This year the event that was initiated over 3,300 years ago, will be celebrated on the evening of April 8th. I am writing about Passover, the celebration of the liberation of Israelites from slavery and their exodus from Egypt. The holiday lasts for eight days during which observant Jews eat matzah (unleavened bread). For the first two nights the families gather at the festive table and read from the Passover Haggadah (story), while guests follow the prescribed order (Seder) in eating and drinking. This is the most popular holiday for Jewish families to get together (it has been around for many years before Thanksgiving family gatherings).
What makes this night different (this is an actual line taken from the Haggadah) this year, is that more than ten people are not permitted to gather indoors, at a table, must sit six feet apart from each other, and grandchildren are advised not to come to their grandparents, since youngsters can be carriers of COVID-19, so as not to transmit it to people more susceptible to. This doesn’t sound like much fun. Both of our daughters along with their significant others were planning to come to San Francisco to celebrate Passover together. As time progressed with the developments of the quarantine, plans changed, and we decided to not gather together to protect everyone’s well-being. But how can we celebrate? In the older times it was a congregation rabbi who was an authority and had all the answers. In my case I called Rabbi Shlomo Zarhi from the oldest synagogue in San Francisco, Hevra Thilim, which was founded in 1892. Rabbi Zarhi is a young man and his advice was to use modern technology called Zoom.
As these are very unusual circumstances, I decided to check another source. I reached out to Rabbi Gershon Winkler. His “Walking Stick Foundation” spreads ancient Jewish Wisdom that are applicable to modern times. His latest writing is called “Antidotal Dotings from Gershon”. I hope you will read the whole story; meanwhile, I would like to share with you some of the ancient wisdom.
“Though a plague can last even as long as seven years, no one dies before their appointed time” (2nd century B.C.E., Rabbi Shimon Shetah
And there is one more. This one comes from the prophet who lived in the 8th century B.C.E.
The ancient rabbis taught “When there is an epidemic in the village, keep your feet within your home, as it written “Come my people, enter within your chambers and shut your doors around you, hide but for a brief moment, until the rage has passed.” – Isaiah 26:20
Those quotes remind me of what “the wisest man who ever lived”, King Solomon wrote in 935 B.C.E. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
As far as our gathering goes, we decided to postpone it until May when the quarantine will hopefully end, and we will be able to drive down to Southern California to see our daughters.
P.S. Since Passover is a spring holiday, it is a great opportunity to see Spring blooms around us, as you can see in these four images.
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The title of this story came from an AARP publication. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was founded in 1958, and as of a year ago had over 40 million members. The organization publishes The Magazine (and a newspaper). There are always interviews with well-known people, like 82 years young actor Anthony Hopkins, which appeared in the December/January publication. The interview ended with, “My life is an extraordinary series of mistakes. But if I hadn’t made decisions that seemed bad at that time, who knows where I would be? I guess we are guided by some inner force”.
The magazine also has many interesting articles, such as, “Is There a Medical Cure for Loneliness?” What got my interest on this subject is the corona virus pandemic. The article starts with the sentence, “We know that older Americans are at greater risk for social isolation, which can lead to physical illness, depression and even dementia.” No wonder the majority of those who died from COVID-19 belonged to this group. Turns out that “scientists now say there are medical causes and remedies for the painful condition that affects more of us each year.”
If you read my stories regularly, you have probably noticed that they have a positive spin, then why to write about this sad subject?
My reason was inspired by a conversation I had with a very good young friend, who was concerned about my well-being, and suggested that in my age I should stay away from people until the scare is over. Yes, this is a good recommendation. People are advised to work from home (our company’s employees do), if possible. In the given circumstances this sounds as a reasonable piece of advice. It is given to save lives, but what is the cost and what are the side effects? The article states, “the impact of people living in social isolation add almost 7 billion a year to the cost of Medicare.”
There is an expression; “The surgery was successful, but the patient died.” I question if people can be socially isolated for a long period of time (and not only those of advanced age) – this goes against the nature of what human beings are. In the March 19, 2020 SF Chronicle, there was an article titled, “Remain at home amid outbreak or enjoy a walk among others?” On that day, since Max did not go to his dog-sitter, we went for a walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. There were quite a few people of different ages, walking or jogging while maintaining a reasonable distance.
On Friday, while driving with Max through the Park, we saw a lot of people congregate in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, parents with children riding bicycles and young people jogging. After all, it was a warm spring evening.
P.S. The images are from my encounters with those in Golden Gate Park whom, to paraphrase Anthony Hopkins, preferred to make mistakes but keep enjoying their lives. Among them of course was Max, who has no idea of what is going on and just enjoys the walk with his “parents”. Since this story is longer than usual, I decided to add one bonus, totally five images. I hope you’ll like all of them.
P.P.S. My daughter Tamar, who edits my writings, made the following comments (below) which I would like to share with you as well. If you choose to get some fresh air and get exposed to the Sun, follow her recommendations.
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TAMAR’S OVERALL COMMENT
I understand you’re trying to put a positive spin on the current circumstances. And I agree, I believe it is important to maintain a positive spirit through all of this. However, while there is certainly a concern that loneliness will have an undesirable effect on people’s lives, at least they will be alive. The “Safe at Home” order is in place to LITERALLY SAVE MILLIONS OF LIVES. That is a statistical fact. Meanwhile, thanks to this being the most technologically advanced time in all of history, we can physically distance, while not being socially isolated. Thanks to FaceTime, Zoom and the old-fashioned phone, and time on our hands, we can connect with our families and friends who are across continents, and a five-minute walk away, while avoiding any contact with them, and effectively avoiding spreading or contracting the virus.
And yes, it is Spring, the skies are blue and the sun is shining, so naturally people are going to want to leave their homes to get some fresh air – which is also important! Meanwhile, there were so many people out on hikes, playing basketball and at the beach in LA last week/weekend, that the mayor closed the parks, beaches and social recreational areas, because people weren’t maintaining proper social distancing. In order to prevent the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming hospitals, it is IMPERATIVE to keep a distance of at least 6 feet away from each other, to not touch foreign surfaces, and when that isn’t possible, to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, and disinfect all surfaces that were touched after touching the foreign surfaces. My comment to you is to make sure your message still gives the impression that this should be taken very seriously. PLEASE consider the message you are sending to your readers.
We live in a neighborhood of San Francisco called Monterey Heights. It was built in 1928-29 and has about four hundred, mostly large homes. From time to time, some of them go on the market. Since the original buildings are old, they need to be updated, which sometimes involves stripping it down to the studs. Lately, when I’ve walked in the neighborhood with our dog Max, I saw quite a few remodeling projects going on. Passing by, I was not surprised to hear that the construction workers were speaking in Spanish, the language that I’ve tried to learn over the years; particularly before traveling to Spanish speaking countries like Mexico and recently to Spain. But I never progressed very far, probably because in every country we visited, people spoke in English. Nevertheless, I remembered a few phrases. While walking by one of the construction projects, I greeted the foreman, ”Buenos dias, mucho trabajo.” To which he responded, “Mucho trabajo, paco dinero.” A lot of work, but little pay.” But then he added in English, “Thanks God, there is work.” According to linkedin.com, there are 2000+ Spanish jobs in San Francisco. About 10% of the Spanish speakers, close to 90,000 people reside in San Francisco. It is one of 112 languages spoken in the Bay Area.
Nowadays, we constantly hear about issues with the illegal, especially Spanish speaking immigrants. However, our city’s history has been connected with Spain for a long time. The first Spanish missionaries arrived in Yerba Buena (it became known as San Francisco only in 1847) in 1776. California and Mexico were part of Spanish territory until 1821. By the 1920s, at least three quarters of California’s 200,000 farm workers were Mexican or Mexican American. During the Great Depression more than 500,000 Mexicans were deported from the United States. And then during the 1940s through 1960s, large numbers of Mexicans moved to San Francisco’s Mission District, giving it the Latino character it is known for today. Our city’s DNA is tied with Spanish speakers, as well as with many other immigrants living in our city. Regardless what we do or what is our occupation, we all serve each other, and are part of the large puzzle, known as San Francisco.
P.S. I do not know where the four people I encountered came from, but all of them spoke Spanish and English.
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When I googled “How much water do we need to drink?” I found quite a few articles, which stated that there is an 8X8 rule, which translates to eight 8 ounces glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon; all intended to maintain good health. As it relates to our current concern over the Corona Virus, there might be at least a few more reasons why we should use and drink more water.
While we’ve been told to avoid areas where many people congregate, sometimes it might be challenging. For example, I had to visit the DMV recently, and I took the MUNI train downtown to get there. While there are not known death cases from COVID-19 in San Francisco, we all have to be careful. The most common advice is to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, and to avoid handshakes, and touching your face. Among many articles I saw online, one especially got my attention. It was in Russian; so I will give you the rough translation. According to Japanese doctors who treat COVID-19, everyone has to be sure that your mouth and throat are wet, not dry. We have to drink water every 15 minutes. Even if the virus enters your mouth, drinking water and other liquids will wash it down to the stomach, where the stomach’s digestive juices will kill it. If you do not drink enough water, the virus can penetrate through your throat into the lungs, which is very dangerous.
I do not want to diminish the potential threat of the epidemic, which, it seems, can be eliminated or at least reduced by such small measures like washing hands and drinking water, but those simple steps seem to be logical. Meanwhile, through my research, I learned there are other bigger common threats to our lives, which are not mentioned in the media, and which can also be reduced by simple measures like drinking water. When I googled “How many people died from the flu”, I found the numbers were staggering. And then when I checked “how many people died from car accidents”, the number blew my mind. You might have heard the advice to drink more water when you get common flu, but what do car accidents have to do with that? I know from personal experience that if I am tired while driving, I drink water from my reusable bottle, which is always in my car, and it helps wake me up a little, until I can safely stop.
We are exposed to a lot of misinformation and negative publicity. Nevertheless, I am sure something good is going to happen, which will save more lives in the future. Since more money is poured into research for the cure, many countries will come with up unconventional solutions through their joint efforts, which will help not only deal with COVID-19, but with other medical issues as well.
P.S. Up to 60% of human bodies are made up of water, we are surrounded by it, and I like to photograph water in its different manifestations, like these four images you see now. You can find more images of the blue water on my website mannykagan.smugmug.com.
We didn’t have Valentine’s Day when I grew up in Riga, Latvia; however, we celebrated Women’s Day, which was commonly called “The Day of Eighth of March”. Women were honored with flowers and candies, and men would get drunk to honor the women in their lives. The holiday, which is known as International Women’s Day is celebrated as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. The event started in New York in 1909, but in 1910, at the International Socialist Women’s Conference, German revolutionary Clara Zetkin proposed that the 8th of March be honored as a day annually in memory of working women.
What prompted me to write about this important event was a book I received as a present from a gutsy woman, Dr. Angela Wu, whom I recently helped to get a reverse mortgage. Dr. Wu pioneered the recognition of Chinese Medicine in the Bay Area and was a professor at San Francisco State University and is the author of the book “Fertility Wisdom”.
The book she gave me was written by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton titled “The Book of Gutsy Women”. It shares stories of about 120 remarkable women from all over the world. After Hillary Clinton ran for the President of the United States in 2016, she paved the road and in 2019 there were six women who followed her footsteps. There are many remarkable women in the world besides those who were mentioned in “Gutsy Women”. Thirty-four years young Finland’s new female prime minister, Sana Marin, leads a coalition government made up of five parties, all of them led by women. Four of those women are under 35. We do not have to travel too far to find gutsy women. In July 2018 London Breed, became the first black female Mayor of San Francisco. But I would like to go even closer. Since my birth seventy-three years ago, I have been surrounded by gutsy women. After giving birth to three children, my mom went back to school while still working as a teacher. When I met my wife Elfa fifty-two years ago, I also met her mother, another gutsy woman, who survived two World Wars, starvation, losing her infant son to hunger during the war, and taking care of my wife as a single parent (her husband died when Elfa was 10). And of course there is my wife, who not only was gutsy to marry me when we were both twenty, but as a life partner, we’ve traveled together through a challenging life, overcoming two emigrations and for over thirty-five years running a mortgage company together. And of course both of my daughters, Alona and Tamar, who are gutsy women in their own way.
March 8th is the date of the celebration. I am sure you know at least one woman (does not have to be gutsy, though many of them are) who deserves your special attention.
P.S. Flowers are always appreciated, and this is why I am sharing these four beautiful images with you. To get them, I went to Golden Gate Park, where they were planted in front of the Flower Pavilion.
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