Rabbi Fabián Werbin

Reflecting on Spring

Spring brings with it many interesting possibilities. We know that this week, spring brings snow! More traditionally, it brings hope for freedom and deliverance, nice flowers and flourishing trees, lots of Matzah and, for some, it also brings allergies.

Sneezing is something that happens to every human being and also some animals. A mysterious and fascinating thing happens when we sneeze. Nobody can sneeze without closing their eyes. But even more interesting is that if someone hears us sneeze, he or she will very often say, “Bless you.”

Many people have become accustomed to saying “bless you” or “gesundheit” when someone sneezes. In Hebrew the term we use is “libriut” לבריאות (good health) and it is not surprising that in Spanish we say “salud” (health or good health).

The custom of wishing someone well after they sneeze probably originated thousands of years ago.

There was a custom among the Romans to say, “Jupiter preserve you” or “Salve” after sneezing, meaning “good health to you.” The common belief is that the phrase “God bless you” is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 CE), and began literally as a blessing. Sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the bubonic plague. Therefore, the blessing (“God bless you!”) became a common effort to halt the disease.

But of course the Jewish people can claim we did it first…

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Conversations at the Mall

You may know that I grew up in Argentina. When I was seven years old, my mother of blessed memory, took me to one of the Jewish clubs so I could start playing soccer. In fact not soccer but indoor soccer.

I played indoor soccer for many years but when I was 15 years old I decided to play outdoor soccer, aka futbol, as well.

I discovered a completely different sport, with different rules, different ball size, and a different number of players. The essence of the game was the same, but indoor futbol and outdoor futbol were different. It didn’t feel the same.

A couple of months ago I started to accomplish one of my rabbinical goals. It has been one of my dreams. Be part of an ongoing interfaith conversation. I contacted a Catholic Monsignor, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim Imam and invited them to have lunch together at the Montgomery Mall. Before I tell you details of the day, I want to tell you that it was a great experience.   We agreed to meet on Presidents Day in the busy food court on a holiday for many in the Washington area. I arrived a half hour early to make sure we had a table to sit and talk. And we did talk about ourselves, our life experiences and our traditions. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 32 comments