Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shtetle Salad

Succos is truly a special time in the chandler shtelte.
Everybody is building everybody’s succa
And getting schach for each other
And planning fabrengnens
Every single night.
Night one…

            The meal had concluded and off they went; the young man and his fellow Jews. The night had cooled and their way lit by the full moon. It wasn’t long before they came to the succcah hosting that night’s fabrengen. Within they were greeted by the rest of the community sitting around a table warmly lit by rope lights all around...

“….so…..Jews…are we a salad or are we a melting pot?”
"We’re a salad"
"We’re a melting pot"
"We’re a salad in general,
but a melting pot in the succah
we’re all equal in a succah"
"are we equal in a succah?
Maybe I’m in here thinking about the succah and someone else is in here thinking about sports."
"So, maybe we’re not the same in the succah?"
"No we’re the same"
"Maybe we’re both"
"no no in the succah we’re the same that’s the point"
"but the lulav, that’s not the same"
"that’s a lulav this is a succah"
"wait, are we a salad when it comes to mitzvos?"
"but it’s always the same mitzvah"
"but it’s not done the same"
"can the same mitzvah be different?"

"maybe it’s the mitzvah that’s special to you
so it’s not the same. It’s like a salad.
We all have that mitzvah that we do"
"But it’s the same mitzvah. The same energy"
 "Maybe it’s the same"
"Maybe it’s different"
"It’s both"
"Then if I’m m’hudar a mitzvah
Is it for me?
Or is it for G-d?
Does G-d care how big my teffilin are?"
"The point
Is just do mitzvahs
The best we can"

            And so the Jews of the Chandler shtetle departed late. First all walking together then bit bit going their separate ways. All contemplating when Jews are a salad and when they are not. Pondering on what is a mitzvah and what does it do. It’s a wonder if Chandler slept that night.

Night two

            It was a similar scene to the night before. The Jews of Chandler all in a succah that had no room yet all had a seat. The young man entered in the midst of a peculiar discussion about some interesting halachas. The discussion went on until it eventually died out in silence…

"… know. Sometimes I have a hard time accepting what G-d does. Like there will be a morning where I’m rushing to work and right as I leave I’ll knock over my coffee. And I’m like “why G-d? Why did you do that?”
"Well, is because G-d did it?
Or because you are clumsy?"
"We cant ever fathom why things happen
The world is big
And G-d is bigger.
We can’t fathom his calculations"
"Like when you get stuck in traffic
And it turns out there was an accident down the road
But now it wasn’t you in that accident"
"But why did there have to be an accident?"
"Look we can’t know!"
"Who knows!
Maybe they got into an accident and met and got married!
And it wasn’t meant for you!"

"We have to think about how many calculations must go into the flutter of a leaf"
"I know I know. But I can’t help but get frustrated
And G-d wants us to be happy
I try not to get mad at G-d"
"Look these things
It’s not something we just get
It’s easy to trust G-d intellectually
We know he’s in charge
But to do so emotionally
That’s a skill
That takes work.
A lot of work. All the time. But then we get there.
G-d always puts us on the right path"

"Yes. Like when something goes wrong
I don’t say I messed up
I say G-d wants me to do it differently"

"How do we know we’re on the right path when things are going well?
Like if I have an interview that goes really well
But I’m really not supposed to take that job"
"Because it’s happening that’s why!"
"How can we know?"
"Probably you’re supposed to have the interview
And just not the job
You don’t know why"
"Like it’s better not to pray that things should change
But instead that we should be able to see the reason for why things are."
"Maybe we’ll never see"
"The point
Is just do the right thing
The best we can"

And so the Jews of the Chandler shtetle departed late. First all walking together then bit bit going their separate ways. All contemplating how to achieve acceptance and how to work on it. Pondering on what is the right path and how to know. It’s a wonder if Chandler slept that night.

The young man walked with his fellows. A scene it must have been. In the dead of night, in the middle of the road, the moon lighting up their white button down shirts. He walked with his fellows until he finally found himself alone. The final leg of his walk was always a solitary one. A thoughtful one.

Jews are a salad
But Chander is a salad with dressing

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Journey to No Destination

The Young American Man parked the Tahoe on the side of the road. He has to reassess where he was headed and this was after he had already pulled a u-turn off the other highway. To his right was the wide open space of the reservation; sort of a taboo area as far as the young man knew. You don’t go there unless you have a reason. You don’t go there unless you carry. That’s just what the young man knew.

            It was a newfound freedom to drive; An ability to go anywhere anytime that the young man had never known before. If not for the fact that the Tahoe wasn’t his he would have already been halfway to Texas by now. Or Mexico or Chicago or pretty much in whatever direction he would’ve picked without giving it much thought.

That was exactly what he decided to do.
He picked the way to nowhere.
He found it.

            He went a mile north of where he was and decided to just head west to wherever this road took him. He was still passing through residential areas and didn’t expect the road to end so abruptly, but it did all of a sudden. The whole entire city seemed to have decided to just end right there on the spot. He did, however, see a dirt parking lot and decided to pull in to perhaps reassess where he was actually going. That was where he saw the trail heading toward the mountains. It was a cool day, overcast and protected from the sun. The young man, without much thought, filled his water bottle and headed toward the mountain. He was going to go right to the top of that mountain.

After that he didn’t really know,
 but he knew he was going on an adventure
 and that was all the direction he needed.

            He followed the trail which wrapped over to the eastern side of the mountain. The accent was easy though he noticed he was gaining altitude quickly. He was thoroughly enjoying himself soaking in the scenery, smelling the fresh desert air, the scent of the monsoon in the distance, birds of prey hovering over the valley, the breeze. It didn’t take long to reach the top where he beheld the beauty of Arizona. To the south was the city. Beyond that the wide expanse of the reservation and way off beyond that he could see the monsoon making its way into the valley and dowsing the Sonoran Desert with pillars of rainfall. Looking to the North he could see he was on one of two rows of mountains forming a secret valley below him. It was amazing that such places were so close to home yet he never discovered them.

Close was a relative term as he would find out.

            The trail continued down his row of mountains, which was smaller than the row across the secret valley, so naturally he continued. After all why go back? He was clearly headed somewhere and he didn’t need to know where that was. The descent was steep and lead him further west into the secret valley. Here was the true beauty. Not because of the scenery, but because of the atmosphere. On both sides were mountains. In front and behind him was simply the stretch of the secret valley. There were no signs of people. No society. It was a large and secret enclave close at hand to the world, but guarded and watched over by the protective mountains. Here he veered off the trial and decided to continue west to explore the secret valley. He had an excellent sense of direction and it wasn’t the weather for snakes to be about.

            He continued to wonder about lost in his own thoughts; Observing the various flora, the occasional gecko, and whatever interesting rocks were strewn about. Oh how he loved the way life was sometimes.

            He soon found himself climbing down into a dried out riverbed. He thought for a minute about following the riverbed through the rest of the secret valley, but he didn’t know if flash floods occurred out there and with the weather the way it was it seemed to be a remote possibility; and a possibility was good enough to just climb out the other side instead of waiting to find out.

            He soon figured he had seen as much as could be seen for this part of his adventure and crossed back to where the trail originally was. It began to rain lightly on the young man, but he just took off his glasses and walked. He didn’t have much of a care in the world at that point. When he found the trail again he realized he was tired.

He had his adventure.
 He had done his thoughtful pondering.
 He was low on water.
That was when he saw his predicament.

           So lost in thought he had wound up going far, far west and now he was exactly in the middle of the secret valley. He could retrace his steps to the first row of mountains, but that would mean a very difficult climb considering how steep it was getting down. Or he could continue the trial toward the other row of mountains which was a gentler slope and trust that it would soon cut back across the valley to his destination once it rounded the first and smallest mountain. He had to consider the amount of water he’d lose trying to retrace his steps so he took what, hopefully, was the somewhat longer but easier route.

He chose wrong.

            Once he finally zig zagged his way up the first peak he discovered to his dismay that the trail in no way cut back down again. No, it went forward eastward and he knew that he would now have to cross the entire row. Every. Single. Peak. It would have then made sense to simply head back admitting defeat.

But he passed the point of no return.
 The sun
The sun had begun a race with him.
And he was already losing.

            He had raced the sun once before back in Tasmania and he lost that race. He knew full well what happens when the sun beats you. Then he had the equipment for it not to be a problem, but here he had already run out of water and had absolutely no way of making his way through in darkness. If he went back westward now the sun would drop before he made it out. He had to risk it. He had to trudge right across every single mountain to at least get himself situated directly north of his destination. And hope there was a way to cut across.

The sun wanted a rematch.
This time he couldn’t lose.

            He was very far northwest of where he needed to be. He was so lost in his pondering that he had no idea how far he had actually gotten. As the wind increased in strength, the rain continued to drizzle down on him, and he made his way up the next peak he felt like Frodo making his way to Mordor. The occasional news stories he had seen about people being found out here passed through his mind. About the hikers that got killed by the heat, or bitten by a snake, or died because they didn’t make it back by nightfall: like that guy and his son that were found last month. Until that day they were just unfortunate stories about unfortunate hikers to the young man, but now he was in that story. It was no matter right? Just over the next peak the trail would cut back over again.

He made it over the next peak.
His heart sank.
There was no going back.
There was no telling where he was going.
There was no telling if he was going anywhere.

            The young man looked all around him. He observed the true distance he had to go which was much longer than it appeared from the secret valley. He couldn’t even shortcut down. Not with how steep it was and everything being wet.

He was trapped and the sun knew he was.

            He looked back to check the sun. It still had a short way to go until it fell behind the distant mountains, but it was going. It was peculiar, the young man thought, how it was such a tranquil menace. Simply descending in its own peaceful beauty and elegance, minding its own celestial business, yet the young man was not fooled. He knew it meant to kill him, but so gracefully; such a peculiar enemy to have. 


            Suddenly an overwhelming feeling of dismay swept over the young man and he had to stop. He was not the type to get like this, but every once in a while reality did indeed succeed in breaking the barriers he so carefully preserved. He was going to be the hiker in the news.

He wasn't going to make it.
He was going to be the story.

I really need you save me right now.
I don’t know how you’re going to do it,
But I need you to give me the strength and show me out.”

            Perhaps the prayer was answered or perhaps the prayer itself was the answer. It was the reminder that the young man had been in hopeless situations before. Times of absolute dismay with no clear way out. Yet G-d had never once left him stranded and never once did the young man ever doubt it. It was always by that faith that the young man kept his sanity and it was always by that faith that, though the way could sometimes be miserable, he was always guided to the other side. Here was no different.

He got back up and moved forward without a worry.

            The young man had pulled himself together and returned to his collected self. He knew he simply had to take his route one peak at a time and quit trying to predict where the trail would go; just go with the flow. Everything was bound be ok. He might get stuck. He might be miserable. He might get scared, but in the end he knew what the end would be. Directly above him were two hawks gliding in the wind remaining stationary where they were. They would keep him company as he continued his treacherous journey to the plains of Mordor.

            After a short while the young man figured that if G-d had sent him here and would get him out then he should make sure to find the reason. The young man began reciting mishnayos by heart as he trudged along. He was struck by the most exciting epiphany: by virtue of an enormous divine scheme here was sent, dazed to the point of oblivion, to this mountain that was probably never elevated before, and here he was elevating it for the very first time! Once convinced he had done his part for the whole purpose of this journey the young man continued with more confidence than ever.

            As he was walking along the trail was getting more and more narrow. He saw a peculiar pit by the side and decided to check it out. No sooner did he take his first step when the ground and rocks gave way beneath him. His feet immediately followed suit going wherever the ground decided to take him.

Half the ground tumbled down the incline to dash him to pieces.
Half lead into the pit to trap him forever.

            In the nick of time the young man fell back onto his hands and regained his grip on the mountain watching the rocks carry on without him to their doom. The flash of terror from the episode dissipated as quickly as the rocks disappeared and the young man persisted, cautiously, to investigate the pit. He looked down into it. It was perhaps twenty five or thirty feet deep and jagged with rocks. The young man shuddered at the dread of what it would be like to fall into such a thing. All alone. No one to save you. No one to ever to find you.

            However, the young man knew he was not alone at all. He went back to carry on his journey and, tired and realizing he needed to concentrate more on his footing on the ground, he stopped reciting mishnayos and resolved instead to have a casual conversation with G-d. After all it was pretty lonely out there. He walked along talking out loud to G-d about the things that were going on and things he wanted to do, things he didn’t think were fair, things he didn’t understand, questions about this or that, things he wanted and so forth. He did make it clear with him that oh he was very happy and content with G-d just, you know, things didn’t always have to be so surprising and creative.

He had rounded the last and tallest peak
It was finally time to go down.

            The trail split and the young man took the path to the right. He had a very good feel for where he needed to go it was just a matter of actually getting there. By now he knew he must be somewhat east of his destination. After finally rounding the last peak the young man, for the first time, caught a glimpse of exactly where he needed to get to. He saw it from across the valley, which was much wider on the side, just beyond the first mountain he had ascended on arrival.

He was far
He was far

            He was not only extremely far northeast of his destination, but he was also extremely high up; higher than he had imagined. The young man was a little baffled that he had gone so high up without knowing how. At least now he could see it. At least now he was going down. At this stage all he had to focus on was getting off the mountain. Once he could make it to level ground the light wasn’t as big of an issue as it was in the untrustworthy path he was already on. He looked to the west. The sun had finally dropped below the distant mountains casting a shadow upon the whole valley. The weather didn’t allow for the usual incredible beauty of the Arizona sunset; a massive mural of orange and pink providing a gorgeous backdrop for the mountains in the foreground which contrasted the sunset as a majestic shadow. As if on stage. Instead on that the day the storm clouds lit up in a gleaming wash of white giving the mountains a luminous blanket to stay warm for the night.

            The way down was the most difficult. It was the steepest part of the journey and the ground here was the most unfaithful. A few times he lost the path completely and had to carry on by virtue of his gut alone. He finally made it to the bottom. The light was waning and he had no idea what was a trail and what wasn’t and was determined instead to just go. He didn’t care what was in his way or what he came across, the time had come to just go there. He marched right through the valley in sheer determination mostly following a riverbed that would inevitably lead him out being, as it was, a riverbed. Toward the end it was already too dark to figure out where he was. He was close to houses, but he couldn’t see how the new trail would get him across. For a split second he saw the Tahoe. That was it. He was done.  He cared not for where the trail wanted to go. He climbed right into the mini canyon that made his destination so close yet so far. He cut across and on all fours squabbled and hoisted himself up and out of the mini canyon.

            As soon as he got back to the Tahoe he downed all the water he had left behind. An enormous feeling of relief softly surmounted over the young man. That feeling of relief and accomplishment that was at the end of all fear and misery. It was that inevitable feeling that gave him a cool head in all situations. He made it. He put the keys into the ignition and drove off. Once he found the highway he sped off and couldn’t help but express his delight with G-d out loud as he hurried on home.

He laughed as he drove
Oh how life was
It seemed to go no destination
And he was happy to go there



Monday, June 30, 2014

What Rather than Why

The young man decided it was best to ignore the last message his brother sent. It was because there was no answer. There was no real way to explain such a thing or make it taste any better than it did. It was the question that had been asked over and over since the dawn of time.

Why is this allowed to happen?

No response is an answer in and of itself

The young man's thoughts were not on the hows and the whys. There was no point in focusing on questions that only lead to frustration. The universe was too vast to comprehend and the G-d that guided it infinite beyond infinity. There was no way to explain how any good could come from such a thing, but neither could one claim it was bad either. 
The key was simple acceptance. 

It was not the hows. It was not the whys. It was the what that the young man observed. It was what he felt when he first heard the news. It was something he didn't quite expect to feel. To feel about three boys he never met, never would meet, who's families he'd never speak to or see in person.

He felt hurt
The same hurt felt all around the world

It was was the most profound thing about it all. Actual tears were being shed in Australia, America, England, and Israel. The same tears and the same hurt were at that moment binding all the Jews across the globe together. Wherever one was in the world. Whether they were religious or not. Whether they went to shul every day or maybe once a year. It didn't matter. They were our boys. our sons, our younger brothers, our older brothers. It wasn't like the rest of the world, satisfied with a hashtag and simply disappointed in the end. Every Jewish woman felt the pain as a mother and every man the pain as a brother. In the weeks prior thousands came together in prayer. Thousands said psalms in unison. Thousands took upon new acts of kindness and good deeds. Not for three boys they never met, but for three boys they knew. After all was said and done there were no thoughts of failure or despair. Instead millions stood together in the same genuine tears and hurt for one of their own. For three. But it was their three.

It was tremendously sad
Yet it was uniquely beautiful  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Me and The WBC: Permission to Picket

I recently befriended one of the leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church
I had to double check it was the real person
It was
I just had trouble believing anyone could be that stupid

Oh and it goes on...

And this guy
truly has no idea who he's talking too


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things that Pass. Things that Last

The young man sat quietly watching as the yard filled with water. They had eaten the yom Tov meal outside that night. The ambiance was delightful. Lights had been strung up along the perimeter of the yard which now reflected off the water as it silently trickled in to irrigate the grass.  The others had moved the table over to the patio area and continued their conversation speaking about subjects of spirituality and inspiration. Every night was like this; The lively meal, great food, always followed by insightful conversation ‘till the wee hours of the night.

            There was something about the calm water and cool still air that had the young man in a reflective mood. The past couple years had been eventful, but now no matter what things were going on in his life, no matter what things he had to worry about, none of it was here. All the chaos of life seemed to drown in the simple calm water.


Here was peace

Here was home

The bus arrived


            The young man was whisked out of his recollection. The arrival of the bus marked the arrival of the week. Another six days of the hustle. This time it was different. He usually went in with anticipation of making it to that home-away-from home at the end, but the last Shobbos had come and gone. He had taken one last look at the small group that made the house a home to him. One last look at them singing as they did every havdallah. Then he grabbed his duffle bag, that trusty duffle bag, and left.

He got on the bus

His life was fast like that

Always was


            With the last Shobbos over and everyone going their separate ways it seemed he was left with just the hustle,

but the good things that are temporary

 prepare one for the good things that last forever.

 He knew now what he wanted. He wanted that. The warmth, the company, the discussion, the hospitality, the worry free atmosphere. The home the rabbi and rebitzon had built he wanted to build for himself. He now had a clear picture, a clear experience, of what he was working for. He wasn’t going to get it after six days or even six months, but like anything he would get there. What the rabbi and rebitzon had done for them was show them true warmth. A warmth that they would always remember. A warmth they could make for themselves. They had gained memories they would always remember. Memories they could create themselves.

The young man now knew one day he would again sit on a Shobbos night deep thought, observing the water in his own backyard, while his own guests sat and sang in his own home.

Not in six days

Not in six months

But he knew

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Uniquely Jewish Adventures: Trapped in an Unlocked House

The young man
        Walked down the street Shobbos day to tour the new house his community friend had recently purchased. It was a cutely sized single story home with a well kept yard and a three car garage. The young man followed his friend as he keenly unlocked and opened the front door to show off his new abode-in-progress. As soon as the door opened the young man distinctly heard the “beep beep beep!” of the alarm system. “Oh that’s funny,” The young man pointed out humorously, “I guess it turns out you can’t open your own front on Shobbos.”

As he was speaking

The door


Trapped in an unlocked house

Go figure

            There was no sense panicking. After all there was still a tour to be had. Freaking out could be done after. The home was still a work in progress, the flooring, the bathrooms, the kitchen, etc were still having labor done on them, but it was clear that it would turn out to be a very comfy and warm home indeed.

Tour’s over

Now we can panic

            In hindsight perhaps the window would have been a better bet. They went over to the back door. Lo-and-behold no sooner than when the door was slightly ajar did the sharp “Beep beep beep!” of the system go off. As a kneejerk reaction the young man’s friend immediately slammed it back shut.

What, why…

You just had it open!

Aaaand now it’s shut again

            They continued to the side door. His friend tried it (opening it really fast this time, making the young man think of it all as a scene from Indiana Jones where they were trying to trip some sort of booby trap and soon a giant boulder would chase them out of the house). This time he didn’t slam it shut, but of course the alarm spouted its signature “Beep beep beep!”  However, since the young man’s friend was hard of hearing he did not catch it. Therefore, logically, it never really went off.

When a tree falls in the forest

And none are there to hear it

Does it make a sound?



Friday, January 4, 2013

An Overnight Life: Life Overturned...Again

Continued from:


    The Young man got home from Maariv and was ready to just relax when he got a phone call from the Israelis in charge upstairs. They wanted to see him. Ugh, how could they know about the USDA incident alread? The young man went upstairs. A hearty bowl of sweet potato chowder something was presented to him.

    "Ehh," he began, " How you feel like moving to Nebraska?" The young man's face went from a smile to blank, with his mouth slightly ajar. "Nebraska? Where?" "eeh Gibbon. Gibbon Nebraska."

What the hell is Gibbon?

     "Don't worry. It's very nice. I been there. You have eeeehh very good time."
Of course they say that

"So what you eh, think?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Well um,"

    That was the life so it turned out.Wherever he was needed, he went, be it Siberia or Antarctica....


Gibbon NE

Population 1,8333

The freight train that passes through is longer than the town itself


Why can't there be a plant in Cancun