Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Shavuot 5783

Counting and Counting: Several thousand years ago, all Jews then living, all Jews ever born, and all Jews ever to be born gathered beneath Mount Sinai to hear God speak to us. 

We celebrate this wondrous event every year on the Holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, exactly forty-nine full days (which are, as we know now, seven full weeks) after the Holiday of Pesach.


And we recongregate to celebrate Shavuot just one week after we all celebrated Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).

Shavuot (שבועות‎) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan. This year, Shavuot begins on the evening of Thursday, May 25. The festival days are Friday and Saturday, May 26-27.

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!
Hag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom, Israel!

Hebrew Calendar

About The Calendar

This year, Shavuot Day 2 falls on Saturday, May 27. But in ארץ ישראל (The Land of Israel) - Shavuot ends when Shabbat begins, on Friday night. So in Israel, they'll be reading Nasso on Shabbat, while we in חו״ל (Outside The Land) will be reading Shavuot Day 2.

Which also means that thereafter, the Parsha of the Week will not be the same in Israel as it is elsewhere; Israel will be one week ahead. And it will stay ahead until Saturday July 8, when we join up again for Pinchas.

This, in turn, puts us in sync for שׁבּת חזון, The Sabbath of Vision, so we can observe תשׁע בּאב (Tisha b'Av) together as one.

Hebrew Calendar Facts

In the meantime, Facebook's 
Hebrew Calendar Facts is proud and probably correct to tell us:

This year, Shavuot is on the Friday before Memorial Day (in the US), leading to a 4-day weekend. This has previously happened twice since Memorial Day was established as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May (in 1971): in 1982 and 1996. After this year, it will happen again in 2026, 2050, 2053, 2077, and 2080.

The configuration we've seen more in recent years is Shavuot starting on the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend (and continuing through the Monday for 2-day people), which happened in 1985, 2012, and 2015, and will happen again in 2039, 2042, 2066, and 2069.

The extra-rare one is when Shavuot starts on Sunday night, so (the first day of) Shavuot is on Memorial Day itself. This happened in 1974 and 2001, and we won't get it again until 2099 and then 2123. This is rare because Monday is the rarest day of the week for Shavuot (out of the days of the week that are possible).

And one person commented: In 2025, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) will fall on Memorial Day.

This year, Memorial Day closes our four-day weekend. 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day
Not just sales, barbeques, and pool parties.
Real sacrifice for real freedom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Midge Maisel Mockingbird

Marvelous! Bathtubs Over Broadway! Need Abq Jew mention that he is (so very) often ahead of his time? 

First: In March 2019, Abq Jew published Fall River Now and Then - about Lizzie Borden (of course); about the Chad Mitchell Trio (of course); and then about Michael Brown (wait - who's that?).

Next: In September 2019, Abq Jew published The Night The Well Ran Dry - about Bathtubs Over Broadway (surprisingly); about Harper Lee (surprisingly); and also about Michael Brown (wait - him again?).

Mrs Maisel

Now: We approach the wonderful yet almost-forgotten Holiday of Shavuot (see May 2013's Preparing for Shavuot, et al). And Abq Jew has read Mira Fox in the Forward!

That industrial musical in ‘Mrs. Maisel’ wasn’t a fever dream — it was history

Products like cars and mouthwash inspired song-and-dance numbers that were a staple of American business

It seems like a fever dream. In episode four of the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge Maisel is at an industrial exposition. Clad in coveralls, she narrates a musical featuring tap-dancing garbage men and a singing trash heap.

It seems so kitschy that it’s hard to believe that shows like this actually existed. But it turns out that the episode is just another example of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s commitment to history; industrial musicals were very real. 

There were entire productions about Xerox machines, Listerine, Johnson & Johnson sunscreen and diesel engines. By the ’60s, they were so common that even products like spark plugs and blank keys had shows. 

Whatever product you can think of — food, machinery, appliances — if the brand existed half a century ago, it probably had a musical. 

You should read Mira


Mira should read

The Night the SWell Ran Dry
The Night the Well Ran Dry

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

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, 


Which brings us to

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

Don't know much about Michael Brown? Neither did Abq Jew. So Wikipedia tells us:

Michael Brown (14 December 1920 – 11 June 2014) was an American composer, lyricist, writer, director, producer, and performer. 
He was born in Mexia, Texas. His musical career began in New York cabaret, performing first at Le Ruban Bleu. 
In the 1960s, he was a producer of industrial musicals for major American corporations such as J.C. Penney and DuPont. 
Several of his songs have entered the American repertoire, including "Lizzie Borden" and "The John Birch Society," which were popularized by the Chad Mitchell Trio. 
Children know him best as the author of three Christmas books about Santa’s helper, Santa Mouse.
Michael Brown in 1977. He and his wife, Joy, gave Harper Lee
financial support while she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But here is Abq Jew's favorite Michael Brown story - and it will likely become yours, too. From the wonderful 2014 obituary that Margalit Fox wrote for The New York Times:

It was the modest windfall from ... an industrial show — a musical fashion show for Esquire magazine in the fall of 1956, Joy Brown recalled last week — that let Mr. Brown and his wife help usher “To Kill a Mockingbird” into being. 
The Browns had met Ms. [Harper] Lee through her friend Truman Capote. Mr. Brown had contributed lyrics to a song in the 1954 Broadway musical “House of Flowers,” with a book by Mr. Capote and music by Harold Arlen. 
By 1956, Ms. Lee, an Alabama native, was living in New York. Her longed-for career as a writer was stymied by the need to pay the rent, and she was toiling away as an airline reservations clerk. 
That Christmas, visiting the Browns, she spied an envelope with her name on it in the branches of their tree. 
I opened it and read: 
You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.
Ms. Lee recalled in a 1961 essay in McCall’s magazine in which she did not identify the Browns by name. 
“It’s a fantastic gamble,” Ms. Lee, in the words of her essay, told Mr. Brown. “It’s such a great risk.”
Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. 
A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. 
Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me forever.
Harper Lee

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Psalm 121: A Song to the Ascents

I Lift My Eyes To The Mountains: So let's talk for a moment about Psalm 121. It is one of 15 psalms categorized as a Song of Ascents (Shir Hama'alot) - although unlike the others, it begins Shir LaMa'alot (A Song to the Ascents). 

The psalm is regularly recited following Mincha between Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol, and we Jews recite various verses at other times, as well. Psalm 121 has been set to music in several languages - by Felix Mendelssohn, Leonard Bernstein, and many others.

Esa Einai 

Psalm 121 has long been one of Abq Jew's favorites - but only since he heard The Diaspora Yeshiva Band's version - way more than a few years ago. About which - more later.

Other versions? Jewish versions? Here are two of the best.

Nefesh Mountain is a New York-based progressive bluegrass band that bridges elements of American folk and Appalachian bluegrass with Celtic folk and Eastern European melodies. 

Jacob's Ladder is a Boston-based progressive bluegrass band that merges Eastern European Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish traditions with their American heritage and musical style.

Let Abq Jew be perfectly clear here: These are wonderful renditions of Psalm 121. Melodic and inspiring and tastefully Jewgrassy. Who could ask for more?


Well ... Abq Jew could. He'd heard it on one of The Diaspora Yeshiva Band's vinyl albums - which Abq Jew owned - way back in the day. The LP was long gone, but TDYB's song was an earworm stuck in Abq Jew's head. For years.

For years, Abq Jew searched YouTube and the rest of the Internet for The Diaspora Yeshiva Band's version of Esa Einai - Psalm 121. Fruitlessly. And then - wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles - just a few days ago, there it was!

The Diaspora Yeshiva Band

And we'll get to it! But first - it has occurred to Abq Jew that some of you, his loyal readers, may not have heard or heard of The Diaspora Yeshiva Band. Wikipedia therefore tells us:
The Diaspora Yeshiva Band (Hebrew: להקת ישיבת התפוצות) was an Israeli Orthodox Jewish rock band founded at the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, by ba'al teshuva students from the United States. 
In existence from 1975 to 1983, the band infused rock and bluegrass music with Jewish lyrics, creating a style of music it called "Hasidic rock" or "Country and Eastern".
The Diaspora Yeshiva Band

But TDYB's website tells us more:
The Original Diaspora Yeshiva Band was formed in 1975 by Avraham Rosenblum, a multi-talented composer, singer and guitarist who led the band through several incarnations over an eight year period.  
The group took its name from the noble (although at that time a bit wild and wooly) institution in the heart of Jerusalem where its members studied Torah.  They were among the first wave of Baalei Teshuva, returnees to Jewish religious practice who somehow managed to survive the 60s and return to the fold.

Whenever the band appeared on stage – whether on a Motza’ei Shabbos overlooking the rooftops of Har Zion, or at big venues such as Israel’s Hasidic Song Festival – the players looked pretty Yeshivish (the funky hat or two being the only giveaways). 
But when they turned on their amps and cut loose, it wasn’t Cantorial music that came out, but an original decoction of what they called ”Country and Eastern Music”: Tehillim, Bluegrass, Chassidic Niggunim, and Rock’n'Roll.

And even more:

This was not merely a musical novelty produced for fun and profit.  It wasn’t even an act of rebellion from the Jewish music of the past (or the extremely deep traditional Jewish music of the present).  

It was a natural means of expression for young men who, despite all appearances, weren’t Yeshiva Bochurim from Mir or Ponevitch or Tchebin.  

They were refugees from a secular America that, for all its economic affluence, was perceived to be spiritually bankrupt; and by the grace of the One Above, they had come to Jerusalem in search of spirituality and meaning.  

Having come of age listening to Dylan and the Beatles, Diaspora used the styles they understood best to express their own nascent feelings of love for Hashem, for the Jewish people, and for the land of Israel.

And now -


שִׁ֗יר לַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת 

אֶשָּׂ֣א עֵ֭ינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִ֑ים מֵ֝אַ֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי׃
עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם ה׳ עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃ 

אַל־יִתֵּ֣ן לַמּ֣וֹט רַגְלֶ֑ךָ אַל־יָ֝נ֗וּם שֹֽׁמְרֶֽךָ׃ 
הִנֵּ֣ה לֹֽא־יָ֭נוּם וְלֹ֣א יִישָׁ֑ן שׁ֝וֹמֵ֗ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ 

ה׳ שֹׁמְרֶ֑ךָ ה׳ צִ֝לְּךָ֗ עַל־יַ֥ד יְמִינֶֽךָ׃ 
יוֹמָ֗ם הַשֶּׁ֥מֶשׁ לֹֽא־יַכֶּ֗כָּה וְיָרֵ֥חַ בַּלָּֽיְלָה׃ 

ה׳ יִשְׁמָרְךָ֥ מִכָּל־רָ֑ע יִ֝שְׁמֹ֗ר אֶת־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ 
ה׳ יִשְׁמָר־צֵאתְךָ֥ וּבוֹאֶ֑ךָ מֵֽ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

Psalm 121

A song to the ascents.

I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot give way; your guardian will not slumber;
See, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps! 

The LORD is your guardian, the LORD is your protection at your right hand.
By day the sun will not strike you, nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will guard you from all harm; He will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your going and coming now and forever. 

Abq Jew Credit

Yes, Abq Jew did indeed take a few precious moments to create this video and post it on his YouTube channel

The opening image, BTW, is Painted Horse at Sunrise, by Placitas artist Lisa Avila. Who will be showing off her work at the upcoming Placitas Studio Tour.

Placitas Studio Tour

And why, Abq Jew hears you ask,
is The Diaspora Yeshiva Band's Esa Einai so good?

Banjo Request

Country & Eastern!
Raucous Rock'n'Roll!