The Poet

HE COULDN’T TELL WHETHER HE
loved beauty or women more
until the day he called his mom and said
“Guess what? I’m marrying a sunset.”

Prosatio Silban and the Comedic Situation

IT ALL BEGAN WHEN Prosatio Silban leapt forward.

“Look out!” he bellowed, grabbing the careless man’s belt and yanking him back from the edge of the algae-slick dock.

“Blessed All-Mother!” the man exclaimed, straightening. “You saved me life!”

Prosatio Silban smiled. “Not really. All I did was –”

“All you did was save me life!” the man finished, taking his rescuer’s hand and shaking it with deep feeling. “As sure as my name is Gremo Elyp, I’ll never forget it!”

Wish List

I want the rockets and bombings to stop.
I want Hamas to surrender.
I want the hostages released.
I want civilians to stop dying.
I want a two-state solution.
I want to live without fear.
I want to live without being hated.
I want a better world for everyone.
I want this to be not too much to ask.

Give It Away Now

THE TALMUD SAYS THAT ONE who teaches Torah to a child is as if one raised that child.

What it also says is, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

As noted elsewhere, Torah is a great interest and passion of mine, even more so than my other passions and interests. But if I only study Torah for my own edification and increasing my personal knowledge base, it’s as if I never studied it at all. What earthly good or use is knowing anything if you don’t share it with others?

There’s an important Hebrew concept called “l’dor vador.” This phrase is mentioned twice in the daily prayer service and is sprinkled throughout our Bible and its related teachings. It’s usually translated as “generation to generation,” and means each generation teaches the next what it has learned, all the way from Abraham to the end of recorded history (please G?d we should live so long, especially these days). Torah even states this explicitly in Genesis 18:19, where G?d says, sotto voce, “For I have singled [Abraham] out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of יהוה by doing what is just and right.” If Abraham had kept his monotheistic ethics to himself, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

A friend who served as an Air Force combat medic summed up his training thusly: “Learn one, do one, teach one.” It’s a nice organizing principle, whether in medicine, in Torah — or in life. Pass it on.

Five More Thoughts

1. ANOTHER SERVICE, ANOTHER ARMED GUARD. After making cordial introductions — as one of the service leaders, I was the first to arrive this morning — he informed me that an access-grate was askew below the sanctuary. One of our congregants (chair of our newly formed Security Committee, in fact) checked it out with him and pronounced the situation completely and unmistakably benign. But I’m glad someone noticed.

2. As a friend put it so well on our congregational Facebook page: “Our Shabbat service today was truly blessed. Neighbors Yolanda and Silvana joined us to pray for peace and share their pain over the war and anti-Semitism. Yolanda told her story of her Jewish family’s religious persecution from Spain and other family members’ persecution as Lebanese Christians. Her daughter brought roses, candles and a cactus to share with us. The notes were written to express their wishes for peace. Our hearts are full.”

3. I’ve never seen so many haunted faces. We did manage to manifest some light — quite a bit, actually — during and after the service. But still.

4. At the post-service kiddush (“coffee and fellowship time,” for those unfamiliar with that Hebrew term), every conversation involved what, as another friend put it, “is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last I think of at night.”

5. Where do we go from here?

Fable, With Apocalypse

IN THE MIDDLE OF A flat grey wasteland, under a grey streaky sky, a handful of figures warm themselves at a snapping fire.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

One of the figures has turned to gape across the waste: a vast landscape of broken dryers and tumbledown swingsets, with here and there half a gas station or bowling alley.

“Don’t do that,” says the speaker. He takes the gaper and turns him tenderly toward the flames to warm his hands again.

“Thanks.”

“It’s why I’m here. And that” — a sweeping arm — “is why that’s there. The wasteland is only good for wasting you.”

“Thanks again.”

“Don’t mention it. Just keep your hands warm. Even when you’re the last one here.”

The Feeling

YOM KIPPUR AFTERNOONS ARE USUALLY the spacetime nexus where radical growth happens — and this year was no exception.

Let’s set the stage. After an intense twenty-or-so hours of not eating or otherwise tending to physicality, continuous guided liturgical meditation, and extended standing periods, the mind becomes…relaxed. Pliable. And open to self-generated suggestion. It’s a long stretch of characterological self-diagnosis that forces a focus on our broken, less-than-who-we-want-to-be parts. (To paraphrase an old 1960s protest song: “Where can you run / where can you hide / when the Implacable Judge / is on the inside?”)

Previous years’ personal revelations centered on egotism, religious one-upsmanship, and hiding from unpleasant truths. This year was positive by contrast, and involved feeling in my guts something I’d only ever thought about. (You’d be surprised what a little shift of perspective can do.)

Revelation #1: “Gifts are for sharing.” And revelation #2: “I belong here.”