Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting Used to a Year of Kaddish

Shiva is now over.

Thanks to everyone who called, visited, IM'd, emailed, or left blog comments... now it's time to get back to life. At some point during the shiva, someone told my brother that it seems as if the mourning customs of shiva are meant to keep you all cooped up inside for so long that once it's over you want nothing else but to go back and reintegrate into normal life. Of course, with the additional sheloshim and year restrictions for mourning a parent, it's not quite normal.

I've been discovering just how hard it is to execute a properly-synchronized kaddish with other people saying it. Now I understand why it always seems in shul as if everyone saying kaddish is going at their own pace; unless you're trained to listen to others' sounds and produce your own at the same time (as PT explained) it's very hard to monitor other people's kaddish and sync yours up with theirs.

The shul I usually go to has the old Ashkenazic custom of having only one person say kaddish at a time. They also have an additional mizmor of Tehillim after Shahhris, and three after Ma‘ariv, that kaddishes can be inserted before, between and after, in order so that everyone gets a turn. I may prefer that method, although if there's a large number of people saying kaddish it may end up that someone doesn't get a chance; that part doesn't sound so good. But I'll see when I go home later today or this week.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

hesped i gave at the levaya

My father knew everything
and what he didn't know
he wanted to

he got this from his mother
who was a teacher

my father noticed everything
and what he didn't notice
he knew he should have

he got this from his father
who was a detective

my father could fix everything
and what he couldn't fix
he knew someone who could

but i don't know where he got that from

i do not know everything
and frankly
there are certain subjects
that i have no interest
in knowing anything about
no matter how much he pushed me to explore them

i do not notice everything
i'm actually pretty oblivious
to most details of what's around me
it's amazing they actually let me drive
especially since i drive like my father
who also grew up in boropark
and he used to drive cabs

and i can't fix much
i used to know how computers worked
my father taught me that
until i went away to college and forgot it all
unlike him i have no idea
what goes on inside a car
or through telephone wires

this is what we call yeridat hadorot
diminution of generations

but my father took me out on the tidal flats of plum beach
during the winter
and up perkins drive on bear mountain
during the summer and the fall
and took me to build relationships
with friends and relatives
whether they were religious or observant
or not
or not
and him and my mother moved
from spring valley to west hempstead
and from west hempstead to brooklyn
so that me and my brother
could get a good jewish education

and my father taught me
to love God's world
and to love people
and to love yahadut

and i love him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ברוך דיין האמת

אַרְיֵ׳לֵיבּ בן אַבְרָהָם שְׁמַעְיָ ושֹׁאשָׁא הֶענָא
י"א אדר ה'תש"ב — ג' אדר ה'תשס"ז

(for levaya/shiva information please email, IM or call)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Practical DorShavian Peshat Soul Theory

Dialysis cleans your soul while you're still alive so that it doesn't need to be cleaned in the Afterlife.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Giving Of Ourselves

In Shemot/Exodus 22:28, God says "give me your firstborn!" and then continues in the next pasuq to talk about firstborn animals that also have to be given to God.

RaSh"Y explains that the human firstborn were the original priestly caste, before they were replaced by the kohanim, and that today we redeem our firstborn sons since they've been replaced.

What I found interesting was the juxtaposition with the firstborn animals that are given on the eighth day.

Although it isn't limited to the firstborn, we all, in a sense, give our sons (specifically) to God on the eighth day.

Today we don't have sacrifices, so there are no big holy barbecues of 'pleasing smells to God' — but when there were, there were also the more abstract, more 'advanced' as some of us like to think of it, verbal prayers. To me, berit mila is the opposite — a more primal, 'primitive', physical form of connecting to the Divine. We literally sacrifice a piece of ourselves and our children, performing the most miniscule echo of human sacrifice. We reject that which God never commanded, nor instructed, nor conceived of — the ritual murder of sentients, of ourselves, of our children — and yet we still give our own flesh and blood to God, as a sign of enduring life and our eternal contract with the Creator of Worlds.

Friday, February 16, 2007

судтелб ңа'тæỳт-а ҙаз-а, даҫãв-а озу-дагувҙаб ўа'амш
га'паба-а цаѝ-а озазаѝза-мет та'мефсатму ò еликæ-телб

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moove Over, חיות רעות

Shemot/Exodus 21:35

ֿוְכִֿי־יִגֹּףֿ שׁוֹר־אִישׁ אֶתֿ־שׁוֹר רֵעֵהוּ, וָמֵת...

On the phrase שור איש, R' Shelomo Yarhhi/Yitzhhaqi comments:
שור איש = שור של איש

In other words, he explains the juxtaposition ("semikhut") of the two nouns, שור (ox) and איש (man), to be a typical Semitic semikhut compound: shor-ish means shor shele-ish, "an ox of a man" and hence the first half of the verse reads:
And if a man's ox hurt his fellow's ox, and it dies...


Obviously, it must be that without recognizing that the semikhut compound means "a man's ox", we might have assumed that it meant "a man-ox" or "an ox-man"! Wereoxen!

I guess now we know what werewolves eat...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

״שמור״ ו״זכור״ בדיבור אחד

(first of all)

Thanks to all of you who've left messages of sympathy, hope, faith and philosophy on the previous post. I really appreciate it, and it definitely can't hurt my father's conditions.


Many people are familiar with the midrashic claim that ״זָכֿוֹר״ ו״שָׁמוֹר״ בדיבור אחד נאמרו — “remember” and “observe” were said as one utterance — because it was enshrined by R' Shelomoh Haleivi Alqabetz in his liturgical poem for Friday Night, Lekha Dodi. This midrash mitigates the contradiction between the Ten Commandments Decalogue as recorded in Shemot/Exodus and as recorded in Devarim/Deuteronomy, by explaining that the two contradictory phrasings were proclaimed at the same time, something that no human being could accomplish. God's speech at Mt Sinai is therefore even more miraculous.

What I did not know until I read it while going through the commentary of R' Shelomo Yarhhi/Yitzhhaqi on last week's parsha, however, is that the midrashic source of this interpretation, the Mekhilta, has a longer list of other statements that were made "as one utterance", including:
one who breaks sabbath restrictions is killed
offer sabbath sacrifices

don't have sex with your brother's wife
perform levirate marriage with your deceased brother's wife

What it seems the midrash is telling us is that the Godly act here was not necessarily to enunciate the sound sequences */zakor/ and */šamor/ at the same time, but to give us laws and instructions that seem to contradict each other, only to reveal the complex unity of the system.

ויקרא במדבר דברים
(and he called words in the wilderness)

Blogger is forcing me to 'upgrade' the next time I log in.
Let's see how that works out...

Monday, February 05, 2007

אַרְיֵ׳לֵיבּ בן שֹׁאשָׁא הֶענָא

I'm sitting here in my parents' apartment in Boropark, waiting for a call saying that they got to the hospital and the doctors are figuring out what's wrong with my father. He thinks it's a hernia (or few), above and beyond the few life-threatening conditions he's already carrying around. It's the same weakening heart and kidneys, and spine problems that he's been dealing with for years now.

And I'm wondering what, religiously, is supposed to help. Do I pray? Read Tehillim? Give more tzedaqa? Why should any of that matter? If the Creator of Worlds has decided that it's time for something to happen, who am I to say no?

God has eternal symphonies to weave and endless tapestries to conduct — God has a plan. God has many plans! How could I derail the cosmic balance? And even if I could — would it be right?

(my father passed away 16 days later)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I Don't Think That Counts As Attribution

My fourth-grade English teacher used to call the first day of every Gregorian month (i.e. parallel to the Jewish calendar's Rosh Hhodesh) "Martian Day", and write on the board exclusively in green chalk. I carry on this tradition with my own students, although the green chalk on blackboard has been replaced by green marker on whiteboard.


It seems that someone out in the Wikiverse decided that my undetailed and unsourced assertion about the powers of the Sanhedrin according to Jewish Law counted as a reliable source for the Wikipedia article on Modern attempts to revive the Sanhedrin. It's even got a link here to my post Super Sanhedrin to the Rescue?, which it quotes from in this section of the article.

In exploring this strange twist of fate, I figured out that I was propelled into wikidom at exactly 10:21, 8 August 2006 by a contributor going by the name 'Historian2'.

I also discovered that someone impersonated me on the forums of the ‘Arutz Sheva‘ Sanhedrin itself, calling themself "Steg" and quoting my post. There are a few interesting replies, as well as the rantings of some crazy self-identified Kahanist.

Thank you, SiteMeter, for revealing G d's secrets to flesh-and-blood!

Taboo deformation spelling of God as 'G d' copied from one of my students.

I'm actually in Wikipedia somewhere else, if you know how to look...

And no, I'm not Rabbi Gil Student.    ;-)