Searching for the Yafo bench

Do you ever do the trick of telling someone to remind you about something so you will remember? I do it often. I did it here, when I asked you, dear reader, to remind me about:

The ability to change. Redirect your energies. I could write a very long description about how my father listened to us and changed his behavior in 1974, sitting on a bench along the sea in the city of Yafo.

I wasn’t ready to do so until I had searched for the bench in question. I thought it would make a good post, and hopefully, it will.

As I started to write this the other day, it became more than I had set out to do. So I’m going to write two versions; one short and well, sweet-ish, and one that helped me figure out a lot more.

Version #1

ISHI and I went to Yafo one day last week to search for the bench where my father sat while my brother and I talked to him about how he never listened to us. And for the first time that I remember, he just sat there, actually listening. And from that day forward (probably not immediately, but this is a better short story), he became someone who really knew how to listen to others, to the point that people knew him as someone who listened. To the point that he became so good at visiting the sick because he could listen to people. And really, that’s what we all want.

So I wanted to find the bench where it all happened. But 48 years is a long time! I couldn’t say if we were successful in finding the “one”, but here goes:

I know this wasn’t it; I am pretty sure it was next to some stores, looking out onto the sea. This is where ISHI and I ate a picnic lunch. My father would have been proud.
I think I would have remembered if it were near a mosque. Also, I think it didn’t have a back. I think he was having a hard time sitting up.
This would have been a place we could stand and look at him, but probably the fishermen would have been there then, too.
These are definitely not 48 years old.
It’s definitely beautiful there. You can see Tel Aviv in the distance. But this was too far away.
This was the right shape, but not the right place. Still searching.

Definitely Goldilocks here; too hard, too soft, none just right just yet. I’ll reveal the one I think was it after I finish Version #2.

One more photo of the bench that wasn’t:

Yes, even in the gentrified area of Yafo, reality hits.

Version #2:

What did I remember about that day 48 years ago? It was summer; I knew that because that’s when my family joined me in Israel. I had been here for a half year at Haifa University and then was staying on to go to seminary in Jerusalem that fall. I know that my mother and sister were in the flea market and so my father, brother, and I were waiting for them by the wharf. I remember my father sitting on a bench near some stores, facing out to the sea. I don’t remember what precipitated the talk or why it happened. But I remember something got me to start talking and something even more significant got my father to stop and listen.

He was not a person who listened to children. I don’t remember him ever asking about what I was doing. It was more like he had this fixed idea of how things should be; his wife would take care of the home, including the kids, and he would be the breadwinner. His mother died when he was young; he was raised by an aunt whose husband had died young. His own father didn’t really take to householding, apparently. He was fine as a grandfather because he was the only one I had; I didn’t know any different. But as I grew older, I knew he wasn’t the warmest. So we’re talking about a few generations that didn’t really know what family was about. My father lucked out by having connections with his older cousins. They took care of him and he became very loyal to them. To be honest, they weren’t the best role models for fatherhood, either, so he took the American cultural ideals and made them his own.

My mother lost her father when she was a young teen, so she didn’t have a great role model for him to observe, either. She seemed to sign up for the same ideals, so I never heard her complain.

No, she didn’t complain. Not with words, ever. But you could read it on her face if something wasn’t correct, or as she imagined it should be.

My father wasn’t quiet. Even if he wasn’t around often, if things weren’t as they should be, as whatever unknown manual said it should be, then we would know about it. Really, he wanted us to be a pretty picture. And that was fine except when it wasn’t.

I’m editing my thoughts and my words here. I don’t know how he expressed himself, except it was with a lot of anger. Often. We were disappointing him, but that’s not what he would have said. There weren’t discussions; there were just a large sense of anger. And if I had tried to say something to him about his behavior to us before that, I just don’t remember.

I do know I used to write him letters from college; he would answer them personally and we did have this real correspondence with each other. Oh you young people don’t know how valuable actual letters are! When you can express yourself without possibility of interruption! And you could continue writing until you felt you had made your point! Maybe he was really listening then and I wasn’t paying attention.

Until now.

This is the part that I wasn’t expecting; that perhaps our correspondence did set up for him to listen to me in person for the first time that I remembered.

Along the path, there was a couple who approached us and asked if we spoke English. The husband was definitely American; southern, not Jewish by all appearances. The wife was French! Odd couple, indeed! She thought we would speak English because I was carrying my big camera; she wasn’t wrong. They wanted help finding a certain bakery. We certainly weren’t aware of any, since we were pretty sure that none of the food in the area would be kosher. But we proceeded to have a long conversation, first all together, and then splitting up, menfolk; womenfolk. I told her what we were doing, looking for the bench where my father first listened to me, sort of a pilgrimage after his death two months ago. She revealed that she lost her mother two years ago, but has a lot of anger left over from losing her mother to lung cancer, even though she never smoked, and not having support from her family in France. I told her how much this hit home, not with the details but the emotions connected with my sister’s death as well as a sadness, yes, a sense of loss, of both my parents. I understood why the word “loss” is used with death; it’s not a simple euphemism at all.

I told her about my search for the proper way to honor my father; I told her about my need to edit my thoughts and remarks; I told her about “selah”. They are a religious couple; that drove home for her in a deep way.

And what was the most amazing part of it? I was channeling my father by talking to strangers.

Wait–the most amazing part of it was that her name was the same as mine. I wasn’t talking to a stranger at all.

Because then the next part of the story is why it happened in Yafo, and yes, it was because that’s where we were in August 1974. But maybe there was more. I paid attention to the fact that the story of Yona took place there. He set out to escape his job as a prophet by boarding a ship. And the fact that he realized that he couldn’t outrun his mission, his self, was the ultimate reason why we read this book on Yom Kippur at minchah. We need to face ourselves before the passing of the day; we need to know who we are and if we are living up to our best selves.

By the way, my brother doesn’t remember this happening at all, and most likely I was the only one who spoke. But our father did listen. And it definitely was a turning point in how he related to others, although he still had his sense of how things should be, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

I think this would have been the place; next to the stores to the left, facing the water. The benches are definitely not the ones from then, and I’m thinking the row of benches may have been closer to the water originally, too. I am a fan of this photo because it really says we’re all under construction, even our memories.

about that liver

This past Shabbat, ISHI and I were talking about the Parashah. I was reading Rav Hirsch’s commentary on Parashat Kedoshim about this verse:

אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י הֹ אֱ-לֹקיכֶֽם׃

You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep My sabbaths: I ‘ה am your God.

ויקרא יט:א Vayikra 19:1

He puts the first two parts of the verse together; they are one unit; as opposed to many other commentaries who like to trot out the midrash about disobeying your parents if they tell you not to keep something in the Torah. Rav Hirsch shows how they work together, with the essential reference to doing it all because of the third part; G-d in charge. My perception grew to include the fact that these are both in the Ten Commandments, and they definitely resonate with each other. Shabbat is the pause that refreshes (#sorrynotsorry, Coca-Cola); and maybe the honoring of parents has some element of this as well. My reasoning went a little circular, but perhaps got to the essence of it all.

And so I went back to the issue of כיבוד אב ואם, since we were referencing this honor/reverence. And I thought how the word כיבוד is also used in Israel for putting out a spread of food. And Baruch Hashem, Israelis like to put out a lot! They don’t hold back. Which got me thinking about כבד as liver being a necessary organ to sort out food, the digested part.

The liver is an essential organ of the body that performs over 500 vital functions. These include removing waste products and foreign substances from the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar levels, and creating essential nutrients. Here are some of its most important functions:

Albumin Production: Albumin is a protein that keeps fluids in the bloodstream from leaking into surrounding tissue. It also carries hormones, vitamins, and enzymes through the body.

Bile Production: Bile is a fluid that is critical to the digestion and absorption of fats in the small intestine.

Filters Blood: All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver, which removes toxins, byproducts, and other harmful substances.

Regulates Amino Acids: The production of proteins depend on amino acids. The liver makes sure amino acid levels in the bloodstream remain healthy.

Regulates Blood Clotting: Blood clotting coagulants are created using vitamin K, which can only be absorbed with the help of bile, a fluid the liver produces.

Resists Infections: As part of the filtering process, the liver also removes bacteria from the bloodstream. 

Stores Vitamins and Minerals: The liver stores significant amounts of vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12, as well as iron and copper.

Processes Glucose: The liver removes excess glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and stores it as glycogen. As needed, it can convert glycogen back into glucose.

Bottom line, the liver is telling us what and how כבוד works; we must edit/sort/sieve what we say and do. In terms of כיבוד אב ואם, editing, etc. about/to/from our parents. We cannot tell people what we really think; we cannot act how we really would want to do, if we allowed our emotions or even our intellect to act. We must filter ourselves to show this כבוד to them and ultimately, to G-d.

I had received a newsletter from Ozan Varol last week which probably planted the seed in my head. Part of it goes like this:

The biggest lie we’ve been told is that productivity is all about doing.

But your best work will come from undoing—from slowing down and giving yourself time and space. The Japanese call this vacuum ma—an empty space that’s intentionally there. In Hebrew, the same concept is called selah. The word appears 74 times in the Hebrew Bible as a direction to stop reading, pause, and contemplate what just appeared in the text.

Ideas often don’t arrive with a bang. There’s no parade. The big thing never screams that it’s a big thing. At first glance, the big thing actually looks quite small. If there’s no void in your life—if your life is full of constant chatter—you won’t be able to hear the subtle whisper when it arrives.

What do I know? I looked a bit for what סלה selah means, and it’s fairly clear that it’s not clear at all. Wikipedia gives many different suggestions, including “”lift up”, “exalt”; pause”.

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (2006) states that the main derivation of the Hebrew word selah is found through the fientive verb root סֶ֜לָה which means “to lift up (voices)” or “to exalt,” and also carries a close connotational relationship to the verb סָלַל, which is similar in meaning: “to lift up” or “to cast up.” The word סֶלָה, which shifts the accent back to the last syllable of the verb form, indicates that in this context, the verb is being used in the imperative mood as somewhat of a directive to the reader. As such, perhaps the most instructive way to view the use of this word, particularly in the context of the Psalms, would be as the writer’s instruction to the reader to pause and exalt the Lord.

This all works very well for my purposes.

So during my morning tefillah, when I read this:

לה’ הַיְשׁוּעָה. עַל עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶךָ סֶּלָה:
ה’ צְבָאות עִמָּנוּ. מִשגָּב לָנוּ אֱלהֵי יַעֲקב סֶלָה:
ה’ צְבָאות. אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם בּטֵחַ בָּךְ:
ה’ הושִׁיעָה. הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיום קָרְאֵנוּ:
Salvation is the Lord’s; may Your blessings be upon Your people, Selah:
Hashem of the heavenly hosts is with us. The God of Jacob, Selah, is a fortress protecting us.
Hashem of the heavenly hosts; Blessed is the man that trusts You.
Hashem, save us! The king will answer us on the day we call out.

Yes, these are the same verses as in the introductory paragraph to Havdalah; the ultimate pause of refreshing before re-entering the week.

Here in Israel, this is the most complicated time of the year. We go from Yom HaShoah last week, remembering the horrors of the Holocaust along with the bravery of those who survived, especially those who made it to Israel, to Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s most solemn Memorial Day, followed up with Yom HaAtzma’ut, going 180° with joy and gratitude. There are many uses of the word form כבוד here; for those whose losses paved our way to live here, I offer my deepest כבוד; for those who served and who serve in the IDF; I stand humbled with כבוד.

At Tel Afek National Park

I just spent some time in our garden, doing more weeding. It’s an endless job, but I realize that it also teaches us about כבוד, about pausing, about all of the above. It’s like editing this post, taking it out of the תהו ובה chaos that needs constant care. We are called on from the beginning (בראשית ב טו Genesis 2:15) לעבדה ולשמרה to work it and to guard it; even in the glory of the Garden of Eden, we had work to do.

And we have, thank G-d, much work to do.

bump in the road

There are many cities all over the world that have trees along the sides of the streets. And often enough, the trees have grown so big that their root system upends part of the sidewalk. Even in LA.

Pico Boulevard near Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles

You have to pay attention while walking. Of course in Tzfat, we’re used to telling tourists to watch their steps; the cobblestones are unexpectedly uneven. I like to swoop my vision up and down. You can’t just look down, either.

But it’s not so different in these other cities, is it? You have to be paying attention in all directions. That’s one part of city living that’s exhausting; the hypervigilance.

Oh I didn’t even think I was going to write about what was going on in Israel, but here it came without me knowing.

I was going to write about the stickiness of death. How life doesn’t want to leave so easily and so dying is so often a drawn-out process. And how death doesn’t want to leave after it’s supposedly finished its job. That’s what I find is meant by טומאה/Tumah (badly translated as impurity, to be explained further). The large category of this Tumah is connected to the days of the Holy Temple and the sacrificial offerings. There was an enormous amount of preparation and hypervigilance to stay in a state of Taharah (the opposite of Tumah) in order to be able to eat from the sacrifices and participate in the many different services. Yes, we have lost that level of holiness today, well, for a few thousand years already. But the process stays behind in the rituals that revolve around death.

Death is the major category of Tumah still to this day. So Kohanim–Jewish men who would have served in the Holy Temple–still have this extra level of vigilance. They can’t go to funerals other than immediate family; they can’t be in buildings with dead people in them (thus many Kohanim who take this seriously go into medical research, rather than active practice). And it shows up in other aspects of Jewish life, such as the rituals for taking care of the dead before burial (Chevra Kadisha; truly holy work).

What I have found with my experiences with death is that it is indeed sticky. On our flight from Israel to Newark on our way to the funeral in Baltimore, we had an emergency stop in London. Oh this would mess up all of our plans! We had a short window to catch the plane to Baltimore and this just wouldn’t work. Our daughter, who had WIFI connection on the plane, was back and forth-ing with her travel agent, but it was clear it wasn’t going to be easy. It became the perpetual how-many-canoes riddle; we were also traveling with a cousin and her grandson. In the end, they had rented a car with a driver, and we comfortably traveled forth. One very comfortable canoe for all of us.

But I was actually comforted by our stop. I couldn’t get hyper about it because of the specifics of the delay; a woman who for whatever reason had decided to travel to Newark in a very advanced stage of pregnancy. All of us who saw her came up with our own reasons of why in the world she would travel–by herself, mind you–at this point. (Sample ones; she needed to escape a bad relationship; she wanted her kid to have American citizenship; she didn’t know how far she really was; it was twins or triplets so she wasn’t as far along as she looked; take your pick or think of your own.) But a baby! To life, to life, לחיים! I could not get flustered.

In fact, it made me happy to think that in the middle of us trying to get to the funeral of my 96 1/2 year-old father, we were waylaid by birth. That was a true comfort.

In the face of what is going on now in Israel with the renewed terror attacks, I am realizing how these death cults are trying to stick to the societies that value life. They are bringing Tumah, and here we can use the inaccurate definition of impurity, to everything that they think is sacred. What can our reaction be?

I’m not running to be in the places where the killings took place; I’m grateful for those who want to honor the dead by saying we will not be afraid. I think it takes more courage to be in a different place in a different city, knowing that the safest time to fly is after a major disaster.

I am staying put here at home, still sitting with my grief pain discomfort. And in quiet.

ISHI says he can see Tumah; it’s a sticky brown substance that covers everything outside of the Land of Israel. When you dip in a mikveh, it goes away. I believe him, even if I can’t see it. I can feel it. I can feel this stickiness trying to settle on everything around us.

We are busy cleaning out our home for Pesach, and a lot for spring. I hope to get down to the basics. Clean windows helps us see clearly. We need that desperately.

Today was Yom HaAliyah. This was the original one set by the Knesset in 2016, although grassroots campaigns to get it started were much earlier.

The Yom HaAliyah bill[7] was co-sponsored by Knesset members from different parties in a rare instance of cooperation across the political spectrum of the opposition and coalition.[8

The idea of the day is to highlight all the contributions that immigrants have made to the State of Israel, connecting it with the day which Joshua crossed the Jordan River into the Land with the Children of Israel on the 10th of Nissan.

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Land of Israel for the first time on the 10th of Nisan, according to traditional Jewish teachings they took upon themselves a special dimension to the concept of “arevut” or “mutual responsibility”.[22] Arevut is known also by the Talmudic Hebrew/Aramaic maxim mentioned in Shevuot 39a, “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh baZeh”, “כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה”, meaning “All Jews are Responsible for One Another”.[23] The Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, comments on the Talmudic statement that the Israelites were not truly responsible for one another until after they had crossed the Jordan.[24] Arevut implies an obligation on all Jews to ensure that other Jews have their spiritual and basic needs taken care of. Simply by virtue of being a Jew living in the Land of Israel, one has an elevated responsibility for the well-being of other Jews.[25]

Yom HaAliyah
And now, get up and cross this Jordan, you and this whole people. Joshua 1:2

There is a beautiful promenade along the Jordan River between Kibbutz Sde Nehemia and Kfar Blum called Shvil Ami, Ami’s Trail, named after a teen who died in 1990 in a traffic accident. Not only is it a lovely place to go walking or biking, stopping along the river at many lovely places, but those who established it also have many stones engraved with biblical quotes referring to the Jordan River.

What is it with you, Sea, that you escaped? Jordan, that you skip backwards! Psalm 114:5

This verse above is part of Hallel, the set of Psalms that are said on various holidays, including at the Pesach seder itself. This particular psalm shows how the river bent towards Bnei Yisrael to welcome them into the Land, just like the Reed Sea split to allow them to escape the Egyptian soldiers 40 years earlier.

Nature knows to bend and then rebound. We have to learn to bend, to take the bumps in the road, to understand we are not the whole picture nor do we ever have it. But we must make our stand.

I will stand here in Israel, learning to bend as I need, swooping to see the biggest picture I can.

Redefining kavod

At the Broad, Los Angeles, July 2018

Redefining kavod

In honor and memory of my father, פסח בן דוד הכהן on the occasion of his sheloshim שלושים

לעליית נשמתו

ד׳ בְּנִיסָן תשפ״ב


I thought I would start out by learning about what one should do to fulfill the mitzvah of כיבוד אב ואם Kibbud av v’em once one’s parents are no longer among the living. It quickly turned into a study of what כבוד is altogether, and then led to a broader definition of the term itself to be used for the specific mitzvah.

Right now, I will use the definition “honor”, since that is what pops up most frequently in translations. So how does halakhah/Jewish law define how one should honor one’s parents? I was taken by this formulation about the mitzvah in general by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt, particularly the third part:

Kibbud is accomplished in three different ways:

1.Through the children’s thoughts—children are supposed to view their parents as being honorable and respected people, even if they are not considered as such in the eyes of others. This attitudinal aspect of the mitzvah is the main part of Kibbud.

2.Through the children’s actions—These actions must be done b’sever panim yafos, pleasantly and enthusiastically. The manner in which one assists parents is a crucial aspect of the mitzvah

3.Through the children’s speech—e.g., when a child is honored, he should credit his parents for the honor bestowed upon him. When a child asks others to grant his request or to do him a favor, he should not request it in his own merit, but rather, in the merit of his father or mother (when applicable).

Rav Binyamin Tabory brings a discussion from Rav Asher Weiss who says “the Ramban explains that we should honor our parents as we were commanded to honor God, as they are partners in birth.”. This helps explain is Kibbud Av v’Em as a mitzvah between Man and G-d, not between Man and Man (obviously I’m using “Man” as meaning human being). He also brings up the idea that Father and Mother are one unit (which brings to mind the opposite catastrophe of ben sorer u’moreh, which is not listening to the parental unit. But I digress, and probably not for the last time. I will add that my attempt to have careful sources here will hopefully become apparent.)

What is kavod anyway?

Wikipedia gives a great chart to show the layers.

Root: K-B-D (כבד)‎: meaning “heavy”, “honour”, or “liver”
כָּבֵדkaved (adj.)heavy
הִכְבִּידhikhbid (v.r.)to be heavy
כָּבֵדkaved (n. m.)liver
כָּבוֹדkavod (n. m.)honor, glory
כִּבֵּדkibed (v.)to give honour to
בכבודbkavod (n. m.)(valediction) with honour/respectfully
כבודוkvodo (n. m.)your honour
כִּבּוּדkibud (n. m.)honouring
כִּבּוּדִיםkibudim (n. m. pl.)acknowledgements
כָּבוּדkavud (adj.)honorable, distinguished
כִּבּוּדkibud (n. m.)(literary) cleaning, sweeping
כִּבֵּדkibed (v.)(literary) to clean a room, to sweep
כָּבַדkavad (v.)(biblical) to weigh heavily upon
כֹּבֶדkoved (n. m.)(physics) mass, weight

I’m not going to talk about the liver today. And I don’t pretend to understand why it’s sometimes spelled honor and sometimes honour…

But I am taken with the connection of heaviness; which connects with seriousness and gravitas. Connection itself seems to be the key here. I also found a meaningful connection here to Bowlby’s Attachment Theory; the strength of the parent-child attachment stands well to model all future relationships. And in Jewish terms, it moves backwards towards our relationship with G-d, and forwards with all other people.

Lauren Grabelle Herrmann writes on Sefaria:

In Jewish contexts, this word is used in the following ways:

Kibud av va-eim (honoring father and mother)

Lich’vod Shabbat (to honor Shabbat)

Lich’vod Torah (to honor Torah)

Kavod ha-rav (the honor of rabbi/teacher)

Kavod ha-meit (the honor of the dead)

(This word is also used many times in the story of Exodus when Pharaoh is hard-hearted or stubborn – his heart is kaveid.)

The word kavod comes from a Hebrew root meaning weighty or heavy. The diametric opposite is the word klala (curse) which comes from the Hebrew root meaning light. When I relate to someone with due seriousness, I honor him/her, and if I treat him/her lightly, it is as if I curse him/her.

Honor is external behavior mandated by and appropriate to a reality of inner holiness. Behold, you have within you a holy divine image –this requires you to treat yourself with a certain level of self-respect. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, Alei Shur

What about dignity?

dignity (n.) 

c. 1200, “state of being worthy,” from Old French dignite “dignity, privilege, honor,” from Latin dignitatem (nominative dignitas) “worthiness,” from dignus “worth (n.), worthy, proper, fitting,” from PIE *dek-no-, suffixed form of root *dek- “to take, accept.”

From c. 1300 as “an elevated office, civil or ecclesiastical,” also “honorable place or elevated rank.” From late 14c. as “gravity of countenance.”

I think the grand move to show kavod after someone dies is to restore their dignity. There is no other Hebrew word; here I think English gets the prize. Or can it be that the act of showing kavod/doing the mitzvah in all its forms is to maintain or, in many cases, restore dignity. This is my redefinition, as in re-direction.

The older (and more popular) of my two Hebrew-English dictionaries (Alcalay, 1965) translates kavod as “honor, respect, glory, splendor, majesty, reverence, distinction, importance, wealth, riches, ambition”. The other (Levy, 1997), composed thirty years later, translates the Hebrew kavod as “honor, respect, dignity” (translating the English “dignity” into the Hebrew “kavod, mekuvadut, hadar”). A thorough examination of several (Christian and Jewish, old and new) translations of the Hebrew bible into English, revealed that dozens of words deriving from the root k.v.d  were translated into “honor”, “glory” and “respect”. The translations vary greatly: the same word in the same context is sometimes translated differently by different translators; the same translator sometimes chooses different English terms for the same  k.v.d word in different contexts.7 Nevertheless, “glory” and “honor” are the most prevalent English terms used to capture the essence of the biblical k.v.d words. “Honor” is more commonly used when a k.v.d word refers to humans, whereas “glory” is more often used to translate k.v.d words relating to god. Although my own translation of biblical k.v.d words would sometimes differ from existing translations, I agree that “glory”, “honor”, “respect” and maybe “dignity” are the most appropriate English words which capture the essence of the Hebrew root k.v.d. in both biblical and modern Hebrew. I would argue that in many cases, a more accurate translation would consist of more than one of these English words.  

The intuitive differences between the English “honor”, “glory”, “respect” and “dignity” indicate the complexity of the Hebrew root k.v.d. Clearly, none of the English terms, nor any artificial combination thereof can fully capture the exact, specific meanings of k.v.d. in biblical or modern Hebrew contexts. Yet, the existence of these distinct terms in a different language helps differentiate aspects in the Hebrew root, which cannot be fully verbalized within the Hebrew language itself. The use of this English terminology in this context is far from perfect, but may be as much as we can hope for.8 It is, therefore, meant to be taken as suggestive rather than definitive. 

Honor and Dignity Cultures: the Case of kavod and kvod ha-adam in Israeli Society and Law   Dr. Orit Kamir, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1999

Berakhot 19a): Great is kevod ha-beriyot, as it overrides a prohibition in the Torah.

If Kibbud av v’em is included in the section of the ten commandments dealing with relations between G-d and man, then it is clear that this is because the honor due to our parents stems with their partnership with G-d, and it is our first connection to G-d. All the honor that we show our parents can grow to be a relationship with those who we are honor-bound. Emulating G-d starts with our relationship with our parents. We imitate them, and we learn that sometimes we need to reach beyond them for role models. But we start with them.  

So what do I learn from my father’s life to restore the dignity that he lost over the past few years?  And the things that I didn’t mention at the funeral, in particular.

  1. The ability to change. Redirect your energies. I could write a very long description about how my father listened to us and changed his behavior in 1974, sitting on a bench along the sea in the city of Yafo. Remind me to tell you sometime.
  2. To survive means to pay attention to those around you who have done well, but just as much to those who have not.
  3. Don’t dwell on the losses, but move on. Move on well. Sur-vive.

And now how do I make it my own?

I’m thinking now of how my father was unusually concerned with how things look. This may have been from his need to have order in his life, since so many externals were not. It wasn’t helped by living in La-la land, which is much too externally-motivated for me. But maybe I can rearrange what he thought. Instead of “looking good”, maybe we should focus on “looking well”. I don’t mean health-wise, although that’s absolutely necessary, but not my point here. I mean really looking at things well. Pay attention. Marvel at what is marvelous, and there is much, and act on what is dangerous, and there is unfortunately too much.

I am struck by the word צלם image, as in אדם בצלם א-לוקים. Man created in G-d’s image.

Rav Chaim Navon shares Rav Soloveitchik’s understanding that:

The Torah describes the creation at length in order to teach us a very important lesson – “to walk in all His ways” – and to instruct man to imitate his Creator and be himself a creator. A person should not shake his head saying that this demand of man is impossible, for he cannot imitate his Creator in creativity; at the very most, he can adopt some element of His other traits: lovingkindness, mercy, and the like. The Torah, nevertheless, demands of man and commands him to tirelessly exert himself to cling to the traits of the Holy One, blessed be He, and be a creator. (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Yemei Zikaron, p. 86)

I am similarly struck that the word צילום is used for photograph. If you knew something about my father, you would know that he loved photography. He loved images, the art, the process. As he grew older, he accepted that he could use a digital camera and get the results he then wanted, which was to interact with his models. He would go every year at Hoshana Raba to his shul and take photos of everyone; mostly because it was permitted and more likely because he didn’t have the zitsfleish to go through the ganze ceremony. But he would religiously print out copies of all the photos and give them out when he saw them next.

Or leave them in his boxes for me to try to do, and unfortunately, mostly fail.

But honestly, the interaction between him the photographer and his subjects, who became his friends, was everything. The objects became subjectified. This became his creativity. And that was a gift that was his. As much as I love taking photos, I do it to take things in, to frame my reality, and perhaps to hide from it. Maybe it’s okay that I’m in this stage; maybe I can allow myself the room to adapt and grow.

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi posted on Facebook about the broader meaning of the special brachah for the blossoming fruit trees we say in Nissan. She adds that, according to mystical interpretations, the blessing of the trees also includes your family tree, that your ancestors come to bless you at the same time, so it is also called the “Blessing of the Souls”. Your family sees how you need tikkun/repair before you can find your proper way to the Pesach seder, whether it be for your own family, livelihood, or other worries. By connecting to nature, to the way in which G-d provides everything for us in its due season, we can realize that G-d is with us, with goodness and comfort. It is then up to us to appreciate and enjoy it. Choose to enjoy the abundance of blessing.

I was doing some weeding just now, one of the allowed agricultural activities during this year of Shemittah. I took some photos of some new lemon buds. They are not quite open, so I will hold off on saying the brachah for Nissan. There is also an opinion that one shouldn’t say the brachah on fruit trees that flower twice in a year. This poor lemon tree barely flowers at all, and no fruit have formed on it since we planted it already over four years ago. Maybe it will come to fruition.

Just as I grappled with the idea of Rosh Hodesh Adar and the transformation of the idea of simchah/joy then, I have to deal with my father’s name now that we’ve entered Nissan. His Hebrew name, for those of you who didn’t know, was/is פסח Pesach; the name of the Passover holiday. How am I going to go into the holiday without coming to terms with this? A bit “in my face”, for sure.

Pesach doesn’t mean passing over, most likely. Let’s use the definition “jump”, although that’s not exact, either. But in terms of my father and his undiagnosed ADHD, it works well. I have distinct memories when I was maybe 10 of my father coming home in time for dinner, but then jumping back in his car to go chase a firetruck after hearing a siren. That was more important to him than so many things that you might have thought should come first.

My poor mother.

But the other interpretation that I will introduce here is פה סח—mouth talks. A pun for the holiday.

My father was a master of speech. His ideal job, he said for many years, would have been to be a maitre d’ at a restaurant; he just loved talking with people. He definitely would have been a great greeter at the Beit HaMikdash, telling people where to bring their sacrifices and what was bothering them that day, or congratulating them on things that went well. And then moving happily to the next person.

But keeping his negative emotions mostly to himself.

The Arizal taught that the word “Pesach” is composed of the words peh sach, which means “speaking mouth.” When Bnei Yisrael sacrificed the Korban Pesach, they sacrificed their speech to Hashem – by refraining from uttering forbidden words of lashon hara, anger and contention. Accordingly, the Korban Pesach was an essential catalyst of the Exodus from Egypt. By sacrificing their peh sach, their “speaking mouths”, they proved their greatness and their worthiness to be redeemed.

Rebbe Nachman continues the thread:

הֲפִיכַת הַשֻּׁלְחָן בְּשַׁבָּת הַגָּדוֹל, מְרַמֵּז כִּי עֲדַיִן לֹא יָצָא הַדִּבּוּר מֵהַגָּלוּת עַד פֶּסַח, שֶׁאָז יָצָא הַדִּבּוּר מֵהַגָּלוּת בְּחִינַת “פֶּה סָח” כַּיָּדוּעַ, שֶׁזֶּה עִקַּר בְּחִינַת יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם, שֶׁיָּצָא הַדִּבּוּר מֵהַגָּלוּת. Regarding the custom to turn over the tables on Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat right before Pesach. Speech remains in exile until Pesach. PeSaCh is Peh SaCh (a mouth speaking).141Sha’ar HaKavanot, Inyan Pesach #6; Likutey Moharan I, 49:6. On Pesach, speech emerges from exile. This is the main idea of the Exodus.

Sefaria Rebbe Nachman

Our people’s power is in our mouths. Our voices. And that is why we teach our children Torah as soon as they learn to speak. Here it says that the father teaches; we know that sometimes the child teaches the father. We look to fill our mouths and ourselves with Torah; with G-d. And this is why we don’t end Pesach until seven weeks later with the bringing of the Bikkurim and the declaration we would say at that time at the Beit HaMikdash., gratitude for all the gifts of the Land and of our existence.

Maybe this all connects perfectly with Purim, after all. In the Talmud Megilla 14a, it says:

“Whoever reports a saying in the name of the one who said it brings geula (redemption) to the world as it states. ‘And Esther said to the king in the name of Mordechai (Esther 2:22)’.”

As we bring the truths that we hear and learn from their speaker, or acknowledge that the truth that we have been found worthy to learn ultimately come from our parents by the nature that they are partners with Hashem, we are ultimately able to bring about the Redemption. We move out of the way and make it about someone else or something else, for the sake of Truth.

From the roots of this commandment is that it is fitting for a person to acknowledge and return kindness to people who were good to him, and not to be an ungrateful scoundrel, because that is a bad and repulsive attribute before God and people. And he should take to heart that the father and the mother are the cause of his being in the world; and hence it is truly fitting to honor them in every way and give every benefit he can to them, because they brought him to the world, and worked hard for him when he was little. And once he fixes this idea in his soul, he will move up from it to recognize the good of God, Blessed be He, who is his cause and the cause of all his ancestors until the first man (Adam), and that he took him out into the world’s air, and fulfilled his needs every day, and made his body strong and able to stand, and gave him a mind that knows and learns – for without the mind that God granted him, he would be ‘like a horse or a mule who does not understand.’ And he should think at length about how very fitting it is to be careful in his worship of the Blessed be He.

Sefaria Sefer HaChinuch

So on Seder night, we should be upstanding and raise a glass to my father and to the ultimate גאולה Redemption. May we be the ones who bring it. Or at least let us step out of the way to allow it to happen.

במהירה בידינו בימינו

in my father’s honor

I have been slowly slowly editing all the 500 plus photos from our trip. I could divide them easily by days or else by content. Many many are of rocks. And many many others are of flowers. I am very happy looking at either or both of these. I have not figured out how to take photos of strangers. I am working on that.

In my father’s honor, for reasons that will become clear as time goes by, I have dedicated this post to talk about people. And for the parashah, the Torah portion of the week, I will talk about the משכן, the tabernacle, the place where G-d asked us to meet him.

I came to the realization that this is the power of the Tent of Meeting, the אוהל מועד. We are making a place of connection. Clearly we are missing this so much in our days. Clearly we need to be meeting each other and G-d.

One of our experiences on our trip was going to Park Timna. It’s a fantastic anti-Disney theme park, where you can explore the various rock formations which are so very beautiful. There were busloads of kids visiting, along with many other families and tourists. I will post a few of the iconic pics here now and then I’ll get to the good part.

I have tried to give you the photos with people in it, but you can get the scope of the majesty of nature in its glory. But at the end of the trail, we came to this:

Someone decided to make use of this vast space to dedicate a tiny corner to a representation of the Mishkan. It’s a separate price from the regular price of admission to the park, but so worth it. There are opinions that the encampment of Bnei Yisrael happened in this very area! So what a great opportunity to combine our love of the land and Torah! We were there with the second week of reading about the Mishkan in the Torah portion. This week is the culmination of Sefer Shemot and the putting it all together, so I thought to take the opportunity to post my photos of this little exhibit.

Do you see our guide Marco, the one with the tattooed arms? Not someone you would expect to be leading a discussion of the encampment of Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness!

We were then led inside the Ohel Moed.

Yes, a little bit hokey. And that’s so okay.

It’s the place where we meet G-d.

I’m a vegetarian; I pretty much (if not literally) get nauseous these days when I even smell barbecue. I am certainly not suggesting a return to the age of animal sacrifices to meet G-d. Incense would probably be good enough for me.

But it’s the meeting that’s important. It’s the connection. This is where Heaven and Earth meet, and we invite G-d in.

My father is a כוהן kohen. He has always been a people person; always looking to make connections. This Tent of Meeting being at the center of the encampment of all the people? It’s to signal our center, our hub. We start with the connection to G-d and work our way out from there.

And if we needed a further proof of this centrality of connection…

the inner Holy of Holies; the ark with the cherubim on top

Whoever made the artistic representation here was making the point of connection. We need to come together to make things right; the point of the sacrifices were renewal of our wholesome connection to G-d and to each other.

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”

― E.M. Forster, Howards End

In Living Color

We made it! We went on our trip and we came home, safe and sound, a little poorer and much richer. I’ve spent the last week going through our many many many photos, but I wanted to write something about our experience before I lose my thoughts.

The whole experience has led me to think about starting a Facebook group for traveling in Israel while over 50. I have not seen anything like it, and I know I would have loved to have that perspective before we went.

We started on Sunday at Shokeda Forest, which had the most anemones in the area at the time, according to those who know. I absolutely love that Israelis treat wildflower-hunting as a sport. But the cameras are pretty funny.

We continued on to Mitzpe Ramon, where we stayed overnight. It’s the town next to Makhtesh Ramon, which is the largest makhtesh, the world’s largest “erosion cirque”. We walked over to the Makhtesh, not too far from our hotel, right before sunset.

And then we went back the next morning.

Do you see the pattern forming yet? I was becoming struck by all the colors of nature, but also how we humans interact with nature; are we accepting, adapting to, or rebelling against nature?

We continued to explore the floor of the makhtesh a little after that, stopping at a few of the many places to explore.

By the way, “the formation is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep, and is shaped like an elongated heart.” ( In other words, for those of you not in the centric system, 6 miles wide and 29 miles long, and over 1000 feet deep; quite enormous.

The first place we stopped at was called the HaMinsara (The Sawmill), since the rocks look like they’ve been carved out.

We struck up conversation with almost everyone we passed, including a young woman carrying an enormous camera and tripod. In responding to my question of what kind of camera was that, she actually told us to ask her father, since he was the photographer and she was just the schlepper.

It turns out he built it himself; and it’s a proper film format, taking four exposures in one frame (I really didn’t understand a thing, but went along, nodding in agreement), but no, he doesn’t develop the film himself, even though he does have a darkroom. He was from the states, visiting his daughter who lives here now.

Do you see them in their cute little hats of different colors?

We continued onto the next stop off the road to see the area known as Water, Wind and Stone (The Colored Sands):

In the early fifties, mining was an existential need of the young State of Israel. The Ramon Crater quarried minerals such as gypsum, kaolin and other clays. Over the years the concept changed, the quarrying diminished and the makhtesh began to be recognized as a natural wonder and as a tourist attraction. In the seventies, Prof. Emanuel Mazor, a geologist and environmental scientist, initiated study camps throughout the country, including the Ramon Camp. Mazor was the first to define the makhtesh as a nature reserve.

But since so much had been stripped from the land, colored sand has been brought in to re-complete the scene, and people are encouraged to fill bottles with this colored sand.

There is a sign at the right side of this photo which talks about the geological formation of this site. There was a family visiting there at the same time, and the mother was reading the sign about the age of the formation–millions of years ago. “I thought this was Israel,” she said. In American.

I couldn’t keep quiet.

“You better get used to it. This is reality!”

I should have said, “You’re kidding, right?”

But she certainly didn’t sound like she was kidding. 5782 is not just a number to her, but a cheer, I guess.

So that’s why I am calling this In Living Color. We need to live in color; in complexity; in reality. We need to learn science and study geology and embrace history. And oh yes, wear color.

The previous night, we went on a wonderful stargazing tour in the Makhtesh. We followed the lead car down the road (which was steep and swervy enough to keep you awake) into an old quarries area we thankfully didn’t have to find on our own. We were lucky enough to go on a clear night with no wind. It was pretty cold, nonetheless, and I was glad that I did wear multiple layers of clothing, plus warm boots. I did not figure out how to do star photography, even though I tried. So I was content to look and listen, and open myself up to wonder.

Isn’t it truly miraculous that all the movements throughout the eons of existence, with the interactions of physical forces with the commotion of history, that we are here at all, and we are experiencing this life? Surely we should be in complete awe.

Coincidentally enough, I read a post this morning on the marginalian about Maria Mitchell, America’s first female astronomer (1818-1889):

To be human is to live suspended between the scale of glow-worms and the scale of galaxies, to live with our creaturely limitations without being doomed by them — we have, after all, transcended them to unravel the molecular mystery of the double helix and compose the Benedictus and land a mechanical prosthesis of our curiosity on Mars. We have dreamt these things possible, then made them real — proof that we are a species of limitless imagination along the forward vector of our dreams. But we are also a species continually blinkered — sometimes touchingly, sometimes tragically — by our own delusions about the totality around us. Our greatest limitation is not that of imagination but that of perspective — our lens is too easily contracted by the fleeting urgencies of the present, too easily blurred by the hopes and fears of our human lives. Two centuries ago, Maria Mitchell — a key figure in Figuring — understood this with uncommon poetry of perspective. America’s first professional female astronomer, she was also the first woman employed by the federal government for a “specialized non-domestic skill.” After discovering her famous comet, she was hired as “computer of Venus,” performing complex mathematical calculations to help sailors navigate the globe — a one-woman global positioning system a century and a half before Einstein’s theory of relativity made GPS possible. When Maria Mitchell began teaching at Vassar College as the only woman on the faculty, the college handbook mandated that neither she nor her female students were allowed outside after nightfall — a somewhat problematic dictum, given she was hired to teach astronomy. She overturned the handbook and overwrote the curriculum, creating the country’s most ambitious science syllabus, soon copied by other universities — including the all-male Harvard, which had long dropped its higher mathematics requirement past the freshman year. Maria Mitchell’s students went on to become the world’s first class with academic training in what we now call astrophysics. They happened to all be women. Science was one of Maria Mitchell’s two great passions. The other was poetry… Mitchell taught astronomy until the very end of her long life, when she confided in one of her students that she would rather have written a great poem than discovered a great comet. But scientific discovery is what gave her the visibility to blaze the way for women in science and enchant generations of lay people the poetry of the cosmic perspective. It was this living example that became Maria Mitchell’s great poem, composed in language of being — as any life of passion and purpose ultimately becomes. “Mingle the starlight with your lives,” she often told her students, “and you won’t be fretted by trifles.”

Life is too complicated to be reduced to black and white, even if the stars appear to us that way. Let’s glory in the details.

G-d laughing with us maybe

We just made reservations for a little trip south. I have wanted to go to Eilat for a few years now and COVID got in the way for the last two years, for sure. It got in the way of a lot of plans.

You have probably heard the phrase, “Man makes plans, G-d laughs”, or in Yiddish, “Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.” I just found out it is actually the name of a song by the rap group Public Enemy, and there are those who explore the unexpected but possible Jewish/Yiddish connections to this song/group.

But the meaning behind “Man plans, God laughs” is about as far away as you can get from “Fight the power.” There is a quintessential Jewish resignation buried in the proverb, whose origin has variously been ascribed to Psalm 33:10; Proverbs 16:9; and the story of the 90-year-old Sarah laughing at God when He promised she would bear a son with her 100-year-old husband, Abraham. God had the last laugh when Isaac was born, and He told them to name the boy Yitzhak, which means laughter. It’s an expression of a very Jewish kind of surrender to destiny in the face of the ultimate meaninglessness of life in an unfathomable universe that, combined with a very knowing Jewish irony, has fueled countless Yiddish fables, Jewish jokes, and nearly all of Woody Allen’s films.

The Secret Yiddish History of Public Enemy – The Forward

To be honest, I did not listen to the song.

But usually, and probably here, the phrase is used to mean something similar to Shakespeare’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” With the power-that-be clicking his tongue at his subjects and laughing. After all, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy…

The Jewish way is more likely with an ironic touch, to be sure. I’m wondering, perhaps, if we can look at it another way.

If we need to look at it another way these days.

Perhaps G-d is laughing with us as we make plans. Perhaps G-d is saying, “Yes! Even though things seem to continue to look awfully dark, make plans!”

I haven’t been to Eilat since 1974. I’m assuming that it’s changed a bit since then, or at least I have. We want to get some sunlight and warmth, and also experience a different part of our country. We also plan on taking advantage of Eilat’s status as a tax-free city to purchase some electronics. But mostly to experience the beauty of nature, of the desert mountains and the Red Sea.

And to change our perspectives.

On the way south, we also plan on stopping at Mitzpe Ramon and doing a night of stargazing in the desert. The confirmation email says:

The desert is always cold at night, even in the summer. In the summer wear long sleeves, long pants, closed toed shoes. Bring a sweater and jacket if you can. In the winter, dress as warmly as you possibly can. We wear snowsuits and thermal underwear. We provide chairs year-round, no blankets during Corona.

So maybe I’ll get some use out of my long down coat and snow boots, which thankfully I haven’t worn in five years since getting here…

Many years ago, so many that I can’t even remember when, but for a big anniversary (20 maybe?), I really really wanted to get away to go somewhere warm, maybe to the Caribbean or somewhere similar. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to pay that much money at that time of our lives–tuition, tuition, tuition. So we chose to go to New Hampshire instead. We rented a house and had a wonderful time (except for getting our car snowed under by the snow plow because we didn’t follow directions on where to park). And the people who had the wherewithal to go to the islands? Couldn’t go, because snow happened and blocked their travel completely.

So maybe G-d is saying this: Bring your long coat, bring your jacket. Wear layers. Prepare to skip this this time because maybe it will rain or be too cloudy. And maybe Omicron will keep you from going this year, too.

But maybe not.

And maybe you’ll have a wonderful time.

And we’ll laugh together.

Seeing how things are translated is so often a great opportunity to laugh.


The hotel we didn’t choose in Eilat…

the reason for walls mourned and praised

We are grateful to be in our house tucked into this little corner of paradise. ISHI says he wouldn’t have put the fence up all around the house if it hadn’t been there when we bought it, but we’re looking to add to it for a little more height to keep us from prying eyes of new construction. But the wall presents a once-in-seven-years dilemma; if we are keeping shemittah properly (according to what we learn to be the most proper halakhic and honorable way), then we need to allow people to come into our yard to pick what they want from our garden.

Which sort of defeats the purpose of the fence.

I saw that it’s permissible to open the gate at a given time for a bit, as long as you write it up on a posted sign, which we will have to do. But of course, it leads me to think deeply about walls and gates and divisions, especially because today is Asara B’Tevet, the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet, commemorating the beginning of the breakdown of the walls of Jerusalem.

What I didn’t know until today is that it wasn’t the actual start of the siege. According to Rabbi David Stav:

Asara Betevet is the only fast where the original rabbinic authorities were divided on which day the historical event should be commemorated. Should it be on the fifth of the month, when the actual siege on Jerusalem began, or on the 10th of Tevet, when news of the siege reached the people living in Babylonia? There is a very significant difference between these two dates. Are we fasting to mark the siege itself or, rather, the day when the Jews in exile became aware of the fact that this had occurred and internalized the immense loss that it represented?

He further writes:

It is for this reason that we choose to mark the 10th of Tevet to teach us the lesson of acknowledging how processes begin. The designation of the 10th day of the month – as opposed to the fifth, when the siege actually occurred – is to re-instill within us the importance of internalizing events. It is not simply that they happened but that we actually understand and appreciate why they are so tragic.We are, sadly, living at a time of ambivalence and apathy to the potential tragedies that might occur if we don’t wake up to the internal disunity among the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. The 10th of Tevet is the reminder that we need to look at history to appreciate the need to look ahead and recognize the dangers before they occur. The 10th of Tevet demands that we wake up.

Walls protect us. Walls create safe spaces (the real kind!). Walls inform us to reality.

I took this back in the beginning of the summer. It’s a view of Jerusalem from the south, from the Haas Promenade. Can you see the walls of the Old City? Guess what? The walls inform.

Walls show us history.

The women’s section of the Kotel, also from early this summer. The structure overhead is the Mughrabi Bridge, connecting the plaza to the Mughrabi Gate of the Temple Mount. So much history here. Sigh.

Psalms Chapter 147 תְּהִלִּים

א  הַלְלוּ-הּ:
כִּי-טוֹב, זַמְּרָה אֱלֹ-קינוּ–    כִּי-נָעִים, נָאוָה תְהִלָּה.
1 Hallelujah; 
It is good to chant hymns to our God; it is pleasant to sing glorious praise.
ב  בּוֹנֵה יְרוּשָׁלִַם ה;    נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יְכַנֵּס.2 The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers in the exiles of Israel.
ג  הָרֹפֵא, לִשְׁבוּרֵי לֵב;    וּמְחַבֵּשׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָם.3 He heals their broken hearts, and binds up their wounds.

and further on:

יב  שַׁבְּחִי יְרוּשָׁלִַם, אֶת-ה;    הַלְלִי אֱלֹ-קיִךְ צִיּוֹן.12 Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
יג  כִּי-חִזַּק, בְּרִיחֵי שְׁעָרָיִךְ;    בֵּרַךְ בָּנַיִךְ בְּקִרְבֵּךְ.13 For He made the bars of your gates strong, and blessed your children within you.

There’s a very nice summary of this psalm here, with the help of Google translate:

Zion is described here as a living and knowledgeable entity. And the poet turns to her and commands her to praise and glorify G-d, and in the two verses that follow the poet explains what Zion will glorify G-d: Here are four good things that God has done for Zion: make it fortified and safe from the intrusion of an enemy, increase the number of its inhabitants, put peace in the land, and instill its abundant livelihood. And these things are meant for generations, for these are the four foundations, on which the existence of the people of Israel in their land must be based: protection and security, the multiplicity of the population, peace with the neighbors, and sources of livelihood for all the inhabitants.

While the world continues to have enmity, we Jews seem to gather our more than fair share. So if we need to have our iron bars to maintain our share of peace, then may they be strong and secure.

Of course, we’ll manage to add a few walls of our own, which create our living rooms.

But may our walls always overflow with abundance and beauty.

Picking even more olives today, even on a Fast Day! To get them before a week of rain. May it be for blessings of more abundance.
I took this today as I was coming back into the house after taking the photo of ISHI picking the olives. A little fall color, even in December.

Even in Tzfat.

translating a wall

Yesterday we went to buy paint to go on the new wall our neighbor put up between our houses. We wanted to get this done ASAP before the rains come. This week it’s supposed to be clear, but it’s wild how you can feel the moisture building up in the air already. ISHI and I don’t mind the fact that the neighbor put up a better wall, but we are annoyed (me for the two of us) that he didn’t ask us permission before doing it, and had spent an enormous amount of time spray-painting it, with the fumes coming over into our yard and home) even before beginning the actual construction. And to top it off, he decided to have the bars on our side of the wall painted. Without asking.

You can’t see the blue on the posts, but believe me, they painted them blue without our permission. I like blue, but not as an outside color here. And believe me, this is nowhere near proper Tzfat blue.
We thought the Green Monsta would be appropriate. Go Red Sox!
Or perhaps a touch of Monet. Hmm. Pas mal du tout!

So of course, the phrase “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” comes to mind. I will get to the Frost poem soon. I was curious how to say it in Hebrew (our neighbor is from Chicago, but), and it’s גדרות טובות יוצרות שכנים טובים, according to ויקיפדיה. Interestingly enough, here the phrase is used often in discussing not little backyard dramas, but large political issues here between Israel and the Palestinians. I should have seen that coming. Oh, apparently, Frost’s original version was also used to bolster both sides during WWI and even the Cold War later on, despite his misgivings.

The aging Frost also reflected, “Maybe I was both fellows in the poem.” Frost’s qualifiers—“probably,” “maybe”—make mischief all over again. So ambiguous is “Mending Wall” that it seems to play games with us, volleying us first toward one interpretation, then another.

But the more interesting thing for me here was the translation of the Frost poem “Mending Wall” to תיקון חומה.

Yes, I guess mending can be translated as תיקון–Tikkun, but that brings all kinds of other ideas to mind. Tikkun means fixing, but has been hijacked by both Kabbalah and by New Age Judaism to mean fixing in higher levels of the universe or consciousness. And then it’s been also hijacked by social justice Jews to make it fit with their agenda of fixing the world everywhere except by being Jewish.

This morning, as I was davening, I noticed our Andy Goldsworthy book Enclosure, which reminded me of our first encounter of his work at Storm King of his masterful rework of the concept of walls–stones, trees, and the people who are connected through them and with them. And which of course brought me to think about his work at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, the Garden of Stones.

There is a video also of a Zoom discussion Goldsworthy had with the museum president about his creative process:

In Jewish tradition, stones are placed on graves as a sign of remembrance. Here, Goldsworthy brings stone and trees together to represent life cycles intertwined. The garden is a living memorial to the hardship, tenacity, and survival of those who endured the Holocaust. The effect of time on humans and nature, an important theme in Goldsworthy’s work, is evident in the Garden of Stones, as the sculptures will be viewed, as well as cared for, by future generations.

This indeed is a true tikkun.

And as I wrote these words, someone stopped by our house to give us an estimate on extending the wall to the right of this fence. Our gardener had chopped back our fig tree before shemittah, and we have too much loss of privacy because of it. Plus, there’s all this building going on in the not-too-far distance beyond it. And since he would be doing that, could he also fix a broken-down little fence on the left side (which you can see in the photos above)? Funny thing about that fence, as it turns out–apparently, the previous owner somehow made off came up with some of the wooden slats he was using for a fence next door, and put them here. And the devious previous owner did a bad job on top of it, putting the slats backwards. So, by asking this handyman to fix it now for us, we’re actually fixing a mistake that our house has had due to the previous owner.

I guess we’re talking about a real Mending Wall; תיקון חומה. Tikkun of the best kind. May we all merit to fix our own mistakes.