Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Poem of He'ezinu

Translated by rabbi Aryeh Kaplan ZT"L

Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth! My lesson shall drop like rain, my saying shall flow down like the dew - like a downpour on the herb, like a shower on the grass.

When I proclaim God's name, praise God for His greatness. The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a faithful God, never unfair; righteous and moral is He. Destruction is His children's fault, not His own, you warped and twisted generation. Is this the way you repay God, you ungrateful, unwise nation? Is He not your Father, your Master, the One who made and established you?

Remember days long gone by. Ponder the years of each generation. Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather, who will explain it. When the Most High gave nations their heritage and split up the sons of man, He set up the borders of nations to parallel the number of Israel's descendants. But His own nation remained God's portion; Jacob was the lot of His heritage.

He brought them into being in a desert region, in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and granted them wisdom, protecting them like the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle arousing its nest, hovering over its young, He spread His wings and took them, carrying them on His pinions. God alone guided them; there was no alien power with Him.

He carried them over the earth's highest places, to feast on the crops of the field. He let them suckle honey from the bedrock, oil from the flinty cliff. They had the cheese of cattle, milk of sheep, fat of lambs, rams of the Bashan, and luscious fat wheat. They drank the blood of grapes for wine. Jeshurun thus became fat and rebelled. You grew fat, thick and gross. The nation abandoned the God who made it and spurned the Mighty One who was its support.

They provoked His jealousy with alien practices; made Him angry with vile deeds. They sacrificed to demons who were non-gods, deities they never knew. These were new things, recently arrived, which their fathers would never consider. You thus ignored the Mighty One who bore you; forgot the Power who delivered you.

When God saw this, He was offended, provoked by His sons and daughters. He said: I will hide My face from them, and see what will be their end. They are a generation which reverses itself and cannot be trusted. They have been faithless to Me with a non-god, angering Me with their meaningless acts. Now I will be unfaithful to them with a non-nation, provoking them with a nation devoid of gratitude. My anger has kindled a fire, burning to the lowest depths. It shall consume the land and its crops, setting fire to the foundations of mountains. I will heap evil upon them, striking them with My arrows.

They will be bloated by famine, consumed by fever, cut down by bitter plague. I will send against them fanged beasts, with venomous creatures who crawl in the dust. Outside, the sword shall butcher boys, girls, infants, white-headed elders, while inside, there shall be terror. I was prepared to exterminate them, to make their memory vanish from among mankind. But I was concerned that their enemies would be provoked, and their attackers alienated, so that they would say, 'Our superior power and not God, was what caused all this.' But they are a nation who destroys good advice, and they themselves have no understanding. If they were wise, they would contemplate this, and understand what their end will be.

How could one [man] pursue a thousand, or two [men], ten thousand, if their Mighty One had not given them over, and God had not trapped them? Their powers are not like our Mighty One, although our enemies sit in judgment. But their vine is from the vine of Sodom and the shoot of Gomorrah. Their grapes are poison grapes; their grape cluster is bitterness to them. Their vine is serpents' venom, like the poison of the dreadful cobra.

But it is concealed with Me for the future, sealed up in My treasury. I have vengeance and retribution, waiting for their foot to slip. Their day of disaster is near, and their time is about to come. God will then take up the cause of His people, and comfort His servants. He will have seen that their power is gone, with nothing left to keep or abandon.

[God] will then say: Where is their god, the power in which they trusted? [Where are the gods] who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their libations? Let them now get up and help you! Let them be your protector! But now see! It is I! I am the [only] One! There are no [other] gods with Me! I kill and give life! If I crushed, I will heal! But there is no protection from My power!
I lift My hand to heaven and say: I am Life forever. I will whet My lightning sword and grasp judgment in My hand. I will bring vengeance against My foes, and repay those who hated Me.
I will make My arrows drunk with blood, My sword consuming flesh. The enemy's first punishment will be the blood of the slain and wounded. Let the tribes of His nation sing praise, for He will avenge His servants' blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes, and reconcile His people [to] His land.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Seems Like The Right Time To Express This Gratitude

I am grateful to the Nesivos Shalom/ Rav Sholom Noach Berezovsky. I have no words I can think of other than to use some of his words that I've taken in.

1 The world was created for 6 days, and then Shabbos brought the merit to regenerate it for 6 more. This happened the first week of creation and every week since.

2 The medrash does not say that the unevenly numbered seventh day that seemed to have no partner would be partnered with Klal Yisrael, nor with An Yisrael, but with Knesset Yisrael. What connects us to Shabbos is our connecting to each other.

3 You need Shabbos to do teshuva and you need teshuva to keep Shabbos.

4 When we feel we don't have faith we have to have faith in our having faith, like how we believe the sun is there even when it's covered by clouds.

5 We wish for Mashiach and the Beit HaMikdash, just like we need to do teshuvah because we can't accept that if this world is created and run by G-d that it is supposed to be the way it is now.

6 Closeness to G-d is good, distance from G-d is bad. That's the one rule.

7 A prince left his father's palace and joined a gang of robbers. Time went on as it always does and he returned to his father and to following his father's ways. But the king couldn't trust his son, he feared that his son would return to his band of thieves. And the son did return to the robbers. But he rehabilitated them and transformed them into servants of the king. Now the king was relieved and happy. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we rejoin our Father, but how can he trust us? He trusts us after on Sukkot we elevate the physical things that can brought us down and that we separated from and we make them part of how we serve G-d so He (and we) need not fear that we will again be be taken down by them.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Kein Anachnu

By Neil Fleischmann

What's the difference between
clay in the potter's hand
stone in the mason''s hand
iron in the welder's hand
helm in the sailor's hand
glass in the glazier's hand
cloth in the draper's hand
silver in the smith's hand?
~
Seven is the nature number
It represents where we live
In time, place - within G-d
Yet we are each different
and we feel G-d differently
Some are navigated boats
Others raw creative clay
We are all in G-d's hand.

Yom Kippur


By Phillip Schultz
You are asked to stand and bow your head,
consider the harm you've caused,
the respect you've withheld,
the anger misspent, the fear spread,
the earnestness displayed
in the service of prestige and sensibility,
all the callous, cruel, stubborn, joyless sins
in your alphabet of woe
so that you might be forgiven.
You are asked to believe in the spark
of your divinity, in the purity
of the words of your mouth
and the memories of your heart.
You are asked for this one day and one night
to starve your body so your soul can feast
on faith and adoration.
You are asked to forgive the past
and remember the dead, to gaze
across the desert in your heart
toward Jerusalem. To separate
the sacred from the profane
and be as numerous as the sands
and the stars of heaven.
To believe that no matter what
you have done to yourself and others
morning will come and the mountain
of night will fade. To believe,
for these few precious moments,
in the utter sweetness of your life.
You are asked to bow your head
and remain standing,
and say Amen.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

“Forgiveness, it has been said, means giving up our hopes for a better past.” ― Alan A. Lew

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Wishing you a Shanah Tovah, a Ketivah VeChatimah Tovah, a sweet and meeningful new year, and a positive new start, including G-d signing off on abundant goodness for you this year.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Failure

To pay for my father’s funeral
I borrowed money from people
he already owed money to.
One called him a nobody.
No, I said, he was a failure.
You can’t remember
a nobody’s name, that’s why
they’re called nobodies.
Failures are unforgettable.
The rabbi who read a stock eulogy
about a man who didn’t belong to
or believe in anything
was both a failure and a nobody.
He failed to imagine the son
and wife of the dead man
being shamed by each word.
To understand that not
believing in or belonging to
anything demanded a kind
of faith and buoyancy.
An uncle, counting on his fingers
my father’s business failures—
a parking lot that raised geese,
a motel that raffled honeymoons,
a bowling alley with roving mariachis—
failed to love and honor his brother,
who showed him how to whistle
under covers, steal apples
with his right or left hand. Indeed,
my father was comical.
His watches pinched, he tripped
on his pant cuffs and snored
loudly in movies, where
his weariness overcame him
finally. He didn’t believe in:
savings insurance newspapers
vegetables good or evil human
frailty history or God.
Our family avoided us,
fearing boils. I left town
but failed to get away.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Kli Yakar asks why the Torah doesn't explicitly state that Rosh HaShanah is the Rosh HaShanah that we know. He says that the G-d didn't want us to mistakenly think that Teshuva and the related themes of Rosh HaShanah are a one day affair. Similarly, he says that the theme of Shavuot is left to the oral tradition so that the text of Torah does not allow us to think that accepting Torah, etc. is a once a year thing.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shavua Tov

I had a thought at the end of Shabbos regarding the idea that at the end of the week there's a deadline when we start Shabbos, and whatever we did to prepare we did, and we now have to stop and let Shabbos in. I think it's a similar thing with Shabbos leading into the week, at some point we have to accept that Shabbos has ended and the week has begun, and we take what we can from Shabbos into the week, but at some point we must re-enter a weekday reality. And then like a perpetual yin yang circle, the cycle continues as the week leads to Shabbos and Shabbos leads the week.
I think that this thought fits with the debate between Shamai and Hillel about if heaven or earth was created first, and how Rav Shimon Bar Yochai says that really the two were created together. The Nesivos Shalom explains that Shamai and Hillel knew that the two were created together, but they were arguing about a metaphorical matter. Shamai said that pure heavenly matters like prayer and Torah study rank highest/come first. Hillel said that elevating earthly matters ranks even higher than what's only spiritual. The Nesivos Shalom explains that the answer of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai is that the two have to interact, co-exist, work together, and part of a holy unit
I think that Shabbos and the week have to interact together, each continuously linking into the next. This is why, according to Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, we say Havdallah. It's more than a farewell to Shabbos, it is the Kiddush introducing the week.
May we all be blessed to feel close to G-d and holy and happy this coming week and beyond.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I don't write here much or often but I am pleased that I still keep it up, going on 15 years.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Love is People

By Fred Rogers
Love is people
Love is people needing people
Love is people caring for people
That is love
Love's a little child sharing with another
Love's a brave man daring to liberate his brother
Love is people
Love is people needing people
Love is people caring for people
That is love
And though some have costly treasure
It never seems to measure
Up to people needing people
Caring for people
For that's love
Love is people
People love

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Time is the comforting blanket that cloaks all our days, and the rug that we are constantly pulling out from under ourselves. The most important things to remember about time are that you need it and that you have it." - A Broom of One's Own, By Nancy Peacock, page 71

Friday, June 21, 2019

Baruch Hashem

Please read this well written, beautiful piece by Caroline Drew.  It is about her experience as a woman who is not Jewish working in an Orthodox all girls high school for a year.

I am pleased that I've been keeping this up. And yet. I haven't kept it up as much as once.

I wonder who reads this.

Wishing everyone a good Shabbos, and a good summer.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

I'm picky, and yet Rav Dror and his Torah resonates for me. I recommend giving him a try.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

“Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music or whatever it tells us to do? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting, and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know the Truth and Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence, Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others?” Brenda Ueland, "If You Want to Write"

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Thinking of Dad



Thursday, May 23, 2019

I asked for strength and
God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom and
God gave me problems to solve.


I asked for prosperity and
God gave me brawn and brains to work.

I asked for courage and
God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for patience and
God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.

I asked for love and
God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favors and
God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.
My prayers have all been answered.
Unknown

Sunday, May 05, 2019


Thursday, May 02, 2019

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
- David Whyte

"I often think poetry is the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn't want to know. It's a bit like a marital argument, once it's said it's said, and you're into a different relationship and you can't go back." - David Whyte, in conversation with Krista Tipet

Monday, April 29, 2019

Questions elicit answers in their likeness.- Krista Tippett, being interviewed by David Whyte.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

If you think you commented here and I didn't reply, it means I never saw it. So reach out to me via email, text, etc.  and let me know.  I wouldn't mind a little feedback here.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

From Open Closed Open, Yehuda Amichai, Pg. 103

The world is filled with remembering and forgetting
like sea and dry land. Sometimes memory
is the solid ground we stand on,
sometimes memory is the sea that covers all things
like the Flood. And forgetting is the dry land that saves, like Ararat.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Taanit Esther Thoughts

There's something about fast days, so challenging. And yet, I can't deny that I go to another place. A writing teacher of mine said that she did not advocate for taking mind altering drugs to help your writing, but she did believe that you should take advantage of natural alterations, like an ear-ache, that can do surprisingly good jobs of putting you in a different place and assisting your writing. So, yeah- fasting is one of those things. And it's not just writing, it'spraying and other areas of creativity and sensitivity that we get heightened in.

I've been thinking about how Purim and Yom Kippur are mirror images of each other. One has a day of fasting that precedes its day of feasting. And the other has a day of feasting that precedes its day of fasting. Purim is a physically oriented day, so it's preceded by a more sober day for the purpose of balance. And Yom Kippur is a day that pulls away from physical pleasure, so for the sake of balance we are told that it's a mitvah to eat a lot on the day that comes before it. In a way, one could argue that Yom Kippur is a cop out. We stand before G-d in holiness, but we get there by separating ourselves from all physical temptations: No eating, drinking, mingling, dancing. We barely talk to one another, we scarcely move about, we sit in Shul and daven all day. On the other hand Purim is a day of partying: we sing and dance, and joke around, and drink alcohol, and socialize. If we can be holy on this day, that shows how holy we can be in evey day in the tangible, physical world.

I had some off beat insights: Esther and Ruth are similar. They each are connected to the Jewish people and yet on the fringe. And then that moment comes when they say to the person they're closest to, "You're people are mine." Even though Esther was Jewish, as opposed to Ruth, she was in her own bubble. At first there was a fast going on, but she was seperate from it. And then she took it on, inside the palace. She dared to be a Jewey Jew no matter what the consequences. She connected. And for the first time, this year, it downed on me that she's like Ruth, rising to the occasion, leading to a Jewish future, having a Megilah named after her.

Here's one from way out of the box: Like everyone, I always thought of a hamentashen as the triangular hat or ears of Haman. Then I thought about how they are made. They're not triangles. They are circles wearing a mask! Did you ever take a glass to shape a hamentashen? A glass! IT'S A CIRCLE! There's something deep going on here. A triangle can be a circle that's been folded in on three sides! Things are not as they seem. This is another way that we celebrate the Purim, another meaning of hamentashen.

Hope your fast continues to be meaningful. Happy Erev Purim!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tzav Thought

The Nesivos Shalom says that the line we say about standing before G-d in judgement, "whether as children, or as servants" does not mean what we always thought it meant. He cites a Slonimer tradition that standing before G-d as his child means that we follow him Him out of love, while being a servant means doing it because we feel we have to, out of fear. And we are judged as to whether we connect with G-d on a high positive level, or only through the lower negative approach.

He connects this to the high praise that is associated with the Korban Shelamim, the peace offering. This is the korban that is offered not because of a mistake we made but solely as a positive gesture, reflecting our love of G-d, as a child to a parent.

A beautiful, Hebrew, biblical, deep, sad, love song.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Pikudei Thought via The Nesivos Shalom

To consistently lead a religious life most of us need to rely on simple faith, and commitment to keeping G-d's commandments and our traditions. Once we are committed to the routines of Judaism we are sometimes blessed to then reach high levels of holiness and to be inspired from inside. So says the Nesivos Shalom. He also says that there are people who are exceptional and work more from their inside spiritual acheivents, which then take them to adhering to their external faith in G-d. He says that Moshe Rabeinu was the latter kind of person and the order that he thought made sense for the Mishkan's construction represents this: First work on the inner vessels, and then the outer shell. Betzalel spoke for most people and said that the outer facade had to come first and then the inner furnishings could follow. And, Betzalel was agreeing with the order that G-d had said to use in making these things: First the outside, the the inner pieces. Moshe got that Betzalel was returning the order to G-d's original plan, and said that Betzalel was betzel Kel, in G-d's shade, thus knew what G-d wanted. The question then is, why did Moshe change G-d's order? The Nesivos Shalom points out that in two different places in the Torah G-d says the order in these two different ways. And it was not clear to Moshe which of these two orders he was to tell over to Betzalel, so he chose the one that made sense to him. Betzalel told him that the other order made sense for most people (thus his terminology was that the needed order was the one that was darko shel olam). And Moshe said that Betzalel guessed G-d's intentions. But on a deeper level, Moshe was saying you're choosing the approach that works for you and others that are not on an enlightened level, but walk in the dark when it comes to G-d - betel kel -0 and need to work from the outside in. The Nesivos Shalom also says that just like there are different people who take each of these different approaches, there are also times that each of these approaches can work for the same one person.And he explains that in all likelihood when a person is up in life then he will feel inspired from inside, and during the low and hard times a person needs to start from outside and work inwards. This, he says, is another allusion in the Moshe's saying that Betzalel was betzel Kel, meaning that his approach is needed during the challenging dark times in life.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The Years That We Live Are Never Long (A Villanelle Upon Hearing of My Friend's Passing Forward From This World)

Alas, the years that we live are never long,
Some go healthy, some go sick,
Fight as we may it seems wrong.

Some look weak and some look strong,
It can seem slow and it can seem quick,
Alas, the years that we live are never long.

Our hope to never leave strings us along,
We believe we'll find a magic trick,
Fight as we may, it seems wrong.

We dream we'll write our own song,
Think the end is something we can pick,
Alas, the years we live are never long.

We consider raging, raging on,
We hold back, act in a way that's politic,
Fight as we may it seems wrong.

We say that in G-d's plan we belong,
Even when suddenly we fall like a brick,
Alas, the years that we live are never long,
Fight as we may, it seems wrong.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

In a piece on Vayakheil the Nesivos Shalom elaborates on an idea that's known - the importance of Jewish unity. He Ties it in to Purim, how Haman was going after the Jewish People's vulnerability because they were separated from one another. And that's why Mordechai and Esther focused on gathering all the Jews together. This fits with the idea of the Mishkan, which brought people together and was built as a group effort. it also connects with Shabbos, who's partner is specifically called Knesset Yisrael, the Jewish people who unite.

Why G-d made logic
when so often there is none
is part of the shock
of the picture of good health
first turning... now going on.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Beyond Kintsugi

I returned to work from winter break today to learn that my plant had been knocked down, and the pot and saucer both badly broken. I didn't find this out by seeing the broken pot. The philodendron looked completely normal, sitting on its regular spot on my desk. The only thing different about it was the there was a note tucked under it. A custodian (that's how he signed it, though later we met him and I learned his name) had toppled the plant and broke it, and he felt terrible. He wanted me to know, and he wanted to apologize. But he did more than that; he fixed it. Using Krazy Glue he made the clay pot and drip tray both look remarkably close to good as new. It reminded me of the Japanese art called Kintsugi, in which gold is used to seal cracks and make something shattered more beautiful and whole than it was before it was broken.But this act of repairing and relating was done with such a contrite, and kind heart that it was far better than gold for me.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

When Yitro tells Moshe his idea about the judges it says Moshe heard him - "vayishma Moshe." This is a parallel to the famous opening words of the parsha saying that Yitro heard about what G-d did for the Jews. If you hear, then you will be heard. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

To give you a very specific kind of working idea of what we mean by “Twilight Zone”, you might say that a man is on top of a burning building. Now there are certain ways he can get off that building — he can use a fire escape, a ladder, he might even be picked up by a helicopter. But in the Twilight Zone, he flies.

This is the so-called dimension of imagination, a literary device known by the English writer Coleridge as the “willing suspension of disbelief”. The things you see, you know may not happen. But at the time you see them on this program, you’ll believe that they do happen. This is the Twilight Zone.

- Rod Serling

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Va'Eira

Nesivos Shalom: 

There were four stages of redemption. The first ones were about getting unstuck, the sur mei rah, and the second part was the growing into the positive, the asei tov. 

These stages are repeated every week as we enter a form of exile, and then Shabbos removes us from the negative of the week and gifts us with the positive, as only she can. 

The fifth part of the redemption is the entering into Israel, which is described with two seemingly conflicting terms: we're told that G-d will give us Israel as an inheritance. A gift is a higher level than an inheritance, because inheritances are a lock, while gifts are earned and given based on feeling. Israel has both of these elements, as does Torah, and Shabbos. 

The Gemorah says that three things are aquired through the suffereng of hard work: Israel, Torah, and Olam Habah (World to Come), which the NS explains is an exponentially higher level of experiencing Shabbos. The way that we get the loving gift from G-d element of these things (in addition to the birthright/inheritance element) is by working hard to achieve them. May we be so blessed.

H.O.T.D.

I tend to count words,
to keep track and to measure,
to value what's brief.

More of my haiku available at one of my other blogs, My Haiku, and in my book, In The Field, available here, or you can contact me at nfleischmann1@gmail.com (I don't think I have comments set up right).

"We see in the world the story we hear in our heads." - Me

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

"If the Torah that we're learning is just outside of us - as nice as it can be, and as much as it can be very powerful - it will be missing a very important component." Rabbi Avraham Sutton

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Parshat Shemot - Nesivos Shalom

I sometimes study short pieces of Nesivos Shalom. This week I attempted a longer piece. Here is the start of it. This is my translation/adaptation of the ideas he presents in his first essay about Sefer Shemot.

Exile and redemption hold a major place in the Torah and in the Jewish People's reality. it starts at the Brit Bein HaBetarim - The Covenant Between The Pieces. During the first moments of G-d's establishing that the Jewish People will be chosen, G-d tells Avraham that they will be strangers in a strangle land. Before this moment a darkness falls upon Avraham and tradition has it that in the darkness all of the future (4 major) exiles that Avraham's children would go through were revealed to him.

But isn't exile a punishment? So how is it announced before the Jewish People exist to have done anything wrong? And could the positive purpose of the first exile of Egypt be, given that they entered holy, and left on a low level? And why doesn't Avraham pray for his children to not have to go through this exile? After all, he prayed for the wicked people of Sedom to not be destroyed, why didn't he pray for the annulment of this decree against his children? And why do we spend so many years in exile, more than in Israel? What's the broader meaning of exile?

The Magid of Koznitz writes in explanation of the Maharal: The Gemorah says that G-d cries two big tears into the sea when he remembers his children in exile, even before the destruction of The Temple. All was foreseen at the time of creation. Even when all was in a jumble (tohu vavohu) at the start, the time of Mashiach was created.

Within the nature of the world there is another way- meaning that via the Jewish People keeping the Torah the naturally established schedule of things can be changed. All was set at the start of time, yet things can be changed via people's choices. For example the mistake of the first man changed the way things were at first meant to be.

From these words we can learn that exile is set to come, based on the assumption that people will sin, but it can change if people don't sin. But we need to understand still, why exile needs to be a thing set so early on, when G-d first tells Avraham we will be a chosen nation. We believe G-d loves us above all others and chose us. So why exile, why this suffering for so long?

The real answer to exile, is that we don't understand anything G-d created. And yet, we can repeat what others taught- that G-d created the world because it's the nature of the good to give goodness. The highest height and, greatest pleasure we can have, is to connect to the light of G-d in a a lofty spiritual way. We Jews are such a minority in the world, and we suffer so much. We must not mistakenly think that we were chosen in some kind of a physical way. We are a small people chosen to fulfill the purpose of creation, to have G-d dwell on earth, which we create for Him. We were chosen for this spiritual purpose.

The Jewish People are to creation what the soul is to the body. The soul has no physical place in the body and yet it gives life to the body. We are a small part of creation, barely taking up space, but all exists because of us. Our job is to bring light to the world, as a part of G-d, to create for Him a dwelling place on earth. We are the reason why G-d created the world, even though we are such a minority on earth, as the soul is overshadowed by the body...

Friday, December 21, 2018

Shabbos allows time for time. - Me

Monday, December 17, 2018

“Scientific discoveries happen not through method or magic, but from being open to discovery by listening to one’s emotions and responding to intuition. Like a poet, the researcher, as well as the therapist, needs the ability to imagine what the truth might be...” - Pauline Boss

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Clown's Prayer

Author Unknown

As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,
dispense more happiness than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy, and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.

Never let me acquire success to the point that
I discontinue calling on my Creator in the hour of need,
Acknowledging and thanking Him in the hour of plenty.

And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
"When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I am a big fan of BEK's work.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Each day of our lives together, Kohelet erases a line from his book. - Yehuda Amichai, From Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems, pg. 139
_________________________________________
Isn't it hard to imagine a more beautiful description of a happy and meaningful relationship of love?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

May

The Medrash on Shir HaShirim (5:2) says that if we open an opening for G-d the size of the eye of a needle then G-d will make it into the opening the size of a hall. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rav of The Kotel asks why the metaphors aren't parallel. The contrast to an opening the size of a large celebration hall should be an opening the size of a small mouse hole. He notes that the image of a needle is evoked because the eye of a needle is where a thread is threaded so that it can sew. And sewing is a form of connecting. There is, perhaps, an allusion here that we have to not just be open, but be open to connection (to G-d, our self, others) and then G-d will take that openness to connection and work with it, enlarge it. A sincere, real friend who I admire shared this quote today. And her sharing and the back and forth that followed it got me thinking.

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

May-
G-d bless those who are down with dark world views
G-d bless the empaths and the narcissists too,
G-d bless the sharp tongued; the rubber and the glue
G-d bless the judgers, including me and you
G-d bless the stories that we tell inside our heads
G-d bless us to connect our needles to His thread

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sometimes when my phone is shining bright and then softens it's light to a lower mode I feel like it's reminding me to do that too.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

I heard an inspiring, substantive, original shiur today from Nechama Price about teshuva. My imperfect notes are public on Facebook, here.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

I've done so much thinking today I've thought myself out of thoughts.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Suddenly

By Yehoshua November

A thousand seagulls rise off the river
behind my classroom.
Facing the back windows,
I watch the birds fly
above my students' heads, which--
turned towards me, or our text,
or their texting--
do not witness the synchronized ascent.
Sometimes, remarkable things happen
inside a classroom
but more often
outside it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

“When someone commends me on having been a funny kid, I always say ‘That was the writer.’ No one ever looks funnier than when Neil Simon’s words are coming out of their mouths. A kind, brilliant man has left us today.”— Quinn Cummings, starred in “The Goodbye Girl” (1977) at the age of 10.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The Aruch HaShulchan cites that Kohanim must recite the brachah they give the people in Hebrew, and they are not yotzei even bedieved if it's said in English. This is because the Torah commands, "Ko tevarchu," - bless them by saying exactly these words.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Levi Robin - Days of Our Youth (Official Video)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Haiku Inspired By and Adapted From Kinot, Wriiten Today, Tishah Be'Av


Would that I could soar
I would make The Heavens cry.
And find the right words.
I would remember
that I was once married to
The Holy Torah.
Each year we proclaim,
"This is the redemption year."
But have we been wrong?
We were disgusted
with conversations in which
we accepted G-d.
I've suffered so much
that I've become almost mute.
May He save me soon.
I've become storm tossed
like a ship wrecked moaning boat,
because I left G-d.
Does every word count?
Or are there things that count more?
Are there wordless words?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

5 Short Torah Thoughts That Are Meaningful To Me

(I heard #2 from Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, citing someone else. The others are my ideas.

1. King David says that if not for Torah being his joyful play thing he'd be lost in his suffering. We can find meaning in Torah and still be miserable, but somehow through his turbulent years in this world King David managed to not be wiped out by his pain because of the whimsical enjoyment that he found in a Torah life.

2. One source says that this world is similar to darkness. Another states that that the world is a beautiful antechamber before the banquet hall. Contradiction? The resolution might rest in the suggestion that this world is a beautiful place that is covered in darkness. Our task is to shine light and reveal the beauty of this world.

3. The root of the Hebrew words that mean belief and resistance are the same (A-M-N). Often those who protest loudest believe strongest. There's a thin line between wrestling and embracing, between friction and warmth. This is true in many contexts, particularly regarding Judaism, faith in our G-d, commitment to our laws and traditions. People that can't stop questioning their Judaism sometimes are doing so because it is truly the most important thing in their life, and we fight what is most important to us.

4. King David said that "an empty man will not know, and a fool will not understand this." A foolish person does not understand that if you need to fill yourself in a positive way in order to have knowledge.

5.The Talmud tells us that if someone does not mourn with the community he will not see the consolation of the community. This is a natural consequence, a self fulfilling punishment. if you're not there for the sad times, because you couldn't take it, it means you left the community and you won't be there for the happy times. it's like if a kid cuts school and gets out of a quiz, they also are not there for the ice-cream treat after the quiz.

We don't have to teach ourselves to cry, 
we just have to give ourselves permission. 
- Erica Brown, In the Narrow Places, page 80

The Stranger

A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later. As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. 
Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. The stranger was an incessant talker. 
Dad didn't seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up - while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places - and go to her room read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave. 
You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house - not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted. 
My dad was a teetotaler who didn't permit alcohol in his home - not even for cooking. But the stranger felt he needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (too much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger. 
As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive. But if I were to walk into my parents' den today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name? We always called him TV.
(Author unknown)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Joy That's Encouraged During The Nine days

The Nit'ei Gavriel says that though it's known that we are forbidden during this time (the Nine Days, the heavy period of national mourning for Jews) from many things that increase our joy, there are things we are not forbidden to do that increase our joy.
We are not forbidden from studying and deeply experiencing Torah during these days (up until the imminent approach of the actual day of the Ninth of Av). He writes that the idea behind making a celebratory siyum (competing a significant book of Torah learning) (besides the known concept of it being a way to get around the prohibition of eating meat) is actually that we can and should increase the permitted ways of being joyful, i.e.involvement in Torah, that are allowed during these days. He tells of a prominent Rebbe who made a siyum on each one of these days, even though he did not eat meat himself, and he did so not just so others could eat meat.
By immersing ourselves more in Torah during this time we show our faith in G-d, even in sad and hard times, and reaffirm our belief that "this too is for good" (gam zu letovah). On a deeper level through this faith G-d's kindness and mercy, which is presently concealed, is elevated and becomes revealed, and brings consolation to Zion and Jerusalem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Worth Taking In.


Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?
By Carl Richards

NY Times
July 2, 2018


I was in the airport when I found out that the mother of one of my best friends had just died quite suddenly. She was at dinner with a friend, felt sick and was dead within a few hours.

I learned this through a message from my mom, who heard about it on the local news.

I called my friend. Imagine this scene for a second: There I am in Terminal 2 of the San Diego airport, calling someone whose mother had just died.

He answered. He was crushed. We cried.

His mom was one of the few people who always saw past my stupid behavior in high school. She always loved and accepted me, despite my being quite unlovable at the time. She gently influenced me to be better by not trying to influence me at all.

She was amazing.

My friend knew that better than anyone. He told me about her last moments in the hospital. He told me about begging the doctor to do more.

Life. Is. Heavy. And then I boarded a plane.

I thought about everyone else on the plane. I wondered if the airline employee scanning my boarding pass could see that I had been crying. Were my eyes red? Swollen? I wondered if there would be room for my bag in the overhead bin. If the person next to me would be nice.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about how odd the situation felt. All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with.

I thought about the airline employee who had just checked my boarding pass, the man sitting next to me, the woman across the aisle. Did they have a sick child, or a friend in the hospital? Were they on that plane in a race against time? What about the person who had been yelling at the gate agent or, for that matter, those who were yelling on Twitter while I checked it standing in line?

As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions.

What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Wow Again


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Wow.


Friday, June 29, 2018

"It's human to lie. Most of the time we can't even be honest to ourselves." - From Rashoman

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thoughts Following Dr. Tammy Jacobowitz' "The Ongoing Story: Exploring the Enduring Impact of the Exodus"

I just heard a wonderful presentation from Dr. Tammy Jacobowitz. She made great observations about the telling of the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. For one thing, before the story finishes, G-d says that everything that transpires is happening so that the Jewish People can tell the story to their children. Wow.

Another point was that matzah and marror are commanded as mitzvot before the Jews leave Egypt (as part of the Korban Pesach), so their more than just part of the story telling that happens about the story as we look back. There's this fascinating phenomenon of the story not just as something being told after and about the narative but it being part of the narrative, clearing making this a story that we need "to question."

Also, it's a story without a clear begin or end.  We were told that we would tell it while it was happening, which blurs when it starts as a story.  And we're told to tell it for all generations, which means it doesn't end.  It's "a cup of water scooped from the sea and poured back into it," scooped from our past and present and poured back into our eternity.

Dr. Jacowowitz also pointed out how central Yetziat Mitzrayim is to so many mitzvot (unlike Mtan Torah, which is not referenced in that way!) and how this is in part because more than being part of our history, it's meant to be part of our destiny.  The point is to live a life infused with the lessons of The Exodus, a sensitivity to victims and strangers and a deep understanding that's always evolving from that experience through which we were born as a nation.  

Peripherally issues and questions were raised about how the story speaks to us as individuals and as a nation, about how it is our story and also a story that belongs to the world, and about how it is ever evolving and adapting to the times - as evidenced by the many hagadot that continue to appear with fresh framings of the ever flowing story.

I am a story teller.  And I'm always interested in new quotes about it.  I'm thinking now about this unique mitzvah of telling a story.  As Rabbi Shlomo Kahn pointed out in his Haggadah, the name Haggadah is inspired by the Torah, it's the book used to help of fulfill the mitzvah of "Vehigadetah lebinchah," "You'll tell your children" the story of The Exodus. 

Here are a few more quotes about storytelling that I've encountered and am still digesting, and which relate to Dr. Jacobowitz' observations:

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."  - Joan Didion 

I think it's a yin/yang thing; we also live in order to tell stories. - Me

“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be seen. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then become a story-teller.” - Rebecca Solnit, The The Faraway Nearby

"Where does a story begin? The fiction is that they do, and end, rather than that the stuff of a story is just a cup of water scooped from the sea and poured back into it.” - Rebecca Solnit, The The Faraway Nearby

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” - Jonthan Gottschall, in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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

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

"Maybe stories are just data with a soul." - Brene' Brown

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

No-one likes the naked truth, but everyone loves a good story." - The moral of a story of the Maggid of Dubno, the way I tell it.

And these two from Rav Nachman of Breslov:

"People criticize stories as being somehow unsophisticated, etc, but if stories are lacking depth why does G-d start his book with them?"

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

"It's true, even if it didn't happen." - What I say when listeners ask if a story is true.

"It's true for now." - What Rock Davis says in answer to the same question.

And getting back to the Haggadah:

“There is a profound difference between history and memory. History is his story – an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story – something that happened to me and is part of who I am. History is information. Memory, by contrast, is part of identity. I can study the history of other peoples, cultures and civilizations. They deepen my knowledge and broaden my horizons. But they do not make a claim on me. They are the past as part. Memory is the past as present, as it lives on in me. Without memory there can be no identity.” - The Chief Rabbi’s Haggadah (Essays) p. 29

The Rambam says that on Pesach night we need to discuss, regarding the Exodus, what happened ("mah she'irah") and what was ("mah shehayah"). Rav Noach Weinberg's take on this is that "what happened," is just the facts, as best as you can report them. And "what was" is more about empathy, what was it like? How did it feel? These the two important, separate and distinct layers of storytelling.

Friday, June 22, 2018

For teachers the summer is like an extra long weekend, Friday night is the end of June, Saturday/Shabbos is July, and August is Sunday already leading into Monday/September and all the days/months in between.

(Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

"The Ocean is a poem without words." - Anonymous

The Word Baruch and Baruch She'Amar

Rabi Mayer Birnbaum, in Pathway to Prayer says that the word baruch, when used about G-d, is usually mistranslated. He cites Avdraham, Ibn Ezra, Sefer HaChinuch and others who take this approach:
He quotes Avudraham as saying, "Baruch is not a verb, but is like rachum and chanun, and means that He Himself is the Source of Blessing."
With this is in mind, coupled with the approach of R. Aryeh Kaplan that davening is meant to be a meditative experience, I thought of an idea. R Kaplan's theory is based in part on the Gemorah (Brachot 32b, discussing Mishnah) which speaks of how righteous people in days of old used to spend a very long time on prayer - before, during, and after (I'd cite more of his sources but don't have the book with me). R Kaplan also gives sources for Jewish meditation that includes mantras.
The prayer Baruch She'Amar includes many repetitions of the word baruch. Perhaps it is, at least in part, meant to be a meditation of this word and how it means that Hashem is the source of all blessing.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A good rule to live by: Never knock lint, dandruff, etc, off of someone's shoulder.

Mitoch Shelo Lishmah Bah Lishmah - usually explained to mean out of doing something insincerely you will come to do it sincerely. Heard a beautiful take on this:Within the insincere doing of something is mixed a sincerity that comes through. - (Heard from Rabbi Chaim Miller, as a Chasidish vort)

I miss those days, years ago when I'd blog often and there were people who read and commented. Recently I came across an old post accompanied a wide array of voices via comments, including my mom, who wrote anonymously, but gave an unmistakable hint that it was her.

There was a time when I would write here in a bloggish way, thinking I was "getting" the form in how I free-wrote.  And there was a sphere of others who wrote, and we'd read each other's stuff, discuss, connect.

Sometimes it felt impersonal.  But compared to today's "social" media those communications were almost as genuine and quaint  as handwritten letters of old. Some of those friends from '06 are still actively with me, others linger inside me like imaginary friends of my childhood..

Mentioning my imaginary friends takes me back to this post from from '08, where I talk about Quigley. It includes a link to this piece from '05 about personas, which is maybe my entry here I think about more than any other.

Part of me wants to keep writing this entry.  Part of me knows I need to wind it down.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up. ~ Paul Valery

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Billy Collins' Recent Commencement Speech at Emerson

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Rachel Joyce On Music

It speaks somewhere beneath the skin, 
and it acts upon us in the same way a dream might: 
sending messages up from the deep. 
If we listen, it has things to tell us.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Pesach Thoughts

By Me, Jewish Week

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Reminds me of Pesach and of My Grandmother


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Re: Memory

This article is about a specific phenomenon.  But what resonated for me was the part about the people who remember everything. I remember a lot of the things that transpire in my life. It's challenging because I don't get what others remember or don't.  I understand that is has to do with emotion, I connect emotion to so much that happens to me...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Monday, March 12, 2018

Many years ago I asked Rav Benny Eisner about the fact that after a day of work it's hard to come home and learn Torah.  He said to learn things that you forward to learning, to learn things that you love learning. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I Miss You

I started re watching West Wing tonight.  I didn't see the whole series and am picking up from Season 4, though I saw part, if not all, of it. Watching West Wing reminded me of this post, where I cited it and then someone questioned my being a rabbi and watching TV, and then there was some communicating and miscommunicating.  I miss that time, 12 years ago! There was a chevra here that read and discussed. Things change. (Which is the name of a movie I like.) I like blogging. It doesn't exist anymore.  Not on the list of social medias that people use.  I somehow have moved forward time gives no choice) but this heyday of blogging feels like a quick minute ago and I have not yet, can't, let go of this blog's hand (nor the hand of all it meant and means to me).

I may write more, but I'm going to post this now, feeling like holding back (while also feeling like sharing).  I wonder if anyone will see this, wonder if people look here, wonder about almost never getting comments (save for spammers). 

I push and pull, hide, and seek to be seen.

I pray for all good for you.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What should I say when Y asks, "Do you remember X?" I guess I should just say yes and little more.  When I say yes, and then start recounting joint experiences that I shared with X and Y, and Y has no clue what I'm talking about, it can feel awkward.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I have long chosen alone-ness that's good over connected-ness that's not good, introvert that I am.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

MISHPATIM

"If a someone borrows something from another person and it is injured or dies while he's not there with it, he must make complete restitution." - Shmot 22:14
The one exception to the halacha stated in this pasuk, that a borrower is completely responsible for damage done to the thing he borrowed is "בּעלו עמו," if the owner is there with him. Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa explains how this applies to us and to our souls. Our souls are given to us on loan and we are responsible for any injury our souls suffer. But if we fulfill שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד - striving to keep 'ה close to us then we are not fully responsible, because it's a situation of בּעלו עמו - the owner was present while we had what we borrowed.
The meaning of אחת שׁאלתי may be (not one thing I ask, but) "one thing I borrowed from 'ה." And how can I make it that 'ה will not judge me harshly for the mistakes I've made with my soul, the one thing I've borrowed? I can achieve this through fulfilling שׁבתי בּבית ה׳, cleaving to ה׳ all my life. If the owner is there with the borrower then it's clear that he shares ownership and responsibility for the borrowed object. If I keep G-d close, strive always for connection to Him, then as I live (and when I pass forward from this world) G-d will mitigate and share the responsibility for the soul that He lent to me.
- Via Rabbi Shmuel Silber

Sunday, February 04, 2018

A Moment At Kiddush

Discussed,the affects
of the stumbling man's illness:
alcoholism 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

“We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way.

Let our scars fall in love.”


- Galway Kinnell

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rav Menachem Froman On His Poems

There's a great interview w Rav Froman in the book "Learning in Jerusalem," published in 1998. In it, he's quoted as saying (page 152):

"For three years I wrote for the paper Davar, since closed, a weekly Torah commentary that took the form of a poem. Each week i would write a shir, a poem, on the Biblical portion of the week. It might be on one pasuk or one particular idea within the parashah. For one whole year i did this for each Shabbat and also for the chagim. My other most recent effort was a book of love poems to Eretz Yisrael, between the person and the land.In both of these works i took a Torah idea and gave it freedom. That is, I checked in the poems all kinds of options as to how to how this idea can develop. Often these were non-unconventional and remote possibilities...'"

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

T.S Elliot taught me about the meaning of words, 
Dylan Thomas taught me about the beauty of words, 
and E.E. Cummings taught me about the rhythm of words. 

- Steve Martin, in an interview with Bob Osserman (for most of which he was joined on stage by Robin Williams)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Good Erev Shabbos

3:37 PM - Prepping for Shabbos.  Water boiling for cauliflower. chicken and asparagus in oven, chicken based, grain free cholent on, Pandora on, thinking about first Yahrtzeit of dad, which was yesterday, condiring the cold war that I seem to always be fighting or at least keeping troops mon the borders for, thinking about Nesivos Shalom and how he tied in Galus and Shabbos.  He says that we, sadlt get ibnto our own Galus every week and Shabbos is the Geulah that pulls us out.

4:06 PM - Thinking about Nesivos Shalom: he speaks of the don't dos of Shabbos - the negative rules, and the dos - the positive rules, and sdds that this parallels shamor and zachor respectively, as well as sur meirah and asei tov.  He addresses a contradiction concerning if we need to keep one or two Shabboses.  He explains that it's one Shabbos that has two aspects, the seemingly negative aspects of abstention, and the more active, seemingly more positive elements - the shamos and the zachors.  This brings to mind for me the idea of Rav Hirsch that every mitzvah has a shamor and zachor side.  As Rav Hirsch sees it the two sides of the coin are the philosophical and spiritual element on the one hand and the technical rules element on the other hand.  He says that sadly proplr often picj a camp, there are th halachic types who sometimes err by moving away from the spirit of the law.  And then there are those who mistakenly think there can be a true spiritual experience without the element of keeping every part of G-d's word.

4:19 PM - Going to sign off now.  Wishing everyone a wonderful Shabbos that is as whole as I wish for your life to be.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Suddenly Grief

For many years I went to the home I grew up in to spend Shabbos with my parents, and later just with my father. During that time I was an honorary member of the Shul community I grew up in.
One of the highlights of being in the Shul was talking with Rabbi Avraham Holtz. We would chat at Kiddush and in particular after davening on Friday night. More than once we stood outside at this time of year in the cold, talking for a long time. Or we'd talk in the summer as the hour got later and later. As his wife waited for him and my dad for me.
It was in one of those talks that he first mentioned his friend Aharon Appelfeld to me. Rabbi Holtz had just been to a conference on Appelfeld at U of P and he was thirsty to talk about it, he couldn't stop. He was taken by a presenter who said that Appelfeld's work was like science fiction. At first he couldn't imagine, and then it made sense to him. Appelfeld conjures a surrealistic reality that is so real and yet so unreal. He writes about the Holocaust without naming it by it's name, without naming the war, without naming the unnameable, which is so nameable.
After that talk I started reading Appelfeld and was captivated by his stories. And I'm not a fan of science fiction, but I got how there's an element of that to him, and I always thought of him in that realm. He writes a lot about losing home, and wanting to go home, and wanting to belong, and wanting to be separate. He writes about wounded ghosts, of survivors. His work is captivating. I even bought some of it in Hebrew and broke my teeth on it.
Rabbi Holtz told me that Appelfeld wrote every day at Beit Ticho. So I went once on a Friday and shyly asked a waiter if Aharon Apelfel wrote there . He said yes, said he's very open to talking to people - but he didn't come on Fridays. On another visit I was told that Beit Ticho was renovating and was temporarily relocated as part of another cafe'. I went to the other place and a waitress told me that he had come in the past, but he was presently old and frail and couldn't come anymore. In each case I felt like the wait staff liked Appelfeld, and that they liked that I came looking for him.
Something about Aharon Appelfeld and his writing resonated for me. Something about his honesty, sadness, alienation, ambivalence, longing, his whimsy, his romanticism. Something. Also, sadly, I related to is how he didn't remember the past, he experienced it together with the present, not just haunted by it, but in it.
I wish I would have found him writing at his table and that we would have chatted. I'm glad I discovered his writing even if I never found him in person. It comforted me to know he was alive. And it saddens me that he's no longer in this world.
I miss Aharon Appelfeld.

I'll catch a ride on your violin, strung upon your bow, 
and I'll float on your melody, sing your chorus soft and low.
- Ian Anderson

Monday, January 01, 2018

וְנֹחַ, מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה - The Nesivos Shalom cites a different take on this pasuk (usually translaed to mean that Moach found favor in G-d's eyes): Noach found favor by viewing things with G-d like eyes.

Maybe only a
certain type of narcissist
falls for another

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tevet 10 Ebbs Away

I just reread an idea cited by the Nesivos Shalom (in his essay on Vayechi on the bracha Yosef received).  He cites the line from Tehilim, "They have eyes and they won't see," and quotes someone who noted that the word translated as "they have" doesn't really mean that.  The Hebrew word להם means for them.  As long as eyes are used for oneself, one's own desires, etc then one won't truly see. To, so to speak, see G-d one must be careful with using one's eyes in a self-central way.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

One Of My Favorite Dvar Torahs

בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ - With all your heart: [The double “veth” in לְבָבְךָ, instead of the usual form לִבְּךָ, suggests:] שלא יהיה לבך חלוק על המקום - that your heart should not be divided [i.e., at variance] with the Omnipresent.

Reb Moshe of Kobrin (1784 - 1858) cited in Torah Avot, p.118 (2005 edition) notes that the word used here for G-d is המקום - The Place (which the Talmud explains to mean that "G-d is the place in which the world exists, and the world is not the place within which G-d exists). He says that this also teaches us that we should not argue with, but rather accept as meant to be, the place and time that we were born into.

 "If wind asked permission 
we might wait and listen" 
- John Freeman