Holiday Season: Small Acts, Big Difference

Here’s a small experiment for this year’s holiday season, and your invitation to join if you like:

Between now and the end of the year (2014) consider doing something special — something that you haven’t done before — to make a difference in the lives of others. Then post a 1 – 3 sentence story about it, below. (And if you have more than one story, you can post more than once!)

Then, let’s check back from time to time, and at the end of the year, and see what happens! 🙂
Thanks for all you do.

— Aryae

Rescuing Children from Forced Labor

From KarmaTube:

Stand With Sanju: Unraveling the Truth About Child Rug Labor
Where do those beautiful rugs you see in stores come from? Let Sanju explain their origin in her own voice. When Sanju was eleven years old, a broker took her from her home and forced Sanju into child labor. She had to weave knots daily from four in the morning until eight at night. Hungry and tired, Sanju watched as her cut hands become knobby from continuous knot-weaving, and wondered: was this what her life would always be? Two years ago, GoodWeave rescued Sanju. GoodWeave, a nonprofit organization that aims to end child labor in the rug industry, works tirelessly to free and educate hundreds of thousands of enslaved children. To stop child trafficking, GoodWeave encourages buyers to only purchase rugs with the GoodWeave label. Reunited with her parents, Sanju now goes to school, thanks to GoodWeave and people like you.

KarmaTube is dedicated to bringing inspirational stories to light, using the power of video and the Internet to multiply acts of kindness, beauty, and generosity.

From Israel’s 1st Chief Rabbi: A Call to Peace

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The State of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi: HaRav Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook.

Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein is one of his leading students today. Here is an excerpt from the current post on his blog, Ha’Orot: The Lights of Rav Kook:

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Rabbi David Cohen TZ’L, Rav Kook’s main student, wrote these words in a letter to the Yeshiva students in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 War of Independence. Sixty six years later these words continue to ring true as Israel is in the midst of another battle in this long war:

“War is a crime of mass murder. All the building that living nations are engaged in, their power and essence, is rooted in war. There is no generation that has not had small or large wars. And when a war ends they immediately begin preparations for the next one.…

“How can a human being be content with the level of personal and general ethics at the time when he and the whole world is being led towards slaughter?

“No, do not, do not murder – this needs to be an absolute decision, an absolute imperative!…

“War is the great plague of humankind in our generation and in all generations….

“Every nation has ministers of war, armies and supplies of weapons. Even worse than this is that war is accompanied by hatred. It needs it in order to grow and strengthen. People are taught and reminded to hate, to hate the enemy, ‘remember what Amalek did to you!’ (Deuteronomy, 25:17) …

“The call has to go out to the nations … to AWAKEN THE PEACE MOVEMENT in absolute opposition to mass murder, to war.

“The leaders of the nations, their ministers, advisors and parliaments must legislate that the law ‘Do not murder” includes the prohibition of the mass murder of war. They must forbid war, not declare it…

“Each human being, each writer and thinker is commanded: “Do not stand idly by as your neighbour’s blood [is being spilled]” (Leviticus 19:16)….

“No! ‘Do Not Murder’ (Exodus 20:13/Deuteronomy 5:17), do not go out to war, to commit mass murder, “nation shall not lift sword against any other nation and they will no longer learn war”. (Isaiah 2:)”

[And as his teacher Rav Kook wrote 50 years earlier:]

“The harmonic call…the voice of peace is much greater than the voices of war that is heard from all the places of emptiness.

“Among all the calls of the world, the supernal call, the call that unites, raises and equalizes goes forth and penetrates. From the fullness of life this call goes forth to each creature, to each spirit and soul, to the inside of each being, to each individual, to each group, to each nation….

“Inside the unifying souls, who are drenched in the dew of life of the harmonic call, is burning a holy fire thirsty for peace. They are the angels of peace in the world.”

Although Rav Kook and his student HaRav HaNazir are no longer with us here, their teachings and prayers are. I believe that they are a wake-up call to the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, and to all the word’s peoples today: awaken the peace movement, the angels of peace in the world.

See Rabbi Itzchak’s complete blog post at Ha’Orot: The Lights of Rav Kook.

Remembering Reb Zalman

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In case you are not in the loop on this, I’m posting the sad news that Reb Zalman passed away last Thursday, July 3. He was age 89, as month away from a big 90th birthday celebration, planned to take place in Boulder in August. He passed peacefully, with his loving wife Eve by his side, and surrounded by his children and their families who had flown in.

Sorry I wasn’t able to post this sooner. I’ve been away on retreat with only limited Internet time. I’ll say more later, as soon as I can. For now, here’s a good obituary posted on JTA.

A Music Teacher Who Changes Lives

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On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders….

Tobi Lakes, a tall, wire-thin teen with thick glasses sits at an electric piano. He taught himself to play.

“I’m very good. I like the piano. I like the keyboard. Keyboard is the best. Number one!” Tobi says with a wide smile. On his school-issued tablet computer, using a music app called Thumb Jam, Tobi also loves his iPad “guitar.”

As rehearsal heats up Tobi takes the lead on rock guitarist Jeff Beck’s version of Puccini’s “Nesun Dorma.” Tobi Lakes, iPad guitar shredder, is learning disabled. He’s autistic. And he’s also blind in one eye.

Adam Goldberg, the creator of the PS 177 band, gets the music started.

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“The first note of the second line please,” he tells them. “In blue. There ya go. That’s the pizzicato.”

The 53 year old teacher is a classically trained pianist with a degree from the Manhattan School of Music. About 20 years ago he began substitute-teaching here while playing freelance jazz and rock gigs. He was soon offered a job at PS 177, and he’s been at the school ever since.

Listen to or read the complete story:
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