The harder it became, the more I wanted to do it.”
— Female round-the-world sailor, from the film MAIDEN

Temple of the Holy Reruns

HAVE YOU EVER SAT IN a theater after the movie ended so you can see it again? Then you’ll understand Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah, or “Rejoicing of (the) Teaching,” will be celebrated by the worldwide Jewish community beginning tonight through tomorrow. It marks the end of the yearly Torah-reading cycle and the beginning of a new one. We’ve been doing this for at least (best guess here) 2,569 years; when we reach the last words of Deuteronomy (“Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses … [with] all the great might and awesome power that Moses displayed before all Israel”) we immediately rewind to “In the beginning of G?d’s creating heaven and earth…” To paraphrase a line from Guys and Dolls, among other things Judaism can be called the oldest established permanent floating book club on Earth.

First Graf: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

ACTUALLY, SINCE T.A.o.S.H. IS THE first published collection of all Sherlock Holmes stories, here is (also) the First Graf of “A Scandal In Bohemia,” being the first of the tales in said collection. It’s unfortunate that Sherlock Holmes has become a bit of cultural cliche and byword, but it can’t be helped — our culture is steeped in such cliches, where what was once seminal now comes off as derivative. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, whom he eventually tired of and tried killing-off only to find that the clamorous 19th-Century reading “publick” would have none of it, stands on his own eternal literary measure. A little taste to whet the appetite, then?

Prosatio Silban and the Golden Moment

You’ve read the preface. Now here’s the introduction.

ALTHOUGH A SELF-DEFROCKED SACREANT, Prosatio Silban retained a sensitivity to the more spiritual aspects of his daily routine — but since his was the life of a traveling cook in a buopoth-drawn galleywagon, “routine” was only partially applicable.

His days usually began the same way: arise from his bunk in the galleywagon’s rear; feed his buopoth, Onward, a morning fatberry-cake; make small greetings to the Flickering Gods; and breakfast on a poppyhorn and large mug of hot, lightly sugared yava laced with thick cream.

Next, he would inventory the galleywagon’s generally well-stocked pantry and coldbox (the latter a waist-high, silver-edged cube of magiked glacier-ice).

365 Names: “Teacher”

TEACHER The active metaphor here is that G?d has set lessons all around us, and it’s our job to discover them; imagine everything in the Universe labeled with a great big “LEARN HERE” sticker. No one of us really knows anybody else’s lesson, and in fact, it’s none of anyone else’s business what those lessons are. It’s a secret between us and what-some-choose-to-call-G?d. And isn’t it nice having a secret that you don’t have to share?

Day of At-Onement

IT’S HARD TO DESCRIBE THE feeling I get around 1 or 2 p.m. on Yom Kippur afternoon with no food since the previous evening. It’s an intellectual, buzzy sort of consciousness: colors are brighter, outlines sharper, and an almost euphoric state of clarity sets in. At our synagogue we take a service-break from about 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. — some people go home to nap or introspect, others hang out at the sanctuary to pray or meditate or just sit in community. As for me, I go home to feed the cat, engage in (what I hope is) honest self-criticism, and study something appropriate.

Words to Bring Back: “Probity”

– Definition: n. Virtue or integrity tested and confirmed.

– Used in a sentence: If our elected officials had more probity, there would be less Congressional probing.

– Why: Actually, I’m not sure whether it’s the word or the concept that needs bringing back. Probably a bit of both.