Monday, July 06, 2015

11:59 And Beyond

What to write? Where to write it?

I just got home after being out and about all day. And I had an email from a parent asking for assistance regarding a student I'm guidance counselor for.  It's an honor to be a go to person to be able to help, to have a job that is a calling...

I took the train home from Brooklyn, 2 hours.  A cab would have been 45 minutes. Time is worth more than money.  I don't feel safe driving... I discussed this here over years and more importantly I've lived it. So much time on trains and buses?

Just found this poem I wrote a few years back"

Waiting for connection
Waiting for a ride
Waiting as time passes me by

I wrote it in the morning, waiting for a ride, running late...

Good night and G-d bless.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Some Books I've Read from Start To End - Part I

Summer is here.  The school year is (kinda sorta) over. It's a time for reading.  I love to read but it doesn't come easily for me.  It's mostly an eye issue.  I have strabismus and do not focus with both eyes at the same time.  This affects my reading.  I have to really be pulled in by a book to make it from cover to cover.  And if I do make it all the way through a book it means I've read and reread pieces, thought and rethought phrases, shared and re-shared parts, again and again.

Here, in no particular order are some books that I've read in their entirety and digested and carried with me after turning the last page (books mentioned within the discussion of another book are also books that I read start to finish.):

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Haold Fry: This was not an easy read, but it had a strong payoff at the end and stayed with me. Part of it was that this book took me to and from a particular summer to Israel.  Part of it was the subtle, sensitive, human writing that was strong enough to get me to recently start reading the new companion piece to it.The sequel (though the author doesn't call it that), The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennesy is pretty good and is pulling me along, though it feels more of this world than its more magical predecessor. For some reason I like British books and when I think of this one I recall How It All Began, a good book about an old woman who is mugged and how that event affects other lives and other stories.  Also, on a related note is The Long Way Down, about four people who meet when they come to the same spot to commit suicide.  That book, by Nick Hornby, is narrated by each of the four characters.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime: Because I love reading and because it is hard for me I look at reviews to see what calls out to me.  I remember when this book came out and received rave reviews. I ran to buy it in the hardcover copy, which I still own. No play or movie will ever be able to do what this author did in this book, working with just words. It has such a strong, real, and honest voice. It's amazing. What really works for me in most books I like big time is a strong first person voice. (Someone I know told me that their favorite book was the next one that this author wrote, A Spot of Bother. I bought it, tried it, couldn't get through it.)

All of Dara Horn's books:  My favorite is The World to Come, followed closely by In The Image. I've read books (whole ones even) by a bunch of other Jewish writers writing about Jewish life.  I find Horn to be the most inteligent, accurate, all around best of the lot.  I can't praise her books enough.  The World to Come is about Chagal and Der Nister and much more.  In The Image captures single life on the upper west side, the experiences of a Vietnam vet and much more.  She does magical realism, historical fiction, and weaves it all together articulately and movingly.

I'm Proud of You is a book by Tim Madigan about his connection with Mister Rogers.  It is amazing.  It reminded me a bit of Tuesdays With Morrie but is more religious, and - to me - stronger.  It also reminded me a bit of Rather Joe, which also riveted me and took me from cover to cover, but as much as that book touched me, this one is a book that accompanies me through life.  It's interesting to me that both this and Tuesdays With Morrie  have a major part of the story that relates to the author's relationship with their brother. I loved learning about mister rogers and how good and real he was.  I went on to read The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, which was good, but not as powerful as this.  This book is a confessional, a baring of the soul, and part of that story is the support and friendship he shared with Mister Rogers. It means a great deal to me that part of my letter of appreciation appears at the start of the paperback edition of the book and that Mr. Madigan sent and inscribed to me "with great gratitude and affection."

I Was A Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan is a short, precise, funny, nostalgic book that is one in a million.  It captures the authors childhood in a quirky and cutting way and at the same time captures my childhood that took place at a parallel time.  There are drawings by the author, who draws cartoons for The New Yorker (as BEK), on almost every page. This a deceptively brief and simple work, which is abbreviated and truly profound. This book is a keeper.

My Friend Leonard - I don't remember much from this book except that it pulled me quickly from start to finish with it's powerful, first person, narrative.  One friend of mine asked me at the time that it was poplar if I thought it was true. I said that it didn't matter to me, it contained human truths whether it happened or not.  Another friend took me and some other friends out for his birthday and went all out, paying homage to Leonard who was generous like that. (I had lent that friend the book and he loved it.)


Piece published here, reprinted by me here.

Calm Haiku

Been blogging on my other blogs, most of all this one where you can find this latest post of new haiku.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Perception is 9/10 of the flaw.

I've heard computer/IT people repeatedly say it's rude to not write a subject in the subject space.  I don't get that. Open it- it's right there! Did we write the subject on envelopes? No.  Because the letter was right inside.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

An Attempt At An Old School Blog Post

This morning I ate up time getting my internet to work using the sophisticated technique of turning everything off and on again.  For a while nothing was working, then some things were and some weren't. My morning project. This blog was one of the hold outs...

So here I am, in the summer after and before a past year and a next year of teaching.  Thinking about my life and the life of others.

And what of my mother and her soul? Mom has appeared to me recently in a dream, not in a mystical visiting me kind of way.  It was in a well produced independent film based on a true story kind of way.

Listening to WFUV on and off today, Carmel did the mix tape.  I requested Colin Hays' Next Year People.  I think I mentioned him and his new album here recently.  or maybe it wasn't here.  Or it wasn't him. Or it wasn't me.

I recently met someone who told me he'd bought several copies of my book.  That made my day.  Wouldn't that make your day?

Roseanne Cash is wise:
G-d is in roses and thorns,
she once wryly wrote

I am grateful to HaikuHorizons for inspiring me to write haiku, which I don't usually post here, but rather, here, at my haiku blog (almost at 800, poo poo poo).

If being alive and present and feeling and listening and talking and writing are actions then I'm all for action.

Stiff, sharp and pointed
that's the way I feel your words
like a rose's spikes

Jordan Davis, a dear student from years past, just sent me this poem.  It's amazing.  It reminds me of a comment I heard someone make, that we were so busying worrying that the robots would take over that we haven't noticed that they did.

The Glass G-d:
Some thoughts while riding the 7 train home
By Jeffrey Pascal

They sit with their heads bowed to their screen,
A worship of glass, their faces erased.
A city flies by, no matter the scene,
Curiosity’s child now plastic-encased.
Bright minds that once soared, now tethered by wire
Peck at bright spots with fingers a-twitch
To save them from shifting demons from dire
Or run through the woods from Dorothy’s witch.
What sorcerous spell has seized these bright lights?
What cunning pied piper has snaffled our young?
Did we not perform the ritual rites?
Have we forgotten the songs that were sung?
The high sun at noon cost Icarus dear,
The Glass G-d we made eats children, I fear.
Recently when saying Shmosh Esrei's words asking G-d to gather us from the arba kanfot - four corners of the world I had a flashback.  When I was a child my dad used to call tzitzit "Arba Kanfos."  I like gathering these memories from the corners of my life.

I am grateful to G-d that I had Rabbi Pesach Oratz in my life as a guide and mentor for the years that I did. I may have looked like a fool literally following behind him in Camp Morasha, sticking to his words, but I'm so glad I did.  Before I really knew him, in my thirties I learned from him in Morasha Kollel when I was still in my late teens.  And I remembered for years and still carry with me something he said the first time I heard a shiur from him.  He quoted Rav Yosef Engel as explaining "Poteach et yadechah u'masbiah lechol chai ratzon" in a novel way: It could mean that G-d provides all who live with the ability to be satisfied with what they have if they want to be.

The summer, like life, is an interesting time.  And time is a challenge.  I've written quite a few poems about time.  Many of my summer days are amorphous and that's as strong a challenge as my days during the other ten months that feel non stop, with so much packed in emotionally and just physically. that old saying about the best two things about teaching is cynical and untrue.  July and August have challenges all their own.

Speaking of lines that are cynical yet untrue- the one that says, "Man plans and G-d laughs," is also cynical and untrue.  G-d does not laugh at us.  Yes, His plans  prevail, but it's not about his getting the last laugh.  It's about abundant love and what is best for us.

There's always the thorn
in every situation
even rosy ones

I got a haircut today. For the past two years I shaved my beard right before the three weeks and then grew it right back.  Pondering...

I'm going to close this post.  

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


I don't know what to write or where.  Going to do some blogging here as randomly, honestly, and best I can.

Just heard about a couple getting divorced, friends  - of some level - of mine, a whole bunch of kids and a whole lot of years.  Oh man.  I get, from the outside, that marriage is hard. People not getting married breaks my heart, and people being unhappily married and messily (it seems to get to messy eventually even when it starts out all amicable) divorces break my heart.  Sigh.

And now a word about writing vs. cleaning:

“I used to not be able to work if there were dishes in the sink... now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink." - Anne Lamott

I once read a more wordy piece by an author saying that her house is a mess but it's worth it because she writes instead of cleaning.  This comes to mind as I sit with stuff around me that needs to be organized, and stuff inside me that needs to be expressed.

I've become reticent about writing here. That classic line, "I've said too much but not enough," comes to mind. 

I am grateful that it is summer; more space, more thinking and breathing time. I must say, even though most teachers seem to disagree, I'd rather go straight through the year with more built in decompression throughout  than going from the intense year to the long break.  That having been said, I am grateful.

I have so much I want to share, but it's not happening.  Not here. Not now. I'm feeling blog shy and so I'm going to go. Goodnight and G-d bless.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Storytelling Is Human and Divine

One day I have to collect all the great insights I've heard and read about stories and this belongs with them.

Along with this one-

"Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species." - John Green, From the Author's Note to The Fault In Our Stars

And this one-

"Reality is not just the story we are locked into" - David Grossman.

And these two from Rav Nachman of Breslov-

People knock stories, but if stories are somehow lacking depth why did G-d start his book with them?

People think that stories are to put people to sleep but in truth stories serve to wake people up.

A Proem of Now

I know not what to share or where, I have so much on my mind and time is hard to find, I slept pretty well last night and now all I want to do is write, but I must keep life and goals in sight, caring for oneself is a hard and good fight.  I'm still digesting the last two days, brilliant people sharing things in brilliant ways, I want to learn it all again, can't do it now, which leaves the question of when.  Minutes ago my foot started to hurt- out of the blue, other than ignore or pray i don't know what to do.  So many things on my mind, so much peace I've yet to find.  I spoke to dad this morning which is good, i never know if I'm doing all I could. Did I mention that I'm still thinking about the classes of the past days and the teacher's insights that so amazed me and inspired me too, but the key is the what..or is it the who?  Is it true or is it not that Torah like food must come from a kosher pot, and how do we scrutinize the heart of a man, your faith - and vice versa - is hard to understand.  Everyone I listened to seemed plenty frum to me andperhaps that's a blessing, the way I see.  I'm still taking in the lessons galore, I'll write about one now- maybe more. Yonah, we all say was running away, but we don't don't go deep we just follow like sheep.  A profound take on Yonah might be that he wanted to escape not prophecy but the world of you and me.  He wanted to go back to Paradise Lost, and for this he was willing to pay a high cost. He wanted a world without repentance and sin, he wanted an idealic place where the choices are win with.  The is borne out by the language and the details of the book, it's right there to see when you take a good look. And now I must go not to paradise far away but to deal with the errands and minutia of my day.  I wish for everyone a day of growth and birth a day of accomplishment in our reality on earth.

Friday, June 26, 2015

I was surprised to see that I have been getting a lot of visits here recently, around a hundred on a few days in a row.  As best I can figure it out it seems to be because this site  has started linking to a post of mine.  If you go down to the bottom there's a link to a Rav Aryeh Kaplan video.  It's a link to me linking to Rav Kaplan on TV on Youtube.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

From Holding on to Nothing - By David Crosby

Today I’m somebody new;
Not really knowing 
Just coming and going
A stranger just passing through

The Brother In Law By Lydia Davis

He was so quiet, so small and thin, that he was hardly there. The brother-in-law. Whose brother-in-law they did not know. Or where he came from, or if he would leave.

Read the whole story here.

There's nothing like people in your life who make you smile just by thinking about them.

People treat us the way we teach them to treat us. On a related note, people treat us the way we treat ourselves.

In Memory Month of Tamuz

The phrase of Zichru Torat Moshe and Zman Matan Torateinu are both Roshei Teivot forTamuz but without the Vav since although the Luchot were given in the month of Tamuz they were broken as a result of the Cheit - mistake of the Eigel HaZahav - Golden Calf so they are missing the Vav Hachibur, that which connects Heaven and earth. Chazal say that had the Luchot not been broken, forgetfulness would not have entered the world. Memory works by association hence the vav is missing. From  Likutei Maharan 217, as told to me by Rabbi Michael Olshin.  The implication seems to be that Tamuz is an auspicious time to work on memory, that maybe memory is a theme of the month.

Maybe It's Best To Not Say This Word To Others

In 5 words someone summed up something that's bothered me, and which I couldn't put so succinctly, for a long time.

This speaks to me, and is something I've thought about and worked on, and continue to think about and work on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I'm pleased that as a teacher I'm in the room before the kids, having trained myself to be on time, because I'm early.  In life there is no on time, there is either early or late.

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”― Miles Kington

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deep Thought Too? - By Me

The man says to the child, "It is time to go the bed." The child says nothing, but does not go to bed.  After a while the man walks the child to bed and is surprised by how easy it is and by why he didn't do it sooner, as the child is inside him.

What we remember is as subjective as what we dream. - Rebecca Makkai

What If You Don't Remember Anything?

You don't remember what happened, what you remember becomes what happened. - John Green, An Abundance of Katherines, pgs 207-208

Deep Thought? - By Me

People think that the three most powerful words you can speak are "I love you." But I think think that these three may be bigger: "How are you?" If you really want to know the answer to "how are you?' it shows you mean "I love you."

On Happiness

Yes, there is a "secret to happiness" - and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person. - Dennis Prager, Happiness Is A Serious Problem, pg. 59

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ebert VS. Ebert

I was a fan of Roger Ebert's reviews.  Now I read the reviewers on his site.  Two reviewers posted there with opposite opinions of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  Here is the very negative one.  And here is the super positive one.

On Blogging In The Age of Social Media

It's challenging to write here due to several factors, among them the fact that there is virtually no feedback these days.  Add to this the contrasting reality that there is feedback on social media, which is quickly taking over the Internet (till something new pushes it aside).

Even when blogging was popular, blogs were hit and run things filled with pseudonyms.  I wrote long personal pieces in my own name. It wasn't that long ago and yet my style of blogging seems a thing of the distant past. Still, I am grateful to G-d for the ten and a half years of writing I was blessed to share here, even as I feel myself drifting away.

From The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, Page 24

"We are all searching for them, the rules. We pick them up from the strangest places, and if they appear to work once we can live a whole lifetime by them, regardless of the unhappiness and difficulty they may later bring."

Wisdom From One of My Favorites

Robert Klein says that when he plays for senior audiences he treats them "as young people in old bodies, because they are."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Laurel and Hardy By Hirschfeld on Father's Day

On the surface I found this because I plan to see a Hirschfeld exhibit today. This also brings back memories of my childhood and of a drawing of L and H that dad brought home one regular day just because he knew I liked them.

Spoke to dad on this Father's Day and we had an exchange we used to have when I was a kid.  I said, I'm glad you're my dad.  And he said I'm glad you're my lad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Rav SY Zevin says (in a different take than Rav Soloveichik and others) that on one level the tallit that's all blue that Korach says does not need tzitit and the house full of seforim that he claims doesn't require a mezuaza are both metaphors for what he said explicitly, that all the people are holy: If all the people are holy they don't need holy leaders tacked on to help them, like the holy garment or the holy home, they're all fine on their own. But that's not the case- we all need holy leadership and guidance. Then he adds that Krach could have been hinting to an anti Israel stance, following the meraglim's lead (and thus juxtaposed after their parsha) but from a different angle: The meraglim felt holy, they were part of the dor deah, and they didn't want to bother with trying to elevate an unholy physical land and a physical life. Korach said that all land was holy so why have an especially holy one, just like a tallit is holy, just like a house full of seforim is holy. But all things need to be elevated...
L'Iluy Nishmat Chaim ben Naftali HaLevi

Me and Harold Frey

I just got The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. I read the book it follows up- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frey. That book was a part of my life, I guess every book I read is. But it is intertwined with a specific time, my summer of 2012. I went to Israel and read this book an the way there, there, and on the way back. It's connected for me with that summer and may be part of why I persevered through the book though I sometimes found it hard. It had a good pay off in the end. I enjoyed it. probably, like many people, I bought and am giving the sequel a shot because of my feelings for the other book.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Reminds Me of What Rav Yisrael Salanter Said About Learning Torah/Mussar

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Excerpt From That Dance That You Do, By Katherine Heiny

 Time to fill the goodie bags. And you realize that you have either miscounted or forgotten someone, but you have 11 guests coming and only 10 goodie bags. A quick scour of the house reveals that the only other paper bag is one from Victoria's Secret. It is hard to imagine what will be worse - trying to persuade some little boy to accept a pink goodie bag when all the other ones are blue or having to see the parent of the Victoria's Secret bag recipient at school.
You wonder if your children's main memories of you will be your inattention to detail, like last year when your older son had to take cello lessons at school and you neglected to buy the special cello chair and spike holder. So at the spring recital, he had to go on stage with a ceramic bread bin and a bathmat. But just then, your younger son comes in and sees what you were doing. Oh mommy, he breathes, can I have the pretty bag with the stripes, please? Of course you can, you answer, and he runs off happily.
Maybe they are too young to hold a grudge or too immature to realize the ramifications of certain actions, or possibly they have just had limited exposure to mothers who do this kind of thing effortlessly. You've been pretty careful in your friend selection. But whatever the reason, right now, for the moment, for a little while longer, you are still OK.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

You know what poets do?
They drag their feelings up a hill and let go.
What you read is the crash.

- Firdaus Kanga (1960-), Trying to Grow (Penguin Books India, 1990), p. 129.

Friday, June 05, 2015

When Charlie Chaplin's too vocal for you then Groucho Marx knows he's in trouble. - Me

10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

By Marc Chernoff at Hack Life
You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you?  The ten truths listed below fall firmly into that category – life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.
This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all…

1.  The average human life is relatively short.

We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.
LIVE your life TODAY!  Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either.  Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

2.  You will only ever live the life you create for yourself.

Your life is yours alone.  Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you.  They can walk with you, but not in your shoes.  So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and desires, and don’t be scared to switch paths or pave a new one when it makes sense.
Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.  Be productive and patient.  And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.  This is your life, and it is made up entirely of your choices.  May your actions speak louder than your words.  May your life preach louder than your lips.  May your success be your noise in the end.
And if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it.  Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land, be brave enough to step up to the edge of the unknown, and listen to your heart.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  Being busy does NOT mean being productive.

Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect.  Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time.  We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should.
Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days.  Just take a quick look around.  Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin.  Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations.  Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.
Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term.  We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful life.

4.  Some kind of failure always occurs before success.

Most mistakes are unavoidable.  Learn to forgive yourself.  It’s not a problem to make them.  It’s only a problem if you never learn from them.
If you’re too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful.  The solution to this problem is making friends with failure.  You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner?  The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.  Behind every great piece of art is a thousand failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us.
Bottom line:  Just because it’s not happening now, doesn’t mean it never will.  Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.  (Read The Success Principles.)

5.  Thinking and doing are two very different things.

Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it.
You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.  Knowledge is basically useless without action.  Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals.  Ask yourself what’s really important and then have the courage to build your life around your answer.
And remember, if you wait until you feel 100% ready to begin, you’ll likely be waiting the rest of your life.

6.  You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive.

Life gets much easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never got.  The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative.  It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.”  It’s realizing that grudges from the past are a perfect waste of today’s happiness, and that holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.
Forgiveness is a promise – one you want to keep.  When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self.  It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.

7.  Some people are simply the wrong match for you.

You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.  You shouldn’t force connections with people who constantly make you feel less than amazing.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure every time you’re with them, for whatever reason, they’re probably not close friend material.  If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them.  If you feel emotionally drained after hanging out with them or get a small hit of anxiety when you are reminded of them, listen to your intuition.  There are so many “right people” for you, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self.  It makes no sense to force it with people who are the wrong match for you.

8.  It’s not other people’s job to love you; it’s yours.

It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.  So make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you.  Know your worth, even if they don’t.
Today, let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as incomplete as you think you are.  Yes, let someone love you despite all of this, and let that someone be YOU.  (Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.)

9.  What you own is not who YOU are.

Stuff really is just stuff, and it has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person.  Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need.  That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.
You have to create your own culture.  Don’t watch TV, don’t read every fashion magazine, and don’t consume too much of the evening news.  Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences.  The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about Kim Kardashian or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered.  You’re giving your life away to marketing and media trickery, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and be a certain way.  This is tragic, this kind of thinking.  It’s all just Hollywood brainwashing.  What is real is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, your plans, your fears, etc.
Too often we’re told that we’re not important, we’re just peripheral to what is.  “Get a degree, get a job, get a car, get a house, and keep on getting.”  And it’s sad, because someday you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been tricked.  And all you’ll want then is to reclaim your mind by getting it out of the hands of the brainwashers who want to turn you into a drone that buys everything that isn’t needed to impress everyone that isn’t important.

10.  Everything changes, every second.

Embrace change and realize it happens for a reason.  It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.
What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow.  You never know.  Things change, often spontaneously.  People and circumstances come and go.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.  It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day.  It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.
Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives.  A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth.  Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event.  And these events are always happening.
However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.  That’s the one thing you can count on.  So when life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better every second.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have while they have it.

Your turn…

What else would you add to this list?  What important life lessons do you often forget?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Freida Maryam

You never visit me
not as a ghost, not in a dream
maybe that's because already
you live underneath my skin
And every now and then from behind 
my eyelids, you give a push and I cry

I am fond of this poem that just came to me yesterday.  And I am grateful that I had a moment the night before when I cried about mom. I am not big on submitting or publishing, but I feel that this one should be out there. Thank you for reading.

Episode People vs. Continuum People

I never know what to write or where to write it, but I know that writing is a need for me, something I do all the time, more than want to do- need to do.  If writing is a luxury for me then breathing is too.

Been thinking a lot lately about the distinction between episode people and continuum people.  I think that many if not most people today are episode people; every talk they have, every meeting they take, for the most part each event stands alone.  Then there are those (and full disclosure- I mean me) who experience every moment in connection with other moments. It's like the difference between old TV and what people call today's golden age of TV.  It used to be that every episode stood alone. It was almost like the coyote getting caught in roadrunner's cartoon explosion in one scene and then being fine the next.  Today show's regularly start with, "Previously on..." because what happened previously is inextricably connected to what's happening now.  And today's style of TV is very popular, perhaps because of this sophisticated element of how it's all connected.  This is part of why binge watching is popular- because it's like it's all one episode. The minds behind one at least one popular and highly reviewed show have said explicitely that they think of their seasons more as a long movie rather than as seperate episodes.  And yet in life, maybe due to convenience, the general approach seems to be not to take episodes as part of a continuum but as stand alones. And these stand alones don't even get syndicated; meeting and conversations and other exchanges that should be profound and intimate happen once/almost not at all and then are gone, replaced by new shows that also/all so quickly come and go.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thank G-d

I have tears in my eyes because of a most beautiful note that parents just sent thanking all of their child's teachers for really helping and positively changing him/her dramatically this year.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Good Vuch

9:44 PM With dad, was with him for Shabbos.  

Tonight's Selfie

Been writing here less lately, thought I'd try for an old school blog post, in part because a friend commented that my writing here has been "sparse," and I was touched that he checks and that he misses our connecting via this vehicle.

This is from a piece I published 2 years ago on Parshat Nassa - "Like many people, one of the fondest memories of childhood is being held in my father’s embrace while I stood under his tallis in shul as the kohanim blessed us. It is befitting that this blessing evokes such warmth as the essence of the blessing is love."

10:17 PM - Still at Boulevard ALP w dad.  Clipped and trimmed his plant.  Big Bang is on.

10:23 PM - Dad has gotten into The Week.  This was an intersting article about a 34 year old who spent a year preparing to dunk a basketball.

10:32 PM - Just requested Uber. 8 minutes.

11:39 PM - Just got home.  As Supertramp sang, it was the long way home. This post comes to mind. I saw someone who I thought was a friend's daughter.  I think she thought I was me. But we both hesitated to say hello and verify if we were who we thought the other was.  I regret that. This post comes to mind. 

This song just came on: Hearts and Bones.  Touching every time. 

11:59 PM and Beyond - Here's a piece I wrote for my Thursday minyan DT-

The Mishkan was dedicated and gifts were brought by all
Every head of every tribe answered their call
They each came with a list, no less and no more
They offered gold and silver, animals galore
But there's a question, which has a bit of a sting

This parsha has something very profound to say
We each bring our gifts to G-d in our own way
When we pray we may use the same word
But filtered through our heart our unique song is heard
We all do mitzvot and while it looks the same
We are each bringing our own game

And so it is in the Frisch school
We all follow the same rules
Yet each of us has our own shine
You have yours, I have mine
May we be blessed to continue to offer our gifts to G-d above
To be good humans, Jews, and Cougars - filled with love.

Had the honor of having lunch with Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg and family and having some good connections and exchanges. He was preparing for a talk on the mishnah about being like the talmidim of Aharin (although he found one peirush that says that most of the mishnah is not about that because theres a comma rather than a semicolon after "hevei mitalmidav shel Aharon."

We discussed the mishnah.  I mentioned the vav katuah  by Pinchas' brit shalom  and how my take on it is that a peace that comes about theough violence is a broken peace.  He found, in relation to this an unbelievably beautiful and brilliant comment of Rav Kook.

Well After 11:59 - But I like the post to be listed as written on Saturday night, because it still feels like Saturday night to me -

I just realized that at my quick stop to get food before coming home I left my bags in the store.  I forget things, I think it has something to do with being a human, particularly a human with a physical reality of having a lot on his plate (metaphorically) (which sometimes leads to the unhealthy choice of putting too much on my physical plate of food.)

Even Later - G00d Night and G-d Bless, I say, while starting to fade and yet still up thinking and writing...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

On The Hare

“In the aftermath of an athletic humiliation on an unprecedented scale—a loss to a tortoise in a footrace so staggering that, his tormentors teased, it would not only live on in the record books, but would transcend sport itself, and be taught to children around the world in textbooks and bedtime stories for centuries; that hundreds of years from now, children who had never heard of a “tortoise” would learn that it was basically a fancy type of turtle from hearing about this very race—the hare retreated, understandably, into a substantial period of depression and self-doubt.” 

― B.J. NovakOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Orchot Tzadikim: Sha'ar HaZechirah, Part I

"The world could not survive were it not for memory. Any communications that take place on earth depend on memory. There would be no trust and thus no lending, or business of any kind, if people did not remember things. This is common knowledge and there is no need to dwell on it. 

Given that the importance of memory is self evident it is our responsibility to utilize memory in everything we do, because the truth depends upon it. 

How can a person keep promises without remembering them? If something happens between people it is important to remember it accurately and not to go back on your word. If someone tells you something and asks you not to share it within anyone remember that and don't slip up and reveal their secret. If you borrow something it's on you to remember exactly what you owe and to pay it back.If someone is very busy and distracted they should avoid borrowing money or things because they are likely not to remember what they borrowed. If a friend does an act of kindness for you remember it so that you can return the favor. Remember poor people, put the urgency of their situation on your heart and this will leading to your assisting them."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"To think is to forget."

I have been having trouble posting here lately.  On all but my one main home computer I'm asked to start an account, but I have an account and it doesn't let me get to my account, for which there seems to be no accounting...

A week ago I purchased the new, just out, Koren Pirkei Avot.  Rabbi Marc Angel makes some interesting comments.  On the mishnah on how terrible it is to purposely push away Torah you've learned he riffs on memory and quotes Jorges Luis Borges saying that, "To think is to forget." Wow. I think a lot about our thinking and our stories.  And I think a lot about memory. Now I'm thinking about thinking...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Behar Poem: A Unique Take On Shmittah

There's an age old question- who are you?
Unfortunately many people don't have a clue

We think we're our clothes or our house or our car
But many of us don't really know who we are

And most people have a funny quirk
They define themselves by their work

While being a doctor or a lawyer may be what you do
It does not answer the question- who are you?

Being a farmer used to be the job everyone had
It wasn't their definition, didn't make them good or bad

Never in history could what a person was
be summed up by the job he or she does

Shmittah was a year when everyone took a rest
And this provided a profound test

People had to define who they were inside
We have our own potential, from this we can't hide

Every seven years they took a break
It was time to be real, not fake

May we be inspired by Shmittah to know who we are
And thus in our unique service of G-d to travel far.

See here for related essay.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

From "Open Closed Open"

Once I saw a violinist playing and I thought: Between
his right hand and his left--only the violin,
but what a between, what music!

- Yehuda Amichai

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Parshat Emor

I wrote a poem for Parshat Emor.  it was inspired by a vort in me'Am Loez that I learned many years ago. He says that we read from the words "Shor O'Kesev O'Eiz in Emor on Sukkot for a specific reason: because a shor - cow is not really a shor when it's born but it's a calf.  the word that's used reminds us that a shor by any other name is stiull a shor.  it never grows, yearns or strives or changes, like a person does.  And the point of Sukkos is that it's the start of the year, the start of our time of change and growth once again.  This is a hard idea to live, but one I like to think about and teach and work on.  i had a nice chat, after sharing this with the freshmen minyan, with a boy who's Bar mitzvah was on Sukkos.  He had one idea as to why it fits to read "Shor O'Hesev" at the start of Pesach: That just as in this leing we discuss the birth of animals, Pesach is the time of the birth of the Jewish People.  My thought, which is related, is that Pesach is about freedom and we need to be reminded to use our choices wisely and to make sure we rise higher than animals.

Emor/Shor O Chesev Poem

A very important thing to know
Is that every day we have to grow

Like Avraham - ba beyamim - he improved every day
We his descendants need to be the same way

Animals are complete when they are born
They are neither emotionally nor spiritually torn

A cow is a cow even if you call it a calf
nothing like us, not even by half

This is our purpose throughout each year
To work on our souls and to G-d to come near

So on Sukkot we're reminded that a shor is a shor
May we be blessed to ever remember that we are more

Sunday, May 03, 2015

On Writing

After I shared this 
a friend asked what I thought about it.

I love writing and am pleased big time that, as corny as it sounds, my dream came true. When I was young I didn't dream of being a published writer, I dreamed of walking around with paper and being somewhere random like a parking lot and writing down my thoughts. Thank G-d. There are no words for how grateful I am to G-d that I string words together today (for my own therapy and amusement) all the time.

It's not just a line when I write here that I don't know what to write or where to write it. I am usually writing somewhere, often privately. Sometimes I like sharing. As much as it seems, maybe, that I share a lot in writing publicly, I hold back a lot in my writing too. I have several places at once that I write where people can see, and several going at the same time where they can't.

Recently I listened to someone publicly and repeatedly criticize Facebook, in stereotypical fashion. That it's like a drug and they keep you coming back for the likes (and then this person with no sense of irony asked everyone to pause and like his Facebook page). On the rare occasion when I get something like 30 or 40 likes on Facebook I am curious and sometimes even gratified- like when something personal I shared about Rav Aharon Lichtenstein - Z"TL - got a lot of likes. But generally, I'm not keeping tracks of the likes. It's more about the writing than it is about wanting the likes. I need to write like a mother needs to nurse.

Of course it's not simple. I like likes, can't lie. But often many hours or days go by till I see them. I don't look for them. Sometimes I miss them, or see that a post got a like but don't check who liked it. Lately I feel more and more pressed for time in life, and writing is something akin to breathing for me, or maybe more realistically to bathing- something I just feel kind of inhuman if I don't do it what I consider to be often enough.

As to this quote, there are things I'd get mad or feel betrayed if you (anyone) read them. And there are things I feel it would be great if you read. I feel that my exercising of my writing muscle has paid off. I like (and also can loathe at the same time) my writing. Often I feel I'd like you (friends) to read it and that's why I share it. (Though sometimes I share and vent without thinking much about if people will see it- just need to vent and choose here.)

Recently someone told me that something I was sharing face to face with them like it was a big deal (that I don't drive and take cabs more liberally than your average Jew) was something they already knew. I had no idea how. Till they reminded me that I post pictures, and write about my cabbing, on Facebook. Oh yeah, people can see and read what I put there- even if they don't let me know they saw it (by liking it or telling me).

I'm too loaded with things to do to reread this but I hope you read it and enjoy. May we all be blessed to find things that work for us positively as outlets. For me writing is a big thing. I don't know the best place to share my poems, essays, thoughts. This is one place. I know some people like to see what I write here. I am grateful to you with whom I share positive words, energy, and connection in writing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yom HaAtzmaut

Today, as part of my school's Yom HaAtzmaut round robin of presentations relating to the examples of the opportunities (or "knocks," as Rav Soloveichik put it) afforded by the miracle of the state of Israel, I did (4 times, one for each grade) a nine minute interpretation of 3 important people who made aliyah/were embraced and absorbed by the holiest of lands.

 As Yehuda Amichai, Great Poet

 As Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Founder, Nefesh B'Nefesh

As Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Former Chief Rabbi

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I once asked Rav Aharon Lichtenstein about the Jewish view on humor. He said (in part) that he felt uncomfortable around someone who didn't seem to have a sense of humor. He said he didn't have a makor for it, said that maybe this viewpoint was from the influence of his "western upbringing."

I think he was saying that it's important for us be human and that it's important for us to let each other know we're human and to connect with each other on a human level.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shmini Poem*

The first pasuk of Shmini has a funny thing to say
It says the Mishkan was opened for use on the eighth day
That statement says an untrue sounding thing
Which has about it an awkward ring
In baseball there are exhibition games they play
And after all these comes Opening Day
The exhibition season may have a long run
But opening day is still Number One
So why is the Mishkan's first day called Number Eight?
What does this teach us about our life and our fate?
The preparation days that came before
Count as much as the opening day- maybe more
Like the Chafetz Chaim** and Eisenhower*** we have to grow and change
We have to look at our middot and rearrange
This doesn't happen in one shot
It can't be done on the spot
Preparation is key to become ourselves one day
We build a foundation- that's the Torah way

*I am grateful to Rabbi Eli Ciner, my principal, who presented the ideas of this David Brooks essay to the freshman class during minyan this morning, and also spoke about Rav Hutner's letter and its comment about the Chafetz Chaim, both of which I worked into this edition of my weekly parsha poem at the minyan.
**See here
***See here

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A short audio vort, by me, on Shmini (which is read from 8 times this year).

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Me and Vance Gilbert

Thursday, April 02, 2015

I like the idea of blogs and blogging and sometimes pine for the time when blogging seemed to me a bigger thing.

Here is a post by one of the big names from the old days of the J-Blogosphere with a fascinating post on a particular part of a particular Haggadah.

I'm trying to try to update my Haggadah for this year.

Work is rich, and fulfilling and intense and I am grateful for how I am blessed.

Taught and counseled and and anded till about 5:30 PM yesterday.  Soon I'm off to my Pesach position. 

Now is in between
We are always in between
Once when and later

Just wrote the above.

Wrote this as I was falling asleep last night:

Walking on eggshells
Is not a good way to live
Something's got to give

Some haiku stay in my head, some in the little pads I carry, some make it here.

I am home- in my apartment. My apartment gets no direct sunlight.  Still, I think I'd benefit from sitting by the one window with indirect sunlight, second-best as it is.  Sunlight is important.

I just figured out that all the wind up alarm clocks that I thought broke didn't really break.  It's just that the on-off button doesn't go in and out if  they're not worn out at least a little bit.

Just heard about this book, I Was A Child, while listening to an interview with the author.  The interview is great- I relate to it, and am interested in the book.  So much resonates.  he just spoke about how when he sat in front of the turntable and listened to an album as a kid the thing to do was to stare at the album cover while you listened.  He spoke too about how every house had a smell but he couldn't smell the smell of his own house.  For him TV was big as a kid, it was soothing, it was like his TV life was his real life, more comfortable than his real family life.  He's speaking about his parents, and how he now gets that parenting feels like too much because it truly borders on being too much.  His father once mentioned in passing, he thinks, that his father mentioned that his mother has two abortions- back when they were illegal and risky. She seemed so fragile and overwhelmed by her 3 boys.  His parents believed that in life you can't get what you want.  His father had interests in writing big time and became a text book editor.  His mom never expressed that she wanted more than she had, but did convey the message that you should work hard and expect little and hopefully avoid being disappointed. he's successful in many areas and still struggles with this attitude that being negative and keeping your ambitions low is somehow healthy.

I just got an email from President Richard Joel.  Here's part of it:

With the continued work of our Board of Trustees and your vital partnership, we will do all that is necessary to lead our university into the bright future it needs and deserves.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach and a joyous Holiday to all,

Richard M Joel
Bravmann Family University Professor

Sometimes I think about prayer.  To me a phrase in Shmoneh Esrei can be taken 2 different ways: Either that we say with confidence that our trust in G-d will protect us from things causing us to be embarrassed, or- that we pray that our trust in G-d will not somehow be a cause of embarrassment for us.

I am preparing and need to be packing for Pesach.  

Need to focus on packing and travelling.  For what it's worth this post is done for now.

Good For The Jews?