Posts Tagged ‘ There’s a God in My Soup ’

Gritty Comfortoir

2011.08.03
By

AND AFTER ALL IS SAID and done, and the horrible truth revealed
The bodies taken away, the last question answered
Comes William S Burroughs
(the gravelly graandpa who’s done things the grownups won’t let you ask him about).
“Interdimensional Alka Seltzer,” he says, proffering a grey fizzing mug,
and sits down beside you.
You take the cup.
He speaks volumes with his eyes
(they’ve seen it all, long before you were born)
but his mouth only says
what you wish it always wouldn’t:
“That’s just the way it is, Out Here.”

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“Judaism As Art”

2011.07.14
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or, There and Back Again Without Leaving

(BECAUSE OF WORDPRESS, I’M REPUBLISHING this 2002 piece — it works better as a “post” than as a “page” — and although my kippa-wearing has become a bit less pronounced of late it still reflects my approach to finding a place in Judaism. If you’re not hot for apologetics or manifesti, you have my permission to read something else.)

Despite that I’ve worn a yarmulke most of the time since 2000, I don’t define myself as Orthodox. Or Reform. Or, for that matter, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or otherwise adjectivally Jewish.

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5Thoughts: How To Lead Services

2011.07.14
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0. THE FOLLOWING MAY BE PARTICULAR to Jewish worship services, which are the only sort I’ve led (not counting five weddings and various improvised blessings/moment-summonings). But I’ve tried to adapt the advice for anyone whose worship tradition includes structure and text, and who finds oneself in the liturgical spotlight. Hope it helps; I learned it all the hard way.

1. Know your material. This may sound fairly obvious, but I mean it in a deeper sense: The service-as-conducted is a living breathing entity whose skeleton is the service-as-written. Know the latter like you know your own breathing. At least know how and why it’s structured — what each piece hopes to achieve, and how it leads to the next — and, most importantly, what page everything’s on. (PostIts are a big help here, as is having your own siddur (prayerbook) to notate.) Likewise, see in advance to the functioning of candles, wine, microphones, guitar strings, etc.; there’s nothing like a last-minute surprise on a solemn occasion (ah, but see thought #4). (And if you’re feeling terribly insecure, keep in mind that for group readings you really only need to emphasize the first five words. It takes that long for people to catch on and start drowning you out.)
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“The Guest House”

2011.07.03
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SOMEONE WHO LOVES ME SENT me this poem. I offer it to you in the same spirit.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(By the 13th-century Persian Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. Coleman Barks is the translator, but the original was written in Truth.)

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Why Eclectic Spirituality Will Not Endure Half So Long As Traditional Religion

2011.06.20
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NO HOLIDAYS.

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Free Verse: “And God Said”

2011.06.14
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SEEK ME, EACH OF YOU
In your own way. And when you find Me,
Prove it:
Leave each other
The hell alone.

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Hasidic Zen Riddle

2011.06.05
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Q: WHAT’S BEYOND GOD?
A: More God.

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Your Orders

2011.05.30
By

RESIST ENTROPY.

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Three Word Comfort

2011.05.16
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“WE’LL GET THERE.”

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WANTED TO BE THE FIRST to claim “thinkon” as “a discrete unit of thought,” and so I have. Pbbbt.

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Study Torah, Become Holy (A Little)

2011.04.29
By

France Street Torah Study
Saturday, April 30, 2011 – 10 am to noonish
Torah Portion: Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15 (Ashkenazim); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (Sephardim)
Neal & Ann’s Living Room (email scoop at sonic dot net for directions)

Torah is many things to many people, or even many things to the same person depending upon which part he or she is studying. It’s simultaneously a history, law code, spiritual guide, extended mythology, moral platform, conceptual trampoline. This week, our topic du Torah is “holiness” — or to literally translate our portion’s title, “Holinesses.”

Simply put, our text concerns practical rules for spiritual living. We see little things, like rising in the presence of the aged and/or learned; medium things, like not stealing or lying; and big things, like “Love your neighbor as yourself” — the most repeated commandment in the Torah, perhaps because it’s so counterintuitive.

Richard Elliott Friedman, in his “Commentary on the Torah,” says this: “… If one had to choose only one chapter out of the Torah to make known, it might well be this one.” He further notes that in this case, the medium may also be the message: “The strange mixing of so many different kinds of commandments may convey that every commandment is important. Even if we are naturally inclined to regard some commandments as more important than others, and some commandments as most important of all, this tapestry presses us to see what is important and valuable in every commandment, even commandments that one may question.”

(Writing this out just now, I found myself typing “commendment” for “commandment.” It’s possible that I’m typing with a Yiddish accent, but don’t the mitzvot — those customary and spontaneous acts which connect our world with the Divine through a series of micro-redemptions — commend us to God, at least in theory?)

Questioning commandments, or anything, is an important part of Judaism. But to question, you must first know. ;-) Come and learn a little this Shabbat in a safe place for questions. (We can’t guarantee the answers, though!) If time permits, in addition to Kedoshim we will also study the second chapter of the rabbinical wisdom text, Pirke Avot. This thousand-year-old collection of pithy sayings, containing such gems as Hillel’s “If not now, when?” is traditionally studied chapter-by-chapter on the Shabbats between Pesach and Shavuot (this year, June 7-8). If not us, who?

Be well, and Shabbat shalom,

Neal

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Knubel Borscht: Adapting Memory

2011.04.20
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TUCKED INTO MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER’S BIBLE is a yellowed sheet of paper containing the flavor of living tradition.

In short, it’s my mom’s recipe for knubel borscht (pronounced “k’nubble”): beef simmered in beet soup and garlic. That’s it: three ingredients, plus heat and time. Perhaps in part due to its simplicity, or that I’ve been eating it for most of my childhood Pesachs, knubel borscht is satisfying on a soul level. It fills the house with a scent at once sweet and savory, fruity and meaty, and which may in fact prove to be the smell of Gan Eden should the requisite air-sampling technology be designed and utilized.

The recipe originally comes from “the old country” (in our case, my Polish g’g'father or his Romanian wife); the original calls for a large pot, 5 quarts of borscht, 7-1/2 pounds of bone-in chuck roast with a packet of soup bones, and a large head of peeled garlic. Add everything together, simmer three hours or more, skimming off the foam; serve on plate and in bowl.

For our Seder Monday night, I created a lower-portion variant which is just as pleasing in all the essentials and doesn’t really suffer for the lack of soup bones. Four ingredients counting the pan:

9″ Pyrex baking pan
1 pound brisket
Quart of borscht
Head of garlic

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and chop garlic. Put brisket in pan fat side up (trim excess fat first). Sprinkle garlic on top, pour over borscht, seal with aluminum foil. Three hours later, you’ll need a knife to cut through the aroma and open the oven. Put the meat on a plate, the soup in a bowl, and revel in the small blessings by which G?d or the quantum membranes thereof sustain and nurture the world.

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