Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In The Moment Thoughts

There's an impact I feel from the many many hours I spent clearing out my parents' (/my) home.  Most of the time it was me and my dear assistant Angelica sorting through stuff for hours on end and filling myriad large garbage bags. 

Part of the effect is that I am getting tired of my own clutter.  I don't even know who, if anyone, would do it, but in case one day when I've moved forward someone clears through my stuff I'd like to make it a bit less work for them.  I realized that while my parents always told me to throw stuff away, they almost never did.  The house didn't look like a hoarders' home (except for the basement) because things were stored away.  And went untouched for maybe 50 years, till I touched them. 

There were these cabinets parallel to the kitchen ceiling filled with old rusty appliances.  May parents' closet had a top shelf that went back deep and in the back of it there was there wedding album, which I had never seed.  It had sat there since we moved in in the late sixties.  My dad had check stubs and other paper work going back to the early sixties, at least. What was once my room was packed with their clothing and other items.  On and on.  Books that hadn't been touched in fifty years. A piece of furniture filled with my mother's teaching stuff which spilled over to elsewhere too.  All the stuff they got from when my grandparents and so on. 

So tonight I'm giving away a lovely set of books that I've had for about thirty years.  it's called Sarei Meiah by Rav Y L Maimon.  I've never read anything from it till I just now read this: He says that Rav Kook practiced what he preached by moving to Israel.  As much as he was already a big rabbi and leader he wanted more.  he taught that the Jewish people could only become who they were meant to be in Israel, and he believed this about himself too.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Friendship

Rav Hutner says that the word rei'ah/friend is related to the word teruah - the broken sounds of the shofar.  a friend sometimes breaks you down, if he/she is a true friend. This is why the command to love our friends is followed by the prohibition of getting back at a friend.  Sometimes a true friend will critique us and our temptation may be to get angry at them when the appropriate response is thank you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Toldot

Six stages of Yitzchak's life discussed in Torah -

He's born
Akeida
Marriage'
In land of Plishtim
Brachot
He dies

Each stage finds him being passive rather than active.

Rabeinu Bachya - 26:18 - Yitchak kept the names of the wells that Avraham gave.  He represents continuity and stability.  Thus his name didn't change. Rav Shteinzaltz says that his greatness was in floowing and continuing what Avraham did. Gevurah is holding back and not acting. Carrying things further is key, more than just starting.The Ketav VaKabala points out that the renameing of the wells with G-d related names reflects how the people tried to forget Avraham's meaasage and Yitzchak reopened (redug) that message, continued on that path.

(Inspired by presentation of Rabbi Yamin Goldsmith)

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Something came up about Nechama Leibowitz in class and I got choked up as I related that she only allowed the one descriptive word, "Morah," written on her tombstone.


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I have been enjoying and gaining from  Rabbi Yamin Goldsmith's SFW Daily What's app message. Here are some ideas I remember from it.

Lech Lechah - When a father says the bracha on brit milah he calls it the brit of Avraham Avinu. Then he says that just as the the newborn has entered the bris, so too he should enter Torah, chupah, and ma'asim tovim.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab (in his sefer on Chumash commenting on Parshat Pekudei) says that there is no benefit that a person gets from having a brit milah. It is done only because it was commanded by G-d. So what the parent prays for is that just like his child has had a bris, which is done only for G-d, so too may be go through all the stages of life and fulfill the mitzvot that are associated with each passage, for the sake of Heaven.

--------------------
Chayei Sarah - 

1 - Why did Avraham say that his son's wife had to come from his hometown of Aram, and not from Canaan?  The Ran says that he was stressing the importance of midot, something that they has in Aram, even though they were idol worshipers, as opposed to in Canaan, where they were unkind.  

2 - Eliezer says that the girl may not want to go with him, and asks Avraham what to do then.  The word is ulai, Hebrew for maybe. Rashi says that Eliezer (not named in the parsha) says that wanted his daughter to marry Avraham's son and therefore had some hopes that his mission would not succeed.It's pointed out by commentaries (Ketav VeKabalahoothat the word ulai is written in an in incomplete way (missing the letter vav) and this is what gave Rashi the idea that that Eliezer had some hesitation about his mission. It's worth noting that the story is told twice, once when it happens and once when it's recounted by Eliezer to Avraham's family in Aram.

Rabeinu Ovadia of Bartenura says that he is giving credence to the whole story by telling them that she's so nice that he wanted her for his son, and he's only here out of his loyalty for Avraham.  Rav Chaim Brisker says that now that he's actually met Rivka and sees how goosd she is, he wishes his son could marry her. And he hoped that in telling them about how he wondered that maybe the girl wouldn't want to travel they would think that maybe there was a reason not to send her and would hold back from letting her go.

3 - Tradition has it that Yitzchak went went to a field to pray and instituted Mincha.  The word used is that he went to speak - lasuach in the field - basadeh.  The word is used for the first time in Parshat Breishit describing the creation of plant life.  Just like plants need care and time to grow so too do our prayers time time and need care.  it's not for nothing that prayer is called avodah shebaleiv.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

GNAGB - 2017 Edition

It's a long time since I started writing here, keeping a "blog," and now I write less, but I'm not done here.  Less people read than once, and commenting happens so rarely it's almost like it doesn't happen.

I recently was chatting with someone who gets down sometimes about his life.  he said something about where he was 12 years ago, and then someone else chimed in, and then he asked me.  I said I was doing all the same things, living in the same place, working in the same place, status the same. He questioned that but didn't pursue it, went back to himself.  We all want things that others have and have things others want.  May we all be blessed with contentment balanced with drive, and gratefulness, and kindness woven through it all. 

It's late at night, later than the time here will say because I want it to say Saturday night (Motzai Shabbos Kodesh) even if it's technically Sunday morning.  Of course there are changes in my life - but certain changes not others.  I have no child who's older to refer to, no car changes (no car) no house changes (no house), no spouse, still.  If nothing else, shouldn't I be talking about re-doing a kitchen by now.  (Is it me or does it mean something other than re-doing a kitchen when a kitchen ggets redone?)

Dating has happened, - but I don't talk about that here (here?) (don't?). Friendships have been  tweaked. and have morphed  I've written new things.  I've read new things.  I've learned new Jewish texts. I've gone through changes in how I teach and what I teach and what else I do at work besides teaching Jewish studies (public speaking, poetry, improv, lots of guidance).

I have worked on my health , various aspects of it, nefesh and guf, in various ways.  I've exercised more and less and more...  In the last year and a half I have been more consistent than ever before with exercise and with eating and weight.  I've seen doctors I needed to see and done some of what I've needed though it feels regarding health that it's a mountains beyond mountains kind of thing. 

I've been there for people and people have been there for me.  And the reverse of that is sadly true too.  I've become part of a temporary community of unmarried (never and divorced and widowed and older and younger and sad and more sad and less sad, so many shades) frum people who spend Yom Tov together twice a year - for the past 8 years.

I've been keeping a graph for the last many years of my weight, week to week. It's down about 20 pounds from a year and a half ago.  It's plateaued and I've stopped being as careful with my food.  I need to truly avoid carbs and eat lots of veggies and protein becaue for me  it works.  Someone I know had the surgery recently, on the stomach.  He/she tells most people he/she just watches carbs.  I don't want to do that.  He/she's one of 3 people who have told they've done it. 

People tell me stuff.  I got my license for social work renewed, but it's already time to renew it again.  I think about being a therapist. 

I've published one book.  I don't know why I didn't get it on Amazon. I have more books to publish. I've made some art.

I've said yes. I've said no.

I bought a new bed for the first time in over twenty years, and it was a hard experience.  I bought a different kippa for the first time in many years, bought 5 of them, and then decided I may not be comfortable with it. 

I went to Israel several times. 

I spent a lot of time with my dad, sleeping on his couch in his house, then on his floor in assisted living, them on the bed he had them move in for me.  Shabbos regularly there for what might have been many years, turned out to  - suddenly - end at two and a half.  I spoke at the meals there, spoke to the people, told jokes, listened. 

I experienced the death of dad, seven years after the death of mom.  I lost my parents. 

I've done some financial things I needed to do. 

I've taken care of myself better than I might have, and not as well as I might have.  I've excelled at somethings and fallen short at others. 

Things may look the same but there is movement, there is living and not just existing.  I've gotten better at going to bed -sometimes, but not tonight.  Tonight I'm here with the energy stored from sleeping on Shabbos, maybe too much. 

Signing out and sending blessing to you (the you who once told me that my writing you is powerful, and to all of you). 

"The time has come to say good night,
My how time does fly.
We've had a laugh, perhaps a tear,
and now we hear good-bye.

I really hate to say good night,
for times like these are few.
I wish you love and happiness,
In everything you do.

The time has come to say good night,
I hope I've made a friend.
And so we'll say May God bless you,
Until we meet again."

- Red Slelton

Friday, November 03, 2017

One of the most valuable lessons of my life has been to understand that one truth does not cross out another, contradictory truth. We have the capacity to hold opposing truths in one hand. - Cheryl Strayed

Thursday, November 02, 2017

“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.” ― Dylan Thomas

Vayeirah via Shemen HaTov

The Torah says that Avraham offered much hospitality and abundant food to his guests. However (Breishit 17:4) when it comes to water to wash with he asked them to take "a little water." Rashi comments on his offer to take water, saying that this was done by way of a worker, on Avraham's behalf. Perhaps Rashi is answering the question of why he only gave them a bit of water. Avraham was in the desert, water was not easy to come by.  He had someone get it for him.  He did not want to burden the go between who got water for him, even though he went all out on all other fronts.  Perhaps the lesson here is that we can go all out when it is at our own expense.  But we should be careful of being kind at someone else's expense.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“We are at the center of our own stories. And sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not at the center of other people’s.” - Rachel Joyce

Saturday, October 28, 2017

In the summer of 2016 I received new life in my life when I found the poetry of Rav Menachem Froman.  I shared 5 of 6 of these here before.  May I merit to keep learning from and trying to translate them.

Due Process For Madness
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
It’s easy to let yourself forget
in the light of day, the way
of the madness of the night.
It comes as if self-evident,
like the light that conquers the darkness,
like the words that conquer the blank page;
they are all the same:
As much as they try not to be worn and torn
in the morning, of course, they just must
dress up so that they will be known
and make sense to others
or at least
to themselves.
Only in the middle
of the madness of the night is hidden
the wholeness
that cannot be divided,
completely yours.
This is the ancient lure
to be like G-d.

-----------------------------------------------------

And Then
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
Suddenly amidst the movement
you want to hold on to a fixed point
and just then in the middle of the confusion
you come to believe.
In the midst of the desolation
you find a fresh water spring
Amidst all this all of this.
You get up and say, "Thanks."

------------------------------------------------

Untitled 
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
Tonight
I go
to cover my little daughter
go to watch over this sleeping sweetness
wanting to protect this delicate breath
so that no harm shall befall her
for all days
for always
so that nothing bad should happen to her.
My daughter is named for my mother
and she looks so much like her
when she shuts her eyes in bed
eye for eye I see
yes, I tremble
her time of death.

------------------------------------------------------

Eilu HaDevarim - These Are The Things
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
Don't let things seduce you
Don't let things
Don't let books make you
Not books
Nor for experiences to force you
Not even poems

----------------------------------------------------

A Poem For Yom Yerushalayim: Har HaBayit Veyadeinu*
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
In childhood of old there's a story we told
of two brothers who rose in the night
and tarried to carry bundles to one another, using their hands.
They went in private, so as not to embarrass.
In the place where they met, in the place where they
interlocked hands in silence
the Holy Temple was built.
Two with clean hands will ascend the mountain
One from this and one from that
At night, so as not to embarrass
They will raise their hands
In faith
Until the battle stops
and the war breaks.
When G-d returns
the Return of Zion
we will be like children
How it will surely be as once
carrying their bundles.

------------------------------------------------------

The Elephant In The Room :
A Love Story Between An Orthodox Woman and a Leftist Man
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
In the dark
both of us
feel around him
with cleaving but without hope
I hold onto his dragged tail
and believe it is rope
You
grasp his large, widespread ears
and surmise them to be wings
After giving up we both conclude
that what we have
never happened at all
And it's not just
a metaphor. He is right here.
Now he gets up
huge, upon us, awesome
May he not trample us
May he not knock us over
May what we have
not end badly
I
lift my hands in prayer
You
hold him with two hands
My G-d, My G-d - maybe
he'll carry both of us on his back.

---------------------------

Untitled
By Menachem Froman
Translated by Neil Fleischmann
He betrayed, clearly shown
And suddenly I'm alone
Reached out a hand for life
And suddenly - a sharp knife
Good reasoning:
You have your world
"Don't be a baby
That's just how it goes."
Miraculous connection
A fairy tale it might be
Untitled
By Menachem Froman
Translated by Neil Fleischmann
Betrayal shown
and suddenly I'm alone
Reached out a hand for life
and suddenly - a sharp knife
Good reasoning as
you have your world:
"Don't be a baby
That's just how it goes."
Miraculous connection
A fable it might be
The sea saw and fled
The Jordan river retread
You too 
went on your way

On the side I stayed
Betrayed

Friday, October 27, 2017

I just discovered that there are a bunch of comments going back some time that have been awaiting moderation. I am so sorry that I missed them. Please try to understand that I did not know if you had commented. I never received notification.  I just put them up.  I am not sure I will find them all and be able to reply.  So, I will comment here, now. Thanks to the friend who posted condolences when dad passed away. Thanks to the relative who asked about remembrance gatherings for dad. Thanks to all who still visit here and particularly to those who comment.  I wondered why no-one had commented in so long.  They mean a lot to me.  Thanks again!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review - Turtles All The Way Down

At points while reading "Turtles All The way Down" I worried if John Green was going to be okay. It's not a memoir, but it's written from and about his own experiences. The protagonist, a sixteen year old girl named Aza, says (on page 261) that people "talk like there's a bright line between imagination and memory" when there's barely a line at all. I imagine Green's voice when Aza says, "I remember what I've imagined and I imagine what I remember."  There's an unacknowledged thin line between fiction and memoir, and this book presents a raw and real revelation of who it's author is in his insides. I don't want to give away lines or plot but to simply say that this book is unusually well written. You're going to hear a lot of people saying that Green successfully puts words to pain in a way that hasn't been done before.  It's true.  This book is going to resonate for a lot of people and it's going to spark talk about how real and prevalent mental health concerns are.  Since the book's publication two weeks ago I've been reading up on it and i think the New York Times reviewer got it right in calling this book astonishing.  Read it and then let's talk about it.  Do it before its words are on tee shirts and your non reader friends are talking about the movie.  Read this book now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 Hope is a function of struggle. - Brene' Brown

Monday, October 16, 2017

Many years ago I read a piece in Newsweek following some politician getting in trouble via his diaries. Meg Greenfield wrote that anyone writing in a diary (like anyone writing anywhere),at least in part, wants to be read.  Before I started writing here about 13 years ago I wanted my personal writing to be read, even though I kept my journals private.  On the other hand, I didn't want to be read. Really. Part of me misses the writing I used to do more of, the writing that was just for me - or at least so I claimed. I still do it. But I also have gotten more used to sharing my writing, which has it's charm.  Right now, I'm missing the umph I had to write and keep it to myself.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

H.O.T.D.

Suspended water
in clouds of tiny droplets
plays misty for me



Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Yud Gimel Tishrei

Today was my Hebrew birthday.  I forgot - until it was dark, and thus, Jewishly, no longer my birthday. I didn't bless anyone, or get any birthday wishes, I din't pause in gratefulness - until now, after sundown. 

I gave two tests today and most of my day was focused around that, answering questions of students, making sure the tests were right, coming to class early and staying late for the kids who have extended time. Tests are a problem and a solution, they hurt and they help - like much in life.

I taught other classes today too, and tended to other work stuff, but mostly today was about exams.  I slept very little last night, working on writing the tests, and resisting working on the tests.  Today was a hazy mix of exhaustion and adrenaline and the day it passed without my remembering it was my birthday.

I think sometimes about the scene in Our Town, where Emily comes back to watch a few moments of her life on earth and is overwhelmed by the beauty of the seemingly mundane.  I forget sometimes that life is great, that I am blessed with so much.  Thank you G-d for another year gone by.  Looking forward.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

I'm Glad You Were My Dad

Tomorrow is/was dad's birthday.  He would have been completing his 88th year here had he not moved forward in January.  He'ezinu was his parsha - he had leined the whole thing and remembered it fondly.  His Hebrew birthdate was Ellul 27,5689. He passed on from this world on Jan 22, 2017/Ellul 27, 5777.  It is of interest to me that our birth dates are close.  Also interesting is that he passed away on a close date to when my mom passed.

I have written a bit regarding his sudden passing and how it's affected me. One example, written on
Tuesday, March 14, 2017:

Dad's funeral's mud
is still stuck onto my shoes
even in the snow

I have much on my mind, though I feel like sharing here, or elsewhere online, less than I used to.

May we all be blessed with good things in this year, in this life.

"Partnering With Hashem"

The Ohr HaChayim writes about Shmot 20:9 (on his commentary to 20:11) (Munk translation):

"G-d created the world for it to endure for 6 days. It follows that He has to renew creation, i.e. to issue a directive for the universe's continued existence every single day. The means He uses is the soul of the day called Shabbat, which He created by 'resting.' The fact that G-d desisted from creative activity after the sixth day resulted in the Sabbath coming into existence. Our Sages in Breishit Rabbah 10:9, indicate that prior to the Shabbos the world was in a constant state of turmoil. When the Sabbath came the world calmed down."

On a related note he adds another step relating to people on Breishit 2:2: "Only Sabbath observers keep the universe going.  Therefore the Sabbath observers have become G-d's partners by ensuring that G-d's universe survives for another six days."

I became aware of this in listening to R Abraham Twerky's presentation of October 11, 2016, YU Torah.

Monday, September 25, 2017

"Teshuva" means response, 
working to react appropriately.
-Me

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I miss my dad.  I am grieving still.  A bit past halfway - of the year, not halfway of forever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

TTAD 12 -
I once heard Rabbi Kalman Pacouz say that the only thing that stands between us and us is us.
Sometimes great, yet flawed people become more popular after they died. It recently dawned on me that this is because they've gotten out of their own way.
Maybe an underrated part of teshuva is getting out of our own way. I think this is well articulated in the quote I cite below.
------------------------------------------------------------
A dear teacher, friend, and mentor introduced me to her in 1982. I was struck by her faith and her ability to express herself in a real surreal, seriously funny, other-wordly down to earth way. She was an anchor for me when I was in my early twenties even though I thought I had rejected the likes of her. She died young long before I met her.
She brought me comfort again, as I read this, as her lips moved gently from her grave. In her early twenties she shared these words only with G-d:
"Dear G-d,
I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear G-d is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know you G-d because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside..."
- From "A Prayer Journal," a posthumous book by Flannery O'Conner

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough." ~ Frank Crane (h/t Gratitude Point)

"Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable. " - Meghan O'Rourke, The Long Goodbye, pg. 10

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

HaNeshama Lach

Been a while since I've done this -

7:30 PM - Need to eat, prep, make some calls. Tomorrow is first day of classes.  G-d, thank you for the merit of teaching adolescents,  and of teaching them Torah.

9:20 PM - I made dinner, ate dinner: salad and turkey burgers, spiked with sausage.  I am thinking about tomorrow.  Nechama Leibowitz was once about to go out and teach at an event and she said something about being nervous and the person with her was surprised. And Nechama said that a teacher needs to always stay nervous, it means you care.

11:59 PM - Listening to moving Levaya of Shalom Brodt.  moving beynd words, literally, as the singing and the crying moves even the words beyond the words.

Need/want/hope/pray to go to sleep and to get up.

The King Is In The Restaurant

When we say our Al Cheits, we mention that we sinned via food and drink. There's a fast day between Rosh and Shanah and Yom Kippur- which is, of course, itself a fast day. Between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur one law that many take on to be more careful about concerns the bread that they eat. These and other factors point to the fact that our need to eat and how we handle it is very relevant to our teshuva process. As Rav Tzadok HaKohein pointed out (as cited in Eating As Tikkun) it is no coincidence that the first mis-step that humans ever made was related to food. G-d should bless us to succeed as we try to work on the way we eat, which reflects so much on where we are at as humans.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life is a test, please give the best answer
A or B or C, pick one instantly
What if there's so much more to me?
I've got a pocketful of poetry
I've got a head full of songs, a heart with wings
You couldn't tie me down to anything and that's enough for me
- Mindy Gledhill

Monday, August 21, 2017

The whole eclipse thing went over my head.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Demitri Martin: I have an L shaped sofa... lower case.

Art That Uses Words: Words Beyond Words

"When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience the meaning more fully." -Flannery O'Connor

On Parshat He'ezinu, Nechama Leibowitz says something quite similar about poetry and how it can't be simply decoded into other words because if it could be then those were the words that would have been used in the first place.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Via Qizony

"You should marry: Someone Who Is a Partner and a Best Friend"

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tisha Be'Av, Judaism's Holy Day of Loneliness

This got a lot of love (and like) from friends on Facebook. To the best of my knowledge this is an original thought and phrasing. Since people have been taking to it I thought I'd share it here.  (Still not ready to tweet.)

Tisha B'Av is the Jewish holy day of loneliness. This day is consecrated for the focus on what it means to feel disconnected and alone. Tisha B'Av the Jewish Day of Loneliness will one day become a holiday when we have learned to connect and be whole, with G-d, one another, and ourselves.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Something For Us to Work On

When we say, "What I thought you were going to say was..." It is a strong example of not focusing on taking in what the other person is saying.  They are less interested in hearing you go on about what you thought they were going to say. they wanted you to hear and respond to what they said.

Rule #45, The Playbook

By Kwame Alexander

Dribble, 
fake, 
shoot, 
miss; 

dribble, 
fake, 
shoot, 
miss; 

dribble, 
fake, 
shoot, 
miss; 

dribble, 
fake, 
shoot, 
swish.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Al tehi baz lechol adam" is generally translated as, don't put down (don't be baz toward) any person. It can also be understood differently. Do not let yourself become baz in regard to just anyone. Don't let everyone's comments, attitude, essence get to you!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Closing narration of "In Praise of Pip"

"Very little comment here, save for this small aside: that the ties of flesh are deep and strong, that the capacity to love is a vital, rich and all-consuming function of the human animal, and that you can find nobility and sacrifice and love wherever you may seek it out: down the block, in the heart … or in the Twilight Zone."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, Longevity Expert, Dies at (or Lives to) 105

Amazing obituary today. Shared in comments.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Is that how long it's been?" - he might ask me, if he was here in this world.

I feel like it's been a long time since I did what I consider a conventional personal blog journal style post here.  There are reasons.  I'm always hiding and seeking, and at this moment that brings me back here.

Shabbos was the 6 month anniversary of the passing of my dad OBM. It was sudden. And he was 87.  He was sick.  And he was completely fine. He was starting to slide cognitively.  He was sharp, sharper than many people of that age, still checking his stocks, reading several newspapers and magazines regularly, going to Shul for minyan 3 times a day, playing cards and still winning once or twice a week, on the board of his assisted living facility, dating a lovely, kind, sweet woman (who told me after dad passed that "we'll always be family"), watching Jeopardy and getting the answers right, loving the Big Bang theory, following pretty much every sport, on top of the daily and nightly news and the Sunday morning news focused shows, watching stock related TV, watching Shark tank though h was tired of the reruns because he had seen them all, talking to his best friend and his 2 sons every day, talking with his 2 nieces from his beloved sister on a regular basis, shmoozing and kibitzing with other people in the place - both residents and workers, getting and reading and following up on his daily mail, attending simchas, and more.

Sometimes when people would ask me (often with a sad and sympathetic voice) "How's you're father doing?" I'd say that I think he's doing better than me. A few months ago someone from a publication reached out to me about submitting to them and we agreed that writing about dad's passing made sense.  They told me that if it was on a blog it couldn't be published by them.  For that and other reasons I'm done with this topic for here, for now.

Sitting on the shore
staring into the ocean
from my sailboat spot

Hailing Haiku Horizons

Sunday, July 23, 2017


"I don't see how he can ever finish, if he doesn't begin." 
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter IX

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

“If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or ‘How would a salamander respond to this situation?’ Invariably, I find the right answer." - Eleanor Oliphant

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

After the still small voice
a noise
And after the noise,
a still small voice.
And after it, a noise.
And after it, a still small voice
And after the still small voice,
a noise.
Discard the rest.

- Yehuda Amichai

The still small voice comes from the portion of the prophets read this week (it's read some years as the Haftara of Pinchas)...

Saturday, July 08, 2017


A stiff apology is a second insult - GK Chesterton

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

From a Pun Competition

I went shopping for cherries and microphones the other day... bought a bing, bought a boom! - Here


Friday, June 30, 2017

Some of Billy Collins' Music Poems

1.

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey's Version Of "Three Blind Mice" 


And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better. 



2.

The Five Spot, 1964

There’s always a lesson to be learned,
whether in a hotel bar
or over tea in a teahouse,
no matter which way it goes,
for you or against,
what you want to hear or what you don’t.

Seeing Roland Kirk, for example,
with two then three saxophones
in his mouth at once
and a kazoo, no less,
hanging from his neck at the ready.

Even in my youth I saw
this not as a lesson in keeping busy
with one thing or another,
but as a joyous impossible lesson
in how to do it all at once,

pleasing and displeasing yourself
with harmony here and discord there.
But what else did I know
as the waitress lit the candle
on my round table in the dark?
What did I know about anything?


3.

 1960

In the old joke,
the marriage counselor
tells the couple who never talks anymore
to go to a jazz club because at a jazz club
everyone talks during the bass solo.

But of course, no one starts talking
just because of a bass solo
or any other solo for that matter.

The quieter bass solo just reveals
the people in the club
who have been talking all along,
the same ones you can hear
on some well-known recordings.

Bill Evans, for example,
who is opening a new door into the piano
while some guy chats up his date
at one of the little tables in the back.

I have listened to that album
so many times I can anticipate the moment
of his drunken laugh
as if it were a strange note in the tune.

And so, anonymous man,
you have become part of my listening,
your romance a romance lost in the past

and a reminder somehow
that each member of that trio has died since then
and maybe so have you and, sadly, maybe she.


4.

Nightclub

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

“He had accumulated enough memories to know that the world around him was continually being shaped by the world within him.” - Paul Auster 4,3,2,1

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Your entanglement
is a mirror of my own
Let's talk when untied

Monday, June 19, 2017

Thank You, and G-d Bless You, Dr. David Shatz

Good, kind, brilliant, humble, talented, accomplished, effective, honest, sincere, real people who don't look for recognition are the ones who deserve it.  And we need them, and we need to recognize them.

On June 19, 2016 at 12:46 PM, Dr. David Shatz made my day. And I've been meaning to write about it for some time.

After his insightful talk on autonomy in Breishit (regarding the way that man increases in his autonomy and how this dovetails his being held more accountable) I shared a thought and asked a question. He validated the question and said that the point was a good one.  He added that he wanted to write it down and remember to include it in this talk in the future. That made me feel really good.Then he asked my name. He recognized my name, remembered my being a comedian, and said that he thinks of my comedy every time he sees my serious articles, which he also enjoys.   I told him I liked some of his jokes in his talk, to which he replied, "Some?"

Upon more thought I took in how unusually thoughtful he was.  The person before me on line to talk to him after his talk also got complimented by him big time.  She asked a question, and his immediate response was that no-one had ever asked him that before and that it was a great question.  Then I thought back to the talk itself. He acknowledged a scholar who had worked on this topic, said he used a lot of her ideas, and said that without her work he wouldn't have thought of the things he did think of.  Who acknowledges someone else like that? Who is so humble, and honest? Dr. David Shatz.

Now, one year later, it's late but not too late to publicly acknowledge this great man who I saw first hand uplift the minds, hearts, and souls of a room full of people who needed the kind of wisdom and kindness that is uniquely his, and which he generously shares.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Maybe Time to Let This Blog Go



Tuesday, June 06, 2017

From An Email From A Friend

What are you doing for the summer?  
Your first as an orphan.

Alan Alda in an NPR interview about his new book on communication said that -

If you're not willing to be changed by what someone's saying then you're not really listening.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Child is Something Else Again

By Yehuda Amichai

A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,
in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.
A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
to say "Thank you" when the Lord has given,
to say "You're welcome" when the Lord has taken away.
A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I'm still trembling.
A child is something else again: on a rainy spring day
glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence,
kissing him in his sleep,
hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.
A child delivers you from death.
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Torah Quiz: Avot Or Not Avot?

Which of these sayings of The Sages/Chazal are in Pirkei Avot?

1. Torah is comparable to water.
2. Judge everyone favorably.
3. Who is wise? He who sees consequences.
4. Getting angry is akin to idol worship.
5. Always be the first one to say hello.
6. Don't judge alone, because only One can judge alone.
7. Jealousy, desire, and honor take a person out of this world.
8. The gain comes proportionately to the pain.
9. A person is revealed by his pocket, his anger, and his drink.
10. Be very low in spirit, because worms are the fate of man.
11. Love distorts what is right.
12. Don't try to calm friend in his moment of anger.
13. Don't be too much of a Tzadik.
14. Don't be a Rasha in your own estimation.
15. The world only stands due to the Torah of children.
16. A person should think, "The world is created for me."
17. Not your honey, and not your bite.
18. Give Him from what's His, for you and yours are His.
19. Greet everyone joyfully/besimcha.
20. First study, then explain more deeply.
21. If you run from honor, it will run after you.
22. The honor of your student should be as dear as your own.
23. From my students I have learned most of all.
24. If you increase your name, you lose your name.
25. Silence is a fence around wisdom.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A well-developed sense of humor
is the pole that adds balance to your steps
as you walk the tightrope of life.
~William Arthur Ward

Friday, April 07, 2017

Perhaps when we say "save us from the Satan behind us" we mean from second guessing our past.

I am grateful to G-d for this insight.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

"Being young grows old." - Allegra Goodman, The Cookbook Collector

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Not responsible for the lovely ladybug or purple iris or flirtatious glance that was yours to enjoy but which you did not notice."

- From the fine print on the copyright page of "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" by Amy Krouse, of blessed memory, who passed away today

Sunday, March 05, 2017

"...There is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed. We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel. The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists?" - Kahlil Gibran

Monday, February 20, 2017

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. - Steven Pressfield

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Louisa meets Bear

Lisa Gornick's book touched, engaged, and took me, more profoundly than most books I've ever read.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

After Dad

My dad passed on to the next stage of life, the one after this one here on earth, two weeks ago today.
Here's my thought of right now:

Maybe the hardest thing about mourning ones who's moved on is truly getting the specificity of the person and not falling into cliche'd stereotypes of their role or type.

This is hard for the mourner to do, and even harder for the consolers; to hear and see who the person actually was in nuanced and not always neat real life, as opposed to the idea of who that person was in an idealized, imagined generalization.

This is also the hardest thing about loving and relating to people who are alive - getting them in their realness as opposed to taking them in in your projection of how you want/need/happen to see them.

And this is also hard for those supporting others in relationships in real life - hearing who and what they are actually dealing with, as opposed to what and who you want or need them to be relating to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The mission of literature is to bring news from places where the reader can’t go. - Jefffrey M. Green

"Sometimes at the start of a shiur/class he would take off his shoes, close his eyes, and say:
'We are in the Holy Land, on holy soil. And we ask that her holiness be transmitted to us through the soles of our feet, through our bodies, and into our brains. It's possible to close your eyes and feel this energy rise up to our legs, and our thighs, elevating our livers, filling our lungs, and reaching our hearts. Our minds will then be filled with the holiness of this land, through the speech of our mouths and the movement of our hands, which are a Jew's vehicle of speech. These are our wings. Then we can pray. And fly.
- Chasidim Tzochakim Mizeh, 180 Thoughts of Rav Menachem Froman, pg. 99

Sunday, January 01, 2017

If I Were To Read A Nine Hundred Page Novel...

Beginning with a chance encounter with the beautiful Eliza June Watermark and ending, four days and 900 pages later, with the Events of November 17, this is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age ten: a lover, a fighter, a scholar, and a truly spectacular talker. Ejected from three Jewish day schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity.

The Instructions is an absolutely singular work of fiction by an important new talent. Adam Levin has shaped a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy—a novel that is muscular and verbose, troubling and empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic, and unforgettable.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Teaching.  Hard work.  But I repeat myself.  It's the middle of the night.  I went to sleep early and woke up after a few hours of rest.  Thinking about tomorrow, and the week passed. Here's a review sheet for our latest test.  The review sheet is expected.  And yet.  Things a teacher doesn't like hearing: Before the test - "So if I only know what's on the review sheet, I can get 100, right?" (No.) After the test: "But it wasn't in the answers on the review sheet that I got from the kid who took notes while I didn't." (It's not all about the review sheet.)

These are some headlines, hints, reminders, directions, of things we learned in class and students need to learn through inside and understand outside to be able to really take in the Torah experience this class is aiming to offer (and possibly to get a good grade too).

We're learning Sefer Bamidbar.  Forgive me for transliterating that.  (The saga of typing/cutting/pasting/ in Hebrew is a post for another time... or not.
פרק ו
  • Know inside פסוקים כב- כ״ז
  • ברכת כהנים:
  • ’רשׁי’s question and answer about how the Kohanim are told to say (אמור)
- the meaning of ברכת כהנים including what רשׁי has to say on each of the words
        -What it is known as in Shul and different customs
        -What is unique about it (2)
        -  2 explanations of what ה will do after the  כהנים bless the people (רש"י)      
פרק ז
  • Know inside פסוקים א - ו
  • Understand the meaning of אין/יש מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה and how it applies to this פרק and where we see this in ספר שׁמות   
  • The gifts of the נשאים and why each one is mentioned.
פרק ח
  • Know inside  פסוקים א - ב
  • Know both רשׁי and  רמבן’s opinion on סמיכות פרשיות and the key life lesson of רמבן as it applies to marriage, school, and one example of your own.
פרק ט
  • Know inside פסוקים א - יא
  • פסח - Know the date, and the laws
  • פּסח שני  - know the date, who it is for, and the lessons and law it teaches us

 
פרק י
  • חצוצרות- what were they used for ( 2 in the midbar and 2 in the future)
  • חובב
  • Who was he according to רש"י
  • According to the פסוקים what was asked and what was his answer
  • According Rav Soloveitchik:
    - why is חובב brought into the story now
-where on the rollercoaster is בנ"י
  • What are the reasons for the backwards  נ  

  • Why נ?
  • Why is this added here now?