Saturday, May 14, 2011

Goodnight and Have a Pleasant Tomorrow


"Hello, hello, hello, hello - goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye - that's all there is..." A dear friend is on a kick of collecting great lines from songs. And I think this one makes my list. Do you know who said it?

Mark Kurlansky's got a book out called Edible Stories. Each of the pieces is named for and focuses on one food. See if you can guess the name of the story that starts this way:

It was a small religious community. A few statistics tell a great deal.

Families that are paying members of the community: 130
Families that regularly attend High Holiday services: 130
Families that regularly attend Shabbat morning: 80
Families that regularly attend Shabbat morning when cholent is served afterward: 190

I'm in the middle of a short story from this week's New Yorker. it's called The cat's Table. it's from an upcoming book and it's about a boy travelling long distance on a ship, alone. He's seated with people he doesn't know and one of them - an adult - comments that they were all placed at "the cat's table." She explains that they are on the opposite end of the room of the honorable spot of the captain's table, the spot she dubs "the cat's table." Clever.

The New Yorker also has a great poem by Sherman Alexie, which you can read here.

Speaking of great poems (and also a great presentation, which we weren't speaking about, but it's true). Try this:


It's a topic I'm fascinated by: questions. If you've visited here over the years you know that I return to questions regularly, sometimes posting exclusively in that format. What do you think about that?

I'm also thinking a lot lately about weight and health. And this poem by the same author, Taylor Mali, is up my alley (now I just have to get it in my heart):


I had a fantastic talk recently with a friend who is a professor of Hebrew literature. It is out belief that Torah is poetry. Like any written word it can not be a replica of a moment, but rather must be an interpretation. The style, though, is clearly a poetic rather than a prosaic one. it's no surprise that the Torah refers to itself as a shirah. My friend gave the example of G-d's response to kayin's act of murder: Kol dmei achichah tzoakim..." He doesn't speak immediately of punishment or guilt put presents a poetic coda. Earth absorbs liquid, it disappears - but no, no, G-d says - this blood is constantly calling out from inside the ground. Blood doesn't usually scream, but here it is personified as shouting forever. My friend accepts the poetic pshat that kol in this case is not a noun but a verb. It means, "Listen, your brothers bloods scream from within the earth." If it was a noun, it is singular and then it should be matched with the singular verb tzo'ek (although some argue that a singular verb can sometimes have an extra mem).

Headlines that I can't write the feature for right now: A story about Heschel's father and his developmentally disabled assistant becoming upset, the idea that the Torah itself is midrashic, the chutzpah of the title of Heschel's first ever published book, my walk through the neighborhood I grew up in where cozy little one floor ranches that all looked alike are being replaced by big two story shmancy houses that all look alike (care to sing?) (only lyrics provided due to Omer).

I did two things this Shabbos that aren't usually considered realistic in this rough "real" world; I went home again and I took a walk in the park. I visited my old bus stop. When you're an elementary school kid 3 blocks is a long way to be walking at 7ish A.M. And the the social tension of the stop wait and the ride itself - don't me started. I tense up, remembering.

Pretty chirping birds and trees that sing as well
Always lovely, any season, any time of any day
Reality, an awesome concept awaits in your local park
Kindness is easier after a walk in the park

Pleasant tomorrows
Wished to me by Chevy Chase
I liked his goodnights
When his glibness moved aside
Momentarily sincere

2 Comments:

Blogger Anne D said...

Neil, the Sherman Alexie link didn't work for me.

May 17, 2011 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Until recently all the links to it were via the New Yorker and I think there are issues of getting their stuff. Thankfully yesterday someone put it on their blog that features poems well suited for the contemporary classroom.

The link should now take you there

http://poetryprosedrama.blogspot.com/2011/05/facebook-sonnet-by-sherman-alexie.html?showComment=1305660079075#c5000713237348034887

May 17, 2011 at 3:27 PM  

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