#oldpunksneverdie

2017.07.11

Never thought I’d hear Safeway’s in-house music channel play “London Calling” this morning. But I sang along with it anyway.

Vive La Difference

2017.06.12

From Josee Wolff, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary:

“…The pessimist observes a situation, generalizes about the bad aspects, and interprets them as a permanent and constant feature. In contrast, the optimist observes the same situation and sees the bad aspects, but particularizes them and interprets them as a temporary obstacle that can be overcome.”

Lamed-Vavniks, Unite!

2017.06.08

adtnAre you a Lamed-Vavnik?

According to Jewish tradition, there are 36 exceptionally righteous (read: supermensch-like) people in the world in each generation, and without whom the world would cease to exist. (In Hebrew counting, 36 is “lamed vav” (lamed = 30, vav = six)). The thing about Lamed-Vavniks is that they are secretly righteous; they do their deeds under the cover of anonymity.

That type of exemplary behavior is modeled for us in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, according to the Kotzker Rebbe (1787-1859). The portion begins with G?d telling Moses to tell his brother Aaron to light the menorah inside the Tabernacle — where no one outside could see it. “This was a matter of the inmost heart,” writes the Kotzker. “All the great things have as their central idea something that is hidden and concealed in the heart — with no outward manifestation whatsoever!”

This idea is also substantiated by Pirke Avot, a collection of wise sayings of the sages and early rabbis: “Do not be as servants who serve the master in order to receive a reward, rather be as servants who are serving the master not in order to receive a reward.” That reward could include recognition via Facebook posts or “bragging rights” — both of which are incompatible with the concept of the Lamed-Vavnik.

May we all merit to serve each other in quiet humility, and with a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity.

My Letter to the Mayor of London

2017.06.06

Here is what I said to Mayor Sadiq Khan via his website. You may want to write your own.

Dear Sir,

Please accept my humble condolences and healing prayers for those injured and killed in the recent terror attack; I hope this finds you otherwise well. I realize you are very busy, but I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for the actions of “our” president. Not all of us voted for him; not all of us share his boorish opinions or worldview. Many of my countrymen/women are otherwise fine people, and many of them are trying their hardest to mitigate the damage he is doing to our country and the world. I can only hope you don’t judge us all by the actions of one man, even if he claims to be our elected representative.

Be well, and thank you for your time,

Neal Ross Attinson

Confronting Evil

2017.04.24

(From a friend, for Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

April 15, 1965
יוסף דוב סולוביצ’יק
JOSEPH SOLOVEITCHIK

Dear Dr. Vogel:

I received your letter. Of course, you may quote me.

The gist of my discourse was that Judaism did not approach the problem of evil under the speculative – metaphysical aspect. For such an inquiry would be a futile undertaking. As long as the human mind is unable to embrace creation in its entirety and to gain an insight into the very essence and purposiveness of being as such it would not succeed in its attempt to resolve the dilemma of evil. Read more »

Midrash Mishpatim: Do, Be. Do, Be, Do

2017.02.22

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Which comes first: the doing or the understanding?

That’s the issue posed by Exodus 24:7, the Israelites’ reply to Moses’ reading of the record of the Covenant, or Ten Commandments (which we learned about in last week’s portion): “All that YHVH has spoken, we will do and we will hear/understand (kol asher dibber YHVH na’aseh v’nishma).”

Taken at face value, this seems counterintuitive. How can we do something we don’t understand? But Rabbi Harold Kushner, writing in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, says “There are many things in life that we cannot appreciate before we have lived them and come to appreciate their value. We must do them first (na’aseh) and only afterward realize why (nishma).”

Meditation. Trying new experiences or cuisines. Even raising children. All of these things and more can only be understood in the doing, over time. The actual and full understanding comes afterward.

May we each merit to understand what we do, even if we’re not (at first) sure why.

5 Thoughts: Resist!

2017.02.09

resistancesymbolI DON’T USUALLY GET POLITICAL. But this is no time for silence.

I did not vote for the current President. I find him arrogant, cruel and stupid. His policies, appointments, and disdainful comments about our institutions and values are fascistic and frightening to me.

Fortunately, some people are fighting back:

1. WTF Just Happened Today? Stay informed with this daily update of things bad (and good) related to the reigning regime.

2. Indivisible: A Practical Guide: A strategy (and tactics) for organizing the Resistance. (Takeaway: Be like the Tea Party, only progressive.)

3. Bend the Arc | A Jewish Partnership for Justice: A small but doughty band of Jews and allies who have Seen This Before.

4 Find your Senator / Find your Representative: This is where some of the real power lies. Make your voice heard in the Senate and House. Daily. (According to Indivisible, phone calls and office visits are the best way to do that.)

5. https://twitter.com/RoguePOTUSStaff (you’ll need a Twitter account): Dispatches purporting to be from a rogue official on the President’s staff. Enlightening if true.

And remember: take care of yourself and don’t pass along rumors!

KCBS: Stop the Banter!

2017.02.09

(Sent today via email.)

To whom it may concern,

As a KCBS listener for more than 20 years (and a former radio reporter/announcer at KSRO in Santa Rosa), I’m writing to comment on your (apparently) new policy of having hosts and commentators banter between segments.

In short: Please stop.

I understand the desire to “humanize” newscasts, but frankly, it’s grating on the ear and borderline unprofessional. It also has me talking back to the radio (“WHO CARES??? GIVE ME NEWS!”) on an hourly basis. I tune in for news and weather (and occasionally traffic), not banter.

So please rethink your policy. You would make at least one listener VERY happy.

Thank you, and be well,

Neal Ross Attinson
Sonoma

PS: Other than the above complaint, I think you are doing a fine job presenting the news in a straightforward, no-spin manner. I particularly like the in-depth stories at the bottom of the hour. And StarDate (sp?) is awesome, too. I try to never miss one. Keep up the good work!

The Sinai Event Considered as a UFO Experience

2017.02.07

(NOTE: This is an expansion and detailing of an earlier article. Enjoy.)

PUT ME IN THE CAMP of those who view the Torah as a largely fictional work.

That said, I do tend to think that some of it actually happened. For example, there’s a passage in Genesis which describes Abraham the Patriarch as leading a commando raid on a group of people who kidnapped his nephew, where he is said to have taken 318 men with him. I don’t think anyone would invent such a specific figure; thus, for this (and other reasons) I do believe Abraham existed, and the tribal elders, and Moses (or someone Moses-like), and Joshua, and a few other people scattered here and there through the text.

I also believe the Sinai event happened. But not for the reasons you’d think.
Read more »

…And We’re Back

2017.02.07

IT FEELS GOOD to write again.

It has been just over six years since I last added to this blog (which once boasted a readership of about thirty people, each one beloved, with additional spikes when I linked to something else and readers traced the link) and am finally feeling confident again about writing. The hiatus was mostly caused by a long-term and largely unameliorated depression (and yes, I’m still disabled); but thank G?d, Wellbutrin, Ann and Torah, I seem to have found my way back. During that time, it was difficult for me to focus on anything beyond a sentence — yes, it was that bad — but I somehow always knew I’d take up The Metaphorager again. Or so I hoped, anyway.

The tagline for this blog is “All That’s News To Me, I Print.” It used to be “A Journal of Experiential Holiness and Snack Bar,” which is perhaps closer to the point (there is a lot of Jewish content here, after all), but there’s a raft of other stuff contained in its (so far) 623 posts: recipes, blog critiques, book reviews, cultural commentary, short stories, et al. I had fun writing it, and hope you had/have fun reading it.

I’m not going to predict what I’m going to post here; I posted the last post because it’s the first writing I have done in six years and wanted to share it with a wider variety of people than receive my synagogue’s newsletter (for which I wrote it); I have seen too many people organize events which they called the “First Annual Shindig” and never held another.

All I can say is that it feels good to write again. We’ll see what develops from here.

Midrash Beshallach

2017.02.06

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WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?

Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.
Read more »

Haiku for Uncertain Weather

2012.01.31

Slate-thin clouds cover
shoulders that lately knew sun.
Make up your mind, God.

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