Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Thoughtful Review By Someone Who Really "Got It"

I got this arm-twisting email from a dear friend this morning:

"Did you see this from LookJed? Outstanding!

You're modest, but put it on your blog! Show your students. Really."


In the Field: A Collection of Haiku

By Neil Fleischmann 2011

Reviewed by Dan Rosen

Two of the most confounding topics in the Yeshiva High School classroom are spirituality and poetry. Both ask the individual to give over his reason and suspend the rational aspect of the self. Formal poetry, like religious law compounds this by expecting the irrational to conform to strictures which might seem to stifle the very exploration which the underlying mode of expression should be encouraging. The combination of the two disciplines might be, then, doubly daunting.

Rabbi Neil Fleischmann's recent collection of haiku, In the Field turns this expectation on its head and makes the introspection and self reflection of both the poem and the mystical sense accessible and even desirable. This work, with the traditional Japanese form organized into groupings about the self, the other and the divine, uses plain language to engage the reader in the deeper questions of place and meaning. In the classroom, the poems, in their seeming simplicity, crystallize the messages of yahadus without imposing codes of law, as they present 17 syllables without demanding that the reader stretch and twist to justify form. Rabbi Fleischmann has been teaching Jewish studies at the Frisch School for the past fifteen years. He presently teaches Talmud, Chumash and English and is Director of Torah Guidance so he understands the challenges teachers and students run into, daily, in these areas.

When confronted with the challenge of getting students to read and appreciate poetry without feeling that they are stumbling over forced lines, or getting students to think about the divine without feeling like they are being coerced into belief, it is heartening to know that a unique text like Rabbi Fleischmann's finds a way to bring these two challenges together and makes the task all the easier for it. The teacher in the classroom trying to integrate the religious and the secular, the Rebbe, trying to get students to look at time worn edicts in a new way or the English teacher, looking for contemporary and clear examples of traditional forms would do well to look into In the Field as a valuable resource.

Available at


Blogger Anne D said...

BRAVO!!!! Proud of you.

April 28, 2011 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thank you kindly, Anne.

April 28, 2011 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Ask Teacher Pam said...

"Accessible and even desirable...." I would say that those words describe both your book and its author, RN!!! Terrific review!

April 29, 2011 at 1:26 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks PM!

May 1, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

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