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Israel Observations 

“The inherent qualities the Palmach sought to in still in each recruit were starting to take shape – stamina, stoic outlook, tolerance of pain, selflessness, courage, humility, and a soldier’s honour as opposed to a fool’s pride.” -HaPalmach: The Fighters Who Gave Us Israel

Torah Parsha (Portion) Matot-Massei in a Nutshell from

Moses conveys the laws governing the annulment of vows to the heads of the tribes of Israel. War is waged against Midian for their role in plotting the moral destruction of Israel, and the Torah gives a detailed account of the war spoils and how they were allocated amongst the people, the warriors, the Levites and the high priest. 

The tribes of Reuben and Gad (later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh) ask for the lands east of the Jordan as their portion in the Promised Land, these being prime pastureland for their cattle. Moses is initially angered by the request, but subsequently agrees on the condition that they first join, and lead, in Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

The forty-two journeys and encampments of Israel are listed, from the Exodus to their encampment on the plains of Moab across the river from the land of Canaan. The boundaries of the Promised Land are given, and cities of refuge are designated as havens and places of exile for inadvertent murderers. The daughters of Tzelafchad marry within their own tribe of Manasseh, so that the estate which they inherit from their father should not pass to the province of another tribe.

Well, I hope I am not going to bore you, but for my Blog, I am going to share some of my observations from my recent trip to Israel. Some of brief quirky points and others may be more detailed.

I know it is not always possible, but it is truly special to share a family Simcha (Jews often use Simcha in its capacity as a Hebrew and Yiddish noun meaning festive occasion) with family. With all the crap in the world, sharing good times and being together is so important.

Noticed a new fashion trend, so many men wear shoes and no socks, even with suits. Yip… Often their pants are rolled up, maybe to show a bit of skin…

I was surprised at how many people smoke in Israel. I just say why???

Sitting on the beach, it struck me, not that I could not swim due to an abundance of jellyfish and the purple jellyfish flags, but that most people on the beach were Jewish. People who had originated from all parts of the world and all with such different backgrounds have come together to make a new home.

Besides some of the drivers, I honestly felt totally safe always. Walking around on Shabbos was such a treat seeing so many people out and about and feeling the spirit of Shabbos.

IMG_4556Israel has been shaped by the legacy of various people and ‘organisations’ (for want of a better word). It was a privilege to go to museums honouring their legacies. One of our trip highlights was visiting the Palmach Museum[i] in Tel Aviv. What stood out for me was the values of the Palmach. These values are not only applicable to the Palmach, but to us all:

  • Dedication
  • Friendships
  • Sacrifice

IMG_4662The other was a visit to the Menachem Begin[ii] heritage centre in Jerusalem. Begin epitomises what a leader should be, with a focus on what his job was and not on his own gains. Begin never strayed from his core values and principals throughout his years in politics. His core values as a leader were based on a human being’s basic needs and what he learnt from Ze’ev Jabotinsky[iii] before coming to Israel. These being:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Health
  • Education

Peace is the beauty of life, the sunshine, a child’s smile, a mother’s love, a father’s love…. all these things and more, and more” – Begin

This is slightly off the topic, but I thought I would share as I thought about it on a walk-in Ashdod. I have always been a fan of Lance Armstrong. Recently he started a Podcast called the Forward Podcast. I think the basis of the name is that in life you must move forward and he is trying to do this by doing a podcast. Israel epitomises the spirit of moving forward. Just look at the development going on… To date, he has not wanted to talk much about cycling in his Podcast and has focussed on his guests. In the book, “Peak Performance” that I have previously mentioned, the authors talk about how by giving back you can renew your interest/ avoid burnout in a sport or interest in art. They give some examples. I am sure that by doing his Podcast, Lance has reinvigorated his love for cycle racing and has started a daily TDF podcast called Stages, with insights and tips, which I have really enjoyed. Another athlete who did the same was the swimmer Anthony Ervin


who tied for Gold in the 2000 Olympics, he then went off the rails only to renew his interest after giving swim lessons to young kids and then went onto win a Gold at the Rio Olympics, 16 years after Sydney. Why I am mentioning Anthony is that he is in Israel for the Maccabi Games, I noticed a picture of him with one of my swimming buddies, Debbie Hilton Silver, who is also competing and set her own PB’s to get a few medals, and his autobiography ‘Chasing Water[iv]‘ which is brilliant.

Back to Lance. He describes that bike racing is a few things. I loved his analogy:

  • Running a marathon
  • Playing a game of chess
  • Driving a NASCAR (I suppose a bit of bumper bashing?)
  • Running for president

Back to Lance again. When asked several years ago, why I was a fan of Lance (I was trying to get him to come speak in Australia at a school function, before the doping scandal). I mentioned that his values tied in with the values of the school. These being:

  • Love of the land – our Love for Israel Yahadut (Judaism) and Tziyonut (Zionism), and his for Austin Texas. Lance recently visited Israel and has not stopped raving about his trip.
  • Charity and kindness – he started, the Livestrong[v] Foundation, one of the biggest IMG_4796 2cancer research charities ever set up. In Israel, I am constantly amazed by how much has been given to Israel from Diaspora Jews and what Israelis do to help each other, even in the poorest of poor areas.
  • Life-long, independent learners who pursue excellence and strive to achieve their potential – reading Lance’s books and Johann Bruyneel’s book you could see how much work and training went into being a champion. (I think that even with the use of drugs, he did up the ante on training and race preparation) People often said that Jan Ulrich was the most talented cyclist of the time, but he did not get the same results (and was also caught for doping offences). Just walking around in Israel, I am constantly amazed at how much has been achieved in Israel in its 60 years as an independent state. How the founding Zionists built such a strong and vibrant ‘first-ish‘ world country. Us as individuals need to strive to learn more about, Israel, our religion and much more to grow.

Both Loren’s sister and a friend mentioned that with all the arguing, bickering, bureaucracy and Israel’s constant threats, things do get done. She said that she felt that they get value for their rates and taxes with a well-maintained city and great facilities for young and old.

How can I not mention the food? There is nothing like an Israeli breakfast. Not to mention everything else I had to try, including some very good #LovecraftBeer.

I am currently reading Nike founder, Phil Knight’s autobiography. “Shoe Dog”. I loved this extract regarding Phil’s 1st employee’s views on running “…. Johnson believed that runners are G-d’s chosen, that running, done right, in the correct spirit and with the proper form, is a mystical exercise, no less than meditation or prayer, and thus he felt called to help runners reach their nirvana….”

On the topic of hard work and dedication, I would like to mention one of my running buddies, Len Bryer who won an age group gold in the Maccabi half marathon inIMG_4734 Jerusalem. I have watched how methodical Len has been in his training and how hard he has trained over the last year to achieve this in very tough conditions. The race was run at night to avoid the heat, but I am sure it was over 30 when they started, the course was hilly and very slippery running on the cobbles through the old city. Besides Len’s training he was the Maccabi track and field manager, so he also had to worry about the rest of his team. Also, well done to Daniel Bierenkrant on his brilliant time.

Another Quote from Phil Knight “inspiration, he learned, can come from quotidian[vi] things. Things you might eat. Or find lying around the house

I come to Jerusalem. There, the sky is blue and memory becomes clear.” –  Menachem Begin

A high point for me of a trip to Jerusalem is visiting the Kotel. I especially like to go and Daven there and often took a morning walk (or jog) to Daven there. On the way, back to my hotel, I noticed an oldish Haredi man walking fast. Not wanting to be outdone I caught up to him and made a nice friendly comment. We got into a conversation that was very special. He gave me hope and encouragement with his ‘Chizuk’, smile and sincerity. He asked personal questions and glowed with discussing my responses. It was an experience with lessons that will not be forgotten. The next day I bumped into him again. It is these “Israel” experiences that are so inspiring, but so hard to describe.

IMG_4813Watching the light show at the Jaffa Gate and on walls of the old city, depicting the celebrations of Israel regaining control of Jerusalem 50 years ago, I said to Loren with pride, “what would Jerusalem look like if this had not occurred…” 


Loren and I hummed and hard about going to Yad Vashem, but decided a short visit was important. I said that I wanted to see the train carriage display in the beautiful Jerusalem forest on Mt Herzl. The carriage is in mid-air with a railway track that ends… I think that this epitomises us Jews, who at times have had no way forward and nowhere to go, but have somehow found a way through persecution and hardship to move forward and build a thriving country. A country that we can be proud to call our HOME.









[vi] Quotidian – means ordinary or very common.




Torah Portion Balak in a nutshell from

Balak, the king of Moab, summons the prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel. On the way, Balaam is berated by his donkey, who sees, before Balaam does, the angel that G‑d sends to block their way. Three times, from three different vantage points, Balaam attempts to pronounce his curses; each time, blessings issue forth instead. Balaam also prophesies on the end of the days and the coming of Moshiach.

The people fall prey to the charms of the daughters of Moab, and are enticed to worship the idol Peor. When a high-ranking Israelite official publicly takes a Midianite princess into a tent, Pinchas kills them both, stopping the plague raging among the people.

Watching the Netflix program “You Me Her” about a polyamorous relationship and listening to Sharon Salzberg on the Rich Roll Podcast talking about “Love”, I was thinking how does a threesome and love fit together? I am no Esther Perel,[1] so instead of trying to answer the question, I will talk about the number 3, giving examples of things in 3. I will keep it simple, just giving examples and food for thought.

Sharon’s new book “Real Love” is broken into 3 sections:

  • Love for oneself – (not in a conceited way, but as she says for your ‘Inner sufficiency’, and self-compassion to pick ourselves up and have resilience,
  • Love for others, and
  • Love for all.

Three signifies completeness and stability, as represented by the three Patriarchs and the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot (I Kings 17:21; Daniel 6:10)[2].

An interesting concept of what the future may look like, from an interview with the MD of Daimler Benz (Mercedes Benz). He said that their competitors are no longer other car companies but Tesla (obvious), Google, Apple, Amazon ‘et al’ are……  he goes on to say “There have always been the 3 constants …    Death, Taxes and CHANGE!”. I am happy to share this interview. The message is that we are going to have to change…

Last week I went to a brilliant lecture on Elie Wiesel by Rabbi Kennard. Rabbi Kennard was superb and I wish I could have taken notes or recorded it. Instead of talking about Elie’s life he spoke of lessons we can learn from his legacy. The 3 lessons and their meanings are:

  • To Act – take action; do something.
  • To Ask
    • say something in order to obtain an answer or some information.
    • say to (someone) that one wants them to do or give something.
  • To Learn – gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught

In an article[3] by LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner titled “The Three Qualities of People I Most Enjoy Working With” he lists the following characteristics:

  • dream big,
  • get sh*t done, and
  • know how to have fun.

Triathlon coach Chris Hauth talks about the Pillars of a 3-Legged stool to achieving excellence and how all 3 are needed to avoid “falling”. He says that type of excellence is going to bring us

  • greater health,
  • peace of mind and
  • happiness, and, obviously, evolve our character.

The right balance in all aspects of our lives are needed to achieve Peak Performance. He says that these fundamental 3 pillars are:

  • Athletics,
  • Professional &
  • the personnel leg.

He mentions 3’s for other aspects of health and wellbeing, these 3’s are all under our control, meaning that we decide to do them, we learn techniques to do them, and we do them, and then we benefit from them. These include:

  • sleep/recovery,
  • nutrition, and
  • integrated training. He says, “There is no “hack” for integrated training.”

Chris often talks about race preparation. He lists 3 aspects of being ready to race:

  • fit,
  • healthy, and
  • motivated.

In the Tim Ferris Podcast[4] with investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffmann titled – “10 Commandments for Start-up Success.” In the Podcast, they talk about the 3 ‘parts’ of Grit. These are needed to scale a start-up businesses. Reid emphasises that we must stick to this, knowing the road ahead is going to be hard. These parts are:

  • 1 part determination;
  • 1 part ingenuity; and
  • 1 part laziness – Yip! ie as he said to conserve your energy and use as a precious commodity

In an article by Rabbi Mirvis on Parsha Korach, he says that ‘great people’ are those who:

  • live selflessly for the sake of others,
  • enriching our society, and
  • are pious.

He then goes on to says to be great means:

  • being a mensch,
  • being there for the sake of others, and
  • being humble whether the world knows about you.

This kind of individual is Takeh (really a Mensch). He/she contributes and leaves a Positive Emotional Footprint:

  • on all whom he/she “touches,”
  • on his communities;
  • and on this world.

Ps – The definition of a mensch[5] is a person who is

  • decent,
  • honest and
  • upstanding.

In this week’s Parsha Bilam tries 3 times unsuccessfully to curse the Jewish people.

The message of this Torah portion is the reminder that no matter how many times in history people plotted the destruction of the Jewish people, G-d stood by our sides, and frustrated their plans. When we remain a unified nation, all working toward a common goal, but retaining individuality, and holiness, we know that no nation, no magic, no curses can harm us.

Rich Roll in his Podcast[6] with Sharon Salzberg, talks about three essential life skills and how meditation can help us master them by training our attention.

  • compassion,
  • mindfulness, &
  • concentration.

I am currently reading a book Peak Performance by Brad Sulberg and Steve Magness titled “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.” I bought the book as I heard them on a podcast and I am navigating this OTS. The theme of their book is their formula STRESS + REST = GROWTH. The book does not only look at sports, but also looks at the arts and business. From an intellectual and creative performer perspective, they noted a not to dissimilar process to how sportsman periodise their training. The 3-step process is:

  • immersion – total engagement in their work with focus,
  • Incubation – Rest and Recovery, and
  • Insight – the “aha” moment and the emergence of new ideas and growth in their thinking.

Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences” – Eckhart Tolle




[1] (In a cover story, The New York Times called her the most important game changer in sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth.)





[5]


Don’t’ forget your veggies…

A Diet shouldn’t be a short-term solution, rather an evolution into a better way of living” – Shona Vertue

Torah Parsha (Portion) Chukat in a nutshell from

Moses is taught the laws of the red heifer, whose ashes purify a person who has been contaminated by contact with a dead body. 

After forty years of journeying through the desert, the people of Israel arrive in the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies, and the people thirst for water. G‑d tells Moses to speak to a rock and command it to give water. Moses gets angry at the rebellious Israelites and strikes the stone. Water issues forth, but Moses is told by G‑d that neither he nor Aaron will enter the Promised Land. 

Aaron dies at Hor Hahar and is succeeded in the high priesthood by his son Elazar. Venomous snakes attack the Israelite camp after yet another eruption of discontent in which the people “speak against G‑d and Moses”; G‑d tells Moses to place a brass serpent upon a high pole, and all who will gaze heavenward will be healed. The people sing a song in honour of the miraculous well that provided them water in the desert.

Moses leads the people in battles against the Emorite kings Sichon and Og (who seek to prevent Israel’s passage through their territory) and conquers their lands, which lie east of the Jordan.

Several years ago, I was working with a Biotech company who was doing research on Diabetes (I am assuming Type 2 Diabetes). As part of their Research, they had selected a sample of ‘closed communities’ from around the world to see what the impact of a change of diet has had on these communities. As I recall this change in diet from a traditional to a “Standard American or Western Diet” resulted in an increase in obesity and I am sure an increase in Diabetes.

Recently I was reading an article[1] about the Essendon FC player Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. Anthony was born and raised on the Tiwi Islands, off the coast of Darwin, into an Indigenous Australian family. He played his junior football for the Tiwi Bombers in the Northern Territory Football League before moving to Victoria at the age of 17 to better his chances of an AFL career. Anthony’s adopted mother helped him with life and footy. She said that diet is a big focus. His adopted mother said Anthony “bulked up” when he arrived in Gippsland, unused to the type of food he was eating, and the quantity. She said that he doesn’t eat bread and has pasta only once a week – (the night before a game) – and she is in regular contact to ensure he gets the sustenance that suits his metabolism.

In an interesting Talmud Tip from the Daf Yomi Cycle[2] from Bava Batra 146a titled “A Steady Diet”. The Gemara says:

Shmuel said: “A sharp change in one’s eating pattern (All week long he eats dry bread, and on the festive days he eats meat — Rashbam) is the beginning of digestive problems.”

The great Talmudic Sage and medical doctor named Shmuel explains that the verse is teaching that “a sharp change in one’s eating pattern is the beginning of digestive problems.”  therefore, even those days of “good food” are also “bad” in a sense for a poor person who is not accustomed to such feasts. He should keep in mind that a “yo-yo” change in his eating pattern is a detrimental health factor.

A quote from Dietician Susie Burrell confirms what I have said above – “… Most extreme dietary changes, especially if they involve cutting out food groups, will have consequences.”

In the last few days I have listened to a few Podcast and watched a few documentaries, and the theme has “yes” been on diet and various diets.

The points I have raised above were re-iterated in a Podcast with Dr Neal Barnard when he explained the increase in heart disease and diabetes in Japan and China with a change in Diet. The actual focus of the Podcast was on – Why we should ditch dairy? “Some foods are fattening. Others are addictive. Cheese is both…Loaded with calories, high in sodium, packing more cholesterol than steak, and sprinkled with hormones — if cheese were any worse, it would be Vaseline.” NEAL BARNARD, M.D.

If you are interested, I have listed interesting content from the last few weeks:

  1. Newspaper Article – “Vegetarian diet twice as effective for weight loss, new research shows” – The Age 18 June 17[3]
  2. The Documentary What the Health on NETFLIX[4]
  3. Rich Roll Podcast with Dr Neal Barnard MD[5] that I mentioned above
  4. MBG Podcast with Amanda Chantal Bacon, Founder of Moon Juice, On Adaptogens, Embracing The Haters + Surrendering To The Universe[6]
  5. MBG Podcast with Melissa Hartwig, Founder of Whole30 (The Whole30 is a 30-day diet that emphasises whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets.), On Addiction & How Hitting Rock Bottom Inspired an International Health Movement[7]
  6. MBG[8] and Rich Roll[9] Podcasts with John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, On Food Co-ops, Meditation, And How to Turn Setbacks into Success and John Mackey on Conscious Capitalism, building an empire & the Power of Plants to Heal and Thrive (Before the Amazon takeover offer!)
  7. I also read an article[10] on Shona Vertue and her Vertue Method, titled “The Aussie who whipped David Beckham into shape” in The Herald Sun, Stellar Magazine (so I had to buy the book). Vertue grew convinced that the key to “overall health was flexibility and strength”. On diet, she says – “For the Vertue Method, she worked with a dietitian to ensure science backed up her nutrition plans, which might come as a pleasant surprise in this dietary era of extremes. Sugar, gluten, carbs, caffeine — none of it is off limits as far as Vertue is concerned. She simply preaches moderation.” (Others like Michelle Hartwig’s ex, Dallas Hartwig, say “Relying on willpower alone to somehow eat fewer of those less healthy foods is a battle you are destined to lose… which makes “everything in moderation” a poor long-term strategy.”)
  8. MBG Podcast[11] with Lauren Handel Zander[12] on Becoming a Life Coach, The Importance of Girl Gangs, And How to Never Be Bored Again (Seriously). Not a Podcast on diet, but she does speak about diet and I really enjoyed it. Lauren says that Unlike therapists who might offer a sympathetic ear when you say you’ve had a bad day and cheated on your diet, or who may encourage you to think of yourself as a woeful victim, Lauren and her coaches will hold you accountable. If you’ve done something wrong, expect to pay with a consequence your coach and you agree on. “Once you take responsibility you become powerful, and you take control of the situation.”
  9. MBG Podcast with Hill Harper, Actor, Author & Philanthropist, On Battling Cancer—And Beating Barack Obama In Basketball[13] – In the podcast, he talks about “Freshen up your diet” and says – “… Money is meaningless without health. I realised that true wealth is a balance of physical wealth, emotional wealth, financial wealth and spiritual wealth…”
  10. An interesting article[14]THE DIRT ON CLEAN EATING” it says – “There’s no scientific definition of ‘clean eating’, but it seems to be based on healthy choices – eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables; reduce salt, sugar and alcohol; and eliminate processed foods. The crux of clean eating is to consume food the way nature delivered it, or as close to this as possi

One of the interesting things listening to these Podcasts was how so many people have turned their lives around, people like Rich Roll (from Overweight alcoholic to one of the fittest people on the Planet and author of The Plant Power Way), Amanda Chantal Bacon (from LSD user to Moon Juice founder) and Melissa Hartwig (from Drug addict to founder of the Whole30 diet and being the super-fit poster child for the lifestyle). I think they all had to hit rock bottom before making a change. But WHY did they have to hit rock bottom first? There is a life lesson from this week’s Parsha.

In this week’s Parsha, Chukat we read about the red heifer (a cow that has not borne a calf). I read a beautiful piece[15] on the website titled “The Real Seed of Greatness” – In the article, it explains how the law of the red heifer is considered to be a paradox. G-d said that anyone who’s involved in the preparation of producing the ashes from the red cow – whether he is the one who slaughters it, burns it, or collects its ashes – becomes spiritually contaminated. However, the ashes themselves can then be used to purify someone. The article says “We all engage in some sort of behaviour that we want to change. Whether it’s our unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, unproductive thoughts, destructive actions, or poor character traits – there are things we all do that we truly wish we didn’t. 

And we’ve all reached the point at some moment in our lives when one of these things gets out of hand. We just get fed up with what we’re doing, a mental line gets crossed, and we know a serious change must take place. A newfound desire to take action occurs because we see clearly that this behaviour is preventing us from living a happy life. Before the change, we first hit rock bottom in this specific area, and experienced a sense of “impurity“.” Therefore, it’s the negative behaviour itself that causes you to change. The article concludes “The ashes of the red cow are impure – just like our poor choices are. But when the discontent or outright disgust of our past behaviour becomes the strong impetus to finally take serious action, this negative behaviour now becomes the pathway for a purification of your soul…… By doing this, you will have elevated your past impure actions into one of purity.

My philosophy is that life is all about learning and growing, and that life can be a real adventure of learning, growing, compassion, and joyfulness.” – JOHN MACKEY

It has been interesting to see all these different ideas and how changes to your diet can have such a detrimental effect on you, but why do people have to hit rock-bottom before making a change. We can all learn and hopefully, our diets evolve….

I still say the overriding factor is that IF YOU CONSIDER WHAT YOU EAT, YOU WILL ALWAYS LOSE WEIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT DIET YOU ON. AND Remember to JERF (Just Eat Real Foods). Or as John Mackey says “The most important stuff is the simplest stuff. Just eat more whole plant foods – It’s not that complicated”. This point is reiterated by Sami Bloom[16] in a recent Instagram Post[17]

VEGGIES – the one thing that all diets – vegan, raw, paleo, Keto, Atkins, Mediterranean – can all agree on Base a large portion of your diet on vegetables, and I mean a large part (not a measly side) and you can’t go wrong. So slice ’em, dice ’em, roast, stir-fry, steam, blend, puree or mash them- just get them in!














[12] Lauren Handel Zander is a life coach, university lecturer, and public speaker.




[16] Sami, a clinical nutritionist, holistic health coach and yoga instructor based in Sydney, Australia. My own health complications prompted me to make positive life changes, revitalising my health and leading to a drastic career change to Nutritional Medicine. I believe in nourishing your life in all aspects, mind body and soul, to achieve and maintain optimal and vibrant health. I hope to guide you on your own journey by sharing my knowledge, education, experience and recipes in this holistic wellness space.


Busyness… is an illness.

To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it. And because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all” – Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fuck)

Torah Portion (Parsha) Korach in a nutshell from

Korach incites a mutiny challenging Moses’ leadership and the granting of the kehunah (priesthood) to Aaron. He is accompanied by Moses’ inveterate foes, Dathan and Abiram. Joining them are 250 distinguished members of the community, who offer the sacrosanct ketoret (incense) to prove their worthiness for the priesthood. The earth opens up and swallows the mutineers, and a fire consumes the ketoret-offerers.

A subsequent plague is stopped by Aaron’s offering of ketoret. Aaron’s staff miraculously blossoms and brings forth almonds, to prove that his designation as high priest is divinely ordained. 

G‑d commands that a terumah (“uplifting”) from each crop of grain, wine and oil, as well as all firstborn sheep and cattle, and other specified gifts, be given to the kohanim (priests).

Nobody is too busy, it’s just a matter of priorities” – unknown

As I have mentioned in the past, often I notice a few articles, posts or words of inspiration on the same topic. These last few weeks have been very tough with the terrible, shocking news of deaths and illness to people that we know. I have been walking around in a bit of a dwarl.

In an article in The Age by Annie Brown[1] – “Of Work-life balance and other luxuries”, Annie talks about people using busy-ness as a status symbol, and I am guessing there is no work-life balance?

Yavneh principal, Cherylyn Skewes mentioned in the school newsletter that a wise colleague spoke of “manufactured busyness”- if you aren’t busy then you need to make like you are busy to belong in the 21st century.

Rich Roll, posted an article[2] by OMID SAFI –  “The Disease of Being Busy”, the question is asked – How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?  This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

We all often get opportunities to grow and learn, but waste time or pretend to be busy. In Rabbi Frands[3] Torah Portion commentary, he says “When someone has such a limited amount of time and opportunity, one must make the best use of that time.” He goes onto to say “I was looking through some old notes of mine and I found on the back of my notes what I told one of my sons on the day he started ninth grade in Yeshiva. I told him he should try to learn sixty minutes an hour. That is the definition of a masmid [a diligent student]. A masmid is not necessarily someone who learns 18 hours a day. A masmid is someone who learns sixty minutes an hour, for however many hours a day he is able to devote to learning. Do not waste your time.”

I was recently listening to champion CROSSFIT athlete, Jason Khalipa on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. Jason talks about the AMRAP mentality. Those familiar with CrossFit would 1st know who Jason is and 2nd know that AMRAP means “as many reps as possible”, but Jason applies this to what he is doing and to life in general – What the link? He says that when you are doing reps at the gym, you don’t answer your phone. He says that when you are doing one task, then you need to focus on that and not worry about other external distractions and in life, you need to decide what is important to you and focus on these things. For him, the priorities are FAMILY, FITNESS and BUSINESS. We all get too distracted on “the CRAP” as my Mom would say, and pretending to be busy.

In an absolutely brilliant article[4] by Ryan Holiday, “28 Lessons from Great Writers, Artists And Creators On Mastering Your Craft”. I think that 2 of his lessons are applicable to this BLOG:

  • Lesson 7. Say Little, Do Much — If you are a writer, don’t be the person who tweets “I’m working on my novel.” Be too busy writing for that. Helen Simpson has “Faire et se taire” from Flaubert on a Post-it near her desk, which she translates as “Shut up and get on with it.
  • Lesson 9. Do The Deep Work — You need to develop routines and practices to arrive at that place of intense concentration and cognitive focus where real progress is made. Producing a book, that takes deep work. Developing a new insight in science or psychology—that’s the product of deep work. An easy place to start? Remove all time-sucking apps on your phone. See how much better you feel and how much more you’re able to accomplish.

I am not sure that I have the answer how we get away from this “busy mentality” and focus on the important people and things in our lives. I will share 2 ideas from articles I have shared:

  1. Marc Chernoff shares his ideas in an article[5]One Big Reason Your Life Is Harder (And Busier) Than It Has To Be”. He says:

Ready for a positive change in your life?

Join me, and let’s wake-up every morning from here on out and mindfully let our needless busyness and stress GO!

Let’s start making every moment less busy and more beneficial 

Let’s start keeping our lives ordered and our schedules under-booked. 

Let’s start creating a foundation with a soft place to land, a wide margin for error, and room to think and breathe. 

So we can pause to hear the music for a moment, and smile when the opportunity arises. 

  1. Author, OMID SAFI says “I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.”

“Here’s the thing:  Busyness is NOT a badge of honour.  There’s no honour at all in endless busyness.” – MARC CHERNOFF[6]

 To end I just took myself off to see the wonderful Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. I think this quote from Van Gogh sums up our need get away from this busyness and “smell the roses” – “it is something to be deep in the snow in winter, to be deep in yellow leaves in Autumn, to be deep in the ripe wheat in Summer, to be deep in the grass in Spring.” – Vincent Van Gogh, Nuenen, 1885







We are getting older…

Don’t regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many” – unknown

Summary of Parsha Naso in a nutshell – 

Completing the headcount of the Children of Israel taken in the Sinai Desert, a total of 8,580 Levite men between the ages of 30 and 50 are counted in a tally of those who will be doing the actual work of transporting the Tabernacle. 

G‑d communicates to Moses the law of the sotah, the wayward wife suspected of unfaithfulness to her husband. Also given is the law of the nazir, who forswears wine, lets his or her hair grow long, and is forbidden to become contaminated through contact with a dead body. Aaron and his descendants, the kohanim, are instructed on how to bless the people of Israel. 

The leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel each bring their offerings for the inauguration of the altar. Although their gifts are identical, each is brought on a different day and is individually described by the Torah.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

In this week’s Parsha Naso we read about the counting of the Jewish people in Sinai. There is a lesson we can learn from the fact that Moshe counted everyone – Hashem wanted to teach us here that everyone is important. No one can be too far away, too old or too insignificant, (conversely, no one is so great that he can think he is worth more, or has finished his work.)

That is the job of the Tzadikim (righteous people) or the elders in every generation; to remind us that everyone is number one and everyone counts. And even if you are in a desolate desert and the situation seems impossible, your one good deed also counts and can change it all. The Gemara in Kiddushin (30) declares that “whoever teaches his grandchild Torah is regarded as if he received the Torah from Mt Sinai……”

This is a bit of a weird blog to write as I don’t consider myself old, but a few factors have made me say – Let’s give this Blog a go and see how it turns out.

The catalyst for this blog was that I noticed on TV an advert for a new program, which I think is titled “Getting Older”, but I am not sure and I can’t find anything on Google. I thought to myself why would they make such a program?

Last Sunday evening, I bumped into my friend the Anton “the Demon” and I asked about his latest injury and he said, “Ian, we are getting old…” I have written in previous blogs about my OTS/ fatigue issues and my new restricted (and hopefully temporary) training regime. Over Shavuot I explained my condition to my training buddy Alex and he said “Ian, we getting slower as we getting older…” Last week I tried a clinical Pilates class and the physio mentioned that as we get older our muscles take longer to recover, muscle fibres reduce in number and shrink in size, causing a loss in muscle ‘mass’.

So it appears that ageing athletes are fighting an uphill battle. But for most I don’t believe the issue is ageing so much as it is detraining, misuse and disuse.” – Triathlon coach – Joe Friel

Joe Friel has written many good Blogs on this topic[1] that are worth reading, but a takeaway from this topic and something to remember about the importance of exercise as we get older:

  • At least half of the age-related changes to muscles, bones and joints are caused by disuse; and
  • Recent studies show that fewer than one in 10 Australians over the age of 50 years do enough exercise to improve or maintain cardiovascular fitness.

The second reason for doing this Blog was an article that Loren spotted in the Sunday Herald Sun titled “Secrets of ageing well from a happy doctor”. The article is about celebrity doctor, Dr John Knight (aka Dr James Wright)[2]. He talks about his life and battles, but list his 3 secrets. These are – Help others, don’t eat sugar and stay busy. Talking about not eating sugar – he says he tells all patients to eat no sugar, to eat more vegetables and to walk for at least a half hour per day (Per an article in the Sunday Herald Sun – B+S Section – 30 min of daily walking lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer), but the doctor says that no one listens!

The third reason for this Blog, is that I am currently reading Mark Manson’s book “THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A FUCK[3]. In the book, he says that as we get older, we gain experience and notice that most of these things cause us to react have little lasting impact on our lives. He goes on to say, and I love this quote “Essentially, we become more selective about the fucks we’re willing to give. This is something called ‘maturity.’ It’s nice, you should try it sometime. Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what’s truly fuckworthy.” He then goes on to speak about being middle aged, I suppose old age and then on our deathbed.

The Sunday Age had an article[4] titled “Swearing by it”. I loved this quote from the author of the article, Tracey Spicer – “It’s marvellous watching older woman gain power through profanity. We’ve been silenced for so long, it’s a relief to bloody well speak out.”

I noticed an interesting article in the Huffington Post[5] on Parsha Naso. I will paraphrase a few paragraphs. This does not directly relate to getting older but relates to our OLD habits. (That some people say, never die..)

“In Jewish tradition, powerful historical events like the exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai are thought of not simply as one-time occurrences, but as phenomena, we celebrate by embodying the experience of the event. On Passover, we are instructed to see ourselves as if we ourselves and not just our ancestors have made and are making the journey from slavery to freedom. Similarly, on Shavuot we attempt to relive the ecstatic and transcendent Sinai experience by staying up all night studying Jewish texts, preparing ourselves for revelation anew.

After all, that excitement and intensity comes this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Naso. In some ways, this Parsha can be a bit of a letdown. We’ve just encountered the Divine and opened ourselves to Torah. Down from the mountain, we turn back to the weekly cycle only to be confronted with the mundane details of census taking, priestly duties, and extensive descriptions of sacrificial offerings brought by each tribe as part of the Temple dedication.

In some ways, Parshat Naso very much feels like “after the ecstasy, the laundry”. In Jack Kornfeld’s book by this title, he writes,

Most of us have to re-enter the marketplace to fulfil our realisation. As we come down from the mountain, we may be shocked to find how easily our old habits wait for us, like comfortable and familiar clothes. Even if our transformation is great and we feel peaceful and unshakable, some part of our return will inevitably test us.

Here we are, post-Shavuot, down from the mountain, being challenged to integrate our newfound revelation with the nitty-gritty of how many bulls, rams and oxen each tribe offered up for anointing the altar.”

The fourth reason for this Blog, is a quote I noticed on Instagram – “Growing old is a long-established habit of losing the authority to remain vital” – Guru Singh. In a subsequent post, I think he explains this “Staying young and vibrant throughout life — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually — requires maintenance of an authority to be unique, and never give up.

To summarise – We are all getting older, but it what we do to try to keep young!

  • Keep exercising,
  • Eat healthily,
  • Helping others,
  • Focussing on the important things and not giving a f…k about the rest,
  • Remembering that old habits CAN be changed; and
  • Remaining unique.

To really end this Blog, a quote I noticed on our synagogues “The Blake Street Blurb[6]” – “You know you’re grown up when a nap is no longer a punishment, but a reward








Maybe you’re not a failure..


We have to make the most of whatever we have left this season. We just have to look forward to BETTERING OURSELVES EACH AND EVERY WEEK” – NRL star Greg Inglis

Torah Parsha (Portion) Behar-Bechukotai in a Nutshell from

On the mountain of Sinai, G‑d communicates to Moses the laws of the Sabbatical year: every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, man and beast.

Seven Sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year—the Jubilee year, on which work on the land ceases, all indentured servants are set free, and all ancestral estates in the Holy Land that have been sold revert to their original owners. Additional laws governing the sale of lands, and the prohibitions against fraud and usury, are also given.

G‑d promises that if the people of Israel will keep His commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell secure in their homeland. But He also delivers a harsh “rebuke,” warning of the exile, persecution and other evils that will befall them if they abandon their covenant with Him. Nevertheless, “Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the L‑rd their G‑d.” 

The Parshah concludes with the rules on how to calculate the values of different types of pledges made to G‑d.

I did not really plan to do a BLOG this week, but I noticed in the press this week, that NRL star Greg Inglis had checked into a mental health rehabilitation facility suffering from depression. Greg is an amazing player, a brilliant ambassador for the sport and has been an ambassador for the NRL’s State of Mind campaign, which encourages players to speak up about mental health issues and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. In an article NRL rugby league star Darius Boyd said that when he was in a similar facility. Lots of players messaged and said they would visit and support, BUT Greg Inglis (GI) did. “GI is a special guy,” Boyd said in 2015. “He came and visited me when I was in the clinic last year and there were only a couple of people that did that and that’s something I’ll never forget and really cherish.” 

In a previous Blog – CLIMBING A SLIPPERY LADDER, I mentioned how I had been battling with my training and post-training recovery. I decided to go to see a sports physician. After numerous tests and a process of elimination, the doctor has said I am suffering from OTS (over training syndrome)/ fatigue. All my blood tests and a coronary artery CT scan indicated that I was very healthy. He Suggested I really take it easy for the next 2 months, exercise only 2-3 times per week (Runs ~ 5km max and cycle ~20km) and take some supplements. Not sure what I am going to do with myself and how I am going to be so disciplined. I will give it all a go, sleep more, do a bit of strength training & stretching and hopefully will be back up and running in July or August to get fit over the summer.

A friend Mark Franks, gave me some words of wisdom “In a way that’s good news. However, I sympathise with where you are at. Might be a good thing to let the body recover and you may come back better than you were.  I bet you’ll feel better within a month of resting. Might have to join a shiur or something! Exercise your spiritual side!  Take it easy! Mark

Picking up Katiia at kinder on Wednesday, I noticed a Quote of the Day at the school that I really think has a very powerful message that puts things in perspective.

“You fall, you rise, you make mistakes, you live and learn. You’re human, not perfect. You’ve been hurt but, you’re alive – to breathe to think, to enjoy, and chase the things you love. Sometimes, there is sadness in our journey but, there is also lots of joy. We must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when we hurt. For we will never know what is waiting for us around the bend” – unknown 

We all put these sports stars on such a pedestal, but forget that they are not always super-human.

So brave! Another example showing how tough sport can be even for those at the top! Respect @greg_inglis “ – Dan Mugford (Rugby Union Player)

I noticed a quote from Maria Sharapova after she did not get a wildcard entry to the French Open[i]If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, every day. No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”

GI knew he needed help, Maria Sharapova knows what is needed to get back to the top and I identified that a change was needed to once again get back to feeling good after my training. Reading an article by Matt Frazier the No Meat Athlete[ii] titled “Maybe you’re not a failure” he said something that I think ties in very well with what I have written and it reminds people like me that to get back you to take your recovery seriously and ensure you do what has been professionally prescribed to get back to full strength & fitness. “You can’t just flip a switch. Instead, you have to train your mind, one small step at a time. To deliberately focus on what you know will serve you, and to purposely ignore everything else.”



The Number #7

The number 7 shirt is an honour and responsibility. I hope it brings me a lot of luck.” – Christiano Ronaldo

Torah Parsha (Portion) Emor in a nutshell from

The Torah section of Emor (“Speak”) begins with the special laws pertaining to the kohanim (“priests”), the kohen gadol (“high priest”), and the Temple service: A kohen may not become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, save on the occasion of the death of a close relative. A kohen may not marry a divorcee, or a woman with a promiscuous past; a kohen gadol can marry only a virgin. A kohen with a physical deformity cannot serve in the Holy Temple, nor can a deformed animal be brought as an offering. 

A newborn calf, lamb or kid must be left with its mother for seven days before being eligible for an offering; one may not slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.

The second part of Emor lists the annual Callings of Holiness—the festivals of the Jewish calendar: the weekly Shabbat; the bringing of the Passover offering on 14 Nissan; the seven-day Passover festival beginning on 15 Nissan; the bringing of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover, and the commencement, on that day, of the 49-day Counting of the Omer, culminating in the festival of Shavuot on the fiftieth day; a “remembrance of shofar blowing” on 1 Tishrei; a solemn fast day on 10 Tishrei; the Sukkot festival—during which we are to dwell in huts for seven days and take the “Four Kinds”—beginning on 15 Tishrei; and the immediately following holiday of the “eighth day” of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeret). 

Next the Torah discusses the lighting of the menorah in the Temple, and the showbread (lechem hapanim) placed weekly on the table there. 

Emor concludes with the incident of a man executed for blasphemy, and the penalties for murder (death) and for injuring one’s fellow or destroying his property (monetary compensation).

Recently I was listening to a Podcast with Rip Esselstyn[1]. Rip is a former firefighter, triathlete and son of Caldwell B. Esselstyn[2]. Both Rip and his father are strongly in favour of a plant based diet and how such a diet can reverse heart disease. “Plant-based nutrition provides us with a pathway to escape the coronary artery disease epidemic”. In the Podcast, he talks about his new book “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet”. The book includes what he calls the 7 Pillars of his diet. In the Podcast, he talks about the number 7 in detail.

  • The 7 wonders of the world;
  • The 7 Colours of the rainbow;
  • The 7 musical notes; and
  • The 7 habits of highly effective people – Stephen Covey[3].

The 7 pillars or principals in his diet are:

  1. Why we love Plants?
  2. Why we love WHOLE plant based food? (he refuses to be called a VEGAN, as not all vegans are healthy)
  3. Why we don’t want to drink our calories?
  4. Why we are concerned about calorie density?
  5. Why we don’t worry about protein? (it’s in the plants)
  6. Why eliminate salt, fat and sugar?
  7. Why we want to exercise? – The more you give the more you get back!

 “Running under two hours will mean no human has limitations. So I am running on Saturday to prove to any human in this universe that there are no limitations. We need to push and stretch beyond our thinking.” – Eliud Kipchoge

BUT, what made me write this Blog was I noticed a comment on Twitter from Eliud Kipchoge after his unsuccessful attempt at running the Marathon sub 2 hours on Saturday. He posted on Twitter[4] that he had been training for the #Breaking2 for YES – 7 months and goes on to list 7 points that were part of his 7 months of hard work:

  1. dedication,
  2. patience,
  3. diligence,
  4. hope,
  5. faith,
  6. self-discipline, and
  7. gratitude

This week’s Torah Parsha includes reference to the number 7 (I had thought about this Blog before reading the summary of the Parsha), including:

  • Shabbat being on the 7th day;
  • 2 of the 7 ‘species’ are mentioned (The seven-species listed are wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranates, olive (oil), and date);
  • The 7 weeks between Pesach and Shavuot;
  • An animal must be with its mother for seven days before it can be brought as a sacrifice; and
  • The holiday of Passover is seven days (in Israel).

The point is that hard work is good for you and shouldn’t be avoided. Our pop culture and government have vilified anything hard as “bad.” This is a shame because humans grow through hard work and atrophy when things are too easy.” ― Mark Divine, Unbeatable Mind

I am currently reading ex-Navy SEAL, Mark Divine’s book “Unbeatable Mind[5]”. In the book, he mentions the SEAL Code and what it stands for. He says that the SEAL Code is one of the greatest creeds of martial history and is one of the most succinct articulations of how a warrior culture is to conduct themselves in war and peace. Read for yourself and decide:

  1. Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate;
  2. Serve with Honour and Integrity On and Off the Battlefield;
  3. Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit;
  4. Take responsibility for your actions and the actions of your teammates;
  5. Excel as Warriors through Discipline and Innovation;
  6. Train for War, Fight to Win, Defeat our Nation’s Enemies; and
  7. Earn your Trident[6][7] every day.

So what is the significance of the number 7? I will keep it simple and leave great speakers like Rabbi Akiva Tatz to explain the mystical reasons in much more detail. Numbers resonate in our consciousness and our world but no number has the power and significance of the number seven. In Jewish though[8] it is the perfect number. More than that, it is Judaism’s most sacred number. Seven is completeness and wholesomeness.

Numbers have power and significance.  While all numbers are, important some have greater significance, often due to their properties as primes or unique, or their role in anchoring our numbering system.

The significance of “seven” is woven throughout our lives and experience[9]. The seven branches of the Temple Menorah. The sprinkling of blood seven times in the Temple. The seven days of shiva (days of mourning). The seven days of celebration for chatan and kalah (bride and Groom). Seven aliyot (Weekly Parsha is broken into 7 parts). Seven mitzvoth required on Sukkot. Seven major days of celebration in Jewish calendar. Seven days of nidah (days of ritual impurity) … and on and on (see an in-depth article and list[10]).

Now – Waiting for a #lovegoodcoffee at my favourite spot in the Melbourne CBD (Patricia), I am thinking – How do I end this Blog? There are a few coffee roasters and shops with a number 7! I think that people everywhere long to feel a sense of wholeness and completeness in their lives and it’s not uncommon to find one talk about how “something’s missing”, and they can’t quite figure out what. Seven completes a cycle fully and wholly. To adopt a change in diet by embracing the Rip’s 7 pillars or to follow Eliud’s hard work strategy to run a sub 2-hour marathon or to adopt the creed of the SEAL is to arrive at one’s full potential and real self.  A state where you feel this state of wholeness and completeness. This is only achieved if all the points are followed – Imagine a missing chord or colour in the rainbow? Without the ‘effort’, one’s life is lived as a series of discrete moments, with good and evil, success and failure intimately related.

This week I listened to the amazing Turia Pitt on a Podcast[11]. She is a truly amazing, resilient and driven person. Today I noticed that she posted on Twitter a quote that I think fits in quite well and sums up what completeness I – “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” @VanGoghTheLife @vangoghmuseum

[1] Rip Esselstyn is a health activist, plant based diet supporter, former firefighter and triathlete. He is widely known for writing the books: The Engine 2 Diet and My Beef With Meat and for appearing in the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives. Rip stopped by the Forward Podcast studio to talk: the health benefits of plant based diets, being hired by Whole Foods, and his new book The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health.


[1] –






[7] My Trident is a symbol of honour and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.