Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Of Kings and Banjos and Hounds

Forgiveness in the Age of 45: Does this hound look guilty? As Abq Jew first declared on Facebook, our Ziggy stole and quickly devoured an entire chicken breast, nicely cooked, right off the counter. Love him anyway, forever.


Yes, Abq Jew could have attempted an intervention. This, however, did not seem the wisest course of action. Especially since Abq Jew ...


... requires all of his fingers to play his guitar. Even as [un]well as he does.


The current issue of Moment Magazine (Ask The Rabbis | High Holidays) asks ... um, the rabbis ... an important question for this time of year:

Are There Things That Can't Be Forgiven?

Here are two responses that resonated with Abq Jew.

1. INDEPENDENT - Rabbi Gershon Winkler

The most unforgivable king in Jewish history was Menashe, son of Hezekiah, who led his kingdom into idolatry.

As they carried him off to Babylon in chains, he desperately turned to God for forgiveness. But the angels blocked the heavens with heavy furniture [see image above] and nailed in extra boards to prevent that mamzer's plea from being heard.

What did God do? While the angels were engaged in choir practice, He bored a tiny hole in the boarded-up heavenly floor so that He could hear Menashe's plea (Midrash Devarirn Rabbah 2:20).

But that's God's thing. For us mere mortals, it depends. If someone accidentally bumps a cart into you in the supermarket, you can forgive instantaneously.

On the other hand, if someone bumps you with an SUV, you may not be so quick to forgive as they fit your legs, hip and nose with prosthetics -because you're human, and you hope he loses all of his teeth except one, and that one has a toothache!

However, if we do transcend our mortality and forgive the sins committed against us by others, "God in turn will dismiss our sins" (Talmud. Bavli, Rosh Hashanah 17a).

2. CHABAD - Rabbi Simcha Backman

"What is crooked will not be able to be straightened, and what is missing will not be able to be counted" (Ecclesiastes l:15).

Some misdeeds have severe, irreversible effects and are seemingly beyond forgiveness. At the same time, at the core of Judaism is forgiveness. We are taught to emulate G-d and forgive, just as G-d is all-forgiving.

How do we reconcile these apparently contradictory ideas?  We sometimes find ourselves in situations where the betrayal and pain are so great that we are justified in not forgiving. At those times, we need to remember the saying that

"Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison
and expecting the other person to die." 

Forgiveness does more for the provider than the recipient. It does not magically make the pain go away, but it allows one to move past the hurt and begin healing. Not forgiving amplifies the consequences of a misdeed and perpetuates its negative effects.

Better to forgive and move on to a brighter future than hold on to an unforgivable offense and be stuck in a dark past.

And Then There's This


The Washington Post | True Crime last week reported:
Wall Street’s ‘Charging Bull’ has been defaced again, this time by a metal banjo 
It has been splashed with paint — twice — stared down by the much-beloved “Fearless Girl” and repeatedly reviled as the symbol of corporate greed. 
On Saturday afternoon, Wall Street’s long-suffering “Charging Bull” endured yet another attack that left it with a six-inch-long gash above its brow, along with a dozen deep scratches. 
The alleged culprit? A Texas man wielding a fortified metal banjo
Tevon Varlack, 42, of Dallas was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct on Saturday in connection with the vandalism. 
A witness told the New York Times that Varlack was cursing President Trump as he swung the banjo against the bronze sculpture, sending loud clanging through the Bowling Green park in Manhattan’s financial district and startling tourists hoping for a photo with the bull’s famous gonads. 
Police declined to confirm this, writing only that the man responsible for the attack was “ranting incoherently.”

Aiden Pink of the Forward, however, reported the same incident somewhat differently.
Tallit-Wearing Man Smashes Wall Street Bull Statue With Banjo 
A man who appeared to be wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, was arrested Saturday after allegedly smashing the iconic Charging Bull statue in New York’s financial district. 
Tevon Varlack of Dallas was arrested after allegedly damaging the bronze statue by repeatedly thwacking it with a banjo, ArtNet reported
Varlack was reportedly wearing a t-shirt with the words “Let Us Not Forget The Ten Commandments,” leading some to wonder whether the action had anything to do with Moses’s destruction of the Golden Calf statue in the Bible. 
Varlack was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and criminal possession of a weapon (apparently a reference to the banjo), and was released on bail but told to stay away from city landmarks, according to ArtNet. 
Varlack also repeatedly yelled “F—- Donald Trump” during his alleged attack on the bronze beast, the New York Daily News reported. The bull was left with a hole in its right horn and several scratches.
The Charging Bull statue has been a symbol of New York’s financial sector since its installation in 1989, and drew new attention after another sculptor placed her own “Fearless Girl” statue in front of it.
And Then There's Valerie Plame


Aiden Pink of the Forward (yes, him again) reported this story.
Candidate Accused Of Anti-Semitism Unveils Ad Highlighting Jewish Heritage
A former CIA operative who faced criticism for sharing anti-Semitic articles on social media and is now running for Congress in New Mexico unveiled her first campaign ad on Monday, which included a reference to her Jewish heritage
Valerie Plame, a former spy whose identity was leaked in one of the George W. Bush administration’s most notable scandals, released a video on Monday promoting her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the Land of Enchantment’s third congressional district, which includes Santa Fe and the rest of the state’s north. 
Her campaign video plays up her national security bona fides, even showing her performing a high-speed U-turn in a sports car while her voiceover states, “Yes, the CIA really does teach us how to drive like this.”
Plame attracted controversy in 2017 after tweeting links to anti-Semitic articles from a Holocaust-denying website, including one headlined “American Jews Are Driving America’s Wars” and another that claimed that Israel was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Plame at first defended her comments before apologizing and deleting her Twitter account. It has not be revived since. 
Plame again apologized in May 2019 in interviews on CNN and MSNBC after she announced her candidacy, claiming that she had only “skimmed” the articles she shared. “I’m human and we all make mistakes,” she said. “It was just a doozy, and it was very public.” 
Plame’s campaign ad notes that she is descended from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. Plame’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, a fact that she did not know until she was an adult, she admitted in her memoir. Plame was raised Protestant.
And Then There's Sallie Mae

Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez

When we Jews gather on Yom Kippur, we will all hope and pray and plead that the New Year will see us being forgiven ... for the student loan burden we all (well, almost all) carry.

Colin Nissan of The New Yorker | Shouts & Murmurs assures us, however, that if (G-d forbid!) forgiveness doesn't come - there is a way to pay off those student loans. He begins ...
Pay Off Your Student Debt in Three Easy Lifetimes 
At Extended-Student-Loan Solutions, we believe that the problem of student-loan debt is larger than life. This life, that is. That’s why we’re giving you two more lifetimes to pay it off. 
Q: Just so I’m completely clear on this, what the f**k are you talking about?
A: We hear all the time from anxious students who think they’ll probably grow old and die before they pay off their loans. We’re proud to be able to look them in the eye and say, “Go ahead and die. We’ve got you covered.” 
Q: How can I continue my payments if I’m dead?
A: Our patented reincarnation software tracks you as you move into your next life, seamlessly transferring your loan to the new you so that you don’t miss a single payment. 
Q: How exactly does this benefit me?
A: By extending your loan’s “life,” so to speak, we’re able to decrease your monthly payments while increasing our chances of getting repaid. Imagine reducing the stress that comes with paying off an unreasonably large sum of money in one lifetime. Then imagine us reducing the stress of loaning those sums of money to people who majored in philosophy. 
Q: So, are you saying I can stop making payments now and just let my future selves cover the rest?
A: Unfortunately, no. It’s going to take all three of you to close this thing out.

And Then There's Ziggy

Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez

As all of you avid The New Yorker readers (you are, aren't you) will surely recall, it was indeed Colin Nissan who, back in May, advised us

O.K., You Can Get a Dog

So Abq Jew is pretty sure that Colin's plan for paying off student loans will, as they say, pan out.

Q: What if I actually pay off my loan
before I die, in this life?
A: Oh, my God, that’s adorable.


Love him anyway, forever.
Belle & May-May, too.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Night the Well Ran Dry

Discovering the Berkshires: Well, last week Mr & Mrs Abq Jew did discover the Albany International Airport (ALB). Which, it turns out, makes our beloved Albuquerque International Sunport seem ... well, gigantic. Who'da thunk?

Except for waiting for our homeward-bound flight to depart, we spent almost no time at all discovering Albany (see Discovering Albany). But it was enough. Instead -

We discovered the Berkshires.

Our Base of Operations - for the whole family, in one glorious house, all seven of us together! - was

Coco's Airbnb Berkshires Getaway

Located on 19 acres, this large unique chalet style A-frame mountain home sleeps 8 and is great for Autumn leaf peeping & apple picking. In Winter, it becomes a cozy winter wonderland and is less than 20 minutes from top ski resorts! Situated on its own small mountain, with total privacy, the sweeping views of Lebanon Valley make this an ideal getaway for any season.


Sure, you can hang around the house (pool, TV, ping-pong, knock-hockey, and a fully-equipped kitchen) - or you can take the 20-minute drive across the state line to beautiful

Downtown Pittsfield, MA

where you can visit the family-friendly

Berkshire Museum

and then relax - with the kids! at

Patrick's Pub

And then - and then! - on another day, you can take the 20-minute drive across the state line to beautiful

Downtown Stockbridge, MA

where you can visit the family-friendly

Berkshire Botanical Garden

and then relax - with the kids! at

Michael's Restaurant


Yes! It's all a lot of fun! And then ...

The well runs dry.

You, Abq Jew's loyal readers, will surely recall the really, really funny story (see Two More Nights) that was finally a competitor to James Thurber's 1933 humor classic The Night The Bed Fell. As a reminder - 

It started with Abq Jew Googling "roomba dog poop".

I suppose that the high-water mark (pun fully intended) of our vacation in the Berkshires was the night the well ran dry. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw water buckets around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place.

First, you have to understand that it wasn't Coco's fault. Coco owns two Berkshire properties - our delightful Airbnb Getaway, and a habitable, tenant-occupied barn just down the hill. The two properties share a well.

Of the sharing, Coco assured us - and we believe her! - that, in the many years she has managed these properties, only twice has the waterflow temporarily ceased. One time, the pump died. And one time, everybody in both houses decided to take a shower at the same time and at the same time that they were doing the wash. Both times, the waterflow was quickly restored.

But the third time was the charm.


Shown above is a 2-inch Universal Longest Lasting Toilet Flapper with Microban, which you can purchase at Home Depot for $3.63. Don't know how to replace a toilet flapper? There are about a zillion YouTube videos (with literally hundreds of thousands and millions of views!) that show you how.

However. Coco's down-the-hill barn tenants (remember them?) failed, for days, to realize and/or report that - because the toilet-flapper in their one and only toilet was broken - said toilet was constantly running.

How far could it get? Abq Jew hears you ask.


You guessed it. Just a bit after 5:00 pm - COB (Close of Business, as we who worked used to say) - the water in our kitchen faucet, which had been flowing so beautifully, suddenly gurgled, splat, and harrumphed.

And that was it. We contacted Coco, who recommended a few things for us to try - things that had worked before. Nothing worked this time.

It was by then much later, and the only remedies available to us were (for cooking and washing) a couple of bottles of seltzer we had in the fridge; and (for other purposes) buckets of water hauled in from the pool.

It was not a fun evening.


So about those other purposes. In the bathroom on the lower level of Coco's Berkshire Getaway was installed a conventional American Standard toilet that was (sans a fresh supply of water) capable of but a single flush.

But that was OK; all you had to do was shlep a bucket of water from the pool to refill the tank. And voilà - another flush! Then repeat as needed.

In the bathrooms on the main and upper floors, however, were installed super-modern jet-powered toilets. Which could not accept a fresh supply of water, and were therefore unflushable. But still, in a sense, usable. Just remember to close the lid afterward.

What Abq Jew is trying to convey here, without coming right out and grossly stating what may in fact be obvious, is that

The faucet was only a small part of the problem.

But then morning came.


And with the new day came every plumber, electrician, handyman, technician, and pool guy in our small patch of Berskshire heaven. Coco had been up late the night before (or early on this new day) and had made the phone calls that placed everyone in town with even a peripheral knowledge of water resource management at our doorstep at 8:00 am to save us.

Now, it took everyone (they were all professionals) only about an hour to figure out what the problem was. And it took one of them (we're still not sure exactly who) only about 15 minutes to fix the problem. At the tenants' place.

But then - we had to wait for the well to refill.


So we went to the store and stocked up on water. Water in bottles, water in cans, water in multi-gallon containers. Lots and lots of water. And Imodium. Just in case.


We had been warned not to turn on the pump until (perhaps) late afternoon or (better) early evening, lest we cause further damage (?) that would only further delay (?) the restoration of our waterflow.

So we waited.


Until 7:00 pm. When, we figured, come heck or low water, we would bravely flip the pump switch and see what, if anything, happened.


The well had refilled.
The well pump worked.
We were saved.

Rarely had a gush of water from a faucet sounded so good to Abq Jew. Even better was the sound of a super-modern jet-powered toilet.

We had been without flowing water for about 27 hours. To commemorate our Excellent Adventure -

Coco reimbursed us for two (2) nights.
Without even being asked. She just did it.
Yes, we're thinking about rebooking next year.

Downtown Fall River, MA

If you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, have come to the conclusion that Abq Jew is, to some degree, obsessed with bathrooms - you would not be far from correct.

Do you remember Abq Jew talking about the Chad Mitchell Trio and Michael Brown (see A Song For The Right and Fall River Now And Then)?

Well, before Michael Brown hit fame with the Trio, he made a very nice living, thank you (his and his wife's generosity gave Harper Lee the time to write To Kill A Mockingbird), by writing industrial musicals.

There is now a documentary film about such writers of industrial musicals.

Bathtubs Over Broadway premiered on April 21, 2018 at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The film's director, Dava Whisenant, won Tribeca's Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. 
Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals. 
Tribeca Jury: “The winner of the Best New Documentary Director goes to a film that we chose for many reasons. The story, the specific subject, the journey into a world we never knew existed. This film also has an element every great film, doc, and story needs...heart.” 
Described as "the most feel-good film event of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival," the premiere featured post-screening live performances, including a duet about motion-activated faucets that reunited the stars of American Standard's cult favorite industrial show The Bathrooms Are Coming!

You can watch the Bathtubs Over Broadway trailer here; or visit the film's website here. You can now stream Bathrooms Over Broadway on Netflix, too - which is how Abq Jew discovered it.

Yes, Abq Jew does indeed love bathrooms. Always has. And because he suspects that - secretly or openly, covertly or overtly - you, his loyal readers, may love bathrooms too, Abq Jew proudly presents -

My Bathroom


Created for New Year's Eve 1958.
Recording of My Bathroom is from an industrial musical called 
The Bathrooms are Coming, produced by the American Standard Company
in 1969 and included in the book and accompanying CD, 


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fall 2019 @ OASIS Albuquerque

Great Courses of Jewish Interest
Abq Jew is pleased to inform you that
OASIS Albuquerque has just announced
their Fall 2019 line-up of classes!
Registration opens on
Wednesday September 4
but you can Wish List your selections now.



A brief word about time ...


Jewish Holidays - Fall 2019
Rosh Hashanah 1 = Monday September 30
Rosh Hashanah 2 = Tuesday October 1
Yom Kippur = Wednesday October 9
Sukkot 1 = Monday October 14
Sukkot 2 = Tuesday October 15
Shemini Atzeret = Monday October 21
Simchat Torah = Tuesday October 22

New Class Times
10:00 - 11:30 am       12:30 - 2:00 pm       2:30 - 4:00 pm


OASIS Albuquerque Executive Director Kathleen Raskob continues (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of Jewish interest.

This session's courses and instructors include but are by no means limited to:


Sapiens: A Study & Discussion Group
6 Tuesdays Sep 24 - Oct 29 @ 10:00 am - #97
Instructor:s Barrie Segall & John Horton
What It Is: How did homo sapiens evolve from primates to become dominant on the planet? Discover answers in Yuval Noah Harari's book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Explore how we came to believe in gods, trust money and laws, and become enslaved by bureaucracy and consumerism. Each week a different class member sends out discussion topics from the book for the following class. This is a six-week study and discussion group; you must have the book for class; enrollment limited to 14.


Oscar Wilde: Wit, Humor, & Scandal
Tuesday October  10 @ 10:00 am - #98
Instructor: Norma Libman
What It Is: Explore the life of one of the most unusual men of English letters. Famous for his domestic comedies, he also wrote essays, children's books, poetry, and an enormous number of letters. He delighted people in America and the United Kingdom on his lecture tours. Sample his prose and his poetry, and discover his amazing wit. His life is fascinating to follow -- from the heights of fame to the depths of scandal and disgrace.


Pitfalls & Lessons: Learning From Our Past
Tuesday November 5 @ 2:30 pm - #134
Instructor: Harry Rosenfeld
What It Is: Is it "Those who forget the past are doomed to relive it?" or "I wish it were the good old days?" Which is the reality? Our technology-driven fast-paced world makes us long for a time that may or may not have existed. Can you imagine going back to paying for long-distance phone calls? Conversely, isn't it nice that we can now pre-order groceries and have them ready for pickup? What is the price we pay for living in these times? Be prepared to listen, share, and learn.


"David, King of Israel, Is Alive and Well"
Monday November 18 @ 10:00 am - #136
Instructor: Shlomo Karni
What It Is: From humble shepherd boy, David rose to become the most powerful and beloved king of ancient Israel, creating the dynasty of the House of David. He unified the tribal provinces into one strong kingdom, from the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates river, with Jerusalem as its political and spiritual capital. Explore the charismatic warrior and politician, as well as a gifted poet, who is referenced in the song “David, King of Israel, Is Alive and Well.”


Martin Buber: His Life & Philosophy
Thursday November 21 @ 10:00 am - #138
Instructor:  Michael Nutkiewicz
What It Is: Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a leading 20th century German-Jewish philosopher. His "philosophy of dialogue" -- found in his 1923 book I and Thou -- made Buber one of the most widely regarded spiritual thinkers in the West. He influenced the fields of religion, psychiatry, and education. Buber also brought the teachings of Hasidism to the general public through his translations (and re-writing) of Hasidic tales. Learn about his life and thought.


Regular OASIS Albuquerque instructor (and award-winning composer and recording artist) Jane Ellen also continues (as always) to bring you new and interesting class offerings, and continues to make sure there are plenty of courses of musical and Jewish interest.

Jane's courses this session include but are by no means limited to:



The Remarkable Danny Kaye 
Wednesday October 9 @ 12:30 pm - #108
What It Is: Mention the name Danny Kaye (1913-87) and odds are you won't get any of the following answers: orchestra conductor, ambassador for UNICEF, baseball enthusiast, Chinese and Italian chef, or commercial pilot. His well-known career as a singer, actor, dancer, and comedian was equally diverse and versatile, encompassing vaudeville, radio, film, television, and stand-up comedy. A complex individual, Kaye had as many facets to his personality as he had aspects to his overwhelming talents.



The Divine Bette Midler
Friday October 18 @ 10:00 am - #109
What It Is: Bette Midler (1945- ) began her career off-Broadway before moving to the Great White Way for Fiddler on the Roof and Salvation in the 1960s. She began to make her mark as a singer accompanied by Barry Manilow in 1970.  Since the release of her debut album, The Divine Miss M, in 1972, the Grammy Award winner has a string of 14 studio albums, three dozen films (dramatic and comedic), and multiple stage appearances to her credit.


Innovative Genius: The Three Stooges
Wednesday November 20 @ 10:00 am - #109
What It Is: The team known as The Three Stooges, despit e poor wages, health issues, and personnel changes, left behind a legacy of some of the finest comedies ever made. Many would argue against the label "innovative," but comedians still benefit from the routines they created. Before opinion began to swing in their favor, Steve Allen noted "Although they never achieved widespread critical acclaim, they did succeed in accomplishing what they had always intended to do: they made people laugh."




Thursday, August 22, 2019

Discovering Albany

New York, That Is: Yes, Abq Jew is on the road (sorta) again! He is now sitting in the Kitchen of an Airbnb with the Daughters Who Are Grand (and the Kids Who Are Splendid) in a Hamlet that is located partly in One Town and partly in Another Town. New York. Very close to The Other Duke City.


And the best part?

Flying Southwest from our dearly beloved Albuquerque Sometimes-International Sunport (ABQ) through Baltimore / Washington Really-International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to Albany Mostly-International Airport (ALB).

No, not really. The best part is Being With Family. And taking them to all the Albany Must-See Attractions. Betcha didn't even know there were some!



Anyway, the word on the street (the lane, actually) is that seven and five appear to be important numbers right around now. So here's a song about them.


And as long as we're talking about numbers - didn't Jacob have twelve sons? Here's a song about them!


Before returning to fun and games and relaxation, Abq Jew offers you, his loyal readers, a Word of Torah. About activism and the Jewish community. About the kindness and compassion we are required to extend to all those who need it.


Taken from Ariel Burger's newest book, Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel's Classroom. In which Professor Wiesel is quoted:
In my tradition, triumphalism and holiness are opposing principles. We should be the brother, not the master, of somebody else.  
There is a famous teaching that appears in the biblical discussion of the laws of kosher food. 
Many birds are not kosher—we are not allowed to eat eagles, vultures, birds of prey. But there is one, the stork, that is not kosher even though it is not a bird of prey and even though its name in Hebrew, hasidah, means 'the kind one.'  
The commentators ask, Why is it not kosher? The answer: True, it is a creature known for its kindness. But it is generous only with its own species; to others, it is cruel.  
Therefore it is not kosher, to teach us not to be like that. Kindness and compassion must not end with your own community.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Celebrating Tisha B'Av

With Dance and Song: Following Tisha b'Av, there are seven prophetic readings of consolation - starting with Shabbat Nachamu (this week), and all from Isaiah - that comfort us and prepare us for the upcoming High Holy Days. 

But you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, already know that (see Shabbat Nachamu: That Thing You Do! et al)! So let's talk instead about the prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Who [Zechariah 8:19] tells us that - sometime in the future -
The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months [Tisha B'Av and all related minor fasts] will be transformed into joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. 
Jerusalem, as crowds assemble for a joyful and glad occasion.
Look at that sky!

Yes, dear readers. Tisha B'Av, the Black Fast, will become a happy festival.
Abq Jew can hear you ask:


To which Abq Jew must answer (he must! he must!):


Others wiser and faster and abler to sing in four-part harmony have gone before Abq Jew, and they have figured it out. Here is how: Boney M.
Boney M is a Euro-Caribbean vocal group created by German record producer Frank Farian. Originally based in West Germany, the four original members of the group's official line-up were Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett from Jamaica, Maizie Williams from Montserrat, and Bobby Farrell, a performing artist from Aruba. The group was formed in 1976, and achieved popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s.


Here are a few things that may help explain, clarify, and otherwise decode the song we have just heard. If you have not listened to the song (i.e., watched the video), Abq Jew strongly encourages you to do so now. Really. It's cool.

The Song
Boney M Music Video

Rivers of Babylon is a Rastafari song written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians in 1970. The lyrics are adapted from the texts of Psalms 19 and 137 in the Hebrew Bible.

The Melodians' original version of the song appeared on the soundtrack album for the 1972 movie The Harder They Come, which made it internationally known.

The song was popularized in Europe by the 1978 Boney M cover  version, which was awarded a platinum disc and is one of the top-ten all-time best-selling singles in the UK.

Psalm 137
By the Rivers of Babylon

Psalm 137 is the 137th psalm of the Hebrew Book of Psalms. The Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and the Latin Vulgate, call this Psalm 136.

In English it is generally known as "By the rivers of Babylon", which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version.

After Nebuchadnezzar II's successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BCE, inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah were deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BCE).

The rivers of Babylon [in case you slept through that lecture] are the Euphrates river, its tributaries, and the Tigris river.

Rabbinical sources attributed the poem to Jeremiah [look! another prophet!]. The Septuagint version of the psalm bears the superscription: "For David. By Jeremias, in the Captivity."


We all know this psalm, because we sing it all the time! It's the introduction to the weekday Birkat HaMazon!

(Actually, Abq Jew doesn't know anyone who actually sings it, reads it, or even looks at Psalm 137 before bentching on a non-Shabbat non-holiday.)

Psalm 19
The Heavens Declare

Psalm 19 is the 19th psalm in the Book of Psalms. Except (of course) in the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, where this is Psalm 18.

In English it is generally known as "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork", which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version.

Psalm 19 is attributed to King David - not for King David - and has been set to music often ....


Psalm 19 is recited in its entirety during the Pesukei deZimra of Shabbat and Yom Tov. [JFKs (see In Honor of the JFKs) may not know this.] Verse 15 (see above) is recited during the closing to the Amidah.

Rastafari (Long Version)

Rastafari, also known as Rastafarianism, is an Abrahamic religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s. Scholars of religion and related fields have classified it as both a new religious movement and a social movement.

There is no central authority in control of the movement (Abq Jew likes it already!) and much diversity exists among practitioners, who are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rastas.

Rastas often claim the flag of Ethiopia as was used during Haile Selassie's reign.
It combines the conquering lion of Judah, symbol of the Ethiopian monarchy,
with green, gold, and red.

Rastas refer to their beliefs, which are based on a specific interpretation of the Bible, as "Rastalogy". Central is a monotheistic belief in a single God—referred to as Jah—who partially resides within each individual.

Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia between 1930
and 1974, is given central importance. 

Many Rastas regard him as an incarnation of Jah on Earth and as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, another figure whom practitioners revere. Other Rastas regard Haile Selassie not as Jah incarnate but as a human prophet who fully recognized the inner divinity in every individual.

Rastafari is Afrocentric and focuses its attention on the African diaspora, which it believes is oppressed within Western society, or "Babylon".

Many Rastas call for the resettlement of the African diaspora in either Ethiopia or Africa more widely, referring to this continent (everyone's homeland) as the Promised Land of "Zion".

Rastafari (Short Version)

Since Rivers of Babylon is based upon Psalms 19 and 137, one might think that the song is about the Children of Israel and the Land of Israel, as we Jews understand them. However, one would be wrong.

That's because the Rastafari song Rivers of Babylon is all in code. Zion refers to Ethiopia (or, more generally, Africa). Babylon refers to the Western world. And then there's Haile Selassie.

And not only is the song all in code - it's in toned-down (for the non-Rastafari) code.
The Rastafarian language was excised from the lyrics for the Boney M version. 
Although the group performed an early mix of the song on a German TV show and sang "How can we sing King Alpha's song" [referring to Haile Selassie] as in the Melodians version, it was changed to "the Lord's song", restoring the original, biblical words, in the versions that were to be released. 
To fit the meter, "O Far-I" became "here tonight" rather than the original, biblical "O Lord".

The Song 
1979 Sopot International Song Festival

ICYMI: The Sopot International Song Festival is an annual international song contest held in (surprise!) Sopot, Poland.

Same song, same (Boney M) singers. But Abq Jew thought you, his loyal readers, might appreciate a live version. Backup singers, full orchestra.



The Dance (Remix)
Boney M Does Disco

Abq Jew was ... researching ... on YouTube, looking for still more versions of Rivers of Babylon to share with you, his loyal readers. And came upon this - a wonderful dance remix of Boney M's disco version.

The dancers appear to be part of Rock that Swing, "The Extraordinary Boogie and Swing Festival [and Dance Camp]" held in Munich, Germany.

WARNING: This is a dance remix. It is impossible (at least, for Abq Jew) to tell what music they are actually dancing to.

But who cares? The dancing is just too good!


But back to Zechariah. Who told us (see top) that - sometime in the future (speedily, in our days!) -
The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will be transformed into joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. 
Zechariah closes that verse with an admonition that still speaks to us today.


YES! May we celebrate as the Holy City of Jerusalem continues to be rebuilt, and as the Holy Land of Israel continues to be restored. 

And may we soon dance and sing on Tisha B'Av.