Joshua Hammerman
Rabbi, award winning journalist, author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi"
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10 things to do on a holiday weekend while stuck in traffic or waiting endlessly at the airport

10 things to do this Memorial Day weekend while stuck in traffic or waiting endlessly at the airport

First of all, if you are stuck in traffic and reading this, I hope you are not the driver! It used to be that long weekends were not optimal times for rabbis to send out messages. But these days, more than half of those who read my blogs are doing so on mobile devices — in other words, while sitting in traffic at the GW Bridge or in (on) line at JFK, waiting to be strip searched by the T.S.A. So, as a public service, here are some suggestions that will keep you from yelling at your kid in the back seat or going full Rambo while digging into your pocket for cash to check your luggage.

1) Take a deep breath. That’s always a good idea. It really does get better. Just maybe not on this trip. You can add some Shabbat meditation to the mix by listening to Nava Tehila’s playlist. This Jerusalem-based group has energized the progressive Jewish world with its meditative, deep-breath spirituality and upbeat music. They visited my congregation last week and were a huge hit.

2) Go with the slow. Mobility is overrated, so accept your phlegmatic fate. Be grateful for it. Say a blessing for every construction cone placed on a highway during the busiest traffic day of the year.  Thank the frigging idiot… I mean nice person who decided to pass you while careening through the breakdown lane. Collect yourself…. We need to move on from “moving on.” Sometimes standing still is precisely the antidote to this “spring forward” generation, when we barely have time to catch our breath from the latest outrageous comments made by supposedly responsible public figures, before the next one is uttered. No wonder we fail to be shocked. We’re moving too fast to stop and smell the sewage.

4) Smell the roses, too. Look out the window and notice the ordinary miracles. Albert Einstein put it best: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is. Choose.” Listen to Sarah McLachlan and that is sure to soothe you.

5) Remember. This is, after all, MEMORIAL Day Weekend. So take a few moments to remember those who have made the supreme sacrifice so that you can wait in traffic while heading to the Hamptons or Jersey Shore.  The Forward profiled 37 of the 53 Jewish servicemen and women who have died in American uniforms in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 15 years. Read their storiesSee also the stats on Jewish servicemen in World War 2. Read also this from the Wall Street Journal, on the Jews who died in the American Revolution.

6) Count the Omer. It’s just as relaxing as and far more spiritual than counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike. Click here for a full explanation of the whole Omer thing.and see Goldie Milgrom’s Kabbalistic Omer Calendar.

7) Listen to Mary Oliver recite her poem, “A Summer Day” and turn your next bug-infested rest stop into an exercise in mindfulness.

8) Jewish Spelling Bee. A great activity for those long car rides. The National Spelling Bee concluded last night (in a tie), so let’s continue with a Jewish Spelling Bee. You can start with these Jewish words that have made it into the national Bee, including the piece de resistance, “knaidel” (which in my mind is misspelled), the winning word in 2013. And let’s go even one step beyond, with a Jewish Auto-correct Bee. Guess in advance how Jewish words will be auto-corrected by your phone. “Knaidel” becomes “insider,” “Shma” becomes “Ahmad” (interesting) and “blintz” becomes “bling.” Just in time for Shavuot!

9) Homeward bound. Imagine how nice it would be to be back home at a time like this.  And imagine what it would be like not to have a home to return to.  Yesterday a refugee boat sank off the Libyan coast, killing dozens. The crisis continues to escalate. It kind of places a 3-hour jam at the GW in a different perspective.

10) Roll down the window and strike up a conversation with the car next to you. Ya’ never know. Could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

About the Author
Award-winning journalist, father, husband, son, friend, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and rabbi of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Author of Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi – Wisdom for Untethered Times and the upcoming book, "Embracing Auschwitz: Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism that Takes the Holocaust Seriously." Rabbi Hammerman was a winner of the Simon Rockower award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism, for his 2008 columns on the Bernard Madoff case, which appeared first on his blog and then were discussed widely in the media. In 2019, he received first-prize from the Religion News Association, for excellence in commentary. Among his many published personal essays are several written for the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He has been featured as's Conservative representative in its "Ask the Rabbi" series and as "The Jewish Ethicist," fielding questions on the New York Jewish Week's website. Rabbi Hammerman is an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and all things Boston; he also loves a good, Israeli hummus. He is an active alum of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two grown children, Ethan and Daniel, along with Chloe, Casey and Cassidy, three standard poodles. Contact Rabbi Hammerman: (203) 322-6901 x 307
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