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Hart Peikoff


By Hart Peikoff, September 6, 2010

I was raised in a semi observant Jewish home by a Mom, Dad and Grandma along with a large extended family. Well the effect was strong enough that the mere thought of a salami sandwich with a glass of milk even today makes me want to vomit.

The memory of sparkling silverware, fine linen, china, Shabbat Candles, delicious food along with cousins, aunts and uncles whom descended upon our home most Fridays remains clearly embedded within the essence of me. It is a fact this will remain in my soul forever.

Frustration is a part of my Jewish journey as well. Like many before and after my experience the journey through Judaism began at Hebrew school. My Dad may he rest in peace grew up in Grandview Manitoba and did not have a solid Jewish foundation; in fact he did not believe in G-D. In those early years Hebrew School took place after regular school was finished. My earlier years were spent in the north end at Hebrew School. We moved south when I was around 7 and my Jewish education continued at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. My experience from a clear recall observation was the whirl wind journey of memorization, where I acquired the ability, learning just enough Hebrew necessary to ready myself for the excitement to follow; becoming a Bar Mitzvah boy. The late Rabbi Berkal stands out clearly in my memory. He always seemed to find something good to say about me. He was a very special human being. And the late Ralph Garland was most often gentle with me even though I was a handful kind of kid.

I also remember vividly as if it were yesterday, Saturday mornings during maftir study, the arguments which occurred when my parents would not accept my stubborn refusal to avoid going to Synagogue. The battles were vicious. They usually won out and somehow convinced me to “get the heck out of bed” and head off to Synagogue. I was a wild kid and G-D knew I for certain was not capable of handling a kid like me so he gifted me with two almost perfect daughters; Erin and Sara.

My experience with Judaism ended for all intents and purposes after my double Bar Mitzvah; my partner was Bob Stern. I attended Synagogue of course often for Weddings, Bar, Bats, Funerals and other rites of passages. On occasion the lure of the goodness of the High Holy Days saw my body appear in a deck chair’s in the bleacher section at Shaarey Zedek. It was engrossing the late Izzy Asper and his family sat right next to us in the bleachers. This was later on in my life when I myself became a parent. He could have sat in the pews in row one but chose these seats which were directly opposite doors to the outside world. Thus he had easy access to his personal smoking area. Mr. Asper was a larger than life kind of man.

Naturally when my daughters were born, from the duty passed on to me, I made certain my kids were given a Jewish education. This journey filled with confusion and uncertainty continued even though my x wife a convert to Judaism was probably a better Jew than I was. She made certain the holidays were observed. If it was up to me then, nothing would have occurred. Well this is another example you can not expect the Jewish School System to give your children anything you personally cannot pass on yourself. It is tough better than nothing at all. My kids are not practicing Jews yet then know they are Jewish in part as a result of immersion from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 9 first at Ramah and then the Gray Academy. It is in my not so humble opinion children learn from an early age the warmth Judaism offers. No other entity can give them this other than their parents. Never the less we all do our best I believe at the time we are doing what ever it is.

Well I am finding “you can take the boy out of Judaism but you cannot take Judaism out of the boy.” As I remember, this past expression was in reference to “taking the Country out of the boy, not Judaism. Never the less it applies here as well. I have investigated many other spiritual paths including Christianity, Buddhism and Wicca. And I find as I “peek” again at Judaism there is a compelling attraction which is directing me to uncover more of the mystery. “The Essential Kabbalah,” The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, written by Daniel C. Matt has acted as a magnet and its force has propelled me to begin to look seriously at the full scope of what my birth religion can offer me. This is exciting. How I am going to continue this journey still needs to unfold. However I truly believe “everything happens for a reason and a purpose and it happens to serve me.” The universe shall unfold as it will. I too shall unfold.

Finding G-D in my life means opening my self up to the presence of divinity all around me. I believe G-D has shown me already that beneath the surface appearance of most things lay a deeper reality. Well I am ready to be spiritually jolted. I shall exit this short expose by stating no matter what path you choose once a Jew always a Jew. And if this last statement is true why should I cheat myself out of the beauty and joy it can bring into my life of 66 years young. I shall leave you with my present favorite quote I discovered while taking a course at the JLC, the Chabad Lubavitch Centre on Grant and Centennial during the winter session of 2010. The course was Portraits in Leadership: Timeless Tales for Inspired Living. It covered the Jewish Sages from Hillel 3649/111BCE to Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi 3806/136 CE. The quote finally is from Hillel:

"If I am not for myself who will be for me? And if I am only for myself who am I? And if not now,when?”

Shalom and a Happy New Year to you and yours !

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