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.


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