Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On Trees

Trees

Related Poem Content Details

By Joyce Kilmer


I think that I shall never see 
A poem lovely as a tree. 

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; 

A tree that looks at God all day, 
And lifts her leafy arms to pray; 

A tree that may in Summer wear 
A nest of robins in her hair; 

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; 
Who intimately lives with rain. 

Poems are made by fools like me, 
But only God can make a tree.
________________________________________

    What would you do if you were growing up one hundred years ago in New Jersey and your name were Joyce? You probably wouldn't think twice about it. Joyce is a pretty common name: unless you're a boy. Then you might find that there were some guys from the south side of New Brunswick who thought it was pretty funny. And then you would have two options: you could either become a fighter or you could become a poet.

    Fortunately for America, Joyce Kilmer decided to become both. He was a daring young fighter in World War I, killed in action defending his fellow soldiers. Before that he was a gentle poet.

   While serving on the staff of the new York Times , he wrote a small collection of poetry. No doubt it would have been far more extensivehad he not died at the age of 31.

    ...Maybe when Joyce looked at a tree he truly understood that what he saw could not have been eloved by a simple, undirected flow of nature. It was far too beautiful, far too wondrous, and far too harmonious with the rest of the world to have developed by accident. That is when he came to the realization from deep within him, that only G-d could make a tree.

   Now would he have thought of that if his name had been Irving?

From "The Jewish Theory of Everything" By Max Anteby. pgs. 61-63

WOW!!!

"The great enemy of communication is the illusion if it." - Willliam H. White

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.

HOTD

One day in hunger
I won't turn to food or drink
I will turn to G-d

Inspired By Haiku Horizons

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I'll Be Your Water

By Keb Mo

One of my first posts ever was a poem/song by Keb Mo.  Here, 14 years later, with gratitude to G-d for still being here (and here and here) I share more of his lyrics, which I just learned.

Do you ever get worried
And your load is hard to bear
And your life is like a sad sad story
No one nobody really cares?
But if you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
I've been there, I've felt like you do
Feelin' like winter would never turn to spring
And everybody I know has got problems
But there's a solution to everything
And if you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
And after you've found your way
You won't owe me nothin'
'Cause you're gonna know that your well
Will never run dry, never run dry
If you ever need someone to talk to
And if you ever need a helping hand
I'll be your ship out, your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand
I'll be your water and I will give you shelter
I'll be your water, I will be there for you
I'll be your ship out on the ocean
I'll be your water in the desert sand

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis tells the story of how he came to be a Rebbe in BMT (and be my teacher):

"I didn't have a job for some time after we arrived in Israel in July. I applied for a job at a yeshiva called BMT, Beit Midrash LeTorah. It was summer and very last minute to apply for the coming school year. I went for an interview and they said they were fully staffed. Right before the new semester was about to begin in September he called me and said, 'Listen, this is the year of elections in Israel. The elections are in November. And there's one rabbi who is very much involved in politics. He wants to be free to get involved in the campaign for one of the religious parties. So I'm willing to give you a job from now until November.'

I told him I'd answer him the next day. I said to Henny, 'It's absolutely crazy to take a job from September to November. What if there's nothing available in November?'

She said, 'That's not the proper religious attitude. You have a job today. You're worrying now about November? Worry about November in November.'

So I took the job. And the person who went into politics decided he liked it so much he never came back to the yeshiva. And I was there for 20 years. "

The Story of Rebetzin Henny Machlis, pgs. 133-134

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy 14th Anniversary

I am grateful to G-d that today marks the 14th anniversary of this blog.  I'm typing this starting at 5:42 PM.  Just got home from work.  Starting feeling cold symptoms on Shabbos afternoon.  Been treating it with many remedies. I bought the stuff for chicken soup, now I've got to make it.  Work looms.  I am grateful for work.  I am grateful my dad is alive.  mom was when this startd but has been living in the next stage of life for almost 7 years now.  I hope her soul is ever-rising and is contentedly close to G-d.  I am grateful to Moshe Radinsky who first told me he thought a blog would be a good fit for me.  I am grateful to Esther Kustanowitz whose mini bio under her Jewish Week column inspired me to actually start blogging.  So much to say, but I need to get to the work of coming home after a long day of work and having a cold and needing to cook, eat, call dad, do work and and and and and.

I just got an idea. These are the things most searched for on Google today.  Maybe my blog will thus find a new friend.

Japan Earthquake, Justin Bieber, ABC News - Tulsi Gabbard, E! Online - Olivia Munn, Hollywood Reporter - The Weekend, Chalkbeat Tennessee school closings, FOXSports.com - Shane McMahon,  Nina Dobrev, Bustle - Happy Thanksgiving, Today.com, Tim McGraw.

Here's looking forward! Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Cubs And the Flood

I heard a wonderful drasha from Rabbi Steven Miodownik on Shabbos. He presented profound ideas masterfully and peppered the talk with one gematria after another, relating to his message, that equaled 108, which was relevant due to the Cubs' win.  The Cubs had an approach that included little details, which added up to their ultimate baseball success.  One example was that time was spent carefully deliberating whether a base runner should touch the base and turn with his right or left foot.

This stands in contrast with the generation of the flood, which was guilty of a particular kind of thievery called chamas (=108).  The stole such a small amount that it could be considered not stealing. but it counts, and it's wrong.  And it relates to the importance of chatzi shiur, small amounts, adding up and counting, and not being able to be rightfully used to wiggle out of responsibility.

The lesson that little things matter was driven home by how G-d reset the creation of the world. When the society that did not acknowledge that every detail, every piece counts was wiped out by a flood.  The flood of rain water was a conglomerate of tiny , seemingly insignificant drops, but they added up big time.  Water is so related to the idea of the whole being more than the sum of the parts, that there is no name in Hebrew for a single particle of rain. Mayim - the Hebrew water for water means waters; it is in the plural form.  Like water, Torah life is a collection of small parts that unite to become a serious critical mass.  Seemingly small acts of observance, a few words of prayer, or a little gesture of kindness all add up to create an enduring community.

This has been paraphrased by me, any inaccuracies, or mistakes, or lack of clarity is due to my re-processing of Rabbi Miodownik's beautiful ideas.

6 Poems of Rav Menachem Froman

I bought a book of his poetry the day I left Israel this summer. He has struck me.  At the same time that I've been working on the poems I've been learning through the new sefer of selections from shiurim and interviews, which affects me strongly in different ways each time I read from it.  i am comforted and impressed and inspired and so much more.  He was truly one of a kind, someone who didn't do something better than others, rather did something that no other could do.

One of his statement from the book that went right into me and has stayed with me is the following: Poor Iyov, he lost his health, his wealth, his family - everything.  And then Chazal come along and say he never existed.  That's the hardest blow of all, to have it said of you that your life did not happen. (I've paraphrased this from memory.)

Rav Froman lived a unique life and he continues to speak to us from beyond. I see his memory being for a blessing, and may it continue to be so.

I hope to keep, slowly, slowly processing and translating these poems. His poetic voice needs to be heard. Besides all else that he was, Rav Froman was a masterful poet.

-------------------------------------------------------

Due Process For Madness
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
It’s easy to let yourself forget
in the light of day, the way
of the madness of the night.
It comes as if self-evident,
like the light that conquers the darkness,
like the words that conquer the blank page;
they are all the same:
As much as they try not to be worn and torn
in the morning, of course, they just must
dress up so that they will be known
and make sense to others
or at least
to themselves.
Only in the middle
of the madness of the night is hidden
the wholeness
that cannot be divided,
completely yours.
This is the ancient lure
to be like G-d.

-----------------------------------------------------

And Then
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
Suddenly amidst the movement
you want to hold on to a fixed point
and just then in the middle of the confusion
you come to believe.
In the midst of the desolation
you find a fresh water spring
Amidst all this all of this.
You get up and say, "Thanks."

------------------------------------------------

Untitled 
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
Tonight
I go
to cover my little daughter
go to watch over this sleeping sweetness
wanting to protect this delicate breath
so that no harm shall befall her
for all days
for always
so that nothing bad should happen to her.
My daughter is named for my mother
and she looks so much like her
when she shuts her eyes in bed
eye for eye I see
yes, I tremble
her time of death.

------------------------------------------------------

Eilu HaDevarim - These Are The Things
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
Don't let things seduce you
Don't let things
Don't let books make you
Not books
Nor for experiences to force you
Not even poems

----------------------------------------------------

A Poem For Yom Yerushalayim: Har HaBayit Veyadeinu*
By Menachem Froman
(Translated by Neil Fleischmann)
In childhood of old there's a story we told
of two brothers who rose in the night
and tarried to carry bundles to one another, using their hands.
They went in private, so as not to embarrass.
In the place where they met, in the place where they
interlocked hands in silence
the Holy Temple was built.
Two with clean hands will ascend the mountain
One from this and one from that
At night, so as not to embarrass
They will raise their hands
In faith
Until the battle stops
and the war breaks.
When G-d returns
the Return of Zion
we will be like children
How it will surely be as once
carrying their bundles.

------------------------------------------------------

The Elephant In The Room :
A Love Story Between An Orthodox Woman and a Leftist Man
By Menachem Froman
(Translated By Neil Fleischmann)
In the dark
both of us
feel around him
with cleaving but without hope
I hold onto his dragged tail
and believe it is rope
You
grasp his large, widespread ears
and surmise them to be wings
After giving up we both conclude
that what we have
never happened at all
And it's not just
a metaphor. He is right here.
Now he gets up
huge, upon us, awesome
May he not trample us
May he not knock us over
May what we have
not end badly
I
lift my hands in prayer
You
hold him with two hands
My G-d, My G-d - maybe
he'll carry both of us on his back.

That’s the thing — my wife always says about compliments, she says, “Yeah, you accept them, but you don’t inhale.” - Michael Longley

Anniversary Look Back - Right Before Election 2016 - Trump Vs. Hilary

With my blog anniversary approaching  let's look back on posts via searching words and linking to the things I wrote a lot about, that included some key words.

BLOG

PURPLE

DAD

MOM

WORK

LOVE

PLAY

TORAH

HAIKU

WOW

FRIEND

PARSHA

LIFE

POEM

HOTD

Resonates


"Everything good in my life has come from choosing to be alive rather than afraid." - Jordana Horn Gordon

To Me A Wow

Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult. ~Julia Cameron

Saturday, November 05, 2016

What A Beautiful Thought

Tempus fugit. Time flies. And although Daylight Saving Time - which ends tonight - is kind of a fiction, I've always found something magical and even romantic in the idea that once a year, time stretches to accommodate us, providing another hour to eat, drink, listen to the literal and figurative music of the world, stay awake a bit longer to drink in, breathe in, absorb and appreciate more of the life that surrounds us and the time that flies, in life, way too quickly. You can spend it sleeping, too, of course. And no judgment if you do. But for me, the night where we "fall back" always feels like potential, hope, laughter, magic.

- Esther Kustanowitz

Fascinating Fact About Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky

"Personally, I have long been intrigued by the stories of siblings separated at an early age who rediscover each other later in life. Often, they learn how different they have become. One example is the reunion of the ninety-year-old Torah sage, Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky, who, after a seventy-year separation, rediscovered his sister in the former Soviet Union. He was steeped in traditional Judaism; she had become totally removed from any semblance of Jewish religion. When one of Reb Yaakov’s sons tried to explain to his long-lost aunt what her brother had accomplished in his life, she could only respond that it was a shame that a lad with such youthful promise grew up to become a mere melamed, a school teacher."
- Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Powerful Words from Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

I picked him up at the airport. He was arriving in Baltimore, where I was then a rabbi, to deliver an address and then return home to New York.
The plane was late, so that when he came, I told him that we would have to hurry to be at our destination on time. He was already showing signs of age, so that walking quickly was hard for him. We moved rapidly past the gates, at which other flights were disembarking, including one at which the arriving passengers were being welcomed warmly by friends and family.
That is where he stopped, transfixed. He could not take his eyes off the scene of the small crowds embracing and kissing each other tearfully and emotionally.
Reluctantly, he responded to my rude insistence that we move on, and together we rushed to his appointment.
He was Rav Avrohom Pam, of blessed memory, the late lamented sage, Yeshiva dean, mentor to hundreds of rabbis and scholars, and above all, gentle soul. When we finally were in the car and on our way, I asked him what it was about the airport scene that so fascinated him.
His response was the greatest lesson of the many I learned from him. “The saddest of all human happenings is separation,” he said. “And the most wonderful of all is reunion. Whenever I see people, of whatever religion or background, who are joyfully coming together after a long separation, I feel ‘spellbound’ (that was the word he used), and I must stand by and witness that pure innocent joy as long as I can.”
What a powerful teaching! Separation is the greatest human tragedy, although a very common one. Reunion is the greatest joy, rare though it often is.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

It's tempting to write a person's story for them and then dress them in it. And it's so wrong.

From the Archives

Here's a post from 8 years a go that just came to mind.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2009

20 Questions

This is a copy of the sheet I gave out before a talk I gave to the Kollel members who learn and train and teach in my school. Feel free to answer, comment, etc. Etc. is my favorite.
p
January 8, 2009 - Presentation to YU Kollel Members - Torah Guidance and The Classroom
20 Questions To Ponder By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
j1. Name reasons why someone becomes a Jewish Studies teacher/ Rebbe? What do you think the reason might be for you?
2. In what way is love of learning Torah a significant reason to become a teacher of Torah? What are the pluses and minuses of this factor?
3. How do you define teaching of Jewish Studies? What elements play a role in trying to answer this question?
4. What is your impression so far of this school's demographic and dynamic? How has your impression of what Jewish Education changed (or not) in your months here?
5. Where do you see hashkafa fitting in to curriculum in an ideal teaching situation?
6. Where do you see Halacha fitting in?
7. How much Gemorah should be stressed?
8. What are your thoughts on tracking? What have you noticed in this school about this and how has this affected you weltanschauung in regard to teaching?
9. With whom do you think a teacher must be most concerned with answering to? (A related/unrelated question: Whom do you think a teacher should be most concerned with receiving answers from?)
10. What are your thoughts and beliefs regarding different personality types/styles? Are you familiar with Meyers-Briggs or DISC? Do you think that Jewish categories such as a Chesed or a Gevurah type are relevant in a similar way to the categories of these tests? Are these differences important to note in regard to students, teachers, both, neither?
11. What are your thoughts about different styles of learning? Again, is this a question that should be focused on the teacher, the student, both, neither?
12. In what ways might it be positive or negative for students and teachers to talk outside of the classroom?
13. In talking to a student about religious matters or about anything what would you place as your priority one as you plan to meet the student and then have them sitting before you?
14. What are your thoughts regarding critical thinking and various types of students? How would you apply this to the most concrete and literal minded students?
15. How many teachers can you think of that you have positive memories about? What did/do you most want from a teacher? How different do you think the answer to this question varies from person to person (is there a common denominator between people’s answers)?
16. How important is context /setting in answering the previous question? Is it important that a teacher be liked (or well liked) (name the literary work that makes that distinction)?
17. How does one balance ahava and yirah in teaching and in life? What is the meaning of this balance? How far reaching is it in its application?
18. How thin is the line between formal and informal education? How thin is the line between subjects in the department of Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol? How thin is the line between a school and a yeshiva?
19. What is our purpose in this world? How important is it to keep in mind this question and an answer while teaching?
20. If you were setting up a yeshiva/school tomorrow, what would it look like? What would you be looking for in a teacher? 

Monday, October 31, 2016

6:17 AM - 7:53 PM

It's 6:17 AM - I am (hopefully) getting over being really sick. I am grateful to G-d for waking up feeling better.   It felt debilitating.  really hard.  I am grateful to those who showed concern, wrote, called, checked in and send care one way or another. First doctor didn't give antibiotic.  Second one did give antibiotic, which eventually I took. The doctor was more clear and honest than most about the lack of clarity he had over whether what I had was bacterial or viral - that old question...

I did not, could not, sleep enough last night.  I pray to G-d for a day of meaning and strength and goodness, of kindness and good communication in all directions.  I could sit and write for a long time, except that I can't.  I have been writing here for 12 years now, and it combs together in one precious pearl of a moment.  Writing is remembering.  And remembering is living.  I thank G-d that I am alive.

10:20 AM - My ride  was very patient and kind. Oversaw minyan, taught 2 classes. One kid was very curious about the how the numbers worked in the Levi - Bechor exchange, Kids asked how I was or where I was.  Some assumed I'd extended vacation and was away, something I've never done.  Some wished me continued refuah. Nice. And, as always , some kids said thank you at the end of class - a concept I was completely unfamiliar with as a student.  So nice.  Momentum is hard,  I definitely have some level of a bug still in me and I need to take it minute by minute.  I felt so sick in the past several days, really need to be careful.

11:55 PM - I'm concerned for myself, and it is real to me that I have to be.

There's a meeting tonight and I'm expected to be there.  I wrote and administrator that I've never missed a meeting in all my years, but may have to tonight.

I had my advisory class with Freshmen, which included welcoming a student who's new to the school, reacquainting ourselves with each other and our names, venting and being grateful for things about school and classes, and some private meeting with 5 of the students.

Some of them find some teachers hard to  learn from, particularly at the end of the day.  Others feel that certain teacher could speak to them in a more mature way, not like they are little children, and there are tests  that students feel are awkwardly unclear in terms of what it's on.

4:07  PM - Met with several students for long chunks about serious matters, and one parent too - oh that reminds me - there's a parent I have to call back.

Very tired.  need to take care, but need to work, to go to night meeting...

7:56 PM - Post school meetings. Kind ride home.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

6:59-9:15

6:59 PM - I love writing. 

7:09 PM - Spent the last 9 minutes of my life trying to scan and find and share a picture.  Technology is a challenge for me sometimes.

As I was saying, I love writing, the flow of the pen on paper. And the clicking of the finger on keys is not the same but sometimes it will do.

7:20 PM - Checked emails and Facebook.  Yes, went down those rabbit holes.

Need/want to call dad.

So many thoughts free-flowed throughout my Shabbat (and past few days) of being sick...

7:27 PM - Emailed back and forth with friend and set up to talk after I find phone and call dad.

7:31 PM - I just thought of a line that I won't say if I one day - please G-d/please me - get married, "I'd like to thank all the people who didn't stop believing this would happen for me - both of you."

7:43 PM - Spoke to dad.  A friend of his passed away.  The wife is my friend.  We taught together in a small setting twenty fie-ish years ago.  Dad was surprised that i found the shiva info on line.  He's by far not the only one who doesn't realize what you can find by googling.

A friend of mine is very into the site Mi Yodea which has answers for almost any halacha or hashkafa question you could think of.  When I pointed out that some are wary of this he reminded me that people were wary of the writing of Torah She'Be'Al'Peh.

7:59 PM - I looked at a lot of sefarim over Shabbos and did some reorganizing.  I couldn't find a Sichot Mussar essay on Breishit so I learned the one on Noach.  He was just so remarkable in how he used his genius in a non-show off-ey way to take meforshim and agadatot and pesukim and frame them in a fresh and brilliant light of mussar and truth.

8:18 PM - Out some things in my cart at Amazon.  Cold reklated stuff.  Not for now, for later.

Amazing how fast time flies by.  A wise man once said that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  Yes.

8:30 PM - R. Schmuelewitz cites the Kli Yakar who pauses on the instruction Noach receives regarding the supplies he needs to take for all the creatures he'll be housing (Breishit 6:21)


וְאַתָּה קַח-לְךָ, מִכָּל-מַאֲכָל אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל
וְאָסַפְתָּ, אֵלֶיךָ; וְהָיָה לְךָ וְלָהֶם, לְאָכְלָה.

Take with you all the food that will be eaten
and keep it in storage. It shall be food 
.for you and the animals


The Kli Yakar borrows from a Talmudic inference in another textual context and says that the word 
 לְךָ implies that it must be from what you own.  

9:15 PM - The basic and beautiful idea that R Schmeliewitz develops is that in order to ruly love, care for and connect to all that lived Noach had to give deeply of himself.  he gave everything he had, which is what we need to do in our love for others.

6:59-9:15

6:59 PM - I love writing. 

7:09 PM - Spent the last 9 minutes of my life trying to scan and find and share a picture.  Technology is a challenge for me sometimes.

As I was saying, I love writing, the flow of the pen on paper. And the clicking of the finger on keys is not the same but sometimes it will do.

7:20 PM - Checked emails and Facebook.  Yes, went down those rabbit holes.

Need/want to call dad.

So many thoughts free-flowed throughout my Shabbat (and past few days) of being sick...

7:27 PM - Emailed back and forth with friend and set up to talk after I find phone and call dad.

7:31 PM - I just thought of a line that I won't say if I one day - please G-d/please me - get married, "I'd like to thank all the people who didn't stop believing this would happen for me - both of you."

7:43 PM - Spoke to dad.  A friend of his passed away.  The wife is my friend.  We taught together in a small setting twenty fie-ish years ago.  Dad was surprised that i found the shiva info on line.  He's by far not the only one who doesn't realize what you can find by googling.

A friend of mine is very into the site Mi Yodea which has answers for almost any halacha or hashkafa question you could think of.  When I pointed out that some are wary of this he reminded me that people were wary of the writing of Torah She'Be'Al'Peh.

7:59 PM - I looked at a lot of sefarim over Shabbos and did some reorganizing.  I couldn't find a Sichot Mussar essay on Breishit so I learned the one on Noach.  He was just so remarkable in how he used his genius in a non-show off-ey way to take meforshim and agadatot and pesukim and frame them in a fresh and brilliant light of mussar and truth.

8:18 PM - Out some things in my cart at Amazon.  Cold reklated stuff.  Not for now, for later.

Amazing how fast time flies by.  A wise man once said that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  Yes.

8:30 PM - R. Schmuelewitz cites the Kli Yakar who pauses on the instruction Noach receives regarding the supplies he needs to take for all the creatures he'll be housing (Breishit 6:21)


וְאַתָּה קַח-לְךָ, מִכָּל-מַאֲכָל אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל
וְאָסַפְתָּ, אֵלֶיךָ; וְהָיָה לְךָ וְלָהֶם, לְאָכְלָה.

Take with you all the food that will be eaten
and keep it in storage. It shall be food 
for you and the animals.


The Kli Yakar borrows from a Talmudic inference in another textual context and says that the word 
 לְךָ implies that it must be from what you own.  

9:15 PM - The basic and beautiful idea that R Schmeliewitz develops is that in order to ruly love, care for and connect to all that lived Noach had to give deeply of himself.  he gave everything he had, which is what we need to do in our love for others.

Friday, October 28, 2016

G.E.S.

Marina Abramović (that performance artist in that video where she is the exhibit and just sits and is with people who come to "the exhibit" and then her former lover makes a surprise visit and she reacts and millions of people have watched and been touched by this video) was just interviewed on NPR (she has put out her memoir). She was asked to give advice to people about how to be artistic/use art in their own lives.
Her answer was that one when you wake up with energy that you usually use to go out and do things with, just sit by the window. And sit there as long as you can and turn the energy inwards instead of pointing it outside. And stay there, sitting, preferably for a good few hours. Her answer, as did all she said, and has done, who she is, struck me.

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One source says that this world is similar to darkness. Another source says that this world is a beautiful antechamber before the banquet hall? Contradiction! The resolution might rest in the suggestion that this world is a beautiful place that is covered in darkness. Our task is to shine light and reveal the beauty of this world.

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A dear colleague of mine called to see how I was both yesterday and today when I was hit hard by cold symptoms (thick yellow phlegm, fever, aches, runny nose, sneezing coughing, dried out and so sleepy),  He told me to make sure to take care of myself because I have no-one else.  Sad, but true.  But for G-d.  And G-d needs me to get the tea and soup myself.

Everyone has a remedy and I've tried many.  Turmeric. Zinc. Thieves Oil. Lemon. Various teas.  Chicken soup with cayenne in it and lots of fresh parsley, celery root, dill and much more.  Usual Kale shake w probiotics. Many variations on healing teas. Vit C. Vit D.  A friend takes 400 C a day.  Sounds good. Also recommended highly - OOO - Organic Oregano Oil. Gargled w the thieves spray oil and sprayed it on my throat and on my feel, as advised.  Got an RX just in case.  Wrote various people that I was sick.  Some sent curt feel betters. Two friends offered to bring soup.

I felt so weak, feeling a bit better now.....

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At 1:35 in you see Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing 3 saxophones at once.  A friend of mine insisted it was impossible after I showed him this poem by Billy Collins.

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Feeling sick.  I've gotten these things many times in my life.  Last week I went for a vitamin drip which is supposed to help ward off colds.  Now, bad sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, pains, etc.   Drinking soup, and teas.  Feeling alone.  Acutely aware of alone-ness of others.


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On Yom Tov I heard a wonderful talk.  The speaker said that after being asked to say a dvar Torah at a meal she kept thinking about one personal story.  It was all that came to mind.  She decided that she either needed to tell it, or someone needed to hear it. It was a story of how someone on the other end of a help-line got her to turn her life around.  And how at a moment when the helper was doubting herself, our speaker met her, realized who she was, and got to tank her on behalf of herself and of all those in her life.  As an intro to the story she said that for her it's about the power of the words we say.  And, as an aside, she mentioned, how much she thinks about this, and tries to be careful with what she says, though we all make mistakes in this area.  I was struck by one example she gave.  She said that she tries to not talk about her kids to people who don't have kids.  That blew me away.  Here's a person who got married very young due to communal norm and pressure, had a bunch of kids in a very short time, had a bad marriage and divorce.  And yet she sees the other side.  She sees that one person's burden is another person's prayer.  And that what's hard is also what delivers blessings.  Wow.


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Being sick brings out loneliness and neediness.

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When I started this blog (12 years ago!) I don't announce it to anyone.  people found it.  Among those people were my mother and father.  Mom's passed on to the world to come, dad is in this world and no longer visiting here.

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It's minutes before candle lighting, got to go.  I had envisioned a very long post but blogging is like life - we start out with big plans and then run out of time.  Wishing everyone health and happiness and all good on this Shabbos which is the first one of the year, truly marking, finally the real start of the full new year.  may it be a blessed one for all of us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

VeHayita Ach Sameach

Chazal say that "ach sameach - specifcally happy" applies to the last day of Sukkos. Rav S.Y. Zevin suggests that what's unique about the last day of Sukkos is that it has the potential of being a time of pure joy. Like Olam Haba pure. As opposed to usual joy that includes sadness and frustration as part of its process.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Good Moed



I have  been taking a phone photo almost after every visit I make to dad.  Have been doing this over the past 2 plus years while I've been staying over for Shabbos and or Yom Tov about every other week with him in his assisted living facility.  I forgot to take one tonght, post first days of Sukkot, but the one above, which is from post Yom Kippur, last week, pretty much captures tonight's scene too.

I am grateful for the chance to share while I'm there.  I said a Dvar Torah in the Sukkah on each night.  And I gave a shiur for about 45 minutes tonight between Mincha and Maariv.  Dad gets nachas and other people seem to enjoy to, and I must confess that the saying comes to mind about the mother needing to nurse more than the calf needs to drink.

I facilitated a silence breaking discussion at dinner.  I asked if  anyone had a Sukkos memory to share.  One man claimed that the story which I've heard as an urban legend actually happened to him.  He lived in Harlem, 117th street, some years back when he was a child (he's now 102, and with it).  The sukkah was built on the roof.  They were challenged.  Went to court.  Lost.  The judge gave them 10 days to take it down.

Another man remembered the first time he built a sukkah for his family.  There was a storm and every other sukkah fell, and he felt good that his was standing still (and so did his son who today is married to one of the place's social workers).

Yet another man told about the time that his family built their sukkah between two buildings in their little German town.  Only this time, in the morning, they found a rat tail in the Sukkah. it was 1936.  Shortly after this the man's father (this man was a boy of 5 at the time of the story) was taken in by police, missing for 24 hours. Then he was released.  This prompted the family to contact an aunt is America and arrange to go.  The man recalled a relative who was a rabbi and teacher who said that in three months everything would be gone, and soon he and his family perished.  The man who told this story is my dad.

I would love to write up the DTs I said, and the shiur.  But it's getting to be time for bed.  So I'm going to head off to read some of The Invoice, an intriguing short novel about what it might be like if we suddenly were billed for how happy we actually were in life...

Good night and G-d bless
even if you're in a mess
please do not distress.
G-d watches us through the cracks,
so breathe and take his light in.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My Sukkos Thought, By, As It Appeared in The Jewish Week

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of a splendid tree, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook” [Leviticus 23:40].

Normally we’re told to celebrate a holiday on a specific date of the month. Here Sukkot is called for the first day, but it is not the first day of the month. The Rabbis say that what’s being referred to here is the fact that Sukkot is the first day of sins. The Medrash says that some people start returning to God at the start of the month of Elul, others wait till Rosh Hashanah. By the time Yom Kippur has come and gone everyone has come forward and achieved a clean slate. People are still on a high during the brief segue between Yom Kippur and Sukkot and barely even have time or energy to sin. So the first day of Sukkot, when everyone gathers together with their lulav and etrog in synagogue, is opening day for sins.

Why are the four species, rather than the sukkah, mentioned in connection with our having achieved atonement? The answer to this question (as explained by the great scholar Rabbi Shlomo Efrayim Luntschitz) relates to another popular Medrash: The etrog (citron), having a taste and an odor, represents those people who have both Torah wisdom and Torah deeds under their belts. The lulav has taste (it comes from a date-palm tree) but no smell, representing those who study Torah but do not perform other mitzvot. The myrtle branches (hadassim) smell pleasant but produce no fruit, representing those who do good deeds but lack Torah knowledge. The willows (aravot) have neither smell nor taste, symbolizing those who lack both knowledge and action.

The species that we raise up on Sukkot, and the order in which they are listed in the Torah, represent our community and parallel the teaching of the Rabbis about the order in which people seek repentance. First the most righteous people (represented by the etrog) return, then come the regular people (represented by the aravot and the lulav) and finally the people who are lacking in both their behaviors and actions come around. This is all completed shortly before Sukkot and then on Sukkot we gather together and start real life all over again. We acknowledge that we all unite to form a community. Together we err and together we correct our mistakes. A cross section of the three categories of people is needed to have a true community. This is alluded to by the fact that the very word for community in Hebrew is an acronym for the people who constitute a congregation: tzadikim, beinonim and resha’im (the pious, the intermediates and the wicked).

There is a little known yet striking statement of the rabbis regarding repentance. They say that the ability to repent as an individual is unique to the High Holy Days. Perhaps this can be taken literally or perhaps it is saying anecdotally that this is the time that it is most likely for an individual to focus on his or her own spirituality and religiosity. On the other hand, it is said that during the year teshuvah (repentance) can only be achieved as part of the community. This is why we come together on Sukkot, the functional start of the communal new year, and commit to fixing our sins as a community.

We all know that the Jewish holidays never come on time, but early or late. This year they seem to have come earlier than ever. Summer has faded away and the school year has started. The days are getting shorter and darker. Now is the time to unite as a community and grow together in thought and deed.

May we be so blessed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Post Yom Kippur Post

It's been a while since I posted here in the moments following Yom Kippur.  The one other time I recall doing it, 10 years ago, is a piece that has stayed with me.

I am with dad, HSLABW, who turned 87 yesterday.  My birthday was yesterday, and I turned 54.

A man got an aliyah in shul and afterward said to bless "kol mispachti vekol hamitpalelim kahn." I was talking then in when the fellow behind me (who I know since I was 10-ish) said "that about covers it," which made me laugh out loud.

It's a good thing, I think, to daven on Yom Kippur with people older than you, a helpful reality check.

I am full, right now, of hopes and prayers for a good year for me, and you, and all of us.

Yesterday I read something by Rabbi Abraham Twerski that struck me.  he said that we all know how to brood, because we've done it.  That means that we can also meditate in a positive manner.

May we be blessed this year to think positive thoughts and to create a good life for ourselves and for one another to the (large) extent that our life, which is so much in how we think and feel - which we can largely control, is in our hands.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Beautiful Pomegranite


Gemar Chatimah Tovah

Geva Alon's HaOr BaChasheicha plays on Pandora.  Just back from RH at Rachmastrivka/Monsey. Don't know what to write, thinking about it. Almost the twelfth anniversary of with this blog.  I have literally met people and formed connections and relationships through my posting here.  What a funny (not ha-ha) world we live in.  I like to write and am wondering why here.  In recent years, though I don't say it here often I have been posting on Facebook.  Sometimes I post there as a way to not post here, sometimes (like this moment) it's vice versa.

Gordon Lightfoot is now serenading me with Ghosts of Cape Horn.  He comes up often on my Carlebach station.

Where I davened om YT it was intense: nussach over catchy tunes, somber over joyful, long over short.  We ended at night at about 8:30 PM, and in the afternoon at about 3.

Over Yom Tov, as I've been doing for the last two months or so, I read a lot of Rav Menachem Froman's Torah and poetry.  I've written translations to, I think, 5 of them.  I am inspired by him.  He says some things that are very out there, maybe to be taken with a grain of salt, maybe said with the intention that they would be forever private... So much of what he says moves me.  If you are interested in hearing more about my thoughts about his thoughts let me know.

I need to get to bed or to work now.  I am grateful to G-d for this new start of a new year of life.  And I pray for all of us for a continued good start and for a good year.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Pre Yom HaZikaron

* Just back from Mincha/Shaloshudes/Maariv?Havdalah. Someone (unknown by name to me) spoke at Shaloshudes about how the shofar's sound is described as serving to make you shake.  he had two takes on shaking - one, that when you shake off the dust covering something you see it's beauty. His second thought was that sometimes you need to shake things up, to reevaluate, and to reorder your life. Need to call dad.  Any minute, please G-d. On Shabbos started learning an amazing piece by Rav Yoel Bin Nun.  he says it's something he pondered and worked on for years, and it shows. Key to his piece is a somewhat well known idea in Judaism about time.  It's popular to speak about how seasonal moments are revisited every year, like going around a train track, or up and down a perpetual spiral where you hit the same spots again and again, and it's revisited and new at once.  Rav Bin Nun stresses a related but distinct point.

*It's about a half hour since I wrote the above.  Have not moved from my perch.  Wrote back to a student that is worried about our upcoming test and asked for a modification.  Also wrote a colleague who specializes in learning issues about these upcoming tests. Wanted to call dad and realized my phone was off, waited for it to turn on...

*Spoke with dad and he's ok.  Now I'm distracted from writing the Torah thoughts I wanted to share.  Got to get that groove back.  

Rav Bin Nun focuses on the idea that Jewish times don't just revisit events from that spot a year ago but they also overlap with what comes before and after them.  We're familiar with this fluidity from the context of the twilight time we call Bein HaShmashot. In the morning as well as in the night time there are those shrouded moments in between, when the previous period lingers even as a new time has begun.  

*Now it's late in the morning on Erev Rosh HaShanah.  Here are two quotes that resonate for me, in part because of my strong bias toward memory.

 "In a consciousness of memory even years do not simply pass by in accordance with this natural, primal, cycle, but rather are connected to years gone by in the memories of individuals, families, nations, and history.  This is the significance of the expressions 'zecher lemaaseh breishit - in rememberance of the act of creation' and zecher leyetziat mitzrayim - in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt'."

"A consciousness  of continuity, of cyclical repetition, and of memory creates life with meaning , while severance, segregation, and forgetting, are associated with death. The chain of time and the consciousness of memory are life.  The dead who are remembered on days of remembrance for years and years, live on in consciousness; they are dead only in body.  But 'where there is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any memory of things to come for thse who will come after them (Kohelet 1:11),' then there is no meaning or significance even to to the cyclical order of nature itself, with its sunrises and sunsets, and the winds that blow, and the water cycle. It is all just 'havel havalim - vanity of vanities;all is vanity (Kohelet 1:1).'"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016