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?

Monday, March 23, 2015

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.’ — Ray Bradbury

What Memories/Thoughts/Feelings Does This Picture Evoke For You?

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Sacrifice is the way korban is translated
But this is wrong, imprecise, outdated
Here's some news and it may sound odd
A korban is an act that brings us closer to G-d
Dovid HaMelech felt both when he was whole or tattered
Closeness to G-d, for him, was all that mattered

Monday, March 16, 2015

I Would Maybe Edit Out The Word Only

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” - Emily Dickenson

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lately I've been writing more at my other blogs-,, and  Also, I sometimes, for some reason hesitsate to mention the site that shall not be mentioned by name, but I do write a good deal there too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Can You Love The One Who...

By Leah Pearlman

There’s one in you who’s sweet.
There’s one in you who’s mean.
Can you love them both?
Can you let them both be seen?

Can you love the one who tries?
And love her when she fails?
Can you love the one who lies?
And love the one who wails?

Can you love your tears?
Can you love your worry?
Can you love your darkest fears?
Can you love your fury?

Can you love indifference?
Love the one who clings?
Can you love the vibrant one?
Love the one who sings?

Can you love your addict?
Can you love your thief?
Can you love your vanity?
Can you love your grief?

Can you love your inner child?
And your body as you age?
Can you love your wild side?
Release her from her cage?
Can you love the one fulfilled?
And the one who’s not?
Can you love the one who’s chilled?
And whose temper’s hot?
Can you love the weakling?
The one who’s sometimes sick?
Can you love the warrior?
Who fights through thin and thick?

Can you love your crazy?
Can you love your sane?
Can you love your foolish heart?
Love your scattered brain?

There’s one in you who’s bored.
And one who’s often stressed
Can you love them both at once?
And she who tries her best?

If the answer’s “no.”
To some of the above
Then can you love the one in you
Who’s learning how to love?

Sunday, March 08, 2015

 “Trust the tongue of the shoe, not the tongue of the mouth” - Alfred Adler

My Refuge

She is my refuge
from storms of hate and anger
her name: poetry

I wrote this in 2007. I put it in my book. When haiku horizons used the word refuge as their prompt this week, this came to mind.

Maybe I'll feel prompted to write more and put them in the comments.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Good Erev Shabbos

I am grateful for my Purim meal, which was itself an answered prayer that I pray will lead to others.  It's a holy zone of time, pre Shabbos.  I'm going to dad, sleeping on his floor, as I did three weeks ago and two weeks before that, and so on and so on.  Dad really liked my last Jewish week article, which made me happy.  Today a girl in school stopped told me as we passed each other in the hall that she read that article and really liked it.  I just got texted that my Uber is arriving now.  may we all get where we need to go in the most pleasant ways possible. Praying for healing and health for everyone this Shabbos, always.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Post Purim Post

11 PM - Just got home a short while ago from a seudah that felt right.  Thank G-d. it feels good to be in the right place, to have done what had to be done to get there.

I did Maariv at YU at 10, then came home. Did a couple of work emails that were responses to emails that came in today.  Returned a phone call, which was a request to give a shiur- a very special request about a shiur that's done in memory of a dear friend of mine who passed away on Pesach some 14 (?) years ago.  I was honored to be asked.  Now I have to rise to the occasion of giving a shiur worthy of my friend and those who loved him.  A friend called about finding a minyan, as he's a aveil.  Trying to help.  it's involved some calls back and forth and around, may involve staying up late to car-sit during Maariv.

11:11 PM - Going to take my boots off, though I may need to put them on and go out again.

11:35 PM - Still not sure about aveil/minyan situation. As of last I heard i will be needed at midnight to sit and mind my friend's car as he catches the last minyan in NYC.

11:56 PM (and beyond) - Just got word, friend is too jetlagged to make it up here from lower in city for midnight minyan.

The seudah today was so nice.  i want to write honestly about it, and yet I want to be respectful. There were nine people there- eople around my age. It was the right place to be, rather than well meaning friends or family.  I was with people that i need to be with.  I was in a place that could hold the answer to my prayers.

It was beautiful.  Torah shared from the heart and soul.  Someone talked about how one of the lessons of Purim was that you move on.  Esther in particular and the Jews in general did not have a perfect happy ending after the miracle we celebrate.  It's similar to Yitchak who had a hard life after the Akeidah...

I am filled with great gratefulness, whole hope, and considerable contentedness.  So much i want to write and share- about the former student who was there, about my eating and feeling better, about the conversation regarding happiness and joy and and and and and. But now I need to lay me down to sleep and get ready for miracles and answered prayers and a new start in life.

Purim Sameach

Please G-d answer my truest prayers and the truest prayers of your nation.
Until the redemption comes we must the live the values that we believe are exemplified by redemption.
Right now is the time to strive to be the highest version of our selves that we wish to be.
I want to follow my dreams and answer my calling- please G-d, make it so, right now.
May our prayers be answered and our miracles come true this Purim.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Purim Proem

Anything. Because that's what they say. They say that on Purim you can ask G-d for anything and it will be granted.  One of the most rationalistic rabbis I know says that despite being dubious he tried it one year big time.  And he got what he asked for in the most dramatic Maggid Speaks story kind of way.

Can't do it, I've thought.  I try, but can I really open up and talk to G-d in that beautiful Breslov, Ushhpizin style? I just tried it and only got through a minute or so, maybe that minute was enough. Who knows?.  It's hard to have The Talk with anyone, let alone G-d.  Don't be common and let alone G-d.  Badger him in that loving yet tough love way of Rav Levi Yitzchak MiBerditchev.  Have chutzpah when you pray like Choni HaMe'agel (which got him chastised, but also got him what he asked for and what he and all those around him were thirsting for because it was what they needed).

Don't give up.  That's what they say.  Years ago someone shared their diary with me. In their journal this person prayed and pleaded with G-d, told the cold hard facts to Him in Scared Straight fashion.  In the end this person's prayers were answered. If you really want someone to hear your story, or want someone to stop crying, or want someone to receive your love, whatever it may be - you have to do your thing more than once.  Prayer one hundred and prayer one hundred and one times are different realities, set in different keys - let your key open the door to G-d's heart.

Everybody hurts and heals and is exiled and redeemed in their lifetime, in their way.  Purim is a major player in this game.  Forever comes later, for now deal with now.  Give to the poor, give to your friends, and give to everyone. Happiness is not so complicated that you need words for it – you’ll know it when you feel it. I, like you, want things though I may say I don’t – not with words, but with the way I live.  And on Purim the façade falls down and we want what we want and there’s a chance for that to happen for me and there's a chance for that to happen for you.  I want to want what I want in a way that I and G-d and the world know I want it. And though I’m scared like a rabbit-rabbi, I do want to act on the good things I want.  Purim is a holiday of doing, giving, moving forward; that may move dreams into reality.

Judaism is about many things, like life.

Know your holy day and know yourself.

Let your megilah unfold.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Purim Myths and Facts

Purim Myths and Facts ( (click on link to see the original post with all the feisty comments) . I am posting these as points of interests; please let's not be mefuraz umefurad over this - it's just food for thougt as a fast day and then a holiday approach)

As I was preparing spiritually for the holy day of Purim, I compiled a list of Purim myths and facts, which I would like to share with my readers.Please feel free to add your own, which assuming I agree, I will add to the post.

1 –Myth – Ta’anis Esther is in commemoration of the three day fast that Esther declared before enteringAchashveirosh’s quarters.

Fact – It is a commemoration of the fast that the Jews fasted on the thirteenth of Adar, the day on which they fought their enemies. It is named after Esther since she is an example of someone whose Tefilos were answered. (Tur Orach Chaim 686, Kitzur ShulchanAruch 141:2, & Mishna Brurah 686:2).

2 –Myth – The reason Hashem punished the Jews by allowing Haman to threaten them with annihilation was because they took part in Achashveirosh’s party.

Fact – They were punished for bowing down to the idol of Nevuchadnetzar. (Gemorah Megillah 12a).

3 –Myth - The two foods of Mishloach Manos must be of two different Brachos, otherwise they are considered as one.

Fact – As long as they are two distinct foods, even two types of meat, they are considered as two. (GemorahMegillah 7b, Rambam Hilchos Megillah 2:15).

4 –Myth – One should spend more on Mishloach Manosthan on Matanos L’Evyonim.

Fact – It is better to spend more money on MatanosL’Evyonim than on Mishloach Manos, since bringing joy to downtrodden people is a greater Mitzvah. (Rambam2:17).

5 –Myth – One is obligated to get drunk on Purim.

Fact – Not necessarily. Although there are thoseRishonim who rule that way, many others argue and rule that one should simply drink more than he is accustomed to and then nap a little. (Rambam 2:15,Shulchan Aruch and Rema 695:2, Mishna Brurah 695:5, & Aruch Hashulchan 695:5).

6 –Myth – Haman’s daughter, after realizing that she dumped a pail of refuse on her father’s head, jumped off the roof.

Fact – She actually fell off the roof, apparently from shock, and not that she committed suicide. (GemorahMegillah 16a).

7 –Myth – Achashveirosh was simply fooled by Haman and felt no dislike towards the Jews.

Fact – He hated the Jews just as much as Haman, and was happy to get rid of them. (Gemorah Megillah 14a).

8 –Myth – Haman had ten sons.

Fact – There are actually three opinions. He either had thirty, ninety, or two hundred and eight. ApparentlyMegillahs Esther refers to his ten higher-ranking sons, though he had more. (Gemorah Megillah 15b).

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teztaveh, Jewish Week Piece

See comments to read the article about ehether we are body or soul

From Family Education Website, With Gratitude

This topic comes up daily in my work as a guidance counselor.

High School Study Schools

1. Time Management

You know the deal: There are just 24 hours in each day. What you do with that time makes all the difference. While high-school students average 35 hours per week of class time, college students log an average of 15 to 18 hours per week.

Getting your "free" time under control now will help prepare you for managing that extra 20 hours a week come freshman year of college — when you'll need to study and want to socialize more than ever.

If you don't already, start using a daily planner. This could be a datebook you keep in your bag, an online version you maintain at home, or both. It's easy to over-schedule or "double-book" if we aren't careful. Manage your time wisely and you'll get the maximum out of each day.

2. Good Study Habits

If you've got them, great. If not — well, there's still time to develop them. Good study habits include these basics:

Always be prepared for class, and attend classes regularly. No cutting!

Complete assignments thoroughly and in a timely manner.

Review your notes daily rather than cram for tests the night before.

Set aside quiet time each day for study — even if you don't have homework or a test the next day!

3. The Ability to Set Attainable Goals

It's important to set goals, as long as they're attainable. Setting goals that are unreasonably high is a set-up — you'll be doomed to frustration and disappointment.

4. Concentration 

Listen to your teacher and stay focused. Be sure that you understand the lesson. If you don't understand something, ask questions! You've heard it before, but "the only dumb question is the one you don't ask" is absolutely true. If you've been paying attention, it definitely won't be a dumb question.

5. Good Note-Taking

You can't possibly write down everything the teacher says since we talk at a rate of about 225 words per minute. But, you do need to write down the important material.

Be sure to validate yourself after a test by going back over your notes to see if your notes contained the answers to questions asked on the test. If not, you need to ask to see a classmate's notes or check with the teacher for help on improving your note-taking.

Studying with a partner is also a good idea, provided that you study and don't turn it into a talk-fest (there's time for that later). Note-taking should be in a form that's most helpful to you. If you're more of a visual person, try writing notes on different colored index cards. Music can also be a good memory aid as long as you don't find it distracting. Re-writing your notes daily is another strategy. If you really have a problem with note-taking, you might ask your teacher if you can tape-record daily lessons. Do whatever it takes!

6. Completion of Assignments

Teachers assign homework for a reason. While it may seem like "busywork" at times, it definitely has a purpose. Put your homework to good use. Remember, you'll only get out of it what you put into it!

7. Review of Daily Notes

Don't wait until the night before the test to review your notes. Go over your notes each day while the lecture is still fresh in your mind. Add any missing pieces. Compare your notes with a classmate's notes. This isn't cheating — it may even be mutually beneficial. Review your notes each day to reinforce your learning and build towards your ultimate goal: MASTERY of the subject or skill.

8. Organizational Skills

Keeping yourself organized will save you valuable time and allow you to do everything you need to do. Remember: "A place for everything and everything in its place." Keep all your study materials (calculator, planner, books, notebooks, laptop, etc.) in one convenient location.
9. Motivation

You need to be motivated to learn and work hard, whether or not you like a specific subject or teacher. Self-motivation can be extremely important when you aren't particularly excited about a class. If you must, view it as an obstacle you must overcome. Then, set your mind to it and do it — no excuses. Success is up to you!

10. Commitment

You've started the course, now you need to complete it. Do the best — and get the most out of it — that you can! Your commitment will pay off in the end.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Haiku

I leave a lot of haiku off of this blog and share them here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Birthday Haiku

On the day we're born
more light comes into the world
through our shining souls.

My Jewish birthday
is the thirteenth of Tishrei.
This makes me happy.

Birthdays are good days
to look back and look forward,
take stock of our days.

Friend, I am grateful
for your celebrating me
on my day of birth.

of the day that I was born
I should celebrate.

Not just a number
that's a lie that people say.
Every birthday counts

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ravrevin - I Find This Comforting and So Very Beautiful

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Eventually we find the other aliens.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Breishit Quiz Questions - Created For Shiriyah 5776

1. Who invented musical instruments?
2. Name two women described in Breishit as having their faces covered with a veil.
3. Name someone who was not one of the Avot or Imahot whose name was changed in Sefer Breishit.
4. Name three people described one way or another as a son born from old age (some variation of ben zekunim).
5. Two pairs of brothers who hugged and fell on each other's necks and cried.
6. Name two people who said, "Am I in the role of G-d (tachat Elokim)" State who they said it to.
7. When are there 7 days of wedding celebration?
8. When are there 7 days of mourning?
9. Other than Avraham, who ran to greet a guest? Name the host and the guest. (It's not Lot)
10. When does Yaakov say that an angel should/will bless his descendants? (It's not when he wrestles the malach of Eisav)
11. Who does the Torah paint a negative picture of by using 5 action words – all starting with a vav – in a row?
12. Whose name tells us that he only had his job because his father had it before him?
13, What is chomer hiyuli, a term introduced by Ramban to describe something in the Breishit story?
14. What Hebrew word is used to describe all 3 characters in the Eitz HaDa’at story?
15. What proof can you bring from the text that the nachash never actually spoke?
16. Name 3 people who say baruch Hashem.
17. I was named for laughter.
18. Who (according to Chazal) referred to himself as Echad HaAm?
19. What word is used to mean both that Yitzchak prayed and that Hashem aswered his prayer?
20. Who prayed for water and then saw a well that may have been there all along?
21. State 2 places the word oolai is used and who said it to who?
22. Name 3 people regarding whom a form of the word tam is used.
23. Who’s Birthday party is mentioned (it’s NOT Yitzchak).
24. Who asks who, “How old are you?”
25. I will exist forever though I only live for thirty days: Who am I?
26. According to Rashi, what does Avraham mean when he says, “If you go to the right, I’ll go to the left?’
27. What is chomer hiyuli? (Ramban)
28. Give the two examples the Gemorah gives of someone lying for the sake of shalom. (The answer is NOT Avraham saying Sarah was his sister or Yaakov saying he was Eisav)
29. Who is described as gibor tzayid?
30. Who does Yaakov say Ephrayim and Menashe will be like?
31. Who had a dream in which he was told not to spesk – not for good or bad – to someone else. Who was he told not to speak to?
32. Name all 3 things that Avraham’s descendents are compared to.
33. This man died, but was never born.
34. In telling eachother about how what they had in life one ofthese men said, “I have a lot,” and the other said, “I have everything.” Name them.
35. Who died during childbirth?
36. Who settled in the land of Nod?
37. Who was the first shadchan?
38. Regarding whom are we told, “He took in his hand the fire and the knife.?”
38. Where does Avraham set the example of “Emor me’at, ve’aseh harbei?”
40. Who was the first shepherd?
41. What was the name of Yosef’s wife?
42. What brachah does Yaakov give Dan?
43. To what animal is Binyamin compared?
44. What 1 basic piece of information does the Torah withhold regarding both Noach’s wife andLot’s wife?
45. Who falls off a camel and when does this happen?
46. Whose name means, “This time my husband will become connected to me?”
47. What happened at Mount Ararat?
48. Name four people who say “hineini.”

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Somehow, I believe in blogging, in honest sharing of thoughts that flow.

So here goes.

I believe in wholeness and I believe in holiness   Less than that may be common and considered normal but I believe we should never settle for less than wholeness. I'm not happy with less than holy and whole.

I pray for a full connection, in it's time, and speedily.

May we each be blessed with a high level of connection in marriage.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mishpatim Poem

The civil laws are part of Torah too
They connect to Har Sinai, are not something new

The vav of ve'eileh should give us a clue
Treatment of others should be important to you

We don't treat each other just based on how we feel
We do it as Torah - we do it for real

May we be blessed to combine our heart and our mind
And as part of our holy lives always be kind

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This Past Sunday At YIWP Dinner

Dad and Me

Monday, February 02, 2015


An audio shiur by me on Yitro.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

In Crown Heights

I called out Chaya Mushka and they all turned around.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Page102

He'd been raised in Chicago proper by a Lithuanian Jewish mother who had grown up in poverty, telling stories, often, of extending a chicken to its fullest capacity, so as soon as a restaurant served his dish, he would promptly cut it in half and ask for a to-go container. Portions are too big anyway, he'd grumble, patting his waistline. He'd only give away his food if the corners were cleanly cut, as he believed a homeless person would just feel worse eating food with bite marks at the edges- as if, he said, they are dogs, or bacteria.  Dignity, he said, lifting his half-lasagna into its box, is no detail.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beshalach Audio Shiur

30 minute shiur, made for snow day learning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

May G-d save us all
from the tests others go through
that we just don't get

Monday, January 26, 2015

Good night and G-d bless
the snow, the slush, all the mess
those who plow through it

By Me. You Can Do This Too

Wow.  Spirograph style computer program online. Memories!

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.