?
     The Torah teaches us that we need to have an "ayin tova-" a good eye. This doesn't mean to make sure not to swing at balls when you are batting at home plate.  It means that you have to train yourself to see the good in everyone around you. It will change your life. You wont be focussing on the negativity any more, and you will only see the good. For homework, dear henry, please compliment one person every single day.  As much as this will impact and empower those around you-- it will reshape how you yourself view the world.

  @Indians-- it feels darn good to be part of the Tribe. Thank you.

  Your biggest fan,
  Danny Wolfe


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Olympic Figure Skating, Ms. Pacman, and the Shofar

Dear Henry,
      I wanted to share with you a little known fact about me, that you might not even be aware of. That fact, is that when I was four years old, I embarked upon a long path of competitive figure skating. Momma and Dad would take me to the rink, 6 days a week, every morning at 6:00 AM before school, and I would practice my routines. I would do triple and quadruple axles, double toe-loups, I had even mastered the biellmann position, and even the twizzle (my nizzle). I worked very hard from age four until sixteen, when I had qualified for the US National olympic team. It was very exciting, I was set to perform in Salt Lake City, only a few hundred miles from my home city, Denver Colorado. All my loved ones were gathered to watch me perform. It was also electrifyingly exciting, because I was the heavy favorite for the gold metal.
        I could not contain my excitement as my family gathered in the arena right before I was meant to perform. I was going to be performing to my favorite singer-- Celine Dion's heart-warming version of my favorite love song of all time, "Beauty and the Beast." At that point in life, I had not even stopped to contemplate the disturbing meaning of that song. As I sat waiting in the changing room for my big moment for which I dedicate the last 12 years of my life, I noticed, that right off the locker room, was a game room. I realized I still had about fifteen minutes till showtime-- so I went to take a look. To my utter delight, they had my favorite arcade game on the planet-- Ms. Pacman-- and it did not cost a thing. I went over, and started playing. One thing lead to another, I beat level after level, I was zoned in, until I finally heard on the loud Speakers, "DANNY WOLFE, you are up! WHERE ARE YOU?" I looked at my watch, and to my complete horror, realized I was supposed to be on the ice seven minutes ago. To my tremendous agony, I had been disqualified.
        Henry, obviously, this story is not true. If I were an olympian for any sport it would clearly be for weight-lifting. However, I think the message of this story is very powerful, and timely. Yesterday morning was Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the month of Elul. You see, Rosh Chodesh Elul means that Rosh Hashana is just one month away, and every morning in synagogue from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Rosh Hashana (with the exception of Shabbos) the shofar is blown. Yesterday, as I heard the sound of the shofar, I got the chills, and I started to literally shake. After not hearing that holy, powerful sound in a full year, it really woke me up. It was very powerful. In one month, we are all coming to be judged by the Judge of all Judges. It is said that in Pre-War Europe this time was incredibly intense. People really began working on improving their relationship with the Almighty, and their relationships with each other. They began intensely trying to perfect their character traits. If someone struggled with anger, they worked very hard to obliterate anger from themselves. If people were haughty, they worked on becoming more humble.
     To not fault of our own, we live in a completely different world. From a very young age we are told that we must go to school. After school we are told we have to go to more school. After more school we are told we must go to graduate school. After Grad school, we get jobs. After working a few years, we get married. Then when we hit our 40s we realize that we hate our job, we do not know our spouse, and we have no idea how we got here, or what the heck we are doing with our lives. This is called a midlife crisis. This is called sleepwalking through life.
      The Rambam writes that the shofar awakens us from our slumber.
      Every morning in the month of Elul, and on Rosh Hashana, we are awoken from our slumber by the powerful, awesome blast of the shofar. It is up to us if we are going to hit the snooze button, or actually wake up and get out of bed. If only in my olympic story, someone would have given me a reminder before my performance! Then I could have gotten ready. Right now, with the shofar we are getting that reminder. Right now we should be thinking about what we can change to become better people. Maybe my relationship with my parents can use some mending, and I should call them more. Maybe I should not have said that nasty remark to my sibling, or my ex-best friend and it is time to apologize. Maybe its time to think about something I can do to get closer to G-d, whether its study Torah with a rabbi, start to pray routinely, light Shabbos candles, or take on more Shabbos observances.
      I challenge you, Oh Henry, and my thousands upon thousands of readers in countries like America, Mexico, Canada, Russia, Spain, Germany, and Israel, to write down two things, right now, that starting tonight, you will start working on to become that incredible person that the Almighty knows you are destined to become.
     One month from now is the most important time of the year. It is our turn at the olympics. We have been building up the whole year, for this powerful moment.
     Are we going to show up, or play Ms. Pacman?

    Forever Yours,
    Danny Wolfe

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Starry Nights in Jerusalem and Bunny Bunny

Dear Henry,
      When I lived in Connecticut for a year, I learned a lot of crucially important life lessons. But by far, the most critical thing I learned there was a game called "Bunny Bunny." I am not referring to The Bunny Game , which is a 2010 American independent horror film directed by Adam Rehmeier who also was co-author of the script together with the lead actress Rodleen Getsic. That is not what I am talking about. To be frank with you, Henry-- I haven't seen this film-- or any film for that matter-- since Snoop Lion's Oscar-worthy hit "Soul Plane" in 2004, or "Dude Where's my Car" in 2000.  
       So that is not the Bunny Bunny that I am talking about. Sorry Adam Rehmeier--its nothing personal. The Bunny Bunny to which I refer is an absolutely ridiculously ridiculous, absurdly absurd game that can be played in small groups. The game is about bunnies, and tongas, and hayugens, and upshifting to level 2, and yogaflames, and tiger uppercuts, and sonic booms.  Truthfully I have taken this game with me throughout my travels- in good times and in hard times. I played Bunny Bunny during two of the most special years if my life while learning Torah in the land of Israel. And I played Bunny Bunny in JFK Airport with my birthright group after being notified that our Aerosvit flight to Lithuania was delayed by 15 hours. 
       The game has a lot of depth to it-- depth that I discovered one Purim afternoon after having consumed a few too-many bottles of wine. But Henry, I ain't talking about the depth of Bunny Bunny in this blogg post. Rather, Henry, I plan to talk about something else in this blogg post.  
      First, though, I must give a little background. During those magical years in Israel, as I finished up my rabbinical school, I had the privilege of giving a weekly class (called a vaad) to a group of 8 studly guys who were in a gap year yeshiva program between high school and college. We happened to be the best looking vaad in the whole program, and there were about 130 guys in this program.  They came to me every week, at about 10:00 PM Israel time, or about 3:00 PM EST. I would give them delicious deserts that my wife baked, like challah french-toast casserole, blondies, brownies, krispy-peanut butter balls, etc... We would watch Tim Tebow highlights for about 10 minutes, and then I would dazzle them with my signature life-changing lectures on various Torah topics. One week however, I skipped the life-changing lecture, and instead, opted to teach them the life-changing game about which I now write: Bunny Bunny.
     With that little introduction, we can now begin. Seven days ago, Oh Henry, I happened upon the Facebook page of one of the strapping young lads that was in my vaad. On the page, he had posted a video that he took, of a group of his campers playing the very game that I had taught him, not three years before. And those campers were playing the game exactly how it is meant to be played-- as If I myself taught them, and as my mentor, himself taught me (the guy who taught me in Connecticut)! The campers seemed so familiar to me-- but I did not recognize them. They seemed like my own children-- yet I did not know them. And yet, they were playing Bunny Bunny as if they heard the instructions directly from my mouth! And then, I received clarity on two very significant points.
       The first point on which I received clarity was on a very crucial verse in the Torah, that incidentally is the basis for the entire Passover Seder. The verse says , "v'higadata l'vincha," "You shall tell your son in that day, (Passover) saying, this (eating matzah) is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt." Judaism is obsessed with the "Mesorah," or the transmission of the Torah from one generation to the next. About 3300 years ago, the entire Jewish nation stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, heard G-d speak, and received the Torah. If the average age that people have children is about 30, that means that there have been about 100 'passes,' or 'links in the chain' directly from parent to child, from the Revelation at Mt. Sinai until today. Many of us, however, are fortunate enough to have met our grandparents, and many of us even have them at our Passover seders- this means that there are in actuality only 50 'passes' from grandparent to grandchild, from Mt Sinai until the present. And for those of us, who have met our great grandparents, the number is even fewer. In short, Jews emphasize the crucial role of passing on, or transmitting our heritage,  which we received from our parents and teachers. The Torah of today is the same Torah of 3300 years ago, because of our obsession with accurately transmitting our Holy Torah and our national experience receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  Watching the 'Bunny Bunny' product of my student teaching his campers Bunny Bunny, made me appreciate this concept even more.  One day, one of his campers will teach his/her campers Bunny Bunny, exactly as I taught him, on one starry night in Jerusalem. Then, one of his campers will teach his/her own campers Bunny Bunny, exactly as the strapping lad taught them, who in turn taught it exactly as I taught him one starry night in Jerusalem, who taught it EXACTLY as my mentor taught me, one sunny morning in Connecticut.
     The second point on which I received clarity, is a similar concept, namely, that we never fully comprehend the MASSIVE impact of our actions. I would have never thought that as a result of sharing this game with a strapping young lad, that many, many more younger lads and lasses would later be playing it, with every bit as much enthusiasm as the young lad, and myself. My little, seemingly insignificant decision to teach Bunny Bunny that historic evening, ended up having a massive impact on dozens of lives. And Henry, this applies to all of us, in every area of our lives. We might never know about the huge impact one little smile can make for another person. A great rabbi once said a person's face is a like a reshus harabim-- a public street. Just like one is not allowed to leave obstructively obstructive objects on his sidewalk, (or unshoveled snow/ice), as that can cause damage to the passersby, so too, one is not allowed to walk around with a pout on his face, because that pout affects, and harms the passersby as well. We might never comprehend how a few words of encouragement to a colleague having a rough day can be a game-changer in his/her life. I took notes from my esteemed colleague when he told a toll-both worker-- "Remember, life is worth living!" My whole worldview is changed as a result of a two-minute segment of a class given by a rabbi in Jerusalem to a group of seminary girls. This rabbi 'happened' to speak to the wives of the rabbinical students in my program, and my wife 'happened' to buy some of his MP3 lectures, and I 'happened' to listen to them one snowy morning in Albany on my way to synagogue. As a result of a few lines that this rabbi told seminary girls 5 years ago, the life of another rabbi in a different country has changed forever! And this Jerusalem rabbi has no idea about the impact he made in this particular case!
     The point here, is that it is incumbent upon all of us-- myself, and my thousands upon thousands of dedicated readers in this great country of ours, Canada, Russia, China, and Israel-- to as a starting point-- understand the enormous impact our actions can make upon the lives of those around us. I cannot necessarily go out every day thinking, "What can I do or say to change this person's life forever?" I can however, understand that I have a G-d given ability to positively impact this person's life in a significant way. Therefore it is all of our duties to engage the world with this fact in mind-- and to be beacons of light and pleasantness to everyone who comes our way.
    One special starry night in Jerusalem taught me that as a result of one small action, the whole world can be playing Bunny Bunny.

Yours truly,
Danny Wolfe

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wrapped up Challah and a Mezuza--Profound Life Lessons from a Holocaust Survivor

Dear Henry,
       As you may have, or perhaps, may have not noticed, I am trying to write to you once a week, usually on any given Sunday, (at least until football season starts, when I will be obsessing over the pending Denver Broncos Superbowl championship season for the ages.) As Shabbos rolled around, I was still unsure as to what to write about for this week. The only real excitement that happened was a) I went golfing and B) I learned there is a very popular song called "Gangnam Style," and I learned some of the sweet dance moves-- but not even yours truly was able to figure out the deep inner meaning of that song. And inasmuch as I like writing only about the deep inner meaning of life on this blogg, I wasn't about to write a whole blogg post about any gangnam style, or lack thereof. So, I was stuck going into Shabbos not even really sure about what I was going to write about for this week. That feeling of not knowing what I was going to write about was probably not quite as frustrating as being a Cleveland sports fan felt when Bron Bron took his talents to South Beach.
       Shabbos was beautiful-- but nothing all that exciting happened, and as of 8:30 PM last night, I didn't even have anything to write about. But then, during the rabbis shalosh seudos speech- everything changed. Before he began speaking, I heard an incredibly sweet Holocaust survivor mention that he and his wife really liked the challah that was being served, and he would try to get the recipe for her. (For a story about a different survivor, check out Then the rabbi began speaking, and I was admittedly daydreaming. Rabbi-- if you are reading this blogg- and I'm sure you are reading this blogg inasmuch as thousands of people read this blogg, across the vast globe-- even in places like Canada, Spain, and Russia--please don't be offended. Don't be offended because the only Rabbi for whom I don't day dream while he speaks, is a guy named Rabbi Daniel Martin Wolfe- he speaks very nicely, so it's hard to day dream during his brilliant talks. Anyways, my day dream was abruptly ended when this adorable aforementioned Holocaust survivor raised his hand and told us that every night before he goes to sleep, he goes to kiss his mezuzah, and he feels as if he is giving G-d a kiss, so to speak. I thought this was incredibly touching and beautiful- here is a man who lives with the reality that the Almighty is in his home. A man who saw the most horrific sights imaginable during his lifetime, a man who saw humanity at its worse. This same man did not give up on G-d-- he embraced Him, he lives with Him.
       After the Rabbi was done speaking, and everyone had thanked The Lord for their food and bentsched, (aka recited Birkas HaMazon aka recited Grace after the meal) I noticed this same sweet man setting aside two challos, and wrapping them ever so lovingly for his adoring wife, who was anxiously awaiting to greet him back home. He was doing it discreetly, as if no one would see. But I saw, and I was extraordinarily moved. Here is a man, that has been married at least fifty years putting on a little demonstration- a clinic of sorts- illustrating to anyone who would watch, the secret to a loving and successful marriage. I often find myself in situations where I could grab some leftovers for my wife, that I know she would like. But I usually tell myself, "Danny, its too much of a shlep (inconvenience) to wrap it up, put it away, and bring it home for her. Maybe it would make more sense if I just eat an extra portion, and tell her I had her in mind." But this was not the approach of this man-- this man who has been happily married for several decades understood very well that it was darn well worth the inconvenience of shlepping around some extra challah, if it meant making his wife happy, if it meant showing his wife his love through the act of giving.
      And then I thought about the two different observations I made that evening of this man: A) He told us that he gives the mezuza a kiss every night before bed and B) he packed away some challah to bring home to his wife. I realized that these two items are not at all random occurrences- but they go together hand in hand. The Torah teaches us that it is our job to build a Mishkan- a dwelling place for the Almighty. We assume that this applies to us nowadays as well, as we can all build a 'mishkan me'at' -- in our homes-- so that the point of a Jewish marriage is to build a dwelling place for the Almighty. And its only fitting for G-d to dwell in a place of complete serenity and peace-- a loving environment where the love between husband and wife is palpable. An environment devoid of yelling and arguing and negativity. With this understanding, the way this sweet man behaved last night was entirely consistent. Him and his wife have an incredible relationship. He constantly thinks of new ways to make her happy, even 50+ years into their marriage on a late Saturday night. Therefore, G-d is resting in their glorious home.
   Once a week I will wrap up some challah and bring it home to my prettier, better half.
   Will you?

   My name is Danny Wolfe, and I approve this message.

   Danny Wolfe

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Business Trips and Stupid Cellphones


Dear Henry,
       Tomorrow morning I embark upon another 'business trip' which requires flying somewhere, and saying goodbye to my family for a few days. This morning, as I received a call from a computer who works for United Airlines, kindly asking me if I cared to have him/her check me in, (see my post for a more vivid account of computers who talk to me ), I was reminded of the last time I went away on a 'business trip' away from the family. Heck, it was only like 10 days ago, so its hard to forget.
       Basically, two weeks ago I attended a conference with over 100 other immensely talented rabbis not unlike myself,  and then had some other internal meetings. I began to notice as I went away, that it was very hard to keep in touch with my other half, my lovely, beautiful wife, (see for more on this), and my delicious sweet, precious children. Paradoxically, I found it even harder to keep in touch with them on my local business trip, than when I go to Israel for birthright trips. On a birthright trip, with my wife seven-hours behind me, by the time my day was over, and ready for bed, she was available to talk, just having fed the kids dinner. And I would be able to see (via Skype) my beautiful family before falling fast asleep, after a jam-packed day shlepping around Israel. I would then set my alarm to a very early hour in the morning, so that I would catch my wife right before she goes to sleep, and she would catch me up more on what happened in the last 6 hours, and I would catch her up, on what happened in my last 6 hours--admittedly, not too much.  I would thus cap my mornings, and my evenings with the daily hi-lights of my trip-- seeing my beautiful family. Henry, right about now, you might be asking where exactly I am going with this whole shpiel. Heck-- I'm asking myself where I am going with this whole thing. The point is, that not being on the same schedule--being an ocean apart-- made it easier to be in touch-- precisely because we were not on the same schedule.
       Two weeks ago, being in meetings and sessions all day, it was darn near impossible to be in touch with my wonderful, beautiful, sweet, adorable, and adoring, wife and kids. Being in the same time zone, we were both going, nonstop, all day.  By the time I was ready to shluffie, she had been sleeping for a few hours. I would call her early in the morning, but she is physical unable to speak, or move, in the mornings. Six and a half of the best years of my life (marriage) has taught me that not everyone is a chipper morning person like yours truly.  However, while I was on a trip to Israel, we didn't have this problem, because when I was waking up, at 6:00 AM, so was she- at 11:00 PM.
      The point of that awkwardly long introduction was that I learned from my last trip that it was darn hard to be in touch with my beautiful, adorable, loving family. And that was very hard. So on Thursday morning, after having been gone since Monday morning, I made sure to be at the airport super early, as I could not physically wait anymore to see my family. My kids were pumped up for me to pick them up from camp, and my wife was just as excited to see my beautiful, aging face. All of us were ecstatic to at long last catch up on the last 5 days. When I finally got to the gate, after waiting in a very long line, they were advertising that the flight was overbooked, and they were offering a $500 flight voucher if anyone would volunteer their seat. My flight was leaving at 8:30 AM- the next one was leaving at 3:00 PM, getting to Cleveland at 5:00. Apparently, no one was all that impressed with the $500 offer, so United bumped it up to offering $700 to anyone who gave up their seat. I didn't blink. It wasn't worth it. I told my kids I would pick them up from camp- golly-- I was going to pick them up from camp, and no amount of money was going to deter me. I later realized that my flight got in at around 10:30 AM. My kids got out of camp at about 3:00 PM. Thus- if I would have taken the $700, and gotten in at 5:00-- I would have only missed out on two hours of quality time with my kids, who would be eagerly waiting in the car to pick me up from the airport, if I opted for the later flight. And yet, as I look back, those two extra hours with the kids was worth every penny of the $700 that United tried to give me in order to sacrifice those two precious hours. I would choose spending two hours with my children, all day, every day, over a lousy $700 flight voucher from United.
       Once I made this realization, oh Henry, I learned a very valuable lesson that applies not only to my own life, but likely also to the lives of those thousands of my devoted readers out there in Canada, Israel, Turkey, India, and the United Arab Emirates. And that is, Henry, that time in general-- and quality time with loved ones in particular-- is a very, very valuable gift. Certainly more valuable than a $700 flight. So I asked myself when I caught myself reading ESPN on my Iphone 4S, while playing with my kids-- what the heck am I doing? Now I have the privilege of interacting with my delicious children, and I am reading about a Gators Linebacker who got arrested for barking at a police dogg? Are you kidding me? How can I waste such a precious gift-- this valuable time with my children? How many of us don't know our loved ones because we are too busy watching TV with them, instead of interacting and communicating with them? How much of us would only have a conversation with a loved one, if only we both wouldn't constantly be checking our text messages? How many of us are spending more time with angry birds than we are with our increasingly angry loved ones and family members? Its time that all of us-- yours truly especially included-- leave the phones upstairs, and start enjoying and experiencing the ones we love.
       If I can pass up on $700 at the expense of losing two hours with my family, doesn't it make sense that I should also be able to pass up on Facebook for a few lousy hours? We all cognitively know what's really important in life. Its about time we start living according to this basic understanding. Henry, For a MINIMUM of thirty minutes a day, commit to turn off your stupid cellphone. It will change all of our lives.
         My name is Danny Wolfe, and I approve this Message.

         Danny Wolfe


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

America's REAL Heros


Dear Henry,

       I worked at Jeff's Diner as a waiter for about 6 months when I was 16, and I can tell you, its hard being a waiter. Its darn hard. Its probably harder than being a paint salesmen, but its not as hard as being a youth director. But in any case, its hard. You might be asking, oh Henry, whats so hard about being a waiter? The answer is that when you are a waiter, you have to deal with hungry people, and when people are hungry, they aint so rationale. They just want to eat. And when I worked at Jeff's Diner, a kosher restaurant, people REALLY wanted to eat, because they were fellow Jews, who really enjoy eating. And many times, these people bring in their elderly parents and grandparents and great grandparents, which becomes very difficult, because if you put the tomato on the wrong part of the sandwich, grandma is not so happy with you, and she lets you know it. In short, working in a kosher restaurant is one of the hardest things to do, because not only are you dealing with hungry people, but you are dealing with well-meaning Jewish hungry people, who are often elderly.
       With that lengthy introduction, oh Henry, I want to tell you about my night tonight. I went to an assisted living home where the elderly go when they advance in age. We went for dinner, to eat with my wife's precious, sweet, lovely grandmother. Grandma, however, is a little bit forgetful. As the ladies were serving us, waiting on us, I was very impressed, because they were dealing with hungry, elderly and forgetful Jews. How did that manifest itself? Grandma asked the nice lady for a slice of onion. By the time the nice lady finished taking all of our third and fourth requests for more applesauce, another fork, more water, two cups of orange juice, another cup, and an extra straw, as she was walking away, not sixty seconds more than the first request-- grandma called her back, to request another slice of onion. With a smile on her face, and not the slightest bit of agitation, the woman readily agreed to get grandma more onion.
       This seems like a simple story, but I believe it teaches us two fundamental life lessons. The first life lesson, is a lesson clearly taught in the Torah, and that is that we should not judge anyone until we are in their shoes. For many middle-aged folks, it is annoying when their parents start forgetting things. However, before we get annoyed, we should think what it would be like to be in our parents' shoes, being so forgetful. What would it be like if I did not remember what I did five minutes ago? What would it be like if I was nervous I would forget my apartment number? What would it be like if I didn't know who came to see me today, or what my plans were, or what day it was? It would be terrifying.
Before being annoyed that our grandparents forgot our name, or who we are, or where we live, we ought to first put ourselves in their shoes. And we should also cherish our own minds and memories, and be grateful for our ability to remember and have a mind that works properly.
        But what I really wanted to do in this blogg post was to give proper props to the incredible individuals who work at these old-age homes.  In a world where we idolize athletes, fame, and wealth, these people who work with the elderly very well might go unnoticed. My jaw literally dropped, as I saw these individuals return to our table, each time taking orders from all of us and Grandma, and responding with more patience and love than the previous time. I remembered the saintly women who dealt with my own grandmother during her last days in this world. My grandmother was afflicted with a very serious form of Alzheimer's, and she totally had lost her mind.  Yet it became crystal clear to all of us, that the women who worked there deeply cared for, and loved her. These people's deep patience and love is something that we all need to strive for.
       Life Lesson number two here, is that we need to evaluate who our heros are. Why are they are heros? Should we idolize individuals because certain unique individuals-- like myself-- were blessed with incredible super-human athletic talent? Or should we look around, and identify and give proper props to those people who really act in a heroic manner?
      Lets stop trying to be football stars--and start trying to be waiters in old-age homes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My New Hero

Dear Henry,
      I am sorry it has been so long since we last spoke. I think its been a solid two months. I imagine when my thousands of devoted readers wake up every morning, the first thing they do is check their email, facebook, or twitter feeds, for news of my upcoming blogg post, and so to my dear readers, I also apologize.
      There is so much I want to write to you about, but for now, I want to tell you about an incredibly moving story that happened to me this morning. This morning, I woke up a little bit later than usual, which meant that I would go to the latest minyan (prayer service) in town, which started at 8:30 AM. Everything was going great, speaking with the Almighty, connecting to Him and getting close. Then, as I took off my phylacteries a sweet elderly man sitting across from me began to speak to me.
Him: "You think they have this late 8:30 again tomorrow?
Me: "I wish, tomorrow is only 7:50 :-( "
"What's your name?"
"My name is Danny aka the D Train Aka Da Da Da Da D UNIT."
"Where are you from?"
"Originally from Denver, now Albany. How about you?"
      At this point, this sweet man began telling me his life story. The short version is he is 90 years old, he survived the Holocaust, but his home and property were taken away, his brothers who were in the camps with him were murdered, as were his parents, and he has 12 grandchildren and several more great grandchildren. He then told me how every morning he goes to shul at Chabad (as they have the latest week-day minyan in town, 8:00 AM), and on Shabbos he goes to an earlier minyan close to his house (as despite being 90, he is walking to shul every week.)
     As I was speaking to him, I noticed the rest of the crowd had cleared out- the only people that remained were the ones who it took the longest to take off their phylacteries (tefillin)-- this ninety year old man, and the man next to him, who seemingly suffers from Parkinson's. At this juncture, I told myself to remember that while usually I am very good about attending minyan every morning, there are inevitably those mornings that I miss minyan once in a while. But, I asked myself, how can I allow myself to miss a minyan, when these two individuals come every single day? I, who thank G-d get around without any delays, who am blessed with youth and good health, how can I not come, when these special individuals come every day despite the enormous difficulty involved? And so I vowed to myself, (albeit not with taking an official vow) to try my hardest to ALWAYS come to shul in the morning, and to not allow even for that rare exception.
     But Henry, that aint even what I wanted to focus on during this lovely Sunday morning in July. What I wanted to dwell more on, was an incredibly powerful idea I heard from a Holy lady named Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, who herself survived the Holocaust. Just to put matters in perspective, I was once reading a story in her book, "A Committed Life" while waiting for my wife in Batteries Plus, and right there, in the middle of this store, I started bawling uncontrollably. I had the unique opportunity to hear her speak live at an Aish Conference once, and she concluded her tear-inducing speech with a very powerful blessing.  She told us, that she had heard from a Chassidic Master, who himself survived the Holocaust, that if someone lived through the hell of the Holocaust, and yet somehow managed to retain his or her faith and closeness to G-d, a blessing from that individual will come true, and be very very powerful. Rebbetzin Jungreis then blessed all nine hundred of us, listening intently in the audience, and very few eyes remained dry. I recalled this story this morning, as I was talking to my new hero. As we went into the hallway, I told him what this Rebbe had said, and how I have so much admiration for him, and it would mean a lot of he could give me a bracha. As tears welled up in both of our eyes, he gave me one of the most powerful blessings I have ever received.
     Tonight the Jewish people enter into a very difficult month- the month of Av. The Talmud teaches us, that when the month of Av comes in, we reduce our level of happiness, as it has been a month that has been brutal for the Jewish people, beginning from when our Holy Temples were destroyed.  Paradoxically, the name Av, also means father. Somehow, this month which has been so difficult for us, means "father." It is our job to somehow try to remember that everything comes from our Father-- both blessings, and difficulties. Sometimes my children ask me for things- but I know it is not really in their best interest- so sometimes I say no-- and they don't understand, nor are they happy about it.  We have to remember that although we don't always understand everything going on in our lives, our lives are not random- they are closely guided by a loving Father, who loves His children more intensely than any love we can fathom. In this massive, scary world, we must remember that we are never alone.
     The holy man I met today, who despite suffering tremendously, witnessing horrific events, still clings to his Father. We collectively as a people have suffered over the years enormously, and yet we are still here because we continue to cling to our Father. This month of Av, we should cling to our Father-- not because of terror, sadness, or fear, but out of incredible happiness. We should all merit to get closer to our Father, in our holy city of Jerusalem, celebrating at the Beis Hamikdash, may it be rebuilt speedily and soon.
     May the blessing this tzadik (righteous man)  gave to me this morning, come true for the entire Jewish People:
May Hashem bless us and Protect us.
May His face shine light upon us and may He bestow grace upon us.
May Hashem lift His Face upon us, and may He grant us peace.

Danny Wolfe

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Better Half

Dear Henry,
       I am very sorry that I left you in suspense last week. It's just that sometimes I get a little too verbose- heck I even get a little too wordy. So I had to stop. However, if you recall correctly, I had left off with Rav Yaakov Schorr shlita, who saved the day by properly installing a battery into my alarm- something that not I, nor 5 firemen, could figure out how to do.
    What I wanted to write about on this lovely afternoon in the month of May, was the feeling I had on Tuesday morning, the day my lovely wife was going to be coming back. I vividly remember (as it happened not even two weeks ago) feeling an excitement, that could only be compared to the excitement a schoolgirl feels right before her first day of school. I felt more jubilant than a college-aged Jewish American Princess prior to shopping at Century 21. I was more delighted than a frat boy delights over a Corona, and more pumped to see her than a meat head is pumped to drink an expensive protein shake after getting brolic in the gymnasium.
To put it simply-- I was darn excited.
        You see dear Henry, I was not expecting to miss her so intensely, as she was only out of town for three days. But the reality is, that I missed her much more than JR smith and Melo missed the hoop last night, when they fell to the Celtics in Game 5 in MSG. I Missed her more than Michael Bay missed the mark, when he made Pearl Harbor. I missed her more than that movie missed the mark- and that's an awful lot girl. Normally, after the children go to sleep every night, I work-- I take care of the office-work aspect of my job. Truth be told-- me and my wife don't even get to bond as much as we should-- she is doing things in the kitchen, listening to Torah lectures, and I am tending to the IPad and computer. When the work is done, I feel more tired than a chimpanzee feels after climbing a large tree in the Denver Zoo. But, Henry, even though we don't actively communicate as much as we should during these nights, we still very much feel each other's presence. Even if I am in another room, I know darn well she is running the house, from a room away, and this is an awesome feeling.
      However, those nights when she was away, once the kiddies were sleeping, I felt a profound sense of loneliness. Knowing she was one state away was very depressing, and lonely. Usually during the nights, as well as during the early mornings, I try to study the Lord's Good Book. I try to make it my priority that the last thing I do before taking a shluff is studying His Good Book, and before I go to synagogue at 6:40 AM every day, I arise at 5:20 AM so that I can start my day off on the right foot, Learning His Torah. Heck- starting the day off with a a heavy dosage of Torah, is like starting a race in Thailand two thousand and fifty meters ahead of the starting booth-- it provides a monumental boost. When my wife went away, I assumed this routine would continue. Interestingly, however, I simply sensed no motivation. I was too tired at night, and when my alarm started beeping at 5:20 AM, I couldn't get out of bed. Every other day of the year, it is not a problem-- but somehow, now, I wasn't able to get up early to learn. I experienced something very profound that the Kli Yakar, a commentator on the Torah teaches us from last week's Torah portion. The Kli Yakar writes that a Jewish woman is her husband's sustainer. If I bring home wheat, that is very nice, but who turns it into the delicious challah I eat every Shabbos? If I bring home wool, that is lovely-- but who spins it, and eventually turns it into the clothing on my back? On a deeper level, a man's wife turns him into a man-- she takes his raw materials-- and develops him into a better person, someone who can achieve his purpose and fulfill his mission. She inspires and helps give him meaning and a drive to succeed. As I once heard quoted from a movie I didn't see, she "makes him want to be a better man." I realized that every second I am around my wife, I am refueling my spiritual gas tank-- her mere presence gives me the very real feeling, that there is nothing in the world that I cannot accomplish.
       Therefore, it came as no surprise, that when my alarm started buzzing at 5:20 AM, the first morning after she returned, I jumped out of bed quicker than a fire truck zooms down Western Avenue on a Thursday night.
      My Better Half returned.

Danny Wolfe