Tuesday, June 27, 2006

reading psalms

r. steve said if you cannot sleep try reading tehillim. it just so happened that for some reason yesterday i brought home a handy paperback selection of psalms sent to me by the ny board of rabbis.

i said to steve that i didn't think a bunch of poems talking about how god would save me if i trust in him could be much help to me at the moment. steve said if one didn't work try the next.

i'd finished my free copies of go ny & the advocate. i'd read every handout and flyer that made it home with me from pride weekend. i was too tired to do sudoku and couldn't remember where to find a fresh ink cartridge for my favourite pen to do ny sunday times crosswords. i didn't want to get out of bed because there are carbs in the kitchen and it was the wrong time in every time zone to call anyone. so i just read a bit in the handy paperback. and wrote. this is what i wrote:

first up under "help when struggling with loss, depression and general woe" is psalm 27.

"when evil men assail me to devour my flesh -
it is they, my foes and my enemies, who stumble and fall."

no, this is not one for tonight - nobody has stumbled or fallen yet and i'm not in the mood just now to wait any longer.

next is psalm 42. verse 4 is promising:

"my tears have been my food day and night;
i am ever taunted with, 'where is your god?'"

but then the psalmist tells himself to:

"have hope in god;
i will yet praise him for his saving presence." (v. 6)

and i am not yet ready to stop being angry. neither is the psalmist, who asks god:

"why have you forgotten me,
why must i walk in gloom, oppressed by my enemy?" (v. 10)

but s/he has to end up with the glass half full, repeating verse 6. i decide this section is not helping my depression and inner woe. i look at the other sections - not into repentance tonight, nor joy & praise, nor yahrzeit reflections. the nearest i can get is "seeking hope and inner strength".

first option - psalm 3. i like verse 8:

"arise, o lord, deliver me, o my god
for you slap all my enemies in the face,
you break the teeth of the wicked."

i'd like to ask for that but

a. i don't think that's how it works, otherwise there would be a whole lot more spontaneous combustions and dentists

b. i am extremely conflicted between my initial emotional demand for revenge, i.e., causing pain to those who hurt me, so they will know what they have done to me and how it feels ... and my follow-up rational response that wants to preserve my sense of my integrity by not entering the fray and perpetuating the violence. my sister told me once that sometimes it just makes you feel better to be mean back. i might be able to do it, except i cannot handle the guilt!

next offering - psalm 15 - a fine description of an ideal world, which just serves to remind me how far we are from that. psalm 34, verse 12:

"come, my children, listen to me;
i will teach you what it is to fear the lord."

i wish i could believe this, i do i do i do i do i do (cue cowardly lion). on the other hand, how do i know that i have not already been offered this teaching - it's just that i cannot yet hear it?

getting fed up with all this, i resolve to try for one more. psalm 142.

"5. look at my right and see -
i have no friend;
there is nowhere i can flee,
no one cares about me
6. so i cry to you, o lord;
i say, 'you are my refuge,
all i have in the land of the living.'
7. listen to my cry, for i have been brought very low;
save me from my pursuers,
for they are too strong for me."

certainly sounds like how i feel.

last week, a student asked me if i call on god when i am in distress. i told her that, like a child, when my parents were sick i lay in bed and said aloud, "please god don't let her/him die." god's average is currently 50%.

last night steve asked me what my relationship with god was like. i told him i thought it was in a very early stage. i also said that the strength i've found in these last sleepless stressful sugar-high days had to come from somewhere and i would not necessarily argue that god would not be an explanation for that.

but i am embarrassed to say that. especially after my glbtq-pride infusion of the past few days. it it possible for me to have faith and still be a realist? is it possible for me to accept a god that, if god does intervene in human affairs, does so randomly? what role is there in my life for a god that may be with me when i despair; but does not, cannot make it better? i tell people all the time that for a child god is like a parent who *can* kiss and make it better. pediatric theology. when we grow up we realise there are many things our parents cannot fix. hopefully, we forgive them, and continue to love them. why don't we do the same for god? superman and his ilk are wishful thinking.

so what might an adult view of god look like? after the shoah, my father told me many times that god sits and weeps with us. this is what our friends do - stay with us when the pursuers are too strong for us. their love helps us get stronger. how may i learn to see god as a friend like that?

a lesbian independent catholic minister sat at our table at the gotham comedy club on saturday night (we went to see judy gold. we really needed to laugh). we saw her again at a booth at pride, and there was a sign proclaiming mychal judge as a saint. i asked about praying to saints and the minister said that one makes specific requests and the saints intercede with god on one's behalf. i didn't want to be rude and ask what happens if you don't get an answer. still, i sometimes wish i could believe that completely.

starting to get light outside - will try and sleep now.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

feminism & heroism

just found a new site called the f word that i have added to my bloglist on the right. once again cannot sleep so composed a reply to the article the link is for. here are some snippets from the end that got me writing to them:

"For what it's worth though, I am compelled to come up with a quick show of my female idols as antidotes to FHM's Sexiest Woman list that is a product of our unavoidably gender-divided and gender-obsessed society. My own list encompasses many fields from the usual feminist suspects: musicians Tori Amos, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and Ani DiFranco and some riot grrl pioneers, to Mariella Frostrup, Alison Goldfrapp, comedienne Margaret Cho, actresses Rachel Stirling (star of Tipping The Velvet: about as down-to-earth as you can be when your mother's Dame Diana Rigg) Miranda Richardson, Emma Fielding, Helen Grace and socialist-feminist Saffron Burrows. This is of course, a very personal and non-exhaustive list but you get the idea, and there's bound to be something for everyone in there.

Some I celebrate for their eccentricity and their expressed which to deviate from "the norm", some I celebrate because they can live out bland everyday existences whilst still maintaining a presence or charm that separates them from everyone else in their situation. The list isn't age-restricted (for God's sake, if we're going to celebrate women as a distinctive category, let's not exclude those over 25). Most importantly, it doesn't look at the scale of their impact in terms of how many column inches they occupy in magazines or how many people buy what they produce - but the scale of the impact they've had on the individuals who are touched by their work, in whatever way, however many or few that may be. Perhaps this, better than anything, answers the question: what makes a woman a heroine? I may have mellowed since my days of reading press cuttings in the bath, but it's still a question that matters to me, and probably to many young women and girls trapped in suburbia grasping for any scrap of inspiration they can get their hands on..."

responding to fhm & female heroines

not having come out to myself until i was nearly 30, i didn't quite get that my adoration of beautiful women (ingrid bergman, lauren bacall, katharine hepburn through to michelle pfeiffer, candice bergen et al) might have been a message to myself :-)

from my perspective as a teacher of religion, i believe that so many of the people with whom i have worked have an innate yearning for a hero/ine & model. since organised religion outside its most orthodox forms is rarely seen as the source of ethical behaviour - religion is blamed by so many as the cause of most of the ills in our world - there is a vacuum now where once religion stood firm. what is attempting to fill it? capitalism, materialism, consumerism - call it what you will. and its heroes are the pretty young things.

maybe i'm just an angry old bourgeois-socialist bleeding-heart liberal dyke who should return to my andrea dworkin shrine and ask my panda spirit guide for serenity. i'll try and quench my fears for michael owen's acl, and stop reading through 'people' magazine before buying it for my mother. i do, however, have hope that we can learn to be kinder and also be entertained by those with gifts for acting, etc..

meanwhile, here are some of my heroines:

my mother - for making a new life after the death of my father 2 years ago.

my father - one of my favourite feminists & g/l/b/t/q advocates

laura flanders - who, beginning in school and ever since, has sought her truth and reported it in a variety of media.

sarah waters

katherine hepburn

maya angelou, audre lord, alice walker

rabbi sheila shulman

jury still out on angelina jolie ...

honorary mention for the 1970's rodney marsh because i have always been a fanatical qpr supporter

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

on the outside looking in

wb piglet
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
here is piglet stalking the animaniacs at the warner brothers lot in los angeles a couple of years ago.

i miss freakazoid

happiness is a warm puppy part deux

just read this quote from the guardian book extracts online:

"Any society's well-being can be measured according to the gap between the aspirations of its members and their attainability. Such invidious comparisons dominate the contemporary understanding of what it is to be happy. The economist Richard Layard explores in his book Happiness what he calls "the first world paradox" of a society that delivers greater wealth than ever but is little happier. Freud believed that the two central components for a happy life were love and work. A few years ago, the psychiatrist Anthony Clare offered an interviewer a more detailed prescription for happiness: "One, cultivate a passion ... Next, be a leaf on a tree. You have to be both an individual - you have to have a sense that you are you and that you matter - and at the same time you have to be connected to a bigger organism, a family, a community ... My third rule, avoid introspection. Next, don't resist change ... And finally, live in the moment; live now.""

here is the whole piece extracted from "the story of childhood" by libby brooks

leaf on a tree, eh? a bit pantheistic, but i like it. certainly i have a sense that a lot of the distress i see in my work comes from the tension between individual and group needs. maybe i can go a bit further and say that i notice a tendency to focus on the individual with little, if any, consideration of the effect this may have on the group. o dear - getting a bit wordy again. it's back to what i was saying the other day about context. i believe i need to understand that i am part of the tree as well as a leaf on my own. the well-being of the tree is vital to my own, as is mine to the tree. hmmmmm

as for what dr. clare says about avoiding introspection ... just not even going there!

what qpr fans do in the off-season

i believe this is the same mark henderson who has had a season ticket in the loft next to my sister for a few years. interesting thing about humour ... but first, read this:

"Serious side to clowning around
by Mark Henderson

THERAPEUTIC clowning may be a way to help IVF patients.
Research at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre near Tel Aviv suggested that entertaining women with a clown as they recovered from IVF treatment could nearly double the chances of success.

Patients who were visited by a clown soon after embryos were transferred to the womb — one of the most stressful IVF phases — had a pregnancy rate of 35.5 per cent compared with 19.3 per cent among women on non-humour treatment.

Using a clown was the idea of Shevach Friedler, a fertility doctor, who had also done a course at the Jacques Lecoq school of mime and theatre in Paris. “I have a theatrical background from one of the best movement and mime schools in France,” Dr Friedler said. “My background is clowning and movement. I’m also a physician who works in IVF. I thought we could combine the two.

“We know that fertility patients are very stressed. Everybody knows that humour is an effective way to reduce stress.”

Clowns are sometimes used in child medicine but rarely for helping adults.

Dr Friedler recruited his friend Shlomi Algussi, a restaurant chef and clown, to help his patients. They eschewed the typical red-nosed clown and invented a new character — a chef in a striped vest — to appeal to adult women. He performs magic tricks and tells jokes on a culinary theme.

The findings were based on a study of 93 patients and 93 controls"

wish i could remember the reference, think it is talmudic, anyway ... there is a story about a man in the marketplace who sees the prophet elijah and asks him who there will go to olam ha-ba (heaven). elijah points to a couple of guys across the way. the man rushes over to them and asks them what they do for a living. they tell him that they are jesters, that they make people laugh.

if you think about it, when you laugh, your stuff/burden/cares is/are lifted from your shoulders momentarily, and you get a bit of a rest, and build up a bit more strength to deal with it all when it lands on you again. good one dr. friedler!

Monday, June 19, 2006

liberal islam?

just read andy apostolou's review of "the caged virgin" by ayaan hirsi ali. i don't know much about liberal islam ... until i met irshad manji in toronto a few years ago i did not even know there was any such thing. i am sympathetic to a lot of what she says, but suspect that not too many people who need to listen will pay attention to the words of a woman and a lesbian, noch. in the wake of recent events in canada, she wrote in the globe and mail:

"How can we muslims allow our leaders to continue blaming the world for what we're doing to ourselves? ... above all, non-muslims in canada should ask themselves a basic question: what makes so many of us afraid to ask about what's happening in the muslim community? the easy answer is multiculturalism, according to which all cultures and religions are equal and off-limits to scrutiny.

but multiculturalism, like any belief system, becomes a stale orthodoxy if taken literally. by definition, orthodoxies anesthetize our brains, deny our consciences, suppress our voices and compel us to abandon the critical spirit that keeps any open society open. this past weekend, canadians received a wake-up call. let us all re-discover our spines - and our minds."

not just multiculturalism, methinks, but being bloody scared as well :-(

Sunday, June 18, 2006

tea with zeffirelli

just spoke to my mother regarding the photo of ahf in the straw hat.

a. my father hated that hat! his friend david insisted he wear it in the sun, and ahf kept 'losing' it, and david kept finding it. the hat never did make it back to england.

b. the square in which he was sitting is in the village where franco zeffirelli was filming 'tea with mussolini'. franco invited him back the next day to meet the dames, but they couldn't go, and franco never spoke to him again.

c. it was, however, a beautiful day.

i love goalies!

wc keller saves from del piero
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
without cable or any tv reception i am currently following the world cup via the internet. with the usa down to 8 outfield players and italy down to 9, kasey keller pulled off this stunning save from alessandro del piero to keep the score tied. wish i'd seen it live!

under the tuscan sun

2001 tuscan albert
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
i also love this kind of godfathery pic. ahf looks relaxed. he looks happy. we should all have days like this!

lemonade from lemons

2002? ahf on a panel somewhere
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
so here is an adorable picture of ahf. he is amused, and probably rather amusing to those who are listening at this moment.

this picture makes me smile too.

happy day of the father to you all.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

350 years of jews in england

here is today's op-ed from the daily telegraph online. i am pasting the whole thing because i want you to read it all and because i want to remember it. the last two paragraphs are the ones that i think relate to us all.

"How Cromwell gave us Joan Collins and other luminaries
By Charles Moore
(Filed: 17/06/2006)

Exactly 350 years ago, we began to be a multi-racial society. 1656 marked the return of Jews to England. They had been driven out by an edict of Edward I in 1290. In the intervening centuries - known as the Middle Period - Jews quite often came to this country on business, but they were not permitted to reside here or practise their religion. Their status, in fact, was that of Christians (and Jews) in Saudi Arabia today. In 1656, Cromwell let 300 of them return, and Jews have been here ever since.

Among the eventual consequences of this re-admission have been Benjamin Disraeli, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Peter Sellers, Joan Collins, Arthur Koestler, Alan Sugar, Nigella Lawson, Lucien Freud, Tom Stoppard and Sid James.

And why not add Max Perutz, Ali G, Ernst Chain, Jimmy Goldsmith, Miriam Rothschild, Melanie Klein, Alfred Brendel, Bernard Lewis, Emeric Pressburger, Harold Pinter, Sigmund Warburg, Keith Joseph, George Weidenfeld, Karl Popper, Ronald Harwood, Ernst Gombrich, Simon Schama, Jonathan Miller, Philip Green, Rachel Weisz and Robert Winston?

Or Isaiah Berlin, Jacob Bronowski, Rosalind Franklin, Harold Abrahams, Alexander Korda, George Solti, Denis Norden, Muriel Spark, Siegfried Sassoon, Jacob Epstein, Daniel Day-Lewis, Nigel Lawson, Janet Reger, Marjorie Proops, Sam Mendes, Stirling Moss and Bernard Levin? It is even claimed that David Beckham, if not technically a Jew, is, as the old joke has it, Jew-ish.

(And since into each life a little rain must fall, one might also note Michael Winner, Esther Rantzen, Eric Hobsbawm, Jerry Springer, Edwina Currie and Robert Maxwell on the debit side of the ledger.)

Anyone who has ever studied at a university, needed good doctors, shopped at Marks & Spencer or Tesco, benefited from scientific invention, listened to classical music, sought accountants or lawyers, watched a film, bought a book or needed his head examined, has gained from Cromwell's decision. The Jewish contribution is so great that it pervades almost all aspects of British society.

I have named individual Jews deliberately because, though it is always dangerous to generalise, even favourably, about race, it does seem to my gentile eyes that there is more prodigious ability and energy per Jew than per the rest of us. The community here has never been enormous - at present, it is somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 - but it has achievements out of proportion to its size. I like Herbert Samuel's claim that "The Jews are the same as everybody else, only more so".

But the interesting thing for British society today is to ask why such a people have been able to overcome prejudices that at first excluded them absolutely and later accepted them only on qualified terms (Jews could not sit in Parliament until the mid-19th century, for example). The answer could be useful for everyone.

The key, perhaps, is to be found in one of the earliest reports of Jews in England after their return. On October 14, 1663, Samuel Pepys found a way of visiting a synagogue in London (something very unusual for a Gentile at that time). In his diary, he described the service which he witnessed. He did not like it ("I never… could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this"), but he also noted that the Jews said a special prayer for the King. In other words, they accepted the civil power.

The Jews did not do this just to save their skins by sucking up to Charles II: they did it because it was part of their religious duty. It still is. No believing Jew will obey a civil law that forces him to disobey his religious law - eat pork, for example. But if there is no conflict, his religion teaches him that he must obey the law of the land. In the Talmud, the question arises of whether you should pay taxes to a secular king. Yes, comes the answer, because "The law of the kingdom is the law". In the standard collection, called Ethics of the Fathers, which brings together rabbinical wisdom over the centuries, Jews are told: "Pray for the welfare of the government, for, without the fear of it, people will swallow one another alive."

Even the most cursory study of Jewish life shows that it is full of disputes. There are splits between orthodox and reformed Jews, and within orthodoxy. There are thousands of secular Jews who feel very Jewish, but refuse to have their Jewishness defined by religion. There is ceaseless, often angry argument: when you read the Christian Gospels, you find that one of the most common scenes is of learned men quarrelling. That is still the case in Jewish culture.

But because of this basic agreement among Jews about the status of the secular law, the effect of these quarrels on the wider society is minimal. It is significant that virtually no one reading this article will have heard of Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu. He is the chief justice of the Beth Din, the Chief Rabbi's court which adjudicates on the endless delicate points of Jewish law, often relating to diet or Sabbath observance, which come up within the community.

If Judaism were an aggressive religion, seeking to lay down its law for all mankind, then this supremely learned old gentleman could acquire menacing power. Like the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran after 1979, Dayan Ehrentreu could tell people to kill in the name of God. Instead, his effect is the opposite. By policing so meticulously the difference between the precise duties of Jews and the duty to society at large, this scholar helps define the space necessary for people with beliefs quite at variance with those of the majority to live harmoniously among them. In this sense, people can be "fundamentalist" and yet perfectly at home in a society which is not. For 2,000 years, Jews have developed a subtle understanding of the difference between the ideal society that would exist if God's laws prevailed everywhere and the world as it is.

Without this understanding, people do indeed "swallow one another alive" and - one might add in the era of suicide bombings - swallow themselves in the process.

With this understanding, a minority community can develop enough confidence and win enough acceptance to do good beyond the confines of itself. The Jewish concept of mitzvah, on which David Cameron dwelt when he made a speech celebrating the 350 years last week, means a good deed done for its own sake. Such deeds are visible in the importance that Jews attach to charity and to education. British society needs a lot more mitzvahs. There is also the idea of "chesed", man's kindness to all men, as first shown by Abraham when he entertained angels unawares. Thus does a potentially very closed community open itself out. The difference between majority and minority is very real - but not antagonistic.

In the past half-century, Muslims have come where the Jews came earlier, and in much larger numbers. Like such Jews, they have sometimes experienced the unhappiness that comes when one's religion is misunderstood or derided. Unlike the Jews, too many of their leaders tend to teach them that such slights must be avenged, that existence as a minority is just a temporary misfortune, not a state to be lived with, and that the law of England is virtually no law at all. If that attitude continues, society is reduced to a conflict about who will swallow whom alive. To avoid that is a huge and urgent task.

fathers' day tomorrow :-(

2004 ahf @ lbc ordination
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
just now, after shabbat services, someone behind me wished someone in front of me a happy fathers' day (or is it father's day?) and my stomach dropped like i missed a step.

on 8th july it will be two years since ahf died.

this is the last known picture of my father - speaking at the leo baeck college ordination on the sunday. that afternoon was the final of the european championships, and we spoke a little before he handed the phone over to my mother and went to watch the game on television. a while later he picked up the extension to say, "the greeks have scored!" and a while later than that he picked up again to announce with glee, "the greeks have won!"

those were the last words i heard him say. and they were about football. he died on the wednesday.

i have this photo on the wall of my office. he never could keep his tallit on straight. neither can i :-)

Friday, June 16, 2006

loadsa piglet

loadsa piglet 2
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
what would an incredible event like the quarter project be like without a piglet picture to commemorate it?!

here he is, getting ready to help spread the coins on the floor.

40,000 quarters

40,000 quarters
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
about 9 months ago, our amazing temple educator got our religious school kids, and the ones at her other temple, involved with an organisation called the i.n.n.

we had learned that there are 40,000 hungry people in nassau/suffolk counties. we wanted to see what 40,000 looked like (we'd seen the movie 'paperclips') and lauren decided we would collect 40,000 quarters, lay them all out on the floor at the synagogue, and then give the $10,000 to the i.n.n.

yesterday we completed this particular project. this picture is of the quarters spead out on the carpet. at first we placed them very carefully edge to edge. as time went on, we ended up pouring the rest on the floor and spreading them out as flatly as we could! as you may notice in this picture!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

crouch playing for qpr!

crouch playing for qpr!
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
here he is in the hoops.

come on you rrrrr's!

o yes, and congratulations to england. it wasn't pretty but they've made it to the next round.

a former qpr man has scored in the world cup finals

doesn't he look excited? did i mention he used to play for qpr?

a cross from beckham ...

crouch scores the 1st vs t&t
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
... and crouch rises at the far post to power the ball past shaka hislop in the t&t goal. did i mention that crouch really started out at qpr? we picked him up on a free from spurs i think, but he started to look good when playing in the hoops. sold him when we were relegated from the premiership

world cup photo day

crouch misses open goal vs t&t
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
this is a picture of peter crouch missing an open goal against trinidad & tobago in the group phase this afternoon. i said at the time that he'd better score a goal otherwise he will be slated for misses like this.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

so rude!

today's telegraph has an article about how rude young people are these days.

it begins in an amusing way:

"Young people have always been rude, far ruder than anybody else. It goes back at least as far as Jane Austen. Remember how, in Emma, Frank Churchill left all the doors open, exposing poor fragile Mr Woodhouse to a draught? Even the Queen, aged 19, knocked off a policeman's helmet on VE Day, so she once told the writer Hammond Innes."

ever since i moved to the usa, there have been many times when i felt people were being rude. i usually put it down to cultural differences. i am not talking about those awful moments when i realise i am thinking just like a granny i am thinking in my day one knocked before entering a room and stood up to greet people and offered one's seat on public transport and let older people through first and cetera. i mean i was taught to do that, although i do not remember any kind of lessons - it was just understood that there were certain ways to behave and one should always be polite.

the thing that makes me angriest with regard to rudeness is probably call waiting. i am talking to someone. someone else wants to talk to me. they beep my conversation. the idea is (although i usually ignore call waiting unless it is a critical situation at work like an impending death and then i explain that to the person with whom i am actually speaking) that i now have to choose which person gets priority. even considering leaving the present conversation is rude. weighing up the relative merits of the 2 people is rude. rude rude rude!

o dear, i appear to be slipping into a rant. hopefully back to the point - what does the english newspaper article have to say?

"Many middle-class parents appear to believe that ''manners'' are some kind of appalling spiritual restriction on their darling child's individuality. How dreadful that little Ben or Zoe should have to take a polite interest in Aunt Marge's adored collection of house plants. In many households a separatist regime is operated where the children either eat in another room or appear at the table only intermittently during meals. They don't talk to adults, they don't ask or answer questions, they have no small-talk, they don't learn anything; they are stuck in the narrow perimeters of their own interests and experience."

ah yes, blame the parents!

at this point, the religionist in me does start to wonder ... gosh this is hard to figure out how to say ... i am thinking about how a sense of one's place in the universe affects the way one lives ones life. i may not be able to get my head around how infinitely minuscule i am in the larger picture. i do, however, need to know that i am not the centre of the universe. and i also need to understand the effect my behaviour has on the here and now.

so where am i with this at the moment?

however bourgeois i am, i still find it hard to abandon the motto "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need". for me this is the ideal. how on earth to get there is a whole other problem. that is what comes to my mind at first. next, i hear the great rabbi hillel saying, " what is hateful to you, do not do to others", and he continues, "that is the whole torah - the rest is commentary. now go and study it!"

you don't have to love everyone. how can you love EVERYONE? but you do have to treat them with respect.

as a jew, i may look to the writings of my bible and its commentaries for help in developing my abilities to create healthy relationships during my life. i do not believe there are pat answers in these texts, but rather they encourage me to engage in the process of finding meaning, and thus help me take the first step of being active in my own development. o dear - am i making any sense?

for some reason, it always takes more energy to be pleasant rather than mean.

whether it is torah or other sacred scriptures, or philosophies, or disciplines; i believe that we need some kind of structure or path or whatever you wish to call it.

we need to develop the strength to not be mean.

or rude.

unless you like the world the way it is right now?

dam piglet

piglet hoover
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
just realised that there have been no piglet pix posted since january. a schande! this one was an accident, as i had no idea that i was going to go over the hoover dam until i got there, and crossed into another state and another time zone. this is the view looking back, as we sat in a very long and slow line of traffic. plus ca change.

welcome to teaneck

Originally uploaded by ravaj.
saw this on treppenwitz today and wanted to blog it so here it is. is it real?!

btw - 'parnassa' = hebrew for making a living

and you shall love

in the book of deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 5, the torah says:

"v'ahavta et adonai elohecha
and you shall love adonai your god"

in our liturgy, these words follow the shema, and continue with a description of practical ways to work on one's relationship with adonai. i have been thinking about this verse quite a lot recently, especially the first word.

when i work with bar & batmitzvah students, it is important to me that we discuss the meaning of the prayers as well as perfect the reading of them. of course they don't have to agree with or believe in anything i or the prayerbook say. i do, however, insist that we talk about the whys and why nots. a parrot could read the prayers. i do not want my students to be parrots.

nu - i ask my student: "what does it mean - and you shall love?" they usually answer very properly: "you're supposed to love god." or something like that. "so *do* you love god?" "well, er, yeah, i dunno, i suppose, whatever ..." etc.

here's the thing ... when i think about love in my life - the people i love and who love me - it doesn't just happen overnight. when i was born, all i knew was waaaah hungry waaaaah wet waaaaah poohy waaaaah tired. i had to learn about trust and caring and kindness; and whence they came. as i got older i had to learn how to be trustworthy and kind myself. in any relationship we may have an initial attraction/connection, but what makes it healthy and lasting is working on it and developing it. why should it be any different with god or the divine or whatever your name is for the energy that i choose to refer to as god?

so i talk with the kids about their parents and how their relationship has developed over the last few years. and then i ask - why should it be any different with god? i say that in my experience many people assume that "v'ahavta - you shall love" is a command ordering you to do this. but love can't be commanded. respect may be commanded, but not love. so what might this word mean?

when you look at the hebrew (apologies to my dikdook klassi teacher yossi that i no longer remember the correct grammatical phrases) the verb 'to love' is the second person singular past tense, but the vav in front of it turns it into a future tense. what's the big deal? you *shall* love, i.e, in the future, i.e., as the relationship develops. it is the beginning of a process, and the rest of the passage lists a number of practical actions one may do to that end.

when the students realise that, rather than being a demand to do something that currently makes no sense to them, this is actually a suggestion that may guide them to find some meaning in their religious tradition, they think it's pretty cool. i do too.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

random memory

Originally uploaded by ravaj.
this photo was an accident ... was working for syndication international yet paying for my own film so - wanting to save - i would take out a half-finished film if i needed to change films and mark how many frames were used, and then put it back in at another time. messed up this one, and ended up with arlo guthrie with faint joan baez over his heart!

unfortunately, since that time joan baez is no longer anywhere near my own heart. she had a hissy fit that evening. i was so excited to be able to shoot her concert, having grown up with her as an icon set before me. so i went out to the centre aisle for my 2 song allowance. i knelt down so i was not in anyone's line of vision. i had no flash attachment. all of a sudden she stops playing in the middle of a song. she points at me and says, in front of several hundred people, "you! put that f***ing camera away!!" i looked behind me, because i assumed it was someone without permission. she continued to yell at me: "i won't play anymore if you don't get rid of that ******* camera!" then the punters in the seats started yelling at me ... "yeah, put it away! we paid for these seats!" etc. so away i went.

this was at what used to be the hammersmith odeon, and i had given up going to qpr for this gig. luckily, i made the second half, so the evening was not a total waste.

anyway, this is why i am no longer fond of ms. baez.

the telephone game

don't i just love it when a fundamentalist xian starts quoting the bible to me in english. if i can get away with it in a gentle way, i will ask the person if s/he speaks hebrew. if so - great! usually, though, it is not so. thus the question becomes - the most original version that exists is in hebrew, which was translated into greek, and the greek into latin, and the latin into english. how can you take all the english words literally? imagine the game of telephone (broken telephone?). in england it is called 'chinese whispers'. sit in a circle and whisper something to your neighbour. each passes the message on to the next neighbour. the final person in the circle repeats the message out loud - it is rarely the same as the original.

a new york daily yesterday had a front page with the photo of the dead zarqawi and a speech bubble coming out of his dead mouth saying 'warm up the virgins". via the dry bones blog, i came across the following: here please read about the rewards the quran says that martyrs will receive. a quote:

"The Koran is beautifully written, but often obscure. One reason is that the Arabic language was born as a written language with the Koran, and there's growing evidence that many of the words were Syriac or Aramaic.

For example, the Koran says martyrs going to heaven will get hur, and the word was taken by early commentators to mean "virgins," hence those 72 consorts. But in Aramaic, hur meant "white" and was commonly used to mean "white grapes."

Some martyrs arriving in paradise may regard a bunch of grapes as a letdown. But the scholar who pioneered this pathbreaking research, using the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg for security reasons, noted in an e-mail interview that grapes made more sense in context because the Koran compares them to crystal and pearls, and because contemporary accounts have paradise abounding with fruit, especially white grapes."

this leads me to vaguely recall a piece in the satirical publication 'the onion' i think it was about a suicide bomber waking up in heaven surrounded by thomas jefferson and james madison and 70 other virginians.

mad at the bbc

was so excited during the england vs hungary commentary on five live to hear they would be broadcasting all of the world cup matches.

today though UK ONLY grumble mutter

have you ever followed a sporting event by reading text online?

the only one that i find bearable is cricket - firstly because the game is slow enough that the writer can describe it well and i can follow it well - secondly because, sometimes at least, the style of the writer makes it entertaining to read. i like the guys on cricinfo.

someone asked me the other day for whom i am rooting. i had not thought about it since it seemed obvious that i want england to do well. but i am an american, and the u.s. are actually ranked higher than england in the world rankings. so, i answered my young congregant with a convoluted babbling that i think said that i'd like the usa to do well also and that brazil is probably the best team and that holland have always been my favourite european team and in the end it is only qpr so since peter crouch used to play for us i have to follow england and the last first team game theo walcott played before making the england team was against qpr and the #3 for jamaica in the warm-up game against england has just signed for qpr and you see how this is going ... ?

half-time. england lead paraguay 1-0. time to get some breakfast.

the war on terror

do go read riverbend (click on the baghdad burning link to the right). she does not post that often, but it's a good opp to hear from an ordinary person living in the middle of it all. here is a snippet responding to the recent u.s. "success":

"So now that Zarqawi is dead, and because according to Bush and our Iraqi puppets he was behind so much of Iraq's misery- things should get better, right? The car bombs should lessen, the ethnic cleansing will come to a halt, military strikes and sieges will die down… That's what we were promised, wasn't it? That sounds good to me. Now- who do they have to kill to stop the Ministry of Interior death squads, and trigger-happy foreign troops?"