Sunday, November 03, 2013

Shavuah Ohr

I.  Shortly After Shabbos

Here's a Toldot DT of mine, it was also - I think - in this week's issue of my school's DT newsletter. Shabbos ended not long ago.  I called dad and got his voice-mail. I'm sitting now with Yoni Rechter singing "Shoov Hi Kan" to me on Spotify.  Shabbos did a good job of helping the intense week fade away and now Shabbos herself is starting to fade and the new week is coming along. The station I made is supposed to be in the style of C Lanzbom guitar music but it came out being Israeli songs.  Just now a guitsr instrumental of Hava Nagila came on (by Lana Ross) and it is beautiful.  It's one of those songs, like so many things in life, that is gorgeos and yet it is not often presented in its most flattering manner.  But when it is- wow.

I read and discussed some nice Torah over Shabbos.  I don't recall exactly who said what.  Here are some of the ideas on Toldot.  

Yaakov in taking what was rightfully his caused pain to Yitzchak and to Eisav.  Sometimes in life we do what is morally right and must be done.  And yet there's a piece of it that's wrong and there's a price to pay for that.  This happens to aakov here and again later, again in connection to his disconnection from Eisav: Rabbi Ephraim Poliakoff says that Yaakov was right in keeping Dina from Eisav and yet there was a price to pay for the fact that - even though it nwas the right thing to do - he his Dina from Eisav.  It's like a treatment for cancer (r"l) which is the right thing to do but comes with it's own price tag.  There's a lot to think about here, how in life we often win and lose at the same time. We don't what's right yet we need to pay a price for making the right, hard call.

"Don't wait for inspiration, be the inspiration." Just came accross this quote.  I love quotes.  And yet, one has to be careful with quotes.  When I was a kid I'd rip the back page out of my dad's Forbes magazines.  That page was called Thoughts on the Business of Life and it was a collection of quotes about life.  It was the one thing in the magazine that interested me.  And so I saved thos pages.  My dad saw me one time and said, "You know, Neil, life is more than a collection of nice quotes."  And I told him, "That's a great quote, dad." (I didn't really say that.) I quoted this recently in the first of my weekly Mishmar series (now entering its fifth week) and tied it in with the question of why Avot starts with a chain of tradition.  I think, perhaps, this chain of tradition appears before Avot to remind us that how to act properly, how to be our highest level of ourselves goes back to Har Sinai.  The sayings of Avot are not just quotes off the tongues of men but are part of the tradition of our holy, divine Torah.

II. 10:25 PM, Soon To Be An Hour Earlier.  

I thank G-d for being the age I am.  The fact that I've lived long enough to have accomplished an amount of things that add up and are are hard to deny is a good thing.  I sometimes underestimate and undersell myself.  It's one of my avodas in life, to learn to see the good in myself, to accept it, to know it, the way others do when they experience me. 

The following note was given to me a week ago   My friends are incredible people.  At the Friday night meal for their son's Bar Mitzvah the place cards were small envelopes   Inside each envelope was a personalized note of great kindness and gratitude for each guest at the meal.  I'm sharing mine here in part to acknowledge that it's real.  Also, when these friends got married they gave me a leather bound Artscroll siddur. It came with a card that I taped in the cover of the siddur and reread regularly.  My dear friend wrote about how he remembered well how we first met in high school and how glad he was that we were life long friends. I cherished that note. In time it slipped out and was lost.  I'm saving the words of this one here, in addition to saving the actual card:

Dear Neil,

We are honored and touched that you have joined us for Aryeh's bar mitzvah.  None of this would be happening if not for you. Although you might have set us up as a "fluke," we belive that you have some level of ruach hakodesh: How else to explain the extraordinary impact you have on so many people, and the piercing sensitivity, insight, and wisdom you possess. We stand in awe of your accomplishments and your unfailingly gentle and kind demeanor.  May Hashem bless you with all the good that you deserve.

Mindy and Seth and Family

I spent some time over Shabbos going through my bookshelves.  I hadn't looked at Rabbi Ebner's poetry in a while.  I revisited this one, which I'm glad I shared here. I love poetry.  I was looking through other poetry books and spent some time with Billy Collins.  Every time I think I know his really good ones I find ones that jump up and hit me anew.  This one reminded me of a recent test question I asked that some students had a hard time with.  I taught them that the Ramban was unique as a rishon because he approaches the theme of the prshaf rather than just looking at each pasuk in a vacuum.  I taught it because we already saw that it's true because the Ramban is the only commentary to start not with pasul alef but before pasuk alef, with an introduction.  I think they're not familiar with the concept of a theme. 

III. 12:30 AM/11:30 PM And Beyond On New Time

I had an intense, rich, exciting, fulfilling, and meaningful week. Taught my 15 classes, worked  on and went on 2 chesed trips,  had 3 guidance department meetings, met with and dealt with the issues of many of my caseload (of 60ish) students and their parents and teachers, tutored and talked through issues with kids from my classes outside of class, sent update emails to the parents of all of my 70 students and followed up on them, marked and returned tests and quizzes, prepared lessons, met with our director of technological education, met with several teachers- prominently a teacher who will be hosting me to perform in her English class, prepared with team for upcoming poetry slam, planned for upcoming improv session this Tuesday night, prepared and taught Mishmar class after school on Thursday night.  In between I tried to be a good human being and a good Jew, keeping up my responsibilities in both realms.  Also, spoke to my dad and told him I loved him every day, and spoke with my brother about his upcoming wedding for his daughter (he asked me to walk my father down, get a black suit, and to accompany dad and care for him at the aufruf) , did some learning and writing- in particular a piece for Be'er Shavua (did some breathing and exercising and sleeping and eating and tooth brushing) and kept up a bit of human connection outside of work.  I mention this all because late at night on Motzai Shabbos I find myself looking over emails and lining up emails and calls and meetings I need to do. Hayom katzar vehamelacha merubah...

Here's another Collins poem that recently struck me.  This feels universal to me, someone we wish we could block out of our life and our dreams.

IV. A Pre Sleep Poem- Good Night and G-d Bless

I just found a prompt to write a poem about fear.

Rav Nachman Said That The Key Is Not To Be Afraid

I wonder if he was a painfully shy and sad kid
I wonder if he was bad at sports and chosen last
I wonder if he felt supported and safe at home
I wonder if he knew how hard the next step is
I wonder if he had a job and a boss and consumers
I wonder if his doctor told him he must lose weight
I wonder if he saw his parents grow old and sick
I wonder what his physical/mental health was like
I wonder if he ever wondered about who he was
I wonder if he ever felt so alone he wanted to cry
I wonder if he felt he had many things he could lose
I wonder if he would have helped me be less afraid
I wonder if I can get this key and unlock my fears


Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I just got this comment from a(former) student:

I happened to be reading your blog about parshas toldos about how Yaakov does actions and even if they are the right actions they can have consequences, and I came across an idea in Taanis 11a. Im
interested to hear your thoughts.

The Gemera in Taanis 11a discusses whether a person who fasts is
considered a sinner or a holy person. It’s a machloket between Shmuel and R Eliezer. Shmuel holds he is a sinner, and R Eliezer holds he is holy. They learn it out from Nazir. Tosfos there brings a statement of Shmuel from Bava Kama (91b). The Gemera says there one who damges (chovel) others is chayav, but one who damages himself is not chayav.
The word used is resahi”,permitted.

Shmuel says a person is
permitted to “damage” himself, means someone who sits and fasts.
Tosfos says from that Gemera we see it is clear that Shmuel holds one who fasts is not considered a sinner! That contradicts our Gemera where Shmuel mefurash says the opposite. Explains Tosfos this very yesod. A person who sits and fasts is a sinner. No doubt in Shmuel’s mind. But the mitzvah, that the person accomplishes with the fast is greater than the sin of metzar oneself. One who sees a Sotah in her state of disgrace disavows himself from wine. Nonetheless, explains Tosfos, there is ketzas cheit, even if its what was needed to be done.

November 5, 2013 at 9:25 PM  

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