Saturday, January 24, 2015

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. - Thomas Hewitt Ke

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's not true that there are two sides to every story- 
there are many more than that. 
- Me

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Eugene O'Neill

Weary am I of the tumult, sick of the staring crowd,
Pining for wild sea places where the soul may think aloud.
Fled is the glamour of cities, dead as the ghost of a dream,
While I pine anew for the tint of blue on the breast of the old Gulf Stream.

I have had my dance with Folly, nor do I shirk the blame;
I have sipped the so-called Wine of Life and paid the price of shame;
But I know that I shall find surcease, the rest my spirit craves,
Where the rainbows play in the flying spray,
’Mid the keen salt kiss of the waves.

Then it’s ho! for the plunging deck of a bark, the hoarse song of the crew,
With never a thought of those we left or what we are going to do;
Nor heed the old ship’s burning, but break the shackles of care
And at last be free, on the open sea, with the trade wind in our hair

P.S. This poem was brought to Michael Keaton, who quoted from it is a stand up routine of his log ago (late seventies or very early eighties.)

My Thought On Being "Makdim Shalom"

In the Gemorah in Brachot (17a) we're told that Rabbi Yochanan always greeted people first.  The actual wording is that he was "makdim shalom," he preceded them in wishing peace.  His reward for this was that he lived a long life (long/god days).

I think the moral here is that the best way for us to experience peace is to actively wish it for everyone else.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Over ten years writing here. Why?

Free writing now, if there is such a thing.  Not pausing.  Letting it flow.  Someone recently told me that what we see in each other are tips of icebergs.  As we get to know someone better we see the iceberg.  And, so often, we don't like the iceberg.

But when we change the iceberg we alter the tip of it too, the part we fell in love with, because that part that we first saw grew out of all that's under it.  This is true with others, so we need to think and to be careful of what we walk away from.  Everyone has roots.  And we need to be careful of what we try to change. In in the rare case that you change an iceberg, you change the whole thing, including that part up top that you'd never want any other way.


The early parshiot of Shmot contain one blatant and one subtle story of slavery. Let’s look at the subtext, the bondage of a different type, which plays a crucial role in our tale of redemption. 

Paroh's refusal to release the Jewish People is perplexing in light of the devastation he suffered. Paroh becomes more understandable in light of the personality of an addict. An alcoholic, for example, typically causes his own downfall, then swears to make amends, then continues to destroy his life. He can't stop. Despite rationally knowing there would be consequences to his actions, Paroh couldn't control himself. He felt compelled to pursue self-destructive behavior, like an alcoholic.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski suggests that to different degrees we all mirror an alcoholic's personality. He proposes reading any book on alcoholism and substituting "alcohol" with "yetzer hara". The result would be a treatise on our daily struggles and temptations. Common compulsive drives do not differ greatly from those of any addict. Some examples of prevalent struggles in life today include food, TV, gossip, sleep, internet (computer games/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/Netflix, etc.), sports, movies, sex, politics, power… Each of us risks becoming hostage to our own physical selves like the despot who enslaved our ancestors in Egypt.

In Twerski On Spirituality, the author calls addiction"the most absolute type of slavery the world has ever known." This is because a person under the influence "is likely to do things he never thought possible, but when he is in the grip of addiction, the drug is a ruthless totalitarian dictator." Under addiction's regime "the addict completely loses the unique human distinction of being free." Despite America's title as land of the free, many people may appear free on the surface while in reality, like Paroh, being enslaved in the worst possible way - to oneself.

Being the addict that he was Paroh (like all of us sometimes) dealt with his own insecurity by feigning power and control. Chazal tell us that he claimed to have no imperfections, and would go down to the Nile early in the morning to relieve himself. He was enslaved to his role of a deity. He was consumed by baseless fear of Bnei Yisroel taking over. In time he enslaved others. It is typical for a bully to pick on others because of his own sense of inadequacy. The more Paroh fought to claim control, the more he lost control, like the common addict, like the common man.

May we be blessed to learn from the overt and covert varieties of slavery present in the story of our sojourn in Egypt. May we succeed in winning our battles against slavery in all its forms. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am grateful to G-d
 at this moment 
for this moment.

Do you get the joke? This exchange is a haiku. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Like This

Shiriyah, Teaching, Life

Last week was a wonderful, strong, Shiriya (here are links to things I've written in years past about Shiriya). in  school (at work).  One morning a young man gave an excellent Dvar Torah at davening about how Noach had some rachamim on people, but it was only in response to what G-d told him. Avraham acted on his own and did true chesed. (Sometime I feel bad that we give Noach a bad rap, the guy did save the population of the world, us.) Any, I was pleased to wake up this morning, say Modeh Ani, get up and out and am glad to be here, now.

I wrote a haiku that you can find here about how I admire quiet/restraint.  A friend of mine cited this Rambam (De'ot 2:4,5), in which he quotes from Avot several times to back up his argument for quiet over speech and for few words over many.

לעולם ירבה אדם בשתיקה ולא ידבר אלא או בדבר חכמה או בדברים שצריך להם 
לחיי גופו אמרו על רב תלמיד רבינו הקדוש שלא שח שיחה בטלה כל ימיו וזו היא 
שיחת רוב כל אדם ואפילו בצרכי הגוף לא ירבה אדם דברים ועל זה צוו חכמים 
ואמרו כל המרבה דברים מביא חטא ואמרו לא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה וכן 
בדברי תורה ובדברי חכמה יהיו דברי האדם מעטים ועניניהם מרובים והוא שצוו
חכמים ואמרו לעולם ישנה אדם לתלמידיו דרך קצרה אבל אם היו הדברים מרובין 
והענין מועט הרי זו סכלות ועל זה נאמר כי בא החלום ברוב ענין וקול כסיל 
.רוב דברים

סייג לחכמה שתיקה לפיכך לא ימהר להשיב ולא ירבה לדבר וילמד לתלמידים 
בשובה ונחת בלא צעקה ובלא אריכות לשון הוא שאמר שלמה דברי חכמים בנחת 

Lots of explanation goes w the picture above. This is a chart from some recent teaching.

A Tanna in Avot says that there were 10 tests for Avraham and it's accepted. It's one several lists of ten. The mishnah says that he had and passed 10 tests and that this highlights his greatness and praiseworthiness.

Most of them are not said to be 10 in the written Torah, the two that are: 10 maamarim (what we call dibrot) and 10 times Bnei Yisrael tested Hashem in the Midbar. (These don't come with a clear labelling in the Torah of exactly what the ten are - the dibrot come closer than the nisyonot - but thay are said in the Torah SheBichtav to be 10. (This reminds me of how, once a respectable old time man de'amar says that there are 613 Mitzvot, it is accepted, and the Rishonim then work hard to identify how the number comes to total 613.)

The Ramban only counts ones written in the Torah SheBichtav text, that's why he's the exception regarding the Kivshan Ha'Eish (but doesn't necessarily count something someone else counts, just because it's in the text, like Brit bein HaBetarim). He is the only one to include the both marrying of Hagar and having Yishmael, and to split throwing out Hagar and throwing out Yishmael into two, because he has a smaller pool to get 10 from.

They all agree on several of them. The one they have to agree on is the Akeidah, because it is the only one called a test.

Rashi is based on Pirkei DeRabiEliezer, and includes that first one that the others don't and that many of us don't know of.

Most say the the Akeidah was the biggest and last one. R Yonah adds one more after the Akeidah. Perhaps the lesson of this is that even after we hit the ball out of the park or win the World Series we still have to go up to the plate again and do what needs to be done even when it's not the homerun or the biggest game. So the point is that Avraham did the seemingly more mundane act of burying Sarah after the Akeidah, showing that he went on passing the seemingly smaller tests of daily life. (This reminds me of a criticism Joe Klein made of the late Mario Cuomo, that he was a great speaker and could hit the ball out of the park in that way, but he wasn't as good at negotiating, collaborating, and other day to day tasks of a major leader like a president).

I have been sick for weeks and am glad to have vacation now to recuperate.

No book is worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty. CS Lewis.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. - Alan Bennett

Monday, January 12, 2015

More Musical Chizuk

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being" - Hafiz

Wow. May G-d Bless Us All With this Choice

"Everything good in my life has come from choosing to be alive rather than afraid." - Jordana Horn Gordon

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sunday, Monday Beatle Days

Wednesday, January 07, 2015



They are insecure
Both Lucy and Charlie Brown 
And they each have strength


It is not stealing
take wisdom where you find it
free like butterflies

Monday, January 05, 2015

Assorted Thoughts

I am grateful to G-d for life and, please G-d, health.

There's a statement that daybreak does not start and night does not end until you can recognize your the face of another person (someone you don't know that well, according to Tosafot).  Technically this is a matter of logistics; this marks the starting time for saying Shemah in the morning.  Homeletically, it's telling us that what brings light into the world, what makes for a new day, is when we truly recognize and dignify each other. And then we are able to accept G-d into our lives.

In Chumash we're learning about the 10 tests of Avraham and had a good talk about it today.  Someone asked why it has to be 10- based on the fact that 3 major Rishonim debate what the 10 are from 14 major events in Avraham's life, why not just say it was all 14. Once the mishnah in Avot says that there were 10 it's accepted and then the question becomes which ten.  It reminds me of the 613 mitzvot and how once it was stated by a reputable source that there are 613 it was accepted and then the Rishonim put forth their opinions of what the 613 are.

Today marked my first day back at work after a week out due to flu/bronchitis.  I am grateful to G-d for the teaching work I have done for these past 25 years plus, and particularly for these 19 in the same place.  It is hard work and also a labor of love.  May G-d bless me to teach and connect and assist and guide more and more.

I'll take wisdom where I find it.  Recently on Chopped a judge advised a contestant about how important it is to deal with the stresses of being a chef and that he needed to do that lest he come to hate the thing he loves.

I'm surprised myself that I've been writing here for ten years.

One source in Chazal says that as soon as Yaakov died the shibud - subjugation of Egypt started.  Another source says it didn't start until all the brothers passed away.  The answer of the Darchei Noam is that spiritually the downfall started when Yaakov died, physically it didn't/couldn't go into effect till all the brothers dies.

That brings to mind something the Nesivos Shalom (the father of the Darchei Noam) says regarding Chanukah: The true intent of the Yevanim was to destroy us physically but they knew they could only accomplish that by putting out our light.  Thus the miracle of the oil represents that spiritual/light salvation, which enabled us to physically be saved and to win the war.

Maybe a gut feeling is a collection of wisdom gathered - NPR.

Also from NPR, a story about Harrah's cards- how through the card you sign up for they keep track of how much you gamble, what you play, when you win or lose, at what point you quit, etc.

I'm ending this at the time that will be posted though it was started quite a while ago.

Good night and may G-d Bless.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Circle Haiku

With gratitide to Haiku Horizons for prompting this:

Our lives, our circles
Groups next to, groups within groups
Circles in the sand

The Tallis Bag From My Bar Mitzvah - Saved Here In Photo Form

I picked this. it matched the Tefillin bag. Bought it in israel on the family trip, the first time any of the 4 of us were ever in Israel, the summer before my vacation. My dad got my brother and i a Tallis and bag, but he didn't tell us that it was the German tradition to actually start wearing it at that time. So it sat in a drawer for many years in my parents' house. At some point I took it to my place. Today I dropped off the Tallis at Shaimos and gave the bag to someone who was excited/happy to have it.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Lunch Box Preview and Review

Don't trust this trailer. I doubt it will make you want to watch this movie. But trust me; it's a movie worth watching.

It is a strong, thought provoking, well considered and well executed, dark, yet hopeful, and ultimately beautiful film.

*** Possible Spoiler Alert *** SKIP IF YOU'RE WARY OF A SPOILER

In some ways though the two movies are quite different, I felt strong similarities to another film, it left me with a feeling that reminded me of the feeling I had after seeing The Purple Rose of Cairo. I wonder if anyone who's seen both will get what I mean.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

VAYECHI - SOMETIMES YOU JUST CAN'T SKIP TO THE END ----------------- (Based on Shira Smiles' essay in Torah Tapestries-Breishis pages 183-186)

Last night was mom's Yahrtzeit and I learned a bit in her memory.  i didn't plan it but the essay i chose spoke about kaddish and how the key is the response it evokes, like a brachah and the key of it being the amen.  The essay by Shprintza Hershkovits dealt with the irony of a parsha about death being called "And He Lived." 

Tonight and tomorrow are the Yahrtzeit of my mother's only brother, my dear Uncle Sid.  He was a sweet man. his wife, she should live and be well is sweet and kind too.  And he has left behind a lot of wonderful grandchildren from his 2 amazing daughters.  I have sweet memories from the earliest time of my life, of Uncle Sid making and buying the best presents for me and my brother. And taking me places and treating me with such loving kindness. It was tragic to see him go.  i had the sad privilege of staying with him one night very close to the end. I was in the waiting room with his wife when she got the news of his illness (and I'll never forget how she was able to call her rabbi and share with him like and rely on him in a way you wish every rabbi could and would do- and that's to the great credit of rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt).

I have been feeling really ill and been on bed rest. I continued to care for myself as best I could today and stuck to the doctor's orders of staying in.  I did, though, go out for minchah.  And I had the merit to lead the Tefillah and to say kaddish in my mother's memory.  And before and after minchah I learned from another holy woman about the parshah: Shira Smiles.  I'll share some of her essay in memory of my highly sensitive and loving mom, and my favorite uncle.


The fact that the portion about Yaakov's death is called "And he Lived," tells us that only this parsha, which seems to be about his tell, truly tells us about the most lived part of Yaakov Avinu's life. It starts with Yaakov saying that he will tell his sons what will occur in the end of days, and then he goes into blessing them, starting with Reuven, and skipping the end of days thing.  The rabbis say that G-d blocked him from revealing wat was to happen. One wonders why he now merited  knowing what would happen in the end of time and why he was stopped from sharing this information.

Before we're told that he lived 147 years, the Torah says that Yaakov was in Mitzrayim for 17 years.  This teaches us that those 17 years were the highest of the high- mei'ein olam habah-a taste of the world to come.   This is quite something, considering that he grew up in he holy home of Yitzchak Avinu and that he spent many years  exclusively devoting himself to studying Torah in Yeshivah. This may be explained by context and contrast.  The 22 years that preceded these 17 were dark ones for Yaakov, the Divine Spirit did not/could not rest with him, because he thought Yosef was dead. The Torah states that "the spirit of their father Yaakov was revived" when the brothers told him that Yosef was alive, meaning the Divine Presense came back to him. After having been blocked for so long when he was able to raise himself spiritually again he shot up like never before and experienced the best years of his life.

Just as Yaakov went through hard times - the last of which was his mourning for Yosef - and then had his happy ending, so will we. he wanted to share with his sons the knowledge he'd acquired following all his hardship, which would parallel the world that was yet to come for them. However, his children and their descendants, needed to live through more suffering of their own and could not be privy to the knowledge he'd earned at the end of his days.  They'd have to get there themselves because that's how it works.

19 Blessings-Nineteen Events

"The Shemoneh Esrei is more than a collection of petitions or requests for ourselves and our people.  They also remind us of certain events in our hisrory.   According to our Sages each blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei tells a story of some miracle that happened in the past, which was the first occasion this blessing was said by the angels." - My Prayer  by Nissan Mindel, 2012 edition, page 153 (He goes on to list all the occurances via Shibollei haLeket as quoted by Siddur Otzar HaTefillot

Omar M. Mozaffar's take on the message of The Lunchbox: "Take a moment to give or receive a favor, enjoying the taste in every morsel. Better than that, cultivate your relations, with old school care and compassion. Otherwise, as we race against time, we always lose."


Monday, December 29, 2014


An old woman
who was once young
in body, never in soul
didn't listen to her cousin
her holy cousin who was
even more famous than her
when he told her to cheer up
and I don't think it was spite
I think she was simply real
Like the golden fish she saw
and the dead bird she was
The parents and grandfather
and the husband that she lost
and the self made family
of people who got her 
and cared for her for real
and I wonder sometimes
if she rolls her eyes and 
rolls her self in her grave
every time there's a formal
reading of "Everyone Has A Name"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Haiku, Just Haiku

Just one thing fails me
Whatever that one thing is
One can't be enough

I just want to be
objectively fairminded
I want to be just

Just exactly that
absolutely, totally
just thoroughly just

Just when it seems that
you can't possibly succeed
try just one more time

Everything just is:
healthy, sick, married, alone
Thank G-d for your life

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it. ― Ella Williams

New To Me, By Emily

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Never Know What To Write Or Where To Write It

Went to Dr. tonight. He wondered why I didn't come sooner- or at least I'm pretty sure that's what he meant after I answered his questions of how long I've been feeling sick and then asked me, "Where have you been all my life?" I slept all of Shabbos. And yet now I'm ready for more sleep. I guess it's the fever and the other parts of what the Dr. has named Bronchitis.  I am grateful to G-d for this doctor.  Maybe the best part of going to the doctor is that in having made that affirmative move of self care you start to feel better. Oh man, being sick is not fun, but lots of other things in life are.  Thank G-d for that. Going to try to get more rest, and to control stres, and to continue to heal.  May G-d bless us all, everyone, and me too.

With flu or something like it.  Sigh.  Feeling physically sick and depleted.

May G-d heal everyone who needs healing, and me too.

Friday, December 26, 2014

May Shabbos be holy and real and healing and good, and may we all be that way as well.

Vayigash: In The Sound of A Thin Silence

By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

In a famine, 10 brothers traverse a great distance for bread. After encountering Egypt's viceroy, who controls the food supply, everything spirals downward. Mishaps escalate into impending tragedy; they are arrested as spies, one brother is taken hostage, the youngest brother is accused of stealing, and that's just part of it. They wonder why this is happening as they ineffectively struggle to handle their situation.

When this powerful leader tells them who he is, "Ani Yosef" ("I am Joseph")
 their reality shifts, leaving them speechless. The Midrash Rabbah cryptically connects the brothers' reaction to Yosef's revelation with what each of us will experience when we meet our Maker (at age 120) saying, "Woe to us for the day of judgment, woe to us for the day of reproach." jj jjj
Rabbi Bernard Weinberger in his work, Shemen HaTov, posits that the brothers were speechless for a powerful reason. They had never, even as children, recognized  Yosef for who he really was. Long before his beard and position disguised his identity, Yosef was a mystery to his brothers. Unable to understand him, they reduced him to the one-dimensional. They decided he was a scoundrel, a threat, a daddy's boy, a potential murderer or worse, depending on the commentary. But who was Yosef?

The truth is that Yosef was a tzaddik. In fact, he was The Tzaddik. He is the paradigm of a tzaddik, our only ancestor that is always referenced with that title. The brothers didn't grasp Yosef's greatness for a long time. After the smoke cleared, after the years of anguish, in the moment of silence after Yosef revealed himself, they got it. This annoying younger brother of theirs was now the viceroy of Egypt and more so - he was clearly righteous and G-d fearing.

The Ohr HaChayim notes that twice in a row (Breishit45:3 and 4) Yosef tells his siblings who he is. In the second instance he adds that he is "Yosef, the brother whom you sold to Egypt." The Ohr HaChayim suggestsYosef was telling them, "I am who I always was - your brother who loves you. Even when you were pushing me away, I was your brother who loved you. The Ohr HaChayim also points out that Yosef shared with them one of those secrets endemic to all families, a fact that only he and his siblings knew. Then, there in the silence, they heard.

The brothers broke through the only way of thinking to which they had attached their minds. Yosef's unveiling provided his brothers with an awareness of his wholeness of being. In the past they had only seen his outer layer, represented by his coat. They now experienced an awakening and saw the full tapestry ofYosef.
The brothers experienced the same kind of silence which followed the whirlwind of sound, action, and fire in which Eliyahu HaNavi could not find G-d. Finally, in the kol demamah dahkah - what Rabbi Jonathan Sachs translates as "the sound of a thin silence," Eliyahuhears G-d and understands. (Melachim I - 19:12)@@
The Chafetz Chayim focuses on this paradigm shift that the brothers experienced, and says that it mirrors what will happen to each of us one day. When G-d reveals himself to us after we leave this physical world, we will view everything through a new perspective. This idea is in consonance with the illustration of the person who is presented with a gift of a gorgeous tapestry, or so he is told. But when he looks at the needlepoint picture he’s received he is confused because all he sees is loose ends and knots. The friend who gave him the gift tells him to turn it around. When he sees the breathtaking work of art on the other side, he realizes that he had been viewing the back, thus missing the beauty. The Torah tradition is that in this life we often only see part of the picture. This was the metaphorical message G-d presented Moshe with when he told him that he could view His back, but that in this life no man can see G-d head on.

The Tribes of Israel traversed a variety of great distances. In a unique moment of silence, the brothers saw Yosef. One day we will reach an end of our journey and we will see G-d's glory. We will gain complete understanding in retrospect, in a silent moment, after the lively whirlwinds that seemed so real have passed.
To the degree that it is possible now, may G-d bless us to find a quiet moment and in that silence experience the truth of G-d – “Ani Hashem.” Why wait?

Friday In Real Time

On Wednesday I learned with a boy - not the first time - during lunch, who wants to learn extra.  Heaven is learning lishmah.  Then I went home with flu symptoms. Still got them.  A boy who's learning in Israel just came by to say hi.  Nachas.  Thank G-d for Vitamin C and echanacea and zinc and liquids and rest.  Thank G-d for kind secretaries who help with photocopying.  Thank G-d for Shabbos and the joy of anticipating Shabbos.  Thank G-d that I write regularly, it's cathartic.  I was planning to go to dad for Shabbos but with my terrible sore throat not gonna do it.  He had a bad sore throat like this a few months ago and it's particularly scary when he has that kind of thing (for a variety of reasons).  Last night, before sleep, I started a New Yorker short story called literally. it is good. A lot of story told through wordplay.  I also, last night, read a review of a book of short stories written slowly over the last 20 years.  Sounds good. As I write this I'm waiting for 2 students to come to me for special accommodations regarding their test.  Oral testing, on on case was okayed by the school learning specialist. Just got some soup upstairs.  Two juniors who I taught first period asked how I was feeling and told me to go home and rest it out asap.  A ninth grade student has a similar bug as me and went home right after out test.  I'm debating what I need to stop and buy and what I have enough of.  Yesterday i bought 4 boxes of Yogi immunity tea and am glad I did- already used a bunch of bags. Met with 2 students about their tests.  Met with a student to discuss his Bronfman recommendation.  Spoke to a student who did poorly on a test because he didn't feel well.  Spoke to a student who consistently can't get a test done in one class and connected with the department of school that can help him, got him an appointment with learning specialist. I was on the board as being absent today at the start of the day and kids kept telling me that I was absent.  I told them I was pretty sure I was here.  Off to catch a bus  to a store to another bus to home to a taste of the World to Come.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last night of Chanukkah Insight

Do you think we'd feel sad at the end of Chanukah if we went like Beit Shamai (8 on the first night, 1 on the last)? 

I do. 

It feels good that while the holiday seems to slip away - and gets less attention - we end with the most light, to really get it, and keep it, and carry it on into our post Chanukkah lives.

Maoz Tzur...Chashof Zeroah

I just spoke with my dear dad and asked him about his custom of not saying the sixth stanza of maoz Tzur.  He said it was in the German siddurim of his youth.  And he's confirmed that with others of his time. 

It seems that till recently it wasn't recited in most British Siddurim.  Here's an interesting piece from here:

Those brought up on the old Singer Siddur have always known there were five verses and have sung them with gusto all their lives, never imagining that once there was a sixth verse that somehow got suppressed. But that verse, reproduced at the end of this paragraph, has found its way back into more recent editions of thesiddur.
The 6th Verse:
חֲשׂוֹף זְרוֹעַ קָדְשֶׁךָ וְקָרֵב קֵץ הַיְשׁוּעָה
נְקֹם נִקְמַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מֵאֻמָּה הָרְשָׁעָה
כִּי אָרְכָה הַשָּׁעָה וְאֵין קֵץ לִימֵי הָרָעָה
דְּחֵה אַדְמוֹן בְּצֵל צַלְמוֹן הָקֵם לָנוּ רוֹעִים שִׁבְעָה
Make bare Thy holy arm, and bring near
the final salvation:
Take vengeance for Thy servants from the
wicked nation,
For the time has been prolonged, and there
is no end to the evil days.
Thrust away 
Admon in the shadow of Tzalmon.
Raise up seven shepherds.
It begins chasof z’ro’a kodshecha, “make bare Thy holy arm”, a plea to God to bestir Himself, throw off the yoke of Rome and the church, and bring about the messianic redemption.
Not every scholar accepts that this verse was part of the original Ma’oz Tzur. Some believe it is a later addition. But at least three reasons support the authenticity of the verse:
1. A medieval poet is highly likely to have referred to contemporary persecutions;
2. Poems of this kind usually end with a reference to the coming of Mashiach;
3. The first three words produce the acrostic chazak (“be strong!”), common in such poems.
Writing during the Middle Ages, when Christian persecution of Jews was so fierce, a Hebrew poet would have instinctively voiced his yearning for the yoke to be lifted. But any reference to the church would invite censorship, and this is probably why chasof z’ro’a was suppressed.
Mention of the church comes in the last line, not directly but by allusion, in the first four words, “Thrust awayAdmon in the shadow of Tzalmon“. Admon is from Edom(literally “red”), by which name the rabbis used to refer to Rome; Tzalmon, originally a hill near Shechem, is a reference to Christianity (tzelem is the Hebrew for “cross”). This is probably the only case in the siddur of a clear negative reference to Christianity.
The final phrase, “Raise up seven shepherds”, appears puzzling. However, Micah 5:4 indicates that in messianic times seven shepherds (seven denotes completeness or perfection) will overcome any adversary who attacks the Divine flock of Israel.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Think I Just Made Up This Quote

Sometimes you don't realize you're drowning because you think you're scuba-diving.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hebrew:  korban
translated as sacrifice
means to bring nearer

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

This Poem Just came to me

Bah Shabbat, Bah Menuchah

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

Channukah: Lessons In Perseverence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published here, in the NJ/Rockland Jewish Standard

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Day 3 of Chanukkah!

Andrés Segovia- The Intimate Guitar (full album) HD

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why I Try to Not Refer To Myself As Busy

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Red Ruby Haiku

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

VaYeishev Tanka

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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

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

- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Hot Haiku

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

Inspired by prompt on HaikuHorizons

Saturday, December 06, 2014

My New Zelda Favorite

בגלגול האחרון

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

In the Final Incarnation

By Zelda (1914 – 1984)

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

Friday, December 05, 2014


See here for my thoughts about falling up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

tanka of the night

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

Monday, December 01, 2014

Haiku: Afternoon, Evening, Night

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pre Shabbos Post

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

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

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

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

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

3:46 PM -

Vayeitzei Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Thanksgiving Poem

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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

Sim Shalom

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Goodnight Keyboard

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

My Thought, Hot Off The Press, On Garbled Texts

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

Stored Haiku

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

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

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

Cold Haiku

Sometimes being cool-
suprficially, outside-
goes too cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharansky/Tehillim Follow Up

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Vuch / Ten year Anniversary Post

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

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

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

Off to wait for my ride...

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

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

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

Off to connect with a friend...

10:53 PM - Back at the keyboard again.

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

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

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

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

Apartment House
By Gerald Raftery

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

11:07 PM - Time for sleep, soon.  

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

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

P.S. - 


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

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

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

- Me (Neil Fleischmann)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Toldot - Parsha Poem

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

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

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

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

Chayei Sarah- Parshah Poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Worth More Than A Thousand (Sad) Words

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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

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


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

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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

Poem After Being Too Late For Dr. McMenomey

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

Sunday, November 09, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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