Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Voiced Wisdom

 "Before written language took words out of our mouths and onto the page, and long before "virtual" communication lifted them off of the page and into intangible space, our ancestors knew that a poem, spoken aloud, could change us with its vital, voiced wisdom. Even today, in many cultures throughout the world, poetry still resides in its original home- in the sounds, sensations, and feelings of the human body.

Kim Rosen, Saved By A Poem pgs. xxi-xxii

Friday, November 19, 2021

  3:20 PM - Mid afternoon, and almost the nighttime, almost Shabbos.  it should be enough time to shower, put up food, get dressed and do other logistical Shabbos prep.  But I live largely in an internal world.  I have a poem I need to enter in a contest. And other writing, thinking, processing, sharing to do...

3:28 PM - Printing a parsha poem I just edited... Printer is warming up...

3:33 PM - Poem submitted to haiku competition:

I had posted it here, then realized there may be a rule that it can't be on a blog...

Parsha poem printed.  And reposted on Facebook.

Rabbi Avraham Aryeh Trugman fully develops Yaakov's wresting match and its consequences.  he stresses maaseh Avot Siman LeBanin and writes:

"No matter how many times we may fall short of the mark, no matter how many times we revert to a lesser spiritual level, the name Israel awaits us, for it is our birthright and destiny."

4:13 PM - Time flies (you can't/they go too fast) (inside reference).  Three minutes to candle lighting. Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

 6:39 PM Mo"Sh"K - I feel like it is not said, cannot be said often enough.  Why do I sometime sfeel, around certain people, like I'm the only one who remembers that there was/is a pandemic? I want to be be in denial too, but the truth rises to the service, the proof, the undeniable evidence that some thing major happened.  A friend of mine really thinks not much of anything happened, people that got sick and died really went through that because of some other health issue and not because of what he calls a minor thing, and I call The Plague. 

At this moment I want to write about it, and don't want to write about it. And so I will pause and look up a submission that is past due, but maybe I can still do...

11:59 and Beyond - Saw a play, very well done.  Spent time chatting with friends.  Was nice.  Tired, wanting to share Torah...

Saturday, November 06, 2021

 8:11 PM - Praying for others. Introverting.. Just back from Shul, though Shabbos ended a while ago.  Shul was beautiful and meaningful.  I got a package on Shabbos I'm curious to see...

8:17 PM - Playing this music - - soft instrumental music relaxes me, thank G-d.  I opened the package.  Funny with ordering things, sometimes you order and it takes forever to come, and sometimes you order and - like this time - it comes the next day.  I just lit two scented tealights - soy ones, I think it's my last two.  I was reminded of them by the package, which was a box of unscented soy tealights.  

8:22 PM - Someone at Shul told me they're watching a new movie.  I recalled reading a positive review. Double checked- 94% on RT.  Reviews matter to me.

I heard a theory recently that extroverts are under stimulated and introverts are over stimulated. This is why introverts need to recharge and rebalance and calm down by having time completely alone.  And this explains why extroverts are always looking to get energy and stimulation from others, even if it's just one person.

8:43 PM - Been sitting the whole time.  I read over this past year that sitting for 20 minutes without getting up and moving does damage to our body and getting up undoes the damage.

8:55 - My phone now has me at 124 steps for today.  I walked a good deal more (my estimate is around 6000 steps, as I went across my neighborhood, and also got several flights in).  I doesn't count Shabbos steps... I t was good to just take a break.  Emailed a friend.  Put up some water to boil eggs.  Life is like a song, the song doesn't exist till you put the pieces together. 

9:19 - Time goes, everything takes it. Just cup up some salad, which I find time consuming, but worth it, but time consuming.  I heard an icebreaker today- loosely related to the parshah (Toldot) - what is a food you really love (I said salad) and as much as you love that food what you be willing to give it up forever for (I said for move even keeled-ness and inner peace).

I just boiled eggs and did that method of cooking them slightly and then leaving them in the hot water. This is supposed to help avoid them getting grey in the middle.  Maybe they'll congeal more by sitting- the one I tested/tasted was a bit less done than I prefer (but I wonder how much I really mind that it was not well done and how much I'm projecting onto myself the opinions of others).

9:28 PM - I may break rom here for a while,, I think I may write in my private diary, among doing other things I need to do...

10:07 PM - Hiding and revealing, that's what I do, here, in general.  Is it what we all do? I guess to some extent.  We all also breathe, but we don't all hyperventilate.  We humans do the same things but in different proportions.  Years ago I was uncomfortable with someone's anger and people said to me, "Everyone gets angry." And that's when I came up with that hyperventilating line.

10:59 PM - Been sitting straight once again, too long...

Have mixed feelings about sharing here, mixed feelings in general... welcome to my world.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

8:42 PM - I have never succeeded in stopping time, not even for a second. Just thought of that, wonder if it could be a haiku:

I've never had luck
with my hopes of stopping time
not for one second

Poetry is funny in a not ha-ha kind of way.  The ideal is to say something that because of the artistry is more than the words.  But sometimes what happens (and what I fear just happened) is that in order to fit it into a poetic form imprecise words are chosen and the message gets changed.  

9:01 PM - In college I was assigned a book called Stop Time. it was a reading assignment given for a writing class, because the teacher felt that it was a good example of you could write about anything and it would work if you wrote well.  Personally, I didn't get through the book, but I like the title.  And it just came to mind.

9:25 PM - Listened to voice messages from a friend, responding to my voice messages.

9:56 PM - Running to Maariv/Shiva visit (feeling good at moment)

After Midnight (though the post will say 11:59 PM- because it still feels like Thursday night... - Visited with young mourner after Maariv, then walked and talked with a friend, then walked on my own while checking phone (11,829 steps today, TG. BAH/PPP) had a bowl of bought chicken soup, watched an episode of Taxi, time for bed.

Good night and G-d bless.

Monday, November 01, 2021

 Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher started the modern idea of restarting korbanot, starting off a leading to Moshiach, etc.He wanted the key Rothschild at the time, who was frum to buy back Israel.  Rothschild said no, but he kept trying, to Montefiore and others.  He was a traditional learned Rav, took over his father in law's Shul, was there for 50 years.  Was a big T"Ch and also knew philosophy (as many Rabbonim at the time did, including Rabi Akiva Eiger, who he learned under) and the knowledge all mixed together. The Old Yishuv supported being there for learning only.  But R Kalisher wanted more to happen, Jewish Settlements. He wrote w Chasam Sofer and R"A Eiger, big correspondence. He wanted the korbanot to be done. 

- This is some of what I learned from Rabbi Dr. Dovid Katz's wonderful, recent podcast episode.  He does about 3 a week on davening, parshah, history, and more.  Recommended.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

 What to write and what not to write is a theme of mine, and it is broader- what to show, say, do, and what not (whatnot)? 

On the seventh day G-d created the Sabbath and rested.  But it's a mistake to say that He did nothing that day.  And when we keep the Sabbath, and whenever we rest, are still, are not doing a formal job, or earning money we are not doing nothing.

As long as we live
we are not doing nothing
as long as we live

A couple of months ago a little girl in an elevator said to me, "You're an old man." Ouch. I experience lots of ouches around my age, and more specifically around people's assessments and judgments regarding my age.  More recently I asked a computer technician about what he was fixing for me and he thought and asked aloud how he could best explain it and then came up and out with, "It's like having a house filled with stuff and there's no room for your grandchildren to play, and so you add more space."  What did you say, Sonny?. 

Brings to mind years ago when a woman in Macy's was trying to sell me a credit card.  No, I said.  Perhaps for your wife? she asked.  That made my no stronger.  Also coming to mind is last year when I was treated indelicately around getting a colonoscopy.  In the pre-op room I was asked many rapid fire questions , with pressure to answer quickly, or have the question answered for me.  When asked who my contact person was, I wasn't so much asked as told that it was my wife. 

Which reminds me of a routine of mine (I hold the title of NY's Funniest Rabbi. It's the name of the blog): People meet me, often as Rabbi Fleischmann, and they ask, "What's your wife's name?"  When I reply that I don't have one, they sometimes explain, "I mean your Rebbetzin." I reply to this (in my imagination, and on stage) that I understood the question, adding that I'm single, not stupid. 

I like newspapers. I wonder if it started because my dad was into regularly reading newspapers.  I grew up thinking that most people were, but looking back I don't think they were.  And today newspapers are not in.  But I'm into them.

I don't know how people read all or even a lot of what's in the papers.  I have a hard time reading a lot of it.  Reading in general is an issue for me, I love doing it, but it is work, doesn't come easy.  Strabismus.  I recommend a video via the NY Times, that's on YouTube.  This guy teaches about his strabismus and about strabismus in general. He calls it Whale Eyes, because, if you have strabismus then, like a whale your eyes each see something else... I was hoping when I shared about it on Facebook I'd get a lot of support around it and responses, and that did not happen. 

I just got the news of the sudden passing of a friend.  We knew each other and shared mutual friends.  This year out of the blue he reached out and asked about staying somewhere so he could be in YU for Yom Kippur. I had the honor of hosting him in my apartment.  The levaya (a better word than funeral, means escorting) is tomorrow. May he be blessed as he transitions...

Please G-d, I will learn and pray in his merit.  I had more I was thinking to write, but need to pause now.

Friday, October 22, 2021

After Seeing The Lehman Trilogy

 Over the years I've written after I've seen plays.  it's been a couple of years now since I've seen a play.  last night I saw The Lehman Trilogy.  it's unusual, remarkable, creative, thought provoking, touching, and funny- and shocking.  It's also vey Jewish, filled with actual Hebrew words, like Hashem over and over again, and the full text of the brachah of Vhanukah candle lighting, and Kaddish recited again, again.  And it includes a young boy asking his Rebbe why G-d had to do the makkot against Egypt and not just kill Pharoh. It shows how over 100 years the keeping of shiva and shloshim (those words are used) got knocked down to less and less... until it's time to say kaddish for the business.  It's about how in the 1800s it's a store selling things and then it moves away from that until it's unclear what's being sold other than words. It includes a speech about the company's goal becoming to get people to buy, and what it means to buy: to think that you're getting something, when it's an illusion, and the one getting something is the seller of nothing really, who gets your money. 

It has 3 actors who play men, women, and children- covincingly.  The eldest brother to me was the strongest presence, the most inhabited by the actor.  The other two (of the 3 brothers) (does the trilogy somehow represent the 3 brothers - if it did, I think the 3 parts would match if you jumbled their order) are also strong, just not as strong.  On the night I saw it one of them misspoke and corrected his words a couple of times, while in the other two's acting I saw no such chink in the armor.  This is not to say that he was not excellent, he was. The actor I'm thinking of (I'm confusing in my mind if he was middle or youngest) reminded me a lot of Stan Laurel in is essence and in how he spoke, moved, was.  These men were incredible in how they climbed and danced on stage, moving and morphing for three hours.

Worthy of note is the one in a million stage.  I thought years ago that the stage of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night Time was incredible.  This one is beyond that. It's a metal and glass box that turns, and I wasn't always sure when it was turning or wasn't, and I wasn't sure when the actor was talking to me (as his character, or- often, as a narrator talking about about the character from inside the character) from behind glass or from a section of the cube that contained them that was not a wall of glass but a wall of air. 

And there's live piano music being payed throughout, which sounds as I write this like it shouldn't have been there, but while watching the play it felt like it belonged there and was at least part of the glue holding it all together.

I am grateful to G-d for having seen a play, particularly this one, last night.  As the eldest brother in the play says several times, "Baruch Hashem."

Thursday, October 21, 2021

הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין

This is a bundle of original insights that I feel blessed to have thought of. But enough about my thoughts, what are your thoughts about my thoughts?
In Avot it says (or at least it’s usually translated as saying). To be patient while making judgment - הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין

I’m thinking about how the words actually mean to be patient in judgment (בַּדִּין/be’din). Maybe this means stay patient while inside of judgment, living and experiencing the Divine expression of judgment.

This could be seen as flowing to the next statement of this series of 3 statements, "and stand up many students" וְהַעֲמִֽידוּ תַּלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה. If you are patient while experiencing G-d's aspect of judgment (traditionally taken to mean a harsh, hard experience), then you should teach this trait to others. Alternatively, it can mean that you will automatically inspire others and make them upstanding in the is regard. 

This then flows to the third and last statement of the mishnah: And make a fence of protection around the Torah, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה. This can be taken as a consequence, that by creating a community of people who are patient with G-d's judgment, the Torah is protected. Or it can be an exhortation, persevere in this approach, in this revolution, in order to preserve the Torah. 

The way the use of the "beh" at the start of a word that is translated as regarding, but literally it means in, is something I've thought of before in regard to the words, נַפְשִׁי חָמְּדָה בְּצֵל יָדֶךָ, my soul longs to be in Your hand’s shade said at the start of Anim Zemirot (it's interesting to me that this prayer about the longing of the soul is in first person, which is rare, and one of the other examples of a prayer/song in first person also focuses on the longing of the soul- Yedid Nefesh). I think these words don't mean that my soul longs to be in Your hands shade, rather- my soul longs for you (while I am) in your hand's shade. 

Here are two thoughts I have regarding what it means to be in the shade of G-d's hand. It could mean being under G-d's hand, which is offering us shade and protection and comfort, or we are in the shade of G-d's hand which is approaching to reprimand us. This parallels the statement in the universally known 23rd psalm that "G-d's rod and staff comfort me," שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֜מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי which (I forgot who, maybe rabbi SR Hirsch, says) can be understood to mean that I take comfort from G-d's care, both in the form of his his shevet, used to chastise, and his staff, which literally means the stick he offers for leaning on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

8:35 PM - Someone told me they saw my blog (this one) recently and were taken by how openly I share. Doesn't feel like so much/so open to me. I have to much to say that I hold back nevery day...

8:47 PM - So much to do. Not easy. How does that Gemorah go? That a person doesn't leave this world with half his desires filled. And desires gets a negative rap, but I think here it means things one wants to do in life. And I think if we remember that it can help us. We would be less disappointed not getting all we want if we remembered that no-one does. Brings to mind the opening of The Road Less Traveled. The author (M Scott Peck - feels like yesterday, I remember where I was when I first bout and read the book) starts with the words "life is difficult." And then he says that once we accept that life is difficult, it becomes a little easier.

8:57 PM - I'm watching TV on the computer and a contestant on a competition show is telling his story (there's always a story): How he resented his good parents who adopted him and wanted to and eventually met the parents who had his eyes. I have had some experience with adopted people and my heart has gone out to everyone involved. It makes sense that the adoptee will long for the parents, but it's sad if that gets in the way of appreciating the parents who raise them...

9:01 PM - I want, need to exercise. My phone has clocked 9000 steps for the day, and I'm proud of that. And i want more.

In recent years I've exercised more than I have my whole life, particularly if you count walking as exercise (most everyone does) (except for the woman who tried to shame me into going to a gym by dismissing my walking).

Last night I, uncharacteristically, wrote a letter to the owner of a restaurant I go to often. Found his email on line. Had an awkward exchange with 2 workers around my order. He called me today and told me that he didn't sleep well, that I'm like family to him. Wow.

8:14 PM - The Nesivos Shalom cites the Medrash on the pasuk that reports Avraham saying to the young men that accompanied him to the Akeidah that he was going to bow and then come back:

"All is in the merit of bowing.

We are never told that Avraham actually bowed on the mountain of the Akeidah. The entire act of what he did was one big bow of self abnegation before G-d. Our purpose in life is to humble ourselves before G-d. And that's what Avraham did at the Akeidah.

There are three times in the history of the Jewish People when bowing was key, in a metaphorical way, humbling ourselves before G-d. 1 - When we left Egypt. 2- When we got the Torah. 3 - For all future redemptions. The key for us in our lives of service is to bow, in the ay we live, to annul ourselves before G-d.

This relates to another piece of Nesivos Shalom, where he says:
“Whoever possesses these three things, he is of the disciples of Abraham, our father; A good eye, a humble spirit and a moderate appetite.”

As a rule, when Chazal mention the number before listing things it means that they are all one thing (as opposed to when it just list things, without telling you the number of the whole unit).

Here, these three things come down to one thing, and that one thing is self abnegation - bitul hayeshut. Having a good eye means you see the good in others and this happens because you are not caught up in yourself. A humble spirit and moderate appetite speak for themselves in terms of being about self abnegation.

And these three things that are one are the foundation that allowed Avraham to pass his ten tests. Just has he had ten tests in his life, we each have ten such tesys in our lives. And the key to getting through them is via these three traits that all come down to one thing.

The reason it mentions disciples is because these were the 3 essences of Avraham that he taught regularly and modeled to others.

9:22 PM - I want to go on the treadmill.  Resistance. I walk outside more than on the treadmill.  But the other day I did a half hour, and it was helpful.

9:36 PM - I am thinking about a technical point: What to do while on the treadmill, other than the obvious.  I tend to listen to things, music or talk. Watching something has proved more challenging.  

10:15 PM - Been sitting watching, cooking, going to eat, not going to do treadmill tonight I don't think.

May G-d bless you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Last week, at outdoor Mincha/Maariv (which I call M and M, and a friend of mine told me that M and M is used for Dr's meetings in hospitals- named for about morbidity and mortality, which are largely about covering themselves) I had some thoughts about davening, one prayer in particular, and it turned into a poem.  I was thinking of posting it here and them decided to put it on my poetry blog -

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Great Song By Chaim Dovid

In one place in Shmoneh Esrei we praise G-d for lovingly redeeming the descendants of the The Avot for he sake of his name.
In another part of it we ask G-d to “speedily redeemm us for the sake of Your Name.”

How do these 2 parts of the same orayer fit together?
Is the first talking about a partial process and the second asking for completion?

Is the first one an attempt to influence G-d, as it were, as if to say, don’t make liars for having said you’re doing this?

Can you identify these two times that we speak of redemption of the Jewish People for the sake of G-d’s name?

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Good Night and May G-d Bless

* Earlier in Day - Whatever woke up in me a week ago when Facebook crashed is still up and running.  I am inclined to blog.  Very few people see this, despite the availability to billions of people- and it's better for me that I don't think about that potential about the billions. Push and pull that's what I do emotionally and physically.  I want to be see and I want to hide, to be left alone and to be sought out...

** Later in Day - I am taken by the way that Chasidus takes things that are hard to understand, and shows it to be meaningful in a way you don't at first see.  One example - making a fence around the roof of a new house. The Nesivos Shalom explains that if this was just meant to be a safety precaution regarding property it need not be a house, and it need not be a new one. He explains that the house is our body, us.  The roof is our da'at/connection/intent. This works smoothly with the house situation. It's less smooth in situations about humans.  Regarding Avraham going to Mitzrayim Nesivos Shalom says that he went to an impure place in order to purify and prepare it for us, the Jewish People for when we would be there. He says that even the challenging episode of having Sarah say she was his sister and be taken by Paroh was part of an effort to bring the antidote to the lowness of Egypt as preparation for when the Jewish People would be there. May we be blessed to be protected by the ways that were paved and purified for us by our forefathers.

I wrote on FB today about movies I saw with people over the years, which I don't think they remembering happening.  Will share here upon request.  Maybe.

I also shared, yesterday, a list of about 4o places that I know people from who wished me happy b'day on FB.

I listened to a podcast tonight, in which a Rebbe of mine was interviewed.  He cited the phenomenon of dark nights of the soul, which for him means when big and hard questions plague him, attributing it to St. John of the Cross, and neither he not the interviewer blinked. 'Twas meaningful to me.

I have work to do, other than this, hopefully holy work.

Good Night and may G-d bless*

*Red Skelton's Farewell

The time has come to say good night,
My how time does fly.
We've had a laugh, perhaps a tear,
and now we hear good-bye.

I really hate to say good night,
for times like these are few.
I wish you love and happiness,
In everything you do.

The time has come to say good night,
I hope I've made a friend.
And so we'll say May God bless you, 
Until we meet again.

- Red Skelton

NY Times Headlines

 Some interesting (to me) headlines from today’s NY Times. Mindboggling how many important and fascinating things are journaled every day.

Covid was the most common cause of recent duty-related deaths among U.S. police officers. Even so, police unions are fighting vaccine mandates.

The Brooklyn Nets barred Kyrie Irving from all games until he is vaccinated.

The F.D.A. authorized three vaping products, saying their benefits of helping people quit cigarettes outweigh the risks of hooking young pe Doctors should no longer routinely prescribe low-dose aspirin as a preventive measure, an expert panel said.

The novelist Sally Rooney declined to sell translation rights to an Israeli publisher, citing her support for Palestinians.

The House passed a short-term bill to lift the debt limit, temporarily averting default.

Meteorologists think they know what went boom over New Hampshire on Sunday.

Selma Blair Wants You to See Her Living With Multiple Sclerosis.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at 50: What Was the Buzz?

Beanie Feldstein Feels It All in ‘Impeachment.’

And some obituaries, that caught my eye, from recent days:

Ruthie Tompson Dies at 111; Breathed Animated Life Into Disney Films.

Dottie Dodgion, a Standout Drummer in More Ways Than One, Dies at 91

Robert Schiffmann, Inventive Guru of the Microwave, Dies at 86

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

I Put Pressure On Decisions

* A young man recently told me that Rabbi Ayeh Kaplan was a Breslover Chasid.  No.  He translated the collection of stories, I believe during his lifetime.  And then other things came out after he passed.  I remember after he passed, haring the news from a yeshivish cousin.  Three years ago I visited hakever and have a picture of the matzeivah.  It mentions mussar and other conventional things, but does not call him a Breslovr Chasid, because I'm sure he wasn't. 

Rabbi Kaplan did write about meditation, and felt that davening is meant to be meditation. It is not the mainstream practice, but it makes sense to me. The thought came to me in regard to Baruch She'Amar and how the word baruch is repeated over and over.

As I've said before, I often feel that writing is helpful to me.  And yet.  (I'm ever grateful to Nicole Krause for modelling for me that "and yet" can be a full sentence.  There are things that maybe it's better to write privately.

And having said that I will proceed for now to keep writing here: I long to feel connected to G-d.  I get moments.  And then I want more of those  moments. And part of me knows/believes that to have closeness you need to have distance.  And highs can't be all the time.  And yet. 

** It's five to seven PM.  I'm in the YU library.  Not everyone is allowed in.  I showed proof of vaccination, and got an up-to-date alumni ID. The rule is that you have to wear masks here.  I'm wearing one.  Fellow on my left is not.  Of the two people sitting behing me one is and one isn't.  Young woman and man in front of me are not wearing masks.  We are in a time that makes sense and doesn't, so that explains that.  What do we know? What do we understand? 

*** And now it's a bit later.  Thinking.  It's interesting to me that Noach and Avraham are each introduced at the end of one parsha before they get their own parshah. It's a big deal to be reintroduced to Avraham every year. 

 "After the birth of Terach, Nachor lived 119 years and begat sons and daughters... When Terach had lived 70 years, he begot Abram, Nachor, and Haran.

Is Terach the first person in the Torah to name his son after his father?

**** Now it's much later.  and I have so much to write, not write.  i'll just share a short poem, that's a kernel of something that's a big deal for me in my life, and wish you good night and blessings from G-d.

I put pressure on decisions
more than they pressure me,
expecting them to transform
how everything’s going to be.

Going to, PG, share this on my poetry blog.

Monday, October 11, 2021

* Very early AM - I had a strong headache yesterday for an extended period of time. Then, finally, it faded, though didn't completely disappear...

I am grateful for physical and emotional feelings that come and that pass.

I wrote an acrostic alphabet poem today and a few of the lines, I think, were strong. Like this none:

Depth in simplicity is a deep, not simple, thing.

One of my favorite ways to learn and to teach is through words and images that seem simple but somehow capture deep ideas.

I want to be grateful. I am grateful for that

** Mid Morning - I wish I could be outside all the time, it makes me feel good/better. Writing to some extent uplifts me, but in a different way than being outside. I wonder what the philosophy of Henry David Thoreau is actually like. Of late I think of him and his being outside for living and, I think, walking a lot. i dream of walking and walking and walking, outside, outside, outside.

Sometimes in life there are things to do. We (I ) assume that the spiritual life I want is found in tranquil meditation and the like (Torah learning, teaching, etc.). Lately I have been called repeatedly by responsibilities small and large. the message may be that taking care of the nuts and bots of seeming physical life is a big part of true spiritual service/derech ha'avodah. So now is a time to pause from writing for doing.

*** Late Night

Today was my birthday and I received blessings from people I know from about 40 different places.  Thank G-d.

So much to say/not to say.  May G-d bless me and you and each of us this year.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Another Sunday Morning

 After a long break, my recent return to blogging continues.  It's Sunday morning and the world is perfect/imperfect.  There's a book I like called Don't you know it's a perfect world? by Sarah Shapiro.  Feels like yesterday when I discovered that book 20+ years ago and was so taken by it.  I recently committed to writing a review for a newspaper of the same author's latest book: An Audience of One. The hard part about writing the review is finding the right words.  I could just write something like- as a human being and a Jew, I loved this book. And you should too, I think it may need more/other words.

It's almost 11AM now and there's an online shiur I want to go to, and I need to/want to eat, and I owe a dear friend an email responding to an email about having missed my email, and- and, and, and, and...

In the middle of a deep shiur by Rabbi Avraham Aryeh Trugman, based on his book, Seventy Faces.  He is discussing the letters of the Torah in a deep way.  May I, and all who hear his Torah, and all who are touched by it be moved and changed by it in a positive way.

Now he's up to questions.  In my experience he always answers my questions when I write to him. And introvert that I am prefer discussing privately.  Questions and answers after a class can be an extroverts game, though sometimes I will feel comfortable asking questions, particularly if I feel like that will be my chance and time to do it and it may not be doable via email, private meeting, etc...

R Trugman is kind and generous. At almost an hour and a half he's still taking lots of people's questions and comments.  My dad of blessed memory felt strongly that often questions during classes were statements.  but I think the benefit of doubt way to look at it may be to understand that some people ask questions my seeming to make statements. 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Four In A Row (I'm Counting)

* In The Morning - So much to write, such a big part of my life, whether or not it gets published, whether or not it gets read.

So much to eat/so little to eat. Since man and woman were created eating has been an issue.

Covid is underrated, particularly psychologically. We are all living in traumatic times, and I was not one to say that pre-Covid.

**In the Night - A friend,who has worked for years in hospital management, once responded to my complaint about Drs. not doing much or being very responsive to me. He said that they know what it looks like when someone is very sick and when someone is not very sick they are happy and therefore don't pay much attention. Not sure I buy that, or grant them a pass, or can really unravel that logic. But there's something there I understand. it is a blessing not to be sick, like really sick.

Today I have not been feeling well. So, I got tested for Covid. Somehow, for some time, and to a degree still now, I and others have acted as if the only illness that is real is Covid. May G-d bless me to feel better, and anyone who is not feeling well too. The blessing on Covid, May G-d keep Covid far away from us.

Here's something I cited here 8 short years ago:

"One of the many things I love about books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence... I often seek electronic books but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can't feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight. They can get in your head but can't whack you upside it." 
- Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club, pg. 43

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Hat trick/Chazakah

 I'm starting to type at 8:43 PM, have a Zoom Yahrtzeit gathering at night and a friend said he's getting back to me before then.  meanwhile I have writing/typing to do.  it soothes me to write.  Harnd writing is better, but clicking the keys as fast as I can, which is not that fast, also has some healing power of release for me.

Years ago when more people, like people I don't know, as in an audience of visitors read this blog someone commented when I mentioned having watched The West Wing. It was a judgmental comment, at least that's how I judged it.

That made me think of this:

"Judgmental comments"
come across as judgmental
based on our judgment

I write a lot of haiku, have another blog where I've posted/stored well over a thousand of them.  Also share them on Facebook. I did.  Till this week when Facebook crashed in the world and inside of me.  There's been a series in the WSJ anout FB that I read an article about yesterday in the NYT.  The times' writer says that Facebook is failing, falling.  Could be.  What do I know? He said that in the recent hearings when politicians questioned the Facebook people they were trying to call them on their stuff.  But it looked to that journalist (for me the word journalist is to the word writer kind of like what the word educator is to the word teacher.  The former sounds inflated and fake, the latter sounds like the real deal. when Nechama Leibowitz said to put only one word on her tombstone it was teacher.  Is there even a fancy/fake word like educator in Hebrew?)

It's almost the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Jonathan Sachs.  I was not taken by him, the way many people were, while he was on this plane.  After he moved forward in worlds i gave him more of a chance and was moved by much of what he wrote and how he wrote it. one example: "We live life looking forward, but we understand it only looking back." That's from Judaism's Life Changing Ideas, page 43.

The 9PM Zoom has started and the person doing it is needing a moment, so I'm taking a moment, or more than one.  may multitask and write here, even while at the Zoom Yahrtzeit.

Lately my eyes have been feeling tired, and looking tired, and there's been some kind of a twitchy thing that started and has lasted for a bit.  May G-d bless my health in general and my eyes in particular. It's been a few years since I saw an eye Dr, and I wasn't so pleased with how that went (though I was grateful for a clean bill of health).

It's the tenth Yahrtzeit of my friend's mom.  It's beautiful the way she pays tribute.  An old dear friend, a woman probably in her seventies, maybe eighties is remembering my friend's mom's zaniness, and her poetic soul.  She remembers missing a Sweet 16, and my friend's mom not going to the party till after she visited her and made sure she was OK.  She remembers her as super athletic, in The Leader's Club, in H.S.

Balance and boundaries are not easy for me.

On the Zoom I see what it looks like when I touch my hand to my chest, to my heart. I do that as a way of showing feeling: empathy, gratitude, care.  Earlier tonight a teaser, who also happens to be a prominent rabbi, made fun of that gesture of mine. I wish I could learn to not be hurt, or be less hurt, by the things others say and do to me.

Yageil libi biyeshuatechah, is interpreted by R Shlomo Katz, rifing on his mentor, to be about rejoicing in the future.  He says it implies that if you believe that you will rejoice in the future, you can choose to rejoice now.

11:30 PM - Signing off, I wonder who might ever see this, thinking that very few if any people look here.  And yet this is now going out there.  Good night, and may G-d bless you.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

The Day After Facebook Crashed

*A student of mine (DW) once told me that with ADHD comes a superpower/hyper-focus, a zone. Mine is writing.  I pray to G-d to write in a way that is good for me and is good for the word.  I think that second part may involve people reading what I write.  Though, I do like the idea of being a stone in the river, and the idea that somehow by writing I affect the world even without people reading it.

I wonder who will ever read this.  I believe we are approaching the 17th year of this blog, and there's a lot here.  Years ago I rented a place in Israel in the summer for six weeks.  The woman landlord asked what I was doing and I said I was writing a lot.  She saw me sitting and writing all the time.  Then one time she asked me when I was going to start writing, because to her it meant publishing in a book or paper, etc. Sigh.

I like the writing of John Green, who recently turned his still on going podcast into a book.  He did a piece on the podcast about the experience of signing his name over and over for every copy of the first printing of the book:

"As the sharpie loops around the J and scribbles out the rest, you think- maybe the signing is most of all an attempt to acknowledge the connection that must be forged for any book to work. It's not much, but here is a piece of paper that was touched by both reader and writer.  Here is an attempt to say thank you, knowing that someone is out there - wherever they are - has helped you to feel less alone in this loneliest time."

The piece I just now cited bring, in part, to mind, the poem The Lanyard, by Billy Collins - the part about this is to say thank you... And about it being a small token of thanks up against an indescribable reality, an enormous thing that can't really be articulated and certainly not repaid with a token.

There is much to say, but I am going to do something other than sitting here and writing (I'd love to have a standing, moving desk) for some time now, need to.

Some headlines that I may or may not write more about- two people who approached me after davening this morning, a person that called me yesterday in great stress about life, a person that called me last night about a school related situation they wanted to know if I could help with, my friend in the hospital who I hope to visit asap, Facebook being down yesterday from mid-morning till into the night and how that led me away from there and to here.

** A friend of mine is in the hospital and I spent a while with him today, and saw another friend who is the hospital chaplain.  Meaningful.  There is so much to say, not to say.

*** At trader Joe's this evening I was told that their apple cider vinegar is not kosher. So I explained to the nice worker that a u inside an o is a kosher symbol, and not just the k in the o.  That made us both happy.

**** I heard the same approach to the Dor Haflagah on Rav Dovid Katz that I later learned in Nesivos Shalom.  They each cited the Ran and riffed on him in their own way.  The ran says that the problem was that bad people united together and though the uniting was not bad in and of itself it was going to lead to bad things. Rabbi Katz applied this to history and present realities and how countries unting together can lead to piece and other good things also can lead to collaboration with bad intent.  The Nesivos Shalom notes that Hashem's name, the name that connotes kindness is used every time He is mentioned in this story. This is because what G-d did for them was a preventative measure and an act of kindness.  (A friend of mine asked a good question. G-d always knows what will happen in the future, the bad that can come, doesn't He? So why did he alter things here to prevent the negative outcome, while He doesn't always do that?) 

Monday, October 04, 2021

Social Media Down

* OK.  It's been proven that I'm addicted to Facebook.  We're a few hours in to a crash of Facebook (yes, still down. I just checked.  Again.  And I need to write somewhere.  (If I was my blog I wouldn't believe any of the following:)

I have been thinking about my blog a lot lately, and how I've always liked it better than Facebook.  I miss blogging.  

** I was looking for my phone all over.  Then I sat down at my desk, stopped looking, started working on computer.  Next thing I know my phone was in my hand (I vaguely remember picking it up off the desk with no thought) and I was using it, and i forgot b- till I remembered that I had been spending so long, just before, looking for it.

*** Thinking about Noach. Like Avraham, soon, and Pinchas, later, Noach is introduced at the end of one parsha, before he's mentioned again the parsha normally associated with him.

At he end of Breishit we're told that G-d saw "how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time." "And the L-rd regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened." And the Torh says that He said, “I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created—men together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I regret that I made them.” And right after that Parshat Breishit ends with this line: "And Noah found favor with the LORD."

My dear friend Rabbi Shamai Wahrman had an observation that I'm going to riff on:

G-d, as it were, had a project, and it went really badly.  He's frustrated and says he has to scrap the whole thing.  But there's one small percentage of the project that is great. And before scrapping the project and saving the one tiny good part of it, comes this: "And Noah found favor with the LORD." He stopped and enjoyed the good.  And this is modelling for us.

**** Typing now, hours after I started writing here.  On the phone with a computer guy who is helping me, please G-d.  He got rid of a virus, is helping me get 16 more gigs of RAM...

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Rav Shlomo Katz - Hoshea Es Amecha הושיעה את עמך | Dedicated to Rabbi Dr...

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Thinking of Dad

Toward the top of the list of my gratefulness to my dad has be the time he jumped off a high up deck into a pool and saved me from drowning.

But something else is visiting my heart now:

Being in assisted living (it's called assisted living, but it's a place where you are assisted more than a place where you are living) went against dad's grain.

Dad spoke to his best friend Wolfgang (aka Johnny) every day.  And we spoke every day. One day before we hung up, he said, "Alright, my friend," which was how he signed off with Johnny. He quickly and with apology in his voice corrected himself and changed friend to son. 

But there was no remorse needed for that, the opposite.  The fact that my dad felt comfortable to slip out of calling me son, and to speak to me as he did to his friend meant the world to me.

Maybe you'd understand better if I used more words.  But there are only a few more words coming now:  When dad was vulnerable and I was there for him, and he could even for a second move out of his well worn dad mode with and call me friend rather than son was a giant gift from G-d.

Friday, January 29, 2021

 I was blown away by this shiur and hope many people get to hear it and be moved by it.  It's largely about how G-d visits us today, taps us on the shoulder and talks to us - done in Rabbi Fohrman's unique, holy style.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Sunday, September 27, 2020

I take in a lot of movie reviews.  Have been doing so since I was a young child (9? 10?). Hearing about Father of the Bride 3 coming out reminded me of reading the review in the NY Times on the Friday before the aufruf (pre wedding Sabbath) of a dear friend.  Remembering that brought to mind watching the review of When Harry Met Sally on the news (the reviewer didn't like it very much) on the morning of the wedding of another dear friend. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

LeDovid Hahem Ori


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

May we all stay healthy.

Ironic, I was sick right before Covid.  January, starting with winter yeshiva break.  Some kind of virus. Had fever.  High.  Unusual for me.  It started with throat and coughing and severe weakness.  I was alone.  It was hard.  I missed work.  It moved into my ear.  I went to several ENTs.  I learned the phrase Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. It wouldn't leave my ears.  I was feeling off balance from it and was very frustrated.  After Covid came I was separated from people, from germs.  Due to where I worked i was officially quarantined for two weeks.  Have been on some level of isolation since.  And it's helped.  My ear eventually healed. I had five months - poo poo poo - without one of my lifetime regular virus/infection kind of things in throat, ears, etc.  Last week, I somehow started to have cold symptoms.  Could I have caught it from the locksmith who I had to call because my key wasn't fitting in my lock? It had to have been some passing contact, as for the most part, I'm holed up here, alone.  My throat was burning (similar to but not as horribly intense as in January), I was coughing up phlegm, achy, feeling sluggish and feverish, though it never went high.  I reached out to my Dr.  Took tons of supplements. Finally I went to a local emergency room, having been told they would test me for Covis and give me results in 15 minutes.  What's that saying about things sounding too good?  It wasn't true.  They turned me away.  No Covid test for you, they said.  They said they weren't testing people from outside who came to the ER, only insiders - workers and patients. So I rode to an amazing ER in Jersey.  Uber.  That's another whole story, another place to casually catch Covid.  This Jersey place did an X-Ray and told me I didn't have pneumonia.  The next day they confirmed that my Covid test came out negative, though that test showed that I had Rhinovirus Infection, which was the cause of my cold.  So I'm still resting on on the supplements after a week (which included 9 AV).  Please G-d I'm on the mend.  May we all stay healthy.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

In the mishnah in Avot, Raban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yrhudah HaNassi says, "Be careful with government, because they only get close to a person for their own needs, they act like they love you in the time that they benefit from it, and they do not stand up for a person in his hour of need."

I looked at a bunch of commentaries, and here's some of what I found:

This needs to be balanced and fit together with some other statements in Avot: "Pray for the welfare of the government because without fear of them people would eat each other alive." So it's a balance between praying for them because we need then on the one hand and not being naively trusting of them on the other hand.

Previously, Shmaya said "Love work." Raban Gamliel follows that up by saying that work is good when it accompanies the study of Torah. Shmaya said to hate being a communal leader, and Raban Gamliel adds that you need to be a community leader, but to do it for the sake of Heaven, and to keep the spiritual side of things in mind. And Shmaya says not to align with the government, and again Raban Gamliel amends that sometimes you have to but the key is to be wary.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Some people give off a vibe of, "Do not mess with me. My vibe is more like, "Hey, you can pour soup in my lap and I'll probably apologize to you." - John Mulaney

Monday, July 27, 2020

A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thought and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears,
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years .

- Shel Silverstein (published posthumously)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

I like reading things where people share honestly of their struggles. I like to do the same. And yet part of me holds back. Why? Maybe because of many reasons, including my fears, and including some disproving feedback I get about sharing.

Aviva Zornberg asks why Moshe tells the JP that he didn't get to go into Israel because of them. Why does he tell them this? On the one hand, traditionally, it is taken to be a case of him expressing anger at them. But in context and given who Moshe was this may be unsatisfactory. Zornberg suggests that Moshe is in a new phase of being the teacher of the JP. He was always half in heaven, didn't want to come down from the mountain. Now he knows his time as leader is limited and that he's not going into Israel. So he makes himself vulnerable. He shares something personal. Because to be a good teacher/leader it has to be a two way street. I remember in March 2020 when Andrew Cuomo started sharing his briefings, what people talked about was the way he spoke of himself and gave examples from his own life about his mother, daughter, brother. I'm thinking about this now as I sit on a Sunday morning, during Covid, alone, swearing to you and me that te most important thing in my life to me is to be close to G-d. And yet I have twenty minutes left till the deadline of Shacharit time and I'm, for some reason, resisting.

I davened (no outdoor minyanim in my neighborhood) by sof zeman tefilah,

Several years ago I attended the Herzong week of Tanach shiurim in Israel and loved the experience. This year, due to Covid, they're doing it online. I thought it would be live, but it's not. And it seems that they're all being put up on Youtube, so you can watch whenever you want. The one I tuned to at 9:30 was given by someone who comes across as arrogant. I went to a class of his live, and managed to lock in and learn. But when given the option to pause the computer that demeanor was a literal turn off for me. I'm now going to try the 10:30 presenter. I am reminded of a time that I saw R Noach Weinberg walk out of the BM after giving a shiur. A woman complimented him on his presentation. His response was, "It's some Torah we have, isn't it!?"

I just listened to the start of Erica Brown's presentation on Sefer Yonah. Perhaps I'll return to it some time. Here's my notes on the very beginning of it:

Yonah was called by Thomas Payne, in Common Sense, “a fit story for ridicule.” Gustav Dore, artist, 1880s, Bible scene depictor, did one of a prophet preaching, that is supposed to be Yonah but makes him seem typical. He was not typical. In Bickerman’s Four Strange Books of the Bible he says it’s different than any other prophecy, not similes or mystical terms, but a cut and dry statement without embellishments. In John Gardener's Self Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society,he writes of how people tend to want to run away from themselves in one way or another, not wanting to know themselves,depend on themselves, live with themselves.”By middle life, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves.” Yonah went through anguish, being a fugitive from himself, and as it were from G-d.

It's almost 12, in a few minutes I have training on line. It may be overpriced, but works for me, for now.

Maybe I'll write here again soon.  Maybe someone will read it.  maybe someone will let me know he or she read it.

Maybe I'll write here again soon, maybe I won't.

I do wonder if anyone reads or sees this.  I've shared a lot here, and still do, but much less often.

May G-d bless and protect us all in this time of Covid and always.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

One student's answer (2011/12) to, "State one thing that you will take from this class into life:"

I learned that haiku
are not merely seventeen
empty syllables

A Meditation For Jews (Author Unknown)

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical sensation
is a symptom of a terminal illness.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

"To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before." -- Rollo May

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

All kinds of roses grow in my garden
All kinds of creatures run on my land
All kinds of children play in my yard
So many feelings flow through my blood

All kinds of people make up my life
All kinds of faces show me their love
All kinds of lanterns light up the dark
But there's only one God has a place in my heart

- Steven Demetre Georgiou (adaptrd)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all,

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, May 24, 2020

  • R Tzadok HaKohein, G-d introduced himself to the Jewish People as the G-d who took us out of Egypt because in Egypt we were on a low level and He the first thing He wants us to know is that we can always connect and return to Him no matter where we're at.

  • ר' צדוק הכהן מלובלין - פרי צדיק דברים פרשת ואתחנן

  • וענין של זכרון יציאת מצרים שהוזהרו עליה כמה פעמים הוא כדי שלא יפול האדם בעצמו אחרי שיחשוב וידע נגעי
  • לבבו ושלא יתייאש חס ושלום על זה בא זכירת יציאת מצרים שאף שהיו משוקעים שם בקליפה כל כך כעובר
  • בבטן אמו מכל מקום הוציא ה' אותנו משם וכן יעזור ה' יתברך לכל מי שירצה לשוב באמת. וכמו שאמרו
  • )שיר השירים רבה ה', ג'( בני פתחו לי פתח אחד של תשובה כחודה של מחט ואני אפתח לכם פתחים שיהיו עגלות
  • וקרוניות נכנסות בו. ואומרים בשם הבעש"ט זצ"ל אך שהחודה של מחט יהיה מפולש מעבר לעבר עד מעמקי הלב.
  • וזה הענין שהוזכר במאמר אנכי ה' אלהיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים. ורבים הקשו למה לא אמר אשר בראתי
  • שמים וארץ. והרמב"ן ז"ל כתב שביציאת מצרים נכלל מציאות ה' וחידוש העולם והשגחה עיין שם. ולפי הנ"ל הוא
  • כי במאמר אנכי שהוא כנגד כתר עליון כמו שמובא )זוהר ח"ג רנ"ו ב( אנכי ביה כ' כת ר וכו' שזה מורה שישראל
  • קשורים בשורש לזה נזכר יציאת מצרים להורות שאף מי שמשוקע חס ושלום בכל מקום שהוא מכל מקום זרע
  • ישראל לא ידח ממנו נדח מאחר שקשורים בשורש בה' יתברך ואם אך ירצה לשוב לה' ולדבקה בו יעזרהו ה'

  • יתברך כימי צאתנו מארץ מצרים:

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Amazing video about a teacher/class publishing process. And how she brought them each their stuffed animal version of their character.

Thoughts on Shavuot - Attributed To The Editors of the Jewish Week, May 2011

If the Revelation at Mount Sinai was arguably the pivotal moment in Judaism, its commemoration — Shavuot (June 8 and 9 this year) — has oddly become a private, almost obscure affair compared to its fellow heavyweights on the holiday calendar.

Everyone in town, even on television, knows about Passover, its sibling holiday. Almost all Jews speak of Pesach and Passover interchangeably. But like an old Yiddish relative, no one really uses or even knows Shavuot’s English name: Feast of Weeks? Pentecost? Really, who in the family ever calls her that?

It happens every spring, the model seders all over town, the search for analogies to the Exodus story in other cultures; Passover is up there with Chanukah when it comes to public awareness of basic laws, from matzah to menorahs. On Shavuot, all the more odd for a holy day commemorating Mount Sinai, there are almost no laws, only customs.

But like an elderly relative, those that know her tend to love her and the shared moments. There is an intimacy to the all-night study sessions and the sublime weariness as the sky begins to lighten. There is a charm to watching little children, as in the K’tonton story, stare up at the midnight sky, waiting to see it “open.” There is something relaxed about a Shavuot picnic, as unpretentious as a plucked banjo, in contrast to the opera-like formality and weighty symbolisms of a seder — lovely in its place but who can imagine doing another one seven weeks later?

And yet, that old relative has stories, if not laws, of her own. It’s a day of Yizkor, so light a candle for all the other relatives, no longer here, and for King David and the Baal Shem Tov, too, who died on Shavuot. The holiday was also a pivotal day for the Hungarian Jewish deportation of 1944. It’s a day for the bucolic romance of Ruth, the quintessential holy convert, and its messianic lessons.

Shavuot has seen a lot, and not all of it pleasant. And yet, perhaps the happiness of Shavuot flows from how the broken pieces of the shattered Ten Commandments always shared the ark with the set that Moses didn’t break. That’s what the old relatives want us to know, that we’re family, all of us, the broken ones and the holy ones.

Tell the old stories. Stay up late. Watch the sky lighten.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Against the Illusion of Separateness

By Pablo Neruda

There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song -- but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny." The great Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda was only a small boy, just over the cusp of pre-conscious memory, when he had a revelation about why we make art. It seeded in him a lifelong devotion to literature as a supreme tool that widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Poetry In The Age of Corona

Keep your eyes out for the seventh line, starting with "although" which is where this (new and timely Covid-19) poem takes a turn.
By John O’Donnell
And when this ends we will emerge, shyly
and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace
loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those
it gathered in its shroud. A kind of rapture, this longed-for
laying on of hands, high cries as we nuzzle, leaning in
to kiss, and whisper that now things will be different,
although a time will come when we’ll forget
the curve’s approaching wave, the hiss and sigh
of ventilators, the crowded, makeshift morgues;
a time when we may even miss the old-world
arm’s-length courtesy, small kindnesses left on doorsteps,
the drifting, idle days, and nights when we flung open
all the windows to arias in the darkness, our voices
reaching out, holding each other till this passes.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Colleague: I like baby names that come from the Royal Family. 
Me: Like Dovid and Shlomo?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

If you are in search of spirituality, you have it.  If you believe you already have it, you have lost it. - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Do Unto Others, page 162

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Sabba HaKadosh (Z"YA) of Slonim cites the 4 categories of physical things in the world:

Domem- Inanimate- stones, etc.
Tzomeich- Growing- plants, etc.
Chai- Alive- animals
Medaber- Speaker- people
His added insight to this is that we have to travel up these four levels in our connection with G-d.
We start on the flat ground, with foundational faith.
We grow from there, expanding on the basics of faith.
Then our faith becomes something alive.
The highest is when our faith becomes a conversation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Hevu Zehirin BeRashut

Like so many other lusts, the lust for power holds out a promise of bliss, and inevitably results in bitter disappointment. - Raabi Abraham Twerski, Growing Each Day, Tevet 16.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Make Sure Your Questions Aren't Answers

One may question as long as one seeks emes la'amito, the absolute truth. But one must be extremely cautious to resist the bribe of our desires, which distort our thinking and make falsehood appear like truth.  - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Dear Rabbi, Dear Doctor, page 179

It's Probably Not Just One Thing

There may be more to the patient's complaints than what appears to be the obvious psychiatric diagnosis. - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Who Says You're Neurotic, Preface

On Birthdays

I think that one of the reasons we celebrate birthdays is to attempt to overcome the otherwise depressive nature of the day that would from the awareness that another year of our lives have passed into history, and too often we are neither wealthier nor wiser than we were a year earlier. We have come just a bit closer to the ultimate end lives. This is too depressing a feeling, and we escape this by celebrating, which is a rather good defense.

If, however, life is perceived as a process toward a goal, then the passing of time need not be at all depressing.  Quite the contrary, if one is on a long journey, one feels happier as one gets closer to the destination.

- Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Generation to Generation, page 31

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Acharei HaPeulot...

I have nothing against meditation and similar practices. But I'm not at all certain that the method of working from the inside out is the most effective. Some people advocate another method. "Act whatever it is you want to become. Act spiritual and you will become spiritual." This method may not be quite as easy, but it is certainly likely to be more effective." - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, When Do The Good Things Start, page 126

Saturday, February 15, 2020

To Be Wise You Need Borrowed Minds

Someone who has a mind of his own is a fool. The Talmud teaches that a wise person is someone who learns from any and all people, thus, he has a piece of everyone else's thinking. A fool learns from no-one, so he truly possesses a mind all his own (Rabbi Baruch of Medziboz). - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Smiling Each Day, pg. 173

On Emunah

Emunah means believing that Hashem is absolute kindness. It requires belief because our human minds don't perceive this. - Rabbi Abraham Twerski, I've Gotta Get Out Of My Way, pg. 181

Pre Purim Thought

We believe that there are many miracles which we mistake as natural phenomena because the Hand of G-d is concealed.  To symbolize this, we have hamantaschen where the sweets are concealed. Rabbi Abraham Twerski, A Taste of Nostalgis, pg. 228

Wednesday, February 05, 2020


By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

At the end of the Torah we read the poem/song of He’ezinu, which speaks about how G-d will never destroy the Jewish People, how despite difficult times we will survive and redemption will arrive. It is in that context that the command is given to write down “this song,” which means that the whole Torah must be written, because of the song that it contains. It also means that the Torah is one long song.

In Jewish tradition a shir (song/poem) captures a moment of clarity and divinity relating to the past, present , and future. The whole Torah is a prose poem, but the specific song poems that appear in the Torah are concentrated expressions of truth, saying things with broken lines (when asked what poetry is Rabbi Menachem Froman said that it is broken lines) and rhymes, in a way that can’t be replicated longhand.

There is an element of song that applies to every Shabbat. In Jewish tradition songs are sung at moments of clarity. Shabbat brings a stronger connection to G-d than other days of the week. The week culminates in this day of connection. On Friday night we sing the “Song of Shabbos,” which mentions Shabbat in its title, while in its content it does not mention Shabbat by name but enumerates what Shabbos is all about - how truth, gracefulness, righteousness, and happiness come from connection to G-d. And in the prayers of Shabbat day we sing the prayer called Nishmat, which speaks of how the song of all living beings ought to sing gratefully (and gracefully) to G-d, and this is a celebratory song unique to Shabbat. Some say that Nishmat (The Soul Of All That Lives) is song in honor of the extra soul and extra soulfulness that we receive on Shabbat.

Parashat Beshalach includes Az Yashir - The Song of the Sea. Like many languages Hebrew has just one word for both poetry and song. Thus, this is the first poem/song of the Torah. So, it’s appropriate to ask, what makes this - or any poem - a poem?

It is worthy of note that there is no consistent, repeating rhyme scheme here in Az Yashir, so clearly that’s not what makes it (or any poem) a poem. One thing that is clear when one looks at Az Yashir in a Torah scroll,or in most versions of the Chumash, or in the Siddur (from which we recite this song daily) is that the words are spaced in an unusual way. Some suggest that he way the words are laid out is meant to look like the pattern with which bricks are laid, reminding us of the brick work of Egypt from which the Jews were freed. Others see the sea, with the sun shining across it, in the way the words are spaced. Today this is called concrete or shape poetry.

Another thing that makes Az Yashir a poem is the use of similes and metaphors - soldiers falling like rocks in water, G-d as a man of war, etc. One more example of poetic style here is the use of alliteration, with one line featuring five words in a row that begin with the same letter and sound (Amar oyeiv, "Erdof, asig, achaleik.").

Understanding a poem is an uphill battle, much like spreading appreciation of poetry is not easy. But it is important to remember that all of the Torah is a poem, and that daily and on Shabbat we recite the poem of Az Yashir and other poetic songs.

This week's Shabbos is called Shabbos Shirah, but the Nesivos Shalom says that every Shabbos is Shabbos Shirah. And this one is just more intense, the Shir HaShirim Shabbos.

May we be blessed to appreciate Az yashir and other poems of our tradition, like Nishmat, Anim Zemirot, Ashrei (and the rest of Tehillim) and so many more. Maybe pick one and make it yours, memorize it, carry it in your pocket, say it in intense times.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Me and Mike B

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I've been rereading this for years and never noticed the neigh in neighboring before.

The neighing horses
are causing echoing neighs
in neighboring barns

-Richard Wright

Sunday, December 08, 2019

From the archives

TUESDAY, JULY 05, 2005

My Name Is Natah

"Ya'amod!" Traditional Jewish men know that when this word is sung in your
direction in Shul you're supposed to fill in the blank, then say your blessing over the Torah.
The moment when you tell the gabai your name for an aliya has always been awkward for me because my name is Natah. That's nun-tet-ayin.

Natah sounds like Natan, which is a more common name spelled nun-taf-nun. But it's a word of a different feather. If Carnegie was right that the sweetest sound to anyone's ears is their own name (and I intuit that he was) then the reverse is true, that the sourest sound to anyone's ears would be the mangling of their name.

I was thirteen when I first heard a gabai mispronounce my name as Nasan (Ashkenazic for Natan). I got in the habit of pronouncing the last sound of my name in a hard guttural way, as Sfardim do. But mostly gabaim still heard Natan. So I started doing it spelling bee style, "Natah, nun-tet-ayin, Natah..." "Yamod Nasan!"

To Be Continued...

From the Archives

MONDAY, MAY 30, 2005

In Light of Mussar: Remembering Rav Wolbe Part 1

During Pesach Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe passed away. Rav Wolbe was a baal mussar, unique in our time. He served for over 35 years as mashgiach - spiritual guide at Yeshivat B'er Yaakov. Around twenty -five years ago he left that yeshiva to set up a beis mussar in Jerusalem.

The word mussar is often misunderstood. Telling someone off is called giving mussar. The association is negative and innacurate. Mussar books are studied at short set times. This is at variance with the Mussar Movement.

Rav Yisrael Salanter (1810-1883) was the founder of the movement. The doctrine of mussar taught techniques for spiritual character growth based on traditional ethical literature. This was more than academic study.

Mussar was was done rather than studied. It included exercises such as keeping track of behaviors as deliniated in the classic work Cheshbon HaNefesh , specific activities to strengthen character, and repetition of phrases that profoundly affect the soul. Mussar addressed
personality and ethics from a spiritual perspective.

The anonymously written Orchot Tzadikim-Paths of the Righteous explained mussar with the image of a string of pearls. While each pearl is valuable, the knot at the end holds it all together. The mussar perspective is that connection to G-d, through awe and love, is the thread that holds together all of the character work we do. (This is different from approaches within psychology which omit or dispute the G-d piece of "self help.")

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter established the beis mussar as a place for holy work, where people went to "do mussar." Over the years the beis mussar, along with the general idea of mussar as a practice, has mostly fallen away. Rav Wolbe and his beis hamussar provided the exception to the rule.

I hope to continue my thoughts on Rav Wolbe and on mussar soon, please G-d.

For an essay on Rav Wolbe by Rabbi Francis Nataf click on this link.

When Rabbi Yosef Dov Solovetchik was giving his shiur-class when he was older and weaker, he paused on day at the end and said how much he appreciated the people who still came to hear him. And he quoted the saying that more than the calf needs to drink, the mother needs to nurse.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Less people should be like most people. - Hank Larson

Saturday, November 30, 2019

I think I fixed it so that comments can now be received, so if you've tried and it didn't work, try again.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Modeh Ani

Every day is Thanksgiving
In G-d's world, in my mind
Every day is Thanksgiving
If we thank Him all the time
Every day is Thanksgiving
By Neil Fleischmann

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

From Mosaic: On Zelda

Zelda Was One of the Greatest Modern Writers of Religious Experience in Any Language

Lauded in Israel but unknown outside, Zelda’s poetry provides an alternative to the desacralized cosmos in which most of us live.

NOV. 26 2019
About the author
Michal Leibowitz is a Krauthammer fellow at Mosaic.

In the world of modern Hebrew letters, some names have achieved international recognition: from S.Y. Agnon and Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik to, more recently, Amos Oz and Yehuda Amichai. The names of others, whose contributions to Hebrew literature may be no less significant, tend to resonate in smaller, more localized circles.
Among the latter figures is the poet Zelda Shneerson Mishkovsky (1914-1984)—known simply as Zelda to her many devoted readers in Israel. Indeed, her place in the world of Hebrew letters is secure, having been recognized through the award of both the Bialik and the Brenner prizes, two of Israel’s highest literary honors. That place is also unique: more than three decades after her death, Zelda remains one of the greatest modern writers of religious experience—in Hebrew or in any other language.
Who was she?

Zelda’s renderingof religious experience was undoubtedly informed by her early life. Born in Russia in the waning days of the tsarist empire, she spent her first decade under the new dispensation of the Bolsheviks. Her formative childhood environment, however, was the world not of Communist atheism but of Chabad Ḥasidism. Zelda’s first cousin, older than she by a dozen years, was Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who in 1950 would become the seventh leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty: the “Lubavitcher rebbe.”
At twelve, Zelda emigrated to mandatory Palestine with her family. The Schneersons settled in Jerusalem (“bejeweled in the sun,/ smiling like a bride—”), where she would spend most of her adult life. Nor did the spiritual world of her early years ever leave her. She remained devoutly religious her whole life and would often allude to ḥasidic themes and symbols in her poetry. That poetry depicts a world of divine sparks and miracles, a world in which God is at times a living entity, as solid as a human lover or friend. But hers is also a world of profound loneliness and isolation, a world in which death maintains an unshakable presence and God is often hidden.
Zelda’s father died about a year after the family’s move to Jerusalem, and her grandfather soon after. In Jerusalem, she attended a religious girls’ school and then the Mizraḥi Teachers’ Seminary. It was while a student at the latter that she first began writing and publishing poetry in newspapers and magazines.
Over the next two decades, Zelda lived in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, teaching Hebrew to new immigrants, caring for her ailing mother, and working as a teacher in an elementary school. Even as a teacher, she brought her radiant vision to her work, calling small kindnesses—like lending an eraser, or handing out drawing paper—“making sparks.” Among her second-grade pupils was Amos Oz, who many years later, in his 2002 memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, would write:
[Zelda] revealed a Hebrew language to me that I had never encountered before. . . . A strange anarchic Hebrew, a Hebrew belonging to stories of the pious and to ḥasidic tales and folk parables, a Hebrew overflowing with Yiddish, violating every rule, mixing feminine with masculine, present with past, noun with adjective—a sloppy, even muddled Hebrew.
But what vitality there was in these stories! When a story was about snow, it seemed written in words of snow. And when it was about fires, the words themselves burned.
Despite her pedagogical gifts, Zelda felt teaching stifled her poetry. When she married Ḥayim Aryeh Mishkovsky in 1950, she gave up teaching and began writing more intensely. Still, it wasn’t until 1967—after much urging from her husband and friends—that Leisure, her first book of poems, was released. She was fifty-three years old.
Leisure launched Zelda from near-anonymity into the heart of the Israeli literary world. Some of the excitement was undoubtedly due to the novelty of her biography, but her work also gained attention for breaking poetic ground. Ignoring the genre boundaries and rhythmic patterns that then still largely governed the writing of Hebrew verse, her work, as the singer Chava Alberstein would observe, sounded a “new melody on the Hebrew poetry scene.”
From 1967 onward Zelda published prolifically, releasing a book of poetry every three to four years. Her second book, The Invisible Carmel (1971), was dedicated to the memory of Ḥayim, who passed away shortly before its publication. In the following years, death—always a major theme—became even more prominent. Her preoccupation with mortality led to one of her most brilliant poems, “Heavy Silence,” a meditation on language, meaning, and grief.
Here and throughout, the translations are by Marcia Falk in The Spectacular Difference: Selected Poems of Zelda (2004):
Death will take the spectacular difference
between fire and water
and cast it to the abyss.
Heavy silence
will crouch like a bull
on the names we have given
the birds of the sky
and the beasts of the field,
the evening skies,
the vast distances in space,
and things hidden from the eye.
Heavy silence will crouch like a bull
on all the words.
And it will be as hard for me to part
from the names of things
as from the things themselves.
O Knower of Mysteries,
help me understand
what to ask for
on the final day.
Few would have expected Zelda’s poems, which, like this one, brim with allusions to biblical and mystical texts, to resonate with readers across all segments of Israeli society. Yet she was never exclusively either a “poet’s poet” or a “ḥaredi poet.” Indeed, each of her six books was a national bestseller, and the ranks of her admirers included kibbutzniks, soldiers, yeshiva students, and academics.  Her verses have been put to music in popular Hebrew songs, most notably by Alberstein, and one poem in particular, “Each of Us Has a Name,” is a frequent feature of Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies in Israel.
It is true, however, that today, despite her popularity, she is more likely to be mentioned by the keepers of advanced Israeli culture as a token curiosity (“Israel’s first religious female poet”) than as a serious literary artist. Nor was she ever recognized with the Israel Prize, the nation’s highest cultural honor. In 2004, the literary critic Alit Karper wrote in Haaretz that “Twenty years after her death” from cancer, “Zelda is mainly a very forgotten poet.” And outside of Israel, as I noted at the outset, her work is virtually unknown.

Countless forces contributeto the making of a writer’s reputation and cultural longevity, some of which have little to do with the actual work. (The Canadian scholar H.J. Jackson once listed such fame-enhancing factors as dying young, having a politically contentious youth, and living in a pretty, pilgrimage-friendly place.) As for Zelda, one might speculate that her work has been overlooked in part because her poems seem so simple.
In contrast to poets whose work cries “Decipher me!,” Zelda’s poems—particularly those rooted in concrete images—exhibit a straightforwardness that makes them approachable despite their often antiquated language, minimal punctuation, and erratic line breaks. Thus, a poem titled “The Crippled Beggar 1” is about a crippled beggar; another, called “Strange Plant,” is about a strange plant. Nor is this an artifice: according to her translator Marcia Falk, Zelda’s poems “are never put-ons, never show-offs, and above all, never artificial. . . . They seem, rather, to have been born whole and delivered to us in a single breath.”
This accessibility is one of Zelda’s greatest strengths, for her poems can be read and appreciated by readers of various skills and levels of Jewish literacy. But the fact that her poems do not declare themselves as difficult has undoubtedly led some who should know better to dismiss her work after skimming only the surface. Take, for example, the following untitled poem:
In the morning, I thought
“Life’s magic will never return,
it won’t return.”
Suddenly in my house, the sun
is a living thing,
and the table with its bread—
And the flower and the cups—
And the sadness?
Even there—
Simple enough. The poem contains no obvious allusions or impressive formal displays, and its main technical achievement seems to lie in its use of abrupt line breaks that, in emphasizing the moment’s transience, curtail any hint of sentimentality.
But, as always with Zelda, there is more here than meets the eye. In her system of personal symbols (other instances include “The Sun Lit a Wet Branch,” “The Old House,” “Strange Plant,” and many more), gold is associated with light and divine presence: a connection most likely adapted from the kabbalistic idea of the infinite light of God overflowing through metaphysical emanations to the lower human world. In this poem, the idea of an impassable gulf between the earthly realm and the realm of the divine is openly challenged. God, Zelda suggests, can be found not only in the synagogue but in the small nouns that make up our world: the table with its bread, a bunch of flowers, cups.
But there is more. The quiet lines “and the table with its bread—/ gold./ And the flower . . . —/ gold” are borrowed, nearly word for word, from Kings 1 7:48-49, a passage describing the golden table and vessels in the Great Hall of Solomon’s Temple. The terms, almost seamlessly incorporated into the body of her text, carry theological weight, implying not only that God is present in the mundane but that discerning the divine in the mundane is in itself an act of worship.
Embedded within this unassuming poem is thus a distinctively ḥasidic theology, an alternative to the desacralized cosmos in which most of us live. That theology is communicated through reference to Judaism’s sacred texts, deployed so deftly as to be nearly invisible. Zelda’s work can be read and enjoyed without knowledge of her specifically ḥasidic background, but it cannot be fully appreciated without a sense of her religious world.

In this sameconnection, it’s important to stress that some of the best notes struck by this poet of religious experience reflect the moments when that experience fails to line up precisely with theology. Take, for example, “Who Can Resist the Beauty of the Light”:
I bore my anger to show to the light,
seeking comfort in its beauty,
but I was not worthy in its eyes,
I was not worthy in its eyes.
“Why is your life dark?” it said.
“You are not in the depths of the pit.
This must be a lack of love.”
And I wept.
I wept deeply.
Like many of Zelda’s poems, this one has a patina of childishness. The poem is filled with simple contrasts: light/dark, comfort/disquiet, life/(intimated) death. As in a children’s story, the light speaks. As in a nursery rhyme, the poem doubles and repeats. But the simplistic structure and fable-like images belie the complexity of the literary and emotional framework.
Most obvious in this respect is the reference to Psalms 88:7: “Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit, in dark places, in the deeps.” This psalm is itself one of the darkest in that biblical book, its mood described by the religious historian Martin Marty as “a wintry landscape of unrelieved bleakness.” Unlike other psalms dealing with themes of death and abandonment, Psalm 88 is essentially nineteen verses of unmediated gloom—which makes it a fitting background to the emotional state of Zelda’s speaker.
Other allusions in the poem are similarly apparent only in the original Hebrew, and then mostly to readers deeply familiar with Judaism’s foundational texts. Since this presents a common problem in reading Zelda’s work in translation, we may pause here for a word about Marcia Falk’s efforts to overcome it. Although her renderings excel at conveying the intimacy and simplicity of Zelda’s work, more subtle references are sometimes elided. Here, for instance, the word translated by Falk as “my anger” (רגזי) might better be rendered as “my disquiet.” The phrase appears in Exodus, Proverbs, and Job, among other places, but its root form appears most notably in Samuel 2 19:1—together, significantly, with a form of Zelda’s archaic “ואבך” (“and I wept”), another highly inflected word in the poem.
This is the only verse in the Bible in which both words appear in conjunction, and at a moment of extreme intensity: “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept.” The verse marks the start of David’s lament for Absalom, perhaps the most famous of all biblical expressions of grief: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Yet the context of the king’s outcry—in particular, the fact that Absalom was killed as he attempted a coup—is sometimes overlooked. In fact, the lament is itself followed by a considerably less famous passage in which David is reminded by his nephew Joab, who is also the commander of the royal army, that had Absalom lived and the coup succeeded, the king’s wives, sons, daughters, and servants would all have been slaughtered.
In other words, “Absalom, O Absalom!” is an expression of inappropriate grief. And it is precisely in that sense that Zelda’s references to Samuel align her “I” with David. Like David, Zelda’s speaker senses that her grief—or at least the depth of it—is misplaced, uncalled-for. She mourns, like David, but believes she ought not to. Her life is dark, but she, like him, is not truly in the nethermost pit.
Also critical to understanding “Who Can Resist the Beauty of the Light” is some knowledge of the Chabad approach to grief and joy, and in particular Chabad’s emphasis on divine providence: the belief that, for the faithful, all that occurs is ultimately the result of God’s benevolent care for us. Complete trust in that benevolence allows an individual to welcome suffering with joy and love, for everything has its origin and its end in God, the “Infinite Light” invoked in the poem’s title.
For Zelda, these ideas were not abstract theological concerns. The death of her husband Ḥayim left her bereft. Even years later, many of her poems describe the pain of widowhood. As letters exchanged between her and her cousin Menachem Mendel Schneerson reveal, the opposing spiritual valences of suffering and grateful happiness were at the forefront of her mind. At one point, Schneerson writes, “From the spirit of your letters, I get the impression that though I keep writing you to take a more joyful perspective, . . . my words have made no mark. . . . But I will persist, and repeat myself even 100 times, and you will forgive me.”
Despite these urgings, Zelda was unable to subsume her pain in faith. Her poems suggest that she saw this “lack of love” as a spiritual failing. And that brings us to the core of “Who Can Resist the Beauty of the Light,” which lies precisely in the speaker’s sense that she has failed to live up to ideals she feels are impossible but cannot relinquish. Caught between what she believes (all that occurs is the result of God’s will) and what she experiences (darkness and pain), the speaker’s only recourse is tears: “And I wept./ I wept deeply.”
In less skilled hands, that thought, along with the poem that expresses it, would have tipped into sentimentality, or blasphemy. But Zelda navigates the tension with grace. By suffusing her lines with words from sacred Jewish texts and Hebrew liturgy, she creates a work that, even in its angst, reads also as an expression of stubborn, stiff-necked love. If “Who Can Resist the Beauty of the Light” does not end with a reevaluation of the speaker’s disquiet, neither does it conclude with a rejection of the light. Instead, pain stands alongside belief, neither one dislodging the other, neither one offering resolution.

Religious experienceis notoriously difficult to express in words. The reason may owe in part, as Wittgenstein suggested, to the difference between how we use and relate to religious language and how we use and relate to everyday speech. In part it may also owe to the fact that the most meaningful religious experiences are often characterized by paradox: think of the medieval Christian mystic Julian of Norwich’s vision of a small hazelnut that somehow also contains “everything that is made.”
Of all the possible modes of linguistic transmission, perhaps the one uniquely suited to the expression of religious experience is poetry—precisely because of poetry’s capacity to convey paradox, holding multiple contradictory ideas open at the same time. It’s therefore unsurprising that almost all of the Hebrew Bible’s most moving expressions of religious experience derive from the poetic books: Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Job, Song of Songs, Proverbs, Lamentations. These are not the texts that give us answers, but the ones that best present our questions while assuring us that we are not alone in asking them.
Like those biblical books, Zelda’s poetry speaks to the tension of a lived religious life, the places where theology and experience refuse to meld. In her work, the divine is at once radically immanent and hopelessly distant. Death negates human instrumentality, but also allows for the discernment of wonder. A righteous God permits the faithful to suffer.
Theodicy, suffering, redemption—it’s all there. And that is what entitles Zelda’s work to a place at the center of the modern Hebrew canon and to be recognized for what it is: a masterful expression of religious experience that, refusing both blasphemy and sentimentality, offers instead a form of prayer.