Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hebrew:  korban
translated as sacrifice
means to bring nearer

When you hug me please
lean your left side to my left
so our hearts are near

Marriage maybe tests
in having someone you love
nearby all the time

True friends are nearby
even when they're far away
others, the reverse

Isaiah said G-d
repeatedly spoke of peace
to the far and near

Saturday, December 20, 2014

the price of my social work degree may have been worth it for something i learned from a student.  when asked by the teacher to define normal she said, "someone you don't know very well yet."

Friday, December 19, 2014

This Poem Just came to me

Bah Shabbat, Bah Menuchah

G-d created nothing
G-d created rest
They contradict
yet are each true
We copy G-d and
we sanctify stillness
on our holy rest day
And my stretched body
and my been around soul
long for the incoming day
the holiness and the rest
and this rest is a big to do
deserves mention by name
were it not, like G-d, ineffable

Channukah: Lessons In Perseverence

The Torah portion we read each day of Chanukah tells of the gifts and sacrifices that the head of each tribe offered on each day of the dedication of the Mishkan, the desert temple.

The midrash adds a layer to the story. It describes how Aaron the high priest became disheartened upon seeing the heads of the tribes bringing offerings, while his own tribe, the Levites, did not. God comforted him, telling him that he and his descendants had a greater task: They would light the menorah in the tabernacle. This midrash explains why the offerings of tribal leaders is followed by the command to light the menorah.

The Ramban says that this midrash alludes to the future lighting of the menorah at the time of Chanukah. This explains why the simple act of illuminating the menorah in the Tabernacle could lift Aaron’s spirit. God was telling Aaron not be overly impressed by the show that the heads of the tribes made at the Temple’s dedication. It’s typical for people to be enthused when celebrating a new phenomenon. God told Aaron that his tribe would remain committed long after the honeymoon had ended. Centuries after the Mishkan was dedicated, during a time when Jews were attracted to foreign values, the descendants of Aaron stayed connected. Chanukah was a time of spiritual and religious darkness for the Jewish nation. It was only the priests descended from Aaron who rekindled the menorah and remained steady and loyal in their task.

It’s challenging (if not impossible) to stay thrilled by the things that matter in life. It is normal to lose the charge that we feel at the start of anything we love. When the excitement fades we need to gently remind ourselves that it’s only human to come down from our initial high. A sophisticated human trait is to struggle with downfalls from initial bursts of inspiration. One of the greatest marks of a spiritual individual is to rekindle the spark of enthusiasm that burned when we first dedicated our souls to God.

King Solomon taught that “A righeous person falls seven times and rises” (Proverbs 24:16). Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner explains that these words teach us the definition of a righteous person. A righteous person falls, loses their enthusiasm, and then rises again, with passion.

There is only one biblical character who is referred to as righteous — a tzaddik — and that is Joseph. Joseph encountered jealousy, temptation, and power, yet he always persevered and emerged Joseph the Righteous.

Chanukah is the holiday of perseverance. As the days get shorter and darker despair crouches at our doorstep. We light candles in the darkness and aim to increase the light in every realm of life. We reaffirm our spirituality and reconnect to our religion. We rise again and rededicate the temple in our souls. May we be blessed this Chanukah to be like our righteous role models as we rekindle and maintain our fire inside.

Published here, in the NJ/Rockland Jewish Standard

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Day 3 of Chanukkah!

Andrés Segovia- The Intimate Guitar (full album) HD

I am grateful to G-d that I have this playing in the background, via YouTube, as I plug away at paperwork.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why I Try to Not Refer To Myself As Busy

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Red Ruby Haiku

We want the rubies
But wisdom is more precious
Nothing's worth as much

Thursday, December 11, 2014

VaYeishev Tanka

He saw they looked sad
so he asked why they were down
and he was in jail
and this caring for others
was what brought his redemption

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You cannot put a Fire out—
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan—
Upon the slowest Night—

You cannot fold a Flood—
And put it in a Drawer—
Because the Winds would find it out—
And tell your Cedar Floor—

- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Hot Haiku

Anger is so hot
Yet its heat goes in to us
We just burn ourselves

Inspired by prompt on HaikuHorizons

Saturday, December 06, 2014

My New Zelda Favorite

בגלגול האחרון

חָשַׁבְתִּי שֶׁבַּגִּלְגּוּל הָאַחֲרוֹן
הַיְדִידוּת הִיא בְּלִי כְּשָֹפִים בְּלִי שֵׁדִים
בְּלִי שְׁמָשׁוֹת וּבְלִי יְרֵחִים.
שֶׁלַּחִבָּה הָאַחֲרוֹנָה יֵשׁ גָּוֶן
שֶׁל טַל.
חָשַׁבְתִּי שֶׁהַלֵּב נָח לוֹ
עַל הַר גָּבוֹהַּ
בְּצֵל שִׂיחָה חֲרִישִׁית
שֶׁמַּפְלִיגָה לַמֶּרְחַקִּים
שֶׁמַּחֲלִיפָה צוּרוֹת
וּנְמוֹגָה כֶּעָנָן.
שָׁכַחְתִּי שֶׁלִּבִּי אַסִּיר כְּאֵב
וּבוּשׁוֹת מֵרֶחֶם מִשַּׁחַר
שָׁכַחְתִּי אֶת כָּל הַזְּעָקוֹת
שֶׁמִּנַפְשָׁם בָּאוּ אֶל קִרְבִּי.
וְרָצִיתִי לִגְזֹר מִן הַחֲרָדוֹת
עִגּוּל שֶׁל שֶׁקֶט
שֶׁיִּשְׁתַּקֵּף בְּתוֹכוֹ טֹהַר
וְאֶהְיֶה כְּצִפּוֹר.
וְאֶהְיֶה כְּצִפּוֹר.
שָׁכַחְתִּי שֶׁגַּם הַנָּבִיא
אֲפִלּוּ הַשָּׁרָף מֵעֲנָתוֹת
הַשָּׁמַיִם לֹא הִשְׁכִּיחוּ מִמֶּנוּ
אֶת הַעֶלְבּוֹנוֹת
לֹא הִשְׁכִּיחוּ מִמֶּנוּ עֶרְגוֹת אֱנוֹשׁ.
נְהִי גַעְגּוּעִים עַד לְאֵין מַרְפֵּא
רוֹעֵד עוֹד בֶּחָלָל.
קוֹלוֹת הַיְלָדִים שֶׁמְּשַׂחֲקִים
הֲמֻלַּת כְּלֵי הָרֶכֶב
קְרִיאוֹת מוֹכְרֵי הַפֵּרוֹת
וְקוֹנֵי כְּלֵי הַנְּחשֶׁת
אֵינָם מַחֲרִישִׁים נְהִי רָחוֹק רָחוֹק
וְדַק כַּחוּט.

In the Final Incarnation

By Zelda (1914 – 1984)

I thought that in the final incarnation
friendship would be without spells or shades
without suns or moons.
That the utmost affection would have the color
of dew.
I thought the heart would make itself at peace
on a lofty mountain
in the shade of silent conversation
that sails off in the distance
that changes forms
and melts away like a cloud.
I forgot my heart was a captive of pain
and shame from the womb of the morning 1
I forgot all the screams
that came from their souls to my core.
And I wanted to cut from the fears
a circle of quiet
in which would be reflected the purity
of heaven.
And I’d be like a bird.
And I’d be like a bird.
I forgot that the prophet too
even the seraph of Anathoth2
Heaven did not let us forget
the affronts.
Heaven did not let us forget
the yearnings of man.
A wail of longing without hope of remedy
yet trembles in the void.
The voices of the children playing
in my street
the tumult of the cars
the cries of the fruit merchants
and the brassware sellers
never silence the far-faraway wail
fine as a thread.

Friday, December 05, 2014


See here for my thoughts about falling up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

tanka of the night

and and and i say
and sometimes i say oh man
other times; and yet
these are like musical tics
my ambivalent mantras

Monday, December 01, 2014

Haiku: Afternoon, Evening, Night

Sometimes I need food
after hours of plowing
and working the fields

Work can be non-stop
The large flocks need attention
The long days are short

Sometimes on long days
I force myself to sit down
and breathe in with faith

We all need to give
because we all need to get
So breathe in and give

Clark Kent was a fake
Superman was the real him
We are like that too


The apartment chirps
as the man breathes in his chair
he begins to fade

It is wrong to speak to someone in a way that hurts them and then put it on them, saying, let me know if this is hurtful. It's like hitting something, which is clearly unacceptable and you shouldn't do and saying to them- tell me when it hurts too much.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Today is C.S. Lewis' Birthday - I Am So Grateful That He Lived

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pre Shabbos Post

2:14 PM - I don't know what to write and why or where or when.  I do know that writing is healthy and helpful for me.  When I was a boy I dreamt of carrying a pad and writing things as they came to me.  That's a dream that came true.

I just walked for 30-40 minutes outside and it was transformative.  may G-d bless me to continue to walk and do other exercise to stay healthy.

2:47 PM - Put up chicken soup, even though I'm eating out tonight and tomorrow. I want to have it on hand, as I'm a big believer in the power of chicken soup.  I didn't have many vegetables around so I used a container of store bought vegetable soup to add some veggies and thickness.  used a whole package of raw chicken cutlets (which I hope to use for salad) and a package of chicken scarps for soup.  Cut in two onions and a lot of celery.  Put in a lot of different spices- cumin, ginger, dill, mint, basil, and much more.  Also put in some consomme mix- it's like a drug that my soup doesn't nee, but that I keep putting in.

3:10 PM - Soup boiled over.  All okay.

It just dawned on me, not that the insight is new, but it went in a little more for real - that in the case of some people whom i interact with and then feel pained, that it is their pain that I am adopting.

3:46 PM -

Vayeitzei Thought

How could it be that the year's he worked for Rochel were like days in his eyes because he loved her so much?  if he loved her so much shouldn't the time he waited feel like a very long time?

The simplest answer may be that it felt to him like a small price to pay.

Another possibility is that because he had a spiritual rather than physical perspective toward his love and longing, he was able to be patient and even keeled when he knew he needed to be so.

The Alshich says that it was like a short time in his eyes AFTER he married Rchel.  While he waited it felt like forever and then when he got what he yearned for and was so pleased all the time he waited, in retrospect was not a big deal.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski notes that it says that it was like "yamim achadim" in Yaakov's eyes.  It could be telling us, when translated precisely, that the way that Yaakov got through those long, difficult years was by taking them "one day at a time."

I once heard someone from a Kibbutz say the following idea, which to me is clearly not pshat, but it's cool that the guy thought of this and interesting how he superimposed it here: When it says that the time felt short because of his love of her (otah) it could be that the work is what is being refereed to.  because Yaakov loved the work he did, the time passed quickly.

3:55 PM - Time to go and greet and embrace Shabbos.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Thanksgiving Poem

Hakarat HaTov means to recognize what you see
This is misunderstood by you and by me
It's not enough to say you appreciate
You need to see and feel what's been brought to your plate
May we be blessed to follow the Torah's way
And to know in our hearts that Thanksgiving is everyday

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"You've got to compartmentalize the stresses of this business or you're going to end up hating what you love." - Judge to Contestant on Chopped

Sim Shalom

We ask G-d for shalom, tovah, and brachah (peace, goodness, and blessing), and then for chein, chesed, and rachamim (grace, kindness, and mercy). Perhaps we are asking G-d to bless us to behave with chein, chesed, and rachamim  and then our behaving that way will lead to G-d bestowing upon us shalom, tovah, and brachah.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Goodnight Keyboard

Israel is very much on my mind
I can't/shouldn't leave my mourning behind
The barbaric reality has shaken me out
Despite my usual quietness I have angry things to shout
And yet I believe G-d wants me to live
He wants me to connect, He wants me to give
He wants me to be dating, to be setting up friends
He wants me to move forward through whatever life sends
So I try to set people up every now and then
And to get out there myself- if not now when
Right now I have to leap in faith, though it may not seem deep
It's time, it's time, it's time- it's time to go to sleep.

My Thought, Hot Off The Press, On Garbled Texts

When a text message doesn't make sense you can come to understand it if you look at the letters on the keyboard that are next to the letters that make it not make sense.  In life when messages people are giving us don't make sense we have have to look to the sides of how the message is coming across to us and then we can better understand, from their vantagepoint, the messages others are trying to convey to us.

Stored Haiku

Life is like a store
You grab whatever you want
Then you pay the price

This week's prompt from Haiku Horizon's is "store." You may also enjoy what I wrote for their previous promt- "cold," which I got done too late to link to on their site.

If I have the time, energy, and inspiration to think of more on "store," I think I'll put them in the comments.

Cold Haiku

Sometimes being cool-
suprficially, outside-
goes too cold

Minnesota air
in winter freezes hot tea.
There are folks like that.

The cold and unclothed
may feel colder and less dressed
when we buy garbage

Winter outerwear:
does it matter how it looks
if it keeps you warm?

Pope Francis has said,
"A little bit of mercy
makes the world less cold."

Longfellow observed
we see sad people as cold,
not seeing their pain

When I am warmer
than that which is around me
it feels cold to me

You wish to be cool
formal, not over friendly
but you come off cold

My mucus membranes
of nose and throat are inflamed,"
or - "I have a cold"

Dickens described:
the sun shines hot, wind is cold
on bright winter days

Sharansky/Tehillim Follow Up

Dr. Yael Ziegler found herself on Wednesday standing behind Natan Sharansky in a bakery. She gathered the courage to start a conversation and told him that she had just told her class in Sefer Tehilim about how he had carried a small book of Psalms with him through all his tribulations in the former Soviet Union, even when the authorities gave him trouble because of it. Whereupon Sharansky reached into his pocket and took out a tattered used Sefer Tehillim to show her.
You still carry it, she breathed.
It carries me, he responded.

- Written up by Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, as presented in his drasha on Parshat Toldot 5774

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Vuch / Ten year Anniversary Post

6:59 PM - Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of this blog.  I'm grateful to G-d for all this life, all this writing, all this connecting- hopefully.

Spent Shabbos with dad.  Have a ride to my apartment, which was to be any minute or not at all.  Thinking about time passed and passing.  thinking about how I love my dad. As the blog has gone, so have ten years gone.  Mom is in the next world.  And... So much to say and not to say.

I don't feel like linking.  A Dana Gioia poem that's on this blog comes to mind- about the letters we write our dead.  And searching comes to mind.  The other day i was sharing the blog with someone asked for a random word, they came up with "hello."  Lots of posts come up.  try it, search a word, let me know what you find.  there's a lot in here, it surprises me how much, and what, I've written here...

Off to wait for my ride...

8:32 PM - Here at my desk in my apartment. Took longer than expected, so much does.  Ride just called to thank me for recommending FUV.  

Thinking about these passed years, these ten blog years.  If you search the words "can't go home again," you'll find posts from when I went home again.  But now I can't.  The house is empty of people and people are what makes a home.  So maybe I was back home again this Shabbos, with dad in his new home, inside a big, clean, place. Sigh. That means I just sighed.

I've searched the word "purple" within this blog, and the words "I shall not," and found some rich stuff.  I like looking back at a piece I wrote one Motzai YK, which is findable by searching "Jennifer Blyer" and/or holy schleppers.  I also like a piece I wrote about the road less travelled and how it doesn't mean what a lot of people think it means.  And a piece about how Hal Holbrook has been Mark Twain was Mark Twain.  I think it was called Role "Em, and I think Pearl liked the title (which reminds me: A big thank you to all who read and commented and were part of the storied and alive history of this blog)...

Off to connect with a friend...

10:53 PM - Back at the keyboard again.

Things from over the years I like/remember:  The four part series about my name.  Any poems I posted from sarah Shapiro.  Any Aaron Bulman poems.  Pems in general.  The poem called, "Did I Miss Anything?' That's a really big one for me and my life.  it's a mission statement- connect, be present.  Anything I quoted from Mr. Rogers. 

I just searched C.S. Lewis in this blog and it turns out I've mentioned him in many posts.  here's a quote I had forgotten knowing that I like all over again:

"When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it." - C.S. Lewis

Here's a poem I just rediscoverd in a previous post.

Apartment House
By Gerald Raftery

A filing cabinet of human lives
Where people swarm like bees in tunnelled hives,
Each to his own cell in the covered comb,
Identical and cramped - we call it home.

11:07 PM - Time for sleep, soon.  

I am grateful to G-d for connections.  Everything comes down to that. To the extent that I don't connect and want to I am pained.  To the extent that I connect i am pleased.  i thank G-d for my continuing to have connections, in my life, and in this blog.
Happy Anniversary to all who see this, all who are part of this.  Thank you.

Good Night and G-d Bless.  (Decided to break the no linking rule just once).

P.S. - 


Good night and G-d bless
Sometimes I write boldly
Sometimes softly, with "may"
Depending on how He moves me

Good night and G-d bless
I write with gratefulness
That G-d blessed me with the
Ability to hope He blesses you

Good night and G-d bless
I write again and again
Sometimes as a rough draft
Sometimes as a gentle wind

- Me (Neil Fleischmann)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Toldot - Parsha Poem

Little Yaakov and Eisav looked the same way
Their parents dressed them alike every day
Neither one stood alone amoungst the masses
They were sent to the same camps, placed in the same honors classes
They were fit into the same box from the outside
Their internal nature was supressed, made to hide

This was the case until they turned thirteen
Then they each took off and joined their own scene
Yaakov continued to be the super Tzadik child
Eisav threw his Judaism away, ran off, went wild

Rabbi Hirsch says Yitzchak and Rivkah made a mistake
They imposed things on their children that were easy to shake
They forgot to fulfil "Chanoch le'na'ar al pi darco"
Which means, raise your child according to his nature that you know

As we grow older, may we remember what to do
Follow Hashem's Torah while to our own self being true
May we be blessed to use our nature to follow G-d's way
May Hashem help us do this- let's start today!

Chayei Sarah- Parshah Poem

We're told we'll be told of Sarah's life, that's the goal
But then we're told about part, not the whole

The answer is kind of simple to see
Our year's are incomplete, a piece of what's to be

All of our days are greater than their sum
There is so much more that is to come

Our life span has an afterlife- everything that we do
We live on in the next world and in this world too

So remember as you go through today
There are ripple effects to all you do and say

May the good deeds that we do live on in family and friends
And in this way our life never ends

(Based on a question and answer of rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hashem Yinakem Damam.
May all the injured find healing.
Shortly after hearing the news this morning I taught several classes in a row and took some time in each to say 1 perek of Tehilim, to mourn, pray, process, talk, listen, discuss.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Worth More Than A Thousand (Sad) Words

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In life, it's hard to hold on if you don't let go. - Me

It May Make Sense To Close The Blog When It Reaches Ten Years On Nov 21


"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes." 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

 "I strive to leave myself vulnerable" - Roger Ebert (in his personal and enthusiastic review of "Liberal Arts")

Poem After Being Too Late For Dr. McMenomey

It is a blessing to feel pain
to be angry, more, again
to sigh from disappointment
upon missing an appointment
it's a blessing, yes, somehow
because  it's better to allow
me to be honest and feel
it's a blessing to be real

Sunday, November 09, 2014


I have mixed feelings about (most things and also) posting here.  Are there (he asked somewhat rhetorically)  better ways to vent, journal, or share in writing than a blog?

Tonight fate assisted me in getting to a talk by rabbi Pesach Krohn. It's almost like one of his stories.  Someone asked if they could return some books borrowed from me, that person rode me to visit a sick friend, that friend told me about the talk that he couldn't make but would have liked to hear.  I was a block away.  it was the exact right time to go (15 minutes after the time it was called to start). I went, and it was very good.  Stories and other content available upon request.

This morning I took part in Open House for my school, happy to be on the team, deeply grateful for my role. my place.

Spent a while on phone with a parent tonight who's helping his son study for our test. We're half way there; the father is ready.

A dear friend and I were talking and he said, "Can I ask you a stupid question?"  I said that in my experience that question never precedes a stupid question.  What that question precedes is something that's a bit uncomfortable/awkward for the asker to say. My friend wondered if I was right and then said that yes, that was the kind of question he was going to ask: Why did I share something with him in an offhanded way that sounds like it's actually not a small or easy matter.  Not a stupid question, but a question that's a little hard to ask. (For the record- truly stupid questions generally are asked with confidence or bravado as if they are the smartest question in the world.)

Rabbi Krohn got personal tonight.  He shared how hard his mother took it when his father died.  Rabbi Krohn was a teenager, the oldest of the kids.  The kids all felt it.  his mother set  a place at the table for her husband for forty years.

I wrote a poem about  Sarah and Avraham's laughters.  And I don't know where it is.  I wish I had it and/or had the time and was blessed to recreate it.

May we all be blessed tonight with a good night, tomorrow with a good tomorrow, and always with a good always.

I would love some feedback as the blog reaches its tenth anniversary.

Friday, November 07, 2014

My Neighborhood, This Morning

Lech Lechah-Vayeirah Thought:

Sarah famously laughed when she heard that she'd have a baby in her advanced old age. And Yitchak, so we think, was named for her laughter.  The fact is that toward the end of Lech Lechah, G-d appears to Avraham and tells him that he's going to have a son. Avraham laughs and the son is named Yitzchak.

Why was Sarah chastised by G-d for her laughter while Avraham was not? Unkelos, who is known as a translator, but like every translator is a commentator/interpreter, interprets the same word used for the laughing of Avraham and Sarah in two different ways.  Regarding Sarah Unkelos writes that the she laughed, while for Avraham he says that he was joyful. Sarah, Unkelos (as cited by Rashi) seems to say, laughed in a cynical way, while Avraham laughed in a celebration.  This is supported by G-d's reaction to Sarah's laughter, asking if anything is impossible for him.

There's laughter that is dismissive and negative and laughter which is embracing and happy.  Today cynical humor is all the rage.  But we are better served when we laugh in a positive fashion.

On a related note, perhaps Sarah let go of her dream, so when she heard it could still come true she laughed it off.  But Avraham never let go of his dream, so though it seemed to not be in the cards, when he heard that it was going to come true, it still resonated for him, and he laughed in joy.

Old Jewish Tunes

A reliable source tells me that there are three Jewish tunes that are known to be over a thousand years old:

The slow, haunting, Elyahu HaNavi
The Yamim Noraim tune (nai nai nai nai nai nai nai...)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Book Excerpt/Life Excerpt

"Re: their date. For a time the novelty of the circus had distracted from the fact that they had nothing in common. By the end of dinner, the greater truth of their incompatibility had been revealed. Perhaps it should have been obvious from their inability to reach concensus on an appetizer or from his main course admission that he disliked "old things"- antiques, houses, dogs, people. Still, Amelia had not allowed herself to be certain until desert, when she'd asked him about the book that had had the greatest influence on his life, and he'd replied 'Pniciples of Accounting, part II." - Gabrielle Zevin, "The Storied Life of A.J. Firky, page 6

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Written while taking in Pinny Bulman's presentation this past Sunday:

I look in the back
of the poetry reading
looking for Aaron
12 years later it's his ghost
as his son reads from up front

"That's a great question"
he has said after each one
yet I believe him
knowing how he loves questions
how thrilled he is to get them

"I probably love
my dad's poetry more than
any in the world."

Monday, November 03, 2014


We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Mah SheIrah UMah Shehayah

the Rambam writes
that on the Seder night
we must speak of what happened
and we must speak of what was
what happened happened
and what was was
what happened lives in us
the way it happened in us
and what was disappears
the actual fact was and left
and yet G-d says remember
the going out from Egypt
and the Rambam explains
know the fact that's gone
and know the live story
and so too with our life
our own life exoduses
what was was, now gone
then there's what happened
and happens- again, again
and yes, G-d says- remember
even if it's not what was
remember what happened.

Hope- Tanka and Haiku

A Shul of old men
filled with their whole lifelong songs
and pieces of hope

Sometimes a tanka
leaves more room than a haiku
for conveying hope

Instead of saying
a bird that flies she called it
the thing with feathers
thus allowing it to slip
gently inside of your soul

Saturday, November 01, 2014

I hope to go to a reading by Pinny Bulman tomorrow.  So, I've been thinking about Aaron, and am linking to posts that include his name or are all about him.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Am Grateful

I just gave a test last period and it went into this one. I taught and had meetings through the day.  There's a school wide staff meeting tonight.  We'll be discussing peer observations, which is a great thing which I am grateful for.  Speaking of gratefulness I am taken a few seconds from my non stop duties to express gratefulness here.  I am grateful that my dad is a miraculous and tenacious survivor who is here in this world, in my life, ever present for me.  I am grateful to have a job that is a community, that is a place to serve, that is comfortable and nurturing and is a big peace of my journey toward a meaningful life.

About an hour and a half ago I was cutting through the library after minchah to administer my test.  The librarian stopped me and said she had a present for me.  Someone recently donated a collection of old books and she's distributing them to whom she sees fit.  So she gave me a book of poetry.  I told her that I felt bad taking it away from all the other people that would want a poetry book (for free)   She laughed and said that's why she was giving it to me.

The book is, Why Have You Chosen Me, by Bernard Dov Milans.  Here's a poem from it:


All praise to You who tie us to a star
And rescue us from what we really are

I am grateful to have the poetry of Torah and the poetry of life in my life.

Here's something I improvised and then wrote up (last year) for Parshat Lech Lechah:

Lech Lechah 

By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

There's a story we all know
about Avraham being asked to go
Hashem said to Avraham, "Lech lechah"
We should hear the story and we say, "Aha!"

If you think about it for a while
you can see it with a new style
Look at it in a different way
change your life, starting today

Avraham was told from himself to go
that's a game-changer of the whole show
He was told that he really had to change
to take his life and rearrange

"Lech lecha" means go to you
G-d said, "You know what to do"
"Lech lecha"- return to your self
Whether you're a giant or an elf

"Lech lecha"'s a call to everyone
It's sometimes hard, sometimes fun
"Lech lecha" means become the real you
We could start now, we know what to do

Avraham was told to become who he was
That's all any of us have, all anyone does
All of our lives we go to who we are
May we be blessed to be close, not far

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Avot 3:5

I just "spoke out some of what i will say in Mishmar, please G-d, and saved it here for you to hear.

I hope to continue to build my tanka website, amd my haiku site (which is much more developed than the tanka one). And I hope to continue sharing haiku at haikuhorizons. I also look forward to writing more of my longer poems, and putting them in a followup  book.

Poetry is a big part of my life. That can make me lonely sometimes.  And it can also make me very happy.

I started writing this on Sunday, since then a week has gone by  in that inimitable real life combination of fast and slow.  I wanted to do a whole piece about poetry and me. Now I find myself stopping for a moment during a non-stop day. There's a lot to write about regarding today and every day. And yet.  The day is short and the work is abundant. Which reminds me that I'm teaching an Avot class for Mishmar in a few minutes.  Third Perek this year.  Taught the first two last year. I need to re-gather my thoughts on what I'll be teaching.  Review sheet to prepare for tomorrow.  Log ins to write.  Emails and calls to return.  Need to pack and prepare for Freshman Retreat.  And and and and and.

My Poetic Gateways

I am grateful
for my friends
Billy and Emily

And my dear
poetic soul mate
Zelda of Jerusalem

I sit in the West and
my soul is in the East
glowing with Zelda

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

עמדתי בירושלים 

התלויה על ענן
עם אנשים בוכים
עץ עקום
הרים מטושטשים 
הלא אינכם
דיבר אלינו 
הלא אינך
הוא פנה אלי

עמדתי בתוך ירושלים 
המשובצת בשמש 
המחייכת כמו כלה 
על יד עשב דק וירוק

מדוע פחדת ממני אתמול בגשם
דיבר אלי המוות
הלא אני אחיך 
. השקט והגדול

I stood
in Jerusalem,
Jerusalem suspended from a cloud,
in a graveyard with people crying
and a crooked tree.
Blurry mountains
and a tower.
You are not!
death spoke to us.
You are not!
he turned to me.

I stood
in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem checkered in the sun,
smiling like a bride in the field,
slender green grass
by her side.

Why were you frightened
yesterday in the rain?
death spoke to me.
Am I not your quiet
older brother?

Monday, October 20, 2014


The pain of my hope
of which I just won't let go
has yielded wisdom

Tanka of the Day

My computer screen
is the face I stare at now,
losing energy
I decide to get up, push
and break away from its glow


In silence I run
away from you, not knowing
what to say to you

Enchanted Bird

By Zelda

When the feeble body
is about to fall
and reveals its fear of death
to the soul
the lowly tree of routine,
devoured by dust,
suddenly sprouts green leaves.
For out of the scent of Nothingness—
the tree blossoms—
glorious, beautiful.
and in its crown—
an enchanted bird. 

Third Monday In October

In live time.  A teacher just told me that s/he read about the phenomenon of post vacation depression.  S/he read that one should carry and look at a picture of something nice from the break. S/he's doing that and hoping it'll help.

A colleague, earlier this morning, shared this thought with me: "The only reshut hayachid - truly personal space a person has in this world is their heart.

I'm sitting in my office, fourth one I've had over the past 18+ years.  This one faces a hall so I do some meeting and greeting.  Shmoozed with a few kids already and they also enjoyed some sour chews.

Five minutes to class.  May G-d bless me and the students to have a great experience of learning.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Me and Paul Reiser - Just Two Comedians Hanging Out

Post Yom Tov/Shabbos-Breishit Post

I am starting this in the evening, shortly after returning from South Fallsberg, where I was for Yom Tov and Shabbos.  I am happy and grateful for a lot of wonderful moments, including right now.  I am sitting and writing while I listen to my 8th Day Spotify station.  Over Yom Tov I felt comfortable, largely.  Personalities are a fascinating thing, along with how we tweak the them via the choices we make regarding what we say and do.  Some people make me feel safe being myself with, they help me shine, I help them shine.  Some people make me wonder about how they can speak and act the way they do and not see that it hurts people like me.  I contributed a lot over the days and feel needed and appreciated: I spoke at 2 meals, ran an improv workshop, led a tisch, and more.  It's nice to be in a space that's a good fit.

I write a lot, some would say.  And yet I'd like to write more.  It may be my calling.  I want my books to be out there.  I have a pool of over 400 new haiku for my next book, which will, please G-d, be a continuation of my first one.

I am writing this in between marking tests.  I gave 3 of my classes tests right before YT and got 2 out 3 done before YT with one that i'm finishing up now.  Emails to write, calls to make, preparing to do m(no I don't teach the same thing every year).  My job is amorphous and on going and i am on right now, 9:44 PM on a Sunday night.

I'm praying for a healthy and good year for all of us in every way.

Here's what I wrote about teaching Breishit nine years ago.  This is the second time I'm teaching it since then. We now have a set curriculum to follow, and the year, thank G-d is off to another good start.  I look forward to continuing to teach my theree Chumash classes as we enter our first full week tomorrow. May G-d bless us all in our experience of learning holy Torah together.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Pre YomTov/Shabbos Thought

I never know what to write or where to write it. I starting blogging, like I started so many other things. because of honesty- because I wanted to be honest.  And then, like in so many other life contexts, I got more self conscious and cautious.  But I always long for honesty and truth.

I have a ride comingh any minute.  Need to sit ready and wait.  Need to finish this post.  Soon.

I don't often use the word here, but I am single.  And as has become necessary to explain and add in recent years- never married (that's how others put it and then I amend it to not yet). I'm going on a singles event.  In answer to FAQ- I think it's called Connections Retreat.  I just think of it as the thing that I first went on three years ago, run by Yitz and Rivkah.  It's all about nice people coming together and being kind.  It's amazing how just telling people to be aware and kind can work for many people.

I pray for a Yom Tov that moves us all forward in ways we can see and feel.

On Shmini Atzeret may we be blessed to stop (la'atzur) and grab onto something to keep and use for the year- from the process of holidays now closing.

Wishing everyone a wonderful last days of Yom Tov. May it be filled with true moments of humanity, spirituality, and religion/religiosity. And may the first Shabbos of the new Torah cycle get it's due and may we glean from it clarity, peace, and strength.

(And so much more, for which words elude me.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Sukkah Thought

Did you ever never hear a Dvar Torah before and then you hear it once and then again and then again. That happened for me this year with the Sukkot thought about a pasuk that compares sitting in the Sukkah to being hugged. by G-d. The entry level size of a Sukkah is two walls and a little bit. That's also the entry level size of a hug (the two parts of the bent arm and the hand).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good Moed to Me and You and Everyone

Sunday October 12, 2014

I am thinking of memory, consumed by the idea.  On Rosh HaShanah the essential concept of G-d's kingship and the command of the biblical blowing of the shofar are joined by memory to form the major 3 themes of the day. What do we ask G-d to remember? The ten sources cited seem weighted in our favor (though on Yom Kippur we tilt it the other way).

Yesterday was my birthday.  I am grateful to G-d for my life.  My life, like everyone's, is my story.  And how I tell it to others and to myself is based on how I remember it and how I remember it is biased. We are all unreliable narrators.  This may be particularly true about our own lives.

And yet.

I put a high premium on honesty.

And yet.

As I live a moment that moment disappears, except for my memory.



Yesterday I dreamed of a magnum opus kind of post for what I was writing above.  The last line of it was written in a sukkah.  A stranger offered me some seltzer and I said no thanks and he left the bottle and a cup for me anyway.  The memory lives on.

Now I am visiting with my dad as I did a week ago and the week before that and so on.  We're watching Jeopardy and he's on the phone with his best friend of about 80 years.  A commercial for CVS just started with, "The wish we wish above all is health."  That's what I call a healthy message.  I am thinking, like Butch Cassidy, always thinking.  I will probably remember this moment and the moments like it,these visits, this connection.  Dad's getting off the phone, saying, "Okay, let me go and talk to my son."' So I sould be present for that.

Good Moed and may G-d bless us all to be enveloped in his Sukkah of health, happiness, and peace.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Interview With Sharon Hernes Silverman

An interview with Sharon Hernes Silverman (above), author of the newly published Tunisian Crochet for Baby (below).

RNF: How did you get into crocheting? How did you get into writing? How did you get in writing about crocheting?

SHS: I’ve enjoyed arts and crafts ever since I can remember. I made mosaics, did paint-by-number, and embroidered as a child. My mom taught me to knit when I was 4 or 5, but I wasn’t very good at it. She showed me how to crochet a year or two later, and that came very naturally to me. For anyone unfamiliar with those crafts, knitting uses two pointy needles, and crocheting uses a gently rounded hook. (My most embarrassing crafting moment as a little girl was finishing an embroidered pillowcase only to find I had sewed it to the leg of my pants!)

After college I worked in publishing, then as a technical writer. When I visited the Wharton Esherick Museum one weekend—an amazing place that was the home and studio of a woodworker known as the “dean of American craftsmen”—I contacted the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer “Weekend” section to see if he would consider an article. No, but try again if the Museum could be included as part of a larger theme. Months later, that opportunity came up. Unfortunately, the editor was still not interested, but he asked me, “What other ideas do you have?” Uh oh! I really didn’t have any, but that didn’t stop me. “How about a survey of area wineries?” That was my first assignment, as the cover story for “Weekend” on August 19, 1988. After getting a few more assignments, I quit my job in Du Pont’s technical advertising department and began my freelance career.

In the years that followed I wrote a cave guidebook, three books for Childswork/Childsplay, and many newspaper and magazine articles. One of those articles, about the Daniel Boone Homestead in Pennsylvania, caught the eye of an editor at Stackpole Books, who asked me to do a guidebook about the site. I enjoyed working for Stackpole; after the Boone book, we did several other guides together: The State Museum of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Snacks:
Your Guide to Food Factory Tours; and Brandywine Valley: The Informed Traveler’s Guide.

The editor wanted me to write another travel book, but my children were little and the schedule did not work for me, so I had to decline. After a moment of hesitation, the editor said, “We just started a craft line. Can you do anything?” My response was, “Why, yes, I crochet!” That started a whole new avenue of writing for me. I have since authored seven crochet titles (for Stackpole Books and Leisure Arts), with three more in the pipeline, and I also have a private line of patterns.

RNF: What lessons can one learn from crocheting for life? Is it relaxing? Does it teach discipline?

SHS: Crocheting, like any craft, can teach patience. It’s important to read through a pattern before starting a project. The other essential task is to crochet a swatch (small sample). I have yet to meet a crocheter who enjoys doing this—we want to get started on the real thing!—and I have yet to meet a crocheter who hasn’t ruined a project because of failure to swatch. The swatch lets you see whether the number of stitches you make per inch, and the number of rows per inch,
match the number the designer expects. That’s called gauge. For something like a scarf, gauge is no big deal. If your finished scarf is a half-inch wider than the sample, so what? For a sweater, however, if the specified gauge is 16 stitches/4 inches, and you make 20 stitches/4 inches, your garment will be way too small! (When you get to the number of stitches specified in the pattern, you will not have covered as much area as you should.) Welcome to the world of “frogging” (rip it, rip it).  Discipline comes in training yourself to finish one project before going on to the next one; in taking the time to finish garments with professional-looking seams; and in clearing out old yarn before buying more (senior centers love donations of clean, unused yarn).

Some people find crocheting very therapeutic. It gives you something constructive to do with your hands, and can have a hypnotic effect. People with various physical, mental, and emotional issues can feel soothed and comforted by the act of crocheting, and the knowledge that they are making something useful. For me, having an outlet for creativity is very rewarding. It’s a good feeling to know I have come up with a design that nobody has thought of before. I also enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to do something new. I’ve taken a couple of classes on Craftsy, and I frequently turn to YouTube or to my library of crochet books when I need help.

RNF: You've written so much. What are some of your favorite articles, books, topics?

SHS: Travel writing is my first love. I deeply enjoyed my stint as the country inn columnist for Maryland Magazine. It was a joy to visit Kauai and to write articles about “Falling in Love with the Garden Isle.” I was with the first group of people invited to the privately-owned Hawaiian island of Niihau, which resulted in a Denver Post article that won a Hawaii Visitors Bureau ravel writing award. I’ve had the opportunity to explore Toronto’s gardens, sip tea in a private London home, feed alligators on a swamp tour in Houma, Louisiana, go white-water rafting in British Columbia, and eat fresh pretzels, potato chips, and chocolate from one end of the Keystone State to the other. Not much to complain about there!

I’m also a huge fan of the Brandywine Valley, where I live. It is just 30 miles west of Philadelphia, where Pennsylvania and Delaware meet. The art, gardens, and culture concentrated in such a small area is unparalleled, in my opinion, and the back roads through horse country are stunning. Longwood Gardens, Winterthur (currently hosting a Downton Abbey exhibit), the Brandywine River Museum, and the Delaware Art Museum are just some of the spots worth seeing. Writing Brandywine Valley: The Informed Traveler’s Guide let me explore the area in depth, and then take other people on the journey. Meeting interesting people is another appealing aspect of my work. From a hex sign painter, to an award-winning pumpkin carver, to a woman who raises Icelandic horses, I have
come across some fascinating individuals.

RNF: What drives you in your writing? Is it curiosity? Is it therapeutic? Is it just a pleasant vocation?

SHS: I am definitely motivated by curiosity, and the desire to learn new things and share them with others. If I hadn’t gone into writing, I would probably be a teacher. (I did teach freelance writing and travel writing in adult evening school for several years.) I like to think of myself perched on the reader’s shoulder, learning what he or she is interested in and making recommendations through my words. This is especially important in my crochet titles. Detailed instructions and technique photos are included so that a crocheter never has to wonder, “Do I put
the hook here, or there? What should this row look like when it’s done?” There are plenty of crocheters who make wonderful designs, but are lousy at writing patterns. Sometimes I think I have an advantage precisely because I am NOT the world’s best crocheter. I don’t make any assumptions about what the reader knows, and I don’t skip over anything. My experience as a technical writer has come in handy, too. As someone who has been a word person her whole life, writing features and travel articles gives me the chance to have fun with language (along the lines of “Suit Yourself to a Tea,” about tea rooms in the Delaware Valley).

Once in a while a topic gets under my skin, and writing an essay can be cathartic. After a particularly bad series of customer service experiences, I wrote “The Customer is Always Wronged.” A lot of people identified with that piece! I shouldn’t omit the practical aspects of writing. It is my career, not a hobby, and I do work for the paycheck. I’m always looking for new ideas and places that might publish my articles or books. Now that travel information is so easily available on the web, writing a full-length travel book is not as financially viable as it once was; rather than bemoan that, I search for new ways to get my work read.

RNF: Is there any way that a non-crocheter (like myself) could read and take something away from your crocheting related books? And (assuming that the answer to that is not really) which of your articles and books would you recommend for someone interested in learning new things?

SHS: Anyone who is writes instructions might benefit from reviewing my approach to crochet, even if the terminology is unfamiliar. My patterns follow a consistent format. Materials, skill level, and sizing information are presented first. Abbreviations are listed in a table. Visuals supplement the text. I like to think of my instructions as looking at a destination, explaining what someone needs before leaving the starting point, and then laying out a road map for how we get there from here. That works whether you are writing a recipe or telling an astronaut how to work an air scrubber.

Beyond that, I don’t think there’s much else that non-crocheters (assuming they are not interested in changing that status) would get from my crochet books, except if they are looking for gifts for their friends and family members who crochet! Or, if someone is looking for a special gift, he or she might want to commission me to make that.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Good Moed, Good Vuch, Happy Birthday to Me

I am grateful to have been blessed with another birthday.  I am blessed to have been hosted by a great friend and mentor for Yom Tov- first day of Sukkos.  I am grateful to have experienced an intense religious setting/davening for three days of Yom Tov into Shabbos in the Rachmostrivska Shtiebel.  I am grateful my father is with me in this world.  I am grateful to be running out to celebrate my birthday in good company. I would and could and perhaps should write more... Please G-d may you and me and everyone be blessed to be thankful in good health for a long time to come.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Good Erev Yom Tov

I'm starting this post on a cab and hopefully will finish it in Spring Valey/Monsey wher I am heading for Yom Tov, which, please G-d will be upon us soon.  Two dear old frieds that I hadn't  spoken to in some time called me today while I was scurrying to head out. I've known one since 1975 and the other since 1983. Neither knew that yesterday was my Jewish birthday and Shabbos is my secular one.

Just arrived at my destination.  I pray for inspiration to write something meaningful.  And then I will sign off and settle into my physical surroundings and into the Yamim Tovim.

Life is religious and spiritual or it is not a full life. I have liberal sympathies and yet I believe what I just wrote.  I think that being spiritual is, as Rabbi Abraham Twerski sees it, being truly human and embracing our humanness over our anialistic side.  Then religion takes it up a notch.

May these days upon us be truly spiritual and truly religious and truly transformative.

One of my friends who called me say that about 20 years ago I told him the following. I don't recall saying it.  I wonder. He says that I said that the Vilna Gaon was asked what the hardest mitzvah is. he said that it was Sukkos because we are commande to be happy for the whole holiday and that is very challenging to do.

May we be blessed to be happy on Sukkos, rich with all we have, and may it overflow into the year.

Sky Haiku

Time out for the sky
Testify for all that is
Sing like you're in church

My eyes see the sky
through the ceilings above me
over this high roof

Fear G-d like the sky
For at least you have to try
Till the day you die

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It's my Hebrew birthday.  I am up, marking tests, working.  A bunch of years ago someone hurt me by saying something that ended with, "after all your job is only part time." As Paul Reiser says in a new routine of his, "Really?" (He points out that this word was once use in wonder and joy, "Really! That's swell." But now it's a hurt reaction word.  Like the woman he cut on line that he didn't know he cut until she said that word.  I guess -and i'm a pretty good guesser- that the person who hurt me didn't know it.  In any case-) My job is not now and has never been part time. I'm grateful to G-d to have a good, nay- great job.  And a good, nay- great life. I love that I was born at this time of year, between YK and Sukkos. I need to get back to work.  Just wanted to pause for a second and thank G-d for bringing me into this world on this day, once and again and again and again.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Post YK

8:38 PM- I'm longing for an old school honest, free flowing blog post.

The fast was hard for me. There was a time, when like so many young-ones in the room I was well suited for a no-break davening that started early (7AM) and ended late (7:45 PM).  It's my local minyan and a good fit in terms of location.  But there was a certain bombastic element to the way the prayers are screamed by someone (right behind me) that doesn't feel so right for me.

On a related note someone told me that their rabbi's pet peeve is people who take out a little choolate bar to eat right after the shofar is blown at the end of YK. I am reminded of the book in which great rabbis were asked how they saw the role of being a rabbi. Rav Chaim Brisker's answer was, "Chesed." It seems to me that if someone needs to eat that candy bar asap after the fast that's part of their journey, part of their avodah.  And a rabbi, of all people should see that person's light.  A person who's line of work is psychology once told me that he liked me as a rabbi because I was the first one he met that he didn't think had serious issues.  (I wonder if that phrasing softened the blow, when I say what the man told me more precisely people don't take well to it.)

8:56 PM - Dad called me back.  I left a message.  His fast went well.  People ask how dad is doing and I say that some days I think he's doing better than me. Today may have been one of those days.

As I write a cassette (I purged a lot of them recently and am glad I still have some) of Eit Rekod-Time to Dance is playing.  It's orchestrations of traditional Jewish, mostly Chasidic, tunes.  I am sitting at a laptop at a small table in my back room.  I am purposely not sitting at my usual spot at my desktop in the living room.  Going for a new start. Changing my station to remind myself of the new start I wish for.

9:17 PM - I'm trying to move forward.  And yet.  I hold on to things.  Barnacles.  And aren't we supposed to remember things?  So many people around me seem to say and do things and expect no-one to remember.  What are zichronot all about.  We're saying to G-d that we remember and we're asking Him to remember all the good of our past. But weren't there mistakes? Are we forgetting the things we did wrong? Are we trying to trick G-d into going along with our selective memory.  That seems to be a common thing to do with people.  But with G-d?  And with people too, isn't not being straightforward and honest wrong?

9:44 PM - I need to stay in and cocoon, though there's a great local shiur starting now.

Wanting to be real
He seeks a stand up routine
For a dose of truth

I find that comedians often talk about wanting the truth.  And the best of them do hit on great truths in their routines.  That's one of the things I love about stand up. Call me crazy, but I have this thing about truth.

10:15 PM - Just answered and sent in my 10Q questions. I feel tired, though I feel like I shouldn't be.  I feel like I'm big on feeling.

10:51 PM - People lie.  That's the answer.  Often.  Oh man.  It makes me mad.  people lie to themselves and/or/then to you.  And I sit alone trying to not rethink the lies of others, their emotional stuckness. Trying.

I really want some positive changes in my life, want to make moves forward.  Please G-d. Please, G-d.

11:59 PM and beyond - I'm compelled by Zelda.  The images! Wet leaves awaken the golden leaves in my soul.  I wish I could have met Zelda.  She seems like she's from an earlier time.  I wish I could have been a little earlier and overlapped with her.

My erev YK highlight was bumping into a dear friend and having a great talk over lunch.  He is wise.  I admire wisdom.  And I yearn for it.

I never framed my Nicholas Roerich poster- I'd like to.  

May we all be blessed with new energy and a new start, starting now.