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?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Speakable

I think I invented using the word speakable to mean available to speak (as in, "Are you speakable now?" In my mind it makes so much sense that I don't know why it's not a word everyone uses.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Moments of Days

My in the moment includes thoughts of past moments.  I'm grabbing a mid-day work moment to write.  I recall writing here like this years ago.  Things have changed and stayed the same.  I wish I had THE answer of what to write, to do, to feel rejuvenated and more focused right now.  I wish there was such a thing as THE answer...

Now it's later.  A student who graduated two years ago just came by and made my day.  When my dad had a health related situation a few years ago she wrote a giant card to him and had many students sign it.  She just wrote him a note.

It's funny (not ha-ha) how hard I can be on myself.  Time's gone on as it always does.  A student just said that I'm good at everything. Um... No.

The above was written yesterday, now it's a new today.

I wonder about neediness, or to use even less nice words - self absorption, narcissism.  We live in a time and, the people I know, a culture of self. I think about this in others and in me.

After I started writing this a beautiful song started playing on Pandora. Just Breathe by Pearl Jam (words not in the song).  It's an idealistic love song.  I wonder, hope and pray to be able to feel this kind of love for someone one day.

Later again.  9:47 PM on Wednesday at work, been writing this in little pieces over days.  Got home after 9, last night close to 11.  I sometimes want to be completely honest.  not gonna do it right here right now.  But a little bit.  I think of mortality.  In the past year several friends of my age have died.  Died.  I didn't know it was coming in any of the cases.  Life is more fragile than the cliched sayings that try to capture its fragility.  The aren't words.....

Haven't been writing times, but now I'm feeling the time - 10:10 PM...

Went to sleep shortly after almost writing at 10 last night.  Now it's 12:35 on Thursday afternoon.  At work. 54 years old.  life and health and livelihood/money and compassion and happiness and much more on my mind.  I pressure myself too much and in a way not enough.  Sigh (I sighed when I wrote that).  I am giving 4 tests soon and need to finish prepping and writing review sheets and related matters..... I'm hungry.  I need to work. I want to write, right now this kind of writing though is not my work in terms of livelihood.

Now it's 11:58 PM, Thursday night.  been working on review sheets.  Sheets confound and challenge me, confuse and bore me - but they are in, and said to be helpful and important.....

Not sure what day this started.  Now it's almost Shabbos.  I pray for peace in the world, starting now with a peaceful entry in and a rejuvenating holy Shabbos.

 “Even if a sharp sword is placed against the neck of a person, he should not abandon hope for mercy.” - Brachot 10a

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Quote of Harry Reid

We should ask ourselves: Do the choices we make about how we spend our time keep us in touch with what we believe in, and what is real in our own lives?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Stuff

Here's an angle.  I will describe what's on my desk, at least in part.  It's a way in, for me, to some of my stuff that's going on.....

A container of almonds.  I'm trying to eat healthily, but as The Who put it - "Too much of anything is too much for me."  Which reminds me that the other morning on the bus to work I had this epiphany: What matters about the pop lyrics and quotes I remember is not what they're from but what they say.  They are hooks for ideas.  Sometimes I may be better off just sharing the idea without the reference.  But - the reference are part of my life.  I like, maybe even need to share the context.

A mug with a Farside cartoon on it.  There are bunch of scientists (mathemeticians?) working on an equation.  And then the iccream truck drives by and they all run outside for icecream.  Reminds me of a story of Rav Chaim Zimmerman.  He was a young boy when he came to this country.  he watched as two chess geniuses played a game on the street in deep concentration.  At one point one of them looked at his watch and proclaimed that it was time for lunch.  And so they broke for lunch.  And young Reb Chain proclaimed that this was America.

Cold-ease, Airborne, Thieves oil, oil of oregano, sambucol, and many other cold related things.  I've, my whole life struggled with colds and the like.  May G-d bless me and you and everyone with health.

New computer speakers, bought from me by my computer guy, my friend.  It was a trade for my old monitor, kind of.  Just another example of him being good to me. Thank G-d for my computer guy, my friend.

A selfie stick.  Still in the box.  A bit wary of it.  I should open it and figure it out.  The other day at work an old colleague came back to promote something he's now working on.  And he had a table set up and asked if could borrow my phone to take a picture of the table he'd set up with prizes and a sign up sheet.  i offered (and he accepted my offer) to set up the table in a better looking way.  he liked it and gave me one of the prizes - the selfie stick - in return.  The connection with this holy friend is priceless.

A half eaten sweet potato. Last night at dad's assisted living place the waitress gave me some extra food, including a sweet potato for later.  Now it's later.  I am blown away by this woman's kindness.  Not everyone who works there is anywhere near the level of this wonderful woman.

A big grey Chumash with Rashi.  about 35 years ago I bought it from my Shul because I liked it and didn't know where/how else to buy one.

A black running cap, that aerated.  I have several of these.  My favorite kind of cap of the moment.  Over the summer someone offered to give (lend?) me a white cap, not realizing that my black ones were special and did not have the usual issue (I don't think) of taking in more heat because they are black.

A Poland Sping water bottle.  Reused several times.  i try to drink a lot of water.....

A mug with the heading REMEMBER WHEN on top of it.  Under that is a list of ten memories.  It was given to me by members of the poetry team a few years ago. They presented me with it at graduation.  I cherish the whole thing.

A salt lamp.  I don't know what it scientifically does or doesn't do and I don't really care.  I like it.

Two different versions - white out and liquid paper.  Every now and then I need these and I don't know where they are.  And they are here. And they were invented by Mike Nezmith's mom.

A CD of poems of Rav Menachem Froman that were put to music.  He uplifts me.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Balancing Departures and Destinations

By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

An unusual phraseology is employed in the opening line of Parshat VaYeitzei. Instead of simply stating one or the other, we are told that Yaakov both left (vayeitzei) Be'er Sheva and that he went towards  (vayeileich) Charan. The Maggid of Dubno, as well as the Beis HaLeivi, point out that sometimes in life you leave a place because you have to get away from there, while other times the key is that you have to go somewhere and the only way to get there is by leaving the place you're in. Here, Ya'akov needed to do both, leave and go. In fact, he was fulfilling a mitzvah, the mitzvah of kibud av va'eim, with each of these actions: His mother told him to leave Be’er Sheva in order to flee from his brother.  And his father told him to go to Charan to find a wife.

What is the lesson of this observation about the words vayeitzei and vayeileich?

In life, it sometimes seems that when we win in one way we are also losing in another way at the same time. For example, you may need to get somewhere, but the price you pay is leaving somewhere you wanted to be.  Or you may need to leave somewhere and you to escape to an unappealing place. It’s better if you can win and win, if your leaving and your entering are both beneficial for you. But is that possible? Here, Yaakov won doubly by the effects of his actions – both his leaving and his going were of import, and sometimes we can do that too.

On a related note Parashat Masei starts by saying that the Jewish People’s leaving the places where they camped was for the purpose of getting to their new destinations. Then the Torah reverses the order and says the destination list was structured according to their leaving other places. Why the change in order?
From God’s perspective the point was that they had to get to their next station, which by necessity meant they had to leave the place where they were. On the other hand, the people were always restless. From their point of view, they just needed to get out of where they were regardless of where they would end up.
Sometimes we need to move toward a destination, and we mistakenly feel that this destination is all that matters. We can pay sorely for focusing solely on our desire to move on, even if moving forward is the right — the Divine — thing to do. We can fail to enjoy the process of moving forward or the moment we’re in, a time that has its own integrity and upon which we’ll one day look back with fondness. It is a shame not to appreciate the here and now, which will too soon be later.
On the other hand we can’t remain static. We need to always move forward. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we don’t recognize the need to move ahead. And yet even when we do move ahead we need to keep in mind that where we go matters a great deal. Neither God nor the people were wrong about the moves in the desert or in life in general. At the same time that we need to leave one place we need to be elsewhere.
The mishnah in Avot says "Hevei goleh limkom Torah" - "Exile yourself to a place of Torah". There are two halves here. There's hevei goleh, and there's limkom Torah. Getting away from bad influences is one half while going to positive ones is the other required piece if we seek spiritual success.

On a broader scale there is the concept of "Sur meirah va'asei tov", "keep away from bad and do good" (as put by Dovid HaMelech). As much as possible in life in all we do we should travelling away from negative roadblocks and moving toward positive growth at the same time.

May G-d bless us with success in emulating Yaakov our father, and our ancestors in their desert life, in effectively departing and going at the same time.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On Trees

Trees

Related Poem Content Details

By Joyce Kilmer


I think that I shall never see 
A poem lovely as a tree. 

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; 

A tree that looks at God all day, 
And lifts her leafy arms to pray; 

A tree that may in Summer wear 
A nest of robins in her hair; 

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; 
Who intimately lives with rain. 

Poems are made by fools like me, 
But only God can make a tree.
________________________________________

    What would you do if you were growing up one hundred years ago in New Jersey and your name were Joyce? You probably wouldn't think twice about it. Joyce is a pretty common name: unless you're a boy. Then you might find that there were some guys from the south side of New Brunswick who thought it was pretty funny. And then you would have two options: you could either become a fighter or you could become a poet.

    Fortunately for America, Joyce Kilmer decided to become both. He was a daring young fighter in World War I, killed in action defending his fellow soldiers. Before that he was a gentle poet.

   While serving on the staff of the new York Times , he wrote a small collection of poetry. No doubt it would have been far more extensivehad he not died at the age of 31.

    ...Maybe when Joyce looked at a tree he truly understood that what he saw could not have been eloved by a simple, undirected flow of nature. It was far too beautiful, far too wondrous, and far too harmonious with the rest of the world to have developed by accident. That is when he came to the realization from deep within him, that only G-d could make a tree.

   Now would he have thought of that if his name had been Irving?

From "The Jewish Theory of Everything" By Max Anteby. pgs. 61-63

WOW!!!

"The great enemy of communication is the illusion if it." - Willliam H. White

Sunday, November 27, 2016

To Breathe And to Write

Thanksgiving weekend means a bit more time than usual to breathe and to write.

In one place the rabbis tell us that this world is like a beautiful banquet hall. On the other hand we're told that this world is compared to darkness. Rabbi Zevulun Charlop answered this question by citing a source who says the following. The world is a beautiful place, but it is covered in darkness. And Torah is the way that we turn on the lights and uncover the true nature of this world.


That's my go to Dvar Torah if I'm asked on the spot to say any word of Torah.  I think of it now for various reasons, and it brings to mind the fact that last night I sat at a wedding next to a daughter and son in law of Rabbi Charlop.  This fellow is a Rebbe in Ohr Sameah, Rebbe of the chatan.  It also comes to mind because at the explanatory minyan in school a student asked me to discuss Birchat haTorah.  I didn't share this thought, but it would be a nice thing to say regarding our being osek/involved in Torah with all of our efforts in life.


I am set, poo poo poo, to visit and give a shiur to graduates of the school I work in.  it's for parshat VaYeitzei, so I'm thinking about that.  I don't know exactly why but I'm not a fan of giving out source sheets when giving a shiur.  Sigh.  This ties in with a lot of things for me - being much more a creative side of my brain (and my being) than the other.  I have been taken for months with Rav Menachem Froman and so many things I read by and about him have struck me.  He got to a point where he experimented with opening up a sefer to a random page and giving a shiur on it.  His explanation was that he didn't want it to be about him showing off what he prepared.  Rather he wanted it to be a joint experience of learning together, him being part of figuring it out in that moment. When I read this I thought that it could end up being more impressive to people what he was able to say without preparing, if it came out well.  (This brought to mind a story about Rav Yisrael Salanter and his detractors.  They took away the sources he'd prepared and left on his shtender before giving a talk. He got up there.  Noticed.  paused a second.  Then he gave the talk.  And it was amazing, filled with all the sources.  From his head. No notes. His students explained that the reason he paused was not that he needed to gather his thoughts.  He paused to decide if he should reveal that he could give the shiur without notes.  I have many thoughts about how to teach, and about connecting with the material you teach, and connecting with the students you are teaching and learning with and from.  I think I'm done sharing on this topic, for now...

On the one hand we're told "Am levadad tishkon," and on the other hand we're asked, "Eichah yashvah badad?" These tweo texts use two almost identical words, the first is an exclamation of blessing and the second is a wailing cry of anguish.  The first, as my teacher Rav Nachman Kahane explained it many years ago, refers to being alone, unique and individualized in a good way.  The second refers to feeling lonely.  And it doesn't depend just on having people around.  Elvis once said something to the effect of, "Sometimes I feel lonely right in the middle of a crowd."  Connection - oneness with G-d and with other people and with ourselves may be the greatest human need.  I think it is for me. 

So, I'm thinking about VaYeitze.  I looked back at some things on it that I learned and shared in the past.  The theme of stones, the idea of it being one unit with no breaks - the only parsha like that and (it just dawned on me, as I'm typing) thus, like one stone...

Do you like source sheets at a shiur? Why do you or don't you like them?

I've been sharing poems on other more specific blogs.  But this one I'll share here:
Before praying
there's prayer for prayer,
and prayer for that,
and it keeps going back.


From a 2009 post:

 Like Zelda I need to open my eyes, poise my pen and capture strange plants, enchanted birds, black roses, and orange butterflies.


Now, at the end of the long weekend which began with me writing here I wish you a good night.  

May G-d nod his head to my blessing and to yours.