Category Archives: Americana

The Mitzvah of Voting

On the way to work this morning, we voted.  To me, voting is a privilege, responsibility, and a mitzvah.  The act of voting connects us directly with our local, state and national society because we are participating.  We say to ourselves and our neighbors that whether we like our choices, we take part.

Far too many people were unable to take part in the past.  Women, minorities, and ex-cons are among the people whose voices have been silenced.  Some are trying to silence voices this year, in 2012.  I believe that we owe it to our personal and communal ancestors to vote, because too many of them were unable to do so.  Can you imagine a conversation with a great (or great great) grandmother and telling her “sorry, I don’t want to vote because of X, Y, or Z?” She herself may have been of voting age in the early 1900s, but she was not allowed to do so as a woman.

Voting is a mitzvah, an obligation/commandment when we study the Talmudic text “din d’ malchuta dina” (the law of the land is the law) found in tractate Nedarim 28a.  This principle, found a number of times in rabbinic text, helps us know that Jews must follow the local law in all cases except where doing so directly contradicts halachah (Jewish law).  While voting is not required in America, it is an important part of participating in the law of the land.

I hope that voting fills you with pride and hope for the future.


We had been waiting for days and weeks…a teacher in space.  Nearly our teacher in space.  The physics teacher in my high school was the runner-up for teacher in space from our state.  A great educator, coach (he coached our Science Olympiad team) and passionate advocate for science, we were disappointed that he didn’t get the honor of being the first teacher in space.  Sad and disappointed until launch day…then we were relieved.

January 28, 1986, the day of the launch of the Shuttle Challenger our school was abuzz.  Teachers did all they could to contain us and keep us focused on the task at hand.   The school did not have enough tv carts for tvs in each classroom, so the sciences classrooms got them first.  I had a writing class at the time of the launch and that week we were doing research in the library.  We were asked to stick to our tasks and watch the launch in the lunchroom or later in one of the classrooms that had tvs.  Thus, I was trying (unsuccessfully) to immerse myself into research as the shuttle lifted off.  Suddenly a student walked into the library shouting “it exploded, it exploded.” Everyone in the library immediately tried to get to a classroom with a tv.  The librarian took pity on us and let us watch the coverage on a small personal tv she had in her office.  We couldn’t believe our eyes.  We stood there watching the constant replays, listening to the commentators and were stunned.

There has been much written about the accident, the political pressures to launch that day, the weather and the shuttle crew.  Many people shared their reflections on blogs and facebook pages.  Here are just a few sites as we remember the brave men and women who gave their lives for exploration, scientific discovery, human understand and for the future.  May their memories be a blessing and an inspiration.

NASA on the Challenger Disaster

PBS facebook posting and comments with people’s remembrances of that day.

Information on astronaut Judith Resnik, first Jew and second woman in space (from JWAOnline)