Monday, June 19, 2017

Thank You, and G-d Bless You, Dr. David Shatz

Good, kind, brilliant, humble, talented, accomplished, effective, honest, sincere, real people who don't look for recognition are the ones who deserve it.  And we need them, and we need to recognize them.

On June 19, 2016 at 12:46 PM, Dr. David Shatz made my day. And I've been meaning to write about it for some time.

After his insightful talk on autonomy in Breishit (regarding the way that man increases in his autonomy and how this dovetails his being held more accountable) I shared a thought and asked a question. He validated the question and said that the point was a good one.  He added that he wanted to write it down and remember to include it in this talk in the future. That made me feel really good.Then he asked my name. He recognized my name, remembered my being a comedian, and said that he thinks of my comedy every time he sees my serious articles, which he also enjoys.   I told him I liked some of his jokes in his talk, to which he replied, "Some?"

Upon more thought I took in how unusually thoughtful he was.  The person before me on line to talk to him after his talk also got complimented by him big time.  She asked a question, and his immediate response was that no-one had ever asked him that before and that it was a great question.  Then I thought back to the talk itself. He acknowledged a scholar who had worked on this topic, said he used a lot of her ideas, and said that without her work he wouldn't have thought of the things he did think of.  Who acknowledges someone else like that? Who is so humble, and honest? Dr. David Shatz.

Now, one year later, it's late but not too late to publicly acknowledge this great man who I saw first hand uplift the minds, hearts, and souls of a room full of people who needed the kind of wisdom and kindness that is uniquely his, and which he generously shares.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Maybe Time to Let This Blog Go

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

From An Email From A Friend

What are you doing for the summer?  
Your first as an orphan.

Alan Alda in an NPR interview about his new book on communication said that -

If you're not willing to be changed by what someone's saying then you're not really listening.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Child is Something Else Again

By Yehuda Amichai

A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,
in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.
A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
to say "Thank you" when the Lord has given,
to say "You're welcome" when the Lord has taken away.
A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I'm still trembling.
A child is something else again: on a rainy spring day
glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence,
kissing him in his sleep,
hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.
A child delivers you from death.
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Torah Quiz: Avot Or Not Avot?

Which of these sayings of The Sages/Chazal are in Pirkei Avot?

1. Torah is comparable to water.
2. Judge everyone favorably.
3. Who is wise? He who sees consequences.
4. Getting angry is akin to idol worship.
5. Always be the first one to say hello.
6. Don't judge alone, because only One can judge alone.
7. Jealousy, desire, and honor take a person out of this world.
8. The gain comes proportionately to the pain.
9. A person is revealed by his pocket, his anger, and his drink.
10. Be very low in spirit, because worms are the fate of man.
11. Love distorts what is right.
12. Don't try to calm friend in his moment of anger.
13. Don't be too much of a Tzadik.
14. Don't be a Rasha in your own estimation.
15. The world only stands due to the Torah of children.
16. A person should think, "The world is created for me."
17. Not your honey, and not your bite.
18. Give Him from what's His, for you and yours are His.
19. Greet everyone joyfully/besimcha.
20. First study, then explain more deeply.
21. If you run from honor, it will run after you.
22. The honor of your student should be as dear as your own.
23. From my students I have learned most of all.
24. If you increase your name, you lose your name.
25. Silence is a fence around wisdom.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A well-developed sense of humor
is the pole that adds balance to your steps
as you walk the tightrope of life.
~William Arthur Ward

Friday, April 07, 2017

Perhaps when we say "save us from the Satan behind us" we mean from second guessing our past.

I am grateful to G-d for this insight.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

"Being young grows old." - Allegra Goodman, The Cookbook Collector

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Not responsible for the lovely ladybug or purple iris or flirtatious glance that was yours to enjoy but which you did not notice."

- From the fine print on the copyright page of "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" by Amy Krouse, of blessed memory, who passed away today

Sunday, March 05, 2017

"...There is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed. We all want that little light in us to be taken from under the bushel. The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists?" - Kahlil Gibran

Monday, February 20, 2017

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. - Steven Pressfield

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Louisa meets Bear

Lisa Gornick's book touched, engaged, and took me, more profoundly than most books I've ever read.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

After Dad

My dad passed on to the next stage of life, the one after this one here on earth, two weeks ago today.
Here's my thought of right now:

Maybe the hardest thing about mourning ones who's moved on is truly getting the specificity of the person and not falling into cliche'd stereotypes of their role or type.

This is hard for the mourner to do, and even harder for the consolers; to hear and see who the person actually was in nuanced and not always neat real life, as opposed to the idea of who that person was in an idealized, imagined generalization.

This is also the hardest thing about loving and relating to people who are alive - getting them in their realness as opposed to taking them in in your projection of how you want/need/happen to see them.

And this is also hard for those supporting others in relationships in real life - hearing who and what they are actually dealing with, as opposed to what and who you want or need them to be relating to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The mission of literature is to bring news from places where the reader can’t go. - Jefffrey M. Green

"Sometimes at the start of a shiur/class he would take off his shoes, close his eyes, and say:
'We are in the Holy Land, on holy soil. And we ask that her holiness be transmitted to us through the soles of our feet, through our bodies, and into our brains. It's possible to close your eyes and feel this energy rise up to our legs, and our thighs, elevating our livers, filling our lungs, and reaching our hearts. Our minds will then be filled with the holiness of this land, through the speech of our mouths and the movement of our hands, which are a Jew's vehicle of speech. These are our wings. Then we can pray. And fly.
- Chasidim Tzochakim Mizeh, 180 Thoughts of Rav Menachem Froman, pg. 99

Sunday, January 01, 2017

If I Were To Read A Nine Hundred Page Novel...

Beginning with a chance encounter with the beautiful Eliza June Watermark and ending, four days and 900 pages later, with the Events of November 17, this is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age ten: a lover, a fighter, a scholar, and a truly spectacular talker. Ejected from three Jewish day schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity.

The Instructions is an absolutely singular work of fiction by an important new talent. Adam Levin has shaped a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy—a novel that is muscular and verbose, troubling and empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic, and unforgettable.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Teaching.  Hard work.  But I repeat myself.  It's the middle of the night.  I went to sleep early and woke up after a few hours of rest.  Thinking about tomorrow, and the week passed. Here's a review sheet for our latest test.  The review sheet is expected.  And yet.  Things a teacher doesn't like hearing: Before the test - "So if I only know what's on the review sheet, I can get 100, right?" (No.) After the test: "But it wasn't in the answers on the review sheet that I got from the kid who took notes while I didn't." (It's not all about the review sheet.)

These are some headlines, hints, reminders, directions, of things we learned in class and students need to learn through inside and understand outside to be able to really take in the Torah experience this class is aiming to offer (and possibly to get a good grade too).

We're learning Sefer Bamidbar.  Forgive me for transliterating that.  (The saga of typing/cutting/pasting/ in Hebrew is a post for another time... or not.
פרק ו
  • Know inside פסוקים כב- כ״ז
  • ברכת כהנים:
  • ’רשׁי’s question and answer about how the Kohanim are told to say (אמור)
- the meaning of ברכת כהנים including what רשׁי has to say on each of the words
        -What it is known as in Shul and different customs
        -What is unique about it (2)
        -  2 explanations of what ה will do after the  כהנים bless the people (רש"י)      
פרק ז
  • Know inside פסוקים א - ו
  • Understand the meaning of אין/יש מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה and how it applies to this פרק and where we see this in ספר שׁמות   
  • The gifts of the נשאים and why each one is mentioned.
פרק ח
  • Know inside  פסוקים א - ב
  • Know both רשׁי and  רמבן’s opinion on סמיכות פרשיות and the key life lesson of רמבן as it applies to marriage, school, and one example of your own.
פרק ט
  • Know inside פסוקים א - יא
  • פסח - Know the date, and the laws
  • פּסח שני  - know the date, who it is for, and the lessons and law it teaches us

פרק י
  • חצוצרות- what were they used for ( 2 in the midbar and 2 in the future)
  • חובב
  • Who was he according to רש"י
  • According to the פסוקים what was asked and what was his answer
  • According Rav Soloveitchik:
    - why is חובב brought into the story now
-where on the rollercoaster is בנ"י
  • What are the reasons for the backwards  נ  

  • Why נ?
  • Why is this added here now?

Monday, December 19, 2016


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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Moments of Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Quote of Harry Reid

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Balancing Departures and Destinations

By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On Trees


Related Poem Content Details

By Joyce Kilmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

To Breathe And to Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a 2009 post:

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

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

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


One day in hunger
I won't turn to food or drink
I will turn to G-d

Inspired By Haiku Horizons

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I'll Be Your Water

By Keb Mo

One of my first posts ever was a poem/song by Keb Mo.  Here, 14 years later, with gratitude to G-d for still being here (and here and here) I share more of his lyrics, which I just learned.

Do you ever get worried
And your load is hard to bear
And your life is like a sad sad story
No one nobody really cares?
But if you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
I've been there, I've felt like you do
Feelin' like winter would never turn to spring
And everybody I know has got problems
But there's a solution to everything
And if you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
And after you've found your way
You won't owe me nothin'
'Cause you're gonna know that your well
Will never run dry, never run dry
If you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out, your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
I'll be your water and I will give you shelter
I'll be your water, I will be there for you
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis tells the story of how he came to be a Rebbe in BMT (and be my teacher):

"I didn't have a job for some time after we arrived in Israel in July. I applied for a job at a yeshiva called BMT, Beit Midrash LeTorah. It was summer and very last minute to apply for the coming school year. I went for an interview and they said they were fully staffed. Right before the new semester was about to begin in September he called me and said, 'Listen, this is the year of elections in Israel. The elections are in November. And there's one rabbi who is very much involved in politics. He wants to be free to get involved in the campaign for one of the religious parties. So I'm willing to give you a job from now until November.'

I told him I'd answer him the next day. I said to Henny, 'It's absolutely crazy to take a job from September to November. What if there's nothing available in November?'

She said, 'That's not the proper religious attitude. You have a job today. You're worrying now about November? Worry about November in November.'

So I took the job. And the person who went into politics decided he liked it so much he never came back to the yeshiva. And I was there for 20 years. "

The Story of Rebetzin Henny Machlis, pgs. 133-134

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy 14th Anniversary

I am grateful to G-d that today marks the 14th anniversary of this blog.  I'm typing this starting at 5:42 PM.  Just got home from work.  Starting feeling cold symptoms on Shabbos afternoon.  Been treating it with many remedies. I bought the stuff for chicken soup, now I've got to make it.  Work looms.  I am grateful for work.  I am grateful my dad is alive.  mom was when this startd but has been living in the next stage of life for almost 7 years now.  I hope her soul is ever-rising and is contentedly close to G-d.  I am grateful to Moshe Radinsky who first told me he thought a blog would be a good fit for me.  I am grateful to Esther Kustanowitz whose mini bio under her Jewish Week column inspired me to actually start blogging.  So much to say, but I need to get to the work of coming home after a long day of work and having a cold and needing to cook, eat, call dad, do work and and and and and.

I just got an idea. These are the things most searched for on Google today.  Maybe my blog will thus find a new friend.

Japan Earthquake, Justin Bieber, ABC News - Tulsi Gabbard, E! Online - Olivia Munn, Hollywood Reporter - The Weekend, Chalkbeat Tennessee school closings, - Shane McMahon,  Nina Dobrev, Bustle - Happy Thanksgiving,, Tim McGraw.

Here's looking forward! Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Cubs And the Flood

I heard a wonderful drasha from Rabbi Steven Miodownik on Shabbos. He presented profound ideas masterfully and peppered the talk with one gematria after another, relating to his message, that equaled 108, which was relevant due to the Cubs' win.  The Cubs had an approach that included little details, which added up to their ultimate baseball success.  One example was that time was spent carefully deliberating whether a base runner should touch the base and turn with his right or left foot.

This stands in contrast with the generation of the flood, which was guilty of a particular kind of thievery called chamas (=108).  The stole such a small amount that it could be considered not stealing. but it counts, and it's wrong.  And it relates to the importance of chatzi shiur, small amounts, adding up and counting, and not being able to be rightfully used to wiggle out of responsibility.

The lesson that little things matter was driven home by how G-d reset the creation of the world. When the society that did not acknowledge that every detail, every piece counts was wiped out by a flood.  The flood of rain water was a conglomerate of tiny , seemingly insignificant drops, but they added up big time.  Water is so related to the idea of the whole being more than the sum of the parts, that there is no name in Hebrew for a single particle of rain. Mayim - the Hebrew water for water means waters; it is in the plural form.  Like water, Torah life is a collection of small parts that unite to become a serious critical mass.  Seemingly small acts of observance, a few words of prayer, or a little gesture of kindness all add up to create an enduring community.

This has been paraphrased by me, any inaccuracies, or mistakes, or lack of clarity is due to my re-processing of Rabbi Miodownik's beautiful ideas.

6 Poems of Rav Menachem Froman

I bought a book of his poetry the day I left Israel this summer. He has struck me.  At the same time that I've been working on the poems I've been learning through the new sefer of selections from shiurim and interviews, which affects me strongly in different ways each time I read from it.  i am comforted and impressed and inspired and so much more.  He was truly one of a kind, someone who didn't do something better than others, rather did something that no other could do.

One of his statement from the book that went right into me and has stayed with me is the following: Poor Iyov, he lost his health, his wealth, his family - everything.  And then Chazal come along and say he never existed.  That's the hardest blow of all, to have it said of you that your life did not happen. (I've paraphrased this from memory.)

Rav Froman lived a unique life and he continues to speak to us from beyond. I see his memory being for a blessing, and may it continue to be so.

I hope to keep, slowly, slowly processing and translating these poems. His poetic voice needs to be heard. Besides all else that he was, Rav Froman was a masterful poet.


Due Process For Madness
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
It’s easy to let yourself forget
in the light of day, the way
of the madness of the night.
It comes as if self-evident,
like the light that conquers the darkness,
like the words that conquer the blank page;
they are all the same:
As much as they try not to be worn and torn
in the morning, of course, they just must
dress up so that they will be known
and make sense to others
or at least
to themselves.
Only in the middle
of the madness of the night is hidden
the wholeness
that cannot be divided,
completely yours.
This is the ancient lure
to be like G-d.


And Then
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
Suddenly amidst the movement
you want to hold on to a fixed point
and just then in the middle of the confusion
you come to believe.
In the midst of the desolation
you find a fresh water spring
Amidst all this all of this.
You get up and say, "Thanks."


By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
I go
to cover my little daughter
go to watch over this sleeping sweetness
wanting to protect this delicate breath
so that no harm shall befall her
for all days
for always
so that nothing bad should happen to her.
My daughter is named for my mother
and she looks so much like her
when she shuts her eyes in bed
eye for eye I see
yes, I tremble
her time of death.


Eilu HaDevarim - These Are The Things
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
Don't let things seduce you
Don't let things
Don't let books make you
Not books
Nor for experiences to force you
Not even poems


A Poem For Yom Yerushalayim: Har HaBayit Veyadeinu*
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
In childhood of old there's a story we told
of two brothers who rose in the night
and tarried to carry bundles to one another, using their hands.
They went in private, so as not to embarrass.
In the place where they met, in the place where they
interlocked hands in silence
the Holy Temple was built.
Two with clean hands will ascend the mountain
One from this and one from that
At night, so as not to embarrass
They will raise their hands
In faith
Until the battle stops
and the war breaks.
When G-d returns
the Return of Zion
we will be like children
How it will surely be as once
carrying their bundles.


The Elephant In The Room :
A Love Story Between An Orthodox Woman and a Leftist Man
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
In the dark
both of us
feel around him
with cleaving but without hope
I hold onto his dragged tail
and believe it is rope
grasp his large, widespread ears
and surmise them to be wings
After giving up we both conclude
that what we have
never happened at all
And it's not just
a metaphor. He is right here.
Now he gets up
huge, upon us, awesome
May he not trample us
May he not knock us over
May what we have
not end badly
lift my hands in prayer
hold him with two hands
My G-d, My G-d - maybe
he'll carry both of us on his back.

That’s the thing — my wife always says about compliments, she says, “Yeah, you accept them, but you don’t inhale.” - Michael Longley

Anniversary Look Back - Right Before Election 2016 - Trump Vs. Hilary

With my blog anniversary approaching  let's look back on posts via searching words and linking to the things I wrote a lot about, that included some key words.

















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

To Me A Wow

Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult. ~Julia Cameron

Saturday, November 05, 2016

What A Beautiful Thought

Tempus fugit. Time flies. And although Daylight Saving Time - which ends tonight - is kind of a fiction, I've always found something magical and even romantic in the idea that once a year, time stretches to accommodate us, providing another hour to eat, drink, listen to the literal and figurative music of the world, stay awake a bit longer to drink in, breathe in, absorb and appreciate more of the life that surrounds us and the time that flies, in life, way too quickly. You can spend it sleeping, too, of course. And no judgment if you do. But for me, the night where we "fall back" always feels like potential, hope, laughter, magic.

- Esther Kustanowitz

Fascinating Fact About Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky

"Personally, I have long been intrigued by the stories of siblings separated at an early age who rediscover each other later in life. Often, they learn how different they have become. One example is the reunion of the ninety-year-old Torah sage, Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky, who, after a seventy-year separation, rediscovered his sister in the former Soviet Union. He was steeped in traditional Judaism; she had become totally removed from any semblance of Jewish religion. When one of Reb Yaakov’s sons tried to explain to his long-lost aunt what her brother had accomplished in his life, she could only respond that it was a shame that a lad with such youthful promise grew up to become a mere melamed, a school teacher."
- Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Powerful Words from Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

I picked him up at the airport. He was arriving in Baltimore, where I was then a rabbi, to deliver an address and then return home to New York.
The plane was late, so that when he came, I told him that we would have to hurry to be at our destination on time. He was already showing signs of age, so that walking quickly was hard for him. We moved rapidly past the gates, at which other flights were disembarking, including one at which the arriving passengers were being welcomed warmly by friends and family.
That is where he stopped, transfixed. He could not take his eyes off the scene of the small crowds embracing and kissing each other tearfully and emotionally.
Reluctantly, he responded to my rude insistence that we move on, and together we rushed to his appointment.
He was Rav Avrohom Pam, of blessed memory, the late lamented sage, Yeshiva dean, mentor to hundreds of rabbis and scholars, and above all, gentle soul. When we finally were in the car and on our way, I asked him what it was about the airport scene that so fascinated him.
His response was the greatest lesson of the many I learned from him. “The saddest of all human happenings is separation,” he said. “And the most wonderful of all is reunion. Whenever I see people, of whatever religion or background, who are joyfully coming together after a long separation, I feel ‘spellbound’ (that was the word he used), and I must stand by and witness that pure innocent joy as long as I can.”
What a powerful teaching! Separation is the greatest human tragedy, although a very common one. Reunion is the greatest joy, rare though it often is.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

It's tempting to write a person's story for them and then dress them in it. And it's so wrong.

From the Archives

Here's a post from 8 years a go that just came to mind.


20 Questions

This is a copy of the sheet I gave out before a talk I gave to the Kollel members who learn and train and teach in my school. Feel free to answer, comment, etc. Etc. is my favorite.
January 8, 2009 - Presentation to YU Kollel Members - Torah Guidance and The Classroom
20 Questions To Ponder By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
j1. Name reasons why someone becomes a Jewish Studies teacher/ Rebbe? What do you think the reason might be for you?
2. In what way is love of learning Torah a significant reason to become a teacher of Torah? What are the pluses and minuses of this factor?
3. How do you define teaching of Jewish Studies? What elements play a role in trying to answer this question?
4. What is your impression so far of this school's demographic and dynamic? How has your impression of what Jewish Education changed (or not) in your months here?
5. Where do you see hashkafa fitting in to curriculum in an ideal teaching situation?
6. Where do you see Halacha fitting in?
7. How much Gemorah should be stressed?
8. What are your thoughts on tracking? What have you noticed in this school about this and how has this affected you weltanschauung in regard to teaching?
9. With whom do you think a teacher must be most concerned with answering to? (A related/unrelated question: Whom do you think a teacher should be most concerned with receiving answers from?)
10. What are your thoughts and beliefs regarding different personality types/styles? Are you familiar with Meyers-Briggs or DISC? Do you think that Jewish categories such as a Chesed or a Gevurah type are relevant in a similar way to the categories of these tests? Are these differences important to note in regard to students, teachers, both, neither?
11. What are your thoughts about different styles of learning? Again, is this a question that should be focused on the teacher, the student, both, neither?
12. In what ways might it be positive or negative for students and teachers to talk outside of the classroom?
13. In talking to a student about religious matters or about anything what would you place as your priority one as you plan to meet the student and then have them sitting before you?
14. What are your thoughts regarding critical thinking and various types of students? How would you apply this to the most concrete and literal minded students?
15. How many teachers can you think of that you have positive memories about? What did/do you most want from a teacher? How different do you think the answer to this question varies from person to person (is there a common denominator between people’s answers)?
16. How important is context /setting in answering the previous question? Is it important that a teacher be liked (or well liked) (name the literary work that makes that distinction)?
17. How does one balance ahava and yirah in teaching and in life? What is the meaning of this balance? How far reaching is it in its application?
18. How thin is the line between formal and informal education? How thin is the line between subjects in the department of Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol? How thin is the line between a school and a yeshiva?
19. What is our purpose in this world? How important is it to keep in mind this question and an answer while teaching?
20. If you were setting up a yeshiva/school tomorrow, what would it look like? What would you be looking for in a teacher? 

Monday, October 31, 2016

6:17 AM - 7:53 PM

It's 6:17 AM - I am (hopefully) getting over being really sick. I am grateful to G-d for waking up feeling better.   It felt debilitating.  really hard.  I am grateful to those who showed concern, wrote, called, checked in and send care one way or another. First doctor didn't give antibiotic.  Second one did give antibiotic, which eventually I took. The doctor was more clear and honest than most about the lack of clarity he had over whether what I had was bacterial or viral - that old question...

I did not, could not, sleep enough last night.  I pray to G-d for a day of meaning and strength and goodness, of kindness and good communication in all directions.  I could sit and write for a long time, except that I can't.  I have been writing here for 12 years now, and it combs together in one precious pearl of a moment.  Writing is remembering.  And remembering is living.  I thank G-d that I am alive.

10:20 AM - My ride  was very patient and kind. Oversaw minyan, taught 2 classes. One kid was very curious about the how the numbers worked in the Levi - Bechor exchange, Kids asked how I was or where I was.  Some assumed I'd extended vacation and was away, something I've never done.  Some wished me continued refuah. Nice. And, as always , some kids said thank you at the end of class - a concept I was completely unfamiliar with as a student.  So nice.  Momentum is hard,  I definitely have some level of a bug still in me and I need to take it minute by minute.  I felt so sick in the past several days, really need to be careful.

11:55 PM - I'm concerned for myself, and it is real to me that I have to be.

There's a meeting tonight and I'm expected to be there.  I wrote and administrator that I've never missed a meeting in all my years, but may have to tonight.

I had my advisory class with Freshmen, which included welcoming a student who's new to the school, reacquainting ourselves with each other and our names, venting and being grateful for things about school and classes, and some private meeting with 5 of the students.

Some of them find some teachers hard to  learn from, particularly at the end of the day.  Others feel that certain teacher could speak to them in a more mature way, not like they are little children, and there are tests  that students feel are awkwardly unclear in terms of what it's on.

4:07  PM - Met with several students for long chunks about serious matters, and one parent too - oh that reminds me - there's a parent I have to call back.

Very tired.  need to take care, but need to work, to go to night meeting...

7:56 PM - Post school meetings. Kind ride home.