Pro­duc­ing con­tent on the Web since 1995.

some say­ings of ר‘משבצונה“ל

For many years I have worked hard, and strug­gled with mas­ter­ing virtuous. Now, in addi­tion, I’m work­ing on becom­ing more virtual.
This is an expres­sion of that effort.
* * * * * * *

השיבנו ה‘ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו
כעוד לא היו
* * * * * * *
ומביא גאלה…

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All pho­tographs are by Mark Hurvitz unless they are obvi­ously not (or credit oth­er­wise is given).

The pho­tos in the ban­ner at the top (only a shal­low sliver of a much larger photo) are either from our home or our trav­els and are offered for their beauty alone (though a brain-teaser for me: “Where was that?”).

#blogelul : return

the month of elul begins once again



Hosea 14:2:
שׁוּבָה, יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: כִּי כָשַׁלְתָּ, בַּעֲו‍ֹנֶךָ.

I return to this writ­ing, that I have not vis­ited since early March, shortly before Pesach.

I have been many places, but now is the time for return.

As she did in antic­i­pa­tion of Pesach, my col­league of unimag­in­able strength, Phyl­lis Som­mer encour­ages us now to spend the next month with: #Blo­gElul and #Elul­Gram 2012.

blog elul


where have I been?

In order to return, I need to be aware of where I have been. I need to know that I have not been in the same place all this time. Of course, these “places” are of many kinds, among them geo­graph­i­cal and emo­tional. While I don’t think I ever lost it, I know that my mind has wan­dered, even if I have been in the same cor­ner where I do most of my work.

And for many months this year, my work actu­ally con­sisted of going and return­ing… to and from Brook­lyn. Those goings and com­ings were thor­oughly reported using Foursquare when I became the “mayor” of most of the play­grounds within a half-mile radius of Amiel’s home.

together in the park

together in the park

more than goings and comings

To and from “work” at “Camp Saba” (or as one friend put it: “Camp Sababa” (סבבה or صَبَابَة)) was only one of my “returns”. While tomorrow’s sub­ject is “inven­tory”, as I return I am aware of what I have passed along the way. I some­times think I should keep a record of all that I’ve lis­tened to, watched and read, as does “The Goy” in the novel of that name by Mark Har­ris; where has my think­ing trav­eled via the pages of a news­pa­per, a mag­a­zine, deep inside the com­puter or “smart­phone” screen, or even a book, but I don’t do that. I know that the cookie crumbs of my browser have been spread far and wide. My “read it later” list grows faster than it dimin­ishes. If there is some­thing of greater worth, I will share it with Deb­bie, Libbe and/or Jay, Avi­gail, Noam and Rachel, and some­times my col­leagues at the CCAR (either here, via Twit­ter, or on Face­book). Traces of all that can be found, as I return, by check­ing my email and other devel­op­ing tools.

return to what?

for many years, at the begin­ning of Rosh haShan­nah I would share these words of R. Mor­ris Licht­en­stein with my con­gre­ga­tion [empha­sis mine]:

The old year is soon to pass. One more link shall have been added to the chain of our expe­ri­ence, another mile­stone in the road to our goal shall have been passed. We shall have risen one level higher, per­haps, in our aspi­ra­tion to real­ize the val­ues of life. Astronomers count the com­ple­tion of a year as a great event in nature; the earth has made a com­plete cir­cuit around the sun. But when the year ends the earth returns to its orig­i­nal place. It would be no less than a calamity, if we should find our­selves at the end of the year on the very same spot where we began. We must advance with the flow of time, we must grow; we must not fal­ter, but leave a trail of progress upon the fleet­ing days. To the shrub a year means but an addi­tional leaf, to the vine it means only a new clus­ter, to the tree a new ring of bark, to the stream it means a deeper flow. But to us a year may mean new knowl­edge mas­tered, new thoughts brought into action, new feel­ings set in motion, a clearer under­stand­ing of God, a closer com­mu­nion with God. If this is what this New Year shall mean to us all, then shall we all have indeed a year of blessed­ness and fulfillment.

like spring in autumn

In 1997 I shared a story with my con­gre­ga­tion Etz Chaim of Ramona (CA) and sug­gested that our lives are like a spring.

…put your­self at the begin­ning of the wire coil. That’s The Begin­ning, you know, like ‘In the begin­ning…’? Hold that spring so that you look into it as if it were a cylin­der. Notice how the spring keeps wind­ing around and returns to the same posi­tion it was. Yet, if you look at it from the side you see a pro­gres­sion. While you were busy star­ing at the pat­terns the other day, I went to Home Depot and looked for springs. Some are really com­plex Sorry, I couldn’t find the one I wanted. That one would have had a cone shape with the nar­row end as the begin­ning and as time pro­gressed the cir­cle would get wider as the posi­tion swung around to the ‘start­ing’ point.


our lives are like a con­i­cal spring

I remem­ber some­thing about one of the Explorer mod­ules (I think it was), that made a bunch of cir­cles around the earth and made ever larger spi­rals until it sort of got hurled out of the solar sys­tem where it’s still trav­el­ing. That’s us, we’re still on one of those spi­rals, still reach­ing out, fur­ther. We’re con­nected to the Very Begin­ning. And our act­ing in a Jew­ish con­text gives us guide posts, and mark­ers and makes us part of an expe­ri­ence (maybe even an exper­i­ment) that has been going on for thou­sands of years. I don’t know about you, but that sure gives con­se­quence to my living.

(re-)turn and arise!

The next to last verse of the Book of Lamen­ta­tions (5:21) reads:

השׁיבנו יהוה אליך ונשוב (וְנשׁובה), חדשׁ ימינו כקדם.

It is com­monly trans­lated:
Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

I have long had dif­fi­culty with this verse. I won­der why we would want to return to what had been and not move for­ward to some­thing yet to be. As you can see in the left side­bar, i.e. some say­ings of ר‘משבצונה“ל
השיבהו ח‘ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כעוד לא היו.
I have changed the text to align more closely to my under­stand­ing that we should not, can­not, return com­pletely to the point from where we began. Each return should raise us up to a new level. When I think of (a)rising, I think of this and

At the 2008 Israel Day Parade in New York some­one had a dif­fer­ent thought in mind as they com­bined the ideas of arise and return. I find it intrigu­ing that the but­ton says sim­ply “Amer­i­cans” not “Amer­i­can Jews”. In either case, I do not wear the button.

arise return

arise! amer­i­cans return to zion

Date: 2008
Size: 5.71
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Return To Zion

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jacket you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­ally attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate museum. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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