Musings and Schmoozings



In honor of a dear friend Erez A. --a devotee to Judaism and…Golf.

It was the morning of Yom Kippur and Harold should have been in synagogue, but instead, he decided to catch a quick round of 18 at the local golf course. Standing at the Tee on 18th Hole, Harold takes a shot, and to his shock--he aces it. A hole-in-one!

The angels challenge G-d. “Is this justice? Why reward Harold with a miracle shot? He should have been in Shul on this Holy Day! He should be punished, not rewarded!

Then a heavenly voice rings out. “Indeed. And whom…can he tell?!”



A gentleman’s game of hitting tiny balls–only to chase after them and hit them again. When the ball finally reaches the hole–400 yards and several strokes later–the players line up and do it all over again.

All it takes to ruin a good round of golf is one misplaced shot. A few degrees off, and the ball rests not on the green–but hopelessly embedded in a sand-trap or in the rough. One bad shot, and one’s score card ‘is cooked’ for that round of golf.

And that is where the Mulligan comes into play.

As Wikipedia says succinctly: Mulligan: [Wikipedia] A stroke that is replayed from the spot… without penalty, due to an errant shot made on the previous stroke. The result is… as if the first errant shot had never been made.

Life is Like a Round of Golf

As we approach Rosh Hashana, we observe the errant shots that we have sprayed left and right, way off the fairway. Lying in the rough, sand-traps, and perhaps, even in the living-room of the unfortunate fellow who lives near the golf course–our errant ‘shots of life’ are way off-course.

In life, as on the Golf course, we are given the opportunity for a ‘do-over’. Like our genteel company on the course, G-d will graciously afford you a chance to fix your mistake “as if the first errant shot had never been made.” But you need to ask.

Tshvua --our Mulligan

Our Mulligan is the gift of Tshuva, repentance. As we say throughout the Liturgy on Rosh Hashana, G-d doesn’t desire the punishment of the wicked “But the returning of the wayward”.

As we take stock and prepare for the coming Rosh Hashana, don’t give up hope. Pick your ball up from wherever is landed. Put it back on the Tee, and start again fresh.

G-d, I’m asking for a Mulligan.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yisroel Hecht

Mozhish Da. Nye' Chotshish!

The News N’ Schmooze is just over a year old now.

For the past 52+ weeks, I’ve sat down at my computer, pondering --“What can I write about this week?” Invariably, something will come to mind. Either something in the the news or something that I observed -- framed by a Torah inspired lesson. 

To be honest, this week I’m struggling with what to write. I guess I could regale you with the still unfolding story of my box of 100 uncut shofars mysteriously sucked into oblivion, presumably littering some UPS warehouse in Oakland. But in truth – I have nothing POSITIVE to share about that story.

(Although, if the lesson is patience...I'm failing miserably) 


The Birthday of the Baal Shem Tov 

This Shabbat, the 18 of Elul, marks the Birthday of the Baal Shem Tov (as well as the Birthday of the Alter Rebbe, the First Rebbe of Chabad).

An early 18th century scholar and mystic, Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem was known for founding of the Chassidic movement. He restored Love of Fellow Man and Love of G-d to the cold, elitist, Jewish establishment that he encountered. He imparted warmth and life in Judaism. In addition, he restored the values of sincerity and emotional engagement to Jewish life.

One of the more famous sayings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, is that everything that one observes in life, must be used as a lesson in one's service of G-d. See something? LEARN something!

An example of this credo, is found is the famous story told about the Baal Shem Tov: He was once in the synagogue giving a class, and a gentile coachman knocked on the door. Covered in mud, the coachman was seeking someone to help out with a broken wheel on the fellow's wagon. The Baal Shem Tov, in the middle of his Torah lecture, deferred and said in Ukranian, “Nye Mozhish—I can’t”

The frustrated coachman’s bitter reply startled the assembled crowd, "Mozhish Da. Nye’ Chotchish!"

You can--but you don’t want to!

The Baal Shem Tov turned to his students, and true to his motto – he explained the lesson to be learned by the coachman's retort. How many times do we protest that we are unable to do something? How many times do we defer responsibility and avoid our divine service with the cry of Nye Mozhish? It’s Impossible! The  Baal Shem Tov said that we must always remember – We CAN, but we don’t want to.


In light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching to look towards life for guidance and inspiration, in the weekly 'News and Schmooze', I try to look for the lessons behind the banality of life.   

So what lesson can I learn from my UPS fiasco? I’m still working on it, and still don't know... 

However… it’s gotten me thinking.

Shabbat Shalom,

Confessions of a Failed Gardener

I confess -- I am a failed gardener. I admit it. 

In my past, I was fixated on creating a lush green vegetable garden overflowing with G-d’s bounty. I yearned to feel that special feeling of contentment, eating 'by the sweat of my brow'.  

But there was only one problem…DSC02701.JPG

Year after year, the aphids got my zucchini plants, disease got to my tomato plants, and fungi never quite allowed the melons to do anything other than disappoint. My wife kept reminding me that the stuff tasted better at the store – and I had to admit (secretly) that she was right!

But this only helped fuel my obsession to make next year’s garden successful. This will be the year of the ‘Vegetable Garden Messiah’. It was only because of my son Shmuli’s Bar Mitzva this past spring, that our family was spared the vegetable garden drama this year.

Alas – last week, I hit rock bottom. 

You know that pile of broken furniture that you hide from your visitors’ and guests’ view --while you are waiting for the extra garbage pick-up day? Oh, it’s only me?

Anyhow, this past Thursday, my son Shlomo excitedly announced that he found growing under THAT pile, a HEALTHY and LUSH ‘Tomato Plant’! Without my tender love and care and without being obsessively watered and tended to—a lush HEALTHY tomato plant had mysteriously erupted beneath the broken benches and random wooden backyard stuff.

And then it hit me. Hashem had managed to provide a healthly plant, where my best efforts for an impressive garden fell woefully short.

Perhaps there is a three-fold message here:

First of all -- never take out the garbage (Miriam--Just kidding!)

Secondly -- We need to know that despite our best efforts, it is Hashem that makes us successful. Even in our successful life-endeavors, give it up to the true Maestro, who coordinates the musical movements of life.

And lastly, in the mounds of the broken aspects of our lives--the past mistakes that we regret--Hashem can make lush garden patches grow forth. That is, so long as we allow Him to.

A little humble pie will certainly help this failed gardener…until next Spring!

Shabbat Shalom,

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