Sunday, November 29, 2015

Vayishlach and What I said at Dad's Place

Yaakov prepared for a physical battle that never came to be, but instead he had a surprise spiritual battle (with a man? with an angel? with himself?). And when fought that fight he was uncharacteristically alone. And he couldn't cram in prep for it as for a physical confrontation. And he won, but he came out wounded. So too for us in life. And this fits with Rav Hutner's take on Sheva yipol tzadik vekam. Wise Shlomo haMelech was not just praising the tenacity of a righteous person but he was giving the recipe of how to become one. And it is no coincidence that Yaakov bowed before Eisav seven times. This is the symbol for his falling and rising as he became Yisrael, the father of the Jewish People...

Ground Haiku

Welcome extroverts
The world is your stomping ground
Speak first, think later

When you hold your ground
your potential multiplies
that's how trees are grown

May I plant my feet
firmly on the ground right now
with your help, dear G-d

Earth's solid surface
calls me from my inner world
My feet to the ground

As I float away
I ponder hard to reach dreams
like being grounded

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pepper Haiku

Pungent, hot tasting
Powdered, dried, ground peppercorn
Let's call it pepper


Try cayenne pepper
for holistic sore throat cure
or... Penicillin


Do not pepper me
with sprinkles of flattery
Be salty, be real

Pepper Paire Davis
The "League of Their Own" player
lived to eighty eight

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Haiku Of The Day

People are like salt
useless in isolation-
good with something else

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Vayeira Thought

"And he saw The Place from afar." The Nesivos Shalom says that this means more than that Avraham saw his destination in the distance. We are being told here that Avraham saw G-d, who is called HaMakom/The Place as distant. This struggle was part of Avraham's test. Experiencing the other in a relationship as distant is a major test to your staying in the relationship...

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Why I write here is a bit of a mystery to me, but only a bit. But mostly I write here for the same reason I write in diaries and on napkins. I need to get my ideas into words and on paper.

People get the flu or related things and knocked out for weeks at a time - rachmanah litzlan.  So why are people, including me so surprised when it lasts a few days in a row? If I beat this cold soon it will have lasted about a week.  Please G-d let that be how it goes.

What was particularly hard about this flu thing was that it was accompanied by a stomach thing. I still walking on eggshells when it comes to eating.  And I'm still trying to access to what degree I still have a bug inside me.

And I've tried to do work while home and sick, though there's much more to be done when I get back in full force.

Sitting at my desk... wondering if that's the start of a haiku.

Sitting at my desk
Missing those who are not here
Some, I sent away

As time goes by I've grown more tired of travel. Getting around is not easy on me. In the past I've often shopped on  my way home, stopping at the wonderful Shoprite supermarket, my closest approximation of Disneyland (with the exception of one person there who pushes my buttons - I pray for her, as I experience her... And the healing needed may be in me, and I pray for that too). The best word I can think of for the travel and the shopping is shleppy. Recently new ride possibilities home have appeared.  And I should take them.

They say to minimize saying should.  And I should minimize worrying about them.  I'm thinking to start ordering online.  Food.  And maybe it's time for a water cooler.  And my life needs many tweaks.  There are things in my life that hurt me and that are in my hands to fix.  But then it goes back to the paradox I've visited before: A man can't free himself from prison vs. the matter depends only on me.

I am enjoying not feeling sick.  I am grateful to G-d.

A few weeks ago on Friday my landline stopped having a dial tone.  Tonight it came back.  There was a spate with no internet at home. The whole thing was challenging.  And Verizon service on the phone was not particularly user friendly. I almost can't believe that, as small as it seems now that it's over, this really irritating inconvenience is resolved.  Thank G-d.

I find this interesting: Holy U.S. grave sights and the man who found them and wants to show them to you.

I am doing work at home and am happy to have the energy and ability to do so.  Guidance emails.

I am taken by Anim Zemirot.  it seems to me like it answers so much.  The more we get that we can't get G-d, the more we can get a connection.  hat's what I think it's about.  I also think it is untranslatable-ly beautiful poetry.  Havening said that, here's the start of my translation:

I sing to You, struggling to be pleasant and clever
I work and weave, as my soul has yearned for You forever.

My soul is desirous in the shade of Your hand
For Your deepest secrets she longs to understand

I'm not sure what I've written or why I've written it here.  but i am done for the night.

I am so grateful; to G-d for feeling better.  Over the last few days here were long periods where I couldn't hold down any food or drink.  And I was on my own to bundle myself up and go out for chicken soup and juice.  It is unbelievable how G-d has rejuvenated me.

There are mysteries beyond us and I am grateful for the mystery of the graciousness of G-d.

My mind was just blown as I discovered that a former cast mate of mine has written a popular book about her parents being hoarders! Wow.  Good for her.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Brief Blog Hello

Since I last wrote I have been busy with work/life.  Last Friday I felt particularly worn from the week. I fell asleep with my tie on at dad's place at 9:45 on Friday night.  During the haftarah I started feeling ill, a burning in my throat and achy all over. I slept over Shabbos.  And I've seen various doctors and healers since then.  My flu symptoms have the strange partner of serious stomach issues, i.e. not holding food or drinks down. I hope I'm on the upswing, please G-d. I hope, but I know I'm not at 100%, or close enough to go back to work tomorrow. Doctor's will give me a note, they said, if I need it, but I don't think I need their notes. I wish I had the space to blog more now or in general.  I pray for healing for myself and for everyone who needs it. I will share one haiku of the day that came to me in context.

You might never guess
who will be there when it counts
that's life's big surprise 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday in the YU Library

November 21st will be the 11th anniversary of this blog. I've shared a lot here over the changing years.  I just came across this title from eight years ago and I think it's smart (though I don't remember coming up with it): "Man Plans, G-d Helps."  The saying that man plans and G-d laughs sounds off the mark because I don't think G-d laughs at us.

I write here less than I used to.  And part of that is because of the social media website that shall generally not be named here.  And part of it is due to writing on my other blogs, like my haiku blog, my tanka blog, my longer poems blog and more.  I also write privately.  And I try to live life.

And yet.  I believe in or al least like blogging. I like the alleged honesty of the personal blog.  Some say you shouldn't sdit a personal blog post and you must write it in one shot.  Maybe. So far that's true for this post.

It feels like I haven't written an old school post here in a while. So here goes:

I'm not feeling great. I'm not feeling terrible.  But I'm worried about myself.  And it all comes down to me taking care of myself. I have to do that.  Various healers need to be seen, and doctors too.

I think I started this blog to be seen and heard in a true way, particularly by my parents- though I wasn't thinking that when I started blogging.  But that day when my dad emailed me that he discovered my blog and was taken by my writing is one I cherish.  And my mom used to coyly comment.  Mom is in another realm now. She's been in heaven, having passed from this world on Christmas weekend on  2009.  And I don't think dad reads here anymore, it's not where he's at right now. 

Did I mention that I'm not feeling well.  I've slept but feel tired. 

I once felt like sharing here the things that happened in my life. That urge has cooled.  And yet let me say now that some things have changed and some have stayed the same.  On the outside things look pretty much the same.  Same job as when I started here.  Same status of being single.  Age has changed by almost eleven years.  That is what it is.  Eleven years is exactly eleven years though we have the choice to call it a little or a lot.  

As has been the case in the past, on occasion, I am writing from the YU library.  That's another external circumstance that looks the same, I live in the same place as when I started this blog.  I live in Washington Heights, nearby YU.  And, as has been the case in the past, my phone line is down, which means my home internet is down.  Verizon is coming on Tuesday to check the external line. Till then I need to go elsewhere to use an online computer.

I am feeling worn and weak.  I am going to put some work on hold. I think I need some Sunday space.  I am going to head home.  Not sure what it means but all I want in life is to go home.  I am so tired.  I don't get it.  And it scares me.

When I used to write (almost) daily here I'd close by saying what I will say again now:

Good night and G-d bless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Noach Poem

Noach cleaved to G-d.  Noach separated from the people of his time. This is what made him a tzadik worthy of being saved when the rest of the world was destroyed.  His secret weapon was his removing himself from the people of his time.  This was all so before the flood.  But after the flood he kept to himself once again.  And after the flood he did not shine again as he had before.  Avraham became the new star because he was adept at connecting with others, which was just what was needed at that time.  Noach fell away because what allowed his to survive before the flood did not allow him to thrive after the flood.  This is often the case that what saves someone at one stage of their life holds them back at a later time.  May we be blessed to find new strengths for new situations in which our old strengths have now become detriments.This is all explained in more detail here.

Noach stuck with G-d and from people he kept away
This is what saved him at the end of the day

Cleaving to G-d made him righteous and strong
With the others who were destroyed he didn't belong

Noach survived because he was close to G-d and great
Restarting the world was his reward and his fate

But after the flood he needed to connect with others
To extend his hand and build society with his brothers

But Noach only knew how to stay in his zone
So once again he separated himself, stayed alone

Not reaching out to others led to Noach's downfall
In the new era he wasn't a hero after all

What make Noach special when he was in his prime
Was the same thing that worked against him at a later time

This is a profound psychological truth
What we need in old age is different than what worked in our youth

What at one time can serve as our best protection
Can in another context take us in a bad direction

May we be blessed in life to always behave in the way we need
To not be held back by old habits but to shine and be freed

Friday, October 09, 2015

Breishit Thought and Rap

In the beginning the world was covered in darkness and confusion and yet the spirit of G-d was hovering over it all. So too today, though can see dark and confusing the spirit of G-d hovers over our troubled waters.

Sometimes we put up our guard
because life can feel so hard
Sometimes we are not amused
because things have us quite confused
Remember G-d hovers over us all
He is always there to answer our call
May we remember that we need not fear
Remember G-d is always near
Pray to him and He will hear
May he bless us all with a wonderful year

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Sunday, September 27, 2015

In G-d's eyes we are already one. - Avraham Moskowitz (in his Tehillim Cards)

Sukkot And The Great Unification

Tue, 09/17/2013
Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
Special To The Jewish Week

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of a splendid tree, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook” [Leviticus 23:40].

Normally we’re told to celebrate a holiday on a specific date of the month. Here Sukkot is called for the first day, but it is not the first day of the month. The Rabbis say that what’s being referred to here is the fact that Sukkot is the first day of sins. The Medrash says that some people start returning to God at the start of the month of Elul, others wait till Rosh Hashanah. By the time Yom Kippur has come and gone everyone has come forward and achieved a clean slate. People are still on a high during the brief segue between Yom Kippur and Sukkot and barely even have time or energy to sin. So the first day of Sukkot, when everyone gathers together with their lulav and etrog in synagogue, is opening day for sins.

Why are the four species, rather than the sukkah, mentioned in connection with our having achieved atonement? The answer to this question (as explained by the great scholar Rabbi Shlomo Efrayim Luntschitz) relates to another popular Medrash: The etrog (citron), having a taste and an odor, represents those people who have both Torah wisdom and Torah deeds under their belts. The lulav has taste (it comes from a date-palm tree) but no smell, representing those who study Torah but do not perform other mitzvot. The myrtle branches (hadassim) smell pleasant but produce no fruit, representing those who do good deeds but lack Torah knowledge. The willows (aravot) have neither smell nor taste, symbolizing those who lack both knowledge and action.

The species that we raise up on Sukkot, and the order in which they are listed in the Torah, represent our community and parallel the teaching of the Rabbis about the order in which people seek repentance. First the most righteous people (represented by the etrog) return, then come the regular people (represented by the aravot and the lulav) and finally the people who are lacking in both their behaviors and actions come around. This is all completed shortly before Sukkot and then on Sukkot we gather together and start real life all over again. We acknowledge that we all unite to form a community. Together we err and together we correct our mistakes. A cross section of the three categories of people is needed to have a true community. This is alluded to by the fact that the very word for community in Hebrew is an acronym for the people who constitute a congregation: tzadikim, beinonim and resha’im (the pious, the intermediates and the wicked).

There is a little known yet striking statement of the rabbis regarding repentance. They say that the ability to repent as an individual is unique to the High Holy Days. Perhaps this can be taken literally or perhaps it is saying anecdotally that this is the time that it is most likely for an individual to focus on his or her own spirituality and religiosity. On the other hand, it is said that during the year teshuvah (repentance) can only be achieved as part of the community. This is why we come together on Sukkot, the functional start of the communal new year, and commit to fixing our sins as a community.

We all know that the Jewish holidays never come on time, but early or late. This year they seem to have come earlier than ever. Summer has faded away and the school year has started. The days are getting shorter and darker. Now is the time to unite as a community and grow together in thought and deed.

May we be so blessed.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.
― Charles William Eliot

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Post YK

Thought of a new Jewish trivia question: When is the only time that Mincha does not start with Ashrei (officially, as set in the siddur- as opposed to when you for whatever reason don't say Ashrei, but it's on the program)?

Answer: Mincha of Yom Kippur.

(If I get one comment I may share more about this.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Various Pre YK Thoughts

It's the night before Kol Nidrei night. Here's a post from nine years back (I shuddered as I wrote that number of years) about YK.


Yom Kippur is an unusual day, one could say that it's an extreme attempt to attain purity and forgiveness through isolation and separation that we are neither able nor expected to keep up on a regular basis. On the other hand, the day before Yom Kippur is the last typical day of life before Yom Kippur. How we live on this day is telling. Perhaps the reason why eating on Erev Yom Kippur is a mittzvah is that it's a litmus test: Do we consider our regular life activities, things like eating, to be a mitzvah, something holy that we do for G-d's sake, or is it an impulse that we don't even consider?


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.


Why is Sukkot the next major holiday after Yom Kippur? Why do people start building the Sukkah immediately following the end of Yom Kippur? The message might be that the way out of all aveirot - mistakes is boundaries. Any "sin" we do is related to a breaking of boundaries, whether it's in our relationship with G-d, each other, or ourselves. A Sukkah doesn't need four extra high, super solid walls, just a minimal amount of protection. And everyone's Sukkah looks different. But everyone needs boundaries. As Yom Kippur drifts away may we each be blessed to build our own Sukkah. And may we be blessed with proper boundaries and be saved from making mistakes, particularly the same ones we made in the past due to lack of proper boundaries.


"Man's inhumanity against man."  That's what Irwin Berman said to his son Seth as he walked exited the theater after seeing "Bang the Drum Slowly."  That's what I'm thinking about now. So much of what he confess on Yom Kippur is man vs. man.  So much of our pain in this life is casused by us to eachother.

The words we pray are not meant to be incantations. Rather, they are calls to inner and outer change.  We're guaranteed for results if we do the 13 attributes of G-d.  That's what we're told, to do them, not simply to say them.


The Chernobyl Maggid explains that although zman usually is translated as time, it also means to prepare. The various zmanim in the Jewish year pave the way to have that theme carried through the year. Thus, freedom is initiated at Pesach, Torah at Shavuot and Happiness at Sukkot. It reminds me of the idea of ma'aseh avotsiman lebanim - that the avot allowed certain energies to be taken and run with by their descendants.


Yom Kippur By Philip 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, September 17, 2015

Zelda and Emily Have Tea

I imagine they
would sit silently and stare
at one another

Zelda would speak first
comment on Emily's clothes-
that she looked Jewish

They'd talk about death
that universal language
that both of them spoke

It would go quite well
they'd now see how close they were
always far away

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Post Tzom Gedaliah Post

What to write and where to write it? I think I'm a writer, because I write. And yet I don't have me and writing all figured out.

Another thing that I don't have figured out is the kosher grocery near my house. And another thing is my stomach. And the two things are connected. After having a couple of bad incidents with smelly chicken I bought there many years ago I stopped buying "fresh" meat and poultry there for a long time. Under new ownership I was still reticent about buying their chicken. And yet I convinced myself that it would be okay. I have bought it twice. Even the little I'm going to say is not quite as discrete as how I most prefer to write. It was not okay.

No more trusting of the poultry in this store. And in a sentiment very much connected to something I'm working on in my life I'm tempted to say, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." That's the name of a book (by Robert Glover) that's recently been strongly recommended to me. (Of course it's also the name of an iconic Alice Cooper song.) I'm not ready to say "no more" in the absolute because I don't see a reason to say that I'm not going to be "nice" (or anything else) in a completely black and white way. On the other hand, like Ben Carson (to make a timely reference), I think I need to balance my gentleness with my boldness. And speaking up to the owner of this store and following through seems right now like a good place to start.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Help someone when they're in trouble and they'll remember you when... they're in trouble again.

Just home from Rosh Hashnah. Here are past posts that mention Rosh HaShanah. And here are those that mention Rosh HaShannah. I'm rereading them myself.

I searched Gedaliah and found this.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nachal Dovid, Where I Was Rooted

I wish I was in Israel.  I wish that the brief time I was in Israel wasn't becoming further away.  I want to feel the air, the dust, the water of israel on my body.  I want to feel the holiness of Israel in my soul.

On week ago I posted a poem that I wrote recently at a waterfall called Nachal David.

I'd like to try to translate it now.

Wishing us all closeness to G-d and rebirth via His holy waters.

Nachal Dovid, Where I Was Rooted

I want life like water
In my heart I'll build a brook
My boldness is brought out by water
My beloved knock from in the water
Today I begin drinking these waters
Confession: I haven't drunken the water of life
Pure like living water, my soul
My desire is to drink from your water
My purity will come from your water
I have hope in the water
My strength grows with the water of life
My sustenance is pure water
My situation turns around in the water
I have fallen and risen up
Your support flows from your water
My eyes are open like on the day I was born
My face is happy
The burdens of the world have flown from me
Closeness to G-d, the good, is found here
My will is becoming stronger
Your name is inside this bubbling brook
May it be your will, and my will, that my feelings here continue forever

נַָטַעתִי בְּנָחַל דָוִד

אני רוצה חיים כמו מים 
...בלבבי נחל אבנה
גבורתי יוצא עם מים
דודי דופק מתוך המים
היום אני מתחיל לשׁתות המים
וידוי: לא שתיתי ממי חיים 
זך כּמו מים חיים, נשׁמתי
חמדתי לשׁתות ממימיך
טהרתי יבא ממימיך
יש לי תקוה בתוך המים
כחי צמח עם מים חיים
לחמי היא מים טהורים
מצבי הופך בּתוך המים 
נפלתי וקמתי 
סמיכותך נובע בּמימיך
עיניי פּתוכים כּיום שׁנולדתי
פּרצופי שׂמח
צורכי העולם פּרכו ממני
קרבת אלוקים הטוב נמצא פּה
רצוני מתחזק
שׁמך בּתוך הנכל הנובע
תהא רצונך ורצוני שׁרגשתי כאן תמשׁיך לעולם 

Friday, September 04, 2015

נַָטַעתִי בְּנָחַל דָוִד

I am writing this on Erev Shabbos.  Sitting at my usual desk.  But I feel different.  I crammed in one week in Israel before work restarted on Wednesday. I went to many places, the usual holy ones like The Kotel, Ma'arat HaMachpeilah, Kever Racheil.  Also the kever of Shmuel HaNavi and several on Har HaMenuchot and in Tzefat and Teveria.

I wrote at these Mekomot Hakedoshim.  At several of them I wrote Hebrew prayers.  

I spent one day travelling to and being at Nachal Dovid, a trail ending in a waterfall in the Ein Gedi area. Years ago I went to another nearby waterfall and stream called Nachal Arugot (which I wrote about here). I wanted to go back there, but while I remembered the heavely waterfall, I had forgotten that it takes a long time to hike and climb there and that I found it hard even then, 25 years ago.  So I went to Nachal Dovid, where you have beautiful waterfalls that are only 20 minutes or so to hike to.  

I waited many years to feel again what I feel when I walk into and stand under a miraculous southern Israel waterfall. I took it in and then sat and wrote what I was feeling on the spot.  

I want to remember where I was, how I felt, what I expressed. And I want others to read it and to sit with me leaning against a crevice in the stones, having just walked out of this divine pool.  Please take this in.

May G-d bless us all to fight our human inclination to deprive ourselves of the sacred people places and things that relentlessly call our names.  May we be blessed to fulfil our shilut on this earth, to answer to our calling, and to be as happy as I was when I wrote this poetic prayer.

נַָטַעתִי בְּנָחַל דָוִד

אני רוצה חיים כמו מים 
...בלבבי נחל אבנה
גבורתי יוצא עם מים
דודי דופק מתוך המים
היום אני מתחיל לשׁתות המים
וידוי: לא שתיתי ממי חיים 
זך כּמו מים חיים, נשׁמתי
חמדתי לשׁתות ממימיך
טהרתי יבא ממימיך
יש לי תקוה בתוך המים
כחי צמח עם מים חיים
לחמי היא מים טהורים
מצבי הופך בּתוך המים 
נפלתי וקמתי 
סמיכותך נובע בּמימיך
עיניי פּתוכים כּיום שׁנולדתי
פּרצופי שׂמח
צורכי העולם פּרכו ממני
קרבת אלוקים הטוב נמצא פּה
רצוני מתחזק
שׁמך בּתוך הנכל הנובע
תהא רצונך ורצוני שׁרגשתי כאן תמשׁיך לעולם 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Thinking of Nachal Arugot.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

G-d, bless me to live
as you rock my sleeping soul
through the dead of night

More haiku (about 800 of them)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

© "צל עריות"/ סמדר וינשטוק

Someone Broken
By Smadar Weinstock

If you see someone broken
sit beside them
on the shore of cursed brokenness.
Don't try to fix them.
Don't want anything.
With love and fear of G-d
just sit with him
so he won't be there alone.

Everyday Holiness, page 3 - Alan Morinis

"Every one of us is assigned to master something in our lives. You have already been given your assignment and you have already encountered it, though you may not be aware that what faces you is a curriculum, nor that this is the central task of your life... What I am calling your curriculum shows up most clearly in issues that repeatedly challenge you. I'm talking about behaviors that dunk you in the same soup, time and time again."

Thursday, August 13, 2015


My essay in this week's Jewish Week.

What Is Love?

“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ― Fred Rogers

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Haiku of the Day

I've come to market
tides washing in on sidewalks
upon our bare feet

(This is not a haiku)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Words On Words Part I

Words.  Sigh. I believe in honesty. I also believe in kindness. They say that you can say anything if you say it kindly.  But sometimes we don't say what we need to and want to to someone else in order to protect... ourselves (and sometimes because our silence is actually kindest for the other person).

There are two types of people, those who say it all straight and don't care or maybe even like if they ruffle feathers.  These types value true over all; some might call them Gevurah types.  Then there are those that bend what they think into soft soft words before saying them. They try to be kind but are sometimes mistaken in how they place kindness over all, even truth.  These are the Chesed types.

Saying the right thing the right way is very challenging. One of the most meaningful compliments that I remember receiving in my life came from the neighbor of a friend.  His wife had tragically passed away and I was spending time with him and his neighbor said she had watched me and saw that I always knew the right thing to say.  That was a wow becomes sometimes I really struggle with saying things.  Sometimes I retreat from the struggle and hide.

We don't want to be hiding in life. When we hide what we seek hides too.  We want to be showing who we are. And yet we want to be kind.

Also pertinent is what we think, and feel.  Much of what we say and don't say and even of what we hear being said takes place inside our imagination...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

"So long, stuff — the liberated commute: Over the years, I've gone from briefcase to backpack to burden-free."

Found this article by Alex Marshall very interesting, particularly this aside:

Through my writing about infrastructure, I know that personal and common cultural habits often lag behind technological advances by not years or even decades, but generations.
Men and women didn’t stop wearing formal hats regularly until the 1960s, even though the car began to make them outmoded in the 1920s. (There’s no place to put a hat in a car, and you usually can’t wear it because it hits the roof.)

A Poem That Moves Me

Central Parktb
By Sarah Shapiro
I took you to the zoo today,
although you were not there.
We marvelled at the parrots,
slowed down going by the bears.
I watched you as you watched the seals,
linked arms with you at snakes.
You gazed at the gorillas
for as long as wonder takes.
It's not so hard being by yourself
It's not so hard to walk
along the paths of Central Park
if you've got with whom to talk.
But to look a thing of beauty
very closely in its eyes,
that's going too far for a heart that knows
it's alone.

uuuuuuuuuuuuHence these lies.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Motzai Shabbos Musings

Was with dad for Shabbos and am staying over tonight.  Told him about Phoenix (trailer / Wikipedia) and he was very interested.  He said, "Leave it to Germany to think of making that movie." Not sure what he meant.  He was very taken by the story of it.  Dad left Germany in 1937 at 7 years old.

Surreal reading Donal Hall's Essays After Eighty while staying over for some forty plus hours with my over eighty dad at his assisted living place.  He is smart and funny.  He wrote about getting a National Medal of Arts from President Obama.  A blogger named Alexandra Petri poked fun of him (he is old and has a wild beard and long hair) (link is to one of the many conservatives who ironically defended Hall). He observes that, "With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard."  In one essay about the pros and cons of growing older he spends a lot of time describing beautifully the birds, squirrels, and snow and then adds in a bit about how people can be condescending to older people.  He describes how a guard at the National Gallery of Art in Washington saw him being pushed in a wheelchair and felt compelled to tell him who the sculptor was of the art he was looking at.  (It was Henry Moore, who Hall wrote a book about and knew personally.) Later the guard sees him with his companion and asked him, "Did we have a nice din-din?" In the next piece in the book he says that, "Contradiction is the cellular structure of life. Sometimes north dominates, sometimes south- but if the essay doesn't include contraries, however small they be, the essay fails." And he goes on to say that the previous essay resonated with people and brought him a lot of feedback only because he added in the part about " a goon's baby talk."

Friday, August 07, 2015

Pre Shabbos Post

Writing is important to me and maybe reading what I write matters to some people.  It's hard to write without wanting at least a little to be read (while also not).  I am grateful to be writing here, blogging old school/.

It's a hot day, schvitzy hot (the opposite of freezing cold). I went out to Jersey for some errands and got some things done. Coming home I felt really thirsty and tired.  It felt like the way i feel at the end of the work day.  Which led me to many thoughts and feelings.  It was, at least in part, the association with coming home the same route, the same way that I came home from work.

It's 4:30 now.  Going to dad for Shabbos as i did two weeks ago and for four weeks straight before that and two weeks before that and so on. I sleep on a thin mattress on the floor- got to do something about that. And I stay in the assisted living place all of Shabbos... So many Shabboses with dad.  In his home.  Away from his home.  So much was the same for so long.  So much has changed in the last two years.  Dad is a miracle man, having survived a whole bunch of things that many people would not have made it through.  I thank G-d dad is alive and well- poo poo poo.

I need to get going.  If I take a train it will take about two hours.  Driving would be about 45 minutes. In case your new to the program let me mention that I don't feel safe driving.  Number one reason: strabismus. I don't have the time or energy to take buses and trains all the time. I've taken buses twice today.  And I've walked quite a bit.  And I sweated.  And I drank water.  I bought two big (really big bottles of water, one in Kohls and one in Shoprite and drank them both before reaching home).  When some people are hot or thirsty they need a cup of water and they're fine - I need about 15 cups worth.

It's now 4:51.  I need to shower, pack, and go (and pray for not much traffic... sigh...)

Wishing everyone a great Shabbos. Here are some of my thoughts from Eikevs past.

Some More Words

Is there anything we want more than to be seen and heard? Can we be listened to too much? I don't think so? Don't we all need to connect? I know I do.

There are so many cartoons about the Facebook, phone, photo phenomenon. Here's one from this week's New Yorker:

Last night I wrote 3 poems.  That was good.

Tonight I got tragic news from a dear friend. That was bad.

I'm thinking a lot about personalities and needs and relationships and family and connection and love and marriage and dating and growth and self awareness and self care.  I'm thinking a lot...

I write haiku.  I have a lot posted on my haiku blog, so I share less here than I used to. Here's one I just wrote based on the news from my screen:

"Your Haiku Classes,"
the email subject reads and
I get excited

I'm offended by Google for choosing the name of a hundreds of years old form of poetry as the name of a computer program.  And in one second that word was on the lips of thousands of teachers who had never uttered it before, some of them not English teachers.

Now I'm thinking of sharing more haiku here and explaining what they're about.  When I introduce a poem with explanation I often think f this Billy Collins poem:

I just finished reading Our Souls At Night, and now am considering starting Haruf's masterwork, or I may start The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.  I was so taken by her reading and Q and A the other night...

I've started All Who Go Do Not Return. So well written.  So painful.

Here are my thoughts on something in the news:

Years ago, in 1993, John Stewart had a late night talk show called the Jon Stewart Show. I wish I could find the newspaper article I read after it was cancelled. They asked Stewart what he was going to do next. I wish I could remember the exact words and I hope what I'm about to write comes out right.

He said that he had tried and had reached high and it ended. He said that he had no idea what he would do now other than drink a lot and maybe become homeless. Something about the way he spoke seemed so honest and vulnerable, like he cut through the normal baloney he was expected to say and just told his truth.

I once crossed paths with Stewart. I went with a friend to see Richard Lewis read from his book The Other Great Depression, when it came out. As we were walking into the Barnes and Noble downtown Stewart and his crew were filming a brief interview with Lewis. As they finished it he turned to the camera guy and they agreed that it was good. There was something unpretentious and very down to earth in the that moment.

When I come across the saying that the way of Torah is to sleep on the floor and eat just bread and salt I think of artists. When you are truly dedicated to something you are willing to give it all up to attain that thing. The greatest people in all fields worked and sacrificed to get there. I think Stewart put in a lot of time as a starving artist and that honest attitude of his helped him get where he got. And I wonder, and I don't wonder, what he'd say he's going to do next.

I'm posting this on a Friday and if I don't post again today I wish you now a beautiful Shabbos of rejuvenation and inspiration.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

"If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher." -Pema Chodron

Monday, August 03, 2015

From "Sing, My Soul" (Pg. 15)

I've cited Rabbi Samuel Adelman over the years. 

Here's another poem of his; it was transcribed by Rabbi Uri Cohen:

By Rabbi Samuel Adelman

(Written on the occasion of his third daughter going off to college.)

There are tears that flow
For many varied cause,
Tears of joy and pride,
Tears in life's occasional pause.

If you wonder why
You see the glistening tear,
It is because time stands still
As we see you now, my dear.

These are not tears of sadness
Though in joy there is a tear,
As you embark on life's adventure,
Our hearts shall ere be near.

Thus we ask that you forgive
These foolish hearts that cry,
For mingled with the salt of tears
Is a prayer to God on High.

And as we pray we also ask
That one day you may cry
For the exact same reason
That makes us on this day sigh.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Some Words

10:25 PM - I have a hard time sharing here without writing that I don't know what to write or where to write it. Spoke to dad a little while ago. he is always happy to hear.  It gets lonely is assisted living. On the other hand it can get lonely anywhere. An ambulence came there over Shabbos, "some excitement." Someone passed away.  I "get credit,"he said, was the winner of the prize for first person to call him after Shabbos...

Reading News-

Recently finished The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.  I really enjoyed it.  I liked it more than The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. But I do think you have to read that one first to get this one.

I started reading All Who Go Do Not Return. It is well written.  It is heartbreaking in many ways. Reading from it leaves me feeling awkwardly torn.

I read pieces of John Cleese's memoir, So. Anyway.  He speaks of his mother being unpredictable and going into rages and how he and his father were always trying to avoid that. His best memories of her are when he made he laugh. He never made her laugh as hard as when she was complaining about life and he said if it was that bad he knew a guy that could knock her off.  he says that he never loved her as much as he did at that moment.

Read pieces of Donald Hall's Essay's after Eighty. He is surprisingly funny and insightful.  I never read a poem of his that grabbed me.  He always interested me because he was married to Jane Kenyon who I did connect with, particularly her poem "Otherwise."

11:03 PM - Been sitting here and writing the above.  Had one exchange online with a friend. Wrote another two friends.  Posted on Facebook.

My soul longs and yearns...

Beyond 11:59 PM - What I like most in a TV show is relationships and humanity.  I can get through shows of various genres if there's enough of what I connect to.  The first 6 episodes of the new summer show Proof were okay.  The seventh one called St. Lukes really hit it out of the part for me, bringing in family, religion, loyalty, a big time emphasis on relationships and humanity.  Bravo!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Haiku of the Day

Ambivalence here
I've come to cover up fear
but I don't work cheap

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I don't think it's "everybody" and "nobody," but I think we do have a serious problem with this balance. This was touched upon in a talk by R Elie Mansour that was shown all over on Tisha Be'Av. He spoke of how important it is to be a vatran - to let things slide. But he said we live in a world when rights are emphasized and in that kind of an atmosphere it's hard to sell the idea of letting things go. His selling point, I think was that it leads to true holiness.

A dear friend of mine, Rabbi Benjy Kramer just told me a related idea that he heard from rabbi nachum Muschel:  People today have an attitude of "magiah li," - I have it coming to me, I'm entitled/  But he suggested that this word for arrival is related to the word yegiah, which means effort. We truly have things coming to us when we earn them via hard work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Queenie Hennesssy is dying again.  It broke my heart 3 years ago when her impending death was featured in a book.  And now it's being presented again as told from her point of view.  I didn't think Rachel Joyce would have something strong in this second take on the same story.  I think, though, now that I have about 40 out of 366 pages left, that this is an amazing work.  The voice and phrasing are powerful and poignant. I very highly recommend "The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennesy." I think it was more pleasing to me than the book it follows up.  But I do think to fully get it you need to read "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" first.  Two different angles of one story.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mei'Ein Olam Habbah

Two Hours of walking in cool night air while talking on the phone with an old friend.

You Cannot Reason People Out of Something They Were Not Reasoned Into

Wow.  This is profound.  This applies very often in life. We like to act like we make our choices rationally, but generally it's all about context and emotion, sociology over ideology.
Here is background, from the great quote investigator, on who may be the source of these wise words.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed"

Within the past week the visits here have reached 104 page views and 84 unique visits, both on last Thursday- though I don't know what that means. I checked because someone just asked me if people read the blog and I said around fifty a day on average, not counting Shabbos, which is a slow day here- as it should be).

Green = Page Views
Blue = Unique Visits
Orange = Returning Visits
I = Don't Get These Terms

It's another summer day here in NYC. The way I wrote that reminded me of Lake Wobegon and the fact that Garisson Keilor just announced that he'll soon be retiring as host of PHC. That means that the "News From lake Wobegon" will also be retired, along with his other skits. A master musician, Chris Thile, is taking over, and the show will probably get more musical (again).

Carla Kimball entered my mind and I'm thinking about her work, particularly the pictures I've cited here. She is now selling cards of her photos and questions and I'm thinking seriously about buying them.

Another tragic death took place last night in New York City. And this song came to mind:

Don't Judge A Life (Abridged)
By John Gorka

Don't judge a life by the way it ends
Losing the light as night descends
For we are here and then we're gone
Remnants to reel and carry on

Endings are rare when all is well
Yes and the tale easy to tell
Stories of lives drawn simplified
As if the facts were cut and dried

Don't judge a life as if you knew
Like you were there and saw it through
Measure a life by what was best
When they were better than the rest

Don't judge a life by the way it ends
Losing the light as night descends
A chance to love is what we've got
For we are here and then...

We're not


And earlier today, before this song serendipitously came to me, I wrote this:

We know the ending
but that doesn't mean that life
has to be tragic


And today, from the High Line, I took this photo:

And I took this one on my way into the city, on the streets where I live:

Good night and may G-d bless.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Blog Post

I like breathing, something about it makes me feel alive.  And I feel that way about writing as well.  Sometimes I write just for me, therapeutically.  But more often than not writing implies reading.  Like everyone who doesn't merely write- but is a writer in their bones, I write to be read.

My maternal grandfather would speak of years that he spent being raised by his grandparents, being that he was the oldest and that his father had preceded the family to America.  His grandfather was a disciple of the Kosover Rebbe and he recalled going to him regularly. He would also say that whatever Torah he knew he knew from that time.  People think I must mean Sosov, but Kosov was a real and important historical, Chassidic place.

It's the summertime and it's heatwave days.  Feeling like a hundred, the weathermen say.  And I've been home, mostly, today, writing.  Thinking.

Friends, family, connections, values, honesty, sharing, trust, physical/emotional/mental health, G-d, religion, Torah, thought, Torah Thought, games, psychology, listening, helping, running away, reaching out: These are some of the things I'm thinking about.


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

What does the quote above bring to mind for you?

In The Narrow Places - Daily Inspiration For The Three Weeks: My Thoughts On Its Intro

Erica Brown begins by stating that the book was written in an expansive rather than a constricted context, and that perhaps this causes her capturing of loss to be flawed. Nevertheless she is grateful to the publishers, editors,grant providers, family friends, community, and colleagues. She states that the book honors the memory of her relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust in the Polish town of Zakrzewek and that this "is that closest touch-point" that she has for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Dr. Brown begins her introduction by pointing out that Tisha B'Av and more-so Shiva Asar B'Tamus and the three weeks in between are generally neglected and go unrecognized. Many Jews don't observe the rituals of this time and many of those do keep the customs of this period view it as an inconvenience rather than getting into it in a meaningful manner. She writes that "the Jewish community at large has not embraced Tisha B'Av despite the fact that it is a day which is nationally cathartic. She suggests that American Jews like most Americans place comfort as a high priority and that causes them to hold Tisha B'Av at bay. She notes that American Jews mourn for the destruction Holocaust because the recent loss of millions of Jewish people is more easily understood and felt than what people perceive as the inaccessible loss of a building that never meant anything to them in the first place. Brown points out that sadly people don't realize that what we mourn for in the days approaching Tisha B'Avand on that day itself is "the loss of an aspect of our relationship with G-d."

Citing Cicero Dr. Brown develops the idea that a mature person is a person who has a sense of history and that the reverse of that assertion is true as well. Unfortunately in America today there is little sense of history, she points out, reminding us of what we all see with our own eyes - that "American holidays are generally commemorated without a historical context." The problem is made worse by the youthfulness worship of American culture, which poo poos looking back.

Happiness, Brown points out, is all the rage in America today - as illustrated by the approximately 17, 000 results that come up when you go to Amazon and search "books on happiness." However, people suffer by neglecting suffering because "suffering humanizes us." And when people morn communally for a tragedy they have in common "they form intense and unique bonds."

Tisha B'Av provides us with words and time to feel and express our pain, Brown explains. She says that this period of mourning provides the glue that can hold us together as a people.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Like The Clever Ones

I'm ambivalent
about my ambivalence;
Not sure this will change

More at

Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens

Not sure who said this , but I think it's true.  I've seen this applied to teaching.  Reminds me of the journalist who met with Dale Carnegie at a party to investigate if he was truly a great a conversationalist as people said he was. She spoke the whole time, while he actively ("just") listened.  The next day in her column she wrote that he was every bit as exceptional a conversationalist as his reputation indicated! It also brings to mind the story about when Ed Koch met the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  He was told beforehand, by a man in the waiting room, how wise The Rebbe was. Koch went in and the Rebbe was quiet.  So Koch started talking.  And he kept talking and talking.  For an hour Koch talked and The Rebbe didn't utter a word.  And then time was up. When Koch came out the guy in the other room asked him what he thought.  He replied, "What that man knows about politics!" This also fits with the idea that "silence is a fence for wisdom." Rabbi Abraham Twerski says that silence precedes and surrounds the profound wisdom of being and staying there with and for a person.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Stan: A Film About Laurel and Hardy

I recently watched a movie that was really touching and meaningful for me. It's called Stan and it's about Saurel and Hardy.  I was particularly fond of them as a kid.  I watched their movies, bought a book that summarized and rated each film, had a poster and a lithograph of them on my wall, and owned an album of their bits and songs from the movies.  I also wrote skits in which I played each of them, and I looked like Stanley and had that as my nickname for a time.

Back in the day I studied up on them and much of what I learned reappreared in this film.  But they did it with a different slant.  I had always thought that Stan was more invested and Babe was off playing golf between takes, but they put a different spin on that same data. I knew Stan was a creative genius.  i knew he was married several times.  But I didn't know he had a strong ego and was so driven his myopia sometimes left other people out of his vision, even people in his inner most circles.  I didn't know that Ollie was a sweetheart.  I had heard one story about the tie twiddle, which is featured prominently in this film but with a different origin story.  I knew that I found them elegant and life affirming but I didn't imagine them discussing that undercurrent of their work.  And I never thought about what their practicing together looked like.  I knew Laurel lived longer than Hardy by many years and that he wrote skits for them after there was no more them.  But I didn't have the full picture.

This short film connects a lot of dots in the Laurel and Hardy story.  I find British works are generally classier than American ones and this is a very high level piece of art.  I'm so glad I got to revisit two of my best friends from childhood through this remarkable piece.  And I'm glad that I've got Trail of the Lonesome pine playing on a loop in my head.  It's quite a fine tune.

From A Teabag

Yet Another Cartoon About How Facebook Has Ruined Us

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Link to My Haiku